A Thanksgiving for Orphans


Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love the starkness of late fall, the sense of the beginning of things, filled with the anticipation of the holidays and the beauty of the coming winter. Ever since I have had my own household I have filled my house with guests for Thanksgiving, joking that I was always on the look-out for holiday orphans.

But this year for the first time there will be no guests. I will make a traditional dinner, but it will only be my husband and me. For the first time we are both orphans ourselves, and I don’t have the energy to put up a cheerful front when the absence of so many people we loved will be so fully felt. Last year, on my mother’s last Thanksgiving, I could fill the absence with the special care of her. She was the last man standing. Now she is gone.

Of those who used to annually grace our table, we have lost four.

You would think that in middle age the loss of a parent would not hurt so much, but that is only what you would think until it happens to you. Every memory now is fraught with the poignancy of passing time, and the changing human geography of our lives. My dear friend, who lost her mother recently, said to me the other day: Remember when we were kids and no one ever died?

I see now how age can bring melancholy, with every new occasion or holiday memory colored by the loss of those who once celebrated with you, the loss of your old life, your old self, the family you always had.

But this is not the proper way to live. Each day is meant to be embraced with hope and joy. To do otherwise is a form of sinfulness.

Today will be hard, a deliberate pause to remember and mourn, and then to shed the old skin of grief.

Hope begins again tomorrow.


W.I. Crossroads

It is a jittery place, knowing that your book is out there, and that strangers are reading it. North of the Tension Line is off press and ready to ship, so any errors in editing are now permanent. But the hundreds of Advance Reading Copies are out there like little seeds, taking root or dying.   There are so many things to worry about, but they are all things that are stupid to worry about, because they are beyond my control. I can’t make people like the book. I can’t re-read anymore and correct. I can only wait, and hope. And try not to wait and hope.

As any writer knows, you put your heart out there and hope that no one stomps it.

It will be a good night for a long romp with dogs. And possibly a cocktail.

We Are Not Fast!

The Albatross, Washington Island

My sister and I needed a little break from the melancholy task of closing my late mother’s house, so we decided a little trip up the Door Peninsula was in order. With North of the Tension Line coming out in September (pre-order now!!) I thought I should introduce myself to some booksellers and shop owners. We ambled up the Peninsula and down the other side, and managed a brief 18 hours on Washington Island, too.

On our way home, we made a lunch stop at the Albatross Drive-In, which has a cameo appearance in North of the Tension Line. Everyone there was excited and happy about the book, and told me they would make my cheeseburger with extra love. Along with the best burgers on earth, the Albatross also sells Albatross t-shirts.
On the back is their slogan, excerpted from the sign below.


And it’s all true.

Talking Points for My Publicist

My publicist has been discussing talking points for North of the Tension Line. In working through my suggestions, I left my notebook on the kitchen table while I cooked dinner, and my husband got his hands on it. In retrospect, I should have foreseen this.

What follows are his ideas for talking points for North of the Tension Line.

1) There is a talking goat.

2) There is a protagonist who is suspected of writing pornography, perhaps involving the goat.

3) Outrageous things happen after a spontaneous dare.

4) There is a male character who quotes Noel Coward but is, oddly enough, apparently not gay.

They are actually all true.

But he’s still a goof ball.



What Falls Away

Clear water

“North of the Tension Line” is the unofficial slogan of Washington Island. It is a small place, and remote, and somehow, I think, terribly vulnerable. But it is a place where life returns to its essence. The bustle, the ugliness, the incessant alarms of technology are there if you seek them out. But the stillness of yourself, the humming of the universe, the roll of the water all create a renewal of the soul.

Everyone has a different way of describing the experience. A friend commented that she felt as if she had fallen off the edge of the earth. An islander told me that from the moment she stepped onto the ferry she could feel anxiety slip away. For me, it is a sense of stepping out of an image and into reality, as if the rest of life is staged, but this place, and yourself in it, is what is true.

Maybe this is an island phenomenon. But I think it is just this island.