Thursday, December 31, 2015

Reflections on New Year's Eve - NYC and Carlisle, Indiana

New Year's Eve celebrations began at Times Square in NYC as early as 1904. In 1907 the 'ball drop' was added. That first New Year's Eve Ball was an iron and wood sphere, 5-feet in diameter lit with 100 hundred lightbulbs. 
The Ball has been lowered each year since 1907 except during 1942 and 1943 when the ceremony was suspended during World War II.

The original Ball was replaced in 1920 by a 400-pound one made of wrought iron. Then in 1955 the iron Ball was abandoned for an aluminum one weighing 150 pounds. Several upgrades to the Ball were made in the 1980s and 1990s.

Then, for the 2000 celebration the New Year's Eve Ball was completely redesigned by Waterford Crystal and Philips Lighting for a spectacular beginning of the a new millennium.

Read more about the Ball at:  

poem by G.W.Clayton from Moth at the Window

Times Square 1907
Image courtesy of

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Write a Book

So you want to write a book. Every book starts with the first sentence. If you cannot think of the first sentence then start with the second sentence. The point is to just get your ideas on paper. You can review it all later, but to starting can be a battle. 

In “Bird by Bird” author Anne Lamott advises just putting your words on paper.
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it.” 
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Just start. Start writing. Start your journal. Start the blog. Write every day. Try to write at the same time each day. If you are a deadline person, give yourself one.  Write about anything. Write about a person you know well. Write about a childhood memory. Write.                          

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Carlisle Indiana - What it was When

It is hard to know what Carlisle was like when G.W. Clayton was a young man. Certainly it was a vibrant community in those days with morning and evening posts, trains traversing the tracks and businesses florishing in downtown.

I remember Robert's Garage, the Rexall drugstore and Dr. Cox 's Barbed Wire Linament. Here are some photos from Carlisle Indiana Heritage on Facebook.
Perhaps you can share what you remember as well.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Queen Victoria's Wedding Bonnet

Imagine my delight when I discovered a framed photo of Queen Victoria's wedding bonnet in a box of old photos rescued from my mother's house.
Front Side

Reverse Side

It might have been Cyrinthia's (G.W. Clayton's wife) but more than likely it had been her mother's, Mollie Laughead Jones, born in 1856.

Queen Victoria was born May 24, 1819 and died January 22, 1901. She ruled Great Britain for 63 years (the second longest than any other British monarch and second longest female monarch in history (Queen Elizabeth II is currently the longest serving monarch to date).

The "Victorian era" of British history was the period of Queen Victoria's reign (1837 to 1901). Late Victorian attitudes focused on highly morale behavior and straitlaced language.  During the Victorian era the population of England and Wales doubled, however Ireland's population decreased significantly due to the Great Famine. At the same time about 15 million emigrants left the United Kingdom from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand and Australia.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Adapt and Evolve

'In life we cannot avoid change. We cannot avoid loss. Freedom and happiness are found in the flexibility and ease with which we move through change.'

I recently received a letter from an old coolege friend. He wrote of the devastating heartache he felt after divorce and the the untimely death of his second wife. He was pulled out of the depths of depression by a colleague who told him to choose life or death. He chose life and began to exercise, hike and cycle.

Grover Clayton wrote of his despair after Cyrthia died. I believe Lucy and Jean gave him hope and helped him survive and be open to change and a new unexpected love.

The happiest 96 year-old is my former neighbor, Jane, who continues to adapt and thrive and be optimistic even after the death of her spouse, a cross-country move and several health issues.

Evolution comes from adaptation, so adapt and evolve. Recreate yourself if you need to!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Working on a New Manuscript

I am working on a new manuscript.

It will be based on letters written to my mother in the early 1940's while she was in graduate school.
Poem "Autumn Stillness" by G.W. Clayton - circa 1939

Monday, October 12, 2015

Book Signing Postponed at The Learned Owl

Apologies to midwestern friends who hoped to see me at The Learned Owl Bookshop in Hudson, Ohio last Saturday.

I had to reschedule due to circumstances beyond my control. A colleague of mine became ill and I needed to stay here and work.

The Learned Owl does have copies of Moth at the Window available for purchase.  If you buy a copy and make a comment on this blog I will send you a personal note by snail mail. I hope to hear from you soon!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Hickory and the Moth

On my walk today I found some hickory. I like the feel of the smooth oval nut and I am captivated by the hull that surrounds and protects it.

The hickory tree is in the genus ‘Carya’ for the archaic nut-tree goddess, Carvatis. There are 12 species native to North America. The nuts are edible, although not all are palatable to humans.

Hickory is a food plant for the larvae of some Lepidoptera (moth and butterfly ) species including the Luna moth. 

This summer while kayaking on Lake Erie I saw a spot of green on a large rock. To my amazement it was a Luna. I had not seen one since I was a child in Ohio. It was a wonderful moment.  The Luna moth has a very short lifespan (a week). 
Here is a link to wikipedia if you would like to learn more about the Luna moth (Actias luna).

Gathering hickory nuts reminds me of Indiana. Here is a picture of me with my brother, mom, aunt and grandmother collecting nuts for cookies.  You can read more about my midwest adventures in Moth at the Window

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Suffield Days - Phelps Hatheway House

Perennials blooming outside the summer house 

Many thanks to Lynn Mervosh and her team at the Phelps-Hatheway House for asking me to talk about the story and events that led up to my writing Moth at the Window.

And many thanks to all of you who turned out for the poetry reading on Saturday, September 12th. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Moth at the Window - Poetry Reading and Book Signing at Phelps-Hatheway House this Weekend

I am so excited! On Saturday I will be reading poems and signing books at the Phelps-Hatheway House in Suffield, Connecticut during the weekend festival.  

Some of you may know that I grew up in Suffield, Ohio. As a result I feel that my connection to the Connecticut town is very special. 

Although I have lived in Connecticut for more than 25 years I only went to Suffield for the first time a few months ago after meeting Michele Holcombe, the former site administrator for the Phelps-Hatheway House, at a SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates) meeting. Michele introduced me to Lynn Mervosh, the current site administrator, and we immediately began talking about an art quilt exhibit to coincide with the Suffield Days Celebration on September 12-13, 2015. Read more about the art exhibit at

One thing led to another and Lynn asked me to do a poetry reading from my book on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.!

I will be reading a few of my favorite poems and signing copies of the book (probably in the Summer House).   I hope you can make it. 
Remeber to get your raffle ticket for a chance to win "Autumn Splendor" by Mary Lachman 

And don't forget to visit the Art Exhibit in the Phelps-Hatheway Barn - open 10-5 Saturday and 11-4 Sunday

Phelps-Hatheway House and Garden
55 South Main Street
Suffield, CT

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Short and the Tall: Frances and Nelle

Nelle Johnson and Frances Clayton were lifelong friends. They both lived in Carlisle, Indiana. Carlisle is south of Terre Haute on Route 41.

Carlisle is such a little place that if you were driving past in the 1960's or 1970's and blinked while you would miss the exit.

Nelle and Frances led a caravan of five women on a cross-country camping trip in the mid-1960's. My mother was one of the women in the group, along with her sister, my Aunt Lucy, and Lucy's daughter, Carol Jean.

Learn more about Nell and Frances in Moth at the Window.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Mold Under the Covers

I am have located a collection of letters written by G.W. Clayton from the 1940’s. I marvel at the way he was able to turn a phrase. Was he unique in this ability or did a majority of adults write properly constructed sentences back then? I struggle with this question.

I feel certain he knew more about proper grammar than I do. I love to write but often I make several revisions before I feel comfortable with the final draft.

This past Sunday I pulled an old photo album from the closet at the base of the stairs. I was searching for a photo of my grandmother (Frances). When I saw that the edges of the album were laced by mold I grabbed the wet-chlorine-wipes and mopped off the top, sides and back. Then I pulled the others out and wiped them off too. Perhaps this was not the best approach but I hope it kills the mold.

These albums were stored in my mother’s farm house in a bookcase behind the living room door. There was no air-conditioning or air-filtration system of any type there. As a result I think the mold spores were deposited on the albums there and when the humidity in my basement stairwell rose to a certain level this summer it bloomed. Perhaps a new storage location would be best.

Does anyone have any suggestions? Do you think I should remove the photos from the old black-page albums and place them in something else?

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Indiana Peaches

In August the melons are ripe in Indiana. Wonderful watermelon, musk-melon, cantaloupe and peaches like those delicious ones I ate as a kid.

I don't know what created the heavenly flavors. Maybe it was the Wabash River watershed or the lands that were reclaimed from the swamps that made the soil so fertile and harvest so lush and succulent.

I do know that Indiana folks love melons and peaches. It is something that reaches deep into their soul. I too have had it touch me. I am drawn to vine-ripened fruit that I know grew on the nearby lands. I can taste the difference between the local peaches and those that came from South America.

This photo is of my step-grandmother, Frances, and my brother and I. You can read more about Frances in Moth at the Window.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Moth at the Window - Learned Owl Book Shop in Hudson!

I am very excited to announce an upcoming visit to The Learned Owl Book Shop  in Hudson, Ohio on Saturday, October 10th.

Hudson is a lovely historic town in northeast Ohio full of quaint shops and pleasant people. I will be sharing the afternoon with another author who will also be signing books from 1-3 p.m.

Mark your calendar now!

The Learned Owl Book Shop
204 N. Main Street
Hudson, OH 44236
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 am - 7 pm; Saturday 10 am - 7 pm; Sunday Noon - 5 p.m.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Southbury Public Library Author Fair

Next Saturday is the long anticipated Southbury Public Library Author Fair!

I will be there with a dozen or so other local authors answering questions and sharing insights about writing in general.

Southbury is a lovely town right off Route 84. The library is one of the most beautiful and modern in the state.

Make a day of it and check out the antique shops in nearby Woodbury or Flanders Nature Center.

Carol Peck's Cafe is nearby as well as the pastry shop, Ovens of France...the almond croissants are heavenly!

Author Fair - Kingsley Meeting Room
12-3 p.m. - light refreshments available

Southbury Public Library
100 Poverty Road
Southbury, CT 06488

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Poetry Month Open Mic at Blackstone Memorial Library with Connecticut Poets Laureate

Last night at the Open Mic at the Blackstone Memorial Library I read "The Keeper of a House of Dreams" from Moth at the Window. It was my first Open Mic event and it was a blast! 

The event was a celebration of Poetry Month organized by the Connectictut Poets Laureate. The evening began with poetry readings from members of the audience, who ranged in age from 16 to 80+ years.

What a beautiful venue. The Blackstone Memorial Library is this gorgeous building right on the Branford public green. If you have not been there yet it is worth a look and there are several amazing restaurants nearby including G-Zen (vegetarian) and ice cream (Ben & Jerry's and Ashley's).

After audience members shared their poems a Poet Laureate from the West Haven VA read several of his poems. Then the other four CT Poets Laureate, Ginny Lowe Connor (West Hartford), Joan Hofmann (Canton), Julia Morse Paul (Manchester), and Gordy Whiteman (Guilford) each read several of their poems.

Poetry Month events continue all month throughout the Connecticut. I hope you have a chance to catch some of them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

New Review "Moth at the Window" by Barbara Bryner

Moth at the Window
by Mary Lachman
reviewed by Barbara Bryner 3/15

Prompted by the discovery of a decades-old cache of poems hand-written on scraps of paper, Mary Lachman has prepared a loving tribute to dentist and part-time minister Grover Washington Clayton, 1884-1959, a grandfather she never knew. The book is well-organized, beginning with a brief introduction to the history of Indiana, where Clayton's family had lived since the 1840's. Lachman has grouped Clayton's poems thematically between prose sections of her own memories of visits to her mother's family. The text is illustrated by many family photographs and some paintings, most notably “Moth at the Window” by the author's son. 
The insight into her grandfather's life provided by his poems is an enviable heritage to his descendants. Trying to discern a man's inner life through his poetry may lead to intriguing differences of opinion. Since many of the poems are undated, it must be difficult if not impossible to correlate poetic topics to known life events.
Some of the poems especially appealed to me: “Apologia”, “Room Within the Heart”, “Reflections on a New Year's Eve” and “Introspection”. Others seemed trite or obscure. Any study of the development of writing style and ability is hindered by lack of dates. Clayton must have been a modest man writing for his own satisfaction, not for posterity!
The book could have benefited by closer proof-reading in both prose and poetry sections. However, some of what I perceived as misspelling or awkward word usage may be a result of the difficulty of deciphering the hand-writing. Or it may be a difference in interpretation. (For example, is the title “The Mountain Trial” a misspelling-- or a play on words? Regardless, Lachman has produced a remarkable labor of love.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New Review of "Moth at the Window" posted on Barnes &

Shared here a new review posted at Barnes & by Kathrin Lassila Day - March 2015

"This sweet, moving book is filled with poetry and an especially personal variety of history.

Mary Lachman (a friend of mine) has combined her grandfather’s poems—a trove she discovered after his death—with her own childhood vacation experiences of the region where he lived. His poems are an intimate autobiography; her stories give us the day-to-day scenes of family life that, though they usually see print only in biographies of eminent figures, make up so much of the culture of a particular place and time.

In the case of Moth at the Window, the place is southern Indiana and the time the mid-twentieth century (with glances back to earlier generations). Every chapter provides poems of a particular theme, along with Mary’s memories.

Mary gives us just enough wonderful vacation scenes to make us wish for more. She had an uncle who “would spread peanut butter on sliced Vidalia onions.” She had an aunt whose bathroom was done completely in pink, from the tile to the rug to the faux-fur cover over the toilet lid. She and her brother were at her step-grandmother’s house one day when an auburn piglet wandered into the yard. Mary and her brother chased it ferociously, and must have come incredibly close to catching it, but the pig “scrambled and squealed and scampered into little crannies between bushes that we children could never fit through.” They lost the race, to their deep chagrin.

Mary’s grandfather, Grover W. Clayton, was a high school principal and a dedicated amateur poet—which today sounds like an incongruous combination, but it shouldn’t. There are more than 80 poems in this book, and although Clayton wasn’t Shelley (and who among us is?), he wrote poems of wisdom and feeling that show us a man with a great heart. The book has love poems, religious poems, poems about nature, meditations on death and loss—including the death of Clayton’s infant son—and many poems in which one watches a human being sorting out his values, choices, and path through life.

A few excerpts:

“The crown of life is confidence of friends.
It may be earned, but never bought nor sold.”
“Though it may seem to be a paradox,
We only keep the love we give away.”
“When the sun has set
And men view my life
In its afterglow,
May they truly say
They have lost a friend.”

Thank you, Mary, for a book full of warmth."

~And thank you Kathrin for your words!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Goodreads Winners Announced

Congratulations to the the 10 winners chosen from the 429 individuals entering the giveaway!

If you are one of the lucky individuals I will be sending you an autographed copy of Moth at theWindow within the next 3-5 days!

Please help me promote the book by posting your honest reviews of the book at

The winners are:

  1. Linda C. of Binghamton, NY
  2. Melissa W. of Skokie, IL
  3. Amanda B. of San Antonio, FL
  4. Lynn K. of Winder, GA
  5. Christina S. of Morris, IL
  6. Marnie W. of Rapid City, SD
  7. Melinda W. of Jackson, MI
  8. Jennifer V. of Alhambra, CA
  9. Karen K. of Stevens Point, WI
  10. Brenda S. of Superior, MT

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February Celebration

The amazingly productive writer, Joyce Carol Oates, author of "In the Region of Ice" and "Black Dahlia and White Rose: Stories" was once quoted as saying, “Getting the first draft finished is like pushing a peanut with your nose across a very dirty floor.”

Honestly that is how I felt trying to finish Moth almost a year ago!

But since we are nearing the end of February,  I am celebrating two things:  the 21st birthday of my second son and the 2nd anniversary of my day job in New York! 

Remember my Goodreads book giveaway ends this Saturday. 
Enter today! You could be the lucky winner of an autographed copy. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Faintest Pencil

Someone once said, "The faintest pencil mark is more powerful that the best memory" and that is certainly true from my experience. 

Several readers have asked about how G.W. Clayton’s poems were found in my mother’s home.  First, remember GWC was my mother's father, my maternal grandfather. Mom was a lover of writing, paper, and books. And, she saved everything.  Some of the poems were scribbled on scraps of paper while others were transcribed into a hardbound poetry journal for Jean.

Remember the Goodreads giveaway ends on Februrary 28th.  There is still time to enter to win a copy of Moth!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Broderie Perse

The rose spiral broderie perse-style art quilt is almost complete. 

I created it to reflect my feelings for the poem "Acquiescence" on page 32 of Moth at the Window

GWC wrote Acquiescence in 1927 shortly after his baby son, Mason, died.  If you have had a chance to read the poem you will sense the grief of his loss. It is a wonderful and yet heartbreaking poem. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Parting Glass and Broderie Perse

I am charmed by the words of The Parting Glass an Irish tune that I heard on the radio yesterday performed by the High Kings, complete with bagpipes.

The final phrase is “Then fill to me the parting glass, and drink to health what e'er befalls, good night and joy be with you all”. 

I was enchanted by this phrase and carried it with me most of the day. 

What a wonderful sentiment. You might want to listen to it @  The Wallin' Jennys also have a version you might consider listening to if you prefer female vocals.

Of course yesterday was a snow day for most of us in the Northeast especially after the Governor closed the highways. I delighted in spending the day stitching fabric. I want to create an art series inspired by the poems in Moth at the Window.

The work in progress below reflecting the poems Acquiescence (p. 32) and Longing (p. 101). The technique is broderie perse which in French means Persian embroidery.  Motifs are cut from one fabric and stitched onto another. Additional images will be added to the blog as this work progresses.

Initial stage

Next stage 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Writing for Life

Who doesn’t want to improve something or change something in their own life? Have any of you read “Writing Your Way to Happiness” the NY Times column by Tara Parker Pope? Here is a link 

The article indicates that writing, and then rewriting your own story can lead to behavioral changes and improve happiness. Ms. Parker-Pope reviews a few studies where college students who kept journals and wrote daily about their thoughts and feelings were better able to cope with the transition to and stresses of college.

We each have a personal narrative. That narrative not only shapes our view of ourselves, but also shapes our view of the world. It seems that by writing and then editing our stories we can change our perceptions of ourselves and remove obstacles to a better life. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Reflections on a Life

For me, the first weeks of the New Year are a time for retrospection. What did I get right in the previous 365 days? What do I need to improve upon?

In 2014 I was pleased to complete Moth at the Window. This year I would like to get the photo albums organized and sort more of ancestral papers. Last weeked I discarded several handfuls of old newspaper clippings that included sports statistics from 1933-1937 that were in my father's collection of coaching memorabilia. I think I can do without them. I did keep his scorebook from the year he took the Coventry High School boys basketball team to the championships, as well as newspaper clippings that included him by name or photo. 

I continue to learn about G.W. Clayton every time I pick up another of his letters. And, believe it or not I am still finding new poems folded in correspondence that I am now reading for the first time. I love reading handwritten letters. I don't think there is anywhere else can you gain an intimate understanding of a person who is no longer alive. 
Cyrinthia and G.W. Clayton with baby Jean, circa 1920

G.W. was born in 1884, 19 years after the Civil War ended. Imagine that. Ringling Brothers Circus premiered that year. Alaska became a territory. The first roller coaster began operation on Coney Island and William Sherman refused the Republican presidential nomination saying, "I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected." How's that for decisiveness!

Check back tomorrow as I will post a poem from Moth at the Window, "Reflections on a New Year's Eve".

Tell me your thoughts for the new year. Do you have plans? Resolutions? Changes to make?

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Moth at the Window - Author Event Announced

Guess what? The reference librarian at the Southbury Public Library has just invited me to participate in a Connecticut Authors Day on Saturday, May 2, 2015!

Southbury Public Library
100 Poverty Road
Southbury, CT 06488