Archive for May, 2013


May 22nd, 2013

Hol and I went out for a walk after dinner. I stated that I was determined to hear a thrush. Their haunting, piercing song is a crucial rite of spring for me. I have been away from home for a while, so missed their return. I heard one at a distance the other evening, but tonight we not only heard a hermit thrush in ear-thrilling proximity, we could see it! In this video, if you go to full-screen mode, you can see the bird move from one branch to another near the middle of the frame. Thrushes are very private, secretive birds. (Not unlike my recently departed mother.) I’ve seen one before very briefly. But mostly they are invisible in the dusky forest.

Every year I drag out this bit of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem Spring…but every year it is true.

…Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing…

And here is the almost-full May moon rising after we got home from our bird walk.

may moon

Here is a video about the moon, thrushes, and veeries, that I made 6 years ago. The meadow where I filmed the moon is now fully grown up with pine trees. The passage of time is nearly unbearable.

Helen Fontana Bechdel

May 15th, 2013

Helen, young

My mom died yesterday. Here’s her obituary.

I got to spend a lot of time with her over the past couple months, which was a tremendous gift.


May 10th, 2013

I’m at my mom’s house, and have been going through some of her old files of the plays she acted in. There are programs from college and summer stock productions, old newspaper reviews, head shots…including this stunner:

…there are also cast photos, stuff like that. But then I ran across this curious document.

An envelope of lovely cream-laid stock, sealed with red sealing wax and addressed in my own handwriting to Mme. Leonora Armfeldt, a role my mother played in A Little Night Music in 1977. At first I thought it was something I’d given her as a joke. Certainly the address was a joke…”Björneborg Manor.” But then I opened it up and read the letter.

These are lines from a song that Mme. Armfeldt’s daughter Desirée sings. Then it all came back to me—this was an actual prop from the play! Mom had asked me to create an authentic looking letter that the characters could use onstage.

This has added yet another bizarre layer of complexity to a scene in chapter 6 of my memoir Are You My Mother? where I write about mom’s performance in that play.

letters enclosing reviews

admiring my mother's acting

darling buds

May 3rd, 2013

Unfortunately, I am having to cancel some events I was scheduled to do next week, due to a family situation. On Thursday May 8, I was going to do a talk at BAM with the illustrious personal essayist Phillip Lopate. (Wow, didn’t know till I made that link that it’s some kind of dinner event! $55 with wine and tip included! Plus it’s sold out. Man.) We’re working on rescheduling this.

After the BAM event, I was planning to continue on to Boston, to do a keynote for the Women and Psychotherapy course, part of Harvard Medical School’s continuing education program. I was looking forward to meeting Janna Malamud Smith, one of the organizers. She’s a therapist and also a writer. Several years ago I blogged about her memoir about her father, Bernard Malamud.

So I’m not going to be able to do the Women and Psychotherapy event either, but I’m working on a scheme to deliver my keynote virtually–my talks are always essentially slide shows–so it might work to send a powerpoint file with a voiceover of me talking, that they can play for the audience.