So here we are, in late December, with the temperature at 15 degrees as I start writing this newsletter. This snowy owl, captured in flight by local photographer, Dell Cullum, doesn’t seem to mind. I’ll leave the house shortly, drive to appointments in Southampton, a 30-minute drive each way, then head to a large annual holiday party not far from my home in East Hampton tonight, when it should be 10 degrees or less. Brrrr.
When I look out the window it could be any season: the mossy grass is green, the sun is bright, and leaves remain on some trees. In the distance, a wind turbine over an open field glitters as it whirls super fast in the air, a spinning jewel for all to admire.
It’s been an unusual holiday season with the absence of my daughter, Suzanne, who died last May. We celebrated Christmas Eve together for many years, and then always drove together to our family gatherings on Christmas Day. This year a friend and I enjoyed a quiet Eve, with local, just-shelled bay scallops, broccoli, butternut squash, and salad – all prepared by him. On Christmas I drove to western Suffolk County, a two-hour drive, to spend the day with my family members. I’m fortunate, even blessed, to have these close relationships, but Suzanne’s presence was very much missed.
“Goodbyes hurt the most when the story was not finished.”
“The holiday season is a perfect time to reflect on our blessings and seek out ways to make life better for those around us.”
I traveled to California in early December to visit my son, Jeffrey. He lives in Chico, a college town about 60 miles north of Sacramento. We had a good visit, and I saw the wonderful house and property he bought later in December, where he is now preparing to move. I also spent two nights in Sacramento, where I caught up with my writer friends, Maria Ruiz and Ted Druch. Maria recently self-published a short, clever, informative book called I Used to be Taller, perfect reading for those of us of a certain age (and especially women). I reviewed it on Amazon, where it sells for only $6.00. I bought several copies for holiday gifts and will be buying more for friends and family.
“Travel and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.”
We will be back at the Hampton Library in Bridgehampton for our winter memoir writing workshop on Tuesday, January 23. There will be six classes, ending on February 27. PLEASE NOTE TIME CHANGE: We will meet from 1:30-3:30 instead of the usual 5:00-7:00 p.m. The fee is $75, and you can call the library at 631-537-0015 to register.
Three of the talented writers in this workshop had their work published recently in The East Hampton Star, and I hope you’ll look at the Star web page to read them.
Ryan Matthews’ memoir, “A Hero I’ve Come to Know” appeared on November 16, right after Veteran’s Day, and tells the story of his great uncle, before, during and after he fought in World War II. Ryan’s close relationship with his grandmother, Lilly, now in her 90s, provided him with the knowledge he needed to write this beautiful story. When I first read it, in class with our other writers, it brought to mind the following quote:
“One of the saddest sentences I know is, ‘I wish I had asked my mother about that. I wish I had asked my father about that. Writers are the custodians of memory so it’s extremely important to get to people, interview your parents, your grandparents.’”
William Zinsser (On Writing Well)
On December 14 Carol Dray’s memoir piece, “Skipping Stones” appeared, a lovely homage to her late mother. The reader feels Carol’s emotions as she leads us through the events before and after her mom’s death, the memories and the interactions with family members. We are right there with Carol and her experience.
“Christmas Carolyn,” a fine essay by Pat Shevlin was published on December 21, and is a detailed memory of her friendship, from high school through adult years, with Carolyn, all the Christmas spent together, that ends with, “I lost my best friend many years ago, but never does a Christmas pass that I do not think of the joy-filled memories of Christmas Carolyn.”
Jerry Giammatteo, of Sayville, published a long letter to the editor, also in The East Hampton Star, titled “Peaceful Dissent,” inspired by the controversy over the National Football League’s protests by kneeling instead of standing for the national anthem. Jerry brings in the Ken Burns’ PBS series on Vietnam, which he watched, and reviews our history of dissent, our country’s current divide “along social, economic, and philosophical lines.” A thoughtful, unbiased read, in my opinion.
Also in The Star, Mary Vettel, of Southampton, published a short story in the November 9 issue called “Duncan Blunt” – a mystery, and a very clever one. Death and deceit, prison and death sentence, family and . . . well, you can read the whole story online.
The Great South Bay Magazine featured an essay by Joe Bonelli, of Oakdale, called “More Than Baseball” in which he reminisces about the baseball player, Jimmy Piersall, who died in June of this year. Piersall was the subject of the book and film, Fear Strikes Out, and Joe saw him play at the old Yankee Stadium in 1961.
Jerry Giammatteo’s article, “Beachless in Seattle” appears in the current issue (December
-January) issue of Great South Bay. On a business trip out west, Jerry longs to visit a beach, with disappointing results. The magazine can be seen is online.
Last, but certainly not least, is our Reflections columnist in the Southampton/East Hampton Press, Joanne Pateman. Among her many columns the past three months are “Violet and Louis,” “John Banville’s Tears,” “Hopalong Cassidy,” and “Walk on the Irish Side.” I look forward to each new column, and to Joanne’s articles elsewhere, too.
“There are very few professions in which people just sit down and think hard for five or six hours a day all by themselves. (If you become a writer) you have the liberty to do just that, but once you have the liberty you also have the obligation to do it.”
I recommend that you read the latest “Inspiration” issue of Poets & Writers (January-
February 2018). It’s filled with interesting, motivational articles, highlights “Ten Poets Who Will Change the World.” and “52 Ideas to Boost Your Creativity in 2018.”
Dell Cullum, who took the snowy owl photo, has published several books of his nature photography, including Eden of East Hampton: The Village Nature Trail, which I keep nearby, and Isabela: A Green Explorer Expedition, a film and book set in the Galapagos. See his website: www.imaginationnature.com for more about Dell and his work.
My current reading list includes On the Road by Jack Kerouac which, for some reason, I’ve never read until now, Footsteps: From Ferrante’s Naples to Hammett’s San Francisco, Literary Pilgrimages Around the World by The New York Times, and the unwieldy, not to be carried around, coffee table book, Highbrow, Lowbrow, Brilliant, Despicable: 50 Years of New York by the editors of New York Magazine.
Happy New Year to all of you. Keep writing and reading, and please stay in touch.