Wednesday, August 26, 2015


Her dreams are all of flying. Lambros, in a baleful mood, again reminds her this is a symbol of escape. "You're being irresponsible," he complains.

Miriam believes her inability to write is tethered to the maddeningly predictable pendulum of their marriage, the distracting social obligations of his tenured professorship. "I cannot listen to one more pompous speech," she says. Her notes, laptop, and portable printer are already on the the back seat of the Volvo. "Besides," she adds, "If I'm not in town you'll have an excuse for my absence at the ceremonies."

Lambros looks dispirited but says nothing. As Miriam finishes packing sweatpants and lightweight sweaters, he stands with one elbow on the bedroom door frame, arrested by the mirror's reflection of her short, graying hair, her spreading middle.

His final comment as she leaves their house in Bangor seems particularly unkind: "You'd like to dig a hole, climb in, and pull the sides in after you." She ignores him, accelerates onto the street, and drives away without looking back.

It is the first warm day of spring, and Miriam indulges her secret habit of whistling as she drives the two hours to their remote country home near Woodland. I won't have to wear make-up or a bra.

The slightly uneven stones in the pathway make walking to the front door a conscious effort. She has designed the oak house herself, insisting it be built in the traditional New England way, a simple two-story design with mortise-and-tenon-pegged joint frames, gabled roof, dormer windows.

Miriam has often felt the timbered scent of the house drawing her in, so she is not surprised to see a woodpecker's new doorway, a small hole on the west side just below the inverted V of the roof. At a distance the downy creature's tiny chalet resembles the entrance to a cuckoo clock.

After she's been there three weeks, the late May weather tempts Miriam away from her desk near the south window where her novel is taking shape. She sits in the cedar Adirondack chair under a large spruce, among the wildflowers at the edge of the small lawn: hyacinth, lady's slipper, meadow lily, buttercup, clover. Pulling a frayed green cotton blanket over her legs, she carefully balances a mug of tea -- her own decoction of roots, seeds, and berries.

Suddenly she hears a chick-like peep-peep-peep-peep-ddddddrillllllll followed by an irregular but rhythmic knock-knock-knock-knock-knock-knock. Miriam looks up to see the woodpecker grasping the edges of his round threshold, drumming a territorial hip-hop. Then he flies away, the vertical white stripe against his black back reminding her of a prison uniform, though cockier, the jaunty red tuft on his head like a baseball cap turned backwards. She imagines the little bird is making a break into the spacious sky.

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