the wind-down


I traveled down to MA last weekend so I got to get a little more Autumn since it’s been finished up here for weeks. I’ve heard reports of snow, but haven’t seen any yet myself. Also just returned from Regina, SK where they brag about 40 below winters where I thought our 20 below weeks were badass. Then I thought, hey that’s metric! But no, it’s not.

I got back late last night after a pretty long day. The only reason I got out of my pajamas today was because my landlady came over to help me figure out why one of my radiators wasn’t heating. I didn’t get dressed because of that. I got dressed because in our attempts to bleed the radiator, my landlady lost the little screw and we were both scooting around in a bit of a panic trying to corral the hot water which was shooting everywhere. I took the sink trap apart in order to retrieve the screw she’d accidentally dropped down the drain, and in the process broke the drainpipe clean in two [it had been rotting for a while] and at that point it looked like time to get dressed. I like being someone with a toolbox. I can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t had vise grips and a big ass set of pliers.

I spent a lot of the day laying on the telephone couch looking out the window marvelling at how I can now spy on all the birds including a large-seeming pileated woodpecker that is loving the rotten tree ends. Tasty bugs.

I got email from my editor this weekend saying “OK, Jessamyn, you’re officially “handed off” to production. Congratulations!” which I guess is good news. I think this is the point at which they irrevocably commit to publishing/purchasing it, since before that I was basically writing on spec, though they did solicit the manuscript from me. The whole thing has been confusing but mostly good and my editor is a peach. I have gotten to the point where I am calling the book “that goddamned book” so I guess you’re not really done with anything until you can’t stand the sight of it. I still have the index to write. I’m thinking about my next book. I apparently never learn.

finished, start again


So hey, Autumn! I’ve broken free of the rapturous stupor that is fall around here. There has been some rain. The leaves are more a mushy brown memory than a glowing poppy field of possibility. And I’ve been getting stuff done, somewhat subdued by the seasonal allergies that characterize this time of year for me.

The biggest thing that’s been on a ten year To Do list was the 251 Club. I can now say that I’ve set foot in every town in Vermont. I started this officially sometime back in 2004, when I had to roll my own website just to keep track of this stuff online. Now there’s an official website and hey I’m helping them maintain their mailing list in exchange for a membership. The last town on the list was Somerset, population five, mostly home to a giant reservoir, a campground and some hiking trails. I couldn’t tell from the gazetteer, but it’s also in the shadow of Mount Snow, a place Jim used to go when he was a kid, so the closer we got, the more he was saying “This all looks familiar” It’s interesting driving around a deserted ski area in off-season.

So, with little fanfare, I finished up. Jim and I split a beer by the reservoir. I’ll write the 251 Club and probably get a note in the next (print) newsletter. And because I’m not much for resting on my laurels, now I want to go back and “do it right” and take a photograph in each one.

In other accomplishments, I sent in the second draft of my book and it’s on its way to the production department. It should be ready to ship on March 30th, my sister Kate’s birthday. And I went to the doctor to figure out why my nose has been half-stuffed up since April. And I’ve started my drop-in time up again, teaching people to use a computer mouse and related basic computer stuff. I don’t know if I mentioned that the panel I proposed for SXSW, Offline America, Why We Have A Digital Divide, was accepted in the first round, so I’ll be in Texas again in March.

Meanwhile October is ramping up. The public speaking stuff I do has been dropping off some. I’ve gotten more picky, there’s less work, and it’s possible people are less interested in me and/or the things I talk about. I have very little perspective on this sort of thing. I had someone turn me down, after inviting me, because I said I wouldn’t, really couldn’t, work before 11 am. So starting in November there are big gaps of free time. I know I often say this and then fill it all up before it arrives. We’ll see. I am hoping to be able to get used to being okay with big open spaces on the calendar, good times for woodshedding some new ideas, reading books, dreaming new dreams.

some projects


Cupcakes are better than moss because even if you sort of screwed them up, the evidence is eaten and does not sit around moldering and dying in your window and eventually smelling bad. So this is just to say that the really terrific looking mossarium keeled over in a spectacular way (should have known that the dried orange peels would mold, what was I thinking?) but the other one remains hale and hearty. Also Jim and I made nearly four dozen cupcakes this weekend and I have a few left, but they were delicious. And even if they weren’t, they are basically gone and you’ll have to take my word for it.

So yeah, the birthday weekend was a success. I get nervy around birthdays because I always seem to remember them, so I hope that they are nice so that I will have pleasant memories. My mind is inscrutable even to me. Anyhow, the weekend was great. Jim came up on Friday and we made cupcakes. The secret was getting some decent cake mixes and then loading them with cardamom and nutmeg and mace to make them taste exotic. I couldn’t have made 50 exotic cupcakes. And then I realized I didn’t know how to frost them [I don’t like supermarket icing, it is gross] so I took a crash course in royal icing and covered up my mistakes with colored sugar. There was a neighborhood porch party on Saturday to celebrate a few local birthdays and it was a good way to see everyone and get birthday high fives in a fun relaxed atmosphere.

Sunday we trekked to the Northeast Kingdom and went to Lewis, Maidstone and Granby, three of the five towns I have left in my 251 project. I was talking to someone about the project this weekend [Kate maybe?] and they were surprised that The 251 Club is a real club. It’s real! I even get a newsletter. The newsletter also came with crucial information to help us figure out how to get to Lewis Vermont, population zero. On the way home we stopped at the Miss Lyndonville Diner for a birthday dinner that couldn’t be beat, complete with strangers from the next booth singing happy birthday to me. Home to movies and a low key day with mini-golf before Jim headed home. Yay for three day weekends.

Now I’m facing the grim reality of a month of edits to my book (available on Amazon, now you can go look at the cover) and “school” starting in a few weeks. I’ll be going back to teaching night classes and doing the same old drop-in time from now through holidaytime. The leaves are changing here and have been filling up the driveway for the past few days. I’ve started sleeping in my fuzzy hat. Summer you were fun while you lasted.

moss and me

new mossarium

I’m experimenting with open moss containers, we’ll see how they work. It’s actualy pretty simple to make a mossarium that looks awesome on day one. We’ll see how it looks on day thirty.

mossarium 2, from the top

on staying put


It was sort of an exciting offer “Hey if you want to get one of those Jet Blue All You Can Jet passes and go around the country going to meetups, I’ll spring for the ticket.” And I almost said yes before I even thought about it, because traveling is fun and meeting up with people is fun and it’s lovely out and there have been a few people on my “to visit” list for an embarassingly long time.

And then I slept on it, the awesome sleep I have when it’s just the right temperature outside and I am sleeping with my favorite pillow and my room is all nice and dark the way I like it. And woke up thinking that being gone for a good chunk of a month meant less of that. And I asked a few people, all of whom gave me answers that I’d characterize as cautiously supportive, and I slept on it again. And I decided to stay put. Which is a little strange since I usually opt for squeezing more stuff into my days not less. But I think I was maybe not giving enough weight to the things already on my plate including

  • Working on the second draft of my book, due in October
  • School starting, and with it, my drop-in time
  • A few little projects I’ve been thinking about
  • How much I love Vermont and my apartment in it
  • Reconnecting with friends who I’ve seen less of than I’d like
  • My exercise plan, casually abandoned while I was writing, now back on the priority list
  • A freezerful of blueberries that won’t be getting any fresher
  • Keeping my houseplants alive
  • Another essay I’m writing for a book friends are publishing
  • My full-time MetaFilter job
  • Family & boyfriend time which I’ve been enjoying a lot of this summer
  • Reading hardcover books which I never do when I’m travelling

That’s just the top of the head list, I’m sure there are more things. I’ll go back and look at this list when I’m stuck in the September doldrums and wishing I were elsewhere. If that happens. Which I bet it won’t.

real summer

Lantana Town Library

This is the first summer in a while that I can remember having a real summer. That is, doing a bunch of outdoorsy stuff with friends and neighbors and feeling busy in that “Wow there is a lot of fun stuff to do” way and spending very little time inside under the fluorescent lights.

Actually this morning I am inside because I got a sunburn picking blueberries. This is such a better thing to complain about than impending word counts or deadlines or what have you. I am still in the glow of no longer having a book to write, as much as I enjoyed the writing of it. I was in Florida last week and it was 102, so I can pretty much handle whatever Vermont can dish out. Other highlights from the last week include a beach meetup, seeing my sister’s boyfriend play baseball at Fenway Park (a totally different place when there are only 200 people there), the aforementioned blueberry picking, some random hiking and seeing a lightning storm from the plane at sufficient distance that it was cool not scary. My new-to-me car has been road tested and I have three pounds of blueberries in the fridge.

I also had food from these countries: Peru, Cuba, France, Finland, Thailand, Greece and the good old US of A. Yes this was not in Vermont. The plan for the next week, besides a quickie trip to Indianapolis, is exercise. Last week I actually ran a mile outside, for the first time ever. My time was something in the 13 minute range which means room for a ton of improvement.

I went to four different libraries when I was in Florida. This one was just a few blocks from the Barefoot Mailman motel which was my quirky hangout in Lantana Florida. Nothing fancy but cool and quiet and a good place for resting before heading back out into the summer activities.