When it comes to music I need advance notice. I need a schedule. I need a plan. I think that’s why last month’s trek to Worcester was so weird. It’s really rare when I catch a performance on a whim, when I don’t know the whole game plan. It’s like a perfect storm – everything needs to be aligned – conditions exact.

Why am I saying this? Where am I going with this? Sean Rowe. I caught his live radio show completely by accident. Here’s what happened:
Today was a farm day. Depressing. Everything is started to die. Damp, sour, rot. There is decay in the fields. Tomatoes and tomatillos lie dirt bound, their green leaves history. A quietness in the raspberry bushes. They no longer buzz with the frenzy of bees and butterflies. It’s getting too cold. I didn’t stay long. I stocked up on carrots, purple onions, bok choy, spinach, arugula, and kale. Carefully cut bouquets of basil, oregano, flat leaf parsley, thyme and rosemary… then sadly turned away.
At home the sadness hung off my shoulders, made me heavy and tired. Determined to get lost in sunny California I read The Nowhere City by Alison Lurie until sleep dropped my book and closed my eyes. When I woke I checked email and found Surprise and sheer luck. Sean was live in the 97.7 wnex studio and shock of all shocks, I hadn’t miss it. I had 2 minutes to spare, even. Shocker. I connected without confusion. Here’s the setlist:

  • Jonathan ~ did NOT expect to hear this one. It’s one of my favorites.
  • Wrong side of the bed
  • Surprise
  • Night

It was nice to hear Sean talk about the music. Don’t get me wrong, I like hearing him sing. But, But! There is something to what he says when he sings. There is something to where he is going with his songs. I like hearing about that, too. It makes the music move in different ways, if that makes sense.

So, thank you wnex, thank you Sean for the nice surprise. Can’t wait for the new album! It will be ‘Magic’ (pun completely intended)!

Happiness Game

Happiness is…taking a half day to visit the farm. Happiness is knowing everything is going to be alright, eventually. Happiness is….

I play this game all the time. Whenever I am overcome by being happy I have this habit of identifying the source of emotion. I haven’t acknowledged my feeling until I can fill in the blank. Something I picked up from therapy. A little weird, but there it is.

Today, coming back from the farm I felt giddy, euphoric even. My impulse was to think “on the verge of a psychotic snap” because I had just spent 40 minutes standing in the pouring rain, searching for tomatillos, the ones that had burst through their paper-lantern shells. I had given up on the cherry tomatoes 10 minutes earlier. We were allowed two quarts and for some reason my heart wasn’t in hunt. The recent storms have knocked down all the trailing twine and posts so picking tomatoes off the vine is literally hunching over, pulling up sodden leaves to look for orange orbs. We already have so many! So, I opted for just one quart and moved onto my goddess, the tomatillo.

I don’t think I can fully express my obsession with this green tomato-like, apple-like, hint of lime wonder. As the rain continued in sheets, soaking me to the bone, I stood there quietly, carefully surveying the harvest. Only the ones that had successfully burst through their paper shells were ready for picking and in the pouring rain it was impossible to tell. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a cobalt blue raincoat standing and staring on the other side of the row. “Are we crazy?” the man under the cobalt asked me when our eyes met. “I wouldn’t be out here if it weren’t for the tomatillos.” I replied as I raised a hand in greeting. My hand said “Yup, we are crazy” even as my voice made excuses. Soon he came around to my row and said “what’s a tomatillo?” I pulled one of out my bag and launched into cooking school mode. “They’re like a tart tomato, think granny smith – think Mexican food…”  Meanwhile an obese drop of rain hung on the man’s nose, another in his eyelashes. A mosquito bit my neck. “Ah…” the man nodded. Why, I’m not sure. He told me the raspberries were worth the rain. I was anxious to move onto Italian flat leaf parsley but didn’t say so. Instead, I laughed and admitted the raspberries might have to wait a week. My sneakers were filled with silt. My canvas pants clung to my calves. Mud graced the cuffs. Grit was in my teeth from sneaking a cherry tomato. Dirt was under my nails and I’m sure, smudged on my face. Rain’s wet had found it’s way through my raincoat. It started to run down my back. Still I wished my picking companion a nice weekend and grinning like a fool, made my way back to the car.

Green peppers, zucchini, summer squash, onions, carrots, hot peppers, cucumbers, eggplant, lettuce, kale, cilantro, dill, honeydew, watermelon, arugula, thyme, sage, plum and cherry tomatoes…and tomatillos. Happiness is all that.

Could Have Stayed

Week Two of the FarmI could have stayed at the farm all day. Today, I introduced myself to Liz. She’s always eating something from a bowl when I come in (well, she’s two for two so far)…I guess if I lived on a honest-to-goodness working CSA farm, I too, would be munching on something several times a day! I let her know we wanted to donate next week’s share to the homeless shelter.

The week was an interesting mix: beets, turnips, green onions, green garlic, summer squash, kolrabi (I need to check the spelling on that one), and there was even broccoli! For greens we were allowed one head of romaine, one bag of a mix of arugula, mustard greens, kale, etc; one huge bag of spinach…I bring my own recycle bags and by the time I went through “my” share they were filled to the gills.

The u-pick selection was awesome: flowers (I didn’t), herbs (got a little oregano and thyme), and and and strawberries! A huge quart! I washed and froze half of them. Tonight I’ll surprise Kisa with fresh strawberries on his icecream. Yummy!

The sun felt nice on my shoulders. Sky blue overhead. I spotted a lone cloud in the shape of a heart. Kids ran in and out of the rows of peas (not ready yet), screetching. Mothers looked under leaves for strawberries while fathers whistled for loose dogs. Sitting in the bed of thyme I inhaled an Italian kitchen and a future stew. Recipes ran through my head.  I could have stayed all day.

Thousand Acres


Smiley, Jane. A Thousand Acres. New York: Fawcett Columbine, 1991.

I’ll admit it. It took me forever to even want to read this book even though it has been sitting on my book shelf for months, right within easy reach. I tried picking up Moo a few times and something made me keep putting it down. I have no clue why. I assumed A Thousand Acres would be the same difficult to pick up experience. I was wrong. Once I got into it, Thousand Acres was fascinating, troubling and oh so true to family life. I’ve never lived on a farm. I’ve never set foot in Iowa, but thanks to Smiley I knew exactly what both would be like.
One thing I didn’t understand, nor will I ever, is how a family can so completely and utterly fall apart. By the end of the book not one family is intact and it’s all because of a thousand acres.

“You shouldn’t think somethings changed just because you haven’t seen it in thirteen years” (p 11).
“It was exhausting just to hold ourselves at the table… You felt a palpable sense of relief when you gave up and let yourself fall away from the table and wound up in the kitchen getting something, or in the bathroom running the water and splashing it on your face” (p 101).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust and the chapter called “Big Ten Country: The Literary Midwest (Iowa)” (p 27) and Book Lust in the chapter “Growing Writers” (p 107). Personally, I think Pearl also could have put this in her “Families in Trouble” chapter. Not to give anything away but…who tries to poison her own sister? Who does that?