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Go To Substack

To “zzzz…” and anybody else who has recently subscribed to my blog on WordPress, pleae go to abigailpadgett.substack.com and subscribe there. I’m just keeping WordPress as a basic website but not journaling on it.



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Switching to Substack

After years of way-too-long blogs and then just not writing them because, you know, nobody reads blogs anymore (Do they?), I’m not only switching to a new, easier platform but also abandoning my usual tortured circumspection and dashing off cringey personal revelations. At this point, what’s the point in discretion?

So, to my tenacious subscribers, here’s the link to my new platform with shorter, grosser and more frequent posts – https://abigailpadgett.substack.com/p/survival-writing?s=w

We who love stories will keep writing them until the end, so if you wanna hang in with mine, I hope you’ll subscribe!

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My furniture doesn’t think. Does yours?

Can furniture be racist?  Apparently, along with anything else covert right-wing social media trolls gleefully use to PROMOTE racism, national division and the slaughter of U.S. democracy.  If you live anywhere near the Mason-Dixon Line, you’d better hide great-grandma’s old rocker!  Because if it was ever anywhere near a slave-run plantation (which it and everything else would have been in not only the South but also in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland), that rocker is troll-prey.

Anne Butler

My friend Anne Butler lives in the 210-yr-old main house of a Louisiana plantation in St. Francisville, Butler-Greenwood, belonging to her family since the 1700’s and on the National Register of Historic Places.  Six cottages on the expansive grounds are B&Bs, and I was Anne’s guest there countless times while visiting my friend Doug in the nearby prison at Angola.  This gorgeous, fascinating place is the setting for a serialized short story, The Hollering Tree, I wrote for the Lands’ End catalogue, and for An Unremembered Grave, a novel I loved writing because, well, it has a vampire. Butler-Greenwood is too much a part of my history to remain silent, but what has happened in regard to it extends far beyond a little village in Louisiana.

The Reconstructed and Now-Forbidden Parlor at NOMA

Until recently, Anne maintained areas of the main house as a museum, including the original Victorian formal parlor with its 12-piece set of (Connecticut-made) rosewood furniture in its original upholstery, floor-to-ceiling pier mirrors and Meeks étagère. That parlor, scrupulously recreated down to walls and windows, was transported in 2013 to the New Orleans Museum of Art.  Except even if you’re really into Victoriana, you won’t be able to see it.  Why?  Because it’s boarded up now, forbidden, anathema to seeming “social justice” types who advocate burning history to the ground.

So who are these people who manage to hate pier mirrors and a marble-topped table for their proximity to a plantation?  My guess is that they’re NOT righteously angry African Americans and white liberals, although they may account for a few.  My guess is that these extremist social media attacks that are taking place all over the country are planned and carried out by highly-skilled professional trolls paid by right-wing organizations to amplify the social division that has torn this country apart.

Don’t fall for it!

Throwing statues in rivers, boarding up museum exhibits and annihilating intellectual platforms like the recent debacle laying waste to Poetry Magazine do absolutely nothing to change the lives of Black, Brown, Native and other disenfranchised Americans.  What these tactics do is obscure what’s really going on – an out-of-control pandemic that’s killing Black, Brown and Native folks in brutal numbers, a desperate national financial crisis caused by federal incompetence, massive voter suppression, open corruption at the highest levels of both government and social organizations, all on a planet quickly dying under the corporate knife. And more subtly, these tactics make rational, thoughtful people recoil in discomfort because tactics like anthropomorphizing furniture are ridiculous.  They drive a wedge between rational, thoughtful people and the very issues the trolls only pretend to advocate.  The method is calculated and effective.

Just don’t fall for it.  Call it out for what it is – politically-engineered melodrama designed to create an “Oh, for crying out loud, this has gone way too far!” attitude that can obscure real calls for social change.  Instead, support an end to redlining, gerrymandering and voter suppression as you work for vastly expanded educational and health care resources for “underserved” Americans.

And drop a courteous note to the New Orleans Museum of Art saying, “Please reopen The Greenwood Parlor exhibit, a treasure of Victoriana no item in which was in any way responsible for slavery because it’s just furniture!”  Here’s the link – https://noma.org/

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Quarantine Flashbacks

virusComfortable with long stretches in the exclusive company of a computer, I figured a few months of quarantine from a deadly dryer-ball virus would be no big deal.  When articles about various quarantine-induced psychological problems appeared in the four different newspapers I read every day, they weren’t about me.  Not right away, anyway.

But then the flashbacks started.  Maybe one every four or five days, lasting only a split-second but, well, odd.  Not frightening or disorienting, but curiously intense.  Plato or Aristotle famously said something like, “The one thing even the gods cannot do is go back in time.”  An obvious truism, except I seemed to be doing just that.  Going back in time.

These are not dreams or memories or any sort of “thought.”  Neither do they feel like the giddy pot-or- Seagram’s-induced insights of much younger days.  What they feel is absolutely real.

Example: It’s probably about 1950 and I’m sitting on the Main Street porch of my friend Sue, waiting to watch the 4th of July parade.  Nothing’s happening yet; I’m just there.  I’m aware of my skinny, breastless child’s body, my feet happily swinging below the porch Buster Brownrailing in Buster Brown shoes and thin, striped socks.  And then it’s over and I’m incredulous and strangely pleased.

Or it’s even earlier, maybe 1948, and I’m coloring at a little table in my room.  It’s a “school” coloring book with straight lines running to words at the edges of the page, “red, blue, yellow, brown,” telling what color to make the spoon, the dog, the tractor.  Since it’s my own coloring book and not one from kindergarten, I can ignore the directions and color any way I want to!  The window is open and a nice breeze ruffles my hair as my parents talk in another room.  I know I am safe.  Then it ends and I am grown up and not safe.

These are not traumatic, major or even significant childhood moments.  They’re so ordinary, so mundane that prior to being them I couldn’t possibly remember them.  They’re just momentary flashes from a childhood lost in time, dredged from meaningless history and actually lived again, if only for less than a second.  But why?

My first thought was that I must be having TIAs, transient ischemic attacks, little strokes.  But none of the symptoms were there – sudden weakness or paralysis on one side of my body, slurred speech, etc.  “Becoming yourself as a child” is not listed anywhere in the stroke literature.

Okay then, I figured the source of these experiences must lie in the field of psychiatry.  No problem.  Having spent 30 years reading everything I could find about psychiatric syndromes and writing novels in which they figure significantly, all to understand the experience of a mentally ill family member, this stuff does not scare me.  Instead, I find it fascinating.  And indeed, 30-60 percent of people who are grieving the death of a loved one report “hallucinations” involving the deceased.  I’ve had such experiences and wouldn’t use the psychiatric term to describe them, but there it is.  So I must be grieving, right?

Not in the usual sense; nobody close to me, including a dog, has died for years.  But something larger and more amorphous is literally and irretrievably putrifying in front of me – the idea that was my country.  That American kid on a Main Street front porch was waiting for a parade that will never come again.  Sniff.

The grieving theory has a poetic charm and works, but doesn’t feel right.  I’m okay with the passage of time and don’t have any hallucination-producing unconscious obsession with the past.  I cringe in shame at the pitiful, embarrassing joke my country has become, but that shame doesn’t manifest as grief.  It manifests as very open loathing for an inept sociopath slathering on his orange makeup in the White House, for every cowardly, self-serving Republican officeholder and for their pathetically stupid supporters.  They are destroying not only my country but the planet, and the damage cannot be undone.  My reaction to them is far from unconscious, however.  It’s not the genesis of my flashbacks.                                images

Then I read headlines saying that the Pentagon has declassified Navy pilot videos from 2004 and 2015 purporting to show UFOs.  These videos have been circulating for years and the Pentagon declassified them to demonstrate their authenticity.  They’re real and inexplicable, but that doesn’t mean their origins are anything but earthly, and I’ve never paid any attention to UFO theories anyway.

Except when I was a very little girl.

Back then I expected explanations, for everything, that were not available in religion or in anything available at my reading level.  So I stood in my bed at night, watching through the window for extraterrestrials who would land their space ship in the back yard by my swing set and explain it all to me.  They never came.

alienA lifetime later I see, but don’t really read, something suggesting UFOs are really out there and not readily explainable.  Bingo!  Mindless fools continue to kill the only planet on which the human species can survive, an intolerable fact that makes no sense.  But maybe, and only in the curious, trusting mind of a child, sense can be made, the intolerable stupidity can be crushed.  Maybe in one of those split-seconds of lost childhood the extraterrestrials will show up at last and explain what happened here.

Do I think some metallic, cone-headed creature is going to appear in one of these fugue-states and tell me how to obliterate human greed and willful ignorance?  No.  But at least I get to choose the color of my tractor and swing my skinny little legs on a long-vanished porch again, and that will have to do for a while.

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Do you even have a favorite book cover? That will be one the image of which remains crisp and crosses your mind more often than, say, the name of your high school Latin teacher. Late in life you will spend months online trying to find that book with that cover, and may pawn your entire collection of Mary Kay coffee mugs in order to buy it.

Or is it the story you remember, the cover being irrelevant? (I mean, you know, covers change from edition to edition and who cares?)

I ask because, having finally completed a new Bo Bradley mystery, it’s time to repackage all six titles in the series with new covers that look like books in a series. The cover for the new one, Stork Boy, is done and waiting for the final manuscript edit. That cover is nicely evocative, I think. But now it’s necessary to do the previous five. And I’m stuck on the first one, Child of Silence.

There are several hundred online how-to articles addressing this topic, all stressing the monumental importance of the cover. It must, like Aristotle’s definition of tragedy, “arouse emotions” in potential readers while clearly identifying genre while appealing to a target audience with a typeface of which that audience is fond. The “emotions” to be aroused are Suspense, Intrigue or Lust, which right away aren’t actually emotions, but I get the idea while remaining unsure about my target audience.





I think my audience is basically people who like novels with long sentences, but what is their taste in typefaces? I don’t even know what my own taste in typefaces is; I just get a kick out of the names. Like “Skeleton Antique, Highway Gothic,” and “Bastard.” But the designer will know, won’t she? And Lust appearing nowhere in any of the Bo Bradley mysteries, do I go with Suspense or Intrigue? What’s the difference?



Child of Silence has had many covers already, none of them suggesting Suspense or Intrigue. The book is set in Southern California with a lot of desert stuff and has one secondary Native American character.


The original has that cool typeface but the artwork gets lost online and the cover copyright belongs to the publisher anyway, even though the book doesn’t.

The British editions of all the Bo Bradley mysteries use a model that just doesn’t look like Bo, at least to me.  She’s too coy and sexy or something.  The rock-artish images are okay, but what looks like a huge slice of lime is puzzling.


The French editions are all gorgeous but  focus exclusively on Native American images.  This is because the French just love all things “Indian” and Southwestern from watching old American movies on TV when they were kids.  But this cover features a Navaho and the book’s Native American character is Paiute.


Two German editions, the first with sort of rock-arty figures, the second with a cat. Bo has a fox terrier named Mildred. There is no cat anywhere in the book.

A Danish edition – snow-capped mountains somewhere colored pinkish-orange to look like a desert? I fail to see Suspense or Intrigue in any of these, although most might make me sufficiently curious to read the flap copy. But then almost anything will arouse my curiosity, so really, does the cover even matter as long as it’s interesting? Do you remember the cover of any book you’ve ever read?

The only book cover I will never forget!

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Having mindlessly made my new romance protag, Darcy Flannigan, an “interior designer” while having absolutely no idea what interior designers actually do, I gradually panicked.  By the end of the second tale in the series, my repertoire of design experience (which consists entirely of choosing paint colors based on their cute names, like “Chaucer’s Sandal” and “Fennel Ice”) was depleted.

Luckily, I live within walking distance of a community college and quickly signed up for a class called Intro to Interior Design. By Book 3 in the series Darcy will be able to discuss something other than paint!  On Mondays and Wednesdays I now travel to a strange new world in which close friendships, even marriages, may be lost over the choice between low-voltage halogen or metal halide bulbs for the soffit lighting in somebody’s master bedroom.  (I gamely conceal the fact that I have no idea what a “soffit” even is.)

The first assignment involves selecting “happy, unhappy, masculine and feminine” rooms from trendy design magazines and explaining why they’re happy, unhappy, masculine or feminine.  Despite probably not sharing typical associations with these terms, I’m sure I can fake it.  See what you think.


I was sold at the bulldog.

Happy.  Any room with a dog in it is happy, even a dog statue!  And who wouldn’t love a warm chat with a friend while relaxing on a luxe velvet couch in whatever hotel lobby this is?  Bashing your head on that ridiculous and dangerously low chandelier every time you reach for your drink on the coffee table will only bring gales of laughter and years of happy memories.


Kitchen or embalming room?

Unhappy.  Reminiscent of self-consciously post-modern black and white horror films set in abandoned mortuaries, this agonizingly hi-tech kitchen is not meant for cooking.  It’s meant for the sound of Ann Sexton’s ringing phone that no one ever answers, followed by absolute, grinding silence.  The most stalwart fava bean or avocado would roll in terror through that intimidating arch and vanish into a street outside named “Nevermore.”


Aren’t those chair legs kinda spindly?

Masculine.  These leather chairs are big enough to seat any NFL tackle and seem to glower menacingly at each other like boxers before the bell.  Books shelved in weird round things behind the scene suggest that there are ways to resolve conflict other than violence, but the chairs are too pumped on testosterone to notice.  Good thing the designer chose that subtly patterned and durable half-inch closed-loop nylon carpeting, since it provides sure footing for fight or flight and easy blood clean-up!


The most gorgeous shower on earth and it’s wallpaper!

Feminine.  Georgia O’Keeffe on estrogen?  Pastel clouds swirl around a water lily in lush, criminally expensive artistry celebrating a mythical female core of breathtaking beauty.  This Italian waterproof wallpaper is meant for the shower of a 1% lady, and bound to be written up, with photos, in the local paper.  Which will say something like, “Mrs. John Beresford Tipton chose ‘Lily’ for the shower in her elegantly understated 500-square-foot bathroom as a reminder of the poorly-lit reflecting pond in which her first three husbands mysteriously drowned.”

(Stay tuned for pics from next week’s field trip to a high-end furniture gallery where you have to show a designer’s license just to get in!)

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A Lunch in Paris

After weeks of gracious hosting by lovely people all over the Pays Basque and Provence, we were back in Paris and I had an entire Saturday to wander around by myself!  First stop,



the Bastille street market –  blocks-long aisles three-deep, offering every conceivable vegetable, flower, bread, cheese, fish, fungus, unpronounceable and mysterious sauce, jewelry, watches, CDs and DVDs in exotic languages, clothes, shoes, black market perfume and homeopathic remedies for an array of startling disorders, frequently involving the word, foie (liver.)  In France the liver is, apparently, the seat of most ills.  But not all, as I’m about to see.


The Bastille Hippo

Next I sneaked into the corner Hippopotamus, a sort of French Denny’s considered too tacky for words by my hosts.  And it is tacky, offering Americanish food I can eat without the usual, hard-to-hide terror.  I’m deliriously happy, wolfing a Caesar-chicken sandwich and fries (without ketchup, a depth to which even Hippo refuses to sink) and looking forward to dessert – profiteroles gourmandes made with Ben and Jerry’s!  (Scroll down the menu in the Hippo link above to see photo of profiteroles.)

Still, this is not Denny’s and I find myself watching a peculiar drama at a table for two against the back wall.  A couple are sharing a little carafe of what looks like rose’.  His back to me, I see an expanding bald spot, leather coat and fashionable scarf draped over his chair.  They aren’t young, maybe late forties.  His back exudes confidence, a businesslike detachment.  He could be an accountant, insurance adjuster, bank officer.  But something’s wrong.

She’s facing me, her gaunt face scrupulously made up, big eyes made bigger with liner, shadow, fake lashes and mascara.  The makeup looks expensive and her short, dyed hair is either well-cut or a trendy wig.  But even though she’s painfully thin, her sweater is too small, as if she’s borrowed it from a child.  She’s so thin, and yet there’s nothing on their table but the squat carafe of pink wine, the glass-and-a-half size meant for one person.  It’s lunch time, she obviously needs to eat, and yet there’s no food on the table.  As I watch, she flirts with him.  Desperately.  She bats those big eyes, looks at him with vampy, retro-eroticism so often and with such clear intent that she becomes a caricature – Betty Boop as tragic figure.  He doesn’t seem to see or hear her, just relaxes with his wine.

I want to send her a note on a napkin saying, “Don’t do this!  I’ll buy your lunch!” but I’d never get the French right and I sense that I’m so “other” in her context as to be invisible.  I wouldn’t even qualify as an obnoxious, meddling stranger.  And I don’t think it’s lunch she’s after anyway.

The wine finished, they stand to leave and her coat slides from her chair to the floor.  He doesn’t lean to retrieve it, doesn’t seem to see either the fallen coat or the woman.  Shaking, she bends, her too-small sweater sliding up in back to reveal the bony vertebrae moving beneath transparent skin.  Her body, absent the makeup that has created her face, is a skeleton in a fragile veil.  A skeleton that has just played a dangerous game very badly, and lost.

He leaves a few euros on the table, shrugs on his coat and seems quite content as he walks out into the cold, bright day, never looking back.  She struggles awkwardly with her coat for minutes after he’s gone, her face still attractive but blank now.  The charade is over; she has no expression left.  Not a soul in this red plastic restaurant looks up as she passes and vanishes into the street.

And I’m left wondering if she was really there at all, but rather a ghost replaying some forgotten moment in which the one thing, or one man, that could have made a difference, didn’t.  The buildings of the Place de la Bastille are fairly recent, built in the late 18th and early 19th centuries but of sufficient age to have housed countless pivotal moments.  I choose to imagine this as one of those, in which long-dead bones in painted glamour and stolen clothes return to recreate with the oblivious living some amour fou or grim monetary transaction lost in time and unchangeable.  Unless, of course, the guy at the table had been able to see her.  😉


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The Tarasque


Town crest of Tarascon with Good King Rene’s castle and the Tarasque chomping somebody in the Rhone

Some years ago I wound up in Aix-en-Provence in the summer. (Don’t ever do this.) We were living in a cramped basement apartment that was at least a few degrees cooler than it was outside, and there was little to do during the heat of the day but read and listen to the eerie, omnipresent chorus of the million cicadas that are a regional mascot and a fixture in Provençal fabric design. (Gorgeous tablecloths depicting bugs, go figure. It’s just a Provençal thing.) I don’t speak French beyond the Ou sont les toilettes, s’il vous plait? level, but there was one book in English in the university library, a biography of Frédéric Mistral, the 1904 Nobel Prize-winning writer and lexicographer of Provence’s Occitan language and folklore.

I love folklore, search for it incessantly, regard it as the Rosetta Stone of all hidden mysteries. In the back matter of the book was a reference to a museum in Arles devoted to the Provençal traditions Mistral celebrated in his work. I would have walked the 49 miles from Aix to Arles just to see it, but fortunately we had a car.

The temperature was in the 90’s; the museum was empty, stifling and airless, but I popped a salt pill and reveled in it. The place was and is a trove of wonderful costumes, dioramas, santons (tiny statues of countless Provençal characters), Mistral’s framed Nobel Prize certificate, and a Tarasque! It was love at first sight.


The Tarasque’s statue in Tarascon

The Tarasque is a mythic, amphibious creature who lived in the Rhone or in the woods near the Rhone and devoured people, mostly those unfortunates who fell into the river due to shipwrecks and that sort of thing. Armies of skilled hunters failed at every attempt to capture and kill the monster, but as luck would have it, St. Martha (of Mary and Martha biblical fame) had moved to France in 48 A.D. shortly after the crucifixion and lived


Note murderous townfolk.

nearby. She went to the Tarasque and sang to it, taming the beast and sealing its fate. The now-gentle creature walked with St. Martha back into town, where the townfolk immediately beat it to death. Moral: The Little Prince quite aside (“You become responsible forever for what you’ve tamed.”), wisdom lies in scrupulous attention to the character of potential tamers. Martha wasn’t up to the responsibility, and would have found no fan in Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

The Tarasque became one of my many personal conceptual icons, and I included it in The Paper Doll Museum. But life strangely offered few opportunities to discuss Tarasques over lunch, and my interest, if not my fondness for the creature, faded. Until this trip.

Tarasc bookWhen, driving around the various ancient communes near Meynes, I saw a town name on a road sign -Tarascon. My beast has a whole town named for it! And a statue the size of a Volkswagen van, an annual festival in which it’s carried through town by men in colorful costumes, plus books and tourist gimcracks. I bought the refrigerator magnet. Our hostess Martine, no doubt uneasy at my sudden, frenzied ecstasy over an old French folk tale, graciously bought me the key chain.

There’s a castle in Tarascon that, unlike every even slightly perilous locale in the U.S., has

Tarascon gargoyle

Tarascon gargoyle watching the Rhone

no “Danger! Keep Out!” signs prohibiting exploration. It was built in the first half of the 15th century and does present certain dangers. But the French assume you’ll pay attention while climbing those crumbling spiral stairs five stories up to the roof from which soldiers of Good King Rene sent arrows and catapulted stones to fall on the invading armies of Aragon.

The roof affords spectacular views of the town and the church of St. Martha, in which her supposed relics may be venerated in a crypt supposedly built on the exact spot where her house stood. In the 1st century. We must assume they kept amazing real estate records! It’s interesting that Martha got the church, but the Tarasque got the town name, a statue and an annual festival that continues to this day. The official story is that the town feels guilty for having killed a tamed beast over 2,000 years ago. If true, the tale sheds light on the absence of the death penalty in France. But I don’t think that’s it.

The ungainly, impossible Tarasque with its spiked turtle shell, six legs, human-faced lion head and lashing, spiked tail, is a wonderful jumble of archetypal images. It’s a primordial,  nursery-brain dragon, both animal and human, lovable and deadly as we all variously are. The truth of the Tarasque is soon crushed into subconsciousness in three-year-olds by the slaughter of “reality,” but only after being tamed by a song. And always dimly half-remembered as the closest, most secret, scary and wonderful friend.  Because  the Tarasque is us.



And now it goes with me everywhere.  😉

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AbbieMausoleumAnother sojourn in France.  At this point I can no longer claim tourist status and by default join the ranks of those terribly sophisticated Americans who spend half their lives running back and forth to France.  They write knowledgeably and with verve about wine, truffles and the joys of living in Provence for a year.  The New Yorker keeps them on commission and major publishers battle to offer six-figure contracts for their memoirs.  They have unusual names like “Braque” and “Tani” and all live in NYC where they ferret out obscure French restaurants between trips. But frankly, I don’t make the cut.

I prefer a German Riesling and only vaguely understand “truffle” to mean some kind of fungus that’s not a mushroom. I live as far as it’s possible to get from New York without falling into the Pacific and wouldn’t survive a week alone in Provence. I’ve just been there, though, so I can write about it. Unsophisticatedly. Sort of A Corn-fed Hoosier in the Drome Provencal, to ride the titling coattails of Mark Twain.

First, while Provence in summer is, per Braque and Tani, apparently a scented dream of lavender fields, smocked artists and seven-hour al fresco dinners of daube and fougasse, in the dead of winter it’s history laid bare. The country home of our hosts, Martine and Franḉois, is in Meynes and was built in the early 14th century when the town was a Templar stronghold against attacks by French King Philip IV (heavily in debt to the Templars) after the failure of the Crusades. Beneath the narrow, cobbled streets there are still secret tunnels used by knights fleeing a fiery death at the stake. In the wintery gloom you can feel those centuries-old stories still breathing in the worn stone buildings, hear the desperate footsteps beneath the streets.

And those stories, only last week, weren’t entirely unfamiliar. Almost six centuries after the Crusades, in my little Indiana river town with a French name, the term “Knights Templar” was in common use as a designation within the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Town businessmen were Masons and my dad (very) grudgingly went along, memorizing pages of Masonic text in the bathroom as he shaved. He was a “Knight Templar.” Later I also memorized Masonic text as a Job’s Daughter, and went to dances at the Masonic Lodge with boys who were in the Order of DeMolay. Jacques de Molay was the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar and burned at the stake in Paris in 1314, but as a child I would know his name as well as that of Abraham Lincoln.

Walking Meynes’ cobbled streets at night, I wondered if martyred de Molay had also walked there, and what he’d think of a bunch of southern Indiana farm boys in crusader’s capes reciting no-doubt-inaccurate versions of his story. I decided he’d love it. Who would object to being celebrated in the heartland of a country that didn’t even exist when you went up in flames?

Provence also remains the very soul of the domestic arts. Nothing on earth could persuade


Martine’s Provencal ceiling in Meynes

me to eat foie gras, given the horrors inflicted on ducks and geese to create it, so I won’t talk about the food. But Provençal interiors set an international standard for “Country” décor. Wondering what to do with 119 of those soup tureen lids you’ve got stacked in the garage? Martine lines them up to great effect on beams that have been here since before Chaucer was born.

A few miles away and two centuries after de Molay, Nostradamus was born and lived in St.


Martine and I and Nostradamus in St. Remy

Remy, now a mecca for shoppers in search of those gorgeous (and expensive) Provençal fabrics, bedspreads and tablecloths. I bought a single tablecloth weight in the traditional shape of the Provenzalin (Provençal woman, in the local Occitan dialect, which is not French but related to Latin, a vestige of that Roman invasion Caesar documented in his Gallic Wars. “All of Gaul is divided into three parts.” Actually there were five parts. Provence was in one of them.) I have no idea what to do with one tablecloth weight, but had to have it!

facing_horsesThen, although nobody else was remotely interested, I was graciously driven many kilometers on bleak but hair-raising little roads to Pont d’Arc, where the French government has meticulously recreated in a cave 30,000-yr-old prehistoric art only discovered in 1993 in another nearby cave. The original art in its cave is now wisely protected from toxic human contact, and the new cave “parc” is a little Disneyish, but nothing can diminish the eerie beauty of the animals drawn by prehistoric people of a culture called Aurignacian. They (the painted animals) all have expressions of near-beatific elegance and a sort of prayerful amiability, even a bit of mischief in some, like portraits of beloved, revered friends. The Aurignacians may or may not have worshiped the animals they painted, but they clearly loved them. I bought a (badly translated to English but nonetheless lovely) children’s book, Equinox, written from the perspective of the smallest painted horse who waited over 10,000 years in darkness for the return of humans. The book isn’t available here, but can be ordered online at http://lacavernedupontdarc.org/nos-outils/. Or watch Werner Herzog’s documentary, Cave of Forgotten Dreams on Youtube.

Next: The Tarasc, my favorite French monster

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The Make Way for Ducklings icon, Boston Public Garden

The Make Way for Ducklings icon, Boston Public Garden

Just back from Boston, where Bo Bradley grew up and the setting for Bone Blind and half of The Paper Doll Museum.  I can’t get enough of the place and will have to take Bo home at some point.  For the wedding, maybe? 😉

This time involved happily sitting on the ground on a trash bag for

Lear and the traditional Fool, not my Fool from last week.

Lear and the traditional Fool, not my Fool from last week.

a free production of my fave, King Lear, on the Common.  It was a slapdash affair, costume-wise, with Lear and the Dukes looking like they wandered in from The Student Prince, Goneril, Regan and Cordelia in trendy contemporary businesswear and the Fool in a vaudeville hobo outfit complete with bowler hat.  But after five minutes it didn’t matter, and the Fool was stellar!

But most interesting was, of all (usually boring) things, a house tour.  Over many years of spending huge amounts of time in Boston, I’ve always rented somebody’s third floor in suburban Newton Highlands.  Boston is so crowded and expensive that people who have the old Victorians

Annie Cobb house, Newton Highlands, MA

Annie Cobb house, Newton Highlands, MA

routinely do this, and the accommodations are quirkily wonderful, like artists’ garrets only big and airy and surrounded by trees.  I love Newton’s architecture and even based a whole mystery, Bone Blind, on it.  (The dead body found in a candlelit tower like one of these you see all over Newton, the police detective about to retire and go into restoring Victorians, and the horror novelist who writes about them.)

But what I didn’t know until this absolutely not-boring tour was that many of the houses I find so intriguing were designed and built by Annie Cobb, America’s first woman architect!  Architectural designer Laura Fitzmaurice has exhaustively researched Annie and her houses, all of which you can see here complete with photos.  But even if you’re not fascinated by Victorian architecture, scroll through to the end where Fitzmaurice provides a professional, delightful and refreshingly feminist biography of yet another woman who was almost lost to history.  If the Newton Highlands Historical Archive ever creates Annie Cobb t-shirts, I’ll wear one!






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