Category Archives: History

O Christmas Tree

Went to a Christmas tree farm the day after Thanksgiving. I never thought I’d be a person to get a tree before finishing the leftovers but here I was. Battenfeld’s, in the Hudson Valley, had as many cars as it did trees. The weather was like spring.


And dozens of tailgaters made me jealous. I wished we’d brought some chairs and a cooler.

The ranks of trees were mapped in an app you could download: Balsam, White Pine, Douglas Fir, etc., conveniently organized. There was no paper map. Among the beefy, eight-foot specimens you could find the stumps and relics of past years, someone’s Christmas come and gone.

years past

We comparison shopped, topping our fat Concolor with a glove to mark our spot.

tree w glove

Concolor is another name for the White Fir. The most ancient of these eastern trees can get to 350 years old. I heard one of the workers explain that his mother always wanted one because they have the scent of oranges.

A friend was intent on bringing home a blue spruce.

blue spruce

They have that beautiful hue, but their needles make you understand why they are called needles, they are that spiny.

Someone had to cut down our tree. That would be Gil. Ours was, he said, the Plato’s Cave of trees.

gil cutting tree

Peter took plenty of pictures, documenting our U-Pick adventure. Then the day was over, except for dragging the tree away. I learned how wonderful it can be to wander among the conifers, as unnaturally as they are grouped and bred and groomed at a farm. Nothing is left to accident. In the world we live in, it is reassuring to spend time in a place that is accident free.

dragging tree

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Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, Photography, Trees, Writers, Writing

Lucky Charms

I’ve tried to wean myself from portents, omens, tricks of the light.

Colors that pop have always seemed to be telling me something, like these asters I saw recently at a botanical garden. I took a deep breath, feeling good things were coming my way.



Today I was on the southern shore of Staten Island, supervising tree planting in a New York City park, and everything seemed loaded with meaning. It wasn’t a cheery day, per se. The skies hung dark and grey. This body of water was Arthur Kill, off of the town of Tottenville; the view across was to Perth Amboy, probably not the most swellegant spot in the world. I was chilled beneath my fleece. Still, the sweep of the coast was ravishing.

staten island beach

Colors popped. The detritus on the beach seemed hallucinatory.


So did the incredibly complex needle structure of the Pitch Pines (Pinus rigida) we were planting, along with sweetly bushy Junipers.


A perfect little lighthouse floated in front of me. Fishing boats. Buoys. All around brambles, the vivid red of rusty blood. The near-black loam – until recently a dump filled with lovely things like burned cars – was thick with enormous weathered oyster shells. They spoke to me of good things in the past, Indian oyster feasts on the shores here, and in the future, oysters on the half shell that I would consume on ceremonial occasions. The air itself grew more briny, more aromatic, as the day went on.

I’ve always been able to say a) this wonderful thing is happening, therefore b) this wonderful thing will happen. The trouble with that is there is no actual causal relationship between felicities. Life throws things up like a packet of sparkling pins and they don’t always land back in the pincushion.

But today. We were erecting a small forest, perfect in every way. It could have been painted, a brilliant illustration.

trees in a line

One of the crew was leveling an American Sycamore in its pit. The tree held onto one leaf at its very top like a Christmas star.

Christmas sycamore

The planter, Robert, was like a cheerful Bluto, with a pierced eyebrow, an extravagant beard and those tribal lobe-stretching earrings that it was a little surprising to see on a landscaping guy. The tree was straight as a yardstick at the bottom, but leaned south with its upper limbs.

“I hope that rights itself.” I said.

“It’s like in life,” said Robert, smiling. “Everything gets better.”

The crew told me a humpbacked whale had visited just off shore a week ago, chasing baitfish. I wished I had seen it. Maybe I could come back. Now that’s a sight that would pop.


Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Photography, Trees, Writers, Writing

The Giant Killer

I’m not overwhelmed with joy about the Christmas tree that just rolled into Rockefeller Center. A Norway Spruce, the 78-foot specimen came from a town called Gardiner in upstate New York, where it towered over its owners’ diminutive house. Or diminutive in comparison, anyway. I always wonder who the tree spotters are, the tree scouts who go out and scour the countryside to find the one that will be massive enough for New York City. In this case the head gardener for Rockefeller Center got wind of the family’s shaggy green heirloom online and ventured up to see for herself.

I admit, I like my tree over the holidays, but I don’t like to see any of them cut down.

This past week I was surveying tree pits I’d worked at in the last couple of weeks to see that topsoil had been added in the right proportions. My job, of course, is saving trees by protecting the roots that come uncovered when the construction crew excavates the old sidewalk. Now I pulled around the corner and drove down 78th Street in Brooklyn. I was looking for a sizable sugar maple (Acer saccurum), a handsome guy whose roots had been a muscular tangle that needed special care to keep them intact.

No tree. Where could it have gone? Then I saw, lying on the sidewalk, falling into the street, the maple, hacked into thick pieces. The wood was so fresh it looked wet. Sawdust and leaves, everywhere.

1)551 78 St, Brooklyn

I was sick. Who had taken the tree down, and why? I looked back at my notes, which indicated that a long, heavy branch extended over the street. That didn’t seem reason enough to lose the whole thing. You invest yourself in this living being, its branches and leaves, its stout trunk. And then it’s cut.

The man who presented his tree to Rockefeller Center recalled growing up with it, climbing its ladder of branches with his siblings, getting in trouble for getting pitch on their clothes. He said that the tree was just getting too big for his yard.

I don’t really get it. It’s just not a possibility, that I would ever take a saw to a tree because it was too large. Selfish, I know – all those happy tourists in Manhattan for the windows and the sparkly lights, yep. And the lumber’s going to go to Habitat for Humanity in January.

But when it comes down to it, we’ve killed another giant.


Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Trees

Tree Pose

I keep thinking about Tree Pose, one of my favorite things in yoga. Vriksasana in the Sanskrit. Here is how it goes. Standing in Tadasana, Mountain Pose, plant the foot of one leg on the ground, your weight evenly distributed between big and small toes, the arch of your foot held strong. If it is available to you, as my yoga instructor likes to say, cock your other leg so the knee is akimbo and the foot is placed somewhere between the thigh and heel of the grounded leg, hips open. Then raise your hands, either in namaste, clasped in front of your chest, or what I like – hold them high above your head.

tree-poseWhat I also like: in my large class everyone holds the boughs of their tree exactly the way they want, so the mirror shows a forest, all straight trunks and long arms with fingers spread as people wish at that moment, pure individual preference.

I wanted to know more about how Tree Pose originated. Turns out that in the mythology behind the pose, a queen named Sita was abducted by a handsome devil of a king, Ravana (he happened to have 100 faces) and was forced to live in his compound, where she would enjoy all the luxuries of life.


Not only did she refuse to marry him, she refused to spend a single night in his palace. After all, she was already married to her dashing love Rama. Ravana vowed that if she did not accept him after one year he would cook and eat her. So Sita moved outside and lived among the ashoka trees (ashoka means “without sorrow”), trees known to be healers. Her attendents, Ravana’s minions, were women with terrifying faces of dogs, goats and fish, and they tried to get her to submit to the king. But Sita sat with her back against an ashoka tree and knew she would survive this. She focused on her love for Rama. Her desire climbed the branches and flew out into the world. The trees spoke to Sita, telling her to stay focused, be steady as a tree. When
Rama’s monkey came to spring her from her subjugation, she was ready.


My Downward Dog tends to collapse, my Warrior 2 is arthritic. I’ve never seen the point of Pigeon. But this yoga position and the story behind it I get. Hold yourself together, stay calm, and you will get through the worst of things. Even little trees can stand tall, like this Callery Pear in Ozone Park, Queens, just around the corner from the casino.

calllery pear

When was the last time you leaned your back against a tree and derived its strength? When was the last time you laid your hands on a tree trunk, on living bark? I don’t want to be ridiculous, but you can feel the thing breathe. Years ago we visited Black Hills National Forest outside Custer, South Dakota, where we were surrounded by Ponderosa and Jeffrey Pines. We pushed our noses up against the bark; warmed by the sun, it smells like butterscotch.

I like to think that when I assume Tree Pose, I may have butterscotch running through my veins. If it is available to me.


Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, New York City, Trees, Writers, Writing

Mrs. Chekhov

I came around the corner to Dahill Street in Brooklyn on a Tuesday morning, wearing my orange safety vest, and there stood a little old lady with a neat blue dress and the white helmet coif that showed she spent time once a week at the beauty salon. Just standing there at the gate of her Brooklyn-red-brick house. Waiting for something.

Out of nowhere, she pulled me aside. Sometimes the vest serves as an invitation. “There’s a very good Italian place down the block,” she said. “Oh, he makes very good sandwiches.”

Not too many Italian delis around here these days, I thought, it’s mainly kosher now. Plus the streets here are semi industrial. But workers need sandwiches, so the sole remaining shop survived.

In front of the woman’s house stood a husky old oak, its bark tough and crusty, its heavy branches spreading high up over the sidewalk. A few blemishes, insect holes like eyes, but they only made it more beautiful.

oak w eyes

“Listen,” she said, “Do you think the city would come cut my tree?”

I asked what the problem was.

“The squirrels are dropping those — what are they called?”

“Acorns,” I said. She was not young, this woman.

“Yes, acorns, and they’re dropping them on the roof of the house and making a terrible racket.”

“You want to cut the tree?” I said. “It’s a nice tree.”

“No! Just if they would come trim the branches,” she said. “I would never want them to cut the tree down. It’s 63 years old, I remember because it was planted the year after my son was born.”

“It’s beautiful,” I said.

“You know,” she said, “in the summertime, everyone comes over and we sit under the tree. It’s so nice and cool in the shade.”

We stood on the stained streets of this shabby neighborhood, clogged with trucks,  noisy, so changed from when she had her young son 63 years ago. And I thought of Chekhov, and the summer retreats of that time, and the racket of the acorns hitting the roof like the steady chopping sound of cherry trees in the background, off stage where you can’t see them.



Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Trees, Writers, Writing

Ms. Wiggy

I saw some striking wigs today. Gleaming, glinting, brunette, raven black, strawberry blonde. They don’t resemble real hair, and maybe that’s the point.

kosher wig

My job site was on the corner of Dayhill Road and 53rd Street, in the Borough Park neighborhood of Brooklyn. The two Zelkova trees I was there to watch over had gnarled roots pushing up the sidewalk, important issues to attend to, but it wasn’t yet time to attend to them. So I spent the early  morning watching the parade of moms dropping off their kids at the 3-in-1 school on the corner. The Al and Sonny Gindi Barkal Yeshiva, Tomer Deborah Girls School, and the Jack and Grace Cayre Elementary School.

Being Orthodox, the women all came out in the morning in their wigs. I have often wondered why, if the point of hiding one’s hair from the world is to be modest, to reserve its beauty for one’s husband only, why do these women wear kosher locks that are so flashy, which would seem only to call more attention from men outside the marriage bed. (Some Hasidic women actually shave their heads.) One of the mysteries, and just thinking about it shows my insensitivity, I’m sure.

A great wig is a rare find. I remember accompanying my friend Deb after her chemotherapy to one of the best wigmakers in Manhattan, near Columbus Circle. It was a glamorous place (they did a lot of show biz extensions) and she was treated like a queen as she had two wigs fitted, one her “good” wig and one her “bad” wig. In either one she looked as good as she ever had — beautiful — but there was still a slight brassiness to the hair’s texture.


I sat behind a man wearing a rug recently in a theater and the gloss of his hair nearly blinded me. His was plain. When periwigs were mainstays for men, in the eighteenth century, you could choose from dozens of imaginatively named styles, from the Adonis to the Cauliflower to the Ramilies, a romantic number that sported a black silk bow on its ponytail. If human hair was unavailable, the peruke maker would substitute materials from horse hair to fine metal wire.


It’s almost impossible to get a wig right.

Here come the moms, at school dismissal, and here comes their hair. So sleek and straight. Maybe the smoothness is what makes it look so artificial. I would bet that a hefty percentage of their wearers have soft, luscious waves framing their faces when the wigs come off, like Deb had before her chemo. But we’ll never know, will we?


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LinkedIn and Out

Once upon a time I had a job. It was actually a sequence of jobs – as a women’s magazine editorial assistant, then as a writer/researcher for an arts impresario, then an editorial director for a not-for-profit that advanced women’s careers. I was in my 20s. Working as the assistant to the health and horoscopes editor at Family Circle was pretty entertaining.

When I left the editorial life to become an author, though, I felt elated.

Years later, when I decided to take a hiatus from writing books, I hooked up with a career coach at my alma mater. What can I do? I asked her. I needed to work. I used to go into Manhattan once in a while to meet with her, and she would tell me that I hadn’t failed at  my chosen metier, that I simply had to switch from one field to a related one using my fine-turned authorial skills. When she said switch, she would hold her hands in front of her and raise and move them to the side as though she were lifting something light to a place it better belonged .


better hands

How does someone who has written books for 25 years switch from one field to a related one? Reenter a work force where everyone is a teenager and has the computer skills of a genie and the moxie of a shark? I subscribed to adverts on I sleuthed around cultural nonprofits to find a fit. Try and try, I couldn’t shake the fact that I was essentially a book author. I had speaking skills though, and I liked being outdoors, so I applied to work the sea lion exhibit at the Central Park Zoo. No deal.

The thing my career coach advocated most vehemently was that I get involved with LinkedIn, a site that I’d always regarded with bafflement. What was it for, anyway? Why did everyone want to connect with me all the time? Now I prettied up a resume to sound cheerful and proficient and started cold calling LinkedIn contacts. I felt like I was plastered with one of those dorky tags people wear at conventions.


hello my name isI got some interviews. During one, after swallowing a cold pill, I got such bad cotton mouth that I had to excuse myself to go find a water fountain. Didn’t get the job. I didn’t get the job as writing center director, writing teacher, social media content writer. Everyone knows that sending c.v.’s is not how you get a job. So I returned again to LinkedIn. Would the director of the Intrepid Museum, the contact of a contact, have any ideas about how I could find work? No? So sorry.

Then it dawned on me. I didn’t want a deskbound, social media-obsessed editorial 9-5 any more than companies wanted a silver-haired overqualified author who spent a lot of time inside her head. I contacted the owner of a small company that had something to do with trees.


tree cross section

Trees. That was novel. Those leafy giants that swayed along the highway? When I was a kid, I remembered, I used to build houses out of acorn tops and pebbles in the hollow of a tree in my yard. Trees, it occurred to me, were magic. I would move from one end of the supply chain to another, from bound paper books, which ate up trees, to the living air-cleansing shade-providing originators themselves. The raw material of all literature. All I had to do was take a test, and then I would be sprung from my writing coop, out in the air, in Brooklyn, saving trees and watching the trucks go by.





Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Publishing, Trees, Writers, Writing

The Sidewalks of New York

What lies under the city sidewalk? Dirt. Sand. Rocks, bricks, miscellaneous debris. Skeletal remains of vermin. And thousands of miles of pipes.

And roots.

I found one today on the job, a gnarled and grizzled specimen, a time capsule from before the jungle of New York was so concrete. This London Plane root, a yard long and six inches at its fattest, had been severed by the backhoe as it excavated the old concrete sidewalk. It was still wet with life.

London Plane root

It made me think of those anguished lines by Neruda, in Walking Around:

I don’t want to go on being a root in the dark,

insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,

going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,

taking in and thinking, eating every day.

In a way, the metaphor is truer than the reality. We’re a lot more insecure than that root I found today, chopped through though it was by the backhoe.

I don’t know how they poured concrete a hundred years back, in the 1890’s, when the pop song “The Sidewalks of New York” was Taylor-Swift hot. Then the streets were mainly cobbles, Belgian paving blocks. Asphalt was relatively new. Some streets were still dirt, more country lane than city slicker. It must have been fantastic for a woman to sweep down a (relatively) clean sidewalk without befouling the hem of her skirts. Especially if she was responsible for cleaning those skirts.

Now a root in the city seems fantastic. On my first job going among the trees, in June, there was a foreman with a sticker on his hard hat that read Irish. His name was Sean, and he had a salt-and-pepper mustache and a twinkle in his eye. I had been tracing the progress of an excavation to install a new gas line, watching the roots as they materialized in the “moist guts of the earth.” Making sure they weren’t broken by the backhoe. I had to leave, and I asked Sean to keep an eye on a certain root I was concerned about. He smiled, with only a hint of irony.

“Ah,” said Sean, “the lovely root.”

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Filed under Arborist, Culture, History, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, New York City, Poetry, Trees

A Silver Bullet

Gil and I thought we would take to the road on the trail of Fanny Trollope’s wanderings across America. My imagination itched to conjure up the Jacksonian past of the juvenile nation, which she wrote about so incisively in Domestic Manners of the Americans. It would be an in-depth look at the landscape Fanny Trollope found when she went among us, using her words as a jumping off point to explore a strange, exciting, transformative period in America.But I wanted to see these places in the present, too. I planned to call my book A Dangerous Subject, which lifted a phrase from Domestic Manners. Trollope employs it to describe the sprawl and spectacle of America, so overwhelming that it can barely be contained in language. The phrase could apply equally to the woman herself, or to any woman who dares to step outside accepted boundaries. As her contemporary Jane Austen wryly noted in Northanger Abbey, a woman “if she have the misfortune of knowing anything, should conceal it as well as she can.”


Fanny always based her criticism in solid observation. I planned for my book to be in part a travelogue assessing the current American landscape. I would talk with all kinds of people, all across the spectrum of beliefs. I wanted to find out what’s really going on in all of the red state cloud-cuckoo lands. But I would settle for taking the temperature of those states on Fanny’s itinerary: Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and New York. I was particularly interested in examining the extensive Southern part of her circuit, as my family’s roots lie in Virginia, Maryland and Tennessee. What Fanny saw there was quite possibly what my great-great-greats were experiencing.


John Steinbeck, when he embarked on the circuit of the United States chronicled in Travels with Charley, rigged up a 1960 GMC truck with a camper for the journey. I thought I would be more rigorous about the truth in my narrative than Steinbeck’s hugely popular though largely fictionalized account. Like Charley. at its heart A Dangerous Subject would be a first-person narrative that attempts “to find out what Americans are like” (as Steinbeck announced his purpose), to portray, as they say about family, “the strangers you happen to be related to.”

If anyone would give me an advance to write it.

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Cowlin’ for You

I ventured out today. After two and a half weeks in a foot cast, I was ready. The sky was an egg, the fall breeze fresh, the sun silky on my arm propped up at the passenger window of the car. There was sushi, at our local place not usually the best, but which tasted great today. There were errands, to the grocery, to the library. I admit, I stayed in my seat and let Gil do the honors, crutches not being my strong suit.

But I did make it out of the vehicle and into my neighborhood knit shop in Tarrytown, New York, on my sticks.

There I got the largest needles in the world, a different kind of sticks, in a size 50.

size 50

On Ravelry, the site for knitting devotees, I’d found a pattern for an Outlander cowl, oversize, chunky and earthy. Based on one Claire wears in the Starz series.


The yarn I found is virgin wool and acrylic, charcoal, heather grey, black and a tinge of blue. Colors one might find worn in the Scottish Highlands 300 years back? I really don’t know, but I like to imagine it.


According to one patron of the shop, Flying Fingers, whose friend is crafting a similar cowl, the Outlander look is a craze that’s catapulting across the knitways of our nation.

I may be consigned to the couch for the near future, but I’m glad to be part of a larger purpose, fitting us all out in history-inspired gigantic wool neckpieces for the first cold snap.


Filed under Culture, Fashion, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Knitting

The Exquisite Realism of Pleats

Hiatus. Mine was a long one, at least in the terms of this daily blog. I took off in the spring to research my new novel, then to write the novel, then to take a break after writing the novel, then putting the novel on the market. Now, with my foot up after a third time under the knife (yes, I have three feet), I’m back.

The daffodils came and went, the waves crashed at the beach, but I feel I’ve been inside these months much more than outside. Inside my cranium. The seasons have changed largely without me, and now along comes Fall.

I don’t work at night. The Cabin resides in a quiet, still, isolated pocket of land at the edge of an insect-buzzing marsh. We’re cloistered in the middle of nowhere. Or at least it feels like that, which is remarkable since we’re less than an hour from the lights of New York City. My point is, there’s not a lot of hubbub around, not a lot of human distractions. So after dinner, with Oliver keeping a lookout out at our feet, we either read or consume a fair dose of high-concept binge fare.

O beseeching

We visit different worlds.

It’s hard to get history right on tv. Often it’s too cheesy to watch, whether because of the dialogue, scenery, fashions or some combination that makes you say, I know it wasn’t like that. And turn it off. Go read some good historical fiction instead!

But I’ve been watching a show that manages to have a little cheese and a fair amount of heart at the same time, along with exquisite attention to detail. The premise is time travel, my favorite subject.The Outlander series takes a young English woman just after World War One (she’s a battlefield nurse) and sends her through a witchy wormhole (actually a Stonehenge-like circle of obelisks) back to 1740s Scotland. Adventures and romance ensue. What interests me is the devotion to detail on the part of the producers, down to the beautiful and so carefully sewn pleats in the wedding gown of the protagonist, Claire. Apparantly they are entirely consistent with the real McCoy. There are plenty of people out there waiting to pounce on you if you don’t do it right, but so far a war hasn’t broken out between the pleats and the pin tucks, so we’re okay.


As a writer of historical fiction, I know that you must constantly make choices about where to nail the absolute fact and when you can fudge. In fact, sometimes you must fudge, because the absolute fact would be unpalatable for contemporary readers. It fascinates me to hear about the choices made by the costume designer for Outlander, Terry Dresbach. (How’s that for a fitting name?)


Filed under Culture, Fashion, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, Writers, Writing

Leafy Air and Cheese

I can breathe again. I took a trip to Michigan and Wisconsin, the Great North Woods, which has leafy air worthy of inhaling.

Also, sweet black cherries worthy of devouring. They sell them, washed, plump and juicy, from little stands at gas stations.


I experienced a hailstorm that hit just as our sailboat anchored in that lovely private lagoon a ways into Lake Superior. Just enough to put every wet person on board in stitches.

I can breathe again because I turned in the manuscript of my new novel and my editor said he likes it. A lot. That’s an outsize sigh of relief. It made me open to everything around me.

I found that lying in bed on the shore of Lake Michigan, I could feel every delicious cotton fiber with my toes.

I saw the sights, hugged family, brought home souvenirs from people who had made them with their hands.


There was rye flour from the farmer who grew it, at Maple Hill Farm in Washburn, Wisconsin.

And fingerless gloves knitted by his wife. She sewed a pad of suede on the palm for good gripping.


The Northland is kind, even its rusty old trucks.


The region loves its fish. Smoked, fried or souped.


It offers a hundred different moccasins.


Thrives on pop (drive-in menu, top right). Known to us North Easterners as soda.


Then, of course, there is the cheese. I tasted a Michigan dairy’s Colby-style specimen, bright orange and moist, that was produced from a 1915 recipe.

Did I mention that my editor liked it? The novel, I mean, not the cheese.


Filed under Cooking, Culture, Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Knitting, Nature, Publishing, Writers, Writing

Finding Rosebud

I told myself I would have it done by the time the roses bloomed.

soft rose

My new novel, that is.

I do that sometimes, set an arbitrary time of year – not a date, never a date – when I will finish a book. It gives me something to shoot for. When the trees turn red. When the first snow falls. A seasonal moment which my project will match with its completion.

When the roses bloom.

I have been working for some time on a manuscript that shows some signs that it wants to be finished. But I still have chapters to revise before I can call it done. Yet it’s Spring, high rose season.

Just to see where things stood, how far behind I was, I thought I would pay a visit to the lovely grounds of Lyndhurst, the historic site near my house. This was the estate of the robber baron Jay Gould, and the old mansion is grey and gothic and not to my taste, though the huge specimen trees and plantings always astound. There is a fantastic heirloom rose garden there, one that I usually seem to get to too late to enjoy the blooms at their height.

This year the place was nearly deserted, and the circle of plants looked suspiciously green as I approached across the perfect lawn. There were two visiting matrons; one said, You must not miss the yellow blossoms on that bush, they smell like lemon.

yellow roseos

And they did. But the lemon roses were one of only a few shrubs out of dozens there that were actually in bloom. Others offered wicked thorns.


Or buds so tightly sewn up it was hard to imagine them ever opening.


I’ve come across some thorns and some sewn-tight problems in the narrative I’m working on, so I could appreciate them. I wished I could have seen Lyndhurst’s roses, lush, exploded, lemon, yes, but also vanilla, musk and all the other scents that don’t have proper names imagined yet.

More than anything, though, I felt happy. Because the roses had not yet bloomed, and my novel will bloom when they do.


Filed under Fiction, History, Home, Jean Zimmerman, Nature, Photography, Publishing, Writers, Writing

Stuck in the Middle of My Novel With You

I have been meaning to write and say that I’m taking a bit of a hiatus from writing this blog — but I guess that’s kind of obvious. Not that I don’t adore posting here, I do. And I have the greatest readers in the world. But I am stuck in the middle of novel-world, and my writing in the fictional format seems to be taking all of my mental energy. I’m telling the story of a teenage girl in Revolutionary-era NYC. She looks a bit like this, as I imagine her.


I have her portrait tacked up to my bulletin board. And now I have to get back to her.

I will still post here from time to time, and pretty soon I’ll dive back in to the real world, and my real blog, every day.


Filed under Art, Culture, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Publishing, Writers, Writing

National Arts Club Talk Wednesday 8pm

I’m so looking forward to giving a presentation at the venerable National Arts Club on New York City’s Gramercy Park tomorrow night, April 16th at 8:00. The Club is housed in a beautiful old mansion, the perfect spot for time traveling back to the late nineteenth century. I will show pictures during my talk, sign books afterwards, and exhort guests to dance to our live musicians playing tunes from Savage Girl’s era. The celebration is free and open to the public. Please come if you’re in the neighborhood!

SG Flier Gramercy


Filed under Culture, Dance, Fiction, History, Jean Zimmerman, Music, Publishing, Savage Girl, Writers, Writing