Woohoo! My edition of Green Mountain Stories–28 short stories by acclaimed writer Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, published originally in 1887 under the title A Humble Romance and Other Stories–was released officially on May 23 by Onion River Press located in Burlington, VT.
I was in Burlington last Thursday evening, May 25, for the inaugural book launch, hosted by Phoenix Books.
This week, I’m in Brattleboro, VT, where Freeman started her career as a writer. I am honored beyond measure to be here. Brattleboro has held a special place in my heart since I started my Freeman research in 1973, and my love grows deeper and deeper with every return visit. This time, I feel as if I am bringing Freeman back home to the Green Mountain State.
Freeman spoke about her love for Brattleboro, over and over again, right up to the very end of her life. Just a few months before her death on March 13, 1930, she wrote to a close friend from her Brattleboro years:
“Oh how wonderfully beautiful it was in Brattleboro. I used to walk to the head of High Street, and stand and look at the mountain in winter. The beauty in Brattleboro made a great difference in my life.
“And summer nights, when the moon rose over the mountain and the whipperwills sang on the river bank, and the river sang! Joy of youth outside that beauty–so I made the most of it, and I think it became a part of myself that remains young and defiestime.” (Letter 509 to Allie Morse, The Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. Edited with Biographical/Critical Introductions and Annotations by Brent L. Kendrick. Scarecrow Press, 1985, pp. 431-32.)
The publication of Green Mountain Stories is a watershed moment in Freeman studies. From this point forward, Freeman will be anchored forever to her literary home, Vermont: the Green Mountain State. From this point forward, Freeman scholars will be compelled to give Freeman’s formative Brattleboro years in-depth exploration.
You can read all about Brattleboro’s celebration of Vermont’s most famous writer by clicking on any part of the image below.
Thanks for reading and for helping me bring Mary E. Wilkins Freeman back home to her Green Mountain State!
Last night for dinner, I had a hankering for something. I didn’t know quite what. I wanted something light but rich. Is that a contradiction or what? I guess it depends on how you look at it. To me, the two extremes seemed not only desirable but also possible.
Beyond that, all that I knew about my hankering was that I wanted it to be maybe just a little lemony and maybe just a little grassy and with maybe just a hint of anise or licorice. In that instant of maybe’s, I knew that my hankering needed to honor dill. Fresh dill. Fragrant dill.
Simply put, my stomach was growling me to pursue an entrée that was light, rich, lemony and dilly.
I cannot help but pause here and ask:
“Within those parameters, what entrée would you have plated for yourself?”
And, of course, you have every right to pause here and ask the same of me:
“Within those parameters, what entrée did you plate for yourself?”
And, as you know fully well, I will answer your question fully.
I’m always telling friends about my dinners, often sending them photos, whereupon they invariably message me that I need to feature my food on Instagram, whereupon I always ask:
“Does that mean that I have achieved the culinary level of Food Porn?”
I’m still waiting for answers.
But I won’t keep you waiting. I will tell you what I made.
As I drove to the grocery store to get some fresh ingredients–the essence of everything that I plate up–I started thinking about pasta in vodka sauce, but a red sauce seemed too heavy. How about pasta in a white vodka sauce? Perfect. Butter and cream equal richness. I could add marinated artichoke hearts for a subtle tang. The focal point could be ruffle-edged ravioli, domed with ground chicken. Stir in some freshly squeezed lemon juice. Top with an abundance of fresh dill. My. Perfect. Plate. And it was my perfect plate for that night’s dinner. Light. Rich. Lemony. Dilly.
As I sat at my table, feeling ever so satisfied with the luscious entrée that I created without benefit of recipe, I floated suddenly out of my mountain-top dining room. I floated out of the Shenandoah Valley where I live. I floated out of 2023.
I landed in 1957. I landed in my West Virginia boyhood hometown. I landed in the yard where I had played so often with Stevie, a childhood friend.
I went right past the galvanized tubs, always there in his yard, always with one or more catfish swimming around in fresh clean water to soften the muddiness inherent in their taste.
I went right past the foldable, aluminum-frame, green-and-white webbed lawn chairs, circling a ribbed, split-oak basket filled with corn, hands of all ages rhythmically shucking, tossing the shucks and silks into brown paper sacks getting fuller and fuller.
I went right past the two side-by-side mulberry trees–umbrellas above us–as we sat beneath, competing with the darting black-capped, gray catbirds for the ripest, thumb-sized mulberries certain to stain our clothes as much as they purpled our teeth and tongues.
I went right past the stone granary–stifling hot inside from the sun outside, blazing down on the uninsulated tin roof. On the lower floor, corn drying in chicken-wire bins; on the upper, walnuts blackening on thick, chestnut floors.
I went right past Stevie’s aproned mother, flinging rainbows of dishwater into the kitchen-stoop air.
I went right past all of those things.
Instead, I floated to a warm, misty summer rain falling on a large patch of dill, large beyond the need to measure, but at least 30 feet by 30 feet–large enough for two young boys to lose themselves.
Stevie and I would strip down to our skivvies and run with wild, barefoot abandon through the patch of dill, as mindless of our innocence as we were mindful of the heady fragrance scenting the air and our bodies as we rubbed against the dill on those summer days when misty rain fell.
And so, it was. My impromptu dinner–built around little more than a hankering that begged for fulfillment–took me back to that self-same patch of dill. It took me back with such vibrant and vivid certainty that if I had a patch of dill right here on my mountain and if the warm summer rain fell upon it now as it fell upon it then, I vow that I would–in this, my 75th summer–strip down to my skivvies and run barefoot through the enchanted patch, confident that my rubbings against the dill would burst wide open those magical days of childhood innocence, as fragrant as ever again.
When I started my research on acclaimed American short story writer Mary E. Wilkins Freeman, in the mid-1970s, I made many research trips to the towns where she lived. Randolph, Massachusetts, where she was born in 1852. Brattleboro, Vermont, where she moved with her family in 1867, where she launched her distinguished literary career, and where she remained until the death of her mother (1880) and her father (1883). A year or so later, she returned to Randolph. Metuchen, New Jersey, where she moved after her marriage to Charles Manning Freeman in 1902 and where she remained until her death in 1930.
Without fail, during those research trips, I would stop people on the street:
“Hi, I’m doing research on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and …”
Since those early days of my research, several major contributions to Freeman studies have been published, including my The Infant Sphinx: Collected Letters of Mary of Wilkins Freeman (Scarecrow, 1985), praised by The Journal of Modern Literature as “the most complete record to date of Freeman’s life as writer and woman.” More recent is the noteworthy collection of scholarly essays New Perspectives on Mary E. Wilkins Freeman: Reading with and against the Grain. Eds. Stephanie Palmer, Myrto Drizou, and Cécile Roudeau (Edinburgh University Press, 2023).
Since those early days of my research, Freeman has regained her status as a significant nineteenth century writer, especially among lovers of the American short story tradition. More and more people understand why she was the first recipient of the William Dean Howells Gold Medal for Distinguished Work in Fiction:
Also, more and more people understand why the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters dedicated its bronze doors to “The Memory of Mary E. Wilkins Freeman and the Women Writers of America”:
Even so, Freeman is still not the household name that she was at the turn of the 20th century when she and Mark Twain were America’s most beloved writers.
But that’s about to change, especially in Vermont.
On May 23, a book will be released that will anchor her to Vermont, now and forever.
I’m the author, and I’ll be headed to Burlington, Vermont, for the official May 25 book launch, hosted by Onion River Press and Phoenix Books.
The book is a short story collection by Mary E. Wilkins Freeman. It was originally published under the title A Humble Romance and Other Stories (1887). But it was supposed to be published as Green Mountain Stories. Now, 136 years later, the collection is being published under its intended title, Green Mountain Stories, with an extensive critical commentary providing the intriguing backstory. This publication anchors Freeman solidly, unequivocally, and forever to Vermont—The Green Mountain State—where she launched her acclaimed literary career. Vermont can now claim Freeman as its own, just as exclusively as Freeman claimed Vermont as her own, from the start of her career until the end. The publication marks the beginning of Freeman’s long journey back home to Vermont.
I hope that you can join me at the book launch–especially if you are a Vermonter–so that you can hear all about it in person!
You can preorder your copy of the book now, using the link below:
That’s how many readers I’ve had since my blog went weekly on December 28, 2021. That’s how many countries my readers represent. That’s how long I spent writing the blog posts. That’s the bed where I wrote them. And I’m the writer. No foolin’.
NOW, 57 of those essays, reflecting the best of the best, have been published in a book that is exquisite from cover to cover and every page of the 346 pages in between. It’s available on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or you can order it from your favorite local bookstore! (Note: if you are ordering a hardcover–my recommendation–from Amazon, ignore the “Temporarily out of Stock” statement. The hardcover version is “print on demand” but well worth the several days’ delay.)
TAKE A LOOK AT THE BRILLIANT COVER!
Surely you recognize ME! I’m smackdab in the middle of my bed writing a blog post about foolin’ around with some well-known writers. Mark Twain and Truman Capote are on the floor at the foot of the bed, blowing smoke rings at one another. Imagine! They’ve got some nerve! Acclaimed artist/illustrator Mike Caplanis gets credit for the caricature based on one of the book’s essays, “Foolin’ Around in Bed with Famous (and Not-So-Famous) Writers” (249-53).
WHAT’S THE BOOK ALL ABOUT? See for yourself.
“Fresh and refreshing through and through.” I love it! Other ADVANCE PRAISES grace the dust jacket of the hardcover book.
“A MUST READ” impresses me so much that I just repeated it and made it all caps and all bold! Dayumn! I like it so much that I want to shout it again: “A MUST READ.” (Thank you, Cheryl Thompson-Stacy!)
IN BED: MY YEAR OF FOOLIN’ AROUND is available in hardcover, paperback, and Kindle. I recommend the hardcover. It costs a little more, but it feels so much better than the paperback. What can I say other than there’s something extraordinarily extraordinary about a book that has its own dust jacket!
The publication of this book is an historic and timely solution for every gift-giving occasion that might be coming your way for the rest of the year, if not for the rest of your life. And let me add: may your life be long, healthy, and prosperous and may you keep right on buying copy after copy of IN BED.It’s the perfect gift. Right here. Right now. You do not need to look any further. And while you’re buying multiple copies for gift-giving, remember that IN BED is also the perfect gift for all of your friends … and enemies.
Thank you, DEAR READERS, for all of your support. I have no idea how you found your way into my life, but knowing that you are out there reading my posts strengthens me and uplifts me whenever I need to be strengthened and uplifted.
Time’s a wastin’. ORDER YOUR COPY TODAY on Amazon or Barnes & Noble. Or you can or order it from your favorite local bookstore!
The rain was steady and heavy all night. I say “all night,” but I’m not really certain when it started. It’s not as if it awakened me, and I looked at the clock and whispered to my sleeping self, “Ah, it’s raining.” But I could hear it, even as it lulled me into a deeper and more restful slumber.
When I awakened, the raindrops were pearling their way down the window panes. As I lay in bed–looking and listening–I knew that Plan B would govern my day.
Plan A had been to continue my yard work. This year, my focus is more on “taking out” than on “putting in.” I have lots and lots of shrubs–especially rhododendrons–that have outgrown the spaces where I planted them. For some, a heavy pruning will restore their vitality and their appearance. For others, pruning will neither restore their vitality nor their beauty. They have to be removed. So that’s what I’ve been doing. Pruning. Removing. Hauling truckload after truckload to the landfill. That was my Plan A.
But I had checked the weather forecast before going to bed and knew the strong likelihood of rain.
That was when I came up with Plan B. I could spend the day doing some extra indoor biking. Then, I could start rearranging the artwork in my office–a task that I have needed to tackle for months, but one that I have managed to avoid doing with full success. And betwixt and between, I could make Ukrainian Sauerkraut Soup–perfect for a chilly, rainy-day dinner–and I could bake Jumbo Sourdough Banana Nut Muffins–a perfect way to use up this week’s sourdough discard.
It was settled. Plan B, it would be.
But before I started to execute that plan, I perused my smartphone news. As I did, I was ever aware of the rain, still falling hypnotically. For a second, I considered stopping the pendulum on my grandfather clock so that the only sound would be the rhythm of the falling rain. Then, in the next second, I looked out the window onto my deck. I could see the raindrops dropping one by one off the scalloped edges of my Asian patio umbrella–all wet with green bamboo, red sun, pink blossoms, and blue happiness. And for another second, I considered trying to count the drops as they fell, starting at the 6:30 position on the umbrella, proceeding clockwise, counting every sliding raindrop, working my way back home, and then beginning anew.
Somehow, I was brought back to the reality of my grandfather clock still ticking. I had not stopped the clock as I had considered doing. I was brought back to the reality of the raindrops still falling off the scalloped edges of my Asian patio umbrella. I had not counted the raindrops as I had considered doing.
I was brought back to the haunting reality that my day was wasting away.
I still needed to meditate so that I could get started with my Plan B. Meditation does not come easy for me, even after years of daily practice. I’m finding, though, that I can sit with myself for longer and longer periods of time without my mind being pulled in the direction of all the other things that I could be doing.
But on this day, when the “all” of the day seemed to be wrapped up in the “all” of the rain, I decided to sit for a shorter-than-usual spell. Ten minutes. No more. I had things to do on my Plan B.
I was drawn to an 11-minute mindfulness session. Surely, I could spare an extra minute, especially since the title tugged at me: “Human Being, Not Human Doing.”
“If you’re like most people, you probably feel like you have to be constantly doing something.”
I was stunned. How on earth did acclaimed meditation coach Lynne Goldberg know so perfectly how I was feeling? How I feel so often?
In her meditation session, she explores the roots of our obsession with doing, tracing the origins all the way back to our childhoods when others praised us for doing things that we were good at doing. Art. Dance. Music. Sports. Wordplay. She continues her exploration–even into relationships–noting that the praise we receive for the things that we do begins to validate us and our self-worth.
And then she drives home her point. Validation through doing is external, controlled by others. It leaves us with the feeling that we have to continue to do–to perform–in order to get those accolades. To feel loved. To maintain that sense of self-worth. Interestingly enough, we’re not even aware that it’s happening.
“At your essence, you are a human being, not a human doing. You are loved and worthy and enough exactly as you are. The only approval that you need is that of your own.”
“Well, of course,” I say to myself. The notion of loving yourself–of approving yourself–goes all the way back to the ancient Greeks even if it did not enter mainstream psyche and pop culture until the Beat Generation of the 1950s and the Hippies of the 1960s.
More, I’m not quite certain that I agree with Goldberg’s tack of tracing our emphasis on doing to the praise that we received from doing things well as long ago as our infancy. It seems to me that we need to consider other possibilities. The joy and love of work. The joy and love of doing. The joy and love of creating. The internal, self-validation that doing things well brings us even when others are totally unaware that we’re doing them.
But I’m not going to quibble over any of those possible disagreements right now.
For now, I’m just glad that I stumbled upon Goldberg’s meditation.
For now, I think that I will revisit King’s recommended reading lists and start to read–or reread–one of the books that I find there.
For now, I think that I will count the raindrops as they fall off the scalloped edges of my Asian patio umbrella.
For now, I think that I will stop the pendulum on my grandfather clock.
For now, I think that I will continue lounging in my azure blue linen bathrobe as noon approaches and as rain continues.
For now, I think that scrambled eggs on toast might be perfect for dinner.
For now, I think that I’m really enjoying doing nothing more than just being.