“Prickly” about Climate Change




Dry as dust-2

I was working on a post this week about unsolicited advice that was based on an incident at my gym. I was trying to be light and funny about something that many of us don’t appreciate (according to an online poll, 62 percent of us don’t like receiving such advice). I shared it with an editor who usually loves my work. She was happy to hear from me, and even offered to publish the piece, but she ended her email this way,

“p.s. but…it does seem to me (speaking as your editor) that you do come across in this post as a bit too prickly over such a trivial offense.”

Given that I’d rather not appear prickly when it comes to something trivial, we agreed to deep-six the post.

I am, however, proud to be prickly about preserving the environment. The scenery I saw as I traveled from coast to coast and back brought to mind the words from “America the Beautiful,” while it also made me more passionate about halting climate change.

My post today on Mom’s Clean Air Force shares one of the lessons I learned while on the road.

I am also prickly about boycotts. I don’t participate in random ones espoused by individuals. I want my actions to have real meaning and to carry real weight—which they only can when my voice is part of a larger group.

But I wholeheartedly support organized boycotts and petitions for causes I believe in — especially ones that put corporate polluters in their place. For that reason, I signed this petition asking EBay to withdraw its support of ALEC, a group that has pledged to launch “a political tsunami against EPA.”  I hope you will too. You can read about why we are boycotting EBay here. 

When it comes to important stuff like climate change, I’m prickly — and proud of it.



Why I Didn’t Write

I thought I was so clever back in July when I wrote “Postcards from Home.” I knew that at some point in the near future, my husband and I would embark on a cross-country road trip, and I thought that post would be the perfect segue for sharing photos from our journey.

I envisioned myself pulling out my computer after a day of driving and pouring my experiences into the blog. That didn’t happen — though I did post photos to my Instagram account.

I’m not sure exactly why not, other than fatigue, hunger, and bad Wifi connections made sitting down and writing unappealing. Plus, there was so much input, both when we were traveling and when we were staying put. I enjoyed living in the moment, and allowing myself to be swallowed by landscapes like this one.

Big Sky, Minnesota

Big sky in Minnesota.

But I’m sticking with my postcard analogy: This post and the ones that follow are postcards that don’t arrive until the traveler has already returned home. Sometimes the mail is slow or sometimes the cards aren’t mailed until the journey is over.

After driving from Concord to Detroit to attend a family wedding, we headed west, toward Portland, Oregon. In Minnesota we took a hike.

Great River Bluffs

The trail overlooked the Mississippi River.

Overlooking the Mississippi River

I should note that while the above scene was captured with an actual camera, I took most of the photos on the trip with my phone camera. As my friend in San Francisco likes to say, “The best camera is the one you have with you.”

From Minnesota, we pushed west through South Dakota toward Montana, hitting a corner of Wyoming along the way.

pushing westward

Not exactly sure where this is….

Little Big Horn

Little Big Horn.

Little Big Horn gave me chills, made me angry too.

in order to heal

Driving into Montana, there were purple mountains.

purple mountains

In Bozeman, there was a walk through town.

Oops! (ha ha)

Oops! (ha ha)

And a hike at Peets Hill.

View from the top

Peet's Hill, Bozeman, Montana

And have I mentioned who was traveling with us? She made herself right at home and cooled off in a little stream at the end of the hike.

Did I mention....From Montana, we skimmed the northern point of Idaho and drove through a corner of Washington State.


View from the car.

View from the car.

Philippi Canyon

As we got into Oregon, it started to rain.

zeroing in on PortlandWhy did we leave home in the first place and why did we drive? I’ll share more about that in a future post.

Postcards from Home


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Today while swimming laps in the pool, I began thinking about postcards. Because I didn’t write to her at all the first summer I went to overnight camp, the following year my mother tucked seven plain manila postcards that she addressed and stamped into my foot locker. My friend Martha used to send me a postcard while on her yearly June vacation. I loved getting her missives from Greece or Spain. But, alas, like Martha’s free time (she’s a mom now), postcards have gone the way of most hand-written communications, and become a rare and precious thing.

While I’m not filling up anyone’s mailbox myself this summer, below are a few snapshots — postcards from home — that chronicle my summer so far.


The ferns on our morning walks have been exceptionally beautiful this year.

These "ghost flowers" or "Indian pipes" added an air mystery, and were difficult to capture  In fact,

These “ghost flowers” or “Indian pipes” were a rare find and it was difficult to capture their eerie presence with shaky hands.


And the local fungus reminds me of an old-fashioned ruffled collar.

A local fungus provided an air of ruffled formality.

We’ve had some summer visitors.

Kola and Moxie joined us for the 4th....

Moxie and Kola dropped in for the 4th….

We’ve been enjoying lots of healthy goodies from our local organic farm.

And Karina makes every walk an adventure — especially given her new talent for finding muddy waters to roll in. On this day, however, she was her clean, dainty self.

More postcards and at least one big adventure to come.


Spring into Summer

Bowl o'Sunshine

Scented geranium, aka bowl o’ sunshine.

The summer visitors have arrived. They show up all of a sudden, in an array of styles and colors that practically scream, “summer is here!” One day the landscape comprises a crowd dressed in varying hues of green and the next — well, see for yourself.





false indigo

False indigo



My “Little Miss Kim” lilac shows up in a burst of grapey color and then immediately fades to white, leaving behind a trail of sweet perfume that fills the yard for days.


Little Miss Kim

Here in eastern Massachusetts, the transformation from late spring to early summer is a visually joyous one. In the woods, the air feels both lighter and fresher — a soft caress has replaced the chilly slap of April. I may still need a light jacket for my morning walk, but the knitted cap and gloves remain in the closet.

Rhododendron in the woods

Rhododendron in the woods

New ferns

New ferns

Yet underneath all the outward cheer, early summer leaves me feeling a little empty. As the weather warms up an old sadness resurfaces as its mid-June anniversary approaches. And as a young, working mother, the close of the school year, with its many festivities and fond farewells, was always tinged with melancholy. One more year of their childhood torn from the calendar.

My days of year-end band concerts, sewing on name tags, and packing trunks for summer camp are long over, but for me, June will always outrank January as an important marker of passing time.

Summer breeze

Summer breeze

The great thing about getting ‘older,’ though, is that I no longer have to concern myself with summer’s superficial branding. While I do pay attention to advice about protecting my skin, I can turn the page when I see headlines like, “4 Weeks to a Bikini Body,” because, really, who cares?

Instead, I’ll look beyond the sunny façade and shake things up. That warmer air and lack of weather-related obstacles frees us all to tackle something different, something hard.

Never finished Middlemarch? Maybe this is the summer to do it. Climb a mountain, learn another language, or try a new form of writing. Test the limits of your brain and your body.

Or—as my husband and I plan to do after decades of full-time work—give yourself a sabbatical.  Taking a road trip, living someplace new, and launching a project are all on our agenda.

So yeah, the summer visitors are here, let the season begin.


This post also appears today on Women’s Voices for Change

Rain on Stone




Last night’s rain swept everything clean.  This morning, Karina and I headed to the woods. As we entered the trail we were both startled by a wild turkey that took off in a rush of feathers a few steps ahead of us.

As we walked further into the woods, my racing heart quieted. The sound of the wind running through the trees enveloped us, broken only by a single robin belting out her sunny tune.

girl in the woods

We stopped to admire how the rain had stained the stone, and then we stood there and listened for a long, long time.

water on stone



By Emily Dickinson

Some keep the Sabbath going to Church –

I keep it, staying at Home –

With a Bobolink for a Chorister –

And an Orchard, for a Dome –


Some keep the Sabbath in Surplice –

I, just wear my Wings –

And instead of tolling the Bell, for Church,

Our little Sexton – sings.


God preaches, a noted Clergyman –

And the sermon is never long,

So instead of getting to Heaven, at last –

I’m going, all along.


May Is Clean Air Month


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May is Clean Air Month, and when Women’s Voices for Change asked me to profile Dominique Browning, co-founder and Senior Director of Moms Clean Air Force, I was more than happy to do so.


I’ve also been busy covering Showtime’s new series on climate change, “Years of Living Dangerously.” You can watch episode one online here, and read my posts about it here.

As Dominique told me,

Climate change is an overwhelming, unhappy subject, but it’s really important to understand that we can beat this—there are answers.

So, in honor of Clean Air Month, please check out, “Dominique Browning: Making a Difference in the Air We Breathe.” And then, do something important for all of us and support limits on carbon pollution.  

Thank you!

Spring Changes


Late spring/early summer is a glorious time to be out in the woods. Bird song and the tap, tap, tapping of local woodpeckers is so loud, so distinctive, that you’d swear someone had planted speakers in the trees and cranked the volume up as high as it would go. The air feels softer, it smells cleaner, and the colors of the trees and plants reflect that rain-drenched freshness.

My mother died in early summer. It was many years ago, when I was still a teenager. Every spring, as the air begins to warm, that deep feeling of loss resurfaces, and I just want to stay quiet. This year, I’m focusing on the beauty around me.


into the blue


Mill Brook

worn couple

May is Clean Air Month. I’ll have more about that next week.

Marriage, Dynamic

Until last week, Paul and I had never worked with a professional photographer. Our wedding was a low-key affair that resulted in a few snapshots contained in an album.  And there’s a rather stiff photo that was taken at a local department store when our boys were young.  I suggested, and he agreed, that we document where we are today — after more than 30 years of marriage.

The older I get, the less I like to be photographed.  Lately, when someone snaps my picture, the resulting image often seems to catch my worst angle – at least in my eyes. Yet I know that I am perfectly presentable, I just have to put myself in the hands of the right photographer.

close up

I knew that my friend Cheryl Sparks was that photographer. She is not only talented, she knows how to put people at ease. I knew she could get us both to relax. Cheryl put a lot of thought into our session. She said that she wanted to capture the dynamic between the two of us, and she shared a photo shoot of another couple as an example of what she had in mind.

So we had fun. We were silly.

It was quite windy, but I released all worries of crazy-looking hair into the breeze. We both loved the results—more of which can be viewed on Cheryl’s blog.

Oh, and speaking of photography, you can now follow me on Instagram.



Committing to Spring


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in between

Neither of us likes to be the one to put the winter equipment away. Shovels, winter boots, and even snow shoes remain at the ready for weeks after the first day of spring. The ice cleats were left curled up and forgotten on the car floor for so long that I stopped seeing them.

It’s not laziness, it’s superstition based on hard experience. If we put away winter’s tools too hastily, it will return — and with a vengeance. Anyone who has witnessed a snowstorm in April knows exactly what I mean.

English daisies

Having literally just killed a mosquito while typing that last sentence a few days ago, I plunged a stake in the ground and committed to spring. It seemed like the right thing to do. The spring peepers had been loudly announcing the new season for a couple of weeks, the air had softened, and our pillowcases — recently dried outside on the clothesline — filled the bedroom with the smell of fresh, sun-soaked air.

Without hesitation I dispatched my winter boots to the closet, and moved the snow shoes and shovels into the garage. I left the ice cleats in the car as an insurance policy.

Last Saturday confirmed the wisdom of my commitment. It was the kind of spring day that sets a high bar for the rest of the season: warm sun, cool air, the bluest of skies. On Monday, Paul and I posed for a photographer by the Boston waterfront, no jackets required.


And then, this morning,

Rhodi in ice

April 16_2014

April 16, 2014.

“We’ll have to bundle up today,” Paul said as he looked out the window.

“Do you think we’ll need the ice cleats?” I joked.

“I took them out of the car yesterday,” he replied.

At least we know who to blame.

Through Words and Cake, a Writer Lives On


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My friend Jane, who blogs at Food & Fiction, is one of my most helpful kitchen advisors. Although we share meals several times a year in real life, our time together at the stove has always been virtual. Many of Jane’s recipes have become my go-to source when I want to put something delicious, healthy, and not-too-complicated on the table.

So it makes sense that Jane shared this New York Times article about Laurie Colwin on her Facebook feed, because it suggests that Laurie’s non-fussy recipes and conversational style were a precursor to food bloggers like herself.

Like Jane, Laurie’s friendly, matter-of-fact voice is also in my ear from time to time when I’m working in the kitchen. Her recipe for a simple chocolate cake (pictured above) is my hands-down favorite.

I wrote about Laurie and her chocolate cake a few years ago on my blog at Open Salon. My literary tastes have changed over time, and her novels may no longer hold my interest the way they did when I read them 20 years ago under extreme circumstances, but I’ve never lost my taste for that cake. The recipe is included in my original post, reprinted below.

Through Words and Cake, a Writer Lives On

 October 23, 2010

“You don’t feed me enough,” I joked to my husband last night as my stomach loudly and persistently announced itself. Apparently, the dinner of homemade soup and bread I’d made wasn’t enough. We needed dessert.

“Karen Edwards’s Version of Buttermilk Cocoa Cake” from, More Home Cooking: A Writer Returns to the Kitchen by Laurie Colwin is my go-to recipe when I want something quick and chocolatey.

According to Colwin,

“It is hard to encapsulate the virtuosities of this cake. It is fast, easy, and scrumptious. It has a velvety, powdery feel – the result of all that cocoa. It is not so horribly bad for you, because you use buttermilk, which is relatively low in fat, and cocoa powder is defatted anyway. Furthermore, it keeps like a dream and tastes even better after a few days.”

I became a Laurie Colwin fan almost 20 years ago while undergoing chemotherapy. My hair was falling out and I was nauseous and exhausted. For the first time ever, it was difficult to find solace in reading — I couldn’t focus.

Then my friend Julia gave me one of Colwin’s books. Her books held my attention. I cared deeply about her characters, and her tales about family life, which I, too, was engaged in, were happy ones. I needed upbeat stories — sadness and angst were for real life.

When I reported all of this to Julia, she responded, “Unfortunately, Laurie’s life wasn’t so happy. She died suddenly at a young age.” Not only that, she had left a young daughter behind.

All these years later, my story is the happy one. My children, who were aged eight and ten when I was diagnosed, are now adults living on their own.  My husband and I are both active and healthy, and we still share a special spark.

So now when I bite into that buttermilk cocoa cake, I silently raise a glass to Laurie Colwin. Her life wasn’t nearly long enough, but I am grateful for the gifts she left behind.

Here is the recipe as it appears in More Home Cooking.

Karen Edwards’s Version of Buttermilk Cocoa Cake
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and butter and flour a 9- by 2-inch round cake pan.

2. Mix together 1 3/4 cups flour, 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

3. To these ingredients add 1 cup buttermilk, 1/2 cup vegetable oil or melted butter, and 2 teaspoons vanilla. Mix.

4. Turn the batter into the pan, bake the cake in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean, and let it cool for 5 minutes before turning it out of the pan.



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