why doesn't she leave him?

update: my essay in the huffington post here is a story about domestic violence in the  home of someone people very well might hope would protect them--ross mirkarimi, the newly appointed sheriff of san francisco county.  

his wife, eliana lopez, was once a telenovela star in venezuela.

abuse can happen to anyone--even a famous, adored, talented woman--and the abuser might be the last person anyone would suspect.  my mother had a phrase she used about someone we knew: "house devil, street angel."  smiles and a way with words can hide a lot.  what goes on behind closed doors is known only by the family.  if you've got a secret that's hurting you, please ask for help.

the national domestic violence hotline is one really good place to start.

little night takes place in new york city, amid the magical and unexpected wild places in central park.  it also deals with abuse and family secrets.  the question that comes up, so often, is, "why doesn't she leave him?"  the answer, as anyone who's ever been there knows, is: it's hard, so hard.  and the reasons for staying are as varied as the women involved.

it can take a very long time to trust yourself enough and, and to decide to get out.  but when it's time, it's time.  listen to yourself, that little voice inside.  believe what he does, not what he says.  actions speak louder than words.

know that you are brave.

Spring News: My new novel is out now!

here's the cover of my new novel, LITTLE NIGHT.  it came out june 5 2012.  here's a link.  isn't the cover lovely and mysterious?  it's an image of poets walk, in new york's central park.  i'll be posting more about the novel soon... [edited june 5, 2012]

Little Night is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and IndieBound

watching the hawk

my friend in new hampshire has a field of lupines. my friend in vermont feels like wilted petunias and invited me to have lemonade on her porch.

my sister in mystic is doing yard work, and i want to bring her herbs from mim's garden--rosemary, sage, and mint with roots that go down deep and go back forever.  oh wait, she already has herbs from mim's garden.

in chelsea my little terrace has weeds between the stones and a hawk who perches on the rail eyeing pigeons.

maggie sits inside and watches the hawk.


Interviews and blogs/The Silver Boat

Here is a clip of my interview on NY's WPIX, channel 11, from this morning.  It was wonderful speaking with Laurie Dhue.   She kindly held up The Silver Boat and reminded readers of my NYC book signing April 11, 7PM at:

BARNES & NOBLE Upper East Side

150 East 86th Street

New York, NY 10028

I also want to share a link to wowOwow--a piece co-written with Pam Dorman, my publisher and editor.

An interview with Rick Koster in the New London Day.

And four blogs:

Such a Book Nerd



Crazy Daisy


Linus’s Blanket


Early Word







Driving snow, wind howling up the Hudson River, thunder and jagged lightning, an epic storm. Torn: stay inside, write and be cozy, watch sheets of snow blow past the windows, river unseeable though the whiteout?  Or bundle up and go outside, coat-hat-scarf-gloves-boots, and feel the blizzard?

Both, as it turned out.   Last night, ice in the wind, blinding and stinging; hearing the wind roar was like standing in a kettle drum.  Cabs inching along.  A toboggan track in deep snow, leading down West 23rd St to the subway station.  And today a snow day, streets empty of cars, side streets unplowed with taxis and even a bus abandoned to the drifts.  i wanted to build a snow fort, and came upon the one above, occupied by neighborhood kids.

Click link to see some photos I took of the blizzard and the day after.  Stay warm...

We Gather Together (even if we can't)

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. This year I'm missing my sister Maureen--she and Olivier went to France, to say bon voyage to his brother and sister-in-law, leaving Bordeaux to open an inn in Indonesia.  Missing my nieces, too--Mia will be with her friend, and Molly will be with her husband Alex and his family.  We'll all be together in spirit, as well as with Rosemary...sometimes that's the best even a close family can do.

Thinking of Maureen and Olivier in France, I remember having Thanksgivings in Paris.  The day would start by reading Art Buchwald's yearly-repeated column in the International Herald Tribune.  Then I'd make dinner, including a not-so-easy-to-find dinde, for all my American friends there.  There'd always be at least twenty...

I'm very lucky, though; a young friend, Nyasha, is coming down from Massachusetts to spend the holiday with me.  I love having visitors from out of town, and I'll enjoy showing her all my favorite NYC places, and having a special dinner.

Growing up always had dinner with my father's sisters and family--Aunt Mary, Uncle Bill, and Billy Keenan, Aunt Jan and Uncle Bud Lee--either at our house in New Britain or the Keenans' in Elmwood.  When it was at ours, we had lots to do to prepare.  Wednesday was a half-day at school, and my sisters and I would run home to help our mother and grandmother.

We'd go down to the basement to get the good china and crystal glasses, and we'd wash everything till it sparkled.  Mim would bake pies, and we'd help: apple, pumpkin, and mince.  One of us would make cranberry-orange relish--a recipe via Ocean Spray from the Whitneys, the family across the street for whom I babysat--and another of us would bake cranberry and date-nut breads.

The three of us would help polish the silver, and fill bowls with nuts in their shells.  My grandmother had a turkey platter, a green oval with a splendid turkey, its tail spread and preening, displayed on a hutch in the dining room.  We would take it down, the only time all year, feeling excited to know the next day it would be laden with turkey.

(Photo below from right: Tom Rice, Bill Keenan, Mary Keenan, me, Billy's elbow, Lucille Rice raising her glass, tiny corner of Maureen's hair.)

After dinner, my father would lead a walk on Shuttle Meadow golf course, across the street.  It was always wonderfully bracing and damp, and usually cold, and we'd tromp through the rough toward the brook and ponds, to see if any ice had formed yet.  Given my father and Uncle Bill's humor, there'd be lots of laughter.

Dinner at the Keenans's was great, not only because we were guests and had only to bring the pies, but because Billy had these toy horses that I loved and wanted to play with long after it made sense age-wise.  When we got older and could drive, "the kids"--my sisters, Bill, and I--would go to the movies.  Billy and I were recently reminiscing about seeing Silent Movie at the Elm Theater.  Dom Deluise's line, "I need a blueberry pie badly" made a particularly deep impression.

Billy was a football player; if he had a game we'd go see him play at Northwest Catholic.  Later, when he went to Amherst College, one of my teenage highlights was to head up there with his parents and my sisters, tailgate in the parking lot, and feel like hot stuff because we knew Billy.  (Photo of Rosemary, me, Bill Keenan.)

This year Thanksgiving falls on November 25.  That is a bright and shining occurrence.  It happened once many years ago.  Mrs. Whitney, my "other mother," (and currently bookseller extraordinaire at G. J. Ford ) gave birth to her second daughter, the exceptional and luminous Sam--aka the best midwife in the west in my novel Dream Country.  Sam lit up our lives from the minute she was born, and continues to do so while being the best midwife in the west, raising her daughter (my goddaughter) and twins, and telemark skiing in the mountains of Park City, Utah. (Photo of Sam and Sadie)

We all attended Vance School--from my mother to my sisters and me to the Whitney children (aside from Sam, the birthday-Thanksgiving girl, there are Tobin and the twins Sarah and Palmer.)

Every year all the classes filed into the auditorium, and we'd sing We Gather Together and Over the River and Through the Woods.  May you all be gathering together with your families and friends, all your loved ones.

Cranberry Orange relish:

1 bag cranberries; 1 seedless orange; 1 cup of sugar.  Make in two batches: chop up the orange and put half plus half the cranberries and half the sugar through a Cuisinart, food mill, or grinder.  Then do it again.  The relish will be delicious and you will be happy.

The photo above is of Maureen and me in the kitchen at Hubbard's Point.

Bare Branches

And now it's November. As if on cue--well, actually on cue--nature knows it's time for the thermometer to plummet, for the warblers and raptors to be on their way south, for leaves to fall so tree branches can scratch at the sky.

I have a great fondness for bare branches.  They allow more sunlight through.  At night they seem to cradle the moon.  Walking through the park or a forest, if you look up and keep your gaze soft as you scan the branches' lacework above, you might see something that's not supposed to be there: a dark oval that is really an owl.  You'll see it stir, then spread wings and silently fly, off on the hunt.

By day you might see corvids perched in the branches.  Such intelligent birds.  My friend in Old Lyme knew a crow when he was a boy.  The bird had somehow sliced its tongue, so it was forked, and the bird could talk.  My friend and the crow would carry on conversations.  He has reported them to me, and I have no reason to believe he misquoted the crow.

While looking for an image of November trees or a corvid, I stumbled upon a beautiful print of both, in the illustration above: by the artist Amie Roman, it is called Bare Branches, and by way of homage, I so title this post.  The image is a single block relief print, created by traditional printmaking methods.

I hadn't known Amie's work before, but I have now fallen in love with it.  She loves nature, as I do, and her photo on her website shows her with a cat that reminds me of Maggie.  I feel a connection to Amie's work, and parts of her life--just as I was inspired by my grandmother and mother, she was influenced by her talented grandmother, Caro Woloshyn, AFCA, and is inspired by her artist mother, Betty Cavin.

I'm grateful to Amie for allowing me to use her print, and I'm delighted by what came of a chilly November day, browsing images of bare branches and corvids, and discovering a kindred spirit a continent away from New York, in British Columbia.

City at night

At the end of West 23rd Street, sunset over Hoboken; the sky turns topaz, the Hudson River deep violet.  Horns blast, and boats leave Chelsea Piers, their lights twinkling.  It's Thursday night, and people are out.  The Half King's sidewalk cafe is packed.   Tenth Avenue is a combination of restaurants and shadows.  Taxi garages ("flats fixed!") and shuttered storefronts.  A "checks cashed here" place closed for the night, streetlight reflected in bulletproof glass, next door to a brightly lit bodega.

Clement Clark Moore Park, small and square, is dark; tall trees sway in the summer breeze, leaves whispering when the traffic light is red, the street momentarily quiet.  1840s Brownstones line the side streets.  The High Line, a park by day, goes back to being a ghostly abandoned elevated railway bed by night.  I remember being young, a different Luanne Rice.

It's August, no gallery openings.  Usually Thursday nights are party time in Chelsea, but there's a sense that all the art people have gone to Montauk, Martha's Vineyard, or an olive orchard in Tuscany.

The cafes are lively, the temperature lovely.  A constant breeze blows off the river, up from the harbor and the ocean beyond.  Manhattan is surrounded by water.  I could walk to Battery Park and back, loving the city and feeling my place in it.

Nightbirds in Central Park

Nightbirds in Central Park by Luanne Rice

When I was young and under the complete command of my heart, I moved to New York.  I was searching for art and artists and writers and a place that could accommodate my life’s intensity and call it “creativity.”

My friend Brendan Gill, drama critic at The New Yorker, gave me several invaluable instructions.  One was, “Writers always think they have to drink a lot and be miserable, but don’t,” and another was, “Go to Central Park.”  He told me that as Connecticut natives we required a lot of nature to balance urban thrills, and over the years I have discovered that he was completely right.

Although I love Poets’ Walk, the Bandshell, Cleopatra’s Needle, and the allées of crabapple trees in Conservatory Garden, my favorite places in Central Park are the most wild—the Ramble and the North Woods.  The park is situated along the Atlantic Flyway, a migration corridor traveled by birds that fly at night, navigating by the stars, landing at sunrise in the greenest spots they see.  Central Park is a great oasis for birds.

Last weekend was the Bio-Blitz, a twenty-four biological survey of the park.  Organized by the Explorer’s Club, it attracted many nature-lovers to participate.  In all, they counted 838 species.  I had planned to join the Friday night moth-counting contingent, but during peak hours I found myself engaged in a different exploration: walking across the Brooklyn Bridge with two friends from Hartford, one of them thirteen, on a search for the Brooklyn roots of the rapper Jay-Z.

But I visit the park frequently and have remembrances of observations past…  During the Christmas Bird Count on December 19th, 2004, the word went out that a Boreal Owl, rare for these parts, had been spotted in a tall pine behind Tavern on the Green.  I headed over, and stood with Cal Vornberger as he photographed the shy, beautiful bird.  Another favorite time was the night I went owling.  In March, 2002, my friend E.J. McAdams, then an Urban Park Ranger, invited me to join an expedition to track screech owls.  We met at the Boathouse, and our party consisted of several avid birders, including Charles, Lee, and Noreen, famous to people who know the story of Pale Male, the red-tailed hawk who for ten years has courted, hunted, nested, and raised seventeen chicks atop the penthouse next to Woody Allen’s.

At night the city is enchanted.  It just is.  You stand at the edge of the park and look around at all the buildings twinkling with lights—the Plaza, the Dakota, the San Remo, the Beresford, the limestone palaces on Fifth Avenue—and New York City is a magical landscape of wit and glamour, and there’s an orchestra of taxi horns and boom boxes, and at any second someone wonderful will come along and ask you to dance.  Just outside the park, New York City is still a place of human dreams.

But walk inside the park’s perimeter, and suddenly you are solidly with nature—the place Brendan warned me that I must find.  After sunset, Central Park is the wilderness, vast and dark.  That March night was chilly.  E.J. told us that to find owls at night, we had to look for unexpected shapes in the bare trees.  We tried to walk silently, like trackers, scanning branches overhead with an unfocussed gaze.

We made our way around the Lake, and our first sighting was just south of Bow Bridge.  As promised, the screech owl looked “unexpected”: an out-of-place smudge in a graceful network of maple branches.  We stood still, watching for a long time, until she flew.  And then we followed her into the Ramble.

A screech owl’s call is the opposite of its name, mysterious and descending, like a backwards horse whinny.  We tracked that owl till we lost her, and then we looked and listened for others.  During that whole night, our group rarely spoke.  We each had our own reasons for being there, in the wilds of Central Park on a cold not-yet-spring night, and I know that I was lost in a combination of meditation, awe, and gratitude for my Connecticut-born connection with nature.

On Cedar Hill, in the east-seventies, there is a stand of red cedar trees where in recent years four Long-ear owls have roosted.  Like other owls, they sleep by day and hunt by night.  By staking out the trees at dusk, it is possible, with patience, to observe the “fly out.”  I witnessed it once; E.J. pointed out how each of the four owls left the trees in a completely idiosyncratic way.  One hopped to the end of a branch, then flapped toward the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Another zoomed straight up, like the Concorde.  One hulked like a gargoyle, seeming to indict everyone and everything on the ground, and then flew menacingly into the night.  The last waited a long time, as if deciding whether to actually go or not, and then looped west, toward Belvedere Castle.

It is a great thrill and honor to observe the fly-out; only one person I have ever heard of has ever seen the fly-in, and I was with her on the Night of the Screech Owls.  Noreen.  Tall and stately, she has a cascade of bright white hair and eyes that are steady and compassionate.  One New Year’s Eve, it is said, after watching the Cedar Hill fly-out, she decided to stick around the park till just before dawn and wait for the owls to come home.

That’s a much more difficult proposition, because they don’t return all at the same time, and they arrive from different directions, and the sun hasn’t yet risen over the East Side, and the owls fly in so fast you’re not quite sure you’ve seen them.  But according to park legend, Noreen did—that New Year’s Day, she saw the fly-in.

Although I walked beside her that March night, I didn’t ask her about the story.  Our screech owl-seeking group progressed north in silence, over the Seventy-Ninth Street Transverse and past Shakespeare Garden, into more relatively tame park regions as we made for the North Woods—the dense woodlands and steep bluffs in the northernmost reaches of the park.

But we never got that far.  We spotted an owl along Central Park West.  Just across the busy street, the exhibit “Baseball as America” was opening on at the American Museum of Natural History.  The great columned entrance was stunningly illuminated red, white and blue as limousines discharged various Yankees, Mets, and other baseball and museum lovers.

There, bathed in the museum’s patriotic glow, was a screech owl perched on a low branch. To get the best view, we had to actually exit the park and stand on the sidewalk at West 81st Street. People were clustered, watching for Derek Jeter and Bernie Williams and Joe Torres, who were rumored to be attending the opening. We had to edge through the throng, to get closer to the owl. Two crowds of people standing in the same spot, facing in opposite directions.

The owl was oblivious.  He was gray and white, eight inches tall, so close I could look into his ferocious yellow eyes.  In true New York fashion, he let everyone else go about their business while he went about his: killing a mouse.  Wings spread, he slashed downward, hit his prey as it ran, and ripped it apart—gobbling bloody entrails made redder by the gala museum lights.

Most of the bystanders missed seeing that murderous show.  They forgot to glance over the wall into the wilds of Central Park, fixed as they were on the American pastime, on the enchantment of Manhattan, on their own human dreams.

I have my own human dreams.  I have made many of them come true in New York City.  But part of me is still a Connecticut girl at heart, and Brendan’s words are never too far from my consciousness: “Go to Central Park.”  Oracle, sage: thank you for knowing me, for reminding me of who I am.  Nature is in my nature.

Besides, I still have to see the fly-in.

(Photograph by Cal Vornberger: Two fledgling Eastern screech owls, Central Park, North Woods.  www.calvorn.com)