Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Story of how I found my land and put a shepherd's hut on it

Behind the stone wall is my tiny piece of land on a Hebridean island just after I bought it -- the sign says SOLD.


I've wanted to live on a Scottish island since I was a young teenager and read THE ONCE AND FUTURE KING, and then THE SINGING SANDS by Josephine Tey, and THE CROFTER AND THE LAIRD by John McPhee.....I imagined a sunny, windswept island near the top of the world. Whenever I thought that, I told myself that if it was in Scotland, it wouldn't be sunny. But that's how I always pictured it -- and that's how it was (well, sometimes) when  in 2011 I saw my first Hebridean island, Barra.

The plane landed on the beach,  at low tide.The way to the hotel had the sea on one side, the machair -- a flower-filled meadow found only on the West coast of some hebridean islands-- on the other. It was so beautiful (or something) that I started to cry. I've been to every continent except Antarctica and nothing like that has ever happened to me. There was, is, just something about that light, landscape, silence, space -- I don't know what -- that felt like home.

About a week later, I spent a night on another island (chosen almost entirely by chance--there are 50 inhabited Scottish islands). There it was sunny, both days. On the first, I went for a three hour walk and didn't see anyone -- only wind and sea and sky; wildflowers and grass and sand, and, once, a large brown hare.

When my b and b hostess brought me to the ferry the next morning, she looked at me and said:
"This is going to sound really strange, but I feel like you're part of our family."
That's how I felt, too.

When I got back to America, I looked on the island's Web site to see about renting a  cottage and emailed the owner of one that seemed promising. She emailed back:
"...I think I have one of your books."

She did -- the IRELAND book I did for Scholastic; she'd bought it thinking it was a book about Connemara ponies. But still. How many published books are there in the world -- ten million? What are the chances of her having mine?

I spent five months in her cottage on the island, and while I was there, the land came up for sale -- incredibly cheaply. Many people said not to buy it: I wouldn't be able to get access to it, I wouldn't get planning permission.....but I took a chance and bought it anyway, then hired a builder in Wales to make a shepherd's hut for me and drive it to the island.  

Working out the details of the design and transport took MONTHS but it all turned out well in the end:


The land is across the street from the local school, and when the hut arrived on the island, the children cheered -- literally, cheered.


"It's the coolest thing EVER!" someone said.
"Libby, are you SO excited?"
I was. 


I loved it the day I arrived, and was just as happy as these children look -- maybe happier--to have my very own shepherd's hut on my very own land on a Scottish island.

Saturday, November 09, 2013


The world has changed so much since I was a child that I usually assume modern children will find the things I loved then incomprehensible, or boring, or something. So when I mentioned watching the DAVY CROCKET


I'd loved over dinner the other night, I was surprised when a seven-year old begged me to let him come over and watch it with me.

I warned him that he might find it boring and told him to tell me if he did....but from the very start, he loved it. His eyes widened; he said things like:
"This is so cool!"
"I love it!"
"Why would you say this is boring?"

His only criticism was that Davy wasn't wearing a blue and white uniform, like Andrew Jackson's soldiers--he described theirs as "jazzy."

I have  admired Davy Crockett fervently ever since I first saw the show -- and even more after learning more about him as an adult.

So I pleased as well as surprised that the movie, which was made in 1955, included Congressman Davy Crockett voting against Andrew Jackson's Indian Bill -- the one that resulted in the Trail of Tears. That -- in real life and the movie -- was the end of Davy Crockett's political career. The movie included a speech that probably went right over my head as a child, about how the government had promised that land to the Cherokee and it was wrong to let "a few landgrabbers" who just wanted to make money deprive them of it. He also talked about how "all of our people, whatever the color of their skins," had the same rights....and how the fact that it was being done was the fault of Congress, "because we aren't doing our jobs right."

It's true that Jake fidgeted a bit during this part--but his interest perked up again as soon as Davy galloped off to the Alamo. That Disney distorted: in real life, after Davy lost the election (as a direct result of his stance on the Indian Bill: before that there had been talk of running him for President), he was asked to make one last speech. He did, and it was brief:
"You can all go to hell. I'm going to Texas."

It was sheer bad luck that he arrived just in time for the Alamo. But in the movie, they made it a planned choice.

One of the few scenes I remembered from my last viewing (as a child!) was Jim Bowie, sitting up in bed with a fever --  but firing pistols, one in each hand, as Santa Ana's men run in to kill him.

The movie ends with Davy -- all 6' 6" of him -- swinging his rifle at the uniformed soldiers attacking him from below. Walt Disney felt that it would be too upsetting for children to see Davy die, so we see only that, and then hear a song about "history tells that they were all cut down," but....(much like the ending of les Mis, really) then we see a flag and the song goes on about freedom.

Jake thought the ending should have been more "realistic," and that if we didn't see Davy die, we should at least have seen one of the Mexican soldiers firing at him....but I now like the idea of Disney letting children have as much reality as they can handle. He leaves it up to them and I think that was a good decision.

I don't think I would have liked to see Davy Crockett's dead body, then or now. And I have to admit that I was absolutely astonished at how good this movie is. I loved it as much as Jake did....and would love to write a book about Davy, the REAL Davy, who was even more interesting and admirable than the Disney version. But Disney did a great job with this one.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Fogbow over the bay




Someone having dinner at the hotel took the first photo, which shows almost the whole fogbow; I took the others. I think they capture the light here better than any other pictures I've taken this summer.

Though the fogbow is unusual (fogbows are rarer than the Northern Lights!), the light here, which changes every few minutes, is almost always beautiful. It's clearer, more luminous than any light I've ever seen -- the wind and water, how far North we are. What it will feel like to be away from it and my hut I don't know.








Saturday, January 08, 2011

Well begun is half done

Usually, I have a long list of resolutions and accomplish very few of them. Last year, though, I did achieve the main thing -- earn enough money to live on without worrying. That is harder to do if you're a freelancer than I ever thought it would be when I left my last real job: writing about finance for the Fidelity Web site.

Me doing this was always fairly ridiculous -- though I really loved the group I worked with, especially the designers (we were called the "Creative Group" by the rest of the company and had our own litttle clubhouse). But every time I wrote an article, I'd have to look up words in Barron's or some such -- a blue book that defines financial terms like "put" and "call." Each time, I'd vow to remember what they meant, but it was so foreign to me that I never could.

Now that my income for the next 6 months at least is assured, achieving other goals feels within my control. It may be uphill work



but I'll make it. I've whittled my goals down to three -- though each has specifics (how to do it, milestones, subgoals).

GET MY ENERGY BACK
*chakra chanting and yoga, bouncing (I got a mini-trampoline: bouncing on it is really good for your lymph system), vigorous exercise--walk, swim, ski, ride a horse or bicycle every day.
*stick with the Fat Flush diet -- this means planning out meals and having good vegetables around and even, for busy days, cooked and waiting to be eaten...and NOT having things like chocolate, nuts, and wine in the house
*take vitamins, drink water every day
*no sugar
*in bed by 10pm -- NO STAYING UP ALL NIGHT reading or, worse, watching addictive series from Netflix (most of the old Masterpiece Theatres are there for instant download! Very tempting), or worst of all, worrying.

WRITE, TRYING MY HARDEST
*start at 7.30 every morning
*finish a chapter a week -- it doesn't have to be perfect, but it does have to be Good Enough, with THINGS HAPPENING, not just conversation and descriptions.....



DON'T WAIT
*wear cute clothes and look nice (as Grace said, what am I saving them for?) every day.
*see the people I love MUCH more often
*go ski-ing, take riding lessons
(*go to England)
*feel grateful for what I have NOW -- stop living in the future

"Happy is he, and he alone,
the man who can call today his own.
He who looking back can say,
Tomorrow do your worst for I have lived today!"

Underlying attittude: COMMIT/DO THINGS WHOLEHEARTEDLY OR NOT AT ALL
--this is a little harder to explain, but I'll try. It means: when I'm working, really work. When I'm relaxing,really relax. When I'm having fun, revel in it, enjoy it -- don't ruin it by thinking I should be working. Minimize activities that are neither work nor play; just being HONEST can make things one or the other. For example, if I'm writing email to friends, admit that it's Just for Fun, don't pretend I'm writing!

Similarly, eliminate activities that I don't really enjoy but find myself doing out of habit or boredom or indecision or lack of energy. Asking myself,
"Is this productive? Is this fun? If not -- do I have to do it?"
If the answer to all three is no, don't do it. Well....there are SOME things that are niether productive nor fun that you do have to do, but not that many. Some can be skipped, some can be off-loaded onto others-- and the ones I have to do, I will do quickly, and without procrastinating.

Procrastinating just prolongs the energy spent on something -- or, more poetically,
"Procrastination is the thief of time."
So, just do the boring things and get them over with -- and NOT first thing in the morning. Save the times with the best energy for the most important activities.

I'm happy to report that eight days into the new year, I'm on my way! I already have more energy, have lost a little weight, and am making progress on my novel.

I love new years and new starts. We used to sing this at school in, I think, second grade (imagine a bouncy tune and seven year olds singing it while the teacher played the piano):

"JANUARY DAYS ARE SHORT!
JANUARY NIGHTS ARE LONG!
A HAPPY NEW YEAR HAS JUST BEGUN
SO SING THIS JANUARY SONG."

I do.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

A small bottle of wine

Last summer a two year old's favorite book was Rosemary Wells/Iona Opie's MOTHER GOOSE; we read it so many times that we learned every single one by heart. (He also wanted to know what every word -- including "treacle" -- meant.) He loved the book so much that he kept asking me to read it even once he could say the rhymes along with me. We both loved the sounds of the words, even when they didn't make any sense; and I think that nursery rhymes are a great way to give children a love of language. I bet if someone did a scientific study of them they might even discover that the sounds they repeat are the very sounds babies need to learn in order to strengthen the muscles that will later enable them to talk.

I myself love fairy tales just as much -- but those books have too many words and not enough pictures for him. So this summer I was very excited to find a new book of fairy tales with pictures on every page.



I love the cheerful illustrations -- but Red Riding Hood brought "a basket of food," not "a little cake and a small bottle of wine." I remember loving those details when I was a child, especially the small bottle -- I wanted that basket! The story also left out the mother's warning not to stray off the path; without that detail,the plot loses much of its point.

The only thing Jake liked in the book was the fight scene in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. We never even read most of the stories, and I couldn't help wondering if the way the author dealt with details was why the stories didn't capture his interest. I'm all for cutting out unnecessary words and details, but I think too many books now -- especially picture books -- don't pay enough attention to the words. This can make stories bland and deprive children of the joy words can bring.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Looking for trouble

Two brothers, six and nine, were fooling around, playing a silly version of THOMAS THE TANK
ENGINE and wrestling a lot. The older then started singing this song to the tune of the real
theme song, cranking his arm like a train as he ran around the kitchen:

"Thomas the Tank engine, looking for trouble --"

This made me laugh: picturing that earnest, always-trying-to-get-it little train looking for trouble. (It has to be admitted that looking for trouble is usually an accurate description of the boy singing the line and giggling hysterically.) As they wrestled and ran around I couldn't resist telling them I had an addition but it had to be sung in an English accent to work:

"Thomas the tank engine,
Looking for trouble,
Thomas the tank engine,
getting it double!

Thomas the tank engine,
crashing the train,
Thomas the tank engine
Does it again!"

They played and sang this for over an hour, laughing as they pummelled each other. Picture the older boy lying on the ground, being repeatedly punched by his younger brother while he himself laughed delightedly and shouted:
"This is definitely getting it double!"

This is the kind of energy being around some kids creates and silly as it may be, I love it. Perhaps part of the fascination is that brothers (I have 3 sisters) play so differently with each other than sisters do-- at first, I was worried and asked:
"Is this going to end in someone crying?" but they assured me it wasn't....at least, the older brother did. The younger one looked a little more doubtful about that.

But, as it happened, no one cried until the next activity -- running around the house, the OUTSIDE of the house, without stopping, until someone gave up.
"What do you get if you win?" the little brother asked.
"The loser has to be Thomas the Tank Engine," the older brother said.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Pause

I'm not going to be posting anything on this blog for awhile.....if you would like information about me, my books, or school visits, please visit my Web site,

ifyoulovetoread.com

Blow Out the Moon has come out in a new edition -- it's available at both Barnes and Noble and Amazon.

Thanks for visiting,
Libby

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Adam's plan

This is Adam's plan for the birthday party I described at Blue Rose Girls:


He's only six (well, he was when he made the list!) and reading and writing aren't his strong points....I'm impressed by how thoroughly he planned the party and how much he CARED about it. At the actual party, he cried more than anyone else, maybe because of the contrast between his plan -- his imagined party and the real party. At one point, his mother was trying to organize a relay game and Adam screamed,
"No, no, this is supposed to a _____ game!" (can't remember the word he used and it's probably what the "sl" on the list means, too: individual competition game, with one winner).

His mother seemed taken aback by how passionately he was screaming. They withdrew to discuss it privately, and when they came back, there was none of that team stuff. Adam won the game, too. He's a very competitive little boy, and during the baseball was, first, trying to change the rules and then, when his father wouldn't permit that:
"But it's my birthday! I should be allowed to have four strikes!"
"You should be allowed to cheat?" his father said, with a look that was quite quelling. (Adam adores his father.)

I'm fascinated by the way children think -- I"m interested in the way adults think, too, but kids' thoughts and feelings are more mysterious, partly because they can't really articulate them.

And at least for awhile, their thoughts tend to be really original. At around eleven, a lot of kids seem to start thinking the way they've been taught that they "should" think -- at least, that's what I've observed and read, too. Maybe that's what socialization means. But it never "takes" with some people; and some are probably more original to start with, too. Adam is definitely an original thinker, and that's one reason I like him so much (and am making him the hero of my next book, a short mystery).

The other is that he feels things so intensely: once, he wrote a card to his parents that said on the outside "I love you Mom and Dad." Inside, he wrote: "I love you a lot. Really a lot." There was no occasion; he just made it.

It's an interesting contrast: someone who plans so carefully and feels so intensely. I'm looking forward to starting this book.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Surprising sequel to birthday party

The kids birthday party I posted about on BRGs had a surprising sequel.


Parties change a lot as you go through life -- parties like Meghan's Strong Man party and Alvina's birthday party, where people dance all night, or at least until really late, just don't happen much once people marry and settle down (at least, among my friends). Unless someone is REmarrying -- then they give a big, weekend long party and everyone carries on and begs the band to keep playing past two a.m. or whenever they were supposed to stop.

This may just be my friends. When we have our boarding school reunions (classes five years apart attend), it's hilarious -- classes older and younger go to bed, we dance until the band stops, then stay up all night drinking and carrying on, usually joined by a few people from the class that has just left college. The opening chapter in an adult novel I began awhile ago describes such a scene. I may post it here someday....

But mostly, at this age, the parties are dinner parties, or stand-around-talking parties - and I live too far away from most of my friends to attend even these....I'm always trying to write something and spending the night away seems so disruptive! I don't know many people in Mystic: I just moved here a few months ago and I have been too busy with work to make the effort you need to make to meet people. So, between all these things, I don't go to many parties.

But since the birthday party, I've been invited to 2 other parties here, right here in town. One, by a child:
"Mommy, when we have our neighborhood party, can Libby come?"
Of course since this was asked in front of me she had to say yes, maybe she would have anyway.


And then yesterday another mother called, saying that she was having a birthday party for HER son and I seemed "so enthusiastic" and "have just moved here and maybe don't know many people" that she wondered if I'd like to come. I'm going! THIS party is going to be girls and boys and the main activity will be crabbing. I can't wait!

(

Friday, July 13, 2007

Yoga results (physical)

For the last 8 days I've gotten up at 4.00 a.m. to go to a series of yoga intensives taught by Ana Forrest. Thiu is like no other yoga: it transforms you and your life -- you can read about how and why on HER Web site.

Here, I'm just going to list how I've changed physically in eight days.

*my eyes are bluer

*the whites ARE white, almost silver-grey, not pink

*my neck is longer

*I'm about an inch taller

*my stomach is flatter

*I woke up yesterday morning not hurting anywhere for the first time in about ten years (I have fibromyalgia and arthritis both; and usually wake up with aching hips and shoulders -- not one twinge of pain ANYWHERE!)

*I've stopped drinking and eating unhealthy food or even, too much healthy food (not sure this will last!)

So what did I do? Intense yoga for two hours every day - by the end of the class, even the very young and very fit are wet with sweat all over: hair, clothes, everything - wrining wet. And I listened to what Ana Forrest said.

In many of the classes, you pick a spot in your body that holds an emotion or emotions you want to get rid of -- and during the poses, she reminds you to breathe into that spot. At the end of class today, she said to breathe into your spot, and "unclench it like a fist" -- and then:
"Just let it rest." She talked us through just letting it rest.

She also said:
"You can heal. No matter what terrible thing happened to you, you can heal. I know because I've done it."

It's not all serious: Ana doing the Naui walk made most people burst out laughing -- this is Naui. Imagine someone walking while doing this with her stomach and smiling goofily:







People cry during class. They laugh. They come out transformed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm related to the Bounty mutineers!

I've always wished I had ancestors, famous ancestors, ancestors I could learn about. A cousin of my mother's has just found out that we're related not only to William the Conqueror but to TWO of the people who were on the H.M.S. Bounty.



They are Fletcher Christian, who led the mutiny, and George Stewart, a Midshipman who was NOT a mutineer. He gave himself up in Tahiti, was clapped into irons, and drowned when the ship taking him back to England was wrecked. He had a wife in Tahiti, so I probably have cousins there, and I know Fletcher Christian had kids on Pitcairn's Island, so I have cousins there, too.

These people were all descended from a Viking who was William the Conqueror's great-grandfather. (WIlliam the Conqueror was the Norman Duke who invaded England in 1066 and became King of England.)

What makes this especially exciting, though, is that I know a lot about the Bounty--I am completely fascinated by the English navy in the 18th century: Jane Austen's brothers, Nelson, the Bounty, the Patrick O'Brien novels.....I love them all and have even plottted out my own 18th century navy story, Philippa. Maybe I WILL write that next after all!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Message in a bicycle basket

Awhile ago, a baseball -- a real hardball -- appeared in the basket of my bicycle.The bike is always parked in front of my house, under this sign,
so I thought maybe somebody had found a baseball on the street and returned it to the most likely spot.

But then yesterday I rode my bike to the liquor store to get a bottle of rum for a party, and when I came out, another ball had appeared in the basket:

One could be a coincidence -- but TWO? Is this a message? A sign? I can't help thinking that it is, even though the reality may be that my bicycle just looks like a good place to put any baseballs that happen to be lying around. What the message IS I don't know yet; but that's often the way with oracles and ideas for stories, too.