31 March 2014


Ah, New England in late March, you never disappointment. With only a few more days on the calendar, the month lived up to its meteorological tradition with lion-sized winds last week, some gusting up to 50 miles per hour.  [Note to self: those little left over piles of leaves, twigs and soil you were going to sweep up this weekend? Don't bother... they've been blown into the next town.] And then this past weekend we were soaked by intermittent showers on Saturday, torrential rain all day Sunday, and rain mixed with a bit of hail today.

I was hoping that with the first day of Spring I could finally turn off my heating system. That was a pipe-dream, of course, since the two days of fifty degree weather we'd had the weekend before were promptly followed by nearly a week of 14 degree weather.  And of course only days after I'd raked the garden beds and left them utterly exposed to the elements, the weather casters were telling us a Nor'Easter was heading our way and, depending on where you lived in New England, would bring either 20 inches of snow or a mere dusting.  Mercifully, we were in the dusting zone and my crocus, daffodils and tulip greens seemed none the worse for wear. But for a day or two I was feeling like a very bad mother indeed to have left them so helpless in the face of what might have been.

Despite missing all the snow, the cottage was still a bracing 52 degrees on Friday, the first full day of Spring. But rather than fiddle with the thermostat, I decided to set a fire on the grate.  It's always so lovely to sit by the hearth wrapped in a shawl and let the embers warm your face, hands, legs, and feet. And then you get up to make a cup of tea and realize the rest of the house is still 52 degrees.

I haven't seen the Starling family yet but I suspect it won't be long before they'll be converging on the old Alarm box that hangs over my side door, filling it with twigs, grass, thread, and whatever other flotsam and jetsam they can forage to make a nest for their young.  Their travels back and forth will be fairly constant, and in time the entire box will be alive with the sound of young ones, chirping excitedly and begging for food. It is a Rite of Spring I look forward to each year and never tire of watching and hearing as it all unfolds. Including the part where the parents sit on the nearby Cherry branches and screech at me if I dare leave the cottage ... lest I "discover" where their babies are.
The squirrel nests are visible now, high up in the bare trees, although by the end of May they will be secluded amidst a canopy of leaves. They are just as industrious about their building albeit far more elaborate, grabbing whatever they can from my garden shed or back garden to supplement their aeries. Last summer they kept stealing hemp rope from the garden. For a hammocks, perhaps? Or an elaborate pully system to haul the purloined bird seed into their homes?  They've also dragged plastic bags into the trees, no doubt for weather proofing. 

My primrose are thriving indoors.  Or perhaps it's so cold in my cottage they're in suspended animation?  Whatever the cause, they continue to bloom and I hope they last long enough to be put into the ground once the soil is truly moist enough and the threat of snow and frost is truly past. When that might be is hard to say.  This is New England, after all.  Where rain frequently mixes with little flakes of snow despite what the calendar might say.  

“If you don't like the weather in New England now, just wait a few minutes.” — Mark Twain

Carry on.

21 March 2014

Opening a can of "Get Busy"

The rake will come out this weekend, along with some brown paper leaf bags,
my worn gardening clogs, and a favorite cotton dress and denim shirt.

Time to get busy in the garden, clearing away Winter's dullness,
and letting the first shoots of Spring find their way into the light.

Tiny Crocus and brave Daffodils are already pushing through the soil,
waiting to be rescued from the bracken with a careful hand.
 Forsythia branches have swollen nibs that will open soon, 
their sunny flowers unfurling slowly on the first warm day.

Indoors there is ironing to tackle, some drawers to tidy,
and closets to go through with a ruthless eye.
Magazines to read and discard, yarn to wind and sort through,
and curtains to wash and rehang.
Seed packets to organize, a garden shed to clear of winter's dust,
and a verandah to clean and garnish.

It will take awhile to accomplish everything,
but with the fairer weather comes that vernal burst of energy
that makes each task a happy one.
And I will be fueled by pots of tea, and perhaps a plate of scones.

Like the birds in the trees overhead, I will be bustling about,
readying my home, sweet home, for a new season.




Behold, my friends, the spring is come;
the earth has gladly received
the embraces of the sun,
and we shall soon see
the results of their love!
— Sitting Bull

I have rarely longed for a calendar date
as much as I have longed for this one.
In the midst of this particular winter,
the first full day of spring has been the one beacon
that kept me plodding forward. 

Awake, thou wintry earth - 
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
—Thos. Blackburn

I am eager to get my hands dirty in the soil,
to let the smell of the earth fill my senses,
as I clear away the last of winter's detritus
and let the green shoots find their way into the light. 

Spring shows what God can do
with a drab and dirty world.
—Virgil A. Kraft 

Drab and dreary is certainly how our winter ended,
like a lady who stayed too long at the fair,
her gown sodden and dusty. 

Every spring is the only spring -
a perpetual astonishment.
— Ellis Peters

But now there will be color and light
and the gradual revelation of green, growing things,
and birdsong in the trees each day,
and a sense, as Browning once said,
that all is right with the world. 

How marvelous that we get to feel this way each year.
What a miracle of hope's triumph
and the soul's persistent optimism.

17 March 2014

Lá Fhéile Pádraig

That crazed girl improvising her music.
Her poetry, dancing upon the shore,

Her soul in division from itself
Climbing, falling She knew not where,
Hiding amid the cargo of a steamship,
Her knee-cap broken, that girl I declare
A beautiful lofty thing, or a thing
Heroically lost, heroically found.

No matter what disaster occurred
She stood in desperate music wound,
Wound, wound, and she made in her triumph
Where the bales and the baskets lay
No common intelligible sound
But sang, 'O sea-starved, hungry sea.'

— Wm. Butler Yeats (1865-1939)

Born in Dublin, son of a well-known portrait painter, educated in Dublin and London,
Yeats spent his summers in the family's summer house in Connaught.
He founded the Irish Theatre (later the Abbey Theatre) with Lady Gregory.
I had the distinct honor of singing several times with his grand-daughter,
Irish harpist Catriona Yeats. The long mouldering Farleys, Cuniffs, and their ilk
must have been smiling (I hope), at their crazed descendant.

10 March 2014

Why God Invented Grandchildren

Two little faces and four little hands at the side door
with two pretty bouquets...

... which I combined into one lovely colorful arrangement.

It truly does not get better than this.

08 March 2014

Some Pig

This little fellow was waiting for me at my desk last week.

I have yearned for one of these metal pigs
ever since I saw them at a local gift shop.

And now this pig is mine.

 Should he get a collar and chain and be kept in the garden this summer?
 Or should he stay indoors and guard the kitchen?

A girl and her pig. What bliss.

07 March 2014

Lenten Landscape

The pancakes & beignets have been eaten,
the beads have been put away,
and the forty days and nights of Lent are upon us.
And with it comes a decision as to how best to greet this season.

I like to think of it as an opportunity for a mystical house cleaning.
A decluttering of the mind.
A clearing of the head that helps one to focus the senses
on a simpler and less agitated existence.

Some find it helpful to exercise denial...
eschewing those foods or passtimes they love
like a spiritual cleanse.
Some find it helpful to do something extra
and perhaps even slightly burdensome... 
tasks and inconveniences that lift us out of the habit of being self-absorbed.

I haven't quite decided what to do... or what not to do.
As if in preparation, I did clean the house on Sunday, from top to bottom.

The right approach will come to me, organically, I hope.
 But in the end, if all else fails,
trying to be kinder is always a good start.

06 March 2014

One man's Gainsborough...

A painting has been "decommissioned" in my office.

Set aside as being too old, too sad, too depressing
it was replaced by something more 'now' and more colorful.

 I have been gazing up at this painting for decades
in its perfect location over the mantle
(in what used to be a mid-19th c. mansion)
and it has only grown more beautiful in my eyes over the years.

 The title is Homeward Bound.
And indeed, I truly empathize with the cart horse,
who does look weary and ready to go home.
(Something that truly speaks to my heart at the end of the day.)

 Still... everyone has different tastes.
And despite being a Gainsborough
(yes.... THAT Gainsborough)
it no longer has pride of place in this otherwise lovely room.

But... there was a happy ending...

It is now resting safely next to my desk.
And I could not be happier to have my friend near me as I work.

05 March 2014

Intimation of Spring

Each February I clip Forsythia branches and bring them into the house,
placing them in warm water and then waiting patiently
as I fool Mother Nature.

This year was no different,
and the cheer its sunny yellow blossoms brought indoors
was a tremendous blessing amidst all the snow and wind
and icy rain and bitterly cold temperatures
that circled the cottage like hungry wolves.

As the weeks progressed and the flowers wilted,
I managed to save a few small stalks
to place on the kitchen window sill.

 What a pleasure it is to peer out at the dormant garden
through these golden branches!

Soon the house will be surrounded by a variety of flowers sporting
pink and lavender, blue and white, and golden blossoms,
shaded by a canopy of greenery overhead.

But for now, there is a little hint of that color,
and a tiny glimpse of spring, inside these walls.

Carry on.