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Busy As …

Happy autumn!

In coordinating the logistics for our very happily anticipated move to the sea, we have often felt as industrious as these glorious creatures, seen here in this absolutely gorgeous location in northeastern Vermont.

A beaver swims in Coles Pond in Walden, Vermont.

Beavers are fascinating animals with a surprising skill set and the ability to dramatically transform landscapes for the benefit of a vast array of creatures. Enjoy this short video compilation of footage we recently shot of them from our canoe-enabled vantage point:

Click here to launch the video!

Stay tuned for an upcoming feature in our next edition of Quill & Ink to learn more about beavers!

Enjoy the fall weather … and make a splash!

Happy National Punctuation Day!

I want to change my punctuation. I long for exclamation marks, but I’m drowning in ellipses.
—Isaac Marion, Warm Bodies

September 24 is National Punctuation Day, started in 2004 by Jeff Rubin.

We, of course, work with punctuation all day, every day, and we’ve laughed quite hard over countless linguistic mishaps resulting from the incorrect use or even the omission of necessary of punctuation. (Please feel free to check out past Quill & Ink articles discussing the intricacies of punctuation, including this one from 2016, this one from 2015, and this one from 2014.) Because we of course we would never underscore any examples of this from our own authors, consider taking a moment to reflect on these amusing examples already published for public consumption:

Posted here.


Woe, the lack of the almighty serial comma here!

While admittedly sources vary somewhat on the official number of punctuation marks in the English language, the following beautifully presented graphic is pretty representative of what we see in a typical day.

Courtesy of the Visual Communication Guy.

Go forth and punctuate!

First of a Thousand (or a Million!) Miles … Or Love Letter to a Mountain

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

In our Spring & Summer 2017 issue of Quill & Ink, we announced that we have, after many years of dreaming about it, sold our lovely, cozy little home near Lake Champlain in northern Vermont and have embarked on an adventure of traveling to and living in new places and exploring distant horizons.

Later this fall, we will fulfill a decades-long dream of living an easy morning’s stroll from the ocean; until then, we find ourselves on this rather remote and beautiful land.

Our first stop on our journey is on what was Sara’s great-great-grandfather’s farm very near the Canadian border. Jay Peak—at 3,968 feet in elevation and said to boast the most snow in eastern North America—is just a few miles away on the skyline.

It once belonged to and was farmed by Sara’s great-great-grandfather and has remained within the family since that time. It is at an approximate elevation of 1,024 feet and is part of what are known as the Cold Hollow Mountains, which encompass important ecological landmarks across western New York, northern Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and well into Canada, including southern Québec and all the way to the Maritime provinces, allowing for strong and diverse populations of moose, bobcats, bears, fishers, and many other magnificent members of our natural world. In fact, many species of birds have as much as 90 percent of their global population breeding in these mountains! The mountains also contribute to recreational and material industry—in fact, there is an active maple syrup operation on this old farm—as well as the clean air and water these pristine forests provide.

The road leading to our current home sweet home.

Iconic covered bridges straddle waterways all around us, some of which date back to 1883 and still enjoy regular use. They were designed for protection against heavy snowfalls and suitably fortified to withstand the demands of the heavy wagons and logging vehicles of yesteryear.

This prototypical structure, which has benefited from routine maintenance, originally linked the banks of the brook beneath it in 1883.
The covered bridge spans a sparkling waterfall, which spills into a pebbly, popular swimming hole.

At the site of this particular bridge once stood a creamery, which supported the forty-nine farms that graced our immediate surroundings once upon a bucolic time.

Mossy fingers stealthily curl around a ghostly hidden jewel slumbering in the forest.

As for the secluded mountain retreat nestled into the side of this mountain, it is airy and bright, boasting crisp, fresh spring water and a cozy woodstove. Wild fruit trees, berry bushes, and wildflowers ramble everywhere.

Chokecherries glow in the late-summer sun.
Wild blackberries surround us in August.

Wild apple trees offer their alms to the sweet deer who make their homes here.

Jewelweed, asters, and goldenrod nestle together in a glorious tangle of color.

It is generally blissfully quiet here—we are, after all, a nearly fifteen-minute drive from a paved road, even farther from a country store, and nearly an hour from a traffic light—providing a grand stage for the birdsong and serenading insects. In the deep blackness of night without a nearby streetlight or a neighbor’s lamplight, the stars sparkle like scattered snow in the sun. And when the stars melt away and the sun peeps over the ridge …

Sunrise over Jay Peak.

On warmer mornings, we linger over breakfasts and steaming cups of coffee on the sunlit porch overlooking the layers of mountains that stretch their toes nearly into Québec (we’re so far north that French radio stations reach us far better than any others).

And it isn’t just breakfast we enjoy out in the fresh air.

Breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, tea, a glass of wine … it all goes well with the view.

Some of our little neighbors occasionally join us for a tasty meal on the porch.

Juniper the hummingbird loves to stop by for breakfast …
… and lunch.
And so does Phee the bee.

Colder mornings often begin with sipping our coffees and snuggling with our dogs around the lambent fire.

Even in mid-July, it gets nippy on this mountain. Murphy curls up contentedly in Sara’s arms, while Gili peers up sweetly.

It is a very special place, and spending time here and advocating for it and places like it supports our personal mission of environmental conservation, sustainable living, and responsible guardianship of the natural world.

For a woodstove, one must have plenty of wood. The trees comprising this woodpile were industriously felled, split, and stacked on this land by Sara’s father.
All told, there are nearly one hundred acres filled with history … and an active maple sugaring operation.
Stone walls stand proudly throughout fields and forests, some of them generations old. This one was crafted from the stones of the original foundation of a nineteenth-century farmhouse built on the property …
… and offers refuge to a reptilian tenant.

Verdant banks of ferns unfurl and stretch their tendrils upward in the forest’s filtered light.

Already, autumn is stealing in on tiptoe.

A sugar maple seemingly ablaze in early September.

And finally, an office.

Research indicates that fresh air increases oxygen levels, which in turn heightens concentration and focus—key components of a successful editorial enterprise.

If you have any thoughts to share, please let us know; we’d love to hear from you.

Stay tuned for our next chapter on this great traveling adventure, coming up soon!

Changes Galore

It feels like change is in the air, and it’s not just the weather or the seasons! There are many exciting things going on with SAS, many of which we’ll be revealing over the next few weeks and months.

We’d like to note that our seasonal publication, Quill & Ink, will feature a combined spring and summer issue, due out in late July, detailing some of these changes.

Speaking of changes, Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary has recently undergone some significant changes in the presentation of many words. So for those of you using your printed version of the eleventh edition, you’ll notice some differences between the print and online versions. Here are a few:

Previous Spelling Current Spelling
backseat back seat
coffeemaker coffee maker
good-bye goodbye
lightbulb light bulb
sound track soundtrack

If you’ve noticed any other changes in MWCD, you’re not alone. If you’ve come across any other recent spelling updates, drop us a line!

Happy Spring!

Happy spring, everyone!

The first day of spring always reminds me of crawling across a finish line, battered and bruised but utterly relieved. In a climate like the one in which we live, north of the Forty-Fourth Parallel, the arrival of the vernal equinox is really more of a moral victory than an atmospheric one—snow and ice will reign supreme here for many weeks more—but the knowledge that we have achieved a balance between daylight and darkness and that we are far closer to milder days than we were months ago is indeed worth celebrating.

It is also worth the optimism of springlike photographs!

I also really enjoy the glee heralded by last day of winter … in some ways even more than the first day of spring. Because while the first day of spring is like eagerly planting a flag on a long-anticipated and enticing patch of turf, dreaming of pleasant things to come, the last day of winter offers the smug satisfaction of accomplishment. Finishing the last page of a book, after all, is much more gratifying than finishing the first page of a new one.

Best wishes for your springtime! May the seeds you plant—whatever they may be—burst forth with all that makes your spirit sing.

Happy Winter Solstice!

sun1_s

Shhh ….

Hear that?

That’s the sound of us smiling at the knowledge that we’ve officially reached the shortest day of the year, which means that we’re now beginning our collective, slow, ever-spinning swing back toward gradually and increasingly lighter days, a journey around the sun that we all make together.

One of the really great things about solstices is their unifying characteristic—everyone in the world experiences them more or less simultaneously, together. Better than that, they also connect us with the celebratory traditions of countless cultures around the world, transcending both space and time, as well as our natural world and everything of which it consists. They remind us that we’re all more alike than we are different, and that’s particularly comforting on the darkest night of the year.

Sunlight is returning!

If you are so inclined to celebrate, perhaps you may consider borrowing traditions from one of the societies around our planet that have welcomed the lengthening days over many thousands of years. Forgive grudges, as did folks in ancient Rome, share food with others, as was done in Poland, or create your own way to celebrate the occasion. Light candles, invite loved ones to share a special meal or pause to remember those you cannot be with, volunteer, recommit to a goal or an ideal … or perhaps do nothing at all save feeling smug and pleased that there will be more daylight tomorrow than there is today.

Happy Winter Solstice … Happy Holidays!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

This holiday comes at a particularly good time of year, not just because it is a season of harvest and bounty but also because we are heading into days with increasingly less daylight … and that makes it particularly important to rally our spirits and focus on what is right with our lives.

We encourage you to not place overly lofty expectations on yourselves during this Thanksgiving and the season of festivities soon to follow. In the challenging whirl and hubbub of the entire holiday season and its seemingly endless string of obligations, stress, and exhaustion, is easy to agonize so much over the details and minutiae that we largely miss the point of this longtime tradition—which is to celebrate our blessings, contemplate our gratitude for everything that is going well, remember those who are less fortunate in some way, and—if we choose—to break bread with loved ones. Our holidays need not be Hallmark moments; setting ourselves up for such an expectation may not be to our collective advantage.

It's beautiful, yes, but is it a requirement?
It’s beautiful, yes, but is it a requirement?

In fact, simplicity is often preferred.

Simple is beautiful!
You might choose instead to fill up on love, laughter, and good conversation and save yourselves the additional hours of planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning up. Simple is beautiful!

If at all possible, consider taking some time to rest and relax, to breathe deeply, and to reflect on the goodness in your lives.

4

In closing, we offer these wise words:

It is not happy people who are thankful. It is thankful people who are happy.

—Author unknown