This doesn't look much like winter, yet the calendar says it's here so I got her ready.
Eleven years living in the tropics taught me to appreciate the change of seasons offered by the temperate zones. Still, memories of my New England-farm-boy upbringing with 20-below winters served up with plenty of snow forever cured me of any desire moving back up there. This, the true temperate climate of Eastern Shore Virginia, suites nicely.
Here I am in the beginning of December having just "winterized" my boat. This means getting her ready for sub-freezing temps which means running a non-toxic anti-freeze through the raw water cooling system in the engine and draining the holding and water tanks and putting some of the stuff in those, too. And changing the engine oil, too, except I didn't do that this year because I only ran the engine for maybe ten hours since the last oil change.
This has all the earmarks of a good winter in other respects, too. Terry gets back from Atlanta on Friday and on Sunday we leave for a week in Washington D.C., she to work, me to avoid work. I plan on spending much time hanging out at the National Gallery of Art just sitting, looking, absorbing. I can't explain the powerful attraction old art has for me. I love the gallery, too. Huge, cavernous--a modern cathedral to allow us to worship the old artists, great and--most of them--dead.
Two days after we get back from D.C., we fly to Atlanta and will have Christmas with the grandchildren--two boys so far, a third on the way in Seattle. Then, the day after Christmas, we fly to the Florida keys to babysit dolphins, a pleasant interlude that is getting to be a regular gig, except Terry will go with me this year. Wonderful. We will sit on the balcony overlooking the dolphin pens and the Gulf of Mexico and drink white wine.
The famous Eastern Shore fog overwhelmed us this week. In fact, Onancock, the name of our town, means "place where there is fog." This is the fishing fleet in Wachapreague.
As far as the new book goes, a while ago I discovered that the secret to writing is to put it off until you can't put it off any more and still call yourself a writer. Then, when you are hungry for it, when the fire in the belly is flaming up, you do it. I've been planning my next book for years, daydreaming my characters and my plot, making notes, writing sketches of scenes, getting ready. Like painting a house, writing a novel is all about preparation. So then, when the anxiety in my heart was too much to bear any longer, I sat down one morning at wrote the first chapter. Here's the first few lines:
“Tell me again, Maggie, about when I was born.”
Maggie’s face had assumed her warrior’s mask and to the boy it was important to soften it, to melt the thin veneer of ice it formed between them. Maggie sighed at the windshield of the old truck with its clattering, slapping wipers. She downshifted and the engine roared and strained and the wipers increased their tempo.
After a moment her face softened. “Oh, now, Joseph, I remember it as if it was tomorrow—that clear. It was a perfect spring day, filled with bird songs and birds flitting and doing what birds do in the spring. Your mother, the sweet young lady that she was, called me, her voice so soft I could barely hear her, what with her accent and all. I went over right away although I had just put a pie in the oven…..”
“No, Maggie,” the boy said, “Not that time. The other time I was born.”
Wachapreague harbor in the Fog, December 2012