Sea oats, bullied by the grape vine

It’s fall for certain. That sunlight slant. The trees looking as if they’ve been misted with yellow paint. Those squash leaves wearing a funereal shade of pale ocher, as if trying on make-up for a Halloween costume.

The only spot of color are the courageous dahlias, wispy asters, and stubborn cape fuchsia that refuses to shrivel; our only purpose in life now is to feed the Anna’s hummingbirds. (One of them buzzed me as I write this) When the real cold comes, long about November, maybe, the cape fuchsia will vanish into the earth. There may remain above ground a tidy bolt of sea-green leaves hugging the soil. (How cold will it get this coming winter of warming seas and shy rain?)

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The Rambling Writer’s Italy, part 20: Cinque Terre’s Path of Love

Your Italy retro Virtual Vacation continues as Thor and I walk the path between Cinque Terre villages and take some beach time.

NOTE: Since European travel is still a no-go with the pandemic continuing, I’m continuing my blog series offering a virtual vacation and time-travel to my first big trip with Thor in 2008. Italy! After starting with highlight photos posted here on Saturday, Jan. 30, I’ll now resume every week (after the blogging detour in real time to Hawaii). Join us in Rome, Florence, Cinque Terre, Venice, and Milan. Buon viaggio!

The clouds continued in and out, and the sea was stirred up, but we had another hot day for the 15-minute, easy walk from our room in Riomaggiore to the next village, Manarola. This section of the Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Path) is the popular Via Dell’Amore (Path of Love, or Lover’s Lane). Continue reading


New Worlds: Higher Education

(This post is part of my Patreon-supported New Worlds series.)

Which university is the world’s first depends on which definition you use for the concept.

The classic view holds that universities are at their heart a European institution, growing out of medieval Catholic education: certain cathedrals and monasteries ran their own schools, specifically for the purpose of educating clergy. From this root grows the University of Bologna in 1088 — that being the first institution to use the word, terming itself universitas magistrorum et scholarium, i.e. “a community of teachers and scholars.” Others followed suit, often founded by monarchs, but sometimes by powerful cities and the like, though in the early days they were few in number.

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How to Use Up Too Many Tomatoes

It was a good summer for tomatoes in my neck of the woods—lots of hot, sunny weather brought them and peppers out in profusion (but please do not ask me about my cucumbers. Sigh.) This, of course, means that we have to figure out what the heck to do with them all…which, thank goodness, we have. The peppers are easy: fresh slivered jalapenos are delicious in grilled cheese sandwiches, and the surplus gets sliced and pickled; bell peppers get nommed on all summer, and poblanos get turned into chicken with poblano cream sauce. They never yield, though, quite as crazily as the tomatoes…but we know how to deal with that. Continue reading


On Becoming a Professional Amateur # 16: Some Writing Safety Tips

I’d like to offer a smattering of “safety tips” that have come out of the mentoring and workshops I’ve done over the years. Some of these I’ve come by as the result of struggling with my own craft and some through struggles with other writer’s particular issues. As with all things, interpret them in a way that’s useful to you at this moment in your writing life. Continue reading


BVC Announces The Pirate Princess

The Pirate Princess by Brenda W. Clough
The Pirate Princess

The Thrilling Victorian Adventures of the Most Dangerous Woman in Europe
Book 9
by Brenda W. Clough

Why does Marian Halcombe Camlet become drawn into the murderous politics of a tiny pirate kingdom in the South China Sea? Because the pirate is tall, dark, and irresistible!

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BVC Reviews: David Liss and Barbara Monajem

The Peculiarities by David Liss
This blog was first posted at A Green Man Review

The Peculiarities
by David Liss is a strong steampunk story about Victorian magicians, featuring Aleister Crowley and other well-known ceremonial magicians of the era.

Thomas Thresher, a formerly well-heeled idler now enslaved in his family’s bank, has a lot of problems. His brother oppresses him intensely, not omitting to force him toward an arranged marriage with a wealthy and homely Jewess. (Shivering Victorian horrors!) He is increasingly afflicted with symptoms of the epidemic of magical transformations that London is looking hard away from. He is surrounded by his brother’s spies. He is being herded toward more than marriage: Somehow he finds himself enrolling in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and finds the work absorbing, his progress hampered by staider members and accelerated in secret by the irrepressible Crowley, who acts as Puck and goad when Thomas’s Victorian lethargy of character threatens to immobilize him. Continue reading


10 Words/Phrases I Never Want to Hear or See Again

Without preamble, here we go.

Woke. This one is particularly irksome. High on the irony scale. “Woke” may have multiple origins, but the most contemporary one appears to be from early 20th century Black consciousness raising–”stay woke” appeared in a narrative about a Lead Belly recording of the song “Statesboro Blues”, according to Vox. To me it reeks of irony because its adopted in rhetoric mostly used by groups whose allegiances include bigotry and racism.

Culture wars. This phrase, used to describe social conflicts, was first used in mid-19th century Germany in reference to a conflict between “cultural and religious groups.” (Wiki) The phrase owes its current popularity—talk about over-exposure—to deep-seated conflict between social groups in the U.S. over societal issues. Second Amendment rights, abortion rights, immigration rights, LGBT etc rights. the word “War” signifies a more hopeless situation than the words “conflict” or “disagreement”, but likely those participating in culture wars are allergic to euphemism.

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The Rambling Writer at Deception Pass

Join Thor, Bear dog, and me as we hike from Rosario Beach to Deception Pass Bridge in Northwest Washington.

This has been another year of Life, Interrupted for all of us, what with the COVID-19 upheavals continuing, and more. At the moment, it’s my computer rebelling, so I’m going to repeat/update a post from a year ago. At the time of this hike in the summer of 2020, I had just gotten the diagnosis of lung cancer (I have never smoked, just have to add that). Knowing I had major surgery in store, I packed in as much outdoor activity as possible before August. The good news this year is that my one-year CT scan is clear, and I’m feeling much stronger again with various rehab programs for various rebellious body parts. Oh, the joys of aging! So while I return to castigating my computer, here’s a lovely summer getaway to our nearby Rosario Beach and trails in Deception Pass State Park in the Salish Sea of our Pacific Northwest.

Once our long months of gray rain blossom into sunny summer, my native Pacific Northwest is truly glorious, and the trail from Rosario Beach on Fidalgo Island (connected by bridge to the mainland) toward the Deception Pass Bridge offers quintessential scenery along the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The madrona trees are especially beautiful. Continue reading