Swanchurch

There are lots of swans here, which is why I call my writing retreat Swanchurch. Here are two trumpeters (blackbilled) and a mute swan (not as quiet as you’d think) just off my dock a couple springs ago.

Every spring, I hold my breath in anticipation of the signets. A banner crop of six in 2018 holds the record for most babies, also for most losses, which is a story about snapping turtles.

This year, Keats and Shelley (the pair–whichever pair–that claims my stretch of the river as theirs is called Keats and Shelley) had two signets two days ago.

Today, there’s only one. I’m not posting a picture of that.

There are swans here year round… they are photogenic in all seasons. I could post a hundred more pictures, but will leave you with this one from last autumn at Swanchurch.

The Muse of Château Musar

The woods of my childhood were easy to reach beyond my backyard and across the long pasture to the west. There, at edge of civilization as I knew it, was a tall, thick stand of conifers with a perfect little smeuse the size of a six-year-old girl. Through it, I would step from the open field into a shady cosmos of birdsong… sunlight kaleidoscoping through the boughs… the sharp scent of jack pine oxygenating the air. It was enchanted in a way the grown-up world would rarely ever be… except on this night.

“The first ever bottle I tasted that was produced by my grandfather, Gaston Hochar Senior. A nose of forest floor followed by a palate of sweet ripe berries, layers of tobacco, coffee, liquorice with balanced acidity and SO MUCH freshness. A singular experience from a wine from the early Musar era. ~ Marc Hochar, Chateau Musar

On this night, the taste of pine sap on my fingers brought it all back to me, except it wasn’t pine sap at all but a deep breath and sip of a Château Musar Rosé. From this “still and softly-oaked tribute to the ‘blended’ rosés of Champagne,” a liquefaction of memory poured forth. I was simultaneously a little fairy climbing a tree and an imperious professional woman attending her first-ever wine dinner.

Who knew wine could do that?

Well, Marc Hochar knew. It’s just another day at the office for Château Musar, which is not to diminish the wonder of such unexpected revelations. This just compels the Hochar winemakers to bless the wider world with the fruits of their labor. They have been making Château Musar wines for generations in the soil of the Garden of Eden, so it is understood: something divine is going on here.  

Grapes and earth and weather over the imprimatur of time can create many lives in a bottle of Musar, and several more inside us, according to Hochar. That’s because “We preserve the life that’s embedded in these wines. We don’t filter them, or strain them, or take anything out,” he explained. “So they retain this ability to behave like living things… they change. If you open two bottles of the same vintage at the same time, you should not be surprised to find they are not the same.”

Coming from Lebanon, a land of extremes, such seeming contradictions are embedded in the DNA of a Château Musar. The Mediterranean climate of warm, dry summers and bitter cold winters in their Bekaa Valley vineyard inhabit every bottle. Such dimensionality was deliciously supported by a five-course “Taste of Lebanon” at Kalamazoo’s Rustica restaurant. At its by-invitation-only wine-dinner, six different Musar wines were featured. Each one was unique yet somehow recognizably Musar… familial in the roots of Rosé, Hochar Rouge, Blanc, Rouge… ancient and alive.

As we sipped, my friend and I would say the first thought the taste and aroma conjured: mown hay, carob, chanterelles, the marsh on a summer night, a cellar door. The ocean… sand that had been stirred up by whale fins. The acrid air from skeet shooting. Colostrum…  manuka honey. An awareness of past lives… gravestone moss. The stories started telling themselves with our voices. This wasn’t about logical, credible comparisons, but letting the wine meander through our sensory lobes of experience. Here were memories that weren’t always our own… or were they? I thought of these lines in a poem by Jon Wallace:

What we say seems to make sense, yet

beyond the chatter don’t we go on forever, effortlessly

resisting the fixity of words? I tell you

we are precisely what cannot be spoken

or felt, and so remain secrets even to ourselves.

From this mysterious inner-expedition came my “sappy” review, which I was somewhat embarrassed to share with Marc Hochar when he stopped by our table. It didn’t seem dignified enough, or in the proper canon of wine vernacular. But to my great relief, Marc was delighted with my story. He found pine pitch entirely apropos because that’s what was real for me. And that was the point… maybe even the goal.

This remarkable event has raised the bar for every glass of wine I’ll ever drink again. You’re welcome, Hochars, and I am sorry, every other label.

It’s just that Château Musar invites an engagement in which wine isn’t just for enjoying, but for enhancing a delightful tour of self-discovery. The wet-dry, earth-sky, love-hate, hot-cold, blood-water, laughter-tears, primordial-modern Lebanon has imbued its country’s most famous wine with its own memories. To imbibe is to rehouse them… and explore the Muse of your own life when you let them live in you.

© Leeanne Seaver 2022

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Civil War Mass Comm

Among the gems found in my research for my new book commission: a scrap of paper on which A. E. Simons sketched out the music he’d soon memorize for his troop, the 37th Illinois Volunteers Infantry. Simons recruited and organized the brigade, assigning the best offices and commands to those he thought qualified. This magnanimous approach left him without rank himself, but “Every war has to have some privates,” he reportedly said. His commanding officer squelched that, “You’re not going to be a private. We haven’t organized our music; you must take charge of that.”

This is how Simons came to be the Fife Major.

Every regiment had a fifer and a drummer; their tunes constituted mass communications across the rank and file. Everything from breakfast and dinner “Mess” calls to “Taps” (day is done) directed the activities of the men, especially in battle. Simons performed his duties through harrowing circumstances until after the war in 1866. He was left with severely compromised health, dying just ten years later.

His widow, Jennie Bessie, and five small children, bravely set out to claim land on the Kansas prairie that was her “Widow’s Pension.”

All of the children would go onto successful futures. One would establish a successful newspaper publishing company that spanned four generations.

I am writing their story. Have I mentioned how much #Ilovemyjob

#OrangeShirtDay

We were sitting around a campfire this past Saturday night listening to Jared… rapt. After describing what he does as a mariner (that’s right: a professional m a r i n e r), Jared said no, he never got seasick. Under any kind of conditions from the ᑭᒋᑲᒥ (Gitche Gumee–the “great sea”) to every port of call around the globe, this Ottawa #NDN of the Grand Traverse Band has never suffered nausea or discomfort. This prompted my recall of the days I worked in television and there would be the annual scheduling of downtime for work on the tower. It was always done by a team of Native Americans. I cannot recall which tribe they were from, but these guys traveled a national circuit doing this kind of work. Rich Pegram was GM of WTVR when I was there, and he explained in the Monday morning staff meeting that these guys were unscathed by danger… no fear of heights whatsoever, so they pretty much had a lock on this dizzying gig for every station across the country. This aspect of Indian-DNA has put them in some really high places, to wit: https://dailygazette.com/2017/04/16/honoring-native-americans-who-built-skyscrapers-bridges/

But these are not stories about #orangeshirtday. Orange Shirt Day is not about good stories, it’s about unconscionable things that have happened to indigenous children and their families on this continent. It’s about putting a spotlight right on these issues because they’ve been buried (literally) for so long. So I’m training what amperes I’ve got in that direction, too.

Here’s a link I hope everyone visits today–September 30th–the day we wear our orange shirts:
http://www.orangeshirtday.org

#ILoveMyJob

What does a book #published in 1668 have in common with how #SeaverCreative (that’s me) approaches every #bookcommission? If you can decipher the olde English of the preface, i.e., the Praemonition, by “physic” (a.k.a. doctor), astronomer, and author Wm Ramesey writing about “Wormes” (they’re eating us from the inside out, doncha know) some 20 years before the apple fell on Newton’s head, you’ll make out his strong disclaimer against #plagiarism.

YES, he acknowledges, “wormes” are serpents of the Devil, but tries to understand them biologically. This is as ambitious as it is dangerous; biology doesn’t exist as a science yet. In fact, science is struggling to be recognized and those trying to get a foothold find themselves swinging from a rope on the gallows.

In this climate, Ramesey dares to mingle the “Sacra Profanis” but his thoughts are his own, bigod (who is watching–tensely)!! #sacriligious #CartesianDualism

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Is this the last surviving copy of Ramesey’s book published in 1668?

Here’s the thing: This is just one of so many rare books just sitting on a random shelf at The Cedars, the most amazing place where my fascinating new book client lives. When I retire to my rooms after a day’s work, I can’t even sleep for the wonder of what’s crammed into the shelves within an arm’s reach of my pillow.

To wit: Here’s a pic from the last chapter (“Our hands are full”) in Abbott’s two-volume history of the Civil War published in1866.

It’s written in the present tense. 

Repeat: It’s written in the present tense!!!

I don’t know how these rare books and many more have made it to this place unscathed–and neither does my client. But here’s what I do know: It is a rare privilege to get to curate, write, edit, form, and shape books for a living. Some days I can hardly believe I get to do this. #ILoveMyJob

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Out of hundreds of Iraqi girls in her Baghdad high school, she is the only one whose name means beautiful. This is how I learned one of only two words I’ve mastered in Arabic so far. The other is the word for avocado . . . which is avocado. Factoid: She loves guacamole. As host-mom for a month, you’d think I’d have picked up on a few other words, but mostly she wanted to know how I say things. So I said things. And I took her picture often–with her permission.

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We covered figurative language as I unabashedly exposed my rabid disapproval of the Cheeto-Dusted Bloviator . . . Agent Orange . . . yes, him, the Assaulter-in-Chief in our White House. She was never entirely sure I should be talking like that about the president of this county. I think she would have changed the subject if she knew how . . . she was worried for my safety . . . she’s read terrible things about what happens to some Americans in this country.

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Well, someone else can (and does) stick to the company line. I’m keeping it real on my watch, although we did cover a lot of other territory.

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We fished for bluegill, savored ice cream, teeter-tottered, reburied some poorly-laid turtle eggs, nearly flew out of the speedboat jumping waves on Lake Michigan, and mutually crushed on Mena Massoud.

ice cream vs gelato Q
turtle eggs

She showed me how to make dolmeh and gave me too many presents. I met her parents thanks to WhatsApp, and Yes, of course, I’m coming to see them all very soon after the Screaming Carrot Demon is voted out of office.

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Soon enough, she’ll be back home. She has big plans that she’ll deliver on even when her parents choose her husband. She assures me she can say no. Well, don’t agree to anything until you kiss him . . . you won’t know everything you need to know without that, I tell her. She shakes her head vehemently . . . no no that cannot happen until after they’re married, and if she’s caught breaking that rule, her head can be cut off . . . or she could be shot in the head . . . headshot.

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. . . this head

. . . this beautiful head and fine mind

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Is she any safer here than she is there? Am I?

Every night I put my hand on this country,
It slips away from my fingers,
Like a soldier running from the front.

(from The Last Iraq by Fadhil al-Azzawi)

© by Leeanne Seaver, July 23, 2019

the Infrasound then the Silence

One of my favorite reactions to the publication of Proud But Never Satisfied* was from his brilliance Arthur Daemmrich who acknowledged the strangeness of how quiet the world becomes after one’s book is released: “You put a ton of work into a book and then the first response is silence. It takes months for reviews and for feedback and for people to notice it is out there!

Actually, we’ve been blessed by good reviews so far, thanks to gracious pre-readers; but, in many ways, Daemmrich was spot-on. The distance between writing and publishing is vast. In spite of knowing where you were headed the whole time, reaching the destination is strangely unexpected. It’s like getting out of a car you’ve been driving hard for (in my case) three straight years–long enough to no longer notice the sonorous hum of the highway–then there’s just a deafening silence.

All of the sudden, you’re even not in the vehicle… and that’s when you hear how loud it all was… by not hearing it at all anymore.

Indeed, it feels like I’ve moved to a vacuous planet uninhabited by the infrasound of writing a book… the constant conversation, the noisy notepad near my pillow, and the back&forthing with my sources, my clients, the editors, designers, publishers, and my own inner-circle of trusted advisers whose job is just to get the pour right on a G&T at the end of deadline-driven week.

Nature and my CPA abhor a vacuum, so I’m happy to be back at work on another book commission. Still, I wish I had the courage to hang-out in that silence until I could hear the sound of my voice.

*https://www.amazon.com/Proud-But-Never-Satisfied-Transformative/dp/1622181115/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3VPF558HA53PO&dchild=1&keywords=proud+but+never+satisfied+book&qid=1615822279&s=books&sprefix=Proud+But+Never%2Caps%2C182&sr=1-1