100 Words #405 - Finger-Spitzengefühl and This Week's Obsessions

I have some more writing topics I want to cover, but this week I'm obsessed with three things.

Art Nouveau books and desk accessories, like this vintage ink tin in "Peacock Blue" (coming soon to the shop).  

Art Nouveau Ink Tin

Peaky Blinders style, particularly the desks.

Peaky Blinders Thomas Shelby Desk

And the partner autobiography of Leona Rostenberg & Madeleine Stern, rare book sellers.

Old Books Rare Friends

The authors, particularly Leona, talk about Finger-Spitzengefühl - "the art of evaluating antiquarian books by handling, experience, and instinct".  But it was this from the prologue that piqued my interest: 

The electrifying alertness to what is unusual or important in an early printed book has been given the name Finger-Spitzengefühl. When Finger-Spitzengefühl is coupled with serendipity, the gates of paradise open for the dealer in old and rare. 

I'm familiar with that "electrifying alertness". Leona describes her early experiences with the feeling while building the inventory for her business: 

My Finger-Spitzengefühl had only just begun. It operated especially well one day when I was studying a catalogue just received from the English firm of McLeish & Sons, located on London's Little Russell Street. Mady was deep into Louisa Alcott's grand tour abroad in 1870; Chimpie was dozing on the frong porch; I was turning the pages of the McLeish catalogue, which had just been forwarded to me by my temporary secretary, my mother. I had been uninterested in most of the items listed until my eye lighted upon number 188. Then the Finger-Spitzengefühl became an electrical conductor. My scalp pricked. And I shrieked aloud. 

And the humble beginnings of the hunt: 

Since we could not prowl or book hunt along Piccadilly or Charing Cross Road, we prowled in the neighboring villages of Maine...we ventured to Berwick and Biddeford, Kennebunk and Kittery, Sanford and Salmon Falls--to the House of the Thousand Chairs and the Old Grange, the Crow's Nest and Grandma's Attic, exploring jumble and dust, mustiness and broken crockery, armless dolls--and books.

Thrilling, no? Ha. Perhaps not, unless you've experienced Finger-Spitzengefühl. A few years ago I heard about a nearby book auction and decided to go, simply out of curiosity. I had no particular intention to buy, and certainly not to sell at that point. I just liked being around old books and was curious to see what kinds of specimens would be at an auction. 

The style of auction was a "pick" auction, meaning buyers picked from piles of books to create stacks of up to 10 that would then go up for official auction later. Any remaining unpicked books would be sold in table lots. I had no idea what I was doing, but soon found myself absorbed in the process of picking, pulling books out of piles based on what caught my eye..what I liked or found interesting. 

After a while I noticed two chaps hovering nearby wherever I went. Finally, one said, "where's your store?" 

"Oh, I'm not a seller", I said. 

Two pairs of eyebrows raised as the two looked at each other and then back at me. 

"Well, you have a very good eye." the first stated firmly. 

Like Leona and Madeleine, I never predicted I would begin selling books (and other vintage/antique literary items). But that first flush of Finger-Spitzengefühl while book picking that dayand the nod from a couple of professional dealers - the momentum had begun. I sold my very first book from the small stack of books I bought at auction that day.

I toyed with the idea of giving you Finger-Spitzengefühl for your word prompt this week, which I imagined could be applied to all kinds of stories, but it still seemed limiting, so instead, I'm giving you another word from the Old Books, Rare Friends excerpts:






Besides writing, what are your obsessions? Let me know in comments, and remember to get your 100 word entry in by Saturday at midnight. Have a Happy Thanksgiving! 

100 Words #404 - Dancing with Words

Have you ever been to a poetry reading? That's probably a stupid question. Of course you've been to a poetry reading. 

Several years ago I heard one of my poet friends read for the first time. We were sitting in a small auditorium, the poets seated in the front row, taking the podium one by one and sharing their work. Much of it was good...you know, interesting stuff being written by undergraduate poets-to-be. I assumed they were breaking out their best work since this was a judged event, though what for has long escaped my memory. 

Poetry Starts Here

When G stood up and walked to the podium, I held my breath. G is a quiet woman with a magnetizing presence, and I hoped she was going to be good, but the truth is, I had no idea. I'd not seen her work, or heard her read until this moment. 

G gathered her papers without looking up at the audience, and then she began to speak. Her voice, husky and honey-warm, began to weave invisible wires over our heads, and we were pulled taut by them, electrified by them.  The actual meaning of the words traveling just behind - barbed tendrils carried on these waves of honey. A mind-bending combination, like having your hair stroked by one hand, and being gutted with the other. 

Such is the power of cadence and rhythm in writing (amplified in this case, by delivery). The possibilities to play with the rhythm of words are endless, and when used skillfully, renders the reader helpless, stripped of the capacity for direct cognition. Here is where the reader begins to trust you. Here is where the relationship between writer and reader is forged, because it is here that the reader can enter that alternate space that good writing creates that is neither here in the present moment, or back there where the words were written. It is wholly new. 

To dance with words, to create this rhythm, is about intentionally choosing the words to create evocative patterns. The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge said, "Prose equals words in their best order. Poetry equals the best words in the best order." The restriction of writing in 100 words, I think, requires some of both. 

Take last week's piece by David Blackstone (David's Writing Blog)

They stood at the very edge of the aerie — Perry and Jorge a few steps back, Hraff with claws dug into the lip — their eyes turned upward, outward; the sky was a roiling cloud of Fri.

"How many are here?"

Hraff rumbled, "All clans. Most from each clan. Some stay behind."

Like Hraff, apparently. "Why?"

"Find mates. Socialize, play games. Negotiate."

"Dolphins do the same thing," Jorge said.

"Dolphins?" Hraff asked.

"Earth swimmers."

Hraff leaned as far out as he could, perfectly balanced between rock and sky. "Are they beautiful?"

Remembering another world, a smile grew across Perry's face. "Absolutely."

Though this is sci-fi, a genre one might think is far from the poetic or the prose, David consistently uses rhythm to create mood, to set up the reader for surprise, or to laugh, or to unleash an internal fist-pump (booyah!), or to trigger a sense of panic, or to simply disrupt the reader's expectation. And that's the point. Whatever the story or the form, think about the rhythm. Read it out loud. Have someone else read it out loud, and refine the selection and order of the words until you hear the song of your story.

Writing Prompt

This week's word, from David's entry last week, is: 


100 Words #403 - Why 100?

When I started the 100 Words Challenge years ago, it was simply a continuation of an arbitrary writing exercise from a long defunct blogging community I was part of. It fit the format we had well and allowed us to give feedback and support to each other. 

The longer I've been running this challenge, the more I've come to appreciate the beauty of crafting a story in 100 words. The less I think of it as arbitrary, and the more I think of it as a rigorous writing challenge.

At first blush, a new writer might think, "only 100 words? That's easy!". 

Ah, but those veterans among you know the truth. To craft a story in so few words, to make it compelling, understandable, evocative, and complete, is no easy task. It takes considerable writing chops to spin something you can call finished within the parameters.

In the call to brevity in writing, instructors often refer to the well-known story of Hemingway winning a bet that he could write a complete story in less than 10 words. According to legend he wrote these six words on a napkin and won the bet: 

For sale. Baby Shoes. Never worn. 

Vintage Sterling Silver Wahl Mechanical Pencil

It's not clear if the bet, or Hemingway writing these words ever happened, but no matter because the lesson holds. This six word story, whoever crafted it, has a beginning, middle and end and it's evocative. We can fill in the gaps with our own imagination. Not one word in the story tells us directly what happened or how we should feel about it, and yet we know both of those things. 

A decidedly different kind of story, but a good example from Azureology's entry on Oct. 24

The paparazzi simply had a field day with this one. A young man, and older starlet, all over each other. Tongues were wagging everywhere, which was why this little intervention had been called.

Neither person spoke. Small talk had been futile, petering out within moments. Now, they were alternately stirring their tea, or drinking it.

Footsteps heralded the approach of a third person. A woman in a pencil skirt didn’t so much sit asperched and alighted, and ordered herself a glass of wine. She smiled wryly.

“So,” she said flatly, flourishing the tabloid magazines. “What’s the angle this time?”

The story has a beginning, middle, and end (or in other words, there is a problem, and then resolution). It shows, rather than tells - they stir and drink their tea, but we know that room is tense, and when the heroine arrives in her pencil skirt she perches and alights, but we know she is competent, respected, probably feared, and unquestionably in charge. Finally, the reader's ability to fill in gaps is respected, but not overtaxed.

Over the years, I can recall many such examples all of you have produced. That 100 word story that packs a delicious punch, or elicits laughter, or leaves you hanging in just the right way, or is simply delivered as neatly as a package tied up in a bow. Almost every week there's at least one. 

So, you ready for another one? Another chance to tighten those loose ends, ruthlessly cut every unnecessary word, and hone your craft? This week I'm taking the word prompt from Azureology's submission: 

100 Words Writing Prompt #403


100 Words #402 - November

Ah November. National Novel Writing Month (hands up if you're one of the crazies), Neil Gaiman's birthday month (the 10th), the month of the Cambridge Literary Festival and the Chorleywood Literary Festival (swoon). Oh, and the Salem Literary Festival...the list goes on. Bottom line, it's an excellent time of year to be a word nerd.

Also, my daughter was born in November. I wrote this 100 word piece a few years ago about her birth. 

The trees stand stiff against a slate sky, stripped to their bones, the leaves of summer now brown and decaying in heaps around their roots.  It is November again.

The cold gray holds silent. 

But there is life still, hidden within things. Crocus embryos curled deep beneath the soil waiting for Spring. Ladybugs huddled together beneath the bark, keeping warm. I imagine them breathing and dreaming little ladybug dreams of bringing luck and munching aphids.

Inside me too there is life. Fists curled against the dewy fine hair of her face, a tiny heart thrumming.

She stirs. It is time.

The word prompt that week was "within". This time, I'm pulling a different word from my take on the prompt. Your word this week is:

100 Words Writing Prompt



100 Words #401 - Behind the Scenes

Sometimes when you're trying to shoot photos, cats happen. 

Little Man the Maine Coon "helping" with a photo shoot for the Etsy shop. 

“What a luxury a cat is, the moments of shocking and startling pleasure in a day, the feel of the beast, the soft sleekness under your palm, the warmth when you wake on a cold night, the grace and charm even in a quite ordinary workaday puss. Cat walks across your room, and in that lonely stalk you see leopard or even panther, or it turns its head to acknowledge you and the yellow blaze of those eyes tells you what an exotic visitor you have here, in this household friend, the cat who purrs as you stroke, or rub his chin, or scratch his head.”

- Doris Lessing, The Old Age of El Magnifico

More quotes and poems by 30 authors who loved cats found here.  Your word, pulled from Doris Lessing's ode to the feline, is: 







100 Words #400 - Vintage Halloween

Time to break out the vintage Halloween reading. I recently found this gem from 1924 in my treasure hunting. 

Vintage Halloween - Little Folks Magazine October 1924
Princess Dearie and the Witch of the Woods

Your word this week is from Princess Dearie and the Witch of the Woods: 

"Everything would have seemed perfect if it hadn't been for the dreadful old Witch-of-the-woods who lived right on the edge of the town where the town and the country met. She had an ugly old staff that she carried around with her and if she didn't like the way the children behaved, she would wave that old stick over their heads and mumble some curious words to herself. None of the children could ever understand exactly what the magic words were, but they always wound up with "turn into" just any sort of creature the old Witch-of-the-woods wanted to make them." 

100 Words Prompt October 20 2014

The prompt is: 


Happy writing! 

100 Words #399 - Fragile Things

Fully immersed in a beautiful Vermont October and words. 

Vermont Artisan Tea
Vintage Grimm's Fairy Tales
Gashleycrumb Tinies Edward Gorey
Vintage Salem Witch Trials

Vermont raw honey from Northwoods Apiaries and darjeeling tea from the Vermont Artisan Tea & Coffee company are my new Autumn crack. Happy mail from Wolfgang Vintage. An evening read of the creepy-whimsical Edward Gorey (poor Neville) in the spirit of the season. An 1839 edition of The New York Mirror: A Weekly Journal Devoted to Literature and the Fine Arts, featuring a series on the Salem Witch Trials.

Currently reading Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, modern master of creeperie. 

"The old house had been a treasure trove of strange things: lumps of glittering marble and glass bulbs filled with liquid mercury, doors that opened onto brick walls; mysterious toys; things old and things forgotten. 

My own house--a Victorian brick edifice, in the middle of America--is, I am told, haunted. There are few people who will spend the night here alone anymore--my assistant tells of her nights on her own here: of the porcelain jester music box that spontaneously began to play in the night, of her utter conviction that someone was watching her. Other people have complained of similar things, following nights alone." 

Velvet Verbosity Writing Prompt

Your word prompt this week, from Fragile Things, is:


LillyTales Giveaway Winner!

The #LillyTalesVV bookmark giveaway goes to Instagram user @air_caballes (she's already been notified via Instagram). Congratulations! 

100 Words #398 - Dorrie and the Blue Witch

"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers." ~ L.M. Montgomery. 

Or in my case, a Vermont where there are Octobers. The leaves are at peak in Northern Vermont, though a crisp wind tonight will see more leaves underfoot than on trees by morning.

Over the weekend I missed a literary festival in Southern Vermont to spend time with family for celebrations and to drive around gawking at the color. There was apple picking, a beer and (coffee) bean fest, brunch, and this.

Vermont Autumn 2014

The moon tonight is low and near full, and a frosty dew is settling over the yard. The season for folding in. The season for harvest festivals and treasure hunting.

Dorrie and the blue witch

I discovered this vintage Dorrie the Witch book at a harvest festival in a nearby town. Dorrie was a favorite of mine as a child - the delightful illustrations, the mischief, and of course Gink - but the books are no longer in print. I've set to work collecting all the hardcovers, but this one is a paperback so this gem will be showing up in the Etsy shop soon.

Writing Prompt

Your word this week is brought to you from Dorrie and the Blue Witch: 




WAIT! Before you run off to craft your response, I've got a fun announcement. Earlier this week I interviewed the Australian LillyTales about her bookish business, and she's offered a giveaway. I was going to announce a winner tonight, but with all the family events I didn't get a chance to get the word out to all of you, so I'm extending the giveaway until NEXT Monday. Go check out the interview and the details of the giveaway here.

Happy writing! 

Whimsical Wooden Bookmarks by LillyTales

Meet Kate Butler of LillyTales, and maker of a line of whimsical wooden bookmarks. 

Wooden Bookmarks by Lilly Tales

LillyTales caught my eye on Instagram several weeks ago when I decided I was finally going to use the platform. I was, of course, looking for other bibliophiles and bookish folks. Her feed was a combination of adorable branding, clever ideas, and a love of books. 

LillyTales Bookmarks Display
Blind Date with Book

Recently LillyTales released a line of whimsical wooden bookmarks. I reached out to Kate for an interview -- I was curious about her inspiration, and why she's decided to make a business out of being bookish. 

You just recently started making bookmarks, and it seems to be going really well. Before that you were selling clever Blind Dates with Books. What's the story behind the blind dates and the bookmarks? 

The blind date with a book concept is one which many book shops and bibliophiles have endorsed in the past. My motivation for creating the experience of a "blind date" with a book was for two differing reasons. 

I really like the idea of people taking a chance on a story they wouldn't necessarily pick up if they were to judge it's appropriateness for them solely on the cover imagery. I think it's important to be open to a diversity of differing texts. You never know what you can learn from a voice dissimilar to yours. 

I also found myself with an overwhelmingly large pile of collected books whilst trying to move house. It was the perfect time to share the stories I've loved and treasured with others in a fun, less traditional way! 

Lillytales bookmarks are such a delight to produce, I am very appreciative and humbled by the positive response I've received from my Instragram and Etsy followers. I was thoroughly enjoying communicating with an audience through Lillytales by reviewing books, however I wanted to expand the Lillytales brand into something more, I wanted to connect with my followers by sharing with them a larger part of me; and in doing so, spread the love for literature. I was introduced to the concept of wood art by partner and once I got the knack of production - I was off! 

LillyTales Bookmarks
Wooden Bookmarks for Bibliophiles

The bookmarks are keeping me very busy as I create promotions, competitions and manage the Lillytales Etsy store. I recently received a bulk order to act as wedding gifts, which was definitely a fun and rewarding job! 

Lillytales Wedding Bookmarks

You obviously have a love of books. Physical books, not digital. What's that about? And specifically, what would you say to others about the importance of physical books in the world? 

I cherish books, but more than that, I love stories and I think they're extremely important. In debates concerning print vs. digital platforms, my position is right in the middle! I own a kobo and have an extensive list of much-loved ebooks. However, I also own and consistently purchase physical books. I do not believe that one platform is necessarily taking sales from the other. I think nowadays readers just use a combination of both, and if by having an e-reader one person a more encouraged to read, then I think that's a positive. 

Personally, I like to use my e-reader when traveling as it is lightweight and easier to hold whilst in confined transportation spaces. However, the experience of walking into a bookshop and being surrounded by physical books is unbeatable and can't be replicated by digital platforms. I really enjoy books in a physical sense when it comes to making a home. There's something particularly comforting about having your walls lined with your favorite stories. I love giving books as gifts, it's as though you are providing someone with a key into a new and secret world, and this is much easier done with physical books! 

What are your three most prized books on your bookshelf currently, and why? 

This is such a tough question! Here goes...

LillyTales Bookshelves

1. The entire Harry Potter series. 

These books have been surrounding me consistently throughout my childhood and adult life. Not only are the characters relatable and the stories gripping, but the series has provided me with endless comfort and enjoyment for the majority of my life. I could write a book about how much I love Harry Potter, so I better stop right there. 

2. Alison Bechdel 'Fun Home' 

I recently saw Alison Bechdel speak at Adelaide Writer's Week and was blown away by her courage to honestly and unashamedly write about members of her family. Fun Home acts as Alison's childhood memoir, detailing how she struggled to come out to her parents as an openly gay woman, her strained relationship with her closeted-gay father and his untimely suicide when she was in college. The book is written in comic strip form but in no way does it lack depth, description or substance. I really enjoyed the challenge of reading a piece of work in a different narrative layout and Alison's illustrations are genius! 

3. Lionel Shriver 'We Need to Talk About Kevin' 

This novel is one of the best I have ever read. Lionel Shriver's writing style is immaculate and gripping from the beginning. This is the book I recommend first to any adult who asks me! It totally got under my skin and I was hooked, a classic page-turner which deals with so many societal themes.

If you'd like to catch up with LillyTales, you can find her on Instagram @Lillytales and at her Etsy shop here.  There'll be new items unveiling heading into the Christmas season. 

Christmas is still a few months away, but I think it's time for a gift right now. Kate has generously offered my favorite in her line for a giveaway to Velvet Verbosity readers. See the details below the photo.

Books are a Uniquely Portable Magic Bookmark

>> LillyTales Giveaway <<

There are two ways to enter: 

1. Leave a comment below and tell me what you're currently reading. 

[because I've gotten reports that the commenting system is being wonky, and Squarespace is "still looking into it" you can also enter on social media.]

2. Head to your favorite social media platform and tell me what you're currently reading. 

  • Facebook - go to the Velvet Verbosity page and share what you're currently reading. 
  • Twitter - Tell me what you're currently reading @velvetverbosity hashtag #LillyTalesVV
  • Instagram - Post a photo of your current read, tag @velvetverbosity and @Lillytales and hashtag #LillytalesVV

[UPDATE: This has been updated with extended deadline!] You MUST be following me on whatever social media platform you use. Enter up to 4 times (one on each platform), entries close at midnight EST October 13th, and I'll announce the winner on Monday's #100words post. 




100 Words #397 - Bel Canto

Last summer a friend and I were visiting one of our favorite bookshops in New Hampshire. A couple of book geeks hanging out, pointing at titles, "Did you read this? SO good."  At the counter there was a shelf of staff picks. CK picked up Bel Canto and asked me if I had read it. When I answered, "no", he put it on the checkout counter exclaiming, "I have to buy it for you."

Bel Canto Ann Patchett

A little more than a year later, I've finally cracked it open. 

"The hostages had begun to believe that they might not be killed. If what a person wants is his life, he tends to be quiet about wanting anything else. Once the life begins to seem secure, one feels the freedom to complain."

Your word (hint, it's in bold) for this week's 100 Words Challenge is: 


100 Words #396

Autumn is here. The winds blew mightily today, bringing with it cold air. While it was still warm I spent the weekend on the road acquiring new book collections, and then indoors preparing packages and letters for the Post. 

Altered Book Page Butterflies

Vintage dictionary butterflies - illustrated and cut. 

Harry Potter Stamps

At the post office I discovered they had Harry Potter stamps for sale!

Snail Mail

I found this note card at an art supply store in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont when I visited for Family Camp. I fell instantly in love with the illustration. I fancy him a literary fox with his wee spectacles, sweater vest, and bow tie. Sent him out in the Post today to one of my Instagram giveaway winners. I researched the illustrator, Barclay Tucker, and he's a professor and bow-tie illustrator living in the NEK.  I'm just in love with his "bow tie guys". 

Literary Gift Box

Another literary gift box with Vermont artisinal tea, vintage dictionary confetti, The Thirteenth Tale (a most interesting read, and perfect for the self-labeled bookish type), Dancing Deer cookies (I highly recommend), and honey. Someone's in for a treat!

Grimm's Fairy Tales

Vintage Grimm's Fairy Tales - just one of the many gorgeous vintage children's books coming to the shop.

Vintage Alice In Wonderland Books

Two vintage editions of Alice in Wonderland. The one on the bottom, illustrated by Gertrude Alice Kay, is a rare, out-of-print edition . 

Your word for the 100 Word Challenge this week (newbies, click here to find out what the challenge is about) is from the dictionary butterfly in the first photo:

Velvet Verbosity Writing Prompt


Happy writing, and be sure to check out the newcomers' posts. Say hello, offer feedback, and welcome them to the word-nerd fold. I'll be making my rounds after this posts.

100 Words #395

It was a clear, beautiful day here in New England. I had some errands around town so I made a day of it and visited some local antique shops and went book shopping. 

Rose Teacup
Vintage Typewriter
Stack of Books

I bought the teacup. I did not buy the typewriter. I bought the books. An old dictionary found at Goodwill to be reborn as butterflies and birds, a gift for an Instagram fan, and two books for me. Neuromancer has been on my to-read list for a while, and of course Neil Gaiman. Incidentally, I'm quite smitten with the cover art of the William Morrow publishing editions. I might have to get them all.

Your word this week is from a short story in Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman, called The Facts in the Case.  

"She wore a black leather cap, and a black leather coat, and had black, black hair, pulled tightly back into a small bun, done up with a pottery tie. She wore makeup, expertly applied to give an impression of severity that a professional dominatrix might have envied. Her lips were tight together, and she glared at the world through a pair of definite black-rimmed spectacles--they punctuated her face much too definitely to ever be mere glasses." 

The word is: 


100 Words #394 - Quest

Busy day herding cats (literally) and then having my first go at an official Instagram sale (last week I was posting to Instagram but re-routing folks to Etsy). It was a lesson in failure - or partial failure. There were likes and comments and new folks following, but not a sale. A bit of a drag since I'm determined to shift to full time Literary Lifestyle.

Speaking of, I believe I mentioned a little while back my quest to visit all the bookstores in Vermont. It's slowly starting. I made my first official visit  to one of the oldest antiquarian shops in Woodstock, VT several weeks back but haven't had time to do proper photo editing and put together my thoughts. Yesterday I finished the list. There are 90 independent bookstores in Vermont. 

It's my Fall project to see how many I can visit before the snow flies. Vermont is a smallish state, but not the smallest, and much of the terrain is back roads over mountains.  

Here's a little sneak peak at the Woodstock shop. 

Pleasant Street Book Store Woodstock VT

A little of what I'm up to. Speaking of quests...

Word prompt for 9/8 - 9/13


100 Words #393 - All the Books

Twas a muggy labor day weekend and I hear there were BBQs. I needed me time, so I got out the books and the camera and had a sale on Instagram (come find me @velvetverbosity and say hello). 

Vintage Oscar Wilde tales and fairy tales in German. Gorgeous gilding on cover. 

Classic 60's style cover illustration.

Classic 60's style cover illustration.

Vintage 70's Sherlock Holmes cookbook. Deliciously fun.&nbsp;

Vintage 70's Sherlock Holmes cookbook. Deliciously fun. 

The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde.&nbsp;

The Happy Prince and Other Fairy Tales by Oscar Wilde. 

Technically you could say it was a working holiday, but it was pretty blissful.

100 Words Challenge

Your word, this week (and I DO need to catch up with all of your blogs!) is from The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde: 


100 Words #392 - All I Want

The dark side of taking time away is that the world doesn't take a vacation with you. You come home to find piles in your mailbox, in your inbox, stacked messages in your voicemail, and a growing to-do list that threatens never to be done. 

I was feeling frustrated about the lack of time for reading and writing, frustrated that I have a back log of things I want to share with you and can't carve out the time for - bemoaning that I can't just live a literary lifestyle full time.  

Then I remembered sharing an anecdote about E.B. White during a client meeting to move her past a resistance, and later lying next to my sister and reading to each other from David Sedaris and E.B. White, and then the High Tea with the matriarchs of my family.

Scone and jam

Or the reminder of a favorite poem and the introduction to a new one when shared by a friend on Facebook, or laughing at dinner over a library card disaster and my oldest boy fondly noting what a dork I am, and our subsequent discussion about the life of the mind. 

The literary thread still weaves through, even when my schedule is stuffed to bursting with obligations of a different nature.

Oh, and the vintage copy of Rilke's poetry that came in the mail while I was away. From Die Funfte Elegie (The Fifth Elegy): 

And the youngster, the man, like the son of a neck and a nun: so tautly and smartly filled with muscle and simpleness.



Your word this week, from that passage, is: 




100 Words #391 - Zen and Wit in One Man's Meat

The first night of the meditation/family retreat, I was delighted to discover a dear friend would be my neighbor for the week, both of us bunking in rooms in the main house. 

"You left your door open", he said when we ran into each other on the stairs. 

"Oh yes, I was just down the hall for a minute." 

"I noticed that book, One Man's Meat by E.B. White on your stand. What's it about?"

I lit up. "I'm so excited about that book. It's a book of E.B. White's essays - one I haven't yet read. I found it at a vintage book sale in Woodstock VT last weekend. Have you read his essays?" 


"Oh! You must! I think you'd like them. He had quite a charming sense of humor -- really witty in a way few are anymore, and he has this non-obtrusive way of weaving in social commentary. He just writes about life in the most delightful, self-effacing, intelligently amusing way. From what I understand, these essays were written when he first went to the farm in Maine, before he wrote Charlotte's Web." 

A rare photo of E.B. White (as in I couldn't find it on Google) fills the back cover.&nbsp;

A rare photo of E.B. White (as in I couldn't find it on Google) fills the back cover. 

No one, least of all E.B. White himself, expected essays of farm life to become a classic.

"The Classics edition opened with an introduction by Morriss Bishop, and this delighted me, because it was Professor Bishop who, years before, when he discovered I was headed for the country, had said, "I trust that you will spare the reading public your little adventures in contentment."  

The charm of a good book at the right time is the way parallels jump off the page. As I was immersed in meditation--a discipline of waking up--while surrounded by children of all ages, I read White's new introduction to this 1982 reprint of the 1938 original. 

"Once in everyone's life there is apt to be a period when he is fully awake, instead of half asleep. I think of those five years in Maine as the time when this happened to me. Confronted by new challenges, surrounded by new acquaintances--including the characters in the barnyard, who were later to reappear in Charlotte's Web--I was suddenly seeing, feeling, and listening as a child sees, feels, and listens. It was one of those rare interludes that can never be repeated, a time of enchantment."

Or driving around the region chatting with another friend of my plan to grow old with a couple of chickens, a cat, and an old shadow of a dog among the hills in this Northeast corner of Vermont. White writes:

"Despite the great blizzard of April, the swallows arrived on schedule and are busy remodeling the mud nests in the barn. The goose sits. Rhubarb is showing. (I used to eat rhubarb because I loved rhubarb. Now I eat it because it retards arthritis.) The Egg has been an enduring theme in my life, and I have allowed my small flock of laying hens to grow old in service. Cosmetically they leave much to be desired, but their ovulation is brisk, and I greet them with the same old gag when I enter the pen: "White here. Cubism is dead."

There are mechanical books of farm life, and there are romanticized books of farm life, and then there is E.B. White who mingles his mischievous humor with clear-eyed observations of the rhythms of life--the things that stay, the things that decay. It is applicable to all of life. Just as the Buddhist contemplates emptiness and impermanence, so too did White from the vantage point of his saltwater farm.

E.B. White One Man's Meat

At the end of retreat I was given this handwoven bookmark by the Buddhist Teacher-In-Residence as a thank-you for work I had done. She had no idea how beautifully this tied it all together. 

Writing Prompt Weekly Challenge

From One Man's Meat, your word prompt for this week's 100 Word Challenge is: 


100 Words #390 - Books and Tea

Ten days were spent in a combination of meditation, time with long-standing cherished friends, my own family and the company of 80 others, 700+ acres of wooded and meadowed land, food direct from garden to table, the absolute joyous chaos of over 100 children ranging from 6 weeks to 18 years old, campfires, music, dancing, and so on. 

Back home, the cat curls into me in greeting, the moon close and full, my heart broken and tenderized in the best possible way. 

Missing people, missing experience, but happy to curl back in to quiet with books and tea.

Book and tea
Tea and book

On an admin note, I've heard from a couple of people that posting comments is ranging from wonky to impossible. If you're having trouble leaving a comment (and let me take this opportunity to say how nice it is when you do comment), hit me up on Facebook so I can see if I can get to the bottom of the problem. 

100 Word Writing Prompt

Your word prompt this week for the 100 Word Challenge is from The Thirteenth Tale by Jane Setterfield. Let me just say, if you're a total book nerd and have ever fantasized about living in a used and/or antiquarian bookstore, you should get this book. 


100 Words #389 - Out of Range

I'm here, I'm here. I'm in a place where time stands still and Internet access is spotty at best. I should have thought to warn you, but I always forget how much the sway of the land takes over and how easy it is to forget about the online world when it's difficult to connect. 

My world since last Thursday has been equal parts meditation, lakeside lounging, old and new friends, family, and all the ordinary magic that entails. 

Just before coming to meditation camp, I stopped in at a Literary Festival in Woodstock, VT. I'll be posting about that soon, but here's a teaser. 


Tonight I picked up a copy of Touch Magic: Fantasy, Faerie and Folklore in the Literature of Childhood by Jane Yolen. 

Your word this week from that book is: 




100 Words #388 - A Love Letter

Lately I find you on my mind frequently. A sense of you that has become familiar, and ever-present. 

I see something funny or cool or inspiring, and immediately want to share it with you. I am moved by a passage in a book, and just know that you would be too. I stumble upon a nook of a bookshop on a road trip and wish you were there with me to delight in the shopkeeper's charms, run your fingers along the spines of ancient, leather-bound books, poke into dusty corners, and inhale the enchanting scent of decomposing paper and leather and ink. 

You have grown on me, you see. In a way I didn't imagine all those years ago when this all got started on a lark. I had no idea you would stick with me for so long. That you would hold me gently in your thoughts, as I did you. That you would show up, again and again, faithfully, cheerfully, week after week, year after year. 

I am amazed by this. Constantly. I know there are more effusive and exciting choices out there. I know there are many times I didn't or couldn't show up for you. I know, I know, how much competition I'm up against.

Thank you for this. For showing up. For what you give. 

Thank you for sticking this out with me. 

Thank you for inspiring me. 

Thank you, dear reader, j'adore. 


Your word this week is from The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield: 


100 Words #387 - Summer Rush

So begins my annual flurry of summer activity all revolving around a 10 day working retreat. Over the next couple of weeks, posts will be short and sweet. 

Currently working on this watercolor and quote: 

Watercolor cherry blossoms

And currently reading Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes. Your word from the book for this week's 100 Words writing prompt is: 

Weekly Writing Prompt



Keep the spirit alive while I'm joyfully, and temporarily extra busy. Happy writing!