“Oh Froggie!” (Sligo Avenue, Silver Spring, Maryland)
This mug used to be part of a set of four. I bought it in 1992 or 1993, when I was visiting my friends Sarah and Dean in Devon, England. Sarah, a friend from BU and the Huntington Theatre, actually left a couple of days after I arrived because her visa expired. So I spent most of the time knocking about with her British boyfriend Dean (who’s now her husband). One day we took a day trip to Exeter, which somehow involved stops at 7 or 8 pubs. I bought the mugs at a fair that was taking place at the town’s cathedral. I dropped them getting off the bus once we were back in Devon, and—over yet another pint of cider at the Wig and Pen—discovered one of the mugs was irretrievably broken. About a decade later, I gave one of the surviving mugs to my friend Marnie who was visiting from Washington state and wanted something to remember me by. And then there were two . . . which I hope to keep safe and sound for another decade or three.
“Paint By Number, Detail” (Silver Spring, Maryland)
This is a detail from a vintage paint-by-number I bought the last summer of the National Book Foundation Summer Writing Camp on the campus of Bennington College. I was a writer-counselor, which meant I played den mother, photocopied poems for the workshops, taught one mini-workshop, and gave a reading. We weren’t supposed to go off campus, but we knew camp was ending so two other writer-counselors and I went traipsing around Burlington to a used book store, a lunch spot, and a winery. I found the PBN in a giant antiques barn and carried it back in my luggage from Vermont to New York City and finally to Maryland.
“Leaving Town” (four views from Amtrak 19 between Washington, DC and Alexandria, Virginia)
It feels like I have always loved train travel, though I don’t think I rode my first interstate train till my late teens. I love that when traveling long distances on a train, you can actually see the terrain through which you are moving, unlike cars and buses, which offer unrelenting highways. It’s interesting that these photos are so frenetic when the train was, in fact, moving at a stately, meditative pace. For a few years, I had a habit of counting freight trains as they went by, wondering what was inside the sheltered containers, cars, grains, chemicals, men. Their mournful cries make me piercingly happy.
* Though I have been taking the pictures in order, I haven’t always been able to put them up in order.