One of us lives on the east coast. One of us lives on the west.

One of us lives in a rural community. One of us lives in a city.

Both of us wander. Both of us witness. Both of us write.

This is a record of what we find.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Landscape of Family

In Lane Smith’s incredible picture book, Grandpa Green, the landscape is a topiary garden filled with the memories of a great-grandfather’s life. Richly-hued chickens and carrots and trains and airplanes, gorgeously green soldiers and wedding cakes populate the garden. A topiary pathway through one man’s life.

I’ve been thinking about Grandpa Green this week as I spend the holiday break with my family at my parents’ farm. I’ve been thinking about how a life is reflected in the landscape it inhabits, how family is landscape…or perhaps how family becomes entwined with the        landscape of a home.

When my two sisters, my brother and I were children, the farm was smaller. My parents’ bedroom was downstairs, right under all of ours. My father’s office was off of the hallway, and as we came in and out the main door we could look in and see him working (working working working…he was always working.) A small barn was on the hill above the house, where a few horses lived (and cows, too, for a short while, but that endeavor didn’t quite stick.) My mother was often planting or weeding in one of the gardens, us kids were playing ball or helping hay the fields or, most often, hanging out in the house, my father was…yes…working in that office.

As the years went by, the farm grew. My parents moved their bedroom upstairs to the opposite side of the house. The barn expanded as my sister’s horse training business bloomed. One of the hills behind the house was leveled for one, two, three wedding receptions. A track of dirt was created behind the house from countless baseball and soccer games played by—not us four kids—but the now seven grandchildren (and counting.) My parents dug a swimming pond above the barn where those grandchildren spend hours and hours during the summer. Donkeys live here now, alongside the horses. And sheep. And goats. And guinea pigs.

And my father moved his office. He still works (and works and works) but now he has more privacy from the packs of people who traipse in and out of the house.

The landscape of the farm has shifted and bent, expanded and been built upon—and our family has done exactly the same thing. The farm’s landscape is deep within me, and I know the same is true for my three siblings. And it is utterly gratifying and wondrous to me that we are deep within the landscape too.


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Lost

I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about stories; where they come from, how they grow from tiny bits of inspirationa fleeting glimpse, a certain slant of light, an expressive face, the tinkling of chimesinto something structured and meaningful, compelling and spellbinding. 

I just spent a week in Venice, and while wandering the ancient labyrinth of narrow streets, crossing the myriad of bridges connecting the 118 islandsonce no more than mounds of swampy sledge scooped into clumps, built upon to create the stunning city of Venicethese ponderings found a useful metaphor. Like Venice that grew out of a reedy lagoon into a city of grandeur and center of world power, stories begin with the humblest materials, mere clumps of sledge shaped into a foundation to be built upon; how elaborate or bold or whimsical or complex depends on the intention, the commitment, determination, practiced skills and vision of the architect, the artist. The writer.
Like a good story, Venice is a fantastic place to get lost. Wandering the endless maze of streets, I was mesmerized with the mystery of finding a given destination, (thinking I knew exactly where I was going) then surprised to end up someplace completely different; instead of the Profumo-Farmaceutica that carries the same herbal remedies that have been made by monks since the sixteenth century, I would slip out into a new campo, (square) and stare open-mouthed at an astounding piece of architecture, be lured into another charming cafe, or discover yet another bridge where I had to stop and admire the mysterious play of light down one of the canals. I can understand why so many mysteries and love stories have been set in Venice; I don't think a quiet, ponderous story would work well here. The lushly romantic atmospheric setting whispers intrigue, begs wonder and asks you to expect the unexpected; that things are quite often not what they seem to be.

Venice, of course, has been the setting for many stories, but the one I have enjoyed the most is Cornelia Funke's THE THIEF LORD. The adventurous escapades of Prosper and Bo and the gang of orphaned thieves living under the protection of the young Thief Lord, Scipio, (who turns out not to be who he says he is) the juxtaposition of old and new, youth and age, and the element of magic, matches the landscape perfectly. For me, it has held up over several readings and I have been delighted to put it into the hands of many young readers who have returned it weeks later with an expression of admiration and true book-love in their faces. And the desire to visit Venice some day.

And if all that isn't enough, here's another reason to love Venice; look at this official sign posted at one of the Vaporetto ( water bus) stops:

 (For Christmas, give a book)


Thursday, December 15, 2011

List of Landscape Books

I am going to piggyback on Sharry's post from last week and offer my own list.  A list of books that feature landscape or, in my opinion, simply have vibrant, evocative settings.  Perhaps one of these books will catch your eye and you can find a way to buy one as a holiday gift. (Note: Many of these overlap with Susan Bloom's Best Picture Books Picks over at the Eric Carle Museum's Blog!)

Migrant by Maxine Trottier, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenaut (Groundwood)
Grandpa Green by Lane Smith (Roaring Brook)
Stars by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane Press)
Swirl by Swirl: Spirals in Nature by Joyce Sidman, illustrated by Beth Krommes (Houghton)
Along a Long Road by Frank Viva (Little, Brown)
Heart and Soul: The Story of America and African Americans by Kadir Nelson (HarperCollins)
Blackout by John Rocco (Disney-Hyperion)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, inspired by Siobhan Dowd, illustrated by Jim Kay (Candlewick)
The Mostly True Story of Jack by Kelly Barnhill (Little, Brown)
Tall Story by Candy Gourlay (David Fickling Books)
The Unforgotten Coat by Frank Cottrell Boyce, photos by Carl Hunter and Clare Heney (Candlewick)

Please, please support your local independent bookstore this holiday season. It needs you. And we need it!


Thursday, December 8, 2011

Making Lists

I am a list maker. It’s one of those compulsive things I do to give myself the illusion of being organized, plus it helps reassure me that I am being productive—there’s nothing like crossing items off a list to calm the fearful jitters that come from worrying that I’m never doing enough. I love the linier quality of lists—the clear terrain, like smooth stepping stones on a path. Or like stair steps leading down into a peaceful valley of satisfaction. As a list maker, I am proud to be in good company; check out Liza Kirwin's Lists: To-dos, Illustrated Inventions, Collected Thoughts, and Other Artists Enumerations from The Collections of The Smithsonian Museum (a great gift for a list-maker! Hint hint.)

I even have lists of lists. To-do lists; to-do today, to-do this week, to-do when I get a chance, to-do in this lifetime. Travel lists; places I’ve been (and what I've packed), places I want to revisit and the places I want to get to before it’s too late. Favorite lists (which are not the kind of lists that things get crossed off of, but rather constantly added); favorite recipes, favorite museums, favorite quotes, favorite books, favorite bookstores--which are also at the top of my favorite places to go list and my list of favorite Urban Landscapes. 

Yes, I definitely consider the interior of a bookstore as a textured and layered landscape—think of all those shelves of books, stacks of books, aisles to navigate, nooks to hide in, and every book a door to another world! 

This time of year, of course there is the gift list and always on this list is a list of books because everybody on my list gets a book. (Personally, I think that everyone on everyone’s list should get a book!) Plus buying books as gifts allows me to pay a visit to one or more of the bookstores on my favorite bookstore list. 

Without giving away the book titles that I’ll be giving this year, I've generated a list of ten books for the writer, teen, child, musician, cook, dreamer, scholar, or seeker in your life:

The Chronicles of Harris Burdock: Fourteen Amazing Authors Tell The Tales by Chris Van Allsburg
Except If  by Jim Averbeck
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
The Penguin Anthology of Twentieth Century American Poetry edited by Rita Dove
The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje
Pilgrimage by Annie Liebovitz
Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef  by Gabrielle Hamilton
Wordcatcher: An Odyssey into the World of Weird and Wonderful Words by Phil Cousineau and Gregg Chadwick
Practicing: A Musician’s Return to Music by Glenn Kurtz
Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual by Michael Pollan and Maira Kalman

So head out to your favorite bookstore and pick out a bagful of books for the lucky people on your gift list. And because it’s hard to stop, here’s a list of ten of my favorite bookstores:

Green Apple, San Francisco, CA
City Lights, San Francisco, CA
Books Inc., San Francisco, CA
Book Passage, Corte Madera, CA
River House Books, Saint Helena, CA
Aunties Bookstore, Spokane, WA
Elliot Bay, Seattle, WA
Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France
Bear Pond, Montpelier, VT
The Strand, New York, NY

I’d love to hear about your favorite bookstores and what books are on your holiday shopping list!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Landscape of the (Monster) Body

**SPOILER ALERT** If you haven’t heard anything about A Monster Calls and don’t want to, then please don’t read on…

This is another one of those posts that I am going to write out of order. Where I write about a book that is currently on my mind and then relate it to landscape. I can’t help it. I just finished Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls (inspired by an idea by Siobhan Dowd) and—boy oh boy—that monster came down off of the hill, into my house, into my heart, and here he has stayed.

Conor, the main character in the book, is suffering every which way. He is bullied at school, he has lost his best friend, his relationship with his grandmother is strained, his father is off in America with his new family, and, most critically, his mother is dying of cancer. He is also plagued nightly by the worst nightmare imagineable.

And then the monster comes. And he orders Conor to listen to three stories, and then promises (threatens) that Conor must finally tell a story too—his story—his truthful story. That is all I will tell.

(And even though I have just given you the bones of the book, I truly have not given anything away. I urge you to read this one…)

But Conor’s monster—oh his monster!

As Conor watched, the uppermost branches of the [yew] tree gathered themselves into a great and terrible face, shimmering into a mouth and nose and even eyes, peering back at him. Other branches twisted around one another, always creaking, always groaning, until they formed two long arms and a second leg to set down beside the main trunk. The rest of the tree gathered itself into a spine and then a torso, the thin, needle-like leaves weaving together to make a green furry skin that moved and breathed as if there were muscles and lungs underneath (5.)

A monster born out of a yew tree. How’s that for landscape becoming a central force in a story? Not only is landscape like a character, it is a character. Kind of stunning.

This book churned up many things from the center of my belly. One of those things is the memory of my baby sister Callie’s 6 month chemotherapy experience. She had cancer three years ago—I am relieved and thrilled to report that she is healthy and cancer-free today—and for 6 months she had to go every other week for a grueling round of chemotherapy, and she and my family created a ritual for her for that duration of time. My parents drove her to the treatment, then back to their house on the north shore of Boston, where they would spent the weekend nurturing her. They cooked her the few foods she could eat, they walked on the beach, Callie rested with the multitude of dogs that were inevitably there (upwards of 8, I believe!), and she recuperated as best she could.

I was lucky enough to be able to participate in this ritual three times.

my youngest daughter, me, and Callie

I could write an entire post about what that ritual meant to Callie, and to my family, and I could write a whole other post about my belief in that kind of nurturing as vital to the healing process, but for now I think of Conor and I think of Callie and I think of Conor’s monster—and I can’t help but imagine Callie’s monster too. Maybe he would be born of the ocean. Maybe he would rise up out of the ocean, his lips and nose and eyes made of froth and salt, his arms and legs made of seaweed and sand. I can imagine Callie going down to the beach to meet him.

What stories would he tell to her? And what story—what truthful story—would she tell to him?


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

On behalf of both Sharry and myself, I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving or simply a Happy November 24th. Either way I am grateful to you for reading our blog, for offering your words of support and curiosity, and for being with us on this journey of walking wide-eyed on the earth.

More from me next week!

With gratitude,

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Riding The Bus

Like most people, I enjoy my routines; a long walk in the morning before settling down to a day of writing, then another walk, some yoga before dinner, candles and a glass of wine with dinner, reading or a movie after. But I’ve had jury duty this past week, forcing me out of my normal routine.  Sometimes having to do things differently for a while can reenergize even the best of routines.

For the past week, I’ve been getting up early (6:30 is really early for me!), taking the dog for a quick walk, then catching the bus downtown and spending my usual writing time in a jury box. It’s been pretty interesting, actually, hearing how different people perceive and interpret the same incident. A very good lesson in point of view. (As with anything, everything, in my life, I can’t help but put this experience into the context of writing or a writing metaphor!)

The thing that has really shaken me out of my comfortable arena has been taking the bus everyday. Lots of people ride the bus, but I usually chose to walk. Riding the bus is a very different experience than walking. Sitting and watching what is happening through the window of the bus is a very different experience than walking through the action. It’s much more passive and has made me think about psychic distance; sitting inside the bus, watching what is going on outside is a much ‘cooler’ experience—there is a definite emotional distance between the observer and what is being observed. It’s a somewhat similar experience to reading a story told in distant third. But once I get off the bus and walk back through the street scene that I’ve just observed from the bus window, I find myself much more emotionally engaged; I become part of the scene. I’m in the action along with everyone else walking down the sidewalk. (Okay, so you might be thinking, ‘well, duh.’ I know. But sometimes I need this kind of real life experience to thoroughly understand something. Like the link between psychic distance and emotional engagement.)

If I change my focus to what’s going on inside the bus, suddenly I’m in the middle of a myriad of stories. Where else do you get dozens of strangers, all with their own agendas, on their way to their personal destinations, crammed into a relatively small space? The space is an emotional smorgasbord; it vibrates with all seasons of weather systems brewing under the closed faces of people hiding inside their iPod earphones. Each passenger has a story, is on a journey, stepped onto that bus for their own reason: going to work, going to school, going home, going to visit someone, going on a job interview, going to a hearing, going to report for jury duty. School children with their backpacks and freshly scrubbed faces, ancient women carrying shopping bags laden with vegetables, dried fish, smoked duck, and pink boxes full of pork buns, business men in expensive suits, shop girls on their way to work the cosmetic counter at Macy’s. The concept of personal space is non-existent on the bus; heading through Chinatown on the 30 Stockton, everyone gets squeezed on all sides, pressed into the bodies surrounding them. If you’re lucky enough to find a seat, you can expect someone else’s back end to be inches from your face. Many passengers compensate for this invasion of privacy by turning inwards focusing on the phones, music or newspaper.

Even I can only be an observer for so long until I start singling out a few passengers as possible characters in a story of my own, imagining who they are, what they want, what they need, all of the reasons they can’t have it and what they might be willing to do, against these obstacles, to try and get it. And then instead of being lost in earphones and music, I’m off in my own world of make-believe. I can't help it; it comes with the territory of being a writer.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


We are delighted to have fellow VCFA graduate Marianna Baer as our guest today! She's here to talk about her wonderful debut novel FROST. I loved the dark moody atmosphere she created in this haunting YA psychological thriller and was curious about where her inspiration came from.

KTE: Marianna, can you tell us about one of the landscapes that inspired, or is featured in, your book? 

MB: FROST takes place at a New England boarding school, and centers around the girls living in a small dorm called Frost House. The landscape of the entire fictional school (Barcroft Academy) was inspired by the boarding school I attended, and the house itself was based on the dorm I lived in my senior year – a tiny old house that really was called Frost House. (I didn’t keep the name for nostalgic reasons, but because I thought it couldn’t be improved upon, in the context of the story I wanted to write.)

KTE: Can you describe it?

MB: Frost House – the real one – was a white clapboard Victorian, dating from the mid-1800s. It sat on the edge of campus, somewhat camouflaged by trees and bushes, in an area that wasn’t really a throughway to anywhere else; you could have gone to the school for years and never seen it. It had the feeling of a house that had been added on to somewhat haphazardly. Not because of different architectural styles, but because of a rambling, piecemeal aesthetic – as if a family had expanded it room by room as babies arrived. The front of the house, with its wide porch, was the house counselor’s apartment; students entered by a side door. There was a common room on the first floor, and past that a hallway that led to the rooms I shared with one of my best friends. We had a bedroom that stuck off the back, with windows on three sides  (originally built as a sort of sun porch, I guess), a bathroom with an ancient clawfoot tub, and a small study room. Because of the way our “suite” was set apart from the rest of the house, we could have been quite isolated back there, had we not been friends with the girls who lived upstairs.

The house’s obvious old age, strange layout, and architectural quirks, all made it seem like it held stories in its walls...

 KTE: How does it play a part in your story? 

MB: Very centrally! The main characters in my novel live in Frost House. Leena, the narrator, is looking forward to spending her senior year there with her closest friends, instead of dealing with the drama of a big dorm. On an emotional level, she’s looking for a home and family to replace the one that disappeared out from under her when her parents got divorced. But at the last minute, she’s assigned an unexpected roommate – confrontational, eccentric Celeste Lazar. Tension and conflict arise immediately, despite Leena’s attempts to keep the peace.

Leena and Celeste live in the same first floor suite that I lived in, and, again, I didn’t make that choice for nostalgic reasons. I wanted to exploit the sense of isolation they can have back there, since it’s such a separate part of the house, and the fact that no one else would be aware what was happening in their rooms. I also liked the contradiction between the very cloistered feeling of the small, foliage-shrouded house, and the open feeling of Leena and Celeste’s bedroom, with all those windows. For me, that echoes the very different ways Leena and Celeste feel about Frost House: Leena experiences it as a safe, comforting space – a sanctuary; Celeste feels vulnerable and threatened by living there, almost from the minute she arrives.

I don’t want to give anything away, but I think it’s okay if I say that while they live there, the girls become haunted. Frost House isn’t just a location; it’s a character itself.

 KTE: How is it important to you?

MB: The real Frost House was the site of one of the best years of my life. I can’t exaggerate how amazing it was to live with a group of friends, with little adult supervision, as a seventeen-year-old. Of course, there were rules that we (mostly) followed – it wasn’t Girls Gone Wild or Animal House! But even studying becomes a bonding experience when you’re staying up all night in one person’s room, fueled by cookie dough and caffeine, helping each other with essays and calculus. My dormmates and I became a sort of family; we’ve had yearly reunions ever since graduation, over 20 years ago. One of them flew to NYC from Portland, OR for the launch of FROST!

The book doesn’t explore the good side of the living situation much, because things disintegrate so quickly. But I’m still thrilled that I got to return there for this period of time, and that Frost House is being kept alive in a way. When my dormmates and I went back to campus for a reunion, we found that it had been torn down. It almost looked like nothing had ever existed on the (surprisingly tiny) plot of land. I say almost because even though the grass had grown back fully, we could still make out a ghostly footprint where Frost House had once sat. As far as I know, to this day, nothing else has been built in its place.

KTE: Thank you so much Marianna for being with us today and giving us these great insights into some of the background of your story, which I LOVED! I highly recommend all of you readers to go out to your local independent bookstore, pick up a copy and read it, too!

Marianna Baer received an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a BA in art from Oberlin College. She also attended boarding school, where she lived in a tiny dorm called Frost House, the inspiration for her first novel, Frost. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, and is working on her second novel, Immaculate, which is scheduled to be published by Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins in fall 2013.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Camel's Hump Happy Birthday

My good friend, Maryanne, keeps a tradition of walking up Camel’s Hump Mountain on her birthday, and this past weekend I was lucky enough—with two other friends—to participate in this (strenuous!) ritual.

Camel’s Hump is Vermont’s third highest mountain and its highest undeveloped peak. It is part of the Green Mountain range, and is thus one of the oldest mountains on earth. You know this without being told, though—the mountain feels old. Even as you ascend its steep winding trails, it feels like it is deeply rooted in the earth, like it has been around for a long time, has seen everything. Its trees and plants and even its rock ledges seem to be elders, standing vigil for all who pass.

It is the perfect place to celebrate a rite of passage.

Camel’s Hump summit rises above the tree-line and so the last .3 miles of the trek are made in an alpine landscape consisting of primarily tundra. What a vast difference from the fir and deciduous trees below! And hiking into the tundra feels like entering a new world. On this particular hike, because it was snowing when we ascended and was blue-sky sunny when we descended, we had the experience of feeling like we entered four different worlds over the course of our trek. Time shifted, perspectives changed, and our boots on the trail and our ears in the wind—our whole entire bodies—became new again and again and again.

As you know, I usually link to a book that has inspired or been inspired by the post-of-the-day. Today, I am going to try something new. Below is end of the text from one of my picture book manuscripts that has yet to be published. I began this manuscript years before I knew about my friend’s amazing tradition. If I ever do get it published I will dedicate it to her. For now, I dedicate this blog post to her.

                                                               * * * * * * *

Rosie felt like she was balanced on the highest place in the world.

“We made it to the top!” she squealed.

Rosie spun on her toes, threw her head back into the air, and crooned and howled at the top of her lungs. Mama joined in her song and the waterfall of their voices flowed down the trail. The tundra heard them. The balsam tree heard them. The hemlock tree heard them. Even the birch trees, all the way at the bottom of the mountain, heard them. Rosie and Mama spiraled and sang until they fell to the ground, happy and tired.

“I will remember this place,” said Rosie. “This is where my seven year-old legs and eyes and ears and mind—”

“— and arms and hands—,” continued Mama.

“—and toes and fingers and heart. . .” said Rosie, “this is where my WHOLE SELF climbed to on the mountain.”

Rosie shivered, joyfully, in her skin. Every part of her was open wide. Her body, her senses and her mind—they were all open wide. They felt like they were uncurling themselves for the first time, like downy leaves opening up together on the branch of a tree. She looked out at the valley and the lake and the mountains rising up on the other side of the water.

“I want to climb all the way to the top of one of those mountains,” she said.

“Next year?” said Mama.

“Yes,” said Rosie.

“Happy Birthday, Rosie,” said Mama.

Rosie and Mama hiked back toward home as the fiery heat of the setting sun baked the dirt and leaves and bark and stones, and Rosie tasted it all on her tongue like a sweet birthday treat made just for her.

                                                                * * * * * * *

A different hike. Maryanne and I at the top of Camel's Hump.

Happy Birthday Maryanne.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Magic of the Freedom Trail, a Run and a 10 Year Old Kid

I was recently in Charlestown, MA to visit my brand new nephew. I could write a whole blog post on brand new nephews—the way they smell like something warm and sweet just coming out of the oven, the way they feel like wet paint on a canvas all new and full of possibility, I could go on and on—but I will spare you all.

However, I will state here that it is probably partially because I was in new-nephew la-la-land that Charlestown and, particularly the Freedom Trail, felt so magical to me. Like everything else in this life, it matters who you are with and what state of mind you are in when you do just about anything. This is a great thing. It means we are all connected, it means all of our experiences and actions and reactions are connected, and this means that there is potential for magic and miracle in just about any moment.

But back to Charlestown and my magical run…

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5 mile red brick walking trail that leads to sixteen different nationally historic sites, all of which center around the American Revolution. My brother and his family live literally down the block from the Bunker Hill Monument, which is one of the start places for the trail, so when I asked my sister-in-law where I should take my usual weekend run, she suggested walking up the hill and beginning right there, at the monument.

It sounded good to me. So I woke up Sunday morning to the sun streaming into the house and happily got ready for my run. I love exploring new places on foot. Especially on fast foot. I love running in strange and different places. New perspective and all that. I was just about ready to go when my Biggest—my 10 year old son—woke up. So, okay, I already knew something magical was afoot. He never wakes up early on the weekend. He is 10-going-on-teen, after all. But for whatever reason—perhaps it was the sun, perhaps it was the strange and different bed perspective shift—he got up and wanted to join me.

So we climbed the hill and then climbed the steps to the base of the monument and began our run.

It was instantly incredibly fun! I mean, we were following a red brick trail after all! We felt like some New England version of Dorothy and her crew!

We began at… the Bunker Hill Monument—where the Battle at Bunker Hill proved that the Colonial Army could effectively fight the British…

...we ran through Charlestown, over the Charlestown Bridge into the North End, past Copp’s Hill Burying Ground—which is a kind of cemetery for North End artisans, crafts people and merchants. Buried there is Old North Church sexton Robert Newman who supposedly hung the lanterns on the night of Paul Revere’s ride, as well as 1000 free African-Americans who lived in a community on the current Charter Street side of the cemetery…

...past the Old North Church—where Robert Newman climbed the steps to the steeple to hang the two lanterns (as in one if by land, two if by sea…)

...and then finally past Paul Revere’s House.

Running past these places—these places laden with history and story and different versions of that story—made me feel very much alive. And, yes, connected. I am beginning to realize that, for me, connected and alive are very much the same thing.

But even better… not long into the run, my son got all excited. “Mom,” he said—much less out of breath than me, by the way—“I just read about this! I just read about the Freedom Trail!” And he proceeded to tell me all about How I, Nicky Flynn, Got a Life, a middle grade book by Art Corriveau.

So let me amend the previous paragraph.

Running past these places laden with story, while discussing literature with my son—this made me feel deliciously, cozily, magically alive.

My Littlest with the Brand New Nephew
And I had the brand new nephew waiting for me when I got back.

I’m not sure it gets any better than that.