August 12, 2018

      Don has pneumonia. Hospice care is being discussed. My sister and niece are with me and we will be visiting him today.


August 5, 2018

          Don and I talk on the phone every day, but I waited until my weekly visit to the hospital to tell him about your response to my post last Sunday.
         He understood and was overwhelmed, happy, grateful. As am I. Your words have enveloped me, bringing comfort and strength.
         Next week I’ll return to my usual tales of happenings in Sandwich and such.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


July 29, 2018

         I have been waiting until things were more definite to tell you about Don’s health, hoping that it would improve. In a way, it has, but I’m afraid the news is devastating.
        About a year ago, Don’s memory problems seemed to become more than “senior moments.” Our wonderful primary-care doctor gave him a memory test and kept tabs on the situation. I braced myself for Alzheimer’s. Then an occasional delusion would appear in Don’s conversation. Thinking he was joking, I’d look into his blue eyes and see that he wasn’t. Did he really believe that his brother, who lives in Florida, was in our house? The delusions increased and then in the past three months they speeded up, rampaging.
        The delusions were the clue. A mental-health counselor made a tentative diagnosis of Lewy Body Dementia, an aggressive form of dementia that we’d never heard of before. A neurologist at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center confirmed the diagnosis, and Don was admitted into this hospital in Lebanon, NH, on July first.
        He is still there, while a nursing home is being found for him.
        Needless to say, this has been a terrible shock—a series of shocks. Life has been disrupted in so many ways, from his absence in our household to the ton of paperwork involved in medical care. The disruption will continue indefinitely; it includes my writing schedule. But my sister and niece have been here and are helping me tremendously. Our town is full of concern.
        At the hospital, the medications have helped Don. He’s calmer, humorous again, more my Don. And thus, as I said, his health has improved.
        But I miss our being together at home! And I know that you love him too.
        I may not be able to answer individual queries for a while, but please know that you are all dear to me and I value your friendship. Thank you.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


July 22, 2018

     Here are some things I’ve seen and overheard that have amused me recently:
I was almost past a farm-stand sign when I realized what I’d just read on its list of the farm’s produce:
     Whoa! Marijuana? Oh, oh yes, medical marijuana is now legal in New Hampshire. But at a farm stand? So this was a joke?
     On another day, I saw this on a Harley Davidson dealership sign:
            Put Excitement Between Your Legs
     And I saw this after that big motorcycle week in New Hampshire. The excitement continues.
Here’s a vanity license plate:
               Bow Jest
     Friends from Pennsylvania who summer in New Hampshire say that in all their travels they’ve seen the most vanity plates in New Hampshire. They concluded that folks here while away the long winter thinking them up.
     At a nearby table in a Dunkin’ Donuts two women were doing a crossword puzzle. One leaned toward the other and asked hesitantly, “Osprey?”
     I don’t know why I found this so funny, but I did. Maybe it’s because my father claimed that an osprey followed the Fish & Game truck to his and my stepmother’s backyard pond and promptly devoured the fish that were delivered.
     And then in a restaurant I overheard two women in a nearby booth. One said to the other, “You don’t have to finish your French fries.”
     The other said, “Oh, really?”

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


July 15, 2018

     Last month, U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall died at his New Hampshire home.
     I first read him in the 1960s when he sent my father a copy of String Too Short To Be Saved: Memories of a Disappearing New England. In his accompanying letter, he wrote of his admiration for my father’s novel Amos Jackman.
     My father and I liked his memoir. In its epigraph, Donald Hall explained the title: “A man was cleaning the attic of an old house in New England and he found a box which was full of tiny pieces of string. On the lid of the box there was an inscription in an old hand: ‘String too short to be saved.’”
     From reading this book we went on to reading his poems.
     I didn’t really know the part of central New Hampshire that Donald Hall was writing about, Danbury, where in his youth he visited his grandparents’ farm, which later became his own home. My father was acquainted with the area, but having grown up in the Connecticut River Valley part of New Hampshire and then lived the rest of his life in the Lakes Region, two beautiful parts of the state, he was somewhat immune to its charms, shall we say. However, Donald Hall’s writing made us aware of this landscape that we might not otherwise have appreciated fully.
     Eventually Donald Hall and I had a brief correspondence about the writing business, and eventually I became better acquainted with the area when I took over my father’s hiking books and climbed, several times, Mount Kearsarge, that region’s mountain. Also, the son and daughter-in-law of Gloria, my dear Bennington friend, moved to a town near Danbury, so when Gloria and her husband drove up from Connecticut to visit them, Don and I drove down from Sandwich for a mini Bennington reunion.
     At about this time, Newsday sent me Donald Hall’s memoir Seasons at Eagle Pond to review. As I opened the package and took out the book, I remembered that copy of String Too Short To Be Saved arriving in my parents’ mailbox.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


July 8, 2018

     Fireworks. They can mean tragedy and controversy, but here are some simple memories:
      Don and I hadn’t gone to see Fourth of July fireworks for many years, but when in 1968 we moved to Dover, New Hampshire, we went, and that renewal of the experience eventually found its way into one of my earlier novels, Wife and Mother. The heroine, Carolyn, goes to the town’s event with her husband and young son:
     There were fireworks at Paige Park on the night of the Fourth of July. Carolyn and John took Alex for the first time. Elaine and Kevin and Martha and Hugh and their kids joined them, and they all stood together in the dark packed crowd and looked up. When each firecracker exploded with a bang that jolted her heart, most children screamed, but Alex, high up on John’s shoulder, just stared. Loud colors cascaded. John said, “Wouldn’t this be something out over the lake.”
     My sister remembers that we did watch fireworks over Laconia’s Lake Opechee in our childhood.
     Don and I once watched fireworks over Lake Winnipesaukee, in the Weirs. Don’s father, a boat salesman, had the use of a boat that day and took us on a ride before we returned to the Weirs to watch. But the main thing I remember is that I was thoughtlessly wearing new earrings, the largest I’d ever had, leather-thong types on wires, and during the ride, as we sped along in the speedboat, they swung wildly and I feared they’d tear off my earlobes. Being a good daughter-in-law, I didn’t spoil the fun by mentioning this little problem.
     Here in Sandwich, fireworks are always on the night of July third. The first time we went, we felt we had truly become part of the town.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


July 1, 2018

     The tourist season is now upon us in the Lakes Region, and it’s reminding Don and me of how we used to travel off-season.
     During our caretaking years, we were working full tilt during the summer, so we couldn’t take a vacation until autumn or winter. Thus we found ourselves in cottages or cabins huddling around a fireplace or space heater or under blankets, all of which was fun, for this short spell. Summertime tourist sites were closed; the ocean was glorious anyway.
     Traveling on Thanksgiving and at Christmas, we did of course meet other travelers, but often places were closed on the day of the holiday. You could starve to death! One Thanksgiving we were extremely grateful to find an Asian restaurant open. At Christmas one year, the inn we stayed at had promised to include Christmas dinner, but since it turned out that we were the only guests, they sent us to a restaurant in another town. During the meal, a predicted snowstorm began, and the drive back to the inn on twisty seacoast roads was precarious.
     When Penny and I were planning a trip to the Cotswolds to visit gardens, the timing had to be autumn because of our work. Penny is a landscape designer; she said, “England being England, there’ll be flowers, and when there aren’t we’ll see the ‘bones’ of the gardens.” And so we did. Only one of the gardens she wanted to visit was closed. As I write this, I’m wearing the Warwick Castle T-shirt I bought and I’m remembering flowers and peacocks there.
     For contrast, here’s the off-season experience from Hell:  A Maine B&B advertised that it would be open on Thanksgiving, and we delightedly reserved a room. What hadn’t been mentioned was that the owners’ extended family would be celebrating Thanksgiving there. We were the only guests, in a little upstairs room. Downstairs, revelry grew louder and louder through the evening, into the night, and the cigarette smoke rose thicker and thicker. We opened a window and leaned out, gasping. We considered packing up and leaving, but shouldn’t we wait to pay our bill? In the wee hours a baby began crying. Louder and louder. A car revved up and the wails receded; was the mother taking the baby for a ride to try to soothe it to sleep? In the morning, downstairs, the owner didn’t mention the situation as he made us coffee, and I chattered politely on about my Great-great-aunt Edith who’d lived in the town, but when it came time to pay for our holiday night, he shook his head.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 24, 2018

     “A Clean, Well-Lighted Place,” one of Hemingway’s short stories, can be interpreted in many ways, but for me it’s always meant the place where I write.
     Some of these places haven’t been literally well-lighted or exactly spic-and-span. I’ve written in bedrooms on my childhood desk and on my teenage desk (a la Snowy’s and Bev’s mahogany veneer desks); on a portable typewriter sliding around on a kitchen table; on note pads in beds, in armchairs, and in cars. And for the past forty-one years I’ve written in my garret, the upstairs of our Cape.
     But when summer comes and my garret gets hot, if I don’t want to listen to the noise of a fan I bring my writing downstairs. In the recent computer years this means moving my laptop down to the dining-room table, where I face the windows in the back door for a slot of backyard scenery, or I carry it on out to the back porch, where I set the it on the little kitchen table covered by a red-checked tablecloth from my family’s past, a tablecloth so worn and holey that Don implores me to buy a new one. I won’t. Not yet. Here the scenery is the whole backyard.
     It’s said that for a writer the best scenery is a blank wall. I have sometimes been able to arrange this or at least to face away from a window. But really, the scenery and surroundings don’t matter. Now I have the countryside; in Boston with my typewriter on the same dining-room table, I faced the apartment building’s parking lot and the traffic on Storrow Drive. And elsewhere other views in between. It all disappears as you go into what Stephen King calls “the zone.” You can even forget the temperature! Last week I worked on a Christmas scene in Lazy Beds at that little table on the porch. The thermometer was in the eighties, but in my mind the season was winter.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 17, 2018

     Vroom, vroom! That was the sound of last week, the 95th annual Motorcycle Week rally in New Hampshire, as all these visitors roared and roamed around us in the Lakes Region.
Here’s what I wrote about it in June 2014:

            When we were kids, it just lasted a weekend, Motorcycle Weekend, but even so it was an exciting noisy invasion. Guys with a girl or a six-pack or both on the back of their motorcycles, a pack of cigarettes rolled up in a sleeve of their T-shirts, roared aslant through our streets and camped out in whatever spots took their fancy, including the [Laconia] library lawn. We kids argued over which motorcycles were the best, Harley Davidsons or Indians. (I was an Indian fan.) As we girls got older, we began to hear wolf whistles when motorcyclists went past us as we walked along in our sleeveless blouses and short-shorts. Ah, those were innocent times!                   Comparatively.
            Grownups reacted to the invasion in various ways. Our house was on the street that led out to the place where the races were held in Gilford, and my mother sat on the front porch with HER pack of cigarettes and enjoyed the spectacle of the motorcycles zooming through our usually sedate residential neighborhood. My father took to the woods.
            When I arrived at Bennington, the switchboard operator who also put the mail in the mailboxes in Commons noticed the Laconia return address on letters from my parents and sister and told me about how she and her husband and children always went to Laconia for Motorcycle Weekend, she driving the car, her husband his motorcycle. Thus I became aware of the family aspect of the invasion.
            Don and I weren’t living in Laconia in 1965 when trouble came, but we heard the tales about it, motorcycle gangs rioting, fighting each other and the police. That put a damper on things for several years, until the rally was reorganized and the motorcyclists were back in full force.

      And now this week they were here again. We had to go to Laconia on one of the days, so we planned our route to avoid the Weirs and the worst of the congestion. But we remembered our childhood, when we’d sought out the tantalizing sight of adventurous strangers.

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 10, 2018

      Can a person yell in a whisper? That’s what it seemed like last week when Don, looking out the windows in our back door, yelled-whispered, “Ruth, come see, a bear!”
Our first bear of the season. I hurried to see. It was meandering along the bank across the beaver pond, and we were reminded of a scene we saw there a few years ago, which I later wrote into A Gunthwaite Girl:

      On the opposite bank, twin black bear cubs came scampering out of the woods and romped along the edge of the pond . . .
      And then, following them, plodded Mom. Mama Bear. Her fur shone glossy in the sun, and her vast bulk was just plain terrifying . . .
      Mom stopped in her tracks, sank down heavily on the bank, and went to sleep . . .
The cubs paid no attention to Mom’s nap and continued frolicking along the pond.


      But this time there weren’t any cubs and the bear meandered on its way along the pond, out of sight.
      These sights of springtime! We’ve now had the first sight this season of a mother duck leading a chain of babies swimming past. And in general the ducks and geese on the pond get me singing about “Chicks and ducks and geese better scurry” and that “surrey with the fringe on top.”
      There are also the sounds, better sounds of spring than my singing. We hear coyotes year-round, but I hadn’t heard any during the winter so when I heard them barking one night last week I sat straight up in bed to listen to the wildness.
      Then there’s the tiny sound of water pattering. When I’m sitting on the porch and hear this, I immediately look over to that little birdbath of ours under the lilac bush and see a chickadee having a dainty bath amid a fluttering of its wings. We make jokes about the chickadees bringing small towels and teeny-weeny cakes of soap. And we refill the birdbath.
      Phoebes have been calling their name in the backyard. When they returned earlier this spring, a pair built its nest in the usual nook over a bathroom window, plastering the nest with mud found conveniently nearby in the sump pump’s overflow trench.
      And speaking of sounds: We always wonder how something so small as a chipmunk can make such a hell of a racket. But thank heavens they do! A friend recently told us how, stepping out his back door first thing in the morning, he always looks to the right, the direction from which bears appear in his backyard. One morning, he looked to the right, saw nothing, and was about to set forth when he wondered why a chipmunk was chipping REALLY loudly. He looked to his left. A bear. He retreated indoors. Saved by a chipmunk!

Note: Amazon has not yet listed the new printing of HENRIETTA SNOW. The new printing is available in the Bookshop section.

© 2018 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved



June 3, 2018

 From Site Fidelity:

         Snowy said, “Maybe we should stop for a little something on the way home.”
         “Onion rings,” Tom said.
         “Natch,” she said. At this time of the year the oil would be new and fried food at its best. Connoisseurs!

         And at this time of year, when the nearest little dairy-and-lunch-bar opened for Memorial Day weekend, we were there for our onion rings. As we sat at an outdoor table under a red umbrella, we watched with our annual surprise the sight of summer people carrying trays of seafood from the takeout window to their tables, the paper plates heaped with fried clams and such. Why are they buying seafood here in inland New Hampshire instead of at the coast?
         Because, we reminded ourselves, if they aren’t vacationing at the coast, it’s the closest they’re going to get. And nowadays, sooner or later this summer we’ll do the same.
         Don grew up with this sight in the Weirs, envying the summer people who could afford fried clams. In my family, we waited for seafood until we got to the cottage that my grandparents rented on New Hampshire’s Rye Harbor each summer. There I had my first lobster. As the narrator of The Lilting House says, “I thought it was the most wonderful food I had ever eaten.”
         When Don and I were going to Maine every summer we too waited until we got to the ocean. Visiting my sister, often we couldn’t wait any longer and met her for lunch at the seafood restaurant instead of driving on the couple of miles directly to her house! Steamed clams for me, fried clams for Don. And then we’d go back at suppertime. During our vacations on Isle au Haut, I wondered like Snowy in Site Fidelity, “You can’t eat lobsters every night. Can you?”
         Nowadays, inland, we wait a while, then decide to buy a lobster or (lazy) lobster meat to eat at home, or we have fried clams out. But I’ve got a new idea for inland seafood this summer. Last week in an article in a Maine seacoast newspaper, the Working Waterfront, the writer mentioned a “haddock and havarti sandwich,” which I’d never heard of before. He didn’t give details about the sandwich except that it was delicious and the short-order shorthand was “fish and cheese.” But I’m going to try to create one!

© 2018 Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved





March, 2018

The Old Country Store

April, 2018

The Galloping Gourmet
The Poor Man's Fertilizer
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing; Food & Drink Poems
Recipe Box and Notebook

May, 2018

Going Up Brook, revisited
The Weirs Drive-In Theater
The Green and Yellow Time,