THE FAMILIAR

May 9, 2021

          In Martha W. Hickman’s Healing after Loss book of meditations, she wrote that “Andrew Wyeth, when asked why he didn’t travel around more, is reputed to have said, ‘The familiar frees me.’”
          Ever since I read that comment more than two years ago, I’ve thought about it a lot. And last week I thought about it in different way when my dear friend Cilla and I went OUT TO A RESTAURANT (!) together for the first time since the pandemic began.
Ah, a return to the Village Kitchen, a favorite restaurant I’ve mentioned here often. The booth Don and I considered “ours” was available with its familiar view of the Ossipee Range of mountains, and as Cilla and I took that booth I remembered hiking two of those mountains, Mount Roberts and Mount Shaw.
          Last week had been a hectic week of coping with various problems—broken washing machine, broken printer. Here in this restaurant, in these familiar surroundings, doing this new thing once familiar, I sat back and relaxed. And ordered what Don and I chose most often, the Fried Shrimp Boat. For dessert, Cilla and I decided on pie; Cilla’s choice was Blueberry Crumb Pie and mine was Apple Crumb Pie.
          And speaking of pies, I recently came across some notes I’d jotted down about them. I’m a fan of the Delicious Miss Brown cooking show on the Food Network. Have you watched it? It’s filmed at Kardea Brown’s home on Edisto Island in South Carolina, and the warm green scenery is especially welcome when I’m watching it in my wintry kitchen, as is her Southern cooking inspired by her Gullah heritage. A show in March was centered around a fund-raising dinner she was making. The funds were for the preservation of the Hutchinson House, the “last house owned by a freedman on the island”; it was “built by hand by Henry Hutchinson.” (I later Googled.)
          One of the dishes Miss Brown made for this dinner was a Lemon Buttermilk Pie. A what? I’d never heard of such a pie. But when she laughed and said that she called it “Desperation Pie” because you made a Buttermilk Pie when you had no other ingredients in the house for the filling, the idea was very familiar to me.
          In my pie-making years, whenever my Old-Mother-Hubbard cupboard was bare I would make a Custard Pie—milk and eggs. (And nutmeg.) Luckily, this was one of Don’s favorite pies. Once I made a Shoo Fly Pie because I enjoyed the name and remembered it in a song from my youth about “Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy/Make your eyes light up and your tummy say, ‘Howdy!’—and also because that day I mostly had only molasses to put in a pie shell. We ate the pie happily (and singing), but afterward in desperate times I returned to making familiar Custard Pie.

 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

SYNONYMS

May 2, 2021

          In the May issue of Smithsonian magazine there’s a fascinating article titled “Roget Gets the Last Word: Long before compiling his famed thesaurus, he had to escape Napoleon’s dragnet.” Huh? I realized I knew absolutely nothing about this man who has been such a big part of my life ever since my girlhood, when I would borrow my father’s copy of Roget’s Thesaurus to check a word, to seek inspiration, or just to browse.
Eventually I acquired my own copy. Over the years it has always been on or near my desk. During Don’s illness I began working at the dining-room table, which I’m still doing, and I brought downstairs from my garret office the books I needed at hand. In addition to the Snowy Series they were: Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary; The Chicago Manual of Style; The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E. B. White; and Roget’s International Thesaurus.
          The article, by Claudia Kalb, begins: “In January 1802, Peter Mark Roget was an ambivalent young medical graduate with no clear path. He lacked the professional connections that were crucial to a fledgling English physician and was eager for a reprieve from a life largely orchestrated by his widowed mother, Catherine, and his uncle and surrogate father, Samuel Romilly.”
          Eventually Romilly “introduced his nephew to . . .  a wealthy cotton mill owner in Manchester, with the plan that Roget would chaperone [his] teenage sons . . . who were about to embark on a year-long trip to the continent to study French and prepare for a career in business. Roget had caught a big break—or so he thought.” Instead, Napoleon almost caught him.
          When they reached Geneva in their Grand Tour, there was “a flare-up of hostilities between Britain and France,” and “British citizens in French territory . . . [were to] be held as prisoners of war—including those living in Geneva, an independent city-state that Napoleon had annexed.” Roget was trapped. He tried various maneuvers but then “he and the boys simply made a run for it. Dressed in shabby clothing, so as not to look like the tourists they were, they traveled through obscure villages, avoided speaking English and, after bribing a French guard in the border town of Brugg with a bottle of wine, crossed the Rhine River by ferry to unoccupied German soil.”
          After this adventure, Roger became a physician and inventor. After retiring in 1849, “the 70-year-old turned to words, a passion that harked back to his childhood . . . Although, prior books of synonyms existed, none offered the depth or scope of the thesaurus Roget published in 1853, and for which he would become a household word—a synonym for the source of all synonyms.”
          And I’m now looking at my thesaurus on this dining table with great gratitude that he escaped from Napoleon.
          Speaking of words: We’re into May, but because most of last week was spent in April let’s have a final celebration of National Poetry Month with some lines from Robert Frost’s “Two Tramps in Mud Time,” which I’ve quoted here before in Aprils past:


          The sun was warm but the wind was chill.
You know how it is with an April day

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

"BEAR!"

April 25, 2021

        Last week I saw in my five-year diaries that ten years ago I had written on April 20th:
“Wednesday. 42 degrees; weather varied! Rain. I did exercises; Don showered; a thunderstorm! It subsided; I showered. Rain stopped. I began deskwork—and Don yelled, ‘Bear!’ A young bear, probably only a cub last year, had got the suet feeder and retreated behind the shed. It came back. Would not leave—too young to be scared by Don charging in truck, horn blaring. But finally it wandered off. I returned to working on manuscript corrections. After lunch I ironed, etc. In eve, another Doc Martin DVD episode.”

        After that, we began taking in the seed and suet feeders on April 1st, as the Fish & Game folks tell us to. This annoyed the bears. A few years ago one of them must have smelled seeds inside the metal trash barrel in which we’d kept seeds all winter. The bear investigated, knocking the empty barrel over, denting the side, finding it empty. In the morning we discovered the evidence and pictured a very disappointed and pissed-off bear.
        The same thing happened recently, and this time I discovered the barrel knocked over and the lid bent almost in half. I wondered if this had been done by the BIG bear I saw in the yard two years ago, a bear I wrote about here on that May 24th:

“He was moseying. And he was, I think, the biggest bear I’ve ever seen . . . How to describe his size? His bigness was round. Rotund, like Santa Claus? No. Ponderous? Massive? ...[His] vast bulk was emphasized against the delicacy of the springtime background, the green grass blooming with dandelions, bluets, wild strawberries, and violets, the fragile new leaves of the woods. I suddenly felt so lucky, filled with wonder, to have seen this ‘wild’ creature at home in my neighborhood.”

        One of the Yeoman’s Fund April poems last week was a Mary Oliver poem:

SPRING

Somewhere
  a black bear
   has just risen from sleep
     and is staring

down the mountain.
  All night
   in the brisk and shallow restlessness
     of early spring

I think of her,
  her four black fists
   flicking the gravel,
     her tongue

like a red fire
  touching the grass,
   the cold water.
     There is only one question:

how to love this world.
  I think of her
   rising
     like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
  the silence
   of the trees.
     Whatever else

my life is
  with its poems
   and its music
     and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
  coming
   down the mountain,
     breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her—
  her white teeth,
   her wordlessness
     her perfect love.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

 BLOSSOMS

April  18, 2021

          In Site Fidelity, when Snowy and Tom are touring Quarry Island in April, they drive past the little Hutchinson cemetery:
“ . . . somebody had set out several baskets of pansies throughout the cemetery. For color before Memorial Day’s red geraniums?  Usually the first sight of pansies each spring would make Snowy tell Tom that one of the old names for pansies was ‘Kiss-Her-in-the-Pantry.’ But she didn’t this year.”
          Later, they go to the castle:
“In the two big granite urns atop the granite gateposts were more pansies, crowds of pansies, purple, blue, yellow, white, tiny faces frowning.”
          I remembered this last Monday when I saw a couple of brave displays of petunias in yards as I drove to the post office. Bare trees were budding; brown lawns were beginning to green up; the yellows of daffodils and forsythia were starting to glow. And I thought about all the springtimes Don and I watched blossom in the village center since we moved to Sandwich in 1976. Such a soothing, beautiful sight it is! In the Town of Sandwich Annual Report for 2020, the Historic District Commission’s report begins, “The citizens of Sandwich voted to establish the Center Sandwich Historic District at Town Meeting in 1982. The motives for creating the Historic District are evident in the village we have today. Mr. Bryant Tolles wrote years ago: ‘Center Sandwich has long been regarded as one of the most aesthetically pleasant, historically noteworthy and architecturally significant rural villages in northern New England.’ It is our responsibility to appreciate what has been given us and to care for what we will leave for the next generation.”
In Site Fidelity I wrote, “People kept reminding Snowy that April is considered a winter month in northern New England.” And on Friday a snowstorm descended on Sandwich. But the blossoming will return.
          Amongst the Yeoman’s Fund’s posting of daily poems in April is another one new to me and so is the poet, Li-Young Lee.

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

LOST KITCHEN AND FOUND POETRY

April  11, 2021

         Perhaps you’ve read in People magazine about Erin French and her famous Lost Kitchen restaurant in Maine or you watched a TV series about it on Discovery Plus or you saw Harry Smith’s interview with Erin last Tuesday on Today about her memoir, Finding Freedom. I first heard of Lost Kitchen several years ago during her interview with Rob Caldwell, host of Maine’s WCSH-TV’s “207” program; in the following years there have been a couple more “207” interviews, the latest last week.
         Hers is a tale of perseverance that’s both heartbreaking and exhilarating. As she told Harry Smith, “I’ve been to Hell and back.” She grew up working in the family diner in Freedom, Maine, but her ambition was to become a doctor; she went off to college but had to drop out when she got pregnant. Then came marriage, opening her first Lost Kitchen restaurant in Belfast, collapse of the marriage, addiction to prescription drugs, divorce. Rock bottom. Rehab.
         Upward she went to start a mobile kitchen in an Airstream trailer (which she nicknamed “the divorcemobile”). “Cooking saved my life,” she told Rob Caldwell, “it was the only thing I had left.” In 2014 she ventured to open the Lost Kitchen in an old restored gristmill on Freedom Falls. She chose to do something unusual: serve a set dinner of several courses each evening. The number of reservations grew, and eventually she decided that reservation requests had to be sent on postcards or notecards, in a sort of lottery!
         Back when I watched that first interview on “207,” I was astounded by how she managed to create this out of her smallish kitchen—the multi-course meals, all the just plain hard work. The People magazine article concluded with her saying, “It’s those moments of difficulty that shape us. We don’t like it because it feels uncomfortable. But that’s where you find out what you’re made of.”
         Speaking of Maine: As I’ve reported in past years, during National Poetry Month the Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts, a Sandwich group, posts a poem every day on our Sandwich Board. In last week’s selection was an E. B. White poem I hadn’t read before, a fun discovery and written, I assume, in Maine. The Yeoman’s post mentions some of his books and adds that he also wrote “one of the best introductions ever, for Onward and Upward in the Garden, by his wife, Katherine White,” a book I much enjoyed. The post also adds an amusing observation he made: “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.”

Here’s the poem:

To My American Gardener, with Love
(For Katherine’s birthday, September 17, 1961)

Before the seed there comes the thought of bloom,
     The seedbed is the restless mind itself.
Not sun, not soil alone can bring to border
This rush of beauty and this sense of order.
Flowers respond to something in the gardener’s face—
Some secret in the heart, some special grace.
Yours were the rains that made the roses grow,
And that is why I love your garden so.

 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

   MORE ABOUT MUD

April 4, 2021

          Here’s more about mud in New Hampshire this spring!
          On March 29, New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV reported that a Mud Day had been announced for the Sanbornton schools—like a Snow Day, when schools are canceled because of blizzards. It was perhaps the first Mud Day ever, with the school day called off because the roads were too muddy for the school buses.
During a segment on “New Hampshire Chronicle” (WMUR’s evening magazine-type program), one of the hosts discussed mud with an expert, Russ Lanoie, author of A Ditch in Time: An Owner’s Manual for Those Who Live and Travel on Dirt and Gravel Roads. I learned that rain actually helps with the problem. Huh? Yes, it gets the frost out.
The latest warning on the online Sandwich Board from the Selectmen’s Office implored, “Please do not use our gravel roads as through roads since more traffic causes them to be impassable in spots. The road crew is adding gravel in the hard-hit areas. The corner at the Jonathan Beede House [a B&B)]on Mt. Israel Road is especially soupy right now. Both Jon and Ty are there now placing gravel, but they can hardly get through it with their equipment. Be careful, take it slow, and try to drive in the middle of the gravel roads (traffic permitting). Thank you!”
          I haven’t ventured down the dirt section of our road but I’ve heard from neighbors that it’s exciting. I forgot to warn a friend about it when she came to visit. Eek! For her return home I gave her the paved-road directions.
There’s still some snow on the far side of the beaver pond in our backyard, but the pond itself is at last open, the ice gone. Ducks are quacking on it, geese are flying overhead honking, and the banks are muddy.
          So, celebrating the start of National Poetry Month, I’ve been reciting “Chanson Innocente,” the e. e. cummings poem Don and I always recited in mud season and I’ve probably quoted here a million times:
in just—

Spring     when the world is mud-

luscious, the little

lame balloon-man

whistles     far     and wee.

And eddieandbill come
running from marbles
and piracies and it’s
spring,

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloon-man whistles
far     and     wee.
And bettyandisbel come dancing
from hop-scotch and jump-rope, and

it’s
spring,
and
         the
                   goat-footed
balloon-man whistles
far
and
wee.

it.

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


ARCHIVES INDEX

2021

The Familiar (May 9)
Synonyms (May 2)
"Bear!" (April 25)
Blossoms  (April 18)
Lost Kitchen and Found Poetry (April 11)
More About Mud (April 4)

Gilbert and Sullivan (March 28)
St. Patrick's Day 2021 (March 21)
Spring Forward (March 14)
A Blank Page (March 7)
No-Recipe Recipes (February 28)
Libraries and Publishers Weekly (February 21)
Party; Also, Pizza (February 13)
Groundhog Day (February 6)
Jeeps (January 31)
Poems and Paper-Whites (January 24)
Peanut Butter
(January 17)
Last Wednesday  (January 10)
Hoodsies and Animal Crackers  (January 3)

2020
Welcome, 2021 !
 ( December 27) 
Cornwall at Christmastime
 ( December 20) 
 Mount Tripyramid ( December 13) 
New Hampshire Pie ( December 6)   
Frost, Longfellow, and Larkin ( November 29)
Rocking Chairs ( November 22)
Thanksgiving Side Dishes ( November 15)
Election 2000 ( November 8)
Jell-O and Pollyanna ( November 1)
Peyton Place in Maine  (October 25)
Remember the Reader  (October 18)
Sandwich Fairs In Our Past  (October11)
Drought and Doughnuts  (October 4)
Snacks (September 27)
Support Systems, Continuing (September 20)
The 85 Best Things to Do in New England (Sept 13)
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 30)
Poutine and A Postscript(August 23)
Pandemic Listening and Reading (August 16)
Mobile Businesses (August 9)
Backyard Wildlife (August 2)
Maine Books (July 26)
Garlic (July 19)
Birthday Cakes (July 12)
A Collection of Quotations  (July 5)
Best of New Hampshire (June 28)
Hair (June 21)
Learning (June 14)
Riding and "Broading" Around (June 7)
Sunday Drives, Again (May 31)
The Passion Pit (May 24)
Schedules & Sustenance (May 17)
Doan Sisters Go to a British Supermarket (April 5)
National Poetry Month 2020 (April 12)
Laconia (May 10)
Results (May 3)
Singing (April 26 )
Dining Out (April 19 )
Red Hill (March 29)
An Island Kitchen (March 22)
Pandemic and Poetry (March 15)
Food for Hikes (March 8)
Social Whirl in February (March 1)
Two Audiobooks and a Magazine(February 23)
Books Sandwiched In   (February 9)
Mailboxes February 2)
Ironing (January 26)
The Cup & Crumb  (January 19)
Catalogs  (January 12)
Audiobook Travels  (January 5)

2019

Christmas Weather  (Dec. 29 )
Christmas in the Village  (Dec. 22)
Marion's Christmas Snowball, Again  (Dec. 15)
Phyliss McGinley and Mrs. York  (December 8)
Portsmouth Thanksgiving.  (December 1)
In the Dentist's Waiting Room, Again.  (Nov. 24)
Louisa and P.G.  (November 17)
The First Snow  (November 10)
Joy of Cooking  (November 3)
Over-the-Hill Celebration  (October 27)
Pumpkin Regatta  (October 20)
Houseplants, New and Old(October 13)
Pumpkin Spice  (October 6)
Wildlife  (Sept 29)
Shakespeare and George  (Sept 22)
Castles and Country Houses  (Sept 15)
New Hampshire Apple Day  (Sept 8)
Maine Woods and Matchmaking  (Sept 1)
Reunions  (August 25)
Sawyer's Dairy Bar  (August 18)
Old Home Week  (August 11)
Summer Scenes  (August 4)
Maine Foods (July 28)
Out of Reach  (July 21)
This and That, Again  (July 14)
The Lot  (July 7)
Pizza, Past and Present (June 30)
Setting Up Housekeeping (June 23)
Latest Listening and Reading (June 16)
Pinkham Notch (June 9)
A Boyhood in the Weirs (June 2)
The Big Bear (May 26)
It's Radio! (May 19)
Archie (May 12)
Department Stores  (May 5)
Spring Is Here!  (April 28)
Dorothy Parker Poem  (April 21)
National Library Week, 2019  (April 14)
National Poetry Month, 2019  (April 7)
Signs of Spring, 2019 (March 31)
Frost Heaves, Again (March 24)
Latest Reading & Listening (March 17)
Car Inspection (March 10)
Snowy Owls & Chicadees (March 3)
Sandwiches Past and Present (February 23)
Our First Date (February 17) 
Ice Fishing Remembered (February 10)
Home Ec (February 3)
A Rockland Restaurant (January 27)
Kingfisher (January 19)
Mills & Factories (January 13)
Squirrels (January 6)

2018

Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
Bookmarks
(November 18)
A Mouse Milestone (November 11)
Farewell to Our Magee   (November 4)
Sistering (October 28)
Sears (October 21)
Love and Ruin (October 14)
A New Furnace (October 7)
Keene Cuisine September 30)
A Mini-Mini Reunion (September 23)
Support System  (September 16)
Five & Ten  (September 9)
Dining Out Again  (September 2)
Summer Listening (August 26)
Donald K. MacDougall 1936-2018  (August 19)
Update--Don (August 12)
Telling Don (August 5)
Don's Health (July 29)
Seen and Overheard (July 22)
Donald Hall  (July 15)
Fireworks (July 8)
Off Season (July 1)
A Clean, Well-Lighted Place (June 24)
2018 Motorcycle Week (June 17)
Springtime Sights (June 10)
Seafood at the Seacoast? (June 3)
Lilacs (May 27)
Going Up Brook, revisited  (May 20)
The Weirs Drive-In Theater  (May 13)
The Green and Yellow Time, (May 6 )
Recipe Box and Notebook (April 29)
Henrietta Snow, Second Printing (April 21)
Miniskirts and Bell-Bottoms (April 14)
The Poor Man's Fertilizer (April 7)
The Galloping Gourmet (April 1)
The Old Country Store (March 25; First  FB entry)

Earlier: :Ruth's Neighborhood
(multiple entries, 2011 - 2017)