Dearest and Closest,
Meet Margaret Roach:
I first heard about Margaret Roach and her new book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, from my agent and friend, Kate Lee. Kate said, “Hey there’s this writer I met who I really think you’d get along with.” Now Kate has an uncanny sense of…well, everything, and is often right. So I often follow her lead. Introductions were made, books exchanged. Then, suddenly Margaret was everywhere I was: she was in People as I got my hair cut; she was reading at Gibson’s in New Hampshire –where I will soon read; she was coming to the Maine Festival of the Book, where I will also presenting….the list goes on.
When I saw that her book was about a woman (Margaret) who had left her job as the Editorial Director of Martha, Inc (as in Martha Stewart) to, in a sense, go back-to–the-land and move into her weekend home in upstate New York, I didn’t yet realize that her life would share so many themes—albeit from a totally different angle—that I share in my book, Made for You and Me: Going West, Going Broke, Finding Home. What struck me especially was how she, too, needed to find home—and it didn’t necessarily come easily.
Margaret, too, spent years chasing one kind of dream only to find that the simplest existence was where she belonged: at her home in a thicket of trees, her gardens surrounding her. When she was finally ensconced in her new life, she began a very popular gardening blog, that garnered the love of both real and virtual gardeners. It was called awaytogarden.com.
Her book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There, is such a lovely mediation on being a woman in the natural world that surrounds us—birds, frogs, bushes and flowers— and, also, it’s the story of someone who took a brave leap out into something that she had no idea if she could handle—she just knew she had to get out of the life she already had. I love it when she says such bracingly honest things about her corporate self as, “I could blow through five thousand dollars in fifteen or twenty minutes, a sort of fuck-you-pay-me reaction to whatever exercise in frustration the day had served up.”
Chock full of poems and lovely, relatable anecdotes, And I Shall Have Some Peace There is a satisfying read. I especially enjoyed her story of the cat, Jack, who appears in her life and is not necessarily welcome at first. However he soon becomes her solid companion and, more than that, Jack is a living, breathing example of how Margaret has changed her life.
Here are a few of the many lines I loved—and also related to:
--“All lives involve hard decisions and compromise.”
--“I know only one thing for certain about gardening now, thirty years in:
Things will die.”
--“I am mounting my own slow-food movement, a one woman, one-mouth-to-feed effort.”
“…I am a cat person. I learned this just the other day, when I grabbed Jack off the kitchen floor and was spontaneously taken with laughter, clutching him to me. ‘I can’t believe how much I love you,’ I blurted right out loud, before the thinking mind had a chance to stifle that declaration.”
So, here’s the thing, folks, if you’ll write in YOUR STORIES BELOW IN THE COMMENT SECTION of how you found home—and of what home means to you, from your musings I’ll choose two people with compelling stories to send And I Shall Have Some Peace There to—free—a gift from Margaret and me to you.
YOU’LL DOUBLE YOUR CHANCES TO WIN, if you click HERE on Margaret’s blog (where she is giving away MY book).
SO, AGAIN HERE'S HOW TO WIN MARGARET'S, AND MY, BOOKS:
I HAVE 2 COPIES of Margaret's "And I Shall Have Some Peace There” that I bought to give away; Margaret bought two copies of my “Made for You and Me” to share on her site. Simply comment below, answering the question:
How have you found home—and what does home means to you?
Then go do the same thing over at Margaret’s, HERE. We’ll each draw two winners after entries close on Sunday, March 27, at midnight. Remember: You double your chances by commenting on both blogs, even if you simply cut and paste your same comment to both spots.
Now you know me: I understand some of you are shy and just want to say, “Count me in,” or “I want to win” in the comments. That’s fine—but it’s even better if you talk a little about the notion of home. Good luck in the drawing!
LINKS, IN CASE YOU WANT TO JUST BUY RIGHT NOW!:
PS: IF FOR SOME REASON YOUR COMMENT DOESN'T GET THROUGH, PLEASE DON NOT WORRY. MARGARET AND I WILL READ ALL THE ENTRIES TOGETHER AND CONSIDER EACH ONE THOROUGHLY.
Dearest and Closest,
This past Thursday, I kissed Dan, Master M. and Hopper goodbye, ran into the Portland airport to check in (I had twenty minutes until take off), thanked the motherly JetBlue employee who said, “You need to hurry,” (to which I responded, “I will!” and she said “Good girl!”) and hopped on a plane and flew down to New York City to tape the NBC Nightly News with Chuck Scarborough. When my plane landed in the Jet Blue atrium, I wheeled my suitcase out to a cab, and felt, suddenly, so homesick for my family I could hardly stand it. But then, driving into the city through Harlem and then down to 110th street and my dear friend Craig’s familiar apartment, I realized this was a kind homecoming I needed on some level. My book had been out just over a week and it was time I started to own this journey. After all, two years ago—almost to the day—Dan, Hopper, Master M. and I arrived at Craig’s from California. Our car was covered with dust and dead bugs, we were tattered and tired. But when we came upstairs and put our bags down, took in Craig’s lovely presence and let our selves be home, finally, we felt so much safer than we had been in such a long time.
Thursday, as I’m sure most of you remember, was St. Patrick’s Day. And in honor of the journey my small family made over the last two years and the journeys my relatives made when they came from Ireland to make a new start in America, I took a walk outside—without a coat because it was beautifully warm--up the street to St. John the Divine. The last time I had been inside the cathedral was shortly after 9/11, at the Blessing of the Beasts. I remember that day so perfectly—how sunny and warm it was and I believe it was the first day of Sukkot, which I celebrated with my boyfriend of the time—in fact, I had made an eggplant salad for that evening. I remember the tenderness of the animals as they plodded up the aisles and then there was the march of the rescue dogs who had been in 9/11; their paws bandaged, they bore the countenance of messengers who have escaped to tell us…something important. And then, suddenly, in the middle of the beautiful service, we were told that America had begun bombing Afghanistan. A ripple of emotion went through the crowd—some people were grateful, some furious, many of us crying. And when we came out, the cathedral was covered with National Guard—even on the roof.
This time, I went in quietly. I walked by the Poet’s Corner and stopped to run my eyes over the names: Tennessee Williams (“Time is the longest distance between two places”), Hemingway ( “All you have to do is write one true sentence”), Hawthorne, Dickinson, Plath, Auden, Frost, Melville, Millay, Thoreau, Eliot, Stevens, Lowell (whose name I always cotton to because this is the nickname Craig has for me—I call him Parker). Then I slowly walked the entire circle around the cathedral going into all the little lovely chapels I’m not sure I had ever visited before. I imagined getting married in one of those chapels and I imagined wearing a long dress and holding a candle and rushing through the church as if I were in some Masterpiece Theatre production. I looked up at the stained glass and stood in front of the paintings of Mary with her baby and wondered if the mostly male painters of the Renaissance ever really got Mary. Anyway, I took everything in—no, I drank it in. Children were singing in the main part of the cathedral and as I listened I bought a candle and wrote on it, “A prayer for our earth, which surely needs it right now.”
And then, back outside I made my way back to Craig’s where I put on my dress, dried my hair, did my makeup and got myself ready for the TV spot which, of course, I hoped might help sell a book or two. I was surprised at how easily the interview went and how lovely Chuck Scarborough was—he was so human and warm , and that, somehow, was just the touch I needed. That night when Craig and I got home to his apartment his wife Alix had ordered us dinner from a Japanese place nearby. She’s a newscaster and had put on her PJ’s and was taking off her makeup. I did the same. And then we sat around their coffee table and ate and talked and then went to bed.
In the morning my cab driver welcomed me into his car with “What a beautiful day!” As he drove we talked about my book and his journey from Ghana to America. He said the loveliest thing in response to my story. He said, “You know, until you go and see the west you can’t make use of the best.”
“I like that,” I said.
“I love stories like yours,” he said. “They give me hope.”
When I got out, I handed him my book and said, “Take it.”
“I will tell everyone I pick up today about your book, “ he said.
Inside the JetBlue terminal one lonely sparrow was flying above the traveling people, trapped. For a moment I felt my bubble of good feeling receive a puncture—what is the fate of a small, brown bird caught in a world, which isn’t in any way paying attention to its needs? I turned to a man behind a sandwich counter and said, “There’s a bird trapped in here!”
“There’s always birds in here. It’s an airport, ma’am.”
“Well can’t you open a window? Or a door?”
“No ma’am. This is an airport.”
Not knowing what else to do, I shoved what I felt aside, looked down and went back to my iPhone and emails.
In an hour I was home, Master M. and Dan waiting for me in a pool of sunlight. When I got into the car Dan said, “Let’s go to the beach.” And so we did.
This interview from MyDaily on AOl is so sensitive and smart. I thought I'd share it! Best, Caitlin.
Dearest and Closest,
It’s been a long time since I last wrote here with the same urgency I feel tonight. I don’t know, maybe it’s that a week ago I began the journey of my book out in the world and all the bewildering twists and turns of publication (and all the work that goes into promoting the book). But somehow, tonight, I feel slightly lonely. I shouldn’t feel lonely, of course. I have a lovely husband whom I adore in the other room working on another application for something--this time for a residency this summer. I have a two-year-old son on whom we dote. A dog I love. A book out—which is damn exciting! And lovely notes from people all over the country who have already dipped into the book and wanted to reach out. But I feel ragged.
Last week, in particular, the first week that my book was really “out there” in the world, was such a strange blend of baring myself, relentless self-promotion, insecurity with dangerous turns into arrogance, and combinations of self doubt and false confidence, it was mind blowing. In the same week I received an email from a man telling me how “damn hot” I was. Another from a woman who asked if I might consider surrogacy for a baby she desperately wants. Others from people who want me to give them books, which is a funny one, because I really do want to give away my book—just hand it out as a gift to anyone who might feel down or lonely—but I also want people to buy the book, so I’m in an etiquette pickle there. And although some people might have been flattered by these overt gestures of, I don’t know what to call them--maybe idolatry?—I, somehow, felt scared. And like I needed to hide to make it all go away. I’m not in Kansas anymore, I wanted to wail! Where am I?
On the plane down to New York City last week, for my first reading, I sat next to a lovely woman—a teacher, now retired—who was reading my book. Ok, I DID hand it to her when she asked what I did, but she proceeded to ignore me for the rest of the flight and read the first four chapters. I practically had to pry it from her hands, saying, “ Really, you can order your own! I need this one for my reading, it’s my lucky book and all my notes are in it!”
In the cab, going into the city that was once my home, it occurred to me that this feeling of being somehow outside of my body, and just sort of weird all over, was deeper than what anyone else was doing, really. It was inside me. And I couldn’t quite shake it. Is this what success feels like, I wondered?
Whatever this was---this bearing of myself in the larger world, when as a writer, I’m used to being alone with my words in a small room--was made more bearable by the fact that my Aunt Sally flew across the country from the Bay Area to meet me in New York so I wouldn’t be alone doing my first reading. This was such an incredible act of kindness and generosity. And then, the reading itself in a rainstorm on Madison Avenue all the way uptown, behind a window literally stocked with my books and a huge picture of me, sat a room filled with gleaming, lovely faces.
Later, there was the pile of books in a Barnes and Noble sitting next to Andre Dubus’ memoir Townie (which really flattered me). And when I was asked to sign them, I saw that wedged in with my books was one called “My Bi-Polar Life.” I laughed and said, “Well I can’t sign that one even though I kind of want to!”
And then, finally, I was flying home, looking out the window to witness the same old story of land that has been developed beyond what our ancestors could have ever fathomed. Up the coast the plane went and dipped down into a fog as thick as cream and skidded smoothly to a halt on my home turf.
The next morning I turned to Dan--the news of tragedy in Japan on the radio--and said, “I need to get out—somewhere, anywhere. “ And so we piled into the car, our familiar place, Master M. strapped into his car seat, Hopper buckled in and Dan driving, listening to “Papa Goose” over and over as we made our way to Wolfe Neck Farm in Freeport to meet the new lambs. They stood shakily on their little legs, their bodies vulnerable and delicate, and reached at their mothers’ teats to nurse; when they got some milk their little tails would twist and shudder with joy. A large billy goat wanted me to pat his rough, oblong face forever, his expression long and serious about my affections. And the calf stood close to his mother, unsure about our intentions. I knew how he felt.
Outside, we walked to the salt marsh behind the farm and back, our feet sticking in the heavy, wet spring snow that, to me, speaks of syruping time. And reminds me of gathering the sweet, light sap with my Dad when I was a small girl. We’d carry the heavy buckets out of the fragrant woods and boil it off in our sugar shack, the sweet smoky smell telling us it was spring again.
Hey New Yorkers!
I'll be reading tonight at the Corner Bookstore on Madison Avenue, # 1313 Madison Avenue (at 93rd). Come see me if you're around!
AND if you miss that, I'll be on Marketplace with Kai Rysdall tonight.
Here's a lovely review from the Portland Phoenix today:
Stay in touch! Caitlin.