Archive | Musings by Dalma

Boxwood Blight

Among the various scares we face daily—wars, tornadoes, illness, you name it, it’s all in the newspaper every day—one of the saddest is blights. Now there’s a word we don’t use a lot: blight! It has an ancient ring to it, something Dickensian, like “catarrh”; “carbuncle” –certainly curable conditions. But incurable blights are still with us. I studied some that attacked sugar maple trees in Vermont when I was researching Vermont sugar farms for A GODSEND: A Love Story for Grownups, the ebook I co-wrote with my husband. Maple trees, in addition to their sensitivity to periodic freezes, have had their growth stunted by acid rain, and their buds decimated by insects—aphids, parathrips, and the newest and most awful, the Asian Longhorn Beetle. A maple-sugar farmer, as our heroine is, is constantly on the watch for these blights that can ruin her livelihood.   

 It’s one thing to research a character’s life—her unique worries, her vulnerabilities. But here in southern Connecticut where I live, a new blight has been racing like fire across our land for the last five months, and it’s that’s grave enough to be cited by Dr. Sandra Douglas of the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. It’s Cylindrocladium, or Boxwood blight, an incurable fungus so insidious, according to Wendy Lindquist, the landscape designer who alerted me to it, “it must be removed and disposed of properly—not put into a compost or brush pile.” Boxwoods, those hardy, deer- and shade-resistant plants so many homes cherish for their simple, clean beauty and ease of care, are suddenly being wiped out within a week of getting infected.

 So check yours out, if you have them. Go to www.greenx.com/blog to get a sense of what to look for. Tell your friends. And don’t plant boxwoods this year until you speak with a professional.

 

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Introducing A Godsend Cocktail: Publishing With a Twist

I didn’t think of turning my husband’s and my ebook, A Godsend: A Love Story for Grownups, into a cocktail of the same name, but two friends, Eileen Winnick and Tessa McGovern, suggested I do so. They’re creating a series about writers, for writers, called “Liquid Lunch,” which will soon air on Tessa’s site for short-story writers, eChook.com.

The idea is wonderful: Writers talk about their work in Tessa’s Connecticut kitchen while concocting a drink….so viewers take home not only the personal story of the writers’ books and experience, not only Tessa’s interviews with them about all things writerly, but also, a wonderful and innovative cocktail as well.

Both Richard and I wanted our cocktail to reflect some important aspect of our two protagonists. We wanted character-driven drinks! We also wanted it to be a truly grown-up drink—one with character (there I go again) and a long, illustrious history. A sophisticated cocktail for lovers who might have tasted everything and want something a little old and a little new.

As it happens, our hero, Evan, and our heroine, Eve, meet in Manhattan. As it happens, too, I adore Manhattans. So: We now had the basis for the drink, but now wanted to improve it, update it, snazz it up a bit. So we did.

Eve is the owner of a Vermont maple sugar farm; Evan is an outdoorsman and nature-lover from California. We’ve taken the basic ingredient in the Manhattan—bourbon—and added a few ingredients indigenous to Evan’s and Eve’s lives and locales, which we think make the traditional drink even more delicious. On any evening before or after dinner, we think you’ll find the combination of good bourbon, pure maple syrup, lemon and bitters nothing less than…a Godsend.

A GODSEND

    • 1 oz. Maker’s Mark or other fine bourbon
    • ½ Meyer lemon or one whole lemon
    • 1 T. pure maple syrup
    • Angostura bitters to taste
    • Chipped ice

 

Pour ingredients into a shaker, and pour into a Martini glass. (The above ingredients serves one….so you’ll definitely want to make more, even if you’re alone! I like mine very lemony, so I usually add more lemons and then, of course, more maple syrup. And I like dark maple syrup, but it’s not necessary.) Garnish with a lemon peel.

Cheers and good wishes!

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A Special Video For Women’s History Month 2012

March is Women’s History Month, and last week, on March 8, we observed International Woman’s Day.  In the short video below, I’m honored to be in the company of three women whose work I admire enormously, and who have in their own idiosyncratic ways transformed the way the world thinks about women’s lives and loves. They are brilliant and revolutionary: Alice Walker, Erica Jong and Alix Kates Shulman.

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My Bobsledding Adventure

When I think of where I’ve been all my skiing life, it hasn’t been Utah.

Alta, yes; but somehow I’ve never associated Alta with the beehive state. Rather, its iconic status always seemed to stand alone, stately but stateless; the purists’s place, as Wildcat is the daredevil’s place or St. Anton, the ritzy one.

I can only attribute my ignorance to the kind of deprivation that leads to tunnel vision—I grew up in the east, went to school in the west. The questions were always, “Which do you like better, Vermont or Colorado?” “Stowe or Aspen?” Silly me: I just found a better question: How about Deer Valley, Canyons, Park City and Snowbasin—all of them, each one more wonderful than the next, all on the front of the Wasatch range (Alta, Snowbird and Solitude are on the back) and all close by–next week?

You fly into Salt Lake City and are on the slopes of any of the above in less than an hour—and that’s with no connecting plane deterred by cranky weather to frustrate you. I did the trip last month, and took advantage of Ski Utah’s celebration of the 10th Anniversary of the Winter Olympics by going down on the bobsled—on the same track that Olympians go down. That’s me in the picture in fact, second from the front.

For anyone else craving this thrill ride, there’s still time. Public bobsled rides on ice are available through March 17th. You can make your bobsled reservations online at www.UtahOlympicLegacy.com, or by calling 435-658-4206. Bobsled sessions sell out fast, so reserve asap. Once the ice melts, Park City opens summer bobsled rides. The summer rides, on wheels on a cement track, begin the second week of June through Labor Day.

If you can’t make it yourself, here’s the story of my own bobsledding adventure, with a link to full article on Everett Potter’s Travel Report website. Enjoy!

 

Embedded in a Bobsled

By Dalma Heyn

On a chairlift at Park City a few weeks ago I sat between two young vacationing North Carolina businessmen about to take their first ski run of the day. It was a perfect day: Lots of snow; sunny but not too. They were talking about a bobsled ride that afternoon. They and eight other guys from their firm had laid down $200 apiece (as you can, too) for the privilege of hurtling down the same ice track the Olympic bobsled teams did in 2002. (Park City’s track, in fact, is the only one in the world that lets passengers start at the same point as the Olympic athletes do.)

“I did it last evening,” I volunteered softly.

“Omigod,” one of the men said through his blue bandana-covered face: “Was it amazing?”

“Yes. It was.”

“Amazing, like a superfast rollercoaster?”

“No, not like a rollercoaster.” The men were staring at me now, awaiting specific description of what, if not like the fastest rollercoaster in Christendom, it was like.

“Amazing, as in…” I started, and then took leave of my vocabulary, “as in….” I grabbed the only word I could find “…as in intense. More than intense, really. Intensely intense. Intensively intense.”

Read the full article at Everett Potter’s Travel Report.

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Fun

For a survey I was conducting some years ago in a woman’s magazine, I asked readers:What do you think the primary purpose of marriage is? Among the options offered were the obvious ones: To have a family. Monetary stability. Settling down. Sharing a life. I offered one, though, that stuck out in this roster of noble reasons for wedlock: “To have fun.” Of the 5,000 respondents, twenty-four percent checked that one.

I’d expected some resistance to the pleasure option, since, if marriage isn’t sobering, sanctified, and serious, what is? Ever since the Puritans turned the pursuit of happiness into a frenzy of righteous self-improvement, Americans have opted for betterment over pleasure. We are suspicious of enjoyment for its own sake (pleasure has to improve our blood sugar levels). It’s as though what’s good for you long ago won out over what feels good. But what was special about these readers who chose what we called “The Pleasure Marriage” is that, when I interviewed them individually some time later, they were still having fun. Their marriages, of the ones I was able to find out about, were the happiest.

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Who’s Sabotaging Teenage Girls?

     In any story, whether we read it or see it on film or in a store window, we have to know  who  is speaking. Whose voice is telling us what story? Whose point of view is it?  A  great  story at the moment, spoken by the Census, is about women’s increased  power. Women are  now the majority of the workforce; the majority of managers; the majority earners of  undergraduate and graduate degrees; the majority owners of wealth.

So, who is narrating the story of this photo in Victoria’s Secret window in Fairfield, Ct.?  (We added the type to illustrate where it might have been more appropriately shown) Odd  that the moment when women are powering ahead, storefronts and magazine covers  feature skinny young girls not only made  up to look like fashionable adults, but posing in a  way that clearly suggests  subjugation—as  does the girl above. Whose viewpoint is this, do  you think? Who’s telling girls about to inherit a legacy of unprecedented power that their  REAL power lies not in their education and their upcoming careers, but rather, in looking  like baby hookers,  pouting and bruised and with their arms up in their air as if in chains?  Are storeowners telling this story so they  can sell underwear? Perhaps. Photographers,  who want to make their mark? Maybe.

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The Coming Backlash

Okay, so Treasury Bonds are being grabbed; gold is being hoarded; God is being called upon like never before to save us all from chaos, as He was in Houston a few weeks ago, by tens of thousands of evangelical Christians. Many have written about the problem of harking back to our belief systems, and our superstitions, and our specific faiths , instead of using better means to solve problems, like clear thinking, open-mindedness, conciliation, and negotiation. (See Frank Bruni, “True Believers, All of Us, The New York Times, August 6, 2011.)

I worry particualarly about women, vulnerable now to similar magical-thinking-solutions. I’m hearing young women talk about finding a guy to marry—quickly. I’m hearing older women talk about the futility of trying to reinvent themselves and instead figuring they’ll just hang on for dear life. As with trying to solve the world’s problems with faith and belief systems, trying to stay safe through all the old conventional means is dangerous to our collective psyche. When the economy is tight, and when men get scared, certain things happen like clockwork: There’s more domestic violence. Women tend to retreat; to return to the home, if not literally, then figuratively, as if the homely virtues ever paid off. We imagine that things were so much better long ago.

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Weiner’s Reasons? Schwarzenegger’s Apology? Do We Care?

I mean, what is there left to say but “Whatever”? That’s now the word of choice used by the young when, yet again, some famous, important guy does something weird and inappropriate or bizarre with his libido.  It’s our only remaining response to a morality that these men envision as entirely situational: a way to comprehend why they’re so self-righteous one moment, showing their penises to strangers the next. Situational morality is Anthony Weiner’s “But I’ve never had sex with any woman other than my wife” used as a defense of his honor. Hey, man, just because my privates are flying all over the net, don’t EVER DARE accuse me of infidelity!

An interviewer not long ago asked the creator of “Mad Men,”  Matthew Weiner, whether he felt Don Draper’s fall from power and failed marriage was a result of his basic, underlying badness–a badness like, say, Tony Soprano’s.

Not at all, he replied. Draper, unlike Soprano, “has a lot of admirable qualities and is basically a moral person, and he makes mistakes. His morality is conflicting. It’s situational, which is the disease of the 21st century.”

There it is.

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Women Surfing the Edge of Change

That an entire book has to be written about the way in which the French put pleasure first in their lives–a pleasure gleaned from a lovely long lunch; a good cheese; a natural (as opposed to a creepy or inappropriate) flirtation, makes me sad that our culture comes out so unfavorably.  It’s true that in our culture, “pleasure” seems to be a code word for sex, not a joy we breathe, not the expansive emotion, as the late William Safire wrote in his language column in The Times many years ago, “that suffuses one who has been gratified or stroked; it’s a good feeling, whether physical or intellectual.”

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