Reading and Writing in Nantucket



A few days before the summer solstice,
I traveled with a group of women friends to the island of Nantucket for my first visit. We stayed at the  Star of the Sea hostel near Surfside Beach, a 20-minute bike ride from Nantucket village. The hostel was originally built as a lifesaving station in 1873 to respond to the hundreds of shipwrecks that occurred during the brutal storms that have stirred the seas around Nantucket.

IMG_6468During our three days on the island, we consumed the best raw oysters I have ever tasted, drank wine and ate chocolate while roasting hot dogs around a bonfire, biked from Sconset to Madaket, and attended a wonderful array of talks and readings by notable authors including Pulitzer-prize winning Irish poet Paul Muldoon; Ishmael Beah, author of A Long Way Gone, Memoirs of a Boy Soldier; Azar Nafisi, professor and author of Reading Lolita in Iran, as well as three wonderful and prolific female novelists: Ann Hood, Alice Hoffman and Jodi Picoult. All were part of the fourth annual Nantucket Book Festival.

We also became acquainted with Typewriter Rodeo, a quartet of poets from Austin, Texas. For the last few years they have traveled the country with their manual typewriters typing original poems on any topic requested. I asked Jodi, one of the four, to write about “Hope After Betrayal.”


“Oh,” she said, and I couldn’t help but think that she had also endured a first-hand experience with the topic– her sympathy was palpable.

She thought quietly for one moment and got to work, her fingers flying across the keys. Within minutes, she handed me this poem:

Hope After Betrayal

IMG_6460There’s that point where you think
This is it– I’m done with trust, or hope, or any
sense of goodness in the world
And everything is spiraling downwards
And it all
But oh. That sweet distant friend, Time.
Who holds your hand, and pulls you onward
Past days, past weeks, past months
Until one morning, you wake up and realize
Somehow, there’s been a shift. Subtle, but there.
And the bleak bleakness is just slightly rosier
And on the very edge of morning
                              Is just the tiniest fleck of hope.

Yes, the weekend brought one of those flecks. Thank you always to my women friends, and to Jodi and Nantucket.



IMG_6440IMG_6426IMG_6470IMG_6451IMG_6414For more on the Nantucket Book Festival, see:        For more on the TypewriterRodeo, see:

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Three Syllables

swimming through the deep 
waves breaking.


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JP Reads Silent(ish) Reading Party

IMG_0060JP Reads, first launched in the fall of 2012, is a community-wide literary celebration that joins together the Jamaica Plain (JP) neighborhood of Boston to read a single book by hosting an author talk, varied events and shared discussions addressing themes in the book. This year the volunteer Advisory Board, composed of Jamaica Plain residents with representation from JP’s libraries and community organizations, have chosen Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles, winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction. Miller worked as a teacher of Greek and Latin as she wrote the book. The novel, set in Greece, re-imagines Homer’s classic, The Iliad by exploring the love story between Patroclus and Achilles.


Last Sunday, JP Reads and Social Artists & Writers hosted the first-ever free Silent(ish) Reading Party at the Loring-Greenough House located on Centre Street in Jamaica Plain. The Loring-Greenough House was constructed in 1760 by Commodore Loring and owned by the Greenough family from 1783 until 1924. The Jamaica Plain Tuesday Club purchased the house in 1924 and has remained the steward ever since. The Silent(ish) Reading Party was one of many social, cultural, historical and educational activities that has been hosted by the House since 2008.

All who attended the party were invited to enjoy the sunny window seats, cozy chairs andIMG_0059 plush carpets in the historic house. Participants could bring any book they wanted to read though copies of The Song of Achilles, the Iliad, and related books on Greece and mythology were available. Everyone also circled through the kitchen at least once during the afternoon for a warm drink, some home-made treats and to ask a fellow book-lover, “What are you reading?”















For more about JP Reads, see:                                                       For more about the Loring-Greenough House, see:


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GAMBA Zine: “One Coffee to Go”

Containers in S. End 005“In October, we moved into a larger apartment in a triple-decker on a treeless, trash-strewn block miles from any hope of gentrification. With no furniture to fill the empty spaces, we stacked your books to make a coffee table and scattered pillows across the floor. When summer rolled around again and the utility bills eased, we used our extra cash to buy second-hand furniture or repair the cast-offs we scavenged from the street. You bought a marked-down coffee maker with a timer so that we could linger longer in bed. Most weekends we forgot all about it until we smelled the coffee burning.”


-Excerpt from “One Coffee to Go” by Debka Colson published in Issue 3 of GAMBA Zine, February 2015

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Details: Gaudi’s La Pedrera, Barcelona, Spain


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Tara & Her Leaf“Sonam’s village is nestled in a steep valley beside a river pregnant with monsoon rains. Dogs, children, and chickens tumble over each other between narrow rows of houses. The Himalayas hide behind the clouds.”

Excerpt from “Namaste” by Debka Colson. Photo by Tara Colson Leaning. For the rest of the story, see:!debka-colson-and-tara-colson-leaning/c1gmz

About Passing Through Journal (from the website):

“Started as a xeroxed zine in the mid-1990s, Passing Through has evolved into an online collaboration between art and writing that seeks to capture, twice a year, the transient nature of our lives. Passing Through was originally intended as a printed venue for travelers to share their stories about daring and uncommon ways of travel, but its current intention is to focus on the collaborative aspect between art and writing with a similar thematic element.

The ‘road less traveled,’ however interpreted, is a significant aspect of this journal, as is movement, intersections, wanderlust , nomadic people, tucked away corners, cities, odd homes, scratch-on-the-map towns, wildernesses, and rites of passage.

Writing is concise, around 350 words per page, with a preference for nonfiction. The art tells a story on its own, but is something new when placed next to creative writing. Writers and artists work separately, and the editor brings the two together, but sometimes the art and writing come from the same person.”


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Tara’s World: Crescent Lake, Maine

Image 6ImageImage 1Image 5Image 2Image 4Image 3 All photos are by Tara C.L. (age 15) and are copyrighted with all rights reserved.

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Too Late for a Lifetime


I have been divorced twice and in love more times than I dare to admit. My mother has been married to the same man for over 60 years.

I grow older and the road narrows. I have fewer choices now than I once did and some possibilities will never be open to me. When I was young, I couldn’t imagine staying with the same person for my entire life. At the other end of experience, I now wish I knew what it was like to love and be loved for a lifetime.

A dear friend told me recently that she thinks we must always give up a part of ourselves to be with another. I agree and yet, how do you know when you’ve crossed the line and given up too much?

There are clues, though it seems many of us are very good at ignoring them. Last night I told my two adolescent girls about the caged canaries that workers would carry with them into the coal mines. If lethal gases were present the canary would die before the gases killed the miners. My canary is creativity. When I feel no urge to create, when the images and the words and the ideas no longer fill me up and flow out with joy, I know I have entered dangerous territory. One’s body and soul needs to be fed to create.

Falling in love feeds the soul, but new love– that wild romantic erotic love– never lives forever. It survives best on mystery and secrets, projection and illusion. It is Neptunian and lovely and, often, quite deceptive. So what do old lovers know that I don’t? How did they manage to traverse that heady early terrain to reach the solid ground they stand on? Surely they must also encounter weeks or months or years when they feel they have given up too much. How do they recapture the parts of themselves that they have lost without also sacrificing their love?

I am listening to my creativity. It has been breathless for too long. It’s time to nurture it back to full voice, to full song.


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The Wisdom of Whales

IMG_3501There have been many times in my life when I believed the main reason I was put on this earth was to learn patience. Often, the second I walk out the door following a job interview, I long desperately to turn back around and say to my potential employer: “Can we just be frank? Are you going to hire me or not?”

There are also the sad or sticky moments that inevitably rise with a friend or lover that bring tension, uncertainty or confusion. The bottom line in those instances is that I don’t want to see anyone get hurt (including me). I wish I could ask the other person (and I sometimes do) what I can do to fix it. But, like it or not, I know human emotions are not mathematical equations—the outcome is never certain, which is both too bad and extremely fortunate.

Sometimes it helps to take the long view and to try to step out of my own cozy but confining skin. It might be easier to be patient if I could remember that whatever I’m feeling today will be different tomorrow. This is not to say that feelings are unimportant. For me they offer lots of muck to wallow in. After a great deal of angst I’ve learned to allow the creatures from my black lagoon to simply tell me what they need to say, to rant and rave if they must. Like the best of friends I try not to push them away but simply listen without judgment. After those unruly feelings have said their piece they’re usually willing to quiet down and give up a little space beside them on the bench.

There are also moments when feelings can cast a glow on forms and figures outside my (perceived?) boundaries. Like Scrooge’s Ghost of Christmas Present raising a torch in the night, their light offers the chance to move beyond myself toward a more expansive IMG_1657communion. When this happens, I recall how blessed I am to be on this unpredictable ride. I am also reminded how little control I have over anything. Perhaps that also includes my own, seemingly intractable, impatience.

Sometimes I find solace thinking about other creatures on this earth and wondering how they face life’s challenges. Is the hummingbird as impatient as he looks, flitting from one flower to the next? Is his attention span really so short or is he on some quest for sweet enlightenment? And then there is the whale. Imagine rising over the tops of waves touched by sunlight only to sink again into depths darker than most of us have ever visited. I find myself projecting an unplumbed capacity for patience upon those grandest of creatures. Perhaps, if I manage to master lessons in patience in this life, I will return as a whale in the next.

I’ve been captivated this week by Antonio Tabucchi’s description of “A Whale’s View of Man” in his book titled The Woman of Porto Pim, which offers an interesting perspective on the human experience:

“Always so feverish, and with those long limbs waving about. Not rounded at all, so they don’t have the majesty of complete, rounded shapes sufficient unto themselves, but little moving heads where all their strange life seems to be concentrated. They arrive sliding across the sea, but not swimming, as if they were birds almost, and they bring death with frailty and graceful ferocity. They’re silent for long periods, but then shout at each other with unexpected fury, a tangle of sounds that hardly vary and don’t have the perfection of our basic cries: the call, the love cry, the death lament. And how pitiful their lovemaking must be: and bristly, brusque almost, immediate, without a soft covering of fat, made easy by their threadlike shape which excludes the heroic difficulties of union and the magnificent and tender efforts to achieve it.

They don’t like water, they’re afraid of it, and it’s hard to understand why they bother with it. Like us they travel in herds, but they don’t bring their females, one imagines they must be elsewhere, but always invisible. Sometimes they sing, but only for themselves, and their song isn’t a call to others, but a sort of longing lament. They soon get tired and when evening falls they lie down on the little islands that take them about and perhaps fall asleep or watch the moon. They slide silently by and you realize they are sad.”

The Woman of Porto Pim by Antonio Tabucchi was published by Archipelago Books, a not-for-profit press devoted to publishing excellent translations of classic and contemporary world literature. For more information, please go to:

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Arnold Arboretum, Massachusetts


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