Tag Archives: vacation

Leeks and Leaks

Some climbed mountains



Some kept the fire going


Some caught fish


Some stayed dry


Some forgot essential things like: matches, flashlights, and a pillow (okay that was just me).


Yes, there were the leek sprouts left unwatered in the packing frenzy  that may not make it into Tasha’s garden this year, and some very persistent leaky tents may have given their last hurrah but leeks and leaks be damned- all had fun!

Livin’ Hard

The usual camp fare: roasted tomatoes, pesto, assorted cheeses, vegetables for grilling, molasses and chocolate chip cookies, and Swedish cardamon coffee bread stuffed with almond paste.


In typical fashion, my friends and our 15 or so children are taking an anti-vacation this weekend: camping.  That’s how we do it: the hard way.  It’s what we love.

I always make Swedish coffee bread (with cardamon and almond paste) to heat over the fire for breakfast.

I love the feel of dough. It is such a sensual experience. Dusting the dough with flour reminds me of powdering a baby’s bottom, the sweet, dry, cool skin. Kneading the dough it yields in my hand much in the same way that a body would accept and slightly resist  my touch.

After all, the relentless work of camping really is worth the lovely victuals and companionship under the stars. At least that is my thinking today: we’ll see what I say Sunday…

Charleston. Short Story.

I have spent the last week in Charleston, South Carolina, a beautiful city if ever there was one. I was visiting my aunt and uncle: enjoying their city and most especially their company.

It all began with William Trevor. Both my aunt and uncle have an earnest ardor for books. My uncle has a passion, in particular,  for short stories and thought I would enjoy the subtle poignancy of William Trevor. I read Teresa’s Wedding and was a convert. Office Romance, Afternoon Dancing, and the ironic Last Wishes all quietly shinning a light on some of life’s saddest aspects.
What could easily have passed for massive door weights, were two volumes presented enthusiastically to me of V.S. Prichett essays and short stories. The essays were almost exclusively about writers and were wonderful. I just had to read his story entitled Sense of Humor, how could I pass up a title like that? I could not. Lovely reading all.

Things to do when you’re not reading:

Charleston is a beautiful city, surrounded by rivers, lakes and of course the ocean. Sea kayaking  is a beautiful sport that my uncle loves. The zeal with which people embrace kayaking is infectious. I innocently believed that one simply got in the water and paddled, hopefully in a forward direction at will. Oh dear me no! There are strokes to learn, techniques to master, celebrity paddlers to marvel over, and don’t even get started on the rolling. It’s one of the those wonderful (if sneakily expensive) activities that offers endless permutations and advancement, but at each stage a full measure of enjoyment can be drawn. A most excellent sport that captures (by the hips) the primordial pleasure of gliding across a surface.

“He tasted the almost preverse pleasure of disengaging himself line by line.” – Continuity of Parks, Julio Cortázar

Next we were onto South American writers. My uncle was a professor of Languages (Spanish and Portuguese). A mutual admiration of Jorge Luis Borges led to Julio Cortázar’s wonderful short stories Axolotl, Letter to a Young Lady in Paris, Continuity of Parks, The Night Face Up, Blow-up, and my favorite, The Yellow Flower. His stories are presented with a light tone that belie the metaphysical under-notes that linger.

Other sights to see:

Charleston has America’s only tea plantation. What look like endless rows of perfectly manicured hedges are tea bushes which get a haircut every 20  days by something called the “green monster,” it brings the top leaves in for processing. After chopping up the leaves it’s just 50 minutes oxidation for black tea, 15 for oolong and naught for green. Maybe it’s not so puerile, simply an evocation of watching Mister Rogers factory tours as a child delighting in the hidden processes, but learning about these sorts of things brings out a certain…elation in me. We all really enjoyed the tour.
A fruit is nothing
picked out of season.
Even a brute’s praise
won’t stand to reason.  – Antonio Machado (Proverbs and Songs #5)

The weekly market on the downtown green was a wonderful finish to a week spent enjoying some of the fantastic food and restaurants that Charleston is known for. The flowers, fruits and vegetables in all their colorful bounty exemplifying all that is wonderful about the south.

Walking the piquant streets of the city with my aunt, lounging on the beach, visiting the Gibbes Museam of Art where we saw the incredible skill of artist Mary Whyte (Working South watercolors) and  wonderful, whimsical, mysterious photographs of Traditional African American Gardens of the South by Vaughn Sills, coming back each day to sit, chat and read enjoying the lovely order of my aunt’s home- her former life as a master (doctorate, in fact) librarian the leading aesthetic which, naturally, I keenly appreciate-

“I who always imagined Paradise
To be a sort of library.” – from The Gifts, by Jorge Luis Borges

The wonderful abiding quality of short stories is the condensed presentation of feeling and ideas. Every moment matters, every tone has purpose and meaning. These very same attributes define the ideal vacation. If you are lucky enough to visit a beautiful spot in the world generously hosted with love, intelligence and grace, then you, as I,  have experienced the perfect short story. Edited to perfection.

A las palabras de amor
les sienta bien su poquito
de exageración. 

– Songs, Antonio Machado

For words of love
a bit of exaggeration
feels good.

“Angel Oak”

but I never exaggerate.
Here is some incredible music that has nothing to do with South Carolina apart from my first hearing it there:


I drove 7 hours to visit my two eldest children for Easter. I got attached to the idea of making moule frites for dinner. I brought everything I needed except the mussels which I assumed would be easy to get in Maine. Not so much as it turns out. My daughter called every fish store she could find until finally, with a supermarket 30 minutes away she was successful,”I was wondering if you have any mussels?” she sweetly asked. The next thing I heard her say was “ha. ha. ha. Do you have the kind to eat?” the tiniest bit of a hint of irritation coating her voice. I have no idea where she gets that from. “Think real hard,” she would answer. Sarcastic child.

On our drive over we saw a large hand painted sign scrawled with the words “Cherry stones, Lobsters, Mussels.” We (or rather I) violently turned into the driveway where another small sign said “Honk or knock.” I…am not a honker, I opted to knock. We walked up to the house, there were two excessively large picture windows in front. Two. With a door in between.  A man answered the door and spoke with vigor. He went back in the house and I turned to my daughter hoping that she spoke Maine. “I have no idea.” she said. Feeling uncomfortably intrusive with all of the large picture windows I back away slowly. “Where are you going?” my daughter hissed. “I’m just…away from the windows.” A young man in industrial blue pants belted high on his waist with a matching tee shirt tucked in, wearing muck boots that came up to his knees came out of the house. His nose had been broken maybe 2 or 3 times and some  teeth were missing. “Follow me to the shed,” he said and walked briskly past us leading the way. On the way over to the shed which was behind the house I felt my daughter looking at me. The intensity of her stare making my cheek grow hot until I turned my head towards her, she gave me a look that said: we are probably going to die now. I looked back: keys are in the ignition. I bravely step ahead of her trying to peer into the dark of the shed nervously looking for…the wood chipper.

We sheepishly walked away with his last 4 lbs of lovely mussels in a big paper bag. The young man was very happy I had exact change.

We thought we should still get a couple more pounds so we continued to the supermarket. When we got to the counter a man nearing 80 years of age greeted us with a smile, “Are you the ladies that called?”
Yes Mr. Muscles, that would be us.


*Dirigo is the Maine state motto – I lead