Blessed By Nuisance

October 31st, 2012 | Posted by Irene in Essays | News - (8 Comments)

PODCAST TO COME when Internet is returned to us–

Want to post my thanks that our experience with Hurricane Sandy was blessed by nuisance, and nuisance only. Same holds true for our loved ones and friends, as well.

Yes, on Monday night at 9:20, along with millions, we lost our electricity. (I never like to say we are without power.) And while we have a generator, it took a vacation this time around.

Tuesday morning we surveyed the damage–minimal. A big and longtime-leaning locust fell safely out of the way. A big maple split and the toppled half crumpled a section of deer fence, but that can wait. Big limbs and chunks of dead trees fell, but those too can wait. All the trees I wrote about last week–the handsome, stately chestnuts, catalpas, cedars, spruces–all still stand.

Nothing obstructed the driveway, so at yesterday at noon I drove to a distribution point established by our electrical utility. There they dispensed gallon jugs of drinking water and bags of dry ice so people could preserve their refrigerated food. Here you can see people giving and receiving help.

Sandy Helpers, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012



Dry Icers, photo © Irene O’Garden

As I write, our Internet service is still down. But our phone never went out. Astonishingly, our electricity returned yesterday afternoon at 4:20, before the generator guy could even get here. (Turns out the old gal needs a new motherboard. A nuisance, yes. But as my friend Tracy says, a quality problem.) Our hearts go out to those who are facing so much more.

Cabin Concussion, photo
© Irene O’Garden 2012

Most miraculous of all was the slight concussion suffered by my writing cabin. A dead tree fell across the roof peak. Rather than crushing it, however, the tree snapped like a breadstick. Leggy chunks slid forward and back off the roof. In the photo, you can see the little debris on the left of the roof, and the rest of the fallen tree behind the cabin. It only dislodged a bit of plaster inside, though the impact shook my calendar off the wall and tossed a little wooden banner to the floor. The banner, a copy of one I made for a friend’s birthday, says, “The Gift Of Time.” Glad we have been afforded more.

The Gift, photo © Irene O’Garden 2012







How did you and yours fare?

Glad to Be Human Update:

Found out yesterday my publisher, Untreed Reads, expects to release Glad To Be Human shortly before or after Thanksgiving. Once I have cover art, you folks will be the first to see it!

More to come!

Some of you may have seen an earlier version of this post referring to advanced copies. However, it turns out I’m not able to offer them, so you’ll have to wait until the pub date. In spite of earlier advice I received , I am assured that reviews are more meaningful coming from verified purchasers. Thanks for your understanding–I’m new at this–

Ridiculously Tiny Tree, photo and all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012


To listen to this post, please click here: Ridiculously Tiny Trees

When I was younger, I regularly drove by a wooden fence where someone had planted fifteen little spruces, each just the size of your hand. “Ridiculously tiny trees,” I’d think to myself.

These were the same ignorant years when I’d page through a garden catalog and say,” I’m not planting an apple tree. You have to wait too long for it to bear fruit.” Took me ages to realize that whether you plant or not,  five years will pass just the same.  Either you’ll have apples or you won’t.

But who doesn’t love massive graceful old trees? When we moved into our present house, we were awed by a stately allée of century-old catalpas. There were also towering cedars, mighty chestnuts,  and grandmother dogwoods shawled in lichen. Testament to the long view of the first tenants.

Yet no mid-sized trees. A whole generation of trees was missing. Fascinated by dogs and horses, the intermediate owners ignored tree planting. We brought along some Arbor Day babies, which are mailed as pinkie fingers. The crab and hawthorn bear blossom and fruit and shelter the birds now. We’ve planted many other trees as well, including a reserve of catalpa offspring to replenish the allée when the time comes.

Now, in the company of old trees, I’m always on the lookout for the young. It’s a comfort to see them springing up in Central Park or along the Taconic or the Palisades Parkway. And those fifteen spruces? They are taller than I am. Whenever I pass these teachers, I gush with affection.

I embark on an adventure with my forthcoming ebook. I feel a very tiny tree indeed. But it lately occurs to me, that if some things are too big to fail, nothing is too small to plant.


Are you planting something tiny these days?


Lake of Sky, photo & all text
© Irene O’Garden 2012

But first, exciting news! Some of you may know that last June, I had a writer’s dream experience.

My agent invited me to the Book Expo in New York to see what publishers are up to these days.  As we made our way through the bulging booths, she told me that the day before, she’d chanced to meet an ebook publisher. At the end of their conversation, he’d said, “Oh, we’re also looking for essays. “

That morning, she’d remembered my Pushcart Prize-winning essay, Glad To Be Human. She hadn’t arranged to meet up with the publisher but we headed for the table in International Rights where she’d seen him the day before. There he was.

She introduced us, handed him Glad To Be Human. He read about three paragraphs and said, “This is gorgeous! I want it.” He bought it on the spot. It is to be released in the next month. Watch this space for a special offer for you, my loyal readers!

To listen to this post, please click hereHaving a Cigarette


Emerging from a stressful time a few summers ago, while on retreat, I decided to take a walk to the lake. It was a lovely evening. I had anticipated seeing the lake, but not planned beyond that. Along the soft strip of beach, a lounge chair lay open in white receptivity.

But I am an accomplisher. I don’t just sit and look at a lake. Too reed-choked to walk the circumference. What was I to do, walk back?  Bathed in late sunlight, the lapping lake coaxed me to stay.

I was cast back to childhood. At a moment like this, my mother would sit and have a cigarette. So that’s what I decided to do, lean back in the long white chaise and have a cigarette. Without the cigarette. As I sat inhaling the evening, I thought of breaks–coffee breaks, smoking breaks. It’s not so much the coffee or the cigarette, but the break itself. The break for pleasure.

Addiction is convenient, since you don’t have to decide your pleasure—you don’t actually have to pay any attention to yourself at all. But convenience is expensive—it can cost your life. Or at least many dollars.

Substance or not, becoming aware of the pleasure in the present, the ongoing fulfilled promise of existence, is ever an option. Even an accomplishment.


What’s a pleasure break of yours?




Thirty Year Spoon, photo
and all text ⓒ Irene O’Garden

To listen to this post, please click here:The Inverse of Spoon

One day last month, while eating a bowl of oatmeal, I slit the inside of my lip.

I felt that infantile fury, shock and unfairness we feel when pain comes out of nowhere, when all ordinary precautions of life have been taken, yet something goes awry. Whole-grain danger? In our very mouths? Looking at the spoon above I understood.

Thirty years ago yesterday, on our wedding day, nestled in a chest with the rest of the set, sat this soup spoon, brand-new. We decided not to save our silver “for good,” but to use it every day. Thirty years spooning oatmeal, chili, soup with this spoon. Thirty years soaping and rinsing and wiping it dry.

I realized we have lived together long enough to wear down our spoons. What cut me was the glorious thinning edge of commitment.

In its capacity to deliver both nourishment and pain, marriage is a knife-edged spoon. But as the gauze of years unwinds, as intention and love become more refined,  marriage becomes the inverse of the spoon that bit me.

The knife-edge dulls, subsides to mere accident, like a scratch of your spouse’s unclipped nail. The measure of the bowl expands and deepens, holding and offering health, awareness, joy.  A spoon that shines even when empty.

This week my love and I celebrate thirty sterling years of spooning together.  While marriage may not be for everyone, we can’t help congratulating and encouraging all the young couples we meet. We’ve become our own proverb–a wish for a long marriage: May your spoons grow thin in your mouths.

Beaming Nuptials, 1982
photo by David Dosh









Thirty Years: Oct 9, 2012
taken by our dinner server



If you were a proverb what would it be?

To listen to this post, please click hereCleared For Take-Off

Like dust. Worse. Like rust on my desk: two or three months’ worth of unprocessed paperlife. Not bills, you understand– all the really urgent stuff got done. But filing and questions and forms. Matted, as ever, with perfect excuses: travel, performance, submissions, and family and friends.

(Not only that, but here in the Age of Distraction we have hyper-super-ultra-extra other ways to duck and cover.)

Pussyfooting around my desk, I thought I was postponing discomfort. Truth is, I felt it everytime I entered my office.

Once I faced that heap of indecision, I found two funny pockets of irrationality. First: Stern verdicts are called for: imprison things in the file cabinet or slay them in the wastebasket.  Seated at last, sorting and tossing, I smiled. Silly fear, as if letting paper go is letting go of people or events. As if memory were made of paper.

But clearing the desk feels like a waste of creative time. I could be making something new! Rust eats whatever is beneath it.  A desk is space for new creation.

Making space is never a waste of time, just as making time is never a waste of space.

The shadow side of our wildly entertaining Age of Distraction it corrodes our Age of Satisfaction. But with bit of inner elbow grease, we are cleared for take-off.

 Actual Photo: 

Cleared For Take-Off, photo and all text
©Irene O’Garden 2012

1show current page