20 December 2011

Detritus Maximus

I was walking through my cottage the other day, getting ready to 'deck the halls' for the holiday and muttering to myself—as I am wont to do—about things I'd like to change, chores that needed to be done, and (my personal favorite passtime) musing about where things came from.  Family.  Friends.  Good Will.  Yard Sales.  Curbs in front of neighbors' houses on trash day.  (Funny, how the word 'curb' means to restrain or keep in check, and yet I simply cannot restrain or check myself from dragging home all manner of chairs, shelves, tables, baskets, oars, plant pots or bed headboards on trash day.)

In any case, I noticed that nearly every room has one of two items:  a writing desk and/or a rocking chair.  There are two rocking chairs in the downstairs parlor, one in the kitchen, one in the dining room, two in the upstairs den (a child's rocker in addition to an adult one), and three—count 'em: three—on the verandah.  I don't know what it is about the soothing motion of a rocker, but I can't imagine a home without one.  (Apparently, I can't imagine a ROOM without one.) 

 My first rocker—a maple "Boston" rocker—was a gift from my parents when I was a teenager. The next—a 'nursing' rocker which allows a mother to hold her child unencumbered by chair arms—was a hand-me-down from a childhood neighbor. The caning on the seat and back was ruined but we had it repaired by the Association for the Blind. The next rocker—a 'kitchen' rocker—was purchased at a yard sale. It came with chipped paint, a broken spoke, and a wide enough seat to make sitting in it a real pleasure while things were baking in the oven. A more recent acquisition—a velvet Victorian 'Swan' rocker—was dragged from the curb next door when my neighbors were moving. The rockers on the veranda—tall white beauties with rush backs and seats—belonged to a friend who used them on his porch for many years and then passed them on to me before he died. The child's rocker was a yard sale acquisition for my daughter, and now her children (and the occasional teddy bear) get comfortable there.

As for writing desks, there's one in the dining room (the one most often used), one in the parlor, one in the guest room, one in the upstairs den and one in the master bedroom.  Admittedly the one in the den is actually a dining table, which makes a wonderful desk.  [Read: more square footage to fill with stuff] And the one in the master bedroom, which belonged to my grandmother, is currently serving as a Vanity table to hold photos, baubles, ring holders and porcelain boits des bijoux.  The one in the parlor—which now holds books, candlesticks, an old cricket ball and a bronze lion—is an old oak secretarial desk from the cellar of my office. It has a tiny pen drawer and a wooden tray that slides out, presumably for the secretary to lean on as she wrote. ("Miss Perrywinkle, take a letter.") Still, a desk is a desk and they clearly speak to my love of writing—novels, poems, letters to friends, journals for myself—as well as my penchant for times past when people actually sat at a desk, took a pen, and communicated with one another without wires, machines, dials, keypads or electricity.

I am the original owner of only one of these items—the "Boston" Rocker— and so I never tire of wondering about the others. Their pedigree, the homes they came from, the people who loved, used, and cast them aside.  When my grandchildren visit I invariably find them, at one time or another, seated at the writing desk in the dining room, thumbing through my stationery, choosing pens from the holder, writing "letters" to me or simply scribbling drawings. Or they'll jockey for a seat at the desk in the upstairs den, tapping away at the antique Royal typewriter and poking around in the cubby holes of the desk organizer.  And they both gravitate to the rocking chairs in the parlor whenever it's time to watch a film or cartoon, moving slowly backwards and forwards, surrounded by shawls and pillows.

In one man's trash is another woman's treasures.

12 December 2011

On Writing

Good writing is often about letting go of fear and affectation.  Affectation itself, beginning with the need to define some sort of writing as "good" and other sorts as "bad", is fearful behavior.  Good writing is also about making good choices when it comes to picking the tools you plan to work with.  No writer is entirely without sin in these matters. All I ask is that you do as well as you can. 

No matter how much I want to encourage the man or woman trying for the first time to write seriously, I can't lie and say there are no bad writers.  Sorry, but there are lots of bad writers.  Some are on-staff at your local newspaper, usually reviewing little-theatre productions or pontificating about the local sports teams.  Some have scribbled their way to homes in the Caribbean, leaving a trail of pulsing adverbs, wooden characters, and vile passive-voice constructions behind them.  Others hold forth at open-mike poetry slams, wearing black turtlenecks and wrinkled khaki pants; they spout doggerel about "my angry lesbian breasts" and "the tilted alley where I cried my mother's name."

Writers form themselves into the pyramid we see in all areas of human talent and human creativity.  At the bottom are the bad ones.  Above them is a group which is slightly smaller but still large and welcoming; these are the competent writers.  They may also be found on the staff of your local newspaper, on the racks at your local bookstore, and at poetry readings on Open Mike Night.  These are folks who somehow understand that although a lesbian may be angry, her breasts will remain breasts.

The next level is much smaller.  These are the really good writers.  Above them -- above almost all of us -- are the Shakespeares, the Faulkners, the Yeatses, Shaws and Eudora Welty.  They are geniuses, divine accidents, gifted in a way which is beyond our ability to understand, let alone attain.

There are two theses, both simple.  The first is that good writing consists of mastering the fundamentals (vocabulary, grammar, the elements of style) and then filling the third level of your toolbox with the right instruments.  The second is that while it is impossible to make a competent writer out of a bad writer, and while it is equally impossible to make a great writer out of a good one, it  is possible, with lots of hard work, dedication, and timely help, to make a good writer out of a merely competent one.

from "On Writing" by Stephen King

08 December 2011

Fatal Attraction

Earlier this year I ducked into a second-hand bookstore near my office.  ("Just to browse.")  45 minutes later I was placing money on the counter and walking out with books that smelled as if they'd been in someone's cellar for the past 100 years. I came across this stash the other day and decided they need to be on my WINTER READING pile:

"Topper" by Thorne Smith
This was one of my favorite television shows as a child. A socialite couple is killed in an avalanche along with the Saint Bernard who attempts to save them. Their ghosts (including the dog) return to haunt and irritate a stuffy aristocrat, Cosmo Topper, who now lives in their former home.  I remember that everyone (not including the dog) wore evening gowns and tuxedos and sipped champagne at all hours of the day and night.

"The Romance of Tristan and Iseult"
As retold by Joseph Bedier, translated by Hilaire Belloc, c. 1945


"Manon Lescaut" by Abbe Prevost. 
I love this opera and have always wanted to read the original story. Although I've never understood how anyone could actually die of thirst in Louisiana, which is 6 feet below sea level. Romantic license..?

"The Story of an African Farm" by Olive Schreiner. 
I'm fascinated by tales of Colonial Africa and India and this particular book—written in 1883—comes with a Dutch glossary in the back.

07 December 2011

To everything there is a season

Today it is raining and the air is heavy with the scent of the tide from the nearby sea. (We are nearly like an island, after all, with over 400 miles of coastline.)  A thick balmy wind blustered around the cottage most of the night, strangely warm for all its fury.

I truly love this time of year! The scents, the colors, the mindset. The earth turning in on itself, getting ready to settle in for that long winter half-sleep. Russet and golden leaves scattered over the pavement like a Persian carpet. The sharp scent of woodsmoke on the air in the night, rising from people's chimneys. The chilly air that settles around the cottage as the sun goes down. The sweet smell of rotting plants and the damp musty soil, still soft enough to work with a spade though not for long. Soon it will be like stone underfoot. Impossible to imagine anything growing in it! And yet, like a dream or miracle it will soften again in the spring rain. But for now? For now it's getting ready to sleep, tired after a summer of sustaining so much beauty, so many blossoms, so much color and scent. Time to rest and replenish itself. 

Darkness is settling in so much earlier these days. Twilight comes so quickly. Too dark, too soon. The sun is angled off to the side, all day, as if he, too, is tired and can't hold his head up. The burial ground looks lonelier now, with the falling leaves scudding in the wind and the trees nearly bare. Wind in the cemetery is always sad I think. It makes me wonder if the dead can hear it, like a lonely whistling or moaning over their heads. The bare trees make it easier to see the acres of headstones and monuments, the marble angels reaching heavenward, the stone maidens with their arms outstretched to strew flowers over the graves. Black ravens sit in the naked branches overhead, like ghoulish caretakers or guardians. They seem to live there, although I can't be sure. Each morning I hear them - cawing and swirling overhead in flocks, flying up the road from the burial ground and finding their way into the trees nearby. And then at dusk, they make their way down the road again, clouds of them, with their raucous cries, disappearing back into the burial ground. Strange.

I always think of reading as winter nears, and of being inside by the fire, with a shawl around my shoulders and cups of tea and piles and piles of books nearby. All of them waiting for me and the long dark months ahead when I can read quietly as the world around me dozes. It's a time for settling in, like the earth, and being only half-wakeful. Dreamy and quiet and restful. 

02 December 2011


Bungalow by the sea
Bungalow in the sea air
 Climbing rose and time to spare
 The sun sets over the bungalow
Seasoned by time, it's front steps sway 
 Music plays on the radio
 The little bungalow still stands today

01 December 2011

The Inscrutable Sock

Well, after several hours of pondering, and a few false starts, I finally managed to get The Inscrutable Sock -- aka Fancy Silk Sock from my vintage pattern book -- onto three needles.

My mother used to say that when you were in pain, frustrated, or in some dire circumstance you should offer up your suffering to get souls out of Purgatory.  I think several box-cars made it out last night and are riding the rails heavenward.  And I'm hopeful that my nervous tic is only temporary.

30 November 2011

Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate ...

Rnd. 2:  Knit, slipping the last st of the rnd from the end of the third needle to the beg of the first needle, and counting it as the first st of the full rnd (do not knit again) to keep the yarnovers aligned vertically and counting it as the first of the 2 knit sts in the next rep.

What ?????

23 November 2011

Down on the Bayou

The first thing you notice in the Louisiana Bayou is the air: clean, sweet and filled with the scent of plant-choked water, shrimp trawlers, and damp moss.  In fact it’s difficult to say which of the senses are most involved in loving the place. The seductive scents make you feel like spending the day doing nothing but lying back, closing your eyes and inhaling all the different aromas. But closing your eyes would mean you couldn't be sweetly assaulted by a continuous panorama of gnarled tree roots, moss-draped Cypress, and the rich patina of green that shimmers over the water’s surface.  And throughout it all your ears are teased by the sloshing of pirogues, the chirrup of tree toads, the low rumble of gators, and the whoosh of Heron wings brushing the air. 

It isn’t until you’ve penetrated the chaotic tangle of Cypress roots and hanging moss that you start to notice the stick houses leaning precariously into the breeze with their odd assortment of people, cats, tree toads and baby gators lolling near the docks.  The peacefulness is only occasionally interrupted by the whir of a small motor launch, reminiscent of the African Queen with a flat canvas roof and an gnarled Cajun fisherman at the helm.   

Some of the families have ties to the Bayou that stretch back to the late 18th c. and they know every tree, plant, gator, heron and turtle within range of their Cypress shacks.  I had the good fortune to go out with one of them once, into the heart of the swamp, and it was wonderful to see this exquisitely beautiful territory through their eyes.  "Oh, Miss, look!” the father would say, “Over on that ol' fallen-over log... a little spotty turtle!  You see 'em?"  

We pushed on through the vegetation—gator grass, duck potato, water hyacinths—straining the motor at times and having to throw it in reverse to come clear of all the plant life.  We fed alligators marshmallows along the way.  (For some inexplicable reason they seem to crave this sugary treat, and followed in our wake like excited puppies as we threw handfuls over the side.)

Back at the shack they shared their lunch with me—red beans and rice, chicken gumbo, bread pudding—and then the father called me outside and handed me a baby gator to hold.  I say "baby" but he was about 3 feet long from "snout to tail" and was surprisingly soft and quite docile, seeming to enjoy it when I scrunched the back of his neck.  Hard to imagine in a few month’s time he’d be big enough to take my arm off, or catch me in his jaws and pull me down into the lush green waters in a traditional death roll. 

Fishing on the bayou,
with a cane pole
catching catfish

hooks baited

with earthworms.

Fishing on the Bayou

shrimping and crawdad digging

whistling Cajun tunes

and doing whatever, wherever,

and drinking Pepsi.
(Thomasena Martin-Johnson)

22 November 2011

TO LET : One Faery House

Several years ago I put a 1950s metal doll house in the garden as an erstwhile Faery House. Occasionally I would put a votive light inside at twilight, so the children next door would see the windows glowing.  ("The Faeries Will See You Now")

Imagine my delight when I was in a gift shop last summer and saw a bonafide Faery House (albeit for the princely sum of $85) made of twigs, moss, leaves, a bark roof and tiny furniture. 

One even had miniscule BOOKS on a table and an artist's easel.  (Clearly this faery resident is a distant relative.)

And so as winter draws closer and the gardening books come off the shelves and notebooks are filled with clever plans for next year, I write MAKE A FAERY HOUSE at the very top of the list. 

With luck I can forage enough materials from my garden to construct something a mid-summer faery or two might deign to consider HOME.

Gardening Idea No. 93-b

Okay, so my heart has been set on a bottle tree since I learned about them several years ago.  As yet I haven't been able to afford one so I've been 'making do'.  Last summer I slipped colored wine bottles onto the sturdy branchs of a Rose of Sharon bush. A bit teetery but charming in its own way. This past summer I inverted colored bottles onto the wooden spears of a fan-shaped trellis.  A moderate success but still no substitute for the real thing.  With luck, by next summer there will be a bonafide rebar bottle tree planted somewhere in the garden. Deo volente.

In the meantime, thanks to another blogger leaving bread crumbs to a site she follows, I've discovered another glass garden whimsy that I simply must have. 


I'm not entirely certain how these cheery fellows stay upright on the rebar. (No doubt some industrial strength substances are involved.) Suffice it to say I'll be scouting the local consignment shops for colored glass plates between now and April.

(By the way I have noticed that more and more bloggers are posting about bottle trees. Coincidence??)

Carry on.

21 November 2011

Stone Cottages No. 27

And, just at hand, I spied a cottage on the green;
The walls were white, the thatch was neat, the window bright.

 Oh look!  A blue door....

Favorite Literary Quotes No. 14

"Guests to her home were few and after such a visit, during which a linen cloth would be laid on the dining table and cutlery and glasses set for two, the vacuum left by the departing visitor served to echo along the hallway and into the walls. It was at those times when her aloneness took on a darker hue, that she almost wished there would be no more guests, for then there would be no chasm of emptiness for her to negotiate when they were gone."

"You cannot deliberately change the course of the river without causing a flood or drought somewhere else; but spring will come, the soil will seed itself, that flood or drought will abate, and life goes on in this new landscape."

The Mapping of Love and Death [Winspear]

17 November 2011

Judging a Book by its Cover

So I've just read Geoff Dyer's recent N.Y. Times Book Review column about book cover art, a phenomenon in publishing dating from the 70s.  Books printed prior to that decade were, according to Dyer, somewhat “old and dreary” but by the 70s, Penguin was partly responsible for the delightful marriage of art and literature, borrowing images from famous paintings to grace the covers of their paperback series.  

Being a child of the 50s, Dyer’s column provoked my own bibliophilic memories.  I have countless Modern Library Classics on my bookshelves, identified by their maroon, green or navy blue covers adorned with nothing more elaborate than a stamped gold typeface on the spine identifying what (or who!) might be inside:  Anna Karenina; Oscar Wilde; John Donne; William Blake; Longfellow; Emily Bronte, to name but a few. There were rarely any pictures throughout the pages and those few that did turn up (most often on the frontispiece) were merely pen and ink sketches, oftentimes of the author. These books provoke a deep sensory response in me whenever I take them from the shelf and I have immediate recall of hours spent in Dana’s Corner Book Shop where the attendant scents were part library, part men’s club, part great-aunt’s attic. A Modern Library edition was a book meant for the hardcore reader, someone who needed no external folderol to tempt one beyond a hard cover in a dun red or blue into the creamy thick pages covered in old-fashioned Garamond type. 

But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, like Dyer, I’m hopelessly enamored of the art-enhanced covers on books from the late 20th century.  For my money, the best among this genre must be the reprints of novels by Angela Thirkell, for which Penguin plumbed the luscious depths of Pre-Raphaelite paintings for its covers.  Each one is an aesthetic jewel, not only capturing the essence of each novel’s spirit, but also the Howards End / Room With A View aesthetic of Thirkell’s own era.  I agree entirely with Dyer that the covers of these books enhance the reader’s enjoyment -- and perhaps even understanding -- by providing a visual touchstone to the story. 

A similar phenomenon took place with phonograph record slip cases in the late 60s and 70s and many of the recordings I purchased from that period feature watery images by Monet, flowery canvases by LaFarge, imperialistic tableaux by David, and high-spirited illustrations by Toulouse Lautrec, reflecting the Debussy, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, or Milhaud that waited within. The image on my recording of Tchaikowsky’s First Symphony (“Winter Dreams”) has a wintry Dutch landscape on the cover, one that drew me into the composer’s winter daydream no less than the actual music. And you could always count on a bucollic landscape by Constable or Samuel Palmer for albums that featured music by English composers such as Vaughan Williams, Elgar, or Delius.

One could argue that using fine art for advertising is not a new thing.  Soap and Biscuit companies have been using it on their boxes and tins for more than a century, spreading a little class with the morning lather-up or afternoon cuppa. But purposely marrying a piece of art to reflect literature or music is taking this many steps higher than biscuit tins, bestowing the lagniappe of visual expression, drawing the psyche and perhaps even the soul further upward. Or inward. 


When art and literature -- or art and music -- marry, we are certainly the better for the union, and I’m grateful to Mr. Dyer for reminding me of this. 

And now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to go and have a cup of tea and a biscuit from a tin that has a Bruegel family cavorting in the snow. 

16 November 2011

Gardening Idea No. 88

1 gale force rainstorm
1 on-its-last-legs umbrella
1 pair of embroidery scissors
1 flower pot filled with a vine of some sort (e.g., Morning Glory, Moonflower, Sweetpea, etc.)

Upon arriving home soaking wet, use embroidery scissors to remove the remnants of tattered silk from  abovementioned umbrella.  Stick the skeletal remains into a large flower pot, handle first.  Train vines to climb up the umbrella handle and along the metal spokes.  [Explaining to the neighbors what you were thinking is optional.]

15 November 2011

A stitch in time [Part Deux]

I thought it might be time to update the Knitting, Sewing and Crocheting projects list I posted last winter:

- The Civil War era bed socks were finished but in heather brown rather than olive green

- The multi-colored socks (lavender, grey and yellow) were finished in time to be an Easter gift

- A few more bookmarks were made, though not as many as I'd hoped.  So this shall remain on the "TO DO" list. 

I also managed to complete several unexpected items that were not on my original list, thanks to the discovery of several new pattern books at the library which led me astray:

- A pair of multi-colored ankle socks (burgundy, midnight blue, olive green, muddy brown) with cabled cuffs

- A pair of multi-colored basket-weave tube socks (deep turquoise, mustard yellow, french red) with turquoise cuffs and heels

- A pair of olive green tube socks with a long traditional cuff and then twisted cables that reach to the toe

- A pair of cream tweed tube socks entirely cabled to the toe

[Methinks the ladye doth overly love her toobe sokke pattern.]

Okay, so that's the good news.  Now for my list of shortcomings:
  • The grey wool scarf with a very thin metallic thread running through it?  This never got off the ground because I couldn't find the right kind of metallic thread.  Still searching.
  • The test run at knitting frost flowers? This ended in a brief but unnerving bout of clinical insanity. [Our heroine will try this again in the dead of winter when her mind tends to be more calm.]
  • The tea cosy? This still languishes in my sewing basket.  I'm setting a deadine of December for this one, with a secondary deadline of March. The hope is that I will give it to my friend either at Christmas OR on her birthday.  Stay tuned.
  • The Entrelac scarf I'd hoped to knit for myself? As is the case with most knitters, for whom the mantra is always GIFTS COME FIRST, I have stitched ansolutely nothing on this, despite having been given a generous gift of additional yarn by a friend.
All in all not an unproductive season. If only I could prevent my mind from leaping out of bounds and getting caught up in new projects when there are so many old ones to finish. 

08 November 2011

A room of one's own

I could be happy here.

When we last left our heroine

The campus bookstore underwent a facelift not too long ago, including a cafe at one end of the ground floor and a bank of upholstered chairs and tables by the front windows at the other end. The addition of the reading area means that I have a new place to roost each morning since I'm usually on campus nearly 45 minutes before the workday begins. A nice alternative to cooling my heels at my desk. My routine when I arrive is always the same: remove my jacket, get out my reading glasses and settle down with a book for 30 minutes or so.  

But this idyllic scenario begs the question:  Whose book should I be reading?  One I bring from home?  One I purloin from a shelf in the store?  And if the latter, how much am I allowed to read?  A few sample pages, to see if it's something I'd like to purchase and own?  (And I won't even get into the issue of whether or not one should be reading unpaid-for books whilst eating a scone with buttery fingers.)

For awhile, the thought of taking down new books from the store's shelves and curling up to enjoy them was too guilt-laden, and so I would trundle back and forth from home with whatever book I was reading at the time.  This worked well for the smallish volumes, but occasionally I would be in the middle of some mighty tome.  (Think "Mary Chestnut's Civil War Diary".  I mean it did go on for four years, after all.)  And there was the issue of how to comport myself when it came time to pack up and leave.  Do they think I'm stealing this book?  Do they know I brought it from home?  I decided not to worry about this, my copies being sufficiently dog-eared to pass muster should I be frisked for any reason. (And who in their right mind would be cheeky enough to have their own bookplate in a book if it wasn't their own?)

Several months passed and one morning I was "between books" -- a place a voracious reader hates and loves all at once -- and I plucked up the courage to wander through the store's shelves to see if there was something there I might like to peruse.  I was immediately drawn to a book I'd actually hoped to purchase one day: Don't Let's Go to the Dogs Tonight.  I stood, somewhat guiltily, reading through the opening pages, not even allowing myself the luxury of sitting to read it.  As luck would have it, I was enchanted by the author's style and topic -- and by the sale price, a mere $4.99 -- and so I brought it to the counter and purchased it.  So far so good.  I had used their generous reading policy for the purpose of being tempted to buy something. 

The next step down the slippery slope was inevitable: finding a book on their shelves that I had wanted to read for some time but wasn't that keen on buying, at least not at full price.  I began by reading the first chapter one morning, slipping it dutifully back onto the shelf when it came time to leave. The following morning I read a bit more, managing to get through all of Chapter Two. I am now on Chapter Nine. The reading is slow going, thanks to the prisoner-like allotment of 30 min. each morning, and in my advancing years I sometimes have to go back and absorb the last paragraph of the previous chapter to refresh my memory of what came before.  

And then yesterday a new crisis of conscience:  a chapter was too long to finish in the allotted time, and I knew I would never remember where I'd left off when I came in this morning to pick it up again.  After rustling about in my bag, I tore a small scrap of white paper from a shopping list and sureptitiously placed it between the pages.

Now the anxiety really begins: will someone buy the book before I finish?  It's the only copy on the shelves. Should I hide it?

From bring-your-own-book to placing page markers in books that don't belong to me. In less than a 4 months.

Why is it so hot in here, and why am I sitting in a handbasket?

25 October 2011

The natives are restless...

So where does time go, exactly?  I wish I knew.

Spending time...
Wasting time...
Running out of time...
Chasing time...
Passing time...
Marking time...
Losing time...
Stopping time...

(That last one would be a good trick and I sure wish I knew it.)
Perhaps it's no coincidence that every watch I own 
-- and the number is considerable -- has stopped.

Goodnight, Garden

The nights are growing longer, cooler, with the damp musty scent of things dying. But even though there's a chill in the air, I still open the windows each evening.  Better to shiver a bit and slip into a shawl or sweater than deny us these last nights of fresh air. 

Oh, and the crickets are singing as always, despite the onset of the colder nights.  But as lovely as their melody is, I feel wistful knowing that within the month they'll grow silent and won't be heard again until next summer.

My daily walks through the garden are numbered. The Autumn sun is already draining the fading greenery of color and transforming it into burnished gold and brown.  The rose bushes are heavy with large orange hips that the birds will nibble throughout the winter; the black Pokeberries have ripened and are hanging like large bunches of grapes from their limp yellow stalks; and the Black-eyed Susans have dropped all their bright yellow petals to the ground, leaving only their brown centers bobbing on the end of their long stems.  For awhile the Asters were still in bloom, braving the cold nights and enlivening the garden with their deep fuchsia. But  even they are drooping and fading, joining the earlier summer flowers that are already withering and grey on the ground. 

It won't be long before I'll be putting it all "to bed" for another season: bringing my cotton plants indoors, dead-heading blossoms, cutting down dried flower stalks, protecting tender vines, collecting seeds from flower heads, planting bulbs that will optimistically push through the sleet and snow of early spring. The wild jungle of greenery and color that sprang up around the cottage like a colorful wilderness only a few months before will be only a memory, and in its place will be bare leaf-strewn beds bearing no resemblance whatsoever to their summer glory. 

Before long there will be warnings of frost on the radio, and one of these evenings I'll know that my walk through the flower beds is the last I'll take again until winter has past.  And on that night I'll stand in the midst of what used to be my garden, and smile and do what all gardeners do at this time of year: start planning for next year.

Goodnight sweet garden! Farewell dear crickets!
Take care little birds and squirrels as you bustle in the Nightshade berries and rosehips!
Soon the flower beds will be dozing under a golden quilt of fallen leaves

and then, before you know it, I'll be making small paths through the drifts of snow
to pour seed into the feeders.  
It's always sad when the garden goes to sleep,
but after such a glorious and colorful summer,
filled with the most beautiful blossoms, she's earned her rest.

12 October 2011

The Alphabet Test

My family has been working on this for pretty much the entire life span of every member.  

"This test does not measure your intelligence, your fluency with words, and certainly not your mathematical ability. It will, however, give you some gauge of your mental flexibility and creativity. In the three years since we’ve developed the test, we have found few people who could solve more than half of the 24 questions on their first try. Many, however, reported getting anwers long after the test had been set aside -- particularly at unexpected moments when their minds were relaxed. And some reported solving all the questions over a period of several days. Take this as your personal challenge."

Apparently, the "relaxed mind" requirement is something we never entirely mastered.  Have fun!

Instructions: each equation below containts the initials of words that will make it correct.
Example: 12 = i. in a f. Answer: 12 = inches in a foot

26 = L. of the A.

7 = W of the A. W.

1001 = A. N.

12 = S. of the Z.

54 = C. in a D. (with the J.)

9 = P. in the S. S.

88 = P. K.

13 = S. on the A. F.

32 = D.F. at which W.F.

18 = H. on a G. C.

90 = D. in a R. A.

200 = D. for P. G. in M

8 = S. on a S. S.

3 = B. M. (S. H. T. R. !!)

4 = Q. in a G.

24 = H. in a D.

1 = W. on a U.

5 = D in a Z. C.

57 = H. V.

11 = P. on a F. T.

1000 = W. that a P. is W.

29 = D. in F. in a L. Y

63 = S. on a C.

40 = D. and N. of the G. F.

24 = C. in P. G

20 = N. on a D. B.

22 September 2011

Talk Like A Pirate Day - September 19th

Well..... Talk Like A Pirate Day came and went, pretty much.  There was no time, really, to have any sort of get-together. And I was half-way to work before I realized I'd forgotten to unfurl my Jolly Roger by the front door.  But Monday is an odd day to remember anything even remotely inspiring or fun.  Still....  

According to the official TLAP website -- yes, they have a website -- these are the five basic words that you cannot live without:

Ahoy! - "Hello!"
Avast! - Stop and give attention. It can be used in a sense of surprise, "Whoa! Get a load of that!" which today makes it more of a "Check it out" or "No way!" or "Get off!"
Aye! - "Why yes, I agree most heartily with everything you just said or did."
Aye aye! - "I'll get right on that sir, as soon as my break is over."
Arrr! - This one is often confused with arrrgh, which is of course the sound you make when you sit on a belaying pin. "Arrr!" can mean, variously, "yes," "I agree," "I'm happy," "I'm enjoying this beer," "My team is going to win it all," "I saw that television show, it sucked!" and "That was a clever remark you or I just made." Just a few of the myriad possibilities.

Once you've mastered the basics, you're ready to start expanding your pirate vocabulary:

Beauty – The best possible pirate address for a woman. Always preceded by “me,” as in, “C’mere, me beauty,” or even, “me buxom beauty,” to one particularly well endowed.
Bilge rat – The bilge is the lowest level of the ship. It’s loaded with ballast and slimy, reeking water. A bilge rat, then, is a rat that lives in the worst place on the ship. Since bilge rat is a pretty dirty thing to call someone, by all means use it on your friends.
Bung hole – Victuals on a ship were stored in wooden casks. The stopper in the barrel is called the bung, and the hole is called the bung hole.  It sounds worse than it actually is, doesn’t it? When dinner is served on TLAP day you could make quite an impression by saying, “Well, me hearties, let’s see what crawled out of the bung hole.” No doubt, that statement will be followed by the sound of people putting down their utensils and pushing away from the table.
Grog – An alcoholic drink, usually rum diluted with water, but in this context you could use it to refer to any alcoholic beverage other than beer. Water aboard ship was stored for long periods in slimy wooden barrels, and rum was added to each sailor’s water ration to kill the rancid taste.
Hornpipe – Both a single-reeded musical instrument sailors often had aboard ship, and a spirited dance that sailors do.
Lubber – (or land lubber) This is the seaman’s version of land lover, mangled by typical pirate disregard for elocution. A lubber is someone who does not go to sea, who stays on the land. More likely than not, you are a lubber 364 days of the year. But not if you’re talking like a pirate! Then the word lubber becomes one of the more fierce weapons in your arsenal of piratical lingo. In a room where everyone is talking like pirates, lubber is ALWAYS an insult.
Smartly – Do something quickly. On TLAP Day – “Smartly, me lass,” you might say when sending the bar maid off for another round. She will be so impressed she might well spit in your beer. 

Speaking of moving 'smartly'.... a story comes to mind.  (Or perhaps I should call it a yarn..?)   My uncle -- who was not a pirate but was a sea captain -- was showing off his ship to my aunt.  I guess old habits die hard when you're responsible for hundreds of sailors on a huge merchant ship for long months at a time.  Whatever the reason, as she set foot on the gangplank to board, he turned and snapped at her: "Step lively, Nancy!"  

I wasn't there but I hear the look she gave him was priceless.


15 September 2011

Nest Rest

Okay, so..  I don't really care that I have no idea how I'd get up inside this thing...
or get back out of it, for that matter.

 All I know is, I want one.