July 13, the day of my end-of-term reading at the Stegner House, was the second day of storms in Eastend.
It even stormed a few hours before the reading...which is the kind of weather that scares off audience members, especially those invited to a backyard reading/potluck.
By the time the reading was slated to begin, however, the back yard was sunny enough for me to attempt a tanktop and windy enough to keep off the bugs.
And I'm not sure what it is about humble potlucks, but the last few I've attended have been magnificent.
This one included deer sausage, a 'chinese' salad (cabbage and nuts and mr. noodle bits with soy), a pasta salad, a mushroom and broccoli quiche, a small ham, and a fruit platter.
My contribution was a broccoli and grape salad and Gerry Hill's mother's recipe butter tarts, defrosted and then baked in the half-hour before everyone arrived.
(More after the turn...)
But the capper was the contribution of Don Scott, a Californian writer with Canadian relatives who's writing a biography of a colleague of Wallace Stegner's (whose name I can't remember, unfortunately...).
Having stayed at the house twice before, he was visiting in the area in his camper when he learned that the house had suddenly come free for the last two weeks in July due to a cancellation.
So Don - primed to move in the next day - was my first guest, appearing at the door with a loaf of sourdough bread under one arm, a bottle of red wine under the other, and a big helping of fancy salami swinging from a bag on his forearm.
(As you might expect in a small town with limited grocery options, the fresh crusty bread and spicy cured meat were gobbled up.)
A dozen or so other people joined us in the back yard, some I'd met in the previous three weeks in Eastend and some I hadn't. And we ate and chatted and, as the wind picked up, retreated inside for coffee, tea and poetry.
I read the first five sections from Guidelines, an Edison poem I'd gotten down while at the house, and then, after a question and answer period that touched on process and subject matter, a few sections from my poem Substitutions in the Rutting Season anthology.
And then we chirped at each other, tickled to be in each other's company.
It reminded me why I like giving readings and added a bit of pomp and circumstance to the end of my term at the Wallace Stegner House, punctuating my three weeks there but also providing a nice interlude between the day of housecleaning that preceded it and the full day of driving that followed it.
Thanks to Don for the wine, the conversation, and also these pictures. Thanks to M for minding Aa, who does NOT enjoy readings or at least readings that aren't exclusively for her. Thanks to Ethel for setting up the reading and every other Stegner-related detail.
A further thanks to all the writers and artists who stopped in at the house while I was there. It made me feel as though I was writing and reading and thinking alongside a community of artists, which is an awfully homey feeling..and awfully necessary, when you've transplanted yourself into a place not-your-home.
I'm pleased to say that I've only got one more copy of Rutting Season to my name and a handful of Guidelines in addition to the four copies still for sale at Aqua Books.
The next few months will include mini-tours of both books. I'm going to be in Montreal August 11-14 and will try to work up a reading from Rutting Season, given that the publisher is based in Montreal.
Later in the fall, I'm hoping to get to Edmonton again, this time to read from Guidelines. Since I'll be going all that way, I'm also going to try to set up readings in Regina and maybe Saskatoon...but we'll see.