My desk in Charlottesville, VA

The final editing of a book -- sometimes called "killing your baby" -- is indeed a ruthless process. That phrase you love? Cut it. The cozy word which adds really nothing to your sentence? Delete.

My recent radical downsizing before moving from a big house tin Lexington, Virginia to a small one over the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville, was like being my own big red pencil. I slashed through stuff as my Knopf editor whacks away at my prose. "Think harder!" he says.

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Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, Ry Cooder 

The other night I was at a Ricky Skaggs/Ry Cooder/White Family gig east of the Blue Ridge in Charlottesville, VA. The vibe was religious revival, the songs a mix of Gospel, folk, bluegrass -- and Grand Ole Opry, especially when the Whites jumped in with their heart searing harmonies.

The sold-out audience was ready to climb right in when Cooder belted out "Take Me In Your Lifeboat." And for the duration of the song, at least, I thought I'd died and gone where this great music magician will sing us all beyond that raging storm into Glory Land.

But when they got into "You Must Unload," an old Blind Alfred Reed anthem, the evening got personal.

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The Otter Place at CuriOdyssey, San Mateo, CA 

Some of you will see where this is going from the title of this post. 

Backing up: I am in the middle of this family Experiment in Multi-Generational Living out here in California (you go "out" west and "back" east, btw. Must be a holdover from pioneer/Manifest Destiny triumphalism. Native-American friends just shake their heads). 

One of my assignments is to have fun two afternoons a week with Kevin, the five-year-old grandson, to break up his long Kindergarten day. Last week we went to CuriOdyssey, a science and wildlife center for kids south of San Francisco. I wanted to take Kevin there because it had otters and there are few things more fun than watching otters play in the water.

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San Carlos, CA: T-Ball Team Photo Day
This year was a dark, cold, snowy, miserable, endless no-good winter in the eastern United States. It was even the worst in living memory in the mountains of Virginia where I live most of the time.  

In mid-January my daughter Lucy called from sunny, drought-ridden Northern California and said: "Mom, it's time you thought about moving back out here -- and," she added, "you could help out with Kevin."

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Before we reach the end of January, 2015, here are some of the most popular NEW BEST FRIENDS FOREVER posts from 2014. Note to self: write more of them in 2015!

The word these days is that doing so-called expressive writing helps keep you sane and happy. Let's hope so.

Unexpected Friends
Walking Into the (Very) Old Picture
Ah, Rhubarb!
Spring Morning at the Kitchen Table
Finding An Old Best Friend in a Book

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