Ruth Doan MacDougall: "Ruth's Neighborhood"

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April - June, 2022

 

THE SUMMER BOOK

June 26, 2022

             When the month of June arrived, my mother always quoted a line from a James Russell Lowell poem, “What is so rare as a day in June?”
             Naturally, I’ve always quoted this, too. And ever since my dear friend Amy gave me a copy of Susan Branch’s entrancing Summer Book, on June 21st I always start summer off by reading the book, basking in it. On the book’s jacket, Susan Branch wrote (and her writing is printed in delightful cursive throughout the book), “For two summers, with the beautiful island of Martha’s Vineyard for inspiration, I watercolored & handwrote The Summer Book in my studio with all the windows open, ocean breezes ruffling the curtains & flower fragrances wafting from the garden.”              The book is part of her “Heart of the Home” series.
             Her drawings include a page of “Images of Summer,” from “Clothes drying on a line” and “Roses on a Picket Fence” to “Cucumber Sandwiches” and “Beach Umbrellas.” There’s a chapter about “The Summer Garden” and then comes—summer food!
             Each year I resolve to follow her advice about “Bologna Sandwiches & Potato Chips”: “No one should have to live a whole life without tasting a correctly made bologna sandwich. Though they’re not ‘politically correct,’ I’ve had countless & I’m healthy as can be. Here’s how, in case you have forgotten: Use soft white ‘bunny’ bread, crisp iceberg lettuce, real mayonnaise, French’s yellow mustard & bologna, of course. That’s all, no pickles, no onions & it has to be iceberg. (Toast the bread only if you are out of potato chips.) Potato chips can be inserted into sandwich or eaten separately; include an orange cut into quarters, a glass of ice-cold milk & 2 Oreo cookies for dessert. If there’s a Roy Rogers movie on TV you will have the perfect accompaniment.”
             I’ve enjoyed a million bologna sandwiches over the years, but somehow in recent years I get sidetracked from bologna by the other sandwiches of summer, such as tomato sandwiches—plain and BLTs—and the aforementioned cucumber sandwiches. Also, like Snowy and Bev, tuna fish sandwiches. But this summer I’m determined to add bologna sandwiches. (Roy Rogers was my favorite cowboy. My sister’s was Hopalong Cassidy.)
             This year, out of our poetry bookcase I took my mother’s copy of The Chief American Poets, published in 1905. It was one of her textbooks at Connecticut College for Women, and on the flyleaf she wrote her name and the date of her graduating class, 1928, in her Palmer Method penmanship. I turned past pages with her notes and  underlinings to page 453 and James Russell Lowell’s lengthy “Vision of Sir Launfal,” which contains the “June” lines. Here’s an excerpt:

And what is so rare as a day in June?
   Then, if ever, come perfect days . . .
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
   The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor blade too mean
   To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun;
   Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
   With the deluge of summer it receives . . .   

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

 

BEARS AND GOATS AND MOTORCYCLES! OH, MY!

June 19, 2022

             One recent morning I took a stroll around the front yard. Along the roadside, daisies and buttercups have begun blooming, and Indian paintbrush adds some dabs of red to their array of white and yellow.
             When I came indoors into the kitchen I looked out the sink window at the rosa rugosa blooming rosy in the backyard. Then I went into the bathroom, which is also the laundry room, to start a washload. And I looked out the window beside the washing machine—and the scene was filled with dark fur. A bear! As the bulk moved past, I saw a cub. No, two cubs. No, triplets, nosing around, investigating, adorable!
Don and I saw triplets here at least twice; once they were merrily climbing a tree while Mama Bear hovered below. So it wasn’t exactly an unusual sight, but still I stood transfixed, enchanted. Then it occurred to me that my reaction would’ve been a hell of a lot different had I met the bear family a few minutes earlier in the front yard. And thus, so they wouldn’t get too comfy at our house, I banged on the window. They took off for the woods.
             I’ve since heard from my neighbor at the nearby farm that other neighbors have seen this bear family. Evidently it’s our neighbor, too.
             Another animal has also been in my thoughts lately. On the Sandwich Board a woman asked for advice about getting rid of the bittersweet that’s rampant in her yard; of the several suggestions she received, this one held my attention: goats. I learned that you can rent goats and there’s a farm in Conway that does exactly this!
When we moved here, back in the years before people knew just how terribly invasive bittersweet is, a well-meaning friend gave us a small bittersweet bush and we planted it. Since then, Don cut it back every year to no avail and nowadays I simply keep pruning it before its tentacles can reach the TV dish. Out of curiosity, I Googled the website of the Spice of Life Farm in Conway and went to their “Goatscaping” page with its details about “The Eco-Friendly Way to Clear the Land.” I concluded that our little bittersweet problem doesn’t demand a goat solution, but I sure had fun imaging a flock in the backyard.
             This has been Motorcycle Week. A week ago Saturday, a day before the week officially began, when I drove to the village center I saw that motorcycles had already arrived even here in off-the-beaten-path Sandwich. A half-dozen motorcycles were parked beside the café. Later in the week I ventured to Center Harbor and Wolfeboro and encountered the excitement full-blast. I remembered how Don and I would stop at the Red Hill Dari for our first onion rings of the summer, sit at one of the outside tables, and watch motorcycles thunder past. The mingled smells of hot grease and exhaust fumes! We’d say, “Life doesn’t get any better than this!”
             This year I wondered if, when I returned from my errands, I’d have the extra excitement of a bear family in the yard.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

TUNA FISH

June 12, 2022

             In The Cheerleader I wrote:

     Bev stood up and opened the refrigerator and said, “Marshmallow fluff and raspberry jam?”
     This was their favorite sandwich in wintertime; tuna fish was in the summertime.

And in Snowy I wrote:

     Having a heart-to-heart amid three children was impossible, but Snowy and Bev tried during a few minutes alone in the kitchen making the old summer favorite, tuna fish sandwiches, for the throng.

             Last week a friend told me about seeing a sign outside a local restaurant advertising tuna fish sandwiches for $13.95. Was that supposed to be a come-on, a bargain price? Even if the price included French fries, we found it horrifying and hilarious. I recalled working at Keller’s Restaurant in Laconia in 1956, serving tuna fish sandwiches that cost thirty cents. This was a bargain! Chopped-ham sandwiches were an expensive thirty-five cents.
             From the library’s stack of free discarded magazines I recently chose a magazine I’d never read before, Saveur. In this Issue #164 there was a very good article by Tom Carson, “the movie critic for GQ magazine”: “Everyman’s Fish: One writer recounts his lifelong love for the tuna sandwich, the unsung hero of the American lunch.” (Around here, we always called them tuna fish sandwiches.)
He begins, “Long gone from Washington, D.C., Sholl’s Colonial Cafeteria in 1968 was the kind of place that reminded you of everything pleasant about America’s humdrum side. Yet nothing about the United States was humdrum to me because I was a State Department brat who’d grown up abroad.
             “Now that we had moved home again (whatever ‘home’ meant), I had to keep trying new foods if I wanted to eat at all. Sometime that summer . . . I ate my very first tuna-salad sandwich at Sholl’s. It was a classic, meaning basic: mayo and canned tuna on white bread with a dab of iceberg lettuce.”
             He describes 1968’s upheavals, the assassinations and the protests, and he writes, “Amid such unrest, that tuna sandwich represented tranquility.” He then gives us a brief history of tuna, which in “the 19th century was immigrant food. Most Americans considered tuna a trash fish. But then sport fishing was invented . . . and eventually [this] popularized tuna and led to its exploitation as a cheap canned food for the masses . . . The lowly tuna sandwich became a common sight in diners and Automats . . . the U.S. today consumes nearly a third of the world’s canned tuna.”
A few years ago my niece suggested I try the foil pouches of tuna fish, which might be simpler to open with arthritic hands. I hadn’t noticed pouches on the supermarket’s tuna-and-salmon shelves; I’d always just grabbed cans. Now I only use Bumble Bee Wild Caught Albacore in Water pouches.
             After the article, Saveur has a list of “Nine Takes on the Tuna Sandwich. Canned tuna—whether water- or oil-packed, plain or smoked—lends itself to any number of inspired sandwich preparations. Below are nine delicious interpretations of the classic tuna sandwich: Mediterranean, Tuscan, Provencal, Curried, Edamame-Miso, Taco Truck, Sushi Bar, Lemon-Pepper, Fennel-Orange.” First I’m going to try the Curried: “Mix 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, 2 tbsp. each currants and finely chopped apricots, 1 ½ tsp. mild curry powder, 1 drained (4-oz.) can tuna, salt, and pepper in a bowl; stuff into naan or pita bread.”             
             I think Snowy and Bev would enjoy these variations, too.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

 

LACONIA

June 5, 2022

             My hometown, Laconia, the inspiration for Snowy's Gunthwaite, has been in the news a lot lately.
             Last Monday on New Hampshire's WMUR-TV's NEW HAMPSHIRE CHRONICLE program, Fritz Wetherbee—reporter, author, NH historian, and amusing raconteur—talked about Laconia's history. He described how the area known as Meredith Bridge became incorporated as Laconia in 1855 because of the dozen mills and the electric-trolley-cars industry whose owners wanted control over where their taxes were going. The next evening he talked about an 1891 group of Laconia women known as the Oberon Ladies' Quartet ("Laconia's answer to the Spice Girls," he said.)
             When I opened the May issue of NEW HAMPSHIRE MAGAZINE and turned to the "Cities on the Rise" article, I was surprised and delighted to see Laconia included with Manchester, Nashua, Salem, and Dover. "Laconia is developing an admirable year-round reputation in the arts and entertainment realm. One great example is the 791-seat Colonial Theatre . . . first opened in 1914. [Ah, the dear old Colonial, which in my day we spelled "Theater"!] . . . the Colonial's renovation coincided with several residential projects (the city grew by 1,000 residents between 2010 and 2020), and the downtown now features a greater variety of businesses . . . and fewer vacant storefronts."             
             In NEW HAMPSHIRE MAGAZINE's June issue's letters-to-the-editor section, a letter from Russ Poirier, of RE/MAX real estate, pointed out two other thriving sections of Laconia: "Lakeport is going through enormous improvements . . . Lakeport has become a destination for theatergoers . . . Lakeport is a big part of Laconia with golf plus its large marinas." (Don's father was a boat salesman at one of those marinas!) Poirier continued, about Weirs Beach, "While it is famous for Bike [Motorcycle] Week, it is also famous for having the largest public beach on the big lake [a nickname for Lake Winnipesaukee] with plenty of parking and lifeguards plus the largest docking system on the lake . . . Weirs Beach is also home to the Hobo Railroad (with dining), is home to the M/S Mt. Washington cruise ship, the Sophie C, the Doris E., and the brand new Spirit. Combined, these ships can hold hundreds of people . . . Weirs Beach is not just about Bike Week. It is about fun and relaxation." As I type this, I can look to my left and see on the wall a framed snapshot of Don, a Weirs resident circa age ten, surfacing from the lake after having jumped off the end of the long pier.
             In the May/June issue of YANKEE magazine there's a "Best of New England 2022 Summer Travel Guide." In the New Hampshire Lakes Region section, the "Editors' Picks" include the Colonial Theatre, the MOUNT WASHINGTON cruises, and "Rail Bike Adventures." I can't resist adding that Meredith is listed because of Moulton Farm, the farm I've often written about here. The item says, "It may be sacrilege to say this, but the best whoopie pie in New England is found not in Maine, but at this delightful farm stand and garden near Lake Winnipesaukee. Wander past the floral displays and stacks of ripe tomatoes and fresh greens and head inside to the bakery where the whoopie pies (made with Ghirardelli chocolate) await. Everything here is terrific, including the freshly made cider doughnuts." Yes.
THE LACONIA DAILY SUN newspaper's May 7th issue's cover story was "'It's Actually Happening': Students organize first 'normal' prom in three years." It describes prom preparations at Laconia High School and nearby Gilford High School (which didn't exist in my day; Gilford kids came to Laconia junior and senior high) and Belmont High School: "The students who planned these proms are giddy, relieved, and in disbelief that the day has arrived. 'My brother was a senior when COVID hit, and I watched him miss out on so much,' said Haley Richter, junior class treasurer at Laconia High School. 'I didn't know if I would even have a prom. So it's exciting that it's actually happening.' . . . Having such a major high school milestone be like it was in 'before times,' is a landmark distinction for students who, as Richter said, 'haven't had a normal year yet.'"             
             I'm cheering!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

STRAWBERRIES AND SENIOR CITIZENS

May 29, 2022

             May is National Strawberry Month, and I’ve been on the lookout for local strawberries at the market. I haven’t yet seen any, but one of these days I’ll be buying an abundant supply.
             I never did try to grow strawberries. I think I was scared off by the strawberry chapter in a Ruth Stout gardening book; it was titled something like “If You Have Tears” and it was full of all the things that could go wrong. I feared I’d be weeping over a failed crop instead of enjoying a harvest. So in grocery stores and at farm stands I enjoy other people’s successes.
             I’m looking forward to special strawberry treats to make after I sate myself eating them plain. There is, of course, the traditional dessert since childhood: strawberry shortcake. As I’ve written about before, this was extra-traditional for Don and me because years ago we discovered in a secondhand store a set of glass dessert plates just like the ones his mother had. He especially remembered her serving strawberry shortcake on them. So we began serving ours on these secondhand-store plates, and I continue to.
             And then there’s what we called Blue Strawberies (one “r”), inspired by that avant-garde restaurant in Portsmouth, the Blue Strawbery, to which we used to go in the 1970s. We were astonished by the way they served strawberries: with brown sugar and sour cream to dip them in!  Sour cream, not whipped cream! Unheard-of back then. We loved this (and the feeling of sophistication) and began having them this way at home.
             I never made Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie because our rhubarb plants had gone by before local strawberries were available. But we enjoyed strawberries on ice cream and strawberries in salads with basil and red wine vinegar and . . .

             On May 18th, Sandwich’s senior citizen Wednesday lunch (nicknamed the Old Fogeys’ Lunch) began again, after ending on March 11, 2020. I didn’t go to the lunch on the 18th because the monthly Alzheimer’s support group met that day, but this Wednesday I drove to the village’s community center.
It was like a reunion—it was a reunion. There were eighteen of us, counting the organizers and helpers. The meeting room had been refreshed, the walls painted, the floor refinished, new blue-and-white-checked oilcloth tablecloths on the three tables (seven chairs at each), shiny new forks, knives, spoons.
             As usual, the meal was buffet-style. This year we were each given a disposable glove to put on our serving hand. The menu: baked stuffed haddock, tartar sauce, mashed potatoes, peas, beets, coleslaw, rolls—and, for dessert, squares of yellow cake with cinnamon topping and STRAWBERRIES! I don’t know if the strawberries were local or not and I didn’t ask; dining again with these old (senior!) friends, I didn’t care.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

MORE PUBLISHERS WEEKLY REVIEWS

May 22, 2022

              Jennifer D-K asked me to share some information about the newsletter she emailed on May 15, Don’s birthday, because she’s concerned about the low open rate. If you believe you’re on the mailing list but didn’t get this e-newsletter, please check your spam or junk mail folders. Then, if it’s not there, email her at RuthDM.E-Blast@frigatebooks.com and please add that e-address to your Contacts or Safe Senders list so you won’t miss any future newsletters. (Conversely, if you’d like to be removed from the mailing list, let Jen know that too.)

             As I’ve wailed about before, there isn’t time to read all the Publishers Weekly books that capture my fancy. But at least I can read the PW reviews! Here are my latest favorites:
             Agent Josephine: American Beauty, French Hero, British Spy, by Damien Lewis, to be published in July. The review begins, “After fleeing the poverty and racism of St. Louis, Mo., to seek fame and fortune in Europe, Josephine Baker (1906-1975) gave ‘the greatest performance of her life’ as a WWII spy, according to this scintillating biography. Historian Lewis (Churchill’s Band of Brothers) draws on newly discovered letters and diaries to paint a vivid portrait of Baker as ‘a chameleon, a rebel, a warrior, and a rule-breaker at heart.’” In a Q&A sidebar he was asked, “What do people who think of Josephine Baker mainly as a scantily clad cabaret performer get wrong about her?” He replied, “The lady in the banana skirt, she is not. Agent Josephine is the veritable, true Josephine. Beneath her public persona is a woman committed to the struggle against evil.”
             Rebel with a Clause: Tales and Tips from a Roving Grammarian, by Ellen Jovin, to be published in July. The review begins, “Jovin (English at Work), cofounder of a communication training firm, documents in this entertaining account her trip across America with a pop-up grammar advice table. In 2018, she set up shop in Manhattan’s Verdi Square answering ‘grammar questions from passersby.’ Her endeavor was a success, and soon she took the show on the road across 47 states . . . Along the way, she shares funny anecdotes about the interactions at her booth and how it functioned as an outlet for individuals to passionately express [me: split infinitive, reviewer! I’m old-fashioned!] their points of view: ‘The semicolon inspires an array of emotional and intellectual responses: curiosity, anxiety, indifference, affection, and disdain,’ for example.” The review concludes, “Fellow language lovers will enjoy the ride.”
             Salty: Lessons on Eating, Drinking, and Living from Revolutionary Women, by Alissa Wilkinson, to be published in June. The review begins, “‘This book is a dinner party, and you are invited,’ writes critic Wilkinson (How to Survive the Apocalypse) in this spirited culinary survey. In the spirit of ‘the great’ Judy Chicago’s 1979 installation The Dinner Party, the author imagines her own meal with nine women artists—with each getting a chapter-length biography that’s loaded with insights into their eating and creative habits . . . Each chapter is followed by a recipe that characterizes its subject . . . [Maya] Angelou gets ‘her favorite’ of pears poached in port wine.”
Bake: My Best Ever Recipes for the Classics, by Paul Hollywood, to be published in July. The review begins, “In this nostalgic paean to his baking career, Great British Baking Show judge Hollywood (A Baker’s Life) offers up a delectable jaunt through his favorite classic British and American bakes . . . In addition to British standards like soft white barm cakes and bin lids (rolls who get their name from a resemblance to the tops of trash cans), Hollywood also delivers recipes for raised loaves and flatbreads from around the world . . . ”
             And on the subject of food: the latest audiobook I’m listening to is One Italian Summer, a novel by Rebecca Serle. It’s full of glorious Italian food, of course, but what captured my fancy was an American sandwich that the American heroine loved. It’s made with Swiss cheese, arugula, and raspberry jam. I must try this, a savory version of the raspberry-jam-and-marshmallow-fluff sandwich beloved by me and by Snowy and Bev.

             P.S. My thanks to everyone who helped in my quest for summer savory. I’ve ordered a packet of seeds from Amazon, so for the very first time I’ll grow my favorite herb from scratch!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

SHOPPING, SMALL AND BIG

May 15, 2022

             Penny and I have been trying to hold our horses (so to speak) about going shopping in greenhouses until the weather warms up. Now at last we’ve gone.
In Maine, Penny went with her friend Joan to the Moose Crossing Garden Center, which is in Waldoboro, home of Moody’s Diner, so of course they went there first for lunch. A few days later my friend Wanda and I went to Moulton Farm in Meredith. I’ve written before about Moulton’s success story of a family farm that has survived and flourished, and to be here again this springtime was both cozy and exciting. Penny had told me about being dazzled by all the colors in Moose Crossing’s greenhouses after a winter of white scenery. I too was nearly blinded by pansies, geraniums, petunias, everything. Beautiful.
             In earlier years, my shopping list was a mile long. Nowadays I’m just shopping for some herbs and a tomato plant. But it’s a quite a quest, because my favorite herb is summer savory, which is getting hard to find, at least around here. Penny searched in Moose Crossing’s greenhouses for it to bring me when she’s here in July, but no luck. And no luck at Moulton’s either. I’ll keep looking. Last year I was overjoyed to find it at Heath’s Supermarket in Center Harbor, in the outside area where local greenhouses have shelves of plants. Perhaps summer savory has gone out of fashion? Last year’s identification marker described its versatility: “Use to flavor beans, meat, cheese, vegetable dishes and salads. Finely chopped leaves can be added to soups and stews near the end of their cooking time. Use to flavor oil or vinegar.”
But I did find the other favorite herbs on my little list, basil, cilantro, dill, rosemary, and I chose for an experiment a tomato type I haven’t grown before, Supersweet. In the Moulton farm stand there were bags of their freshly picked lettuces—at last, at last, local lettuce!
             From Moulton’s, Wanda and I went to Heath’s Supermarket. I looked there for summer savory in the outdoors plants display—no luck (yet?)—and we shopped for groceries. And while doing this small shopping trip I thought of big shopping, of malls, and of a review I’d read in the Publishers Weekly April 25th issue: Meet Me by the Fountain: An Inside History of the Mall, by Alexandra Lange, to be published in June. The review told me that “Design critic Lange . . . delivers a thought-provoking cultural history of the shopping mall. Noting that malls emerged as the U.S. ‘reinvented itself’ in the decades after WWII, Lange recounts how Austrian architect Victor Gruen convinced the owners of the J. L. Hudson department store in Detroit to build four regional shopping centers in the city’s booming suburbs. . . Lange also explores how malls gave teenagers newfound independence and reinforced racial inequities by catering to predominately white suburbanites . . . Lange advocates retrofitting abandoned shopping centers into college campuses, senior housing, and ‘ethnocentric marketplaces’ catering to immigrant communities. Lucid and well researched, this is an insightful study of an overlooked and undervalued architectural form.”
             Penny and I used to make a yearly pilgrimage to the outlet malls in North Conway. The last time we went was in the spring of 2019, and we controlled the shopping to just JC Penney and TJ Maxx. But we maintained our tradition of unwinding with lunch at the Shalimar, an Indian restaurant; according to my diary entry, “We had a fine lunch of curries and nan bread.”
             Thinking of this, I also thought of how during the years when Penny was the gardening expert for Don and me in our caretaking business, Penny and I would take Don’s truck and go springtime shopping at Spider Web Gardens in Tuftonboro. When we left, the truck’s bed would be full of pots and flats of flowers in those dazzling colors, and we drove home with blossoms bobbing.

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

PONDS

May 8, 2022

            Last week I wrote about lakes. This week ponds are on my mind.
As I’ve described many times, when Don and I moved to our Sandwich house in 1976 there was a beaver pond in the backyard. It’s still there. In springtime, winged visitors return to the pond; last month I saw geese, and last week two mallard ducks were paddling and feeding along the shoreline. Other visitors at other times have been otters, deer, bears, and moose. The beavers were permanent residents until about twelve years ago, but I hope they’ve returned this year.
            My fisherman father liked ponds, and they’re in his hiking books. I first hiked to the Greeley Ponds in the 1960s when he invited Don and me along one springtime when Don and I were living in the stifled atmosphere of a second-floor apartment. I always remember how we reveled in this escape.
            East Pond was a favorite, and I hiked to it several times with the Sandwich hiking group. Dan (my father) wrote about it in his 50 Hikes in the White Mountains: “In its simple wooded setting, with Scar Ridge and Mount Osceola’s West Peak in the background, East Pond resembles many small, high lakes, which nestle among the ridges and mountains surrounding the more impressive and famous peaks. Yet each is individual, a special goal for a hike.” He added that East Pond’s “water is cool and clear; it reaches depths of as much as 27 feet and provides shelter for speckled trout, which seem inclined to stay there.” (I always start giggling at this remark about the trout. I can hear his humorous, rueful tone.)
            The ponds and hikes have stories, some sad. Dan began the Nancy and Norcross Ponds Hike in 50 More Hikes in New Hampshire by telling this one about Nancy Barton: “In the fall of 1778 after an absence from her work for Colonel Whipple’s family in Jefferson, she returned to find that she apparently had been deserted by the man she was to marry. He had left the settlement that day without explanation but with her two years’ wages, which she had given him for safekeeping. Believing he had started for Portsmouth by Crawford Notch, she followed him. A fierce storm and darkness overtook her. She froze to death on the south bank of Nancy Brook. Colonel Whipple’s men found her body the next day. She had walked 30 miles through the forest following blazes on trees, fording streams, and making her way among the rocks of the wild notch.”
            Here in Sandwich, Black Mountain Pond is the destination in the 50 Hikes Sandwich Mountain Backpack. This was the first backpack I did with my niece’s dear friend Amy, who became my dear friend, too, on it and the other backpacks she and I did together. Her skill with tents and camp-stove menus I gave to Tom in Henrietta Snow.
            She and I did Dan’s Kilkenny Backpack in 50 More Hikes. We camped the second night at Unknown Pond. Tom and Snowy do, too, on his 60th–birthday hike in Henrietta Snow: “Weary, reeking of fly dope, they sat at the shore at sunset, watching a purple sky turn a rosy pink that lingered until dusk, the pond quiet beneath the darkening triangle of the Horn’s silhouette.”
And Amy and I also did 50 More’s Gordon Pond Backpack. This is the backpack that makes Snowy a local celebrity when, in Henrietta Snow, she wields a bottle of chardonnay as a weapon.
            Although National Poetry Month is over I can’t resist adding, in honor of those mallards in the pond last week, this poem from the Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts postings on the Sandwich Board last month. It’s by Kenneth Grahame—yes, the author of The Wind in the Willows.

Ducks Ditty
            All along the backwater,
            Through the rushes tall,
            Ducks are a-dabbling,
            Up tails all!

            Ducks’ tails, drakes’ tails,
            Yellow feet a-quiver,
            Yellow bills all out of sight
            Busy in the river!

            Slushy green undergrowth
            Where the roach swim—
            Here we keep our larder,
            Cool and full and dim.

            Everyone for what he likes!
            We like to be
            Heads down, tails up,
            Dabbling free!

            High in the blue above
            Swifts whirl and call—
            We are down a-dabbling
            Up tails all!

 Happy Mother’s Day!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

THE LAKES REGION

May 1, 2022

             I’ve mentioned here before that in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire I go from lake to lake just doing errands.
            And so I did last Wednesday. I first went past Squam Lake, gray on a cloudy day. I reached Center Harbor, where the hardware store’s parking lot is next to the town dock on Lake Winnipesaukee. This lake was gray, too, and ruffly with the breeze. Center Harbor is the home port of the big (230 feet, four decks!) Mount Washington cruise ship that plies the waters of Winnipesaukee. Years ago it was somewhat smaller and Don and his brother used it as sort of a commuter boat in which to cross the lake to the Wolfeboro dock where their aunt and uncle, who had a farm in nearby New Durham, would greet them and drive them to the farm for a stay.
            After shopping at the hardware store (I needed more potting soil than I had on hand to get ready for gardening, which nowadays consists of pots of herbs on the picnic table), I sat in the car looking at the lake and trying to remember all the names of all the lakes in the Lakes Region:
            Mirror Lake, where my sister and niece spend a summer week (looking forward to this summer!); Lake Opechee in downtown Laconia; Lake Winnisquam, near the town of Sanbornton to which my parents moved when their Laconia nest was empty; Newfound Lake, which a friend lives near; Lake Sunapee, where the family of a friend owned a cottage and once one of the yearly reunions of our Keene Teachers’ College closest friends was held there (a bunch of English majors, oh horrors!); Silver Lake, where one of my father’s college roommates had a cottage that we visited; Ossipee Lake, where a hiking friend had a cottage; Lake Waukewan, which Don and I saw whenever we were taking a detour around Meredith to avoid summer traffic and where at the golf club one of his high-school reunions was held; Merrymeeting Lake, whose name tickled me in my childhood and still does—and what lakes was I forgetting? Lake Kanasatka, Little Squam Lake, Wicwas Lake, Lake Wentworth . . .  The names seemed a lullaby I had heard in conversations from childhood onward.
            My dear friend Winifred recently gave me Jar of Plenty, a book of poems by Ruelaine Stokes. The “About the Author” information told me that she “is a poet, teacher, and performance artist based in Lansing, Michigan . . . Professionally, she has taught English as a second language to international students, refugees, and immigrants at Michigan State University, Lansing Community College, and in community ESL programs in the Greater Lansing Area. For decades, she has worked diligently to establish a growing poetry community in the Greater Lansing Area.”
The poems are really good. And of course I’m especially fond of one with the word “lake” in its first line. The title is “in the blue painted blue —Nel blu dipinto di blu, 1958.” Her “Notes” section of the book says of the title: “I fell in love with the Italian song, ‘Volare/Nel blu dipinto di blu,’ in 1958. I stole the title for this poem about the dazzling colors of Big Glen Lake in Michigan.”
            So on the day after the last day of National Poetry Month, here is a lake poem:

                    look! the lake is wearing her fancy scarf—
                    pale blue fading to gray, then a ribbon of green
                    then the great expanse of aquamarine
                    rimmed by a thin band of light

                    the sky talks back in a blue language                   
                    blue-veined clouds stutter

                    trees sigh
                    white petals fall

                    on bold legs, a black crow
                    strides across the lawn, its head jerks
                    back and forth, dips down
                    into the grass to devour
                    a beetle

                    no one’s luck lasts forever

                    a bit of thunder
                    the trees sigh again

                    more petals fly through the air

                    in the rock garden
                    behind Cottage #9, a stone
                    shouts in all the colors
                    of the rainbow:

                    BE
                    HAPPY!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

TV FOR EARLY BIRDS; AN APRIL POEM

April 24, 2022

            Last week during a morning snowstorm (the snow melted in the afternoon, whew), my satellite dish went out and stayed out into the next morning. My sister and I have talked about liking to hear a voice in the house, and during this recent silence I realized I miss a voice the most in the mornings. Funny! We grew up with our father being horrified (humorously but truly) by our mother’s turning on the radio on the kitchen table in the mornings to hear the news. He thought: morning is the best time of day; why ruin it? So I’ve always felt vaguely guilty about watching even the Today show.
          In 1976 when Tom Brokaw and very young Jane Pauley took over from Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters as hosts of Today, a columnist for TV Guide magazine wondered how the audience would adjust. When you wake up in the morning, he wrote, you want your Mommy and your Daddy; you do not want these two youngsters. Don and I found this extremely amusing.
          Like my father, I’m an early bird, awake bright and early and quoting Shakespeare: “The day shall not be up so soon as I too try the fair adventure of tomorrow.” For us early birds, TV provides Early Today, lots of commercials promising to cure the ills of old folks, and, on PBS, usually something interesting, such as reruns of Antiques Roadshow and Ken Burns’s documentaries.
          My favorite is The Food Flirts. Have you seen it? These flirts are the Brass sisters, Marilyn and Sheila, who live in Boston. They aren’t afraid to say what they think, which reminds me of my mother. PBS describes the show: “Two passionate food explorers of a certain age are on a mission to tackle their culinary bucket list . . . one bite at a time! In each episode the ladies ‘flirt’ their way into chefs’ kitchens to discover the ethnically unique and delicious delights, then head home to experiment and create cross-cultured culinary mash-ups to tantalize your taste-buds!” Recently they took a “Cape Cod Road Trip” and sampled American, Greek, and South African foods, including baklava and lobster rolls.
          Speaking of mothers, here are the opening and closing verses of a poem titled “Mother” by Ted Kooser. During April, the Yeoman’s Fund for the Arts posts a poem every day on the Sandwich Board, and this is one of them. Ted Kooser’s name was new to me. On Wikipedia I learned that he was born in 1939 in Iowa, won the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2005, was the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004 to 2006, and “is known for his conversational style of poetry.”

                MOTHER
                Mid April already, and the wild plums
                bloom at the roadside, a lacy white
                against the exuberant, jubilant green
                of new grass and the dusty, fading black
                of burned-out ditches. No leaves, not yet,
                only the delicate, star-petaled
                blossoms, sweet with their timeless perfume.

                You have been gone a month today
                and have missed three rains and one nightlong
                watch for tornadoes. I sat in the cellar
f                rom six to eight while fat spring clouds
                went somersaulting, rumbling east. Then it poured,
                a storm that walked on legs of lightning,
                dragging its shaggy belly over the fields . . .

                for this is the month of my birth, as you know,
                the best month to be born in, thanks to you,
                everything ready to burst with living.
                There will be no more new flannel nightshirts
                sewn on your old black Singer, no birthday card
                addressed in a shaky but businesslike hand.
                You asked me if I would be sad when it happened

                and I am sad. But the iris I moved from your house
                now hold in the dusty dry fists of their roots
                green knives and forks as if waiting for dinner,
                as if spring were a feast. I thank you for that.
                Were it not for the way you taught me to look
                at the world, to see the life at play in everything,
I              would have to be lonely forever.

From Delights and Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, 2004

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

FAMILY; FOOD; FOLD-OUT SOFAS

April 17, 2022

            I mentioned last week that my niece, Thane, would be visiting. Thank you for your good wishes for this happy occasion!
           It was indeed wonderful. There was much family talk, subjects ranging from  current activities to reminiscences, and Thane helped with many, many things, from solving household problems to doing computer work that’s miles beyond my comprehension.
           And she made festive meals, from the pizza lunch on Sunday to Monday’s breakfast of scrambled-eggs-spinach-salsa-sour-cream wraps! I told her about a passage I love in my friend Patricia Vicary’s Power Walk!: My Step by Step Journey to Competitions Across America. In the “What to Eat” section Patty wrote about how her friend Connie watched her consume Howard Johnson’s butter crunch ice cream and “uttered perhaps the most accurate assessment of my personality I would hear in my entire life.
           “‘You’re happiest,’ she said, ‘when you’re eating.’
           “The first thought that crossed my mind wasn’t to be offended or embarrassed or even to protest that it wasn’t true. No, my thought then and now was, Well, isn’t everyone?”
           Thane loved this, too.
           When she visits, Thane spends the nights on her sleeping bag on my yoga mat on the floor of Don’s “office” off the kitchen. In the living room there’s a fold-out sofa where Penny, my sister, sleeps when she visits. Ah, fold-out sofas! I recently read with interest and amusement an article in the April/May issue of Reminisce magazine titled “Sleep Tight: Beds folded into sofas or hidden behind walls have a fascinating history. And they’re still pulling double duty.”
           The history begins in 1885 when “Sarah Elisabeth Goode of Chicago received a patent for a folding cabinet bed . . . Interlocking sections folded out into a single bed. Closed, it was a desk . . . Goode was one of the first African American women to receive a patent.” Next, “William L. Murphy devised his fold-up wall bed in the late 1890s . . . And though his system employed ingenious mechanics, the concept of hiding a bed in plain sight wasn’t entirely novel. Thomas Jefferson, for instance, had an affection for recessed alcove beds, and built one at Monticello in the 1790s.” And then the Castro Convertibles: “Now regarded as the father of the modern sofa bed, Bernard Castro founded his company in 1931 in New York with $400 he’d saved as an upholsterer . . . Castro’s genius was in crafting foldouts that were beautiful and functional.”
           My history with fold-out sofas: The one I grew up with was in what we called “the front room.” When our family finally got a TV circa 1953, the TV set remained such a new inhabitant that we never started calling the front room “the TV room.” However, in our teens, with boyfriends, Penny and I nicknamed  the sofa the “make-out couch.” (We didn’t use the nickname in front of our parents, and the sofa didn’t become a bed during the making-out.)

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

SOLITARY EATERS

April 9, 2022

            In the March 28th issue of Publishers Weekly there was a review of a book that got me thinking even more than I already do about dining alone. It’s Dinner for One: How Cooking in Paris Saved Me, by Sutanya Dacres, to be published in June.             The review says, “The book opens in 2016 with the author, a writer from the Bronx, divorced, heartbroken, alone in Paris . . . [She describes] her culinary experiences—particularly the cathartic act of cooking solo that, post-divorce, allows her to heal: ‘Beneath the crispy, blistered skin was moist, flavorful meat,’ she fondly writes of her first roast chicken. ‘The onions had taken on a sweet, delicious, paste-like texture. I beamed with pride.’”

            Throughout Don’s illness I lost twenty pounds without really noticing. During the final months and after his death, Penny (my sister) and Thane (my niece) brought healthy and fun food, made scrumptious meals, and gently told me how concerned they were that I was wasting away to nothing. This was the least of my concerns. I who, like Snowy, had been famous for my appetite, had none, nor the energy to try to whet it. Alone, I made the quickest, simplest meals.

            Then Thane reminded me about a page titled “A Pep-Talk for Solitary Eaters” in the “Light Meals” section of Mollie Katzen’s Enchanted Broccoli Forest. And right there in my kitchen bookcase was the cookbook, which Don had given me in the 1980s, having seen it in Center Harbor’s Bayswater bookstore and knowing how much I liked and used Mollie Katzen’s Moosewood Cookbook. I must have read “Solitary Eaters” when I was getting acquainted with The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, but I had forgotten about it, probably because I hadn’t been able to imagine—or it was too painful to imagine—eating alone.

             I found the page. Mollie Katzen begins, “Do you regularly miss out on the pleasures of Dining, because it doesn’t seem worth the trouble to make things Nice if they’re only for you (and the 6 o’clock news announcer, who is your steady dinner companion)? Perhaps you can be convinced that you, yes you, are indeed deserving of good food and a little extra attention.” She suggests, “Set aside a block of time once a week for a cooking session. Prepare one soup and one casserole-type entrée.” Freeze single portions. “Keep a steady supply of fresh fruits and vegetables around and prepare yourself a spectacular salad while your entrée heats. On alternate nights, have the soup, with raw vegetables . . . Think of yourself as your own guest . . . Set an attractive place for yourself and sit down to eat!”

            And gradually I began to create my own version of this, making daily menus again, browsing instead of rushing in the supermarket. I do dine not at the dining-room table but in front of the kitchen TV, in one of the two rocking chairs Don made from Shaker Workshop kits, beside me a small table from Don’s parents’ house. I change the plastic placemat on it with the seasons, and I’ve just changed from a winter scene in the White Mountains to a summer scene of Lake Winnipesaukee.

  © 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

NaTIONAL POETRY MONTH 2022

April 3, 2022

            Here we are in April, National Poetry Month. My sister and I started celebrating poetry a little early, still in March last week, when she told me over the phone that she’d seen her first robin of the season—and she began reciting a David McCord poem that she’d discovered during her daughter’s childhood and they had recited together:             

                  Fat father robin, a red rubber ball,
                  Rolls across the lawn, bounces off the wall.
                  Rolls bounces rolls away hearing in the ground
                  The worm talking tunnel and the mole saying mound.

What a delight! I responded with a poem about a robin from our childhood, the Mother Goose nursery rhyme that I still recite when I see my first robin and worry about the weather as I did when a robin appeared in the backyard this March 12th:

                  The north wind doth blow,
                  And we shall have snow,
                  And what will poor robin do then,
                      Poor thing?
                  He’ll sit in a barn,
                  To keep himself warm,
                  And hide his head under his wing, 
                      Poor thing!

I saw my first chipmunk of the season on March 3rd, as usual a male braving the weather to go courting. He hasn’t yet climbed up into the branches of the lilac bush beside the porch, but when he does I’ll recite, as always, the first verse of “Foreign Lands,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s poem in A Child’s Garden of Verses:

                  Up into the cherry tree
                  Who should climb but little me?
                  I held the trunk with both my hands
                  And looked abroad to foreign lands.

                  I saw the next door garden lie,
                  Adorned with flowers, before my eye,
                  And many pleasant places more
                  That I had never seen before.

                  I saw the dimpling river pass
                  And be the sky’s blue looking-glass;
                  The dusty roads go up and down
                  With people tramping in to town.                 

                  If I could find a higher tree
                  Farther and farther I should see,
                  To where the grown-up river slips
                  Into the sea among the ships,

                  To where the roads on either hand
                  Lead onward into fairy land,
                  Where all the children dine at five,
                  And all the playthings come alive.

March ended with the ending of maple-syrup season here. From our nearby farm’s sugarhouse I now have jugs of maple syrup whose labels say:

                  “Abbott Farm Syrup,
5                  th Generation Sugaring,
                  Pure NH Maple Syrup,
                  US Grade A, Amber, Rich Taste.”

That’s poetry, too!

© 2022 by Ruth Doan MacDougall; all rights reserved

 

 

 

RDM titles collage

CURRENT ENTRIES

Archives Index
2022

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)

2021

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)

2020

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)

                        2020

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)