Career Highlights

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/25/2016 12:54:04 AM
Modified: 3/25/2016 12:54:39 AM

Better than many of us who spent most of our working lives writing for community newspapers, M. Dickey Drysdale saved the evidence of his 45 years of ruminations on life in the valley of the White River where he could find and maybe recycle it some day.

That made pulling together his 177-page book, Vermont Moments, easier for Drysdale than it might have in the months after he sold the weekly Herald of Randolph last spring.

“I kept track of the pieces I wrote and personally liked the best, and things my readers liked the best and I got the most feedback on,” Drysdale said this week in a telephone interview from the Herald, where he maintains an office and continues to write. “There was at least twice as much material as what you see in the book. A big part of it was eliminating specific news stories and editorials that aren’t particularly relevant anymore. I wanted to make this a book of Vermont moments, not telling people what to think or breaking news, but my personal reactions to moments.”

Take the moment, in 1971, when residents of Chelsea gathered in a hillside cow pasture to help 20-year-old artisan Ward McCain celebrate the completion of a 23-foot-high wind harp, for which he chiseled bedrock and spliced in 10-inch-square oak timbers.

In an account for The Boston Globe, Dickey wrote, “A feast was spread out under the old apple tree just below the crown of the hill where the wind harp jutted into the sky. Visitors interrupted their meal for short pilgrimages to the instrument to listen and to feel its sounding board as any slight breeze sprang up. A huge bonfire was lit to bring the evening to a close.”

So never mind that the monument stood there barely into the 1980s.

“I think that was up for 10 years,” Dickey said. “The kid who built it moved to Maine and took it with him, set it up somewhere on the shore.”

In another of his favorites, Digging a Vermont Hole, Dickey writes of the contrariness of a site where the rock below kept changing the location where he was hoping to plant a linden tree.

“We didn’t argue,” he concludes. “We’d have looked pretty silly standing there in the light rain, arguing with a hole in the ground ahout a mere couple of feet left or right. We set the tree … and trusted that the young sapling would have as much patience as we in dealing with the independent-minded piece of ground that we had found for it.”

Too bad you won’t find that monument, either.

“That tree was struck by lightning, several years later,” Drysdale said this week. “Long enough that I don’t think it was in direct retribution for me.”

If Drysdale ever wondered about the wisdom of collecting these and other stories, many from a time before social media, a younger man and an older one provided validation not long after Vermont Moments came out last fall.

“One of them was a kid who graduated from high school last year,” Drysdale said. “His mom had sent him my book for Christmas. He wrote me a lovely letter about how it had completed his appreciation for Vermont. How many college freshmen would do that?”

Then came the gentleman who read the collection, subtitled A Celebration of Place, People and Everyday Miracles, en route to Arizona to scout retirement sites.

“He came up to me right after his trip,” Drysdale recalled. “He said there’s no way he’d ever move down there.”

M. Dickey Drysdale will read from and talk about

Vermont Moments

at Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library, on May 3 at 5 p.m.

 

 

Vermont Moments

sells for $16 in bookstores and on amazon.com.

 

Second Time Around

The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Upper Valley will hold its annual sale of books and music from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on April 2, at its meeting house on U.S. Route 5 in Norwich. For more information about donating items to the sale (no encyclopedias, textbooks, non-vintage and non-collectible magazines or cassette tapes) and about volunteering to receive and sort materials, call Rich Greenlee at 802-436-1150 or email hartlandvt@aol.com.

Come Together

On Monday night at 7, the Haverhill Corner Library will hold the second in its series of book discussions featuring mystery stories by Scandinavian authors. This month’s book is Faceless Killers, the first in Henning Mankell’s series of novels featuring Swedish police inspector Kurt Wallander. It follows Wallander’s investigation of the murder of an elderly farming couple.

Admission to the discussion is free. Copies of the book are available to borrow at the library. For more information, call John Landrigan at 603-989-5831.

The Vermont Humanities Council is inviting military survivors of combat to join its next series of book group meetings for veterans at the Veterans Affairs Center in White River Junction. Under the leadership of Vietnam veteran and retired history professor Michael Heaney and medical center Chaplain Mary Lewis Webb, the group will meet at 5 p.m. on April 13 and 27, May 11 and 25, June 8 and 22, and July 13 and 27.

The humanities council provides free copies of all reading materials, as well as a light supper, and registration for the series is free.

To sign up or learn more, email marylewis.webb@va.gov or call 802-295-9363 (ext. 5417).

Author Readings, Talks

Mimi Baird of Woodstock will read from and discuss her book He Wanted the Moon during forums in Woodstock and New London in the coming weeks. The memoir, which the Washington Post named a Notable Nonfiction Book for 2015, chronicles Baird’s journey to learn more about the manic depression that plagued her father, the physician Perry Baird.

On Monday morning at 10:30 at Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library, Mimi Baird will talk about the book during the gathering of the library’s classics book group. Admission is free.

On April 6 at 3:30 p.m., Baird will read during a forum in Susan Colgate Cleveland Library at Colby-Sawyer College in New London, where she went to school. Admission is free.

On Monday night at 7 at Latham Library on Thetford Hill, Didi Pershouse of Thetford will read from her new book, The Ecology of Care: Medicine, Agriculture, Money and the Quiet Power of Human and Microbial Communities. Admission is free. For more information, call 802-785-4361, visit thetfordlibrary.org or email librarians@thetfordlibrary.org.

Author Jo Knowles talks about Read Between the Lines, her new novel for young adults, at The Sharon Academy on Tuesday night at 6:30. Following her talk, there will be a panel discussion about the power of literature to give voice to adolescents. Admission is free. For more information, call 802-763-2500.

Woodstock’s Norman Williams Public Library will host April readings by nonfiction author Robin Gaby Fisher, poet John Paul O’Connor and Vermont Poet Laureate Chard deNiord.

Fisher, a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, will read from and lead a discussion of her book Choosing Hope on April 2 at 2 p.m. The book chronicles the first-grade teacher in Newtown, Conn., who saved her students during the mass shooting that left 20 students and six educators dead at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.

O’Connor will read from his collection Half the Truth on April 8 at 4:30 p.m. The book won the Violet Reed Haas Prize for Poetry in 2015.

On April 16 at 2 p.m., deNiord, who lives in Westminster West, will read a range of his poetry, including selections from his most recent collection, Interstate.

Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Jorie Graham will read from and discuss her work at Colby-Sawyer College in New London on April 14 at 4 p.m. The presentation, to which admission is free, will take place in the archives reading room of the Susan Colgate Cleveland Library. Among Graham’s 13 collections of poetry is Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems 1974-1994, which garnered the Pulitzer in 1996. The host is Colby-Sawyer professor Ewa Chrusciel, who translated Graham’s work into Polish.

New in Print

Kathy Keenan of Burlington recently published On Tuesdays We Iron, a memoir that her late mother Ione Lacy Keenan wrote about growing up in Windsor in the 1920s and 1930s. After attending the University of Vermont, Keenan co-ran medical practices in Brandon, Vt., and Essex Junction, Vt., with Edward A. Keenan Jr., her husband of 67 years.

The book is available at amazon.com.




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