A Bookcase Secret, at Last!

I spent countless hours of my youth tapping on walls and pushing on fireplace bricks. Desperate to discover a false wall, hidden staircase, or other evidence of a stealthy mystery, I combed our house searching for any discrepancy that would lead me to a clandestine room or a secret cache. I itched for a puzzle to solve and a solution to unravel.

I thumped on walls – up, down, in, out – listening for sound discrepancies that would indicate a false front. I mentally reviewed the blueprint of our house where each room, closet, and partition adjoined in hopes of exposing a covert chamber, deliciously accessible from an undiscovered trap door under a hallway rug. I pressed and jiggled each brick in our fireplace more than once, hoping to activate a revolving facade or bookcase that would sweep me into a chamber housing a booty of loot of some sort.




Who knew I would have to wait so long?

Well, a half a century later, it finally happened.

I finally solved a head-scratcher while uncovering a mother lode – all in one fell swoop – at the local library, no less!

Let me set the stage.

I am routinely confounded by two dilemmas whenever I go to the library, and last weekend’s visit was no different. They are: (1). How to stay alive long enough to read all of these books, and (2). How to find the best books in the shortest amount of time, without sifting through thousands. Although my discovery did not solve my longevity quandary, it did crack the book-shopping-time-crunch riddle by affording access to the best books in the library very quickly.

So yes, my found treasure trove is books, but not just any books. These are THE BEST books one would want to read in the whole library, all in one spot, hiding in plain sight. Not a revolving, hidden bookcase mind you, but an old stationary mantel in view of hundreds of passers-by a week.

The Book Discussion Kits!


The farthest-back bookcase in my public library was – and still is – filled with rows of burgundy duffle bags offering the best of the best. They are all there, shelves of them, unguarded and unattended.

Award winners, nominees, acclaimed prose, and pinnacle reads.

The Book Discussion Kits!

Who knew?

I’ll admit that I’ll probably never shake my mopes over the monotony of my childhood home; it was utterly lacking in intrigue and perplexity. However, solving my Mystery of the Overwhelming Books was somewhat redemptive for sure. Easily finding the best book among plenty comes in handy the older one gets. After all, I have a lot to read and who knows how much time I have left?

By the way, I have already finished my first pick off of that shelf in just three days.

So, take it from me – if you ever need a good read in a hurry, check the discreet burgundy satchel on the shelf at the back wall.

It’ll be waiting for you there.

The Case of the Missing Atlas

Hon, how far will we be from Dartmouth College when we’re at the Airbnb this summer?

I don’t know – why don’t you get the atlas?

Oh, yeah – good idea!

I sprang from the livingroom chair and stepped into the cool twilight, heading to the driveway to retrieve the map book. Opening the driver’s door, I reached to the gap between the passenger seat and center console where the atlas is tucked, but came up curiously empty-handed.

That’s weird, I thought.

I went around to the passenger side to get closer vantage, but still no atlas. No atlas in the backseat, or the trunk, either.

What the heck?

I headed back inside, shoulders drooped in confusion.

It’s not there, I told my husband as I re-entered the room.

Whaddya mean it’s not there?

It’s not there! The atlas isn’t there.

It has to be there – it’s always there!

Well, it’s not.

Did you look in the trunk?

Yes – I looked in the trunk. Wait – maybe it’s under the big basket in the trunk. I’ll go check.

I came back in – no luck.

It’s not under the basket, I slumped.

I was thoroughly mystified.

How could our atlas be gone?

Where could it be?



And most worrisome of all, what would life be like without it?

We love maps – all of us. We grew up looking at maps, navigating by maps, and imagining future trips and far-away places with maps. We raised our kids on maps and gifted them with annual memberships to AAA (and all the free maps you could ever ask for) when they became drivers in their own right. We have shoeboxes filled with maps up in the attic – visual representations of epic road trips taken together. Each of us tends to default to a map over a device whenever possible, much preferring the hard copy for directions and proximity.

We chart where we are going, where we have been, and where our next adventure will take us. Should we go this way or that way? Naw, don’t take the interstate, we’d say. Take the secondary roads for better scenery and local flavor. In fact, there’s a great book called Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon that… well, that’s another story altogether, but it’s a good one.

A few years ago, our future daughter-in-law accompanied us on a ten hour drive to visit our older son, who was her boyfriend at the time. We had a grand time together, and found out only afterwards that our son had artfully cautioned her that the atlas-between-the-seats would figure prominently in the trip – just so you know.

Sure enough, not long into the journey…

Hey Hon, what was the name of that town in Virgina where we stayed at the hotel that was General Lee’s former headquarters?

Um… don’t remember. Why don’t you check the atlas?


He was right, she thought, giggling to herself in the back seat.

Atlas people – how strange!

Unaware of my predictability, I pulled the travel augur from the crease beside my seat and consulted.

Hmmmm……flip, flip, flip…. Let me see……. flip, flip, flip…

Here it is… running my finger across the page…..Yup, it was…Lexington!

It’s Lexington, Hon! Such a great place. Maybe we could stay there again, sometime?

Sure thing, Dear.

And so on, and so forth, with parallel scenes unfolding throughout the trip.

Well, back home on this particular evening, I made a final, desperate dash out to his car to see if perhap the dog-eared ledger had somehow found its way to the alternate vehicle. Again, I came up empty. Next, I searched the likely shelves and baskets in the house, also to no avail.

Did one of the kids borrow it? No, that couldn’t be. Two of them have moved out west, and our middle one scrapped his car for a smalller-carbon-footprint bicycle years ago.


The gravity of our situation slowly began to sink in.

For the first time ever,

we were atlas-less.





Hon – what are we going to do? I queried.

Don’t worry, he assured heartily. It’s not that big of a deal, and I’m sure we’ll find it eventually. These things have a way of re-orienting themselves.

Okay, I smiled, you’re right. We’ve got this. We’ll find our way through this!

I knew eventually it would turn up. It had to.

After all, we’d be lost without it

(heh heh).

Winter Sowing

Winter sowing is a fun and easy way to scratch that gardening itch during the coldest of seasons while giving your garden its best possible future. It’s a win-win endeavor for everyone involved, so why not give it a go? It’s not too late to start!

Here’s how:

Gather a bunch of empty one-gallon water jugs and drill 4-5 drainage holes in the bottom of each one.

Next, use a pair of kitchen shears or a box cutter to cut around the jug, starting and ending at the base of the jug handle. Leave about one inch uncut so that the jug hinges open at that spot.

After cutting around the jug, fill the bottom with potting soil and sow your seeds there, following the directions on the seed packet. With a Sharpie marker, label a plant stick with the seed type and push that in the soil as well. If you don’t have ready-made labeling sticks, popsicle sticks will work just fine.

Sprinkle the seeds with a bit of water and then seal up the circumference of jug with duct tape, leaving the cap of the jug off. Use your Sharpie to label the outside of the jug with the seed type again. I also like to put the plant height and sun preference here, too. This helps me to figure out where to put the seedlings when they are ready for planting in the ground.

Find an out-of-the-way place outside to put your little terrariums, and let Mother Nature do the rest. Just set it and forget it! By providing this protective shelter for your seedlings, you are giving these little guys the best chance for a good start and a strong growing season.

At this point you can start thinking about where these sprigs will go once they are ready to plant. You can easily prepare a few new garden beds for them during this interim period, and all you need to do so is a cardboard box!

First, think about where you want a new garden bed to be. Once you know where you want to start a new bed, lay pieces of cardboard (old flattened boxes) on the ground covering that area. Layers of newspaper will work as well, if cardboard is not accessible.

Next, lay unopened bags of topsoil on top of the cardboard to hold the cardboard (or newspaper) in place. This will prevent anything from growing in the covered area, and the topsoil will also provide extra soil for your new bed when you are ready to plant. Leave the area covered like this for weeks or months until you are ready to plant your seedlings.

When your sprouts are ready to plant, open the bags of topsoil in the new area, and dump the topsoil directly onto the cardboard underneath, and plant your seedlings there. The remaining cardboard on the ground will help to keep other formerly established plants from growing, giving your babies added time to get rooted without competition. You can add compost to the topsoil mix for an extra vitamin boost at this time if you have it available.

Now that you have a good idea about how to plant, where to plant, and how this whole process works, feel free to check on your seed jugs as the growing season approaches. You can always sprinkle them with a bit of water if they look dry as the weather warms. When the time is right, you will begin to notice the seedlings starting to sprout in their protective vessels. So exciting! When the plants are a few inches high and your beds are ready, open up your self-made terrariums, take out your seedlings all in one piece, and set them in the ground in the area that you have prepared for them. You can also gently break the growing clumps apart to spread and thin them out if that suits your needs better.

Think about cultivating native pollinator plants to give the flora and fauna in your area the best chance for a sustainable and productive life while helping our planet as well.

Happy gardening!

Don’t Breathe the WIFI!

My husband had the the barest inkling of a cold the day we had a tech guy come to the house to do an upgrade of our cyber system. Included in the job was a WIFI boost, and suddenly Steve’s cold is much worse. It’s as if it came out of nowhere.

I think he breathed in too much WIFI.

My youngest sister always says, “I don’t know what WIFI is, or where to get it, but I do know that it’s good to have a lot of it.” I tend to agree with her. I don’t know what WIFI is, but apparently we have alot of it now. In fact, when I got home from school that day, my husband told me that our rooms were now literally filled with WIFI. It was positively everywhere.

I suppose by the time I arrived on the scene, the WIFI had already sufficiently mixed in with the regular air molecules, but since he was home during the initial BOOST, I think that my husband accidently breathed in pure WIFI before it had properly dissipated, and God only know what that can do.

I kinda think he’s lucky he got away with just a nasty cold.

Don’t you?

Light Leap

It’s such a sweet deal, this day is.

One hour of darkness sacrificed –


offered in return

for such a minor price

is the inaugural hour of daylight savings, brilliantly transported to the slight end of this day,

and it will be true tomorrow’s eve,

and the morrow after that…

Accompanying the vagabond hour

is a peeling of winter layers –

a gleeful shed of wool and fiber

anywhere else

but on me.


there is

time to walk the dog without rushing to beat the darkness,

time to linger longer on the porch with a book, or a cup of something, or a friend,

to putter in the tender twilight garden or

tarry at a picnic table out back amid spent dinner dishes

that held our evening sup among the trees.

An expanse of hours stretching as it does only now,

pulling each day into a heady sunset

that takes it own sweet time, waning slowly.

All told it is a gift of 238 hours, or 14,280 minutes more

topping the evenings

gracing the gloaming

for months to come.




Spring forward –

Why don’t you?

There’s a Thing for That?

Although cleverly camoflaged by venetian blinds, the dining room window that overlooks our front porch is a not-so-secret mess. The narrow space between the inside window and the outside screen is haphazardly jammed and stuffed with worn out dishcloths and discarded hand towels.

One might ask, ” Why?” – which would be a perfectly reasonable question. The answer has to do with the age of this house and the dismaying lack of electrical outlets in our nearly-one-hundred-year-old dwelling. We’re talking two, maybe three, outlets per room if you’re lucky, and none outside at all – don’t even go there.

As a result, our dining room window needs to remain slightly cracked open all year – regardless of the weather – so that our porch string lights can be on nightly, for ambiance. The lights are inconveninetly plugged into one of two sockets in the dining room, the one slightly near the window. An industrial grade extension cord snakes its way from the lights outside, down the drain-spout in the northwest corner of the porch, up the brick facade to the window ledge and in through the dining room window to the outlet, while the “discreet” wadding – brimming in the sill area – does its best to keep out the breeze.

It’s been that way for years with the lights, the orange extension cord, and the window. We basically had a choice between outdoor luminaries or a slightly chilly dining room, and we chose lights. Well, I chose lights, and the rest of the family just went along with it.

Recently however, we had electricians do some work on the house, and one of the priority jobs included putting an OUTDOOR socket on the porch for the lights. YAY! No more extension cord! No more dish towels! No more draft!

Wonderful, right?

Well, not so much. Like I said, the porch is brick, so as luck would have it, the new socket had to be located – not on the porch – but around on the north side of the house – the dark side of the house that is surrounded by dense cedar shrubs and visited by critters that like to explore our nearby compost bin. So now, instead of unplugging the lights in the well lit and warm (although drafty) dining room, we have to go outside to the unlit, wild kingdom side of the house to unplug the blooming lights in the dark every night. And it’s still cold out there this time of year!

I was beginning to not like the lights.

That is, until another electrician offered, “You don’t have to go out there at night. There’s a thing for that.”

“There’s a thing for that?”

“There’s a thing for that.”

“What do you mean?”

“Whatcha need is to get yourself a wireless remote outlet out there, plug the lights into that, and badda bing! You turn the lights off from inside the house with the remote.”

Are you kidding me?

Who new?

There’s a thing for that!

“Wow. Time marches on,” I think with a grin as I hit a button – click off the lights, and go to bed.

Circles of Life

There is a pose in yoga called padahastasana where the yogi bends low in a forward fold and tucks the palm of each hand under the sole of the corresponding foot, creating a ring of energy with the body. Breathing and resting in this position is remarkable as you form a singular orb with your body and limbs, basking in your own vitality.

It is literally a circle of life.

Such a simple thing, but quite profound.

Recently, padahastasana offered a nudge to think about other infinite loops that hold meaning worth minding.

They bubble up – some of great substance, some incidental, some large, some tiny, but all orbit a measure of joy with their roundness.

The tiny entrance to the bird house where the wrens take residence every spring

our dog Ollie’s collar, clicked closed, holding promise of exploration and adventure

a Poor Man’s Raisin bundt cake made and devoured every Christmas, honoring our mom and grandma

the crusty knot in the maple tree that canopies the house from summer heat

the smooth rim of a coffee mug that warms the hands while offering morning sustenance

a worn wedding band encircling the finger for nearly thirty-one years

the faded rug in the classroom corner that softens the floor for bodies that share their lives at morning meetings

the pebbled sidewalk that wraps around the neighborhood for one third of a mile, offering an easy walking path

a potter’s wheel

this morning’s full moon and

the seeded center of a sunflower growing in the garden

the waxy cradle around a flickering candle flame

the tiny rainbow beads thrown from a prism hanging in a south-facing window

hot onion rings at the local pub

a warm oatmeal raisin cookie, and of course

the summer sun.

I wonder –

what are your circles of life?

It’s Not What You Think

During our focus on Presidents Day, my first graders supposed that the reason children are not eligible for the presidency has little to do with lack of requisite skills that one might hope for in a leader. For them, the reason was pragmatic and quite simple – it is because the furniture in the Oval Office is way too big.


They were surprisingly confident about signing reams of papers that would undoubtedly be part of a normal work week as Commander in Chief, and although going to meetings would be boring, that would be grudgingly tolerated as an unavoidable part of the job. Naturally, riding on Air Force One would be a blast, only to be surpassed by unlimited access to the full-size bowling alley and movie theater in the White House.

But the office furniture? Hmmmm…

So big.

So looming.

So formidable.

Hoisting oneself onto that skittish rolling chair to then feasibly reach the adjacent towering, oversized desktop?

Not going to happen.

So close, yet so far…

Who knew?

The nature of this exchange and my proximity to unadorned perspectives of six-year-olds brought me back to my own premature conclusions about requisite job skills and possible employment hurdles.

By mid-first grade, I had unwaveringly decided that I was to be a teacher. I loved everything about school and most especially my teacher, who let me cry on her lap each September morning while I adjusted to our family’s late summer move to a new town, new home, and new school. Miss Meade was utterly kind and patient, and her compassion made a lasting impression; I was determined to be like her and do what she did – for a lifetime.

Once my career choice was cemented, I concluded that success was merely a matter of observing her and making sure that I could do everything that she did in the classroom each day. Within days, I felt I was qualified for the job.

Teach reading? I was currently one of the better readers in the class.

Handwriting instruction? I prided myself on neatness and accuracy.

Spelling? Not a problem – I was one of the go-to spellers in the grade.

Math? Um…well… that one was going to be a bit of a struggle, but I was sure I could brush up on my skills to make them passable.

Recess duty? Just stand there and dodge wayward kickballs every so often – that seemed easy enough.

Only one obstacle remained as a looming barrier between me and my dream job.

Tearing paper.

Yup, tearing paper. And this was not going to be an easy one to master, by a long shot.

Miss Meade could fold a stack of ten, yellow lined papers in half, and miraculously tear them in straight line down the middle every Friday for our spelling test – without fail, and probably with her eyes closed, (although I had not seen her do that). I was thoroughly mesmerized by this feat of dexterity and precision, and knew for certain that it was an obvious necessity for the job. After all, one cannot always rely on the convenience of scissors, can they?

At home, I practiced tearing paper in a straight line weekly, daily, hourly, to no avail, balling up one failure after another. Sure, maybe once in a while I might get a straight cleave part of the way down the fold, but to make it appear as though the test papers were cut by scissors when in fact they were expertly sheared by hand? Well, my samples didn’t look like that at all – they weren’t even close. My scraps were raggedy and haphazard and my futile fingers were not strong enough to gain proper purchase for expert shearing. And besides, I was running out of paper. At the job interview, would they let me get by with scissors instead? I doubted it, and I was too worried about the answer to ask.

I was doomed.

Months of uncertainty rolled by, and before long months softened into years and eventually time smoothed out the worry. I am not sure what came first, my ability to tear paper in a straight line, or my realization that this was probably not a job requirement after all.

What didn’t change was my dream to be a teacher. I followed that course to fruition, and here I am today, still tearing straight lines and loving most of the rest of it as well, just as I thought I would.

I suppose that – in years to come – our potential presidents will realize their vision by following their dreams as well. But they’ll have to grow into the furniture first.

Hardly Spineless


whose worn pages have been turned from cover to cover

remain as old friends

hanging around in your mind and on your shelf

lingering in your home and in

your humanity

making you look good, even after their story has long ago unfolded.

In the easy silence that follows,

they know,


you do too,

what has transpired between the two of you

and what you have shared and where you have been together

and what happened there

and when,

and how it changed you

from that point on.

Tucked into nooks and crannies,

proliferating on tables and trays,

their colors

and upright


wordy spines

call out to the curious

and ignite the memory

of we who once chose

to dive into

those papery leaves.

Adventurous yet inert

expansive but compact

persistent or occasional

fragile and robust

disposable but indespensible.


is a life living

with books.

Coming Home

Coming Home‘ by SaRidie

What does it mean to come home?

Is it simply arriving at a familiar destination, or can it not also be a notion of unique understanding?

Is it a fleeting moment in time or might it also offer being present to another over a lifetime of years?

Perhaps the thought of – or the nearness to – something sacred may be all you need to be at home – to feel the relief of belonging and the closeness of something meaningful.

Sometimes mere proximity is enough…

Coming home is

the first snowfall of winter, just beyond the windowpane this morning.

It’s the cadence of breath from the dog and the warm body sharing the bed.

It’s the cuckoo clock – marking time in its own weight, measuring the years of a family,

and a sunrise walk with the dog when the moon is still there too, guiding your way.

A box of Girl Scout cookies left on the front porch by a neighbor

and the familiar creak of the stairs, and sound of breakfast puttering in the kitchen are part of it,

and so are hands that fit just so around a warm mug in the morning.

It’s a “Hello?” just inside the backdoor when one of the kids comes home,

and a good book that waits with you at the airport, or the train station, or the dentist’s office.

Coming home is the the nascent sun, gaining strength and trajectory as spring draws near,

and also the patient remnants of last year’s garden – scraggly and limp detritus, wanting for re-creation.

Coming home is stepping into the quiet of the classroom before the new day begins, and loving who will be there soon,

and the thought of an afternoon nap to revive.

It is the dog at the front window, watchful for your homecoming, and a comfy couch waiting to receive your heft.

Coming home is snippets and ruminations and slices

for a new March,

of writing and reading

with you.