Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

Ruth Doan MacDougall's Neighborhood photo

Facebook Columns:  April - June, 2021

Current entries are HERE.


June 27, 2021

          This year the Laconia Motorcycle Week was held from June 12 through June 20, and during it I saw on New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV news the sight of the hill-climb event at the Gunstock ski area’s 70-meter ski jump. I’d read that the hill-climb has been a Motorcycle Week event since 1938, but I’d never seen one before, in person or on TV. So for the first time my astonished eyes beheld the motorcyclists go charging up that steep slope below the jump—or trying to. Foolhardy but also funny! A friend who actually attended this year’s hill-climb told me it was great fun and NOISY.
          I remembered how in the summer our father would take Penny and me for a quiet hike up that slope to see the view from the top. In winter, we went skiing with him at Gunstock on the regular slopes. A few times our parents took us to see the ski-jumping competitions; one year, our cousin was competing! Our father didn’t do ski-jumping, though Penny vividly remembers his going over the Headwall, a nature-created ski-jump, when she was skiing with him in Tuckerman Ravine on Mount Washington.
          Don confessed to having done a jump at Gunstock in his high-school days when he was skiing there with a daredevil friend. Once, he said, was more than enough.
          Laconia welcomed motorcyclists wholeheartedly this year. The headline on the front page of the June 22nd issue of The Laconia Daily Sunsummed up that previous week: “Bike Week: Hectic but Mellow.” The article by Michael Mortensen continued, “The 98th Laconia Motorcycle Week was, for businesses, one of the busiest in recent years and at the same time one of the quietest for emergency responders.” Last year “the event was postponed two months and then heavily scaled back due to the COVID pandemic . . . ‘It was a fabulous boost to our economy,’ said Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber of Commerce. ‘People were ready for it.’ She added that in spite of the problems many businesses have had in hiring help, ‘They showed they could handle the crowds.’”
          Back in June 2014, I wrote here:
          “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 sixpack 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 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 summertime sleeveless blouses and short-shorts. Ah, those were innocent times! Comparatively.”
          Nowadays we could’ve been aspiring to ride—drive!—a motorcycle ourselves. On a Channel 9’s “New Hampshire Chronicle” program during the latest Motorcycle Week, I learned that there’s a group of women motorcyclists called the Iron Maidens of New England. They decorate their motorcycles’ wheels with “bling.”


© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 20, 2021

          Last week my friend Claire and I dined at George’s Seafood & B-B-Que in nearby Plymouth. Although the restaurant is inland, its seafood is renowned, but somehow Don and I had never been there, and I thought about our discussions of dining on seafood inland and seaside.
          I wrote here in June 2018 after Don and I had gone to our nearest little dairy-and-lunch-bar, the Red Hill Dari, for our first onion rings of the season:

“As we sat at atable 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 on 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 [on Lake Winnipesaukee], envying the summer people who could afford fried clams. In my family, we waited for seafood until we got to the ocean, 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. Arriving in New Harbor to visit my sister, we often couldn’t wait any longer and met her for lunch at our favorite seafood restaurant there [Shaw’s Fish & Lobster Wharf] instead of first driving directly to her house! Steamed clams for me, fried clams for Don. During our vacations on Isle au Haut, I wondered as Snowy did in Site Fidelity, ‘You can’t eat lobsters every night. Can you?’”

And speaking of lobsters: My niece e-mailed me an article about lobster rolls in the June 11th New York Times, Steven Kurutz’s “Consider the $34 Lobster Roll: The pandemic has exacerbated a price spike in the iconic New England summer sandwich.”
He concentrates on the famous Red’s Eats in Wiscasset, Maine, and writes that as usual “the line of tourists waiting to order at this picturesque seafood shack ran down the block.” Red’s “makes ‘best of’ lists and causes traffic jams in attracting people from across the country.” (Don and I sometimes timed our trips to Maine to reach Wiscasset ahead of the crowd—or so we hoped.) Red’s “serves a buttery, heaping lobster roll that contains so much meat—about eight ounces—the bun is invisible.”
This year, Kurutz reports, the only difference at Red’s is “the price. This year, the lobster roll is $30.” Eek! Two weeks earlier it was $34. Eek, eek! “Up and down the coast of northeastern United States, the price of lobster—and thus, lobster rolls—is at historic highs.” In our Center Harbor supermarket I had seen on their lobster tank’s sign that the price for “Lobsters from Boothbay Harbor [Maine]” was up to $14.99 a pound.)
At George’s Seafood the price of their lobster rolls was around $20. But in any case, on our drive to Plymouth Claire and I had already decided what we wanted. Shrimp. We both ordered a fried shrimp basket: shrimp and French fries and coleslaw ($10.95). Delicious!

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 13, 2021

          In the May 24th issue of Publishers Weekly, one of the book reviews grabbed my attention, the review of The Storytellers: Straight Talk from the World’s Most Acclaimed Suspense and Thriller Authors, edited by Mark Rubenstein who collected “more than 40 interviews with suspense and thriller writers in this fresh compendium of ‘candid thoughts, opinions, inspirations, frustrations, backstories, and . . .  sources of creativity.’”
          We learn that Catherine Coulter “declares writing ‘doesn’t get easier.’” Lee Child “advises ‘it’s not the writer who decides whether a character is cool.’” And “A common theme is an author’s commitment to an ‘imagined reader’ they hope to entertain.” Ah yes, my refrain of “Remember the reader”! The review concludes, “Particularly revelatory are the authors’ anecdotes about their previous jobs—as reporters, psychiatrists, veterinarians, and lawyers—and the range of perspectives makes for a breezy introduction to the writing game. Thriller writers—and fans curious about the process—are in for a treat.”
I’m now reminded of the phrase “Dollars to doughnuts,” because it’s dollars to doughnuts I’m going to change the subject from thrillers to doughnuts.
          I wasn’t prepared when National Doughnut Day was announced on June 4th. Alas, to avoid temptation I don’t keep a supply of emergency doughnuts on hand. So I was grateful that the June 4th Daily Stumper on Maine’s WCSH-TV’s Morning Report program was about an unappetizing and revolting bit of doughnuts history. Question: Which of these was actually used as a topping for doughnuts? Multiple choice: a. Pepto Bismol; b. Wood; c. Eggshells; d. Grass.
          With some horror I guessed “a,” as did two of the program’s three hosts, and the third guessed “d,” murmuring about “fiber” as her reasoning. The correct answer was “a.” The hosts read and commented on the explanation: the Voodoo Doughnut Company in Portland, Oregon, invented doughnuts coated with Pepto Bismol; another topping was NyQuil. The FDA put a stop to that.
          After the Stumper I turned my thoughts to delicious, happy memories of doughnuts, those bought at LaFlamme’s Bakery in Laconia and the ones Penny and I helped our mother make on the rare occasions she made them. When I met Don I learned that his mother made crullers instead of doughnuts and she made them comparatively often. She served them with maple syrup, which she poured into little individual yellow ceramic pitchers. Two of those pitchers are on the windowsill over our kitchen sink.
          And after National Doughnut Day, the next time I went grocery shopping I lingered in the bakery section, choosing a doughnut for a belated celebration. A cinnamon-sugar doughnut. It was thrilling! 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


June 6, 2021

          June 5th is National Trails Day, and now, when my trekking poles (walking sticks!) only take me on hikes around the backyard, this day brought back memories of the favorite hikes they took me on in the past.
          My favorite is Smarts Mountain in Orford, NH. As I’ve mentioned before, a trail up Smarts has been named after my father, who grew up in Orford; it was the second mountain he climbed in his boyhood. At seventy-nine he was too ill to attend the dedication ceremony, but as I wrote in 50 Hikes in the White Mountains, “On July 13, 1993, Doan family members and friends and the Dartmouth Outing Club trail crew gathered at the Smarts Mountain trailhead . . . for the dedication of the Daniel Doan Trail . . . Dan was toasted with sparkling cider, and everyone sat down to a picnic.”
          My second and third favorite hikes are those up Belknap Mountain in Gilford, near Laconia, and Red Hill near Center Sandwich. Belknap is the first mountain I ever climbed, but I didn’t actually climb it then. According to family legend, Dan carried me up it, while lugging Penny, my baby sister, in his pack basket. Later, Penny and I really climbed it. And I’ve climbed Red Hill often. The fictional Mount Pascataquac in The Snowy Series is sort of a combination of these two mountains; they both have fire towers, and from the Red Hill fire tower Bob Kozlow took the photo for the cover of Henrietta Snow, looking down on Sandwich in the distance.
          Other favorites: East Pond, off the Tripoli Road in the Waterville area.  Dan liked hikes to ponds, and so do I. In 50 Hikes in the White Mountains he wrote with rueful humor that the pond “provides shelter for speckled trout, which seem inclined to stay there.”
          Mount Moosilauke, “Dartmouth’s mountain.” As Dan wrote, this is a “destination and an event.” 
          Mount Garfield. This was the second 4,000-footer I climbed. I agree with Dan that the Garfield Trail is one of the most pleasant in the mountains, with comparatively easy grades and switchbacks.
          Mount Crawford in Crawford Notch. As Dan wrote, it’s a “historic and rewarding hike” on the Davis Path. I developed a great affection for this mountain during the times I climbed it; the hike suited me.
          Mount Cube in Orford. This was the first mountain Dan climbed. On the summit, two peaks provide two different views.
          The Sugarloaves in Crawford Notch. Dan wrote, “The trail is easy and short. The summits are spectacular.” This hike remains a favorite in my memory but saddened by tragedy; when I got home from my last hike there on September 11, 2001, I learned the news.
          The Kilkenny. This is a three-day-two-nights backpack in 50 More Hikes in New Hampshire: “During this leisurely backpack into the Kilkenny region of the northern White Mountain National Forest, you will walk through forests of white birches, visit secret little Kilback Pond, camp beside Unknown Pond, and look out at wilderness views from Rogers Ledge and the Horn.” In Henrietta Snow I gave this hike to Tom; he and Snowy celebrated his sixtieth birthday in the Kilkenny.
          As Roy Rogers used to sing, “Happy trails to you!” 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


May 30, 2021

          In The Cheerleader, at the high school Snowy and Puddles are watching a performance of Our Town from one of the upstairs corridor windows overlooking the auditorium:

          Down below, the Stage Manager began to speak. This bothered Snowy, too, the way he chatted with the audience. She frowned. 
          Puddles said, “Funny to think it’s supposed to be New Hampshire. He talks awful hicky.”
          “It was a long time ago.”
          Neither Snowy nor Puddles realized that they themselves had accents, dropping and inserting “r’s” so “modern” was “morden.”

          And in Snowy, in her freshman year at Bennington, rooming with Harriet, Snowy says, “Harriet’s from California and she can hardly understand me, I didn’t know I had an accent.           For instance, we were reminiscing about getting our drivers’ licenses and the big moment when you asked to borrow your folks’ car keys . . and after I said ‘car keys,’ Harriet gave me this peculiar look, she thought I’d gone crazy and was saying ‘khakis,’ you know, pants, chinos.” [This actually happened to me while talking with Debbie, my roommate.]

          Laughing, I thought of this last week during a WMUR-TV New Hampshire Chronicle segment about New Hampshire words and phrases. Some of the examples were general and some were from northern New Hampshire’s Berlin (pronounced BERlin), a logging town with a large Franco-American community. Here are examples of both types, starting with general:
          Draw: instead of drawer
          Tinfoil: instead of aluminum foil
          Fluffernutter: This is more recent; in my day we said lengthily, “peanut-butter-and-marshmallow-fluff sandwich.”
          Bubbler (often pronounced bubbla): instead of water fountain or drinking fountain
          “So don’t I”: instead of “So do I.”
          Beano: instead of Bingo
          Side by each: instead of side by side
          Meat pie: instead of tourtiere
          “Close the light”: instead of “Turn off the light.” While taking high-school French I realized how this translation could have happened!

To this list I added:
          Tonic: instead of soft drink or soda pop, etc.
          “Ayuh”: a noise of agreement, assent, or just used instead of a comment. Don enjoyed doing a nostalgic and affectionate imitation of his grandmother’s side of a phone conversation; it consisted entirely of “Ayuh. Ayuh. Ayuh.” 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


May 23, 2021

          The Sandwich library has opened the “old” way, pre-pandemic, without appointments. A week ago on a Saturday I had a reunion there with assistant director Diane and her border collie, Grace, and then of course I zeroed in on the latest additions to the audiobooks section. Oh, decisions! I chose Louise Penny’s All the Devils Are Here and a Fox and O’Hare caper by Janet Evanovich with Steve Hamilton, The Bounty.
Outdoors, I gazed at a busy village scene as if I’d never seen a Saturday in Sandwich before. On the athletic field kids were playing baseball, with folks watching. A new café, the Foothills, has just opened in what used to be the Village Green Café, and the joint was jumping. I realized I was both beaming and weepy. The town was having a weekend the “old” way.
          In July there’ll be more happening when a new “entertainment venue” opens. Its name is the Club Sandwich. Yes. And “It’s not a deli,” says its proprietor, John Davidson. Yes, the John Davidson, who settled in Sandwich several years ago. Last Monday WMUR TV’s New Hampshire Chronicle program had a segment that was itself very entertaining: Two former Hollywood Squares hosts got together in Sandwich. John was joined by Tom Bergeron, who also lives in New Hampshire, and at a picnic table beside the village center’s pond, amid greenery and daffodils, they joked, reminisced, and plugged the Club Sandwich. They also swatted blackflies; that is, Tom swatted, remarking that the blackflies were only biting him, not “Mr. Dimples.”
          To return to the subject of libraries: In the May 10th issue of Publishers Weekly, the last-page “Soapbox” piece was titled “Bedrocks of Freedom: Two authors argue that to save democracy, we must save school libraries.” Needless to say, thinking of Don, who was a high-school librarian, and of friends who are, I immediately began reading. Joann and Kenneth C. Davis start with some history: “Librarians fulfilled the vision of 25-year-old Benjamin Franklin, who established the Library Company, America’s first lending library. . . [Franklin] believed that every school should have a dedicated library, because a democracy can only survive with educated citizens. According to the American Library Association, Franklin recommended in 1740 that the ideal academy should include a school library.”
However, as we know, times have been hard for school libraries, and the “pandemic has only worsened the crisis.” But “Franklin’s belief—that libraries and education are crucial to democracy—has never been more true than in our current age of disinformation, with the threat it poses to the republic . . . In the current crisis of democracy, we can pin blame on a lack of knowing history and a failure to teach civics. But if we care about democracy, we need to elevate the stature of public school libraries—indeed all libraries—and recognize the essential role they play in developing inquiring minds.”  
          The Davises conclude, “As H. G. Wells famously noted, ‘Civilization is in a race between education and catastrophe. Let us learn the truth and spread it as far and wide as our circumstances allow. For the truth is the greatest weapon we have.’” 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


May 16, 2021

          On our Sandwich Board, people’s posts have been exulting in springtime scenery. One post said something like, “It’s hard to decide which is more beautiful, spring or fall. Luckily, we don’t have to choose.”
          Oh, but I can easily choose! Spring. Autumn’s beauty has always seemed mournful to me, especially in my younger years when it meant going back to school. Fun and freedom are over; the trees’ colorful leaves are dying; winter is coming.
          Spring means anticipation. And in May, for us gardeners, doesn’t the urge to plant something become, well, urgent! Here in central New Hampshire the rule is to wait until Memorial Day to set plants out and to plant seeds—except for peas, which according to tradition can be planted on Fast Day, the fourth Monday in April. Fast Day is an old New Hampshire holiday that’s mostly forgotten; it dates back to 1681, when John Cutt, the president of the Council of the Province of New Hampshire, fell ill. The council declared a day of fasting and prayer for his recovery. (He died.) Sometimes we risk planting other early seeds, such as spinach. A lover of radishes, I always snuck in an early row of those. 
          At the same time, we’re rushing to greenhouses to buy plants before the Memorial Day rush. Then we have to babysit the plants. During the years when Don and I were taking care of summer places, our kitchen counters and floor would be crowded with the flats and pots of flowers that I was coddling, and what a springtime sight that was, a bevy of blossoms! If the day was warm and sunny, we’d lug them all onto to the porch. Then back indoors for the night. I’d admonish them, “Wait, hold your horses, it’s not time yet.” Finally, right before the arrival of our summer people for the Memorial Day weekend, we’d load the plants into our truck, transport them to the waiting gardens and empty planters, and at last I’d start setting them out.
          In Lazy Beds, I wrote about aging and gardening: “It dawned on [Snowy] that she herself had a choice; her gardening wasn’t a necessity . . . Hell, if she wanted to, she could just have a tomato plant and herbs in pots on the picnic table.” Which is how I garden in recent years. So right now in the kitchen and on the porch I’m babysitting pots of my favorite herbs, summer savory, basil, cilantro, dill, and chives. I also bought one that I haven’t tried growing before, for an experiment. In a gardening scene in Snowy, Snowy tells Dudley, “Julia said you should have at least one experiment every year.” This year it’s a pot of lemon grass.
          Nowadays my May anticipation isn’t about setting the plants out in the garden but about moving the pots completely outdoors onto the picnic table. I pay close attention to weather forecasts. Eek, a frost warning! (One morning the temperature did get down to 36 degrees here.)  I’ll try to restrain the springtime urge until Memorial Day. 

© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved


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


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


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 MartinDVD 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:


  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
     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
   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


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


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


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 

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

balloon-man whistles


© 2021 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved





Christmas Romance (September 24)
National Potato Month (September 17)
Globe (September 10)
Preserving With Penny (Sept 3)
Psychogeography (August 27)
Bayswater Books (August 20)
"Wild Girls" (August 13)
Kitchens (August 6)
Old Home Week (July 30)
The Middle Miles (July 23)
Bears, Horses, and Pies
(July 16)
Fourth of July 2023
(July 9)
Lucy and Willa
(July 2)

Frappes, Etc. (June 25)
Still Springtime
(June 18)
Wildefires to Dougnnts
(June 11)
In the Bedroom
(June 4)
Dried Blueberries
(May 28)
More Items of Interest
(May 21)
F(ire Towers
(May 14)
Anne, Emily, and L.M.
(May 7)
Earthquake, Laughter, and Cookbooks (Apr30)
Springtime and Poems
(April 23)
Cookbooks and Poems
 (April 16)
 Items and Poems  (April 9)
Two Pies  (April 2)

Audiobooks (March 26)
The Cheeleader
's 50th Anniversary
(Mch 19)
The Lot, Revisited
(March 12)
(March 5)
Parking and Other Subjects (February 26)
Concord (February 19)
Bird Food and Superbowl Food (February 12)
The Cold Snap (February 5)
Laughter and Lorna (January 29)
Tea and Digestive Biscuits (January 22)
Ducks, Mornings, & Wonders (January 15)
Snowflakes (January 8)
A New Year's Resolution  (January 1)


Jingle Bells    (December 25)
Fruitcake, Ribbon Candy &Snowball
.(Dec. 18)
Christmas Pudding (December 11)
Amusements (December 4)
Weather and Woods  (November 27)
Gravy (November 20)
Brass Rubbing (November 13)
Moving Day (November 6)
Sandwiches and Beer (October 23)
Edna, Celia, and Charlotte (Octobert 16)
Sandwich Fair Weekend (October 9)
More Reuntions (October 2)

A Pie and a Sandwich (September 25)
Evesham (September 18)
Chawton (September 11)
Winter's Wisdom? (September 4)
Vanity Plates (August 28)
2022 Golden Circle Luncheon
(August 21)
Agatha and Annie (August 14)
National Dog Month (August 7)
The Chef's Triangle (July 31)
Librarians and Libraries (July 24)
Clothes and Cakes (July 17)
Porch Reading (July 10)
Cheesy! (July 3)

The Summer Book (June 23)
Bears & Goats & Motorcycles ...(June 19)
Tuna Fish (June 12)
Laconia (June 5)
More Publishers Weekly Reviews (May 22)
Shopping, Small and Big  (May 15)
Ponds  (May 8)
The Lakes Region (May 1)
TV for Early Birds; An April Poem    (April 24)
Family; Food; Fold-out Sofas (April 17)
Solitary Eaters (April 9)
National Poetry Month (April 3)
Special Places—Popular Cakes(March 27) Neighborhood Parks ( (March 20)
More About Potatoes—and Maine (March 13)
Potatoes (March 6)
Spring Tease (February 27)
Pillows (February 20)
Our Song (February 13)
Undies (February 6)
Laughter  (January 28/30)
A Burns Night  (January 23)
From Keats to Spaghetta Sauce (January 16)
Chowder Recipes  (January 9)
Cheeses and Chowders  (January 2)


The Roaring Twenties (December 26
Christmas Traditions (December 19)
Trail Cameras (December 12)
Cars and Trucks(December 5)
Return? (November 28)
Lipstick (November 20)
Tricks of the Trade (November 12)
A New Dictionary Word (November 7)
A 50th Reunion (October 31) "
Sides to Middle" Again
(October 23)
Pantries and Anchovies (October 1i7)
Fairs and Festivals (October 10)
Reunions  (October 3) A Lull  (September 26)
The Queen and Others (
Sept. 19)
Scones and Gardens (Sept.12)
Best Maine Diner (September 5)
Neighborhood Grocery Store; Neighborhood Café (August 28)
PW Picks of the Week (August 21)
A Goldilocks Morning_and More (August 15)
Desks (August 8)
Sports Bras and Pseudonyms (August 1)
Storybook Foods (July 25)
Rachel Field(July 18)
The Bliss Point  (July 11)
Items of Interest  (July 4)
Motorcycle Week 2021 (June 27)
Seafood, Inland and Seaside  (June 20)
Thrillers to Doughnuts (June 13)
National Trails Day  (June 6)
New Hampshire Language (May 30 )
Books and Squares(May 23)
Gardening in May (May16)
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)


Welcome, 2021December 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
Dessert Salads?! (September 6)
Agatha Christie's 100th Anniversary (August 3
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
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)


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)


Clothesline Collapse   (December 2)
Thanksgiving 2018
(November 25)  
(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)