Home in the Hill Country
Hello, Readers and Friends—
It’s so hard–maybe even impossible–to get our minds fully around the changes that Covid has imposed on us since the beginning of 2020. Some may live in a rosy fantasy bubble (“It’ll disappear!” “Children are virtually immune!”). But the rest of us live in the real worlds of work, school, mortgages, family health, and more. There’s no sugar-coating it: this Covid-19 summer is brutal, and the politicization of our government services is frightening. Welcome to the world of Covid-19.
To escape Texas’ August heat, Bill and I usually pack up Molly (our heeler) and head for New Mexico, where we have a cabin perched on the east slope of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Travel seems risky to us this year, and New Mexico imposes a strict 14-day quarantine when we arrive. I’m not complaining! Kudos to NM’s smart governor who knows what she has to do and does it.
But given these Covid-realities, it seems better to stay here in Texas for the summer. And there’s much to be grateful for. Whether I go outdoors on a cool morning or stay inside to work on a project, I can be glad that the kids and grandkids (scattered across Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Oregon, Alaska) are healthy and that our little world here at Meadow Knoll feels pretty normal. Normal. Remember that word?
Meadow Knoll in Summer
Blue gentians, one of my favorite Hill Country wildflowers, blooming along our creek in June. Rarely seen now, because people pick it. Please don’t!
The gorgeous painted buntings arrive at Meadow Knoll in April and leave in late August, with their brood of 3-4 young buntings. This year, we had 7-8 breeding pairs. They love white millet, so if you share their habitat and you want to see them, you might try feeding that.
August is Spider Month. I feel a special affinity with the Golden orb, aka Writing spider, who is famous for her Zs. This one–a model of symmetry and perseverance–has set up housekeeping outside my kitchen window. She will keep me entertained for weeks.
And if I get tired of spider-watching, there’s always the Girls. Here, they’re enjoying watermelon and a bit of banana, a cooling treat on a blistering afternoon.
Even in drought, the landscape is lovely. This unretouched photo (no color manipulation) was taken at sunset one evening recently, from our front porch. This summer, I feel especially grateful for the wildness around us. It keeps us in touch with the world of real things.
The writing desk. I’ve just sent The Darling Dahlias and the Voodoo Lily to the copy editor. If all goes according to plan, you’ll have it in October or November. It’s 1935, and everybody in Darling is excited about WDAR, their new radio station, the brainchild of a couple of teenage boys. As usual, of course, the Dahlias also want to tell you about other, more mysterious doings in their little town.
You’ll be able to find Voodoo as an ebook via online retailers and as a paperback on Amazon, with audio coming a little later. As for the usual hardcover library/bookstore edition, I’m just not sure. Books are “sold” to bookstores on consignment (did you know that?), and returns have been exceptionally heavy. Many libraries aren’t ordering unless patrons ask. As an author-publisher, I’ll have to decide whether a hardcover edition of Voodoo makes sense under Covid conditions.
But there will be another China mystery. Last year, I set aside a project called Hemlock, which is built on a backstory that features Elizabeth Blackwell’s quite remarkable 1737 A Curious Herbal. (This Scottish Elizabeth Blackwell is about a century older than the American physician you may be thinking about.) I’m back at work on Hemlock, aiming to have it ready for you next spring.
I’m sure that your life has been reshaped by this global pandemic, just as mine has. If you feel like sharing your experiences, comments are welcome (below). The more we know about the way real people are coping with this real thing, the better, don’t you think?
Please do be safe. Wear a mask, wash your hands, stay home as much as possible. And of course, there are always books . . . lots of good ones out there by a myriad of excellent authors. Enjoy!
All my very best to each of you,