Archive for December, 2018

Letter From a Vagabond 12 29 2018 As the year ends…

December 29, 2018


It is a quiet afternoon; I have returned to Larry and Alicia’s guest house on the Keene Farm and am settling in for a few days, ensconcing myself in my favorite spot, the small round table that looks out over the pond and west to the Catskills.

It is deeply quiet here, the only sound – well, there isn’t any, just the thwacking of my keyboard.

Christmas was in Boston with Kevin Malone, his wife, Michelle Melton, his mother and dad, Sarah and Jim, family of choice. He and his wife treated us Thursday evening to a custom meal made by Samara, a Boston chef, known for her Middle Eastern dishes and it was a feast for the ages.

For the last twelve or thirteen or fourteen years, my Christmases have been spent with some combination of the McCormick clan, with whom I grew up in Minneapolis and, as I sat in the chair I claimed as “my spot,” I thought about the wondrous thing that is long term friendship.  I have been with them and they with me, in both good times and in bad. I can only hope my support has meant as much to them as it has to me.

Yesterday, I drove through a chill drizzle and when I reached the Keene Farm, there was a sense of joy, grateful for the open, welcoming arms of Alicia and Larry, allowing me to rest here now and again between my bouts of vagabonding.

I considered it a good sign from the universe when my favorite reading glasses were returned to me, after I had left them in a restaurant six weeks ago.  I had surrendered them as lost and when I stopped today at Wunderbar, for a bowl of soup, they had them for me.

The year is ending not with a whimper, on any front.  The market roils, the President tweets, an incoming Democratic Congress seems ready to use its subpoena power, the robots are coming to take us away and, and and and!!!!!

Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!

In the meantime, there is little I can do about the very mixed up, awful global scene other than to donate a little money to a few causes that can maybe help move the needle on the chaos a bit more back to “normal.”

I am figuring out what it is I am going to do on New Year’s Eve.

It might just be a night by the fire and a good book, which sounds pretty awesome to me.  Kevin introduced me to Brattle’s Book Store in Boston, a used book store with a wonderful rare books section on the third floor.  Between my purchases at Edgartown Books and Brattle’s, come New Year’s Eve, if I am home by the fire, there are a plethora of reading choices.

One of my bases is Baltimore and there are about forty boxes of books there looking for shelves and I need to get down there and find bookcases in which to put them.

Kindles are wonderful devices, especially for a plane, and yet there is nothing like the feel of turning a page, a smudge of ink on your fingers, the comfort of a folded over page, marking your spot in the reading adventure.

There was something wonderful about being at Edgartown Books, helping people find their next read or the book they’re going to give their dad or uncle or mother or…

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to keep reading.  I found a signed copy of “Leonardo da Vinci” by Walter Isaacson at Brattles.  Literary gold.

In reading we can learn from the past so as not to repeat its mistakes. So please keep reading; it does seem a lot of mistakes are being repeated.


Letter from a vagabond 12 12 2018 The things we can do…

December 13, 2018


For the last twenty-four hours, I have laid low, after coming down Monday afternoon with a cold, not terrible, but enough to feel miserable, to use up more than one box of tissues, to have a cough, to pray for scientists to come up with a cure.

Monday I was working at the bookstore, happily going along until, rather suddenly, a sniffle became a snuffle, and all went downhill from there.

It is Wednesday, and I am pretty sure I am on the mend, having doubled down on vitamin C, drinking lots of fluids, including doses of Airborne, utilizing nasal spray, and staying warm.  Are you supposed to starve a cold and feed a fever or is it the other way around?  I never remember though I think I am erring on the side of starving the cold as I haven’t had much appetite.

The view out the window of the house where I am staying is stunning, Edgartown Harbor, with Chappaquiddick across the bay and beyond that the Atlantic, and I have awakened the last two days to devour the beauty that is in front of me.

In the last couple of years, freed from having to be in an office at a certain time I have developed a new rhythm in the morning.  Waking relatively early, I have a little caffeine to start the engine, and spend some time reading the news on my phone.  It is the dose of reality I allow myself every day; to do more would be to invite the gnawing and gnashing of teeth.

One of the things I have discovered, is that generally, as I move through my small routine, there comes a moment of gratitude.  Not every day but most days.  Now in my 60’s [however did that happen?], I have lived longer than I would have thought when I was a college student indulging too much in the pleasures of my day.  Or in my twenties, grappling with being alive and making sense of that.

Here I am, sitting, looking out at the water, enjoying the moment.  It felt this way last summer, working at the bookstore, when I was living in “The Best Most Exotic Marigold Hotel” of guesthouses and this fall in St. Malo, in the wonderful hotel there, facing a day of wandering the streets of that small walled town.

My European journey reminded me of the ragged and often bloody road we have taken to this moment in history.  The Ossuary at Verdun is captured on my phone and in my heart, a reminder of the evil done by humans.

Yet we laugh. And joke.  Have moments of great kindness; talk of things great and small.

An old friend of mine worked with an illegal immigrant in sanctuary, helping her return to her country of birth, in hopes she could then return to the United States, legally, to be with her family here. And that gives a sense of Christmas hope.

I look for ways to move the needle of goodness in the world.  Today, I will smile spontaneously at someone and see if there is some small kindness I can accomplish.

The huge issues; I still work to see how I can affect them.  Sometimes, I feel there is nothing I can do against the assaults happening in the world and yet feel I must try.

That’s the gift of life.  We get to try.

There is tragedy in Yemen and countless other places and I am here, absorbing the beauty in front of me, and not ignoring what else there is in the world and accepting, at this second, there are limits to what I can do while knowing I need to move the needle a little here, in this little space of time I own.

Letter from a Vagabond 07 12 2018 Remembering Pearl Harbor and other things…

December 8, 2018



It’s December 7th and it is Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, a day “that will live in infamy” according to President Franklin Roosevelt who guided the U.S. through the Second World War only to succumb to heart failure as victory was within sight.

The course of history changed; we benefited from the sacrifices of “the greatest generation,” a new world order was established.  As I still keep up the Facebook Page for Edgartown Books, I reminded folks of what today was and where to find history books in the store.

At the moment, I am training north to Hudson, spending the night at the Keene Farm, and heading over tomorrow to catch a ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard where I will be until Christmas Eve, helping people with their Christmas book shopping.  I can’t think of a nicer way to get into the Christmas spirit.

Last Saturday, I went to Baltimore to pick up a few things I needed for the Vineyard, spent a few days with Lionel and Pierre, then up to New York for a Board dinner last night, breakfast this morning with my dear friend Mary Clare Eros, then lunch with my friend Gary Koven, always a nice thing, though I will be adding his father to my prayer list as he is recovering from back surgery and his dad is not having an easy time of it.

Not living in the city anymore, I have forgotten how miserable the traffic is this time of year as streets become overcrowded and roads are blocked for holiday events.  Journeys double in length of time, due to traffic.  As lovely as the city is, I am glad not to have to deal with the crowds.

It will be interesting to see the Vineyard in the winter, with its dramatically smaller population.  On Christmas Eve, I will drive to my “nephew” Kevin Malone’s Boston area home, where he and his wife, Michelle, live while she is finishing Harvard Law.

Since my last letter, I haven’t written, distracted and a little tired, for no good reason I can ascertain.  My British stomach ailment pops up now and again, which is inconvenient but nothing more.

It feels a bit surreal we have arrived at Advent and the Hanukkah candles are being lit.  Can the year really have gone this quickly?  Yesterday, my friend Rita Mullin and I went to the Morgan Library and took in the Frankenstein exhibit [quite a delight].  I made a comment that in museums, time moves more slowly.  Perhaps that is why Christmas is catching me by surprise, during my European trip time moved slowly and then sped up once I returned.  I feel “discombobulated.”

While in Baltimore, Pierre and I put up my white Christmas tree and decorated it with bulbs and ornaments harvested from Target, whose “Wondershop” looked like a wildly plucked field, plowed over at the end.  There were only three strands of white wired lights in the store and I guarded them closely before checkout.

Last year, I started buying Christmas presents in January and this year I have bought none.  Instead, I will make a donation in the name of family and friends to a charity doing some good work in the world.

This year has been an interesting year and I am changed by it and will be assimilating the changes until the last bell has been rung for me.  Not so long ago, it seemed I was at adventure’s end and now feel like it’s another chapter of adventures beginning.  And that is a good feeling.

The world around us is mad; let us give sanity to each other in this Holiday Season.