On the Old Year
You know what? The world didn’t end, and overall, it wasn’t a bad year. If it wasn’t for the distinct possibility that next year will be equally good–if not better–I’d be sad to see the end of 2012.
I was thinking the other day of a conversation I had some 25 years ago with my younger sister Jane. We
were in my old car (a two-tone two-door 1978 Mercury Zephyr, if you must know) driving across the green bridge between Topsham and Brunswick in the snowy dark–every detail of this moment has stuck with me for years, it’s so important–when I said, apropos of nothing, I want so many things, and none of them are things. To which my sister replied, I do, too. Well, Jane’s off in Manila working for the State Department. I’m on the side of a mountain in central Maine watching state plows strobe past. She, I think, is closer to those many things than I am right now…but sometimes, my universe expands.
This year it was with people. New people I met through ones I already knew; new people I met through new people; new people I met serendipitously.
For instance: way back in March, along with that most fantastic couple, the novelist Suzanne Strempek Shea and her husband the newspaperman Tommy Shea, I saw the Saw Doctors at Mohegan Sun. At the show we were seated next to Christine Feeney and her husband Ger, another couple of avid Saw Doctors fans. So avid that right now, the Feeneys are in Ireland for the holidays (they used to live there), where, of course, they had tickets for one of the Docs’ shows on their winter tour. (Envious? Oh, yes.) When Suzanne, Tommy and I went backstage after the Mohegan Sun show, I met new drummer Rickie O’Neill, and though I’d already met the others, I got a kiss from Davey Carton, and got to discuss Flannery O’Connor with Leo Moran. “A Good Man is Hard to Find”: distairbing. I’ll tell you what: if I wasn’t in love with the man before, I sure am now.
Of course, the highlight of the year had to have been the trip to the UK. Of course. I went for Stephen Benatar’s publication party for the reissue of The Man on the Bridge. While there, I met his partner, Sam Robbins, who is incredibly good-looking, an interesting dancer, who knows all the words to all the songs in Evita, and paints. Paints! Stephen had a painting of Sam’s which fascinated me–all swirls of jewel-tones and gold leaf, and textured in such a way that I reacted to it viscerally and tactilely. I wanted to touch it. Desperately. Even though I knew I shouldn’t. I didn’t really understand my reaction, either, programmed as I am to understand representational art. This painting made me think of water, though I’ve never seen water quite that color; but there was nothing in it that I could point to and say that’s the ocean, right there–see? That’s a wave. However, imagine my surprise and delight when earlier this month a package arrived from the Dynamic Duo in London: my Christmas present–Sam’s painting. It’s now on the wall in my bedroom, the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning. Oh, I’m in love with the both of them, too.
Through Stephen, too, I met the inimitable John Ford. Or, as I’ve come to think of him, John-from-Islington. He was my savior at the publication party in the first hour or so before Stephen arrived. He squired me around, introduced me to others, made sure my glass was full. I’m fairly certain he must have recognized instinctively that I’m an easily frightened person; he took charge, and was incredibly solicitous. Since then, he’s been kind enough to forward some brochures and postcards from his autumn opera safari, so that my kids at school can have more places in the world to think about. What a delightful person! All right, then, I admit it: I’m in love with him as well.
Julia Hawkes-Moore, novelist, gourmet cook, and all-around magnificent hostess: I had known her through the discussion boards of Qi, the British quiz show. When I sent her a message, asking if we might meet up and do lunch when I was in England, her reply was simply come for the weekend! Can you imagine? She made arrangements for me to meet up with her friend–now my friend–Roger O’Neill at one of the park-and-ride lots on the ring road outside of Oxford, then he and I drove up to her in Bromyard. What a weekend! Food, books, talk, drink, explorations, gardens. Thanks to her, I also met her BFF (Julia’s words–letters–not mine), Jo Morris, who makes damson gin. I’m not kidding here. And forager jam, which is to die for. I don’t think I’ve laughed so much, or eaten so much, in a single weekend in my life. If she’ll have me, I’ll show up on Julia’s front step anytime for more of the same. Yep. In love. You know it.
23 people walked out of Goring-on-Thames on the rainy first day of the White Horses Walk, organized by Oysterband’s John Jones. I was one of them. I’d met only John before, and to tell the truth, looking out of the rain-streaked window of the B & B early that Monday morning, I told myself, easily-frightened person that I am, that I didn’t have to do this. And then I told myself that I did. So I marched out into the wet and met up with the bunch of strangers…and by the time we hit
Nettlebed late that afternoon, wet, muddy and ready for a pint at the White Hart, they weren’t strangers. Lesley Edwards told me about her YouTube videos, most of which I’d seen long before I met her; she also clued me in about the Oysterband’s Canadian tour in the fall. Lesley Collett and Steve Allen talked to me about walks around York, and underwater archeology. Colin shared his gummy bears. Trish and Stephen made jokes about machetes. Anne and Paul did a quick-change in a car park out of gaiters and boots into shorts and sandals which taught me a lesson I’ll never forget. They all let me celebrate Lesley’s birthday at dinner. Else refused to take my seat in the front row at the show at the intermission, because she’d see other shows that week and I wouldn’t. Lauren gave me a ride back to Goring at midnight in her car, mud and all. I had to see them off the next morning on their second day of walking, even though I couldn’t go–and I got hugs all around, and promised–promised–I’d be back. Because I loved them all: who wouldn’t?
Through Lesley Edwards, I ended up meeting Marg Thomas and her husband Jeremy, who live just outside of Huntsville, Ontario. You remember Lesley giving me the scoop on the Oysterband tour of Canada? How’s that for serendipity: Lesley introduced me to Marg online once we’d determined I was going to the Huntsville show, and Marg, in her infinite kindness, offered me an air mattress in her dining room. Stay
for a couple of days, she said. (No, it wasn’t her fault her lovely huge Newfie puppy bit a hole in the air mattress!). Marg and I stayed after the show for drinks in the dressing room with the band, where I met long-time fan Michael Schneider, who celebrated his 50th birthday by introducing the show (and apparently searching out passable sauvignon blanc for Ian Telfer), then spent the next day exploring. Word of advice: if you want to see the countryside, go with a woman who plows it in a big red truck in the winter. Marg knew where everything I should see was, and she introduced me to butter tarts. How could it have been any better? Well…maybe if I hadn’t ended up being trapped in the depths of a partially deflated air mattress…but never mind…I love her anyway…
So look at all this! I’ve been thinking about how my universe has been made bigger with all these really neat people entering into it this year, and once again I’m reminded: I really am the luckiest person in the world. How could I not be, with all these new people to love? If there’s one resolution I’m making for 2013, it’s to keep up with these new friends. If my luck holds, I’ll make some new ones this coming year as well.
Happy New Year, all. I love you guys. You know it.