Notes about writing, landscape, and life in the Texas Hill Country


"We keep each other alive with our stories. We need to share them, as much as we need to share food. We also require for our health the presence of good companions. One of the most extraordinary things about the land is that it knows this—and it compels language from some of us so that as a community we may converse about this or that place, and speak of the need."
Barry Lopez

"As much as we live in a place, we live in place; we inhabit a condition of the soul. We live where we have made definitions, and in the process of making definitions, we create a place in which to live."
Sallie Tisdale

"The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction."
Rachel Carson

"I can see myself beginning to fashion what I need: new pathways to solitude, new ways of looking at time and at time alone, new ways of conceiving a notion of place, and other ways, if not new ones, to create places apart."
Jacqueline Jones Royster

"There is a way that nature speaks, that land speaks. Most of the time we are simply not patient enough, quiet enough, to pay attention to the story."
Linda Hogan


Susan's Hill Country Journal
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Susan Wittig Albert
Ph.D. UC Berkley

author of
China Bayles Herbal Mysteries
Robin Paige Victorian Mysteries
(as Robin Paige)
Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter
Writing From Life
Work of Her Own

Contributing editor:
Country Living Gardener Magazine
writing teacher
garden columnist
Founder: Story Circle Network

Bulletin Board
A Map of MeadowKnoll
All text/photos
©2003-2005 Susan Wittig Albert

The Edwards Plateau, Central Texas
The Edwards Plateau, Central Texas

Familiar Plants of the Edwards Plateau
History and Change on the Plateau
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
(10 miles south of MeadowKnoll)
habitat description, wildlife lists
The Edwards Aquifer
The Trinity Aquifer
Our Weather

Story Circle Network
The experience of Katrina is an experience of place, located at the intersections of the natural and human-made worlds. If you have a Katrina story to tell, the Story Circle Network invites you to record it here, and to read others' stories:

Killer Plants

Ecotone: Writing About Place

Tuesday, September 30, 2003  
Sunflowers, with their faces turned up to the bright, clear light of the early morning sun. Naturally, since they're heliotropic (sun-loving). They grow in large colonies along the woods and in the margins of the cattail marsh. Local Indians boiled and ate the roots; deer and birds feast on the seeds. We have a big crop this year, which suggests that we'll have plenty of birds hanging around this winter.

Gardening. I've been working (at Bill's request) on the climbing roses. There are several arches and arbors over paths, and the roses have to be kept trimmed back, so that they don't claw at our faces as we walk under them. Today I tied up the white rose (can't remember its name) beside the dog pen. It hasn't bloomed heavily yet, since this is only its second year. But the canes look sturdy, and with a little rain this winter, it should show a strong bloom come April or May. Also pulling grass out of the flower beds. I mulch heavily, but that doesn't deter the Johnson grass, which sends out nasty runners through the mulch. Ugh.

Christmas came yesterday, when I ordered my present, new purple martin housing. It's a nifty rack that holds a dozen white plastic gourds, especially designed to entice purple martins who are looking for a place to raise their chicks. This year, three martin pairs hatched 13 birds at Meadow Knoll. I'm hoping to up the total next year.

Book notes. Annie Dillard knows what I'm going through right now. "When you write, you lay out a line of words. The line of words is a miner's pick, a woodcarver's gouge, a surgeon's probe. You wield it, and it digs a path you follow. Soon you find yourself deep in new territory. Is it a dead end, or have you located the real subject? You will know tomorrow, or this time next year." It had better be tomorrow, Annie. This book is due before Christmas.

9/30/2003 06:45:00 PM

Monday, September 29, 2003  
Ah, autumn. Today is the first day since mid-May that we've had the air conditioner off and the windows open. 54 when I got up this morning, 83 for a high this afternoon. The meadows are bright with goldenrod and sunflowers, and Bill's pecans are growing plump (while the squirrels and crows watch with interest). The downside of all this delightful fresh air, of course, is the not-so-delightful pollen. Fall elm and ragweed, mostly. Ah-choo. But hey, if your allergies are kicking up this fall, don't blame the goldenrod. Its pollen is too heavy and sticky to be tossed to the wind, or wasted on allergic humans. But insects adore it, and gladly track pollen from one goldenrod to another. What goes around comes around.

Fiber stuff. Still more hats. I've figured out why I like to do these little projects. The hat itself is nothing more than a large swatch, which enables me to experiment with patterns and color and extend my knitting skills. Once the swatch is done, I sew up the side seam, and voila, it's a hat! I have learned so much from these hats--totally amazing. The one I'm working on now is a cable. My first cable. Photo when I finish.

Two-heads-are-better-than-one department (which has nothing to do with hats). Wrote a terrific scene yesterday--two criminals discussing the crime, set in a wonderfully grungy pub in Woodstock, meant to be inserted as chapter three or four. Read it to Bill this morning. He listened thoughtfully, considered for a moment, and said, "Absolutely perfect. Love the way you handle those characters. Except that you've just given the whole mystery away." Duh. But the rewrite--same setting, different characters--was considerably better. I discovered that Alfred loves Kitty and would do anything to save her, which throws an entirely new light on an obscure part of the plot. Love it when the characters tell you something about themselves that you hadn't suspected--and when what they tell you adds a whole new plot line to the book.

Book notes. From Sophy Burnham, For Writers Only: "George Sand wrote seven play and almost fifty books--including a four-volume autobiography--using, what? A quill! For a time she published her own newspaper--and in addition, she married, traveled, took lovers, bore and reared children and watched some die. In some periods she published two and hree books a year." It's the lovers I'm amazed at. Think of all the energy that went into writing books and plays and a four-volume Life--and lovers to boot? Whew. More power to her.

9/29/2003 07:03:00 PM

Saturday, September 27, 2003  
I love plant names, but maybe you don't, so this is the last post on Baccharis--unless something irresistible happens along. (See previous couple of posts, and photo.)

Bill Hopkins mentioned that he understood that the genus was named after the Greek god of wine (duh--I should have guessed that!), which sent me to A Gardener's Handbook of Plant Names, by A.W. Smith (out of print). Smith says (p. 52) that the name Baccharis refers to deciduous and evergreen trees, shrubs, and herbs named in honor of Bacchus, because "the roots were sometimes used to spice wine." According to Hortus Third, the plant-lover's bible, there are some 350 species of the genus around the world.

And Baccharis has plenty of other uses, according to one of my favorite sources, Daniel's Moerman's Native American Ethnobotany. The Navajo used Baccharis wrightii as a venereal medicine ("Strong decoction of plant taken in large amounts for sexual infection") and as a "ceremonial emetic"--internal cleansing. The Cahuillas used the leaves to make an eyewash and a remedy for baldness, while the Hualapai applied hot poultices of the leaves to swellings, and made a cold infusion to bathe the temples as a headache treatment. So maybe I shouldn't be surprised that this plant is named for Bacchus: I can easily imagine the roots steeped in wine to treat headaches and maybe even hangovers, caused (of course) by a Bacchinalian revel. Roots of various plants--dandelion, yellow dock, chicory, and ginger--have been used for the same purpose. Well, enough's enough--but from now on, I'll certainly look at this plant--poverty weed, forsooth!--with a far greater affection and respect.

The roses are gorgeous just now. Here's the arbor, covered in blossoms of New Dawn.

No more whining, just head-down, hands-on-the-keyboard writing yesterday, after Bill and I straightened out some of the kinks in our story line. The whining had nothing to do with the Blenheim project, which is going very well, but with another writing project, which has run into road-blocks--unnecessary and silly, from my point of view. I can be more explicit when they're resolved. Bill worked on the problem with our editor yesterday, and we're hoping that the matter is dealt with quickly. In the writing business, you are your own boss only to a certain point. You also have to meet your editor's requirements, and sometimes other people get involved. Hello, I'm whining again. More later, when there's something to tell.

Book notes. Somerset Maugham once remarked. "There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." Equally unfortunately, some people think they know.

9/27/2003 09:51:00 AM

Thursday, September 25, 2003  
More of what's in a name. Yesterday (see below), I was puzzling over poverty weed, aka Roosevelt weed, New Deal weed, and--just found this out--Hoover weed (Baccharis neglecta), which grows abundantly here in the Hill Country. What's the origin of these names, I wondered. A couple of people have written to say that they think it all began when the the shrub was planted for erosion control in the make-work programs of the 30s. Somebody else wrote to say that the plant became common in areas that were devastated by drought, like the Dust Bowl, during the Roosevelt era.

And to deepen the mystery, I learn that Baccharis is derived "from the Greek name for some other plant"--whatever THAT means. So it's still a mystery, although I've discovered that there are quite a few members of the Baccharis family, not all of them neglecta--although it seems that the Baccharis (Bacchari?) specialize in colonizing places where the native vegetation has been stripped. Once there, they like to hang around and multiply. I'm still interested, if you have theories about this interesting name.

By any other name a rose would still be just as lovely, of course. These are blooming just now in my garden, where the rebloomers have come to life again with the advent of fall, cooler weather, and a bit of drizzle. Show-offs, aren't they?

Writing felt like a chore today, but I stayed with it and managed my 1500 word quota. Not the book, just me. Want to say to the rest of the world, go away and let me write, but a lot of good that'll do me. Long whine here. But hey, life is like that sometimes. Just have to buckle up and hang on.

Book notes. "I learned how to write," Maxine Kumin says, "in the interstices of daily life." A lesson I thought I'd learned, but maybe not, if today is any indication.

9/25/2003 06:54:00 PM

Wednesday, September 24, 2003  
What's in a name? Poverty weed, New Deal weed, Roosevelt weed, sweet willow, false willow, yew willow Jara Dulce--interesting names for a plant that grows abundantly along our fence rows. Its Latin name, Baccharis neglecta, is equally intriguing. Farmers and ranchers don't like this large, fast-growing shrub, which thrives on neglect and loves to colonize soils that most other plants its size don't enjoy. It's not a terribly pretty plant, either, not the sort you'd want in a landscape, because the stems are weak and the branches break off easily--and it's only pretty for a few weeks when it's in bloom.

But if you asked a bee or wasp or beetle or butterfly what they think about this weed, you'd get an earful. In the fall, the plants are covered with fuzzy white blossoms, producing a nectar that summons every bug with a sweet tooth for miles around. It's a delight to stand in our poverty weed patch and listen to the buzzing of happy insects sipping their rich treats. (And if you know anything about the history of this plant's names, I'd love to hear it.)

Fiber stuff. I didn't get a stitch done on the lace scarves I planned to knit on the trip--they required too much concentration. Instead, I just kept on knitting caps for the Afghan program (see link on left). I've got about a dozen ready to go. Knitting with a purpose, for kids who really need something warm to wear on their heads. I like that.

Book stuff. Bill is back from New Mexico, with lots of ideas and new directions for the book. So he's at work pulling the Charles/T.E.Lawrence/ Ashmolean plot together, and I'm moving forward with the Kate/Consuelo/ Winston/Gladys Deacon plot. At some point (theoretically, at least), these two plot paths will come together. Right now, that convergence point is beyond my horizon, but I have faith that we'll get to it. It's always worked before, so it's bound to work this time. (Well, we hope.) Anyway, it's nice to have him home, good for all of us to be together again, with no trips planned for the near future. Until Thanksgiving, anyway. Today I made plane reservations for Reno, where I'm planning to spend the holiday with son Bob and his terrific teens, Steven, Angel, and Cody. That'll be fun, and I'm looking forward to it. But from then until now, except for the Austin memoir workshop and a couple of other Story Circle events, I'm home-bound. Sounds wonderful.

Book notes. From Writing From the Center, by Scott Russell Sanders. "All good writing, everywhere and always, is an act of attention. What most needs our attention now, I believe, is the great community of land--air and water and soil and rock, along with all the creatures, human and otherwise, that share the place. We need to imagine the country anew, no longer as enemy or property or warehouse or launching pad, no longer as lost homeland to be recalled from a distance, but as our present and future home, a dwelling place to be cared for on behalf of all beings for all time." And I'll say amen to that.

9/24/2003 07:05:00 PM

Monday, September 22, 2003  
I love these fall mornings. The sun rises through the mist, gilding the fields and the trees and turning the cattail marsh to copper. The landscape, the freshly-washed air, the dogs happy to be out and about at dawn, the sheep bouncily glad to see me, because they know they're about to get their morning corn-and-pellet snack--it all makes me feel incredibly privileged, enormously rich. I'm reminded of the Robert Lewis Stevenson verse I used to recite to my children when they were feeling short-changed about something: The world is so full of a number of things, I'm sure we should all be as happy as kings. Or queens, as the case may be.

Book arrival day. I love it when I open up a box of just-published books. This one, With Courage and Common Sense, is Story Circle's first memoir anthology, just published by UT Press. You can see the cover and read the introduction (scroll down to the bottom of the page). The intro will tell you how the memoirs were written, and why. Interesting story.

Gayfeather This lovely wild perennial (Liatris spicata)is starring in gardens these days, but I enjoy seeing it wild, in our meadows, perhaps because it brings back memories of a similar species that grew in the pasture across the road from my grandmother's farmhouse in Sullivan County MO. It's just now coming into bloom--in a few weeks, the meadow we call "The Back of Beyond" will be purple with its blooms. It grows from corms (like gladioli) and prefers a dry, rocky soil. (Hates wet feet.) The Cherokee used it as a decoction or tincture for backache, and brewed up the root as a diuretic, while the Creek used it for sore throat. It's said to contain coumarin, which is supposed to enhances the circulation. Just looking at it enhances my circulation.

Book notes. From The Mill on the Floss, by George Eliot (bet you haven't thought of that book since your school days): We could never have loved the earth so well if we had had no childhood in it--if it were not the earth where the same flowers come up again every spring that we used to gather with our tiny fingers...What novelty is worth that sweeet monotony where everything is known, and loved because it is known?

9/22/2003 06:56:00 PM

Saturday, September 20, 2003  
Memoir Workshop I've been meaning to mention this, so I'll post it before I forget again. On October 4-5, in Austin, I'll be leading another Writing From Life Memoir Workshop for Story Circle (women only--sorry, guys). I always teach at least one of the segments. This time, my segment is called Living in Place. Here's the description:
Sallie Teasdale has written: "As much as we live in a place, we live in place; we inhabit a condition of the soul. We live where we have made definitions, and in the process of making definitions, we create a place in which to live." Our stories are, in part, created by the places in which we have lived and live now: our houses, the landscapes around us, the places we love to go. We'll write about the way place has shaped our stories.

If you can make it to Austin for the workshop, please do. The other facilitators are experienced and supportive; the site where we teach is just about perfect; and the group will be small and intimate (we limit enrollment to 25). This one is well worth the time, effort, and minimal cost.

9/20/2003 09:12:00 AM

Friday, September 19, 2003  
Cold spell. A cold front slid down last night from the north. It was actually cool enough this morning to wear jeans instead of shorts when the dogs took me along on their daily walk to the lake. They were thrilled by the cooler weather and the smells in the damp grass, their black tails whipping wildly, whirling like windmills. I love the brisk breeze too. The skies are pewter gray but the meadow is lit with goldenrod, and the monarchs are warming themselves in the brightness of the flowers. They're on their way south now--in a few weeks, the woods will be full of them. Amazing notion, the distances these lovely, delicate migratory creatures will fly in their brief lifetimes.

Book stuff. I've been lazy the last couple of days, with Bill gone to New Mexico. Haven't really gotten back into the swing of things on the Blenheim book. Cleaned up some old disks and moved files from one computer to the other. Checked out some photos. Did some more background reading, made more notes, thought more thoughts, but didn't write many words. Guess I'll have to buckle down tomorrow. Bill says he's writing, so I need to keep my end up.

More book stuff. I spent a couple of hours last night reading the unbound page proofs of A Dilly of a Death, which arrived by UPS yesterday. I like to read page proofs--the thing isn't quite a book yet (it's not between covers, that is), but it isn't quite a manuscript, either. At this point, I'm supposed to make only emergency corrections (at this point, corrections cost money), but I always end up changing more than I should. The editor, copy-editor, and I have caught the serious glitches on previous passes; it's the little, really annoying things I'm seeing now, like the repetitions of words in a paragraph, or the awkward placement of parentheses, or the ungraceful division of a word at the end of a line. These nasty things are like gnats: invisible until the larger problems are cleared away; visible now, big time. But I like the book, like its pacing and crispness. It's a funny book, too. Lots of pickle jokes.

Book notes, from A Dilly of a Death. China and McQuaid (you know who they are, don't you?) are talking about McQuaid's new business. He's just jarred China by telling her that he has decided to hang out his shingle as a PI. His first client, Phoebe Morgan, and owns a pickle factory. McQuaid informs China that he's about to have a consultation with Phoebe. Here's the rest of the conversation.

"A confidential tete-a-tete with the Pickle Queen?" I snickered. "Sounds like a real sweet dill to me."

McQuaid put down his cup with a loud groan.

I leaned forward. "What's green and swims in the sea?"

"Excuse me," McQuaid said, standing hastily. "I've got to get ready to see Ms. Morgan."

"Moby Pickle." I chortled. "My roommate Allie and I used to trade old pickle jokes while we were studying for exams. It kept us sane. What do you get when you cross an alligator with a pickle?"

McQuaid went to the kitchen door. "I'm not biting," he said firmly. "I have more to do than sit around trading stupid pickle jokes."

"A croco-dill!" I crowed. I got up and followed him into the hall. "What business does a smart pickle go into?"

The only answer I got was the sound of McQuaid's office door closing firmly. "A dilly-catessen," I said to myself, chuckling.

And then I thought about McQuaid's announcement and sobered. This would be his third career. Would the change make him happy, at last? Could he really manage to choose the cases he wanted--and stay out of trouble?

And would a smart pickle really go into the PI business?

Hope you like it--there's more where that came from. On January 6, that is.

9/19/2003 07:36:00 PM

Thursday, September 18, 2003  
This is Blenheim Palace, seen across the lake. I'm not an admirer of this huge baroque building, which one writer has called "a dragon of a house which once breathed fire and was turned to stone by some terrible curse." For me, it's a symbol of imperial power and preference. I prefer to see it from a distance, framed by trees, with the lake in the foreground. From a distance, you might even mistake it for a pile of quarried rock. The lake was created by the great landscape architect, Capability Brown, who also planted the trees and designed (yes, designed) the meadows. But the site is truly historic. In medieval times, Henry I had a hunting lodge on a green promontory just out of view in this photo. And a little way down the lake, on the shore, you'll find Rosamund's Well.

Rosamund's Well is hidden behind the screen of trees in the photo below. It's a magical place, a spring--once called Everswell--that has never stopped flowing in at least ten centuries. It's located near the site of Rosamund's Bower, where according to tradition, Henry II installed his young mistress, Rosamund de Clifford, hidden deep within a labyrinth. Legend has it that Henry's jealous Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine discovered a golden thread snagged on Henry's spur and followed it to the center of the labyrinth, where she found Rosamund and poisoned her.

By the fifteenth century, there was a chapel, and a suite of rooms, and a cloister here, surrounding a paved courtyard through which the spring waters flowed in a series of three pools. There is also said to have been an herb garden. I both borage and comfrey growing beside the spring, neither of which are likely to be wildings. But the buildings fell into disuse, and by the time Princess Elizabeth was imprisoned in the gatehouse, in 1577, the bower was already in ruins. Rosamund's Well is one of the settings for our mystery, and the story of Fair Rosamund figures as an historical background plot in the book.

A suitcase full of books. When we go to England, we always take one mostly-empty suitcase. Coming home, it's full of books. These days, we buy a great deal of research material online, but visits to small local bookstores are not only fun--something we both enjoy--but have big payoffs, like finding nuggets of pure gold. On this trip, we did major book-buying in at bookstores in Colchester (in Essex), Hawkshead, Ambleside, and Kendal (all in Cumbria), and in Woodstock and Oxford. There's nothing quite like the discovery of a fascinating, helpful book. One terrific find: Blenheim: Landscape for a Palace, which is a wondeerful complement to Marian Fowler's Blenheim: Biography of a Palace, which I stumbled on some weeks ago when I was surfing the web. Another useful find: Rollinson's Life and Tradition in the Lake District, which has been out of print for some time. It's a good thing they didn't weigh that seriously overweight wheelie before we towed it onto the plane. It was all Bill could do to heft it into the overhead compartment.

Rain showers today. Nothing as wildly spectacular as Hurricane Isabel, which I've been watching on television. Just a nice gentle rain, with more on the way, enough to ensure that I won't have to water the plants on the deck. The rain is a product of another cold front dipping down from Canada. There are fewer hummingbirds at the feeders, and the leaves of the cedar elms are beginning to turn the color of old gold. Am I deceiving myself, or are we having an early fall?

Book notes. Thinking about Blenheim, and the Marlboroughs. "We shape our dwellings," Winston Churchill said, "and afterwards our dwellings shape us." What kind of shape would you be, if you had to live in that dragon of a house?

9/18/2003 06:42:00 PM

Wednesday, September 17, 2003  
More trip photos. Before we drove up to the Lake District, we spent the weekend with Bill's friend Ruby, a splendid lady in her 80s who lives in a 15th-century cottage in the little village of Dedham, on the River Stour. (You may be familiar with this beautiful area from the landscape paintings of Constable.) Our fictional Kate and Charles Sheridan live at fictional Bishop's Keep, only a few miles from the real Dedham, and the village figures in a couple of the books. This photo is the front of the Littlegarth Cottages; Ruby's cottage is at the back, with its own neat little garden. The roof of this building used to be thatched, which Ruby hated: picturesque, but a horrid nuisance, leaky, and always full of birds and mice, she says. Aren't the flowers gorgeous? Everywhere, you can see heaps and mounds of blooms, and baskets of trailing colors, like exotic silken draperies.

In the Lake District, we spent several days exploring the village of Near Sawrey, where Hill Top Farm is located and where Beatrix lived after she married William Heelis in 1913. The gray building in the foreground was the Post Office, in Beatrix's time; now, it's owned by the National Trust, which owns many of the buildings in the village. Few people actually live in Sawrey these days--instead, the houses are let for holiday rentals. That's the unfortunate reality of life in the Lake District these days. The mountain in the background is Coniston Fell. And that's enough photos for today.

Batching it. Bill's gone off to New Mexico for a few days of much-needed quiet, and the two dogs, the cat, sheep, geese, and I are all alone. After weeks elbow-to-elbow with hoards of people (even rural England is crowded), I'm reveling in the acres of Texas solitude, populated only by wild life. Cleaned my office, potted up some baby basils (there's still time for lots of pesto before frost), read a couple of pieces of writing from the on-line course I'm teaching for Story Circle, and reorganized some book shelves. Tomorrow, it's back to writing. I have lots of notes and photos from Blenheim Palace to work with, and some new ideas for Kate's mystery. Bill is handling Charles's mystery, which somehow involves T.E. Lawrence, he says--intriguing, but I don't have to worry about that just yet. I don't have to cook supper, either, or wash dishes. Cool. Very cool.

Book report, British branch. One of the neatest things that happened on the trip was walking into a chain bookstore in Oxford and finding multiple copies of both the China Bayles and the Robin Paige mysteries. A delightful lift on a morning when we'd gotten wildly inaccurate directions to the Ashmolean Museum (and the flat assertion that it was closed for the St. Giles' Festival) from a snarly shopkeeper.

Book notes, on writers and the solitary life. "You quit your house and country, quit your ship, and quit your companions in the tent, saying, ‘I am just going outside and may be some time.’"—Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk

9/17/2003 05:36:00 PM

Tuesday, September 16, 2003  
Whew. There's a reason why the word "travel" is derived from "travail." Our trip was exhilarating but exhausting. Please don't talk to me about going anywhere for at least six months. Well, six weeks, anyway.

I won't be imposing dozens of digital photos on you, but I will be posting several over the next few days. If you're not interested in the Lake District or Oxfordshire, go away and come back next week.

Here are two photos for today. This is the Sawrey Hotel, where we stayed for a week in Cumbria. In addition to being a lovely old place (the part where we slept was built about three hundred years ago), it was only a fifteen-minute walk to Near Sawrey, where Beatrix Potter lived after her marriage to William Heelis in 1913. (If you're tuning in late, I went to the Lake District to get background material for my new Beatrix Potter mystery series.) Another plus for the hotel: the food was first-rate (breakfast and dinner were included in the cost), the staff was wonderfully hospitable, and the resident dog and cat were pleasantly sociable. Highly recommended. And you can even bring your dog.

The photo below was taken Wray Castle, above Lake Windermere. Beatrix and her parents rented the castle for the summer holiday in the 1880s (yes, truly). I love the stone wall, the velvety green of the sheep-tended meadow, the distant view of the quiet lake, the fog-draped fells. So much of the Lake District landscape was just like this. No wonder Beatrix loved it so much.

Back at the ranch, things are pretty much the way we left them, except that we're down from six sheep to four. U2, the escape-artist ewe, managed to get through the fence and disappear. We found her lamb, dead. We think the lamb got dehydrated, trying to get through the fence, and died in the hot sun. We're not sad about U2, who was a pain in the butt, but distressed about the lamb. Ah, well. The remaining quartet are healthy, and we plan to get four more as soon as Bill gets back from New Mexico, where he's house-sitting for a friend who hates to leave his grayhounds in a kennel. So Bill is looking forward to some quiet time in a lovely mountain retreat over the next week, while I decompress from the trip.

And back to the books. A couple of developments on the book front since we've been back. Berkley has decided to publish the Beatrix mysteries under my name, rather than Robin Paige, as they originally planned. Mostly, I think, it's because they're putting a lot of promotion muscle behind the China series (which is written under my name), and they want to capitalize on it. I'm delighted, because that's what I wanted from the beginning. I think it's a smart move.

Another nice development late today--a call from the publisher of Writing From Life, which came out in 1997, saying that they've decided to bring out a new edition of the book next spring. It's not a Big Deal, just a few pages of new introduction from me and a new bibliography and resource section. But it will give me a chance to feature the Story Circle Network, which grew out of the book. And there'll be some changes on the cover, and some new endorsements, that sort of thing. The revised edition will be out in Spring, 2004. Lovely.

Book notes. Good to be back, sweet to feel my own home ground under my feet again and breathe a familiar air. (No, all air does not smell the same.) "To be rooted is perhaps the important and least recognized need of the human soul."--Simone Weil, The Need for Roots (You absolutely have to click on the link for a look at the cover of this book. Carrots!)

9/16/2003 06:54:00 PM


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