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

Monday, February 28, 2005  
Cheetos. The orangy centers of these daffodils always make me think of Cheetos, which (in my unhealthy-diet days) I used to love. Still do, as a matter of fact, although I no longer indulge. The daffs took a beating last night, when we had about ten minutes of pea-sized hail that sent Bill racing to put the car in the car port. But they were lifting their heads this morning and looking around to see if the sun was going to shine (it was) and the day was going to be warm (that, too). A good day for daffs.

Odd bird. At the lake this morning, I was looking for Major Gander when I saw a very odd goose. At least, I think he was a goose: gray head and body, but with a red rump, some red on his head (I think), a narrow red ring around his throat, black and white wings, bright yellow legs, nearly voiceless (a hoarse, wheezy quack). Too large and upright for a duck, not hefty enough to be a Muscovy. Probably immature, which makes him harder to identify. I came home for camera, binocs, and bird book, but when I got back to the lake, he was gone, darn it. You’d think with all those identifiers, I’d be able to find him in the bird book, but I’ve struck out. If you’ve got a suggestion as to possible make and model, please let me know: Tomorrow, I’ll take the camera.

Our tough old bird—Major Gander, a Toulouse goose—is missing and presumed dead. I reported almost two weeks ago that he was injured (by a dog, I suppose) but had survived. He made it for a week, swimming around at half-speed on his lake. We checked with the vet, who said that he’d either get well or he wouldn’t, and that he (the vet) didn’t recommend setting the leg. Then Major disappeared. When I saw Odd Bird this morning, my first thought was that Major had been healed or resurrected or maybe even reincarnated, although I almost immediately saw that Odd Bird was smaller, so if Major came back, he chose a different species. I’m sorry about Major. He was a good gander, always careful of his geese, modest and unassuming, not much of a noise-maker—all the things one values in a gander.

The Deer Lay Down Their Bones. After my post on 2.19 about finding the deer skeleton in the woods, Faith sent me the title of one of her favorite poems, by Robinson Jeffers. You can read it here.
There’s another Jeffers' poem, "Hurt Hawks," which I thought of when I first saw Major Gander’s leg. Nature is fierce, and sometimes summons all the love that's in your heart.

Faith signs her emails with one of my favorite quotations from the poet Rumi: "Let the beauty we love be what we do; there are a hundred ways to kneel and kiss the ground." Thank you, Faith, for the poem and the quotation.

Reading Notes. And while we’re thinking of geese, these lines from Mary Oliver’s poem, "Wild Geese":
Whoever you are, /no matter how lonely,/the world offers itself to your imagination,/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--/over and over announcing your place in the family of things.

2/28/2005 06:24:00 PM

Wednesday, February 23, 2005  
The Guild Iris. When Bill was in college in the late 60s, he was president of the Campus Guild, a men’s housing coop at UT Austin. When the building burned (several years after Bill left), a friend dug up some of the early-blooming white iris that grew in the Guild’s yard and planted them at several different houses where he and his wife lived. In the early 80s, Bill got some of the tubers from hi s friend and planted them at his house in Austin. When we moved out here nearly 20 years ago, we brought them with us. They are always the first iris to bloom, and when we see them, we’re delightfully reminded that plants and people can share a long and fascinating (and often involved) personal history.

Book report. Today was one of the best writing days I’ve had in a long time, primarily because it was an entirely fictional chapter about Ridley Rattail, who lives in the attic at Hill Top Farm. There’s something very freeing about writing about animals. Don’t know what it is—maybe the light inconsequentiality of it; or the dry, ironic tone of this particular rat; or maybe just the playfulness. Escape literature, pure and simple. But it comes quickly, and it comes right (to my ear, anyway). And since that doesn’t happen every day, it’s something to celebrate, all by itself.

Family stuff. The Alaska contingent is pretty busy just now, with the new baby at home. They’ve been taking pictures, though, and posting them to their Wittig family website. I asked Michael and Sheryl if it was okay for me to invite you to have a look, and they said yes. So if you’d like to see Master Michael Robert Wittig make his grand entrance into the world, the photos are here.

Reading Notes. It is all very well to be able to write books, but can you waggle your ears?—J.M. Barrie to H.G. Wells

2/23/2005 04:17:00 PM

Monday, February 21, 2005  
We are mourning the loss of Barbara Burnett Smith, fellow Austin mystery author, Sister in Crime, and friend. Barbara was struck by a car on Saturday night in San Antonio, near the mystery bookstore, Remember the Alibi. A celebration of her life will be held on Thursday, Feb. 24th at 3:00 p.m. at Unity Church of the Hills, 9905 Anderson Mills Rd. (512) 335-4449. Instead of flowers, her family asks that contributions be made to the National Ovarian Cancer Coalition, Inc. 500 NE Spanish River Blvd. Suite 8, Boca Raton, FL 334311-888-Ovarian.

Barbara was the author of the Purple Sage mysteries. Her new series debuted in January with the publication of Bead On Trouble. She was a past president of the National Sisters in Crime, and a willing and helpful mentor to new mystery writers. She will be deeply missed by her family, her many friends, and her appreciative readers.

2/21/2005 06:23:00 PM

Saturday, February 19, 2005  
Final resting place. Toro (our blue heeler) discovered a deer skeleton in the woods the other day and brought us a femur. Yesterday, Bill and I went out to collect the bones so the dogs wouldn't go hunting for them, and took this photo.

Deer have been on the increase since we’ve lived here. In the south meadows, we often see a herd of about 6-8 does, yearlings, and (soon) fawns. We rarely see them in the north meadows, and when we do, it’s usually just one or two, but we’re guessing that there are more, because of the size of their deer bedrooms—places in the tall grass where they lie. This one was an old animal, judging from the wear on the teeth, some worn down almost to the gum line and some missing, with bone grown into the gaps. Browsing and grazing animals are dependent for their food on the health of their teeth. This skeleton belonged to an old deer, probably a doe (no sign of antlers), who must have lain down to die in the spot where we found her. She’s been there a while, for the bones were very clean, and there wasn't a scrap of fur or flesh. Rest in peace.

Daffodils. The sky may be gray, the wind chilly and damp, but the daffodils are doing their best to bring the world into spring. Over the nearly twenty years we’ve lived here, I’ve planted hundreds along the edge of the woods. Some didn’t make it through the drought, but they are beginning to come back now. The proud King Alfred is always among the first to bloom, like buckets of bright gold spilled into the winter leaves.

Fairies. For some time, Fairy Tale: A True Story has been on my list of movies to see, and we watched it last night. It’s a charming, magical film, loosely based on the story of the Cottingley fairies: fraudulent fairy photos contrived by two little girls. Their prank deceived Conan Doyle and numerous others. The Yorkshire settings are gorgeous, the photography is lovely, and the fiction that frames the true events is beautifully handled. For the less entertaining true story, go here. It’s interesting that Doyle should have been taken in by the fakery, since he was also a notorious prankster, one of the suspected perpetrators of the Piltdown hoax.

I watched Fairy Tale to get some fresh ideas for Cuckoo Brow Wood, the Potter book I’m working on now. I’ve been wanting to bring fairies into the series (Potter was a confessed fairy believer), and the film was helpful. It was also a lovely evening’s entertainment, a retreat from the dismal realities offered by the news. I am currently re-reading a Miss Read novel, also a charming piece of escape literature. Michele and I have been having an email conversation about that. She reports that when she was working at an Atlanta bookstore, Miss Read's (Dora Saint) and Jan Karon's books were among the store's perennial bestsellers. Both of these authors create communities in which people relate to one another in gentle, helpful, and sympathetic ways. I've been getting quite a lot of mail that suggests that the Beatrix Potter mysteries are finding a similar audience: readers who are weary of hard-edged fictions and want to lose themselves in a world that is cleaner, sweeter, and brighter. Oddly, I find that kind of fiction harder to create than the other kind. It is more difficult to keep a "soft" story moving and create enough dramatic tension to engage the reader. When a story flags, mystery authors can always kill another victim (I suspect that's why some writers love to write about serial killers). I don't like to do that in the China mysteries, and I can't do it in these Potter books.

Reading Notes
Daydreaming had started me on the way; but story writing, once I was truly in its grip, took me and shook me awake.—Eudora Welty

2/19/2005 08:06:00 AM

Wednesday, February 16, 2005  
A tough old bird. Major Gander has had a difficult life. He became the chief gander of the flock of Toulouse geese we put out on the lake as goslings five years ago, and held that position without challenge—until the summer our neighbor on the other side of the lake brought home two large white ganders. They joined Major Gander’s flock in a peaceable way for a few months, but when breeding season rolled around, the larger of the two took on Major and defeated him, relegating him to Second Gander. That wasn’t too terrible, because there were enough geese to go around. Even the second and third ganders had at least one.

But over time, the dogs and coyotes took their toll on the setting geese. By the end of the breeding season last year, the two white ganders and Major were all that was left. This week, Major Gander met a dog or a coyote and came out second best again, with an injured leg. I thought he was probably done for, but this morning I saw him cruising at half speed around the lake. A tough old bird. Here he is, with two of the gray geese and the two white interlopers, on a happier morning a couple of years ago. Major is the bird in the back.

Bill will be home from New Mexico tonight, so my spell of solitude is over. Well, as much solitude as you can have when you’re sharing a small house with two large black Labs, an energetic blue heeler, and a black cat. The dogs and I watched the Westminster last night and cheered for the Lab and the Australian Cattle Dog (the breed name for our heeler), but both were passed over for Best in Show, which went to an elegant German short-haired pointer, a real beauty. I think the judges feel a need to go for the exotic, the dogs with the longest hair and the ones that look like floor mops with eyes and noses. Of the dogs in the final round, my favorite was the bloodhound. Now there is a Real Dog, noble and splendid. Nothing like a floor mop.

Book report. I’m about a third of the way through the book (Beatrix #3) and have a pretty firm idea of the plot—except that it’s not really a mystery. Not yet, anyway. I’d love to be able to just write about these people and this setting and not have to push it into mystery form. But I have to, and that’s that. So maybe something will emerge. I’d shove somebody off a balcony, except that in Book 2, a man fell off a cliff, so I think that strategy is out. Poison and daggers at close range are out, too, since these are "gentle" mysteries. When Bill and I used to write for the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, we had to wrack our brains for cliffhangers: every chapter had to end with one, and the more unique and dramatic, the better. In fact, we’ve had our cliffhangers rejected by editors in that series because they weren’t unique enough. Sigh… Mystery is a constraining form, and I’m feeling the constraints just now.

Reading Notes. This, from John Steinbeck, with which I heartily agree: It must be told that my second work day [in his new writing studio] is a bust as far as getting into the writing. I suffer as always from the fear of putting down the first line. It is amazing the terrors, the magics, the prayers, the straightening shyness that assails one. It is as though the words were not only indelible but that they spread out like dye in water and colour everything around them. A strange and mystic business, writing.

2/16/2005 04:52:00 PM

Monday, February 14, 2005  
A new grandson! And here he is, all nine pounds of him, with his very happy mother. Maybe by this time tomorrow, he’ll have a name. There’s been a great deal of back and forth about this, but the choices have been narrowed down to two, I’m told. Congratulations to Sheryl and Michael, and to the newest baby boy Wittig!

Book stuff. I don’t know about faeries (haven’t quite that figured out yet), but the rest of the plot is beginning to emerge out of the enormous mass of material that the characters, the setting, and the major themes of Beatrix’s life have generated. It’s a little like being in a dream, feeling your way through and not quite sure where you’re going. If I hadn’t been here and done this a great many times before, I’d probably be feeling very anxious. Very, very anxious. As it is, I’m feeling only moderately anxious, which is the gift of experience.

Smelling the roses. A reader sent me a Valentine’s card filled with flowers—one of those gorgeous email cards that Jacquie Lawson creates ( with the thoughtful suggestion that I might take a little time out and smell the flowers. I’m glad to say that I’ve been doing just that (thank you, Mary Lou), although the flowers haven’t bloomed just yet. I spent a couple of hours pruning roses yesterday and today.

Here in central Texas, pruning is a job that needs to be done around the middle of February, a Valentine’s affair, in fact. I have a dozen shrub roses and a dozen climbers, so there’s plenty of pruning to do. It’s a bloody business, generally speaking, because these are antique roses, with generous thorns. They've been around for a while, and they are strong and healthy.

Pruning is also a bit embarrassing, because close inspection of the bushes always reveals the deficiencies in previous years’ prunings. A few years back, I had a garden helper who did the pruning for me. I didn’t supervise closely enough, and the result was . . . yes, embarrassment. Last year, I did it myself, but probably wasn’t tough enough: more embarrassment.

This year, I’m determined to do a better job, and I'm paying more attention to clearing out the middle of the bush and pruning to favor outward growing buds. I wear a leather glove on my left hand and wield the clippers with my right. My arms may be battle-scarred, but the shrub roses are done. By the time Bill gets back from New Mexico, I’ll have the climbers clipped into shape. (I wonder if there's a metaphor here for managing a book plot.)

Reading Notes, about reading:
We slip into a dream, forgetting the room we're sitting in, forgetting it's lunchtime or time to go to work. We recreate, with minor and for the most part, unimportant changes, the vivid and continuous dream the writer worked out in his mind (revising and revising until he got it right) and captured in language so that other human beings, whenever they feel like it, may open his book and dream that dream again.--John Gardner

2/14/2005 05:26:00 PM

Saturday, February 12, 2005  
Writer at work, happily. These gray, chilly days certainly aren’t everybody’s cup of tea, but they are mine. When the sky is dark and threatening, I love being in my office (never have quite got used to calling it a ‘studio,’ the way other authors do) with the desk lamp on, the dogs being lazy in their doggie beds (Zach snores), and and Bach on the radio. My earliest memory of this feeling (gloomy outside, cozy inside) comes from second grade at Garfield School in Danville IL, where my teacher had a fish tank. The tank, lighted and full of golden, flashing fish and green water plants) sat by the window, and my desk was in the window row. I could look over the tank to the snowy outdoors, and back to the book on my desk, and feel very good about being in this quiet, warm, well-lit place. Interesting, the way memories like that stay with you, and have the ability to brighten an entire life. I recall saying to myself, "I want to remember this forever." And I do.

Book report. Whether it’s this thing I have for gray days, or Bill gone to New Mexico, or whatever, the book (Book 3 in the Beatrix series, my current project) is going better. Having surrendered to talking cats, dogs, hedgehog, etc in the first book, and to a badger who runs a hostelry in Book 2 (out in July, for those of you who are asking), I have finally surrendered to faery. (I can hear the New York critics howling already.) This hurdle is probably what has been holding me up for a while, but this week, I read Tolkien’s essay "On Fairy Stories," and began to think back on the many fantasies I have read and enjoyed in my life. I especially thought about C.S. Lewis, and The Chronicles of Narnia, which I read when I was a teenager, and absolutely loved. And since Beatrix herself confessed to believing in fairies, who am I to hold out? Anyway, I have given up, or given in, and am letting the characters make their own way through this, while I follow along after. If they find faeries, so be it. If they don't, well, there's always Book 4.

Brave daffodils, blooming in all this outdoor gloom. In the meadow along Pecan Creek, bluebonnets putting up their new leaves, and the redbuds are beginning to bud. And the standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra) is a swirl of feathery emerald leaves four inches high. By June, the plant will be four feet high, and look like a fiery wand, like this:

It's not just memory that has the power to brighten--anticipation does it, as well. This June thought has enough fire-power to light up the entire month of February.

Reading Notes. From C.S. Lewis, about the process of writing Narnia: And then Aslan came bounding into it. I think I had been having a good many dreams of lions about that time. Apart from that, I don't know where the Lion came from or why He came. But once He was there, He pulled the whole story together, and soon He pulled the six other Narnian stories in after Him.

2/12/2005 07:17:00 AM

Wednesday, February 09, 2005  
The recent "sticks and stones" post brought some interesting responses. Michele sent me a link to a NY Times Op-Ed column by Maureen Dowd about the culture cops, the new vigilantes who are out to impose their moral values on the rest of us. An email from Debi about why she likes the Beatrix Potter books made me think of Stanley Fish, my Milton professor at UC Berkeley (yep, now you know where my left-ish tendencies come from), who used to talk about the "Ideal Reader": the reader who is looking for exactly the sort of book a writer is writing, and who feels an immediate kindred response to the work.

Which also reminded me that if there are Ideal Readers, there are also readers who are NOT "ideal," and who shouldn’t be reading the book at all, because they don’t have anything in common with it, or with the writer, and are totally out of sympathy with the work.

Which led me to reflect that those not-ideal readers should just put the book aside (or throw it across the room or return it to the library or whatever) and get on with their lives silently, instead of writing to the author to tell her (in this case, me) not to throw darts at ex-governors or to make everybody in her books heterosexual. There are enough books in the world so that everybody has the opportunity to find his or her Ideal Writer, one who doesn’t need a makeover (political or otherwise) to be almost absolutely perfect.

Which lead me to one final consideration (final for the time being, anyway). Maybe we should go out of our way to read writers who are NOT Ideal, who create worlds that are somehow unfamiliar, startling, or otherwise uncomfortable. Books that challenge our Ideal World, and call it into question, and make us wonder whether, just maybe, there might not be another way to look at life. Maybe we ought to read one or two or three of those books every month, just to get into the habit of questioning ourselves and our comfortable values and our oh-so-right schemes. Maybe, huh?

Thanks to all those who wrote. You’ve given me something very interesting to mull over this week, and I appreciate it.

Gray and chilly outside. Cormorants on the lake, redbirds and jays at the feeder, a hawk in the meadow, an armadillo blundering through the woods. Bill is in New Mexico for a few days, and I'm enjoying the silence. A fire this evening, a book (Jon Katz, Running to the Mountain), and my knitting. Finished the back of Becky's sweater or vest, whatever it's going to be. Waiting to hear if the new grandson has put in an appearance--last I heard, he was still breech, which means a C-section early next week. But since Becky made her somersault at the last possible moment, this little guy might do it, too. Stay tuned.

Reading Notes. Every now and then, I hear from Robert. This week, he sent a reading note he made up (a fictional quotation, as it were, complete with fictional citation). Here it is: To look to the mountains in the distance for a moment helps restore balance. To focus on the mountains and ignore the path in front of you increases the possibility that you will not see the tiger trap—oh, look out for the tiger trap! Oops. Never mind.—The Book of Bob Vol. II

Thank you, Robert. I’ll try to keep both mountain and tiger trap in view.

2/09/2005 05:22:00 PM

Sunday, February 06, 2005  
I’ve been thinking about what makes the Beatrix books so difficult—and have concluded that it’s because each book has to do so many different things and meet so many different expectations. It has to deal fairly and attractively with a real person who is known, at least superficially, to a great many people, and with an historical period that requires some significant research. It has to present a landscape that that many people have visited or perhaps even know with some intimacy. It has to tell an interesting, entertaining, and dramatic story without violence (just try that, if you think it’s easy!). And it has to be accessible to young adults as well as adults. My goodness. No wonder I’m having difficulty. How was it I managed to get through the first two books? Cuckoo Brow Wood is progressing slowly. Hope I'm on the right track now, after several false starts.

I love our woods in winter. The oak trunks are covered with ivy, a deep, rich green against the grays and browns of the bare branches. A few daffodils are poking up through the thick litter of fallen leaves. When I walk through the woods with the dogs, they are alert to a thousand fresh smells, their noses in the damp leaves, their tails wagging with delight. Today, the canopy was full of chirping robins and cedar waxwings, who have been feasting on the pyracanthus berries. The creek is running bank-full and so clear that I can count the small fish darting across the bottom. In another week, the chokecherry will be blooming. It’s not spring yet, but almost.

Sticks and stones. Just when I think I’ve read everything, I get this email: "You were rude to a friend of mine; we no longer read your books. Delete me so I have less junk mail." (I don't suppose this person really wants to be deleted; I think s/he only wants her/his name removed from our mailing list.)

I’ve had people tell me they’re not going to read my books because they didn’t like McQuaid sleeping with somebody other than China, or they don’t think the boys at Beans should throw darts at a former governor’s poster, or they think Ruby’s daughter should be heterosexual, or they don't like the idea that Jack London was an alcoholic. But this is a new one.

What I want to know, though, is what I did. Did I tell the friend to sit down and shut up? Did I slap the friend's face or step on her/his toes or push in front in some line? I can’t remember doing anything insulting to anybody—not in the last five or six years or so, anyway--so whatever I did, I wasn't aware of it. In fact, I rather wish I knew what I did that was so rude, so I could judge for myself whether it was worth the deletion of this reader and her insulted friend.

No, on second thought, I don't. I've had enough sticks and stones for this week.

Reading Notes, from Bird by Bird, by Anne Lamott.
E.L. Doctorow once said that "writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can see only as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way." You don't have to see where you're going, you don't ahve to see your destination or everything you will pass along the way. You just have to see two or three feet ahead of you. This is right up there with the best advice about writing, or life, I have ever heard. [My wise son Bob said something like that to me this morning on the phone, about work in general: Just do what's in front of you to do, Mom, without trying to figure out the whole thing ahead of time. Thank you, Bob.]

2/06/2005 05:08:00 PM

Friday, February 04, 2005  
Lots of interruptions these days, which makes for very patchy writing. There’s tour stuff, advertising for the Beatrix series (yes, authors do place ads for their own books, and sometimes even get involved in the ad-creation process), plus the art work for the Holly How postcard, the map for the book, and a couple of other art projects. One interesting tidbit: an inquiry from a Russian editor who is putting together a proposal for a series of cozy mysteries and wants to include China Bayles, in Russian translation. I had to smile at this, because I studied Russian when I was in college and graduate school and became proficient enough to translate (with Valentina Zavarin) a book called The Poetics of Composition, written by Boris Uspensky. That feels like a lifetime ago—and it was, actually. I wouldn’t dare try my hand at translating China into idiomatic Russian, but it would be fun to sit down and read it. It’s still at the inquiry stage, though. We haven’t seen an offer yet, and may not. Some of these things fall through before they even reach the author (or the agent, or whoever).

Meanwhile, I’d just be very glad if I could get 1200 words a day written, let alone the 1500 I usually aim for. I rarely tear up a book and start over, but that’s what I’ve done with this Beatrix book (#3), and I’m feeling discouraged. I'm comparing what I'm doing right now with the finished Holly How, and that's dangerous. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll turn off the email and the Internet and just WRITE.

Gray and gloomy outdoors. The dogs don’t seem to mind, and are cheerful--boisterous, even—as we go up to the lake in the early mornings to feed the livestock. Zach and Lady go chasing after rabbits and birds. Toro has to stay on the lead because I can't trust him to come back to me, but he seems to enjoy his walks in spite of this small limitation. The usual winter lake birds are here--cormorants, herons, kingfishers, ducks, all going about the business of getting a living in the lake's cold water. We’ve had quite a bit of rain, and the lake is brimful and very beautiful, rimmed with brown grasses and leafless trees. Somebody is clearing a piece of land with a bulldozer, not far away. I hate the sound of it, and hate seeing the smoke that signals the burning of yet another pile of bulldozed trees. People around here think that clearing the land means destroying every cedar and mesquite tree and blading up all the native grasses. Then they install a trailer and surround it with Bermuda grass, which they water constantly in dry weather. Go figure.

Fiber stuff. Indoors and away from the writing, I’m more cheerful. In the evenings, Bill builds a fire in the fireplace, we watch a DVD (tonight, it's Winged Migration) or something on the History channel, and I read and knit. I found a great book (Module Magic, by Ginger Luters) and am knitting a short-sleeved pullover for Becky from some stripy sock yarn I’ve had for a while. It’s knit in strips, which are joined as you go. In the photo, you’re looking at the left half of the back, which is exactly how far I've gotten. When the body is done, I may decide to make it sleeveless, so she can wear it over a long-sleeved turtleneck. But we’ll see.

Reading Notes. Much of the stuff which I will finally publish, with all its flaws, as if it had been dashed off with a felt pen, will have begun eight or more years earlier, and worried and slowly chewed on and left for dead many times in the interim.—William Gass.

And this one, from Sophy Burnham: I have heard that an eagle misses seventy percent of its strikes. Why should I expect to do better? And when he misses, does he scold himself, I wonder, for failing at the task?

2/04/2005 06:28:00 PM


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