Sunday, December 27, 2009

FIELD NOTES: I am not fascinated by the moon for its science…

Last Sunday in December, 2009

...but for its mystery…and rhythm…for the comfort of its constancy and its reminder of a celestial presence far beyond my human comprehension. Under the moon I find illumination like no other…I indulge in imagination and folklore…I hope for the future and enjoin the idea that someone who is important to me (or perhaps will be important to me) is looking at it the same time I am…is thinking and feeling the same things I am…is as uncertain (or as optimistic) as I am. I try to think primitively, to empathize with ancients who explained the inexplicable with stories and assigned names in the absence of technology either to calm fears or wield power and how their images and words have stayed with us. On this New Year’s Eve the Full Long Nights Moon will occur, the second full moon in a month, and we still call it a Blue Moon. I like to use the moon as the pivot point of a drafting compass, scribing a perfect circle around the world where the reflection of the unseen sun is directed down in a cone of white light. On Christmas Eve, the moon with its top half covered in the first quarter peeked out like a flashlight from under the covers…covers where someone was reading secretly…silently…hungrily...forming their own hypotheses…making their own discoveries…in private, but for all the world to see.

Monday, December 14, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Sweet nothings...

...from a Sunday morning...

...hadn't filled the feeder on the deck for some time since the raccoons made off with the can filled with about 30 pounds of black oil sunflower seed...but a storm was brewing and I was missing my wild "pets" I loaded up on seed and suet...and they came! There they were...all of them: the tufted titmouse, black capped chickadee, nuthatch, wren, sparrow, downy woodpecker, flicker, a cardinal couple and, of course, the spoiler blue jay whom the male cardinal lost his patience with and flew up from the deck post to claim a turn. They hadn't forgotten me...

...and then on the TV (yes, the intrusive TV!) came a sweet nothing from the past, the early 1970's to be exact...R.O. Blechman's delightful animation...(please, treat yourself)

Never forget the things that make you smile from the inside out...they don't forget you...Joyeux Noel!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

FIELD NOTES: A Story of Pie

First Sunday of December

The kitchen is quiet except for the clearing of her throat and the squeak of the table as she works. The old sash windows draw the pale November sun through its panes, filmy with the environment, and strain it onto the blue, cracked-ice Formica tabletop with the chrome trim. The Spry shortening is measured out using a cup filled with water, then drained and plopped into a big bowl as the kettle on the gas stove is working up a boil. An eyeballed tablespoon of milk is splashed onto the shortening directly from the bottle. The stainless steel sifter is filled with the correct proportions of King Arthur Flour and Morton Salt. The kettle’s whistle is answered and a quarter cup of its contents is poured into the mixing bowl. She tilts the bowl, raises her fork and with the precision of a fan blade begins whipping the concoction until it rises up into peaks. It is doubtful if even a fire could call her away from the next step of quickly cranking the sifter and covering the mixture in a blizzard of powdery white. In a miracle of kitchen chemistry, within minutes a soft ball of pie dough is rounded up and delivered into her bare hands. Sprinkles of water are flicked from her fingertips onto the Formica. A crisp sheet of waxed paper is snapped, serrated and suctioned to the moistened tabletop. The warm, pliable dough ball is coaxed down onto the paper and another sheet is used to cover it. A heavy wooden rolling pin squeals pleasurably as she rocks it back and forth over the sandwiched dough. Every now and then the rolling pin is silenced; her fingers, creased now with age and the labors of the hand, feel around the waxy, unctuous layers testing for consistency in thickness, estimating if the current circumference will sufficiently drape a nine inch pie plate. Now the moment of truth:

As if a button on a remote has been pushed to change the channel, the blue tabletop is gone and I am in my own kitchen. My hands are the hands making the pie dough in a November light. The heavy wooden rolling pin is here, as is a stainless steel sifter, King Arthur flour and the Morton Salt Umbrella Girl, but there is a CD playing and a microwave beeping. It is still the moment of truth: the wax paper is repositioned and the top sheet is discarded. In a confusion of bravery, faith and dexterity, the circle reaches its target, the paper is peeled away and the dough settles gratefully into the plate to officially become Crust. Knuckles, fingertips and the round handle-end of a fork flute the edges unconsciously. This handcrafting is impossible to translate into any recipe. It must be observed, it must be practiced and it must be failed before it is perfected.

I am the third pie maker and I get to choose the fillings now. My brother gets his homemade mince of light & dark raisins, candied lemon & orange peel, apples and spices, complete with a good dose of rum and a pie bird vent stuck in the middle to prevent the copious juices from spitting out into the oven. There is pumpkin simply for the reason that there must be pumpkin (whether one likes it or not) with a maple leaf shape cut from the dough trimmings. This year I got adventurous and made Bosc pear with ginger and lemon. Then there is the apple: French Apple from Cortlands with a single crust and a crumb topping (straight from Betty Crocker’s All-Time Favorites, copyright 1971). When I measured the sugar, my hand got a little heavier because I realized I didn’t have to hold back for the diabetes any more. My dad was the Pie man; even on his birthday, he wanted pie. I thought of leaving a slice at his resting place, but he would have thought it a waste of a good pie! My story of pie is sweet and warm and full of strong hands and colors and kitchen music. It is a wonderful story of pie.

Spry Water Whip Pie Crust Recipe

Sunday, November 8, 2009

FIELD NOTES: In pure New England style, there has been a reprieve…

Sunday: Before & After

…from the predicted rainy weekend and now I can take a swipe or two at those leaves that last weekend were doomed to overwinter on the lawn. At the stroke of 9:30, the first leaf blower has sounded in the neighborhood giving me the go-ahead to put on my work clothes and head out, although I will be quietly hand raking and then mulching the piles with the lawn mower. Never buy a house before you research its trees; dangerously old oaks with leaves as leathery and large as baseball mitts and the spindly locusts with confetti for leaves that will hang on nearly until new buds evict them do not respond very well to mulching. Oh for a stand of compliant primary colored maples! Mercifully, the entry on Lawns in Wikipedia has given me a place to lay blame for my love-hate relationship with lawn and leaf:

“In the United States, it was not until after the Civil War that lawns began to appear outside middle-class residences. Most people did not have the hired labor needed to cut a field of grass with scythes; average home owners either raised vegetables in their yards or left them alone. If weeds sprouted that was fine. Toward the end of the 19th century, suburbs appeared on the American scene, along with the sprinkler, greatly improved lawn mowers, new ideas about landscaping and a shorter workweek.”

...and towards the bottom of the entry, further explanation (and a long list) of the meaning of ‘maintenance’ in the ‘burbs:

“There is often heavy social pressure to mow one's lawn regularly and to keep up with the Joneses. Maintaining higher quality lawns may require special maintenance procedures:”

But I feel more like Pooh today, so perhaps I’ll rake a pile…and just jump right in!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

FIELD NOTES: It’s the morning after Halloween, yet I hear…

Through the window

…the clatter of little bicycle wheels in the circle…and sweetened giggles. Last night, even though it was oddly seventy degrees, the trick-or-treaters came early to beat the pouring rain and swelling wind. The lights went out prematurely. The weather forecast for the coming week classically mirrors my daughter’s in Seattle: partly cloudy, fifty…and then more rain for the weekend, so…it’s official: the leaves will prevail and overwinter on my lawn. So be it. Some gentle folks are beginning to mourn the season’s passing but, by my (Polish) nature, I gravitate toward the bittersweet, towards its mysteries and challenges. Even when I set out to be gloomy - because like Eeyore it is pleasantly self-indulgent to be so - inevitable sleep, or…a mug of coffee, or…a cup of tea, or…antics out the window, or…something…rallies me…which can be annoying if you’ve just gotten yourself into a good funk…and there is plenty to be funky about! As I write, a new wind - like a sharp-nailed witch’s hand - has just yanked the jack-o-lantern flag hanging out by the front door…and then…disappeared, as if to snidely remind me that it is not all honey in The Hundred Acre Wood, there are Heffalumps…and Woozles…and it is time to walk the plank…to bravely find deeply hidden beauty…

“In the midst of winter, I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus, 1913-1960, French novelist, author and philosopher, 1957 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature

Optimism and Pessimism Quotes and Quotations

Sunday, October 25, 2009

FIELD NOTES: To be of few words...

Harrybrooke Haiku sometimes to be wished for…

October Walking

Leaves tattle: "Feet! Feet!"
Soft brown needle shower, I
seal lips, hold breath…fall…

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My Seattle Bento Box

Title inspired by a New York Times article

FIELD NOTES: My head cold has been replaced with a new malady….

Sunday morning musings

…fall festival overload. Unlike summer, fall does not unfurl like a satin runner down a long aisle, affording the opportunity to smile and wave as you step, lightly-clothed, down its path. Autumn, especially in New England, bursts overhead like a comet; you catch its full beauty only if your timing is right. There are so many ‘festivals’ available this weekend, that yesterday I woke up with a headache and, after managing to tutor a student for several hours in the morning, took a 3 hour nap on a sunny bed. As if to prove there was nothing wrong with me, I got up and mowed the front lawn, stopped to rake the pine cones and needles covering half of it, then roasted a chicken for supper, listened to Prairie Home Companion and Thistle & Shamrock before hunkering down under the covers with The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, my latest book club selection. There…that’s about as ‘twittery’ as I’ll get…and only to emphasize the point that I have ‘festival overload’. My town has been going through an identity crisis for the past decade or so as it tries to transition from agrarian to touristy and also to meld the two. Every group and organization wants a piece of the apple pie which usually includes fund-raising and/or merchandising. When I was growing up a few towns over, there was no need for farm festivals; if you wanted to see farm animals or needed to buy some corn or squash or pumpkins or apples or cider, you stopped at one. Fall wasn’t advertised, it just happened. Just about every other house in my neighborhood has a version of a scarecrow on a stick purchased at the store for $4.99…including yours truly! To revive creativity, we had our preschool class stuff some extra kid’s clothes in our classroom with paper leaves, tape a ball on for the head, prop him in a little rocking chair and they named our ‘new student’ Macy. It was refreshing to see them excitedly take ownership of this half-planned activity. I love fall…I guess it’s just too brief…it’s time again to clean the patio & garden and put away all their charming accessories. There is urgency unlike summer because, ready or not, winter can now strike at any time putting an abrupt end to autumnal tasks…and pleasures. Not a good year for tomatoes, the prettiest things in my vegetable garden are the pinwheels I weaved into the wire fencing so, in the afternoon that promises to be a gorgeous fall day, I will break it down and take a trip to the local farm shop to decorate it with some mums, ornamental cabbage, straw bale and maybe a pumpkin or two. In the end, it is not the fall festivals that I am actually critical of; it is not having enough time to enjoy all the nooks and crannies of the season. If the workday talk after this long Columbus Day weekend begs the question “How come you didn’t go the _____ festival?” I will say I did…at home…

6pm Postscript: 'round about 3 p.m., I had lots of company outdoors...the rev and lurch of tractors and mowers, the rhythm of rakes, the whoops of little boys filled the seems everyone was done with the festivals...and it turns out we all have similiar needs...especially in New England...

Sunday, October 4, 2009

FIELD NOTES: A day for stones...

Sunday rest

…home doing nothing, (a rare occurrence only because I have a head cold) I am eating breakfast on the couch with the CBS Sunday Morning show. Bill Geist brings out a gentle segment about stone skipping and a competition in Franklin, PA. It looks so simple, so pleasantly old-fashioned and countrified, I wish I was there! I am fascinated not by the stone skipping as much as I am fascinated about how it relaxes me, takes me to the summery memory of my father showing off one of his ’dad skills’ by demonstrating how to skip stones across our favorite swimming hole, a pastime he perfected during his Depression-era childhood. It may seem like a waste of time, to go around collecting potential skipping rocks like world record setter Russ Byars does, but what a refreshing step back from the world of business…&…it must be no coincidence that I chose river stones for wallpaper on my laptop because I find them soothing to look at…& must also be no coincidence that a card slipped out of the medicine cabinet today for Magic River Stones™, the ones I had purchased to arrange around the lucky bamboo plant in the green-glazed pot. I stopped to read the card: “These beautiful stones are jasper, quartz and agate. They were naturally shaped by an ancient river in China, which for more than 2,000 years has been a pilgrimage site for people collecting lucky stones. Beautiful stones have always held a fascination for people from every culture. They are wonderful to carry as personal talismans or for use in fountains or to put around plants to slow moisture evaporation and to add a bit of beauty, luck and magic to your life.”…&…another non-coincidence must be the trail I followed from a blog comment that led me to and an article about a stone wall in the woods adventure…&…might it be another coincidence that I created a “Zen rock bottle” for myself. On Labor Day, I quelled my impatience waiting for a family member by sitting on the front steps and counting the tiny pea gravel from the walkway as I dropped them one by one into a Soave Italia wine bottle. The wine was not particularly memorable – I had been persuaded by the bottle’s balletic bend of the neck and its green tint with spare silvery gray graphics – but it was a calming, meditative physical action to wait by dropping stones into a bottle. I got up to 400 and when I picked up the bottle to put it back inside, the glass with the rocks was warm against by body. And I would remember that. Today, I needed some vitamin D for my cold, so I put 200 more stones into the bottle. It was a good day for stones….and all because I have a cold….

(Yes, this is what 600 tiny stones amount to!)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Food in the air...

First Sunday of Fall

...I tend not to do my power walking in the rain, but today it was just a mist…and I really needed a walk…the diminutive swan family that I had seen streaming by me in Harrybrooke awhile back was waiting for me, but in a much larger form…clustered on the island looking like great scoops of mashed potatoes rather than the delicate floating line they once were…the water is getting colder now…the newly colored leaves of autumn are making a pretty collage on the wet black pavement and altering the aroma of the air…the Fish & Game Club is hosting a picnic in the pavilion and on my first walk around there is the charred salty scent of hot dogs…I don’t crave hot dogs, or even eat much meat, but this smell makes me believe that I once lived in a cave in the woods and hunted, tearing apart roasted meat with my canines, wild-haired, wiping my mouth with the back of my earthy hand…on the second go ‘round, the smell is toasty sweet…marshmallows on slender sticks…and I arrive at gentle thoughts of civilized campfires…I smooth my hair from the frizzling rain and think about standing in my kitchen making Cortland applesauce…

Sunday, September 20, 2009

FIELD NOTES: It was as if I saw my backyard for the first time…

Through the window
Monday, September 14, 2009

…newborn… primal…existing in its own place and time…rather than mine. A mist of fog at dawn softened all its blemishes…its rough spots at areas of neglect or natural consequences were out of focus. It was the opening day of my preschool class and it was a gentle…and very lovely…reminder to fine tune what I see, to put on a shelf my frustration with actions of true innocence that may come by the way of the wild things or the young charges in my life at present. Years ago, I had to drive late at night to pick up teenagers in a very thick fog and recall the nerve-wracking lack of visibility, but this day, there were no nerves, there was just a blanket tucked in around me, the birds chirping like a wind-up crib mobile and remembered feelings of safety and comfort and the hedge of childhood that guarded me against the hard edges that would come…

Sunday, September 13, 2009

FIELD NOTES: A little something for friends & family...

Seattle Synopsis

Unless you know me personally, have been to Seattle, or are planning a trip out west... you may find the above link...well, boring. Let's face it, nothing brings out squirming and forced smiles more than the words "Let me show you my vacation photos!" I take photos of odd things and am still working on presenting the images I find artistically interesting - they'll probably turn up in my blog somewhere along the way. The PDF document above does have lots of interesting links to all things Seattle, so you can always skip my notes and go directly to favorites are Gas Works Park, the Fremont ones, and the bicycles.

Monday, September 7, 2009

FIELD NOTES: The shape of things took form as I drove through our New England hills…

Labor Day my childhood home to keep my mother company on her first Labor Day without Dad. I took ‘the shady way’ via Woodbury instead of Litchfield because I had been driving 202 all week for staff development. It’s my favorite kind of driving: old fashioned highways with trees, places to pull over and room to think. Yesterday’s worm and last Friday’s behavior workshop came to mind, as well as tomorrow’s puzzlingly controversial Presidential school speech. I’ve also been thinking about the landscapes we grow up in since last March when I saw my first mountain west of the Mississippi. Landscapes shape us. The worm, with no eyes, legs or arms, saw me in a way I never will. In the behavior class, we discovered that we are all difficult to somebody. On the coasts, I look out to the ends of the earth and to the depths of the ocean; in the east, I see Boston Common, in the west, Pioneer Square. In the mid-sections, I kept looking up with awe to heights I could never imagine reaching or, looking ahead to focus on driving through the flatland that seemed to spread out forever before me. In the south, I see only paradise in palm trees and perpetual sun. In Maine, I look for trees and lobsters and the Way Life Should Be slogan. The landscapes we grow up in shape us…how we eat, work, worship, recreate and opinionate. The next time I vote or offer an opinion, I will have something new to consider: what if I had been born into a different landscape?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

FIELD NOTES: I have never seen my garden in such a sorry state...

Sunday afternoon, Labor Day Weekend

...between recreation, vacation, extreme weather, and work, I had left them to nature’s reactions of self-preservation and opportunity. The zebra grass is of jungle proportions, leaning out over the stone walkway like switchblades. I give it a good haircut and rein it in with green garden twine like an unruly mop of hair. The weeds are as large as my perennials…and look healthier. As I dig them out and rejuvenate the beds with the red cedar mulch that has been lying in bags on my driveway all summer, I feel something cool on my foot. Thinking it is a spear of zebra grass I look down and squeak, not because I am repelled, but because it is surprising to see a large earthworm weaving itself through the thong of my blue rubber flip-flop. I slip the sandal off and the worm transfers itself to the moist insole. Trying to be sensitive to the worm’s needs, I slide it back onto the soil, but this creature with no legs, arms or eyes, seems to be seeking out my foot with its head, sensing and breathing through its skin. What am I to this worm? I have no clitellum for mating. What does it want, what does it need? Charles Darwin, who studied the earthworm for thirty-nine years, had this to say: "The plow is one of the most ancient and most valuable of man's inventions; but long before he existed, the land was in fact regularly plowed and still continues to be thus plowed by earthworms. It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world, as have these lowly organized creatures."

Sunday, August 30, 2009

FIELD NOTES: I'd been away...

Sunday morning

...then jumped right into a new school year - hadn’t walked or considered my home place in weeks. Finally, sitting down with a glass of wine and a novel at my back deck ‘bistro’, a feathered friend reminded me - no, reprimanded me. “Have you forgotten? Have you forgotten?” Its partner (some variety of sparrow) joined in the trill that was somewhere between aria and lecture, delight and indignation…..somewhere between “nice to see you” and “where the hell have you been?” With unusual boldness, they perched practically in my face, causing me to put down my book, remove my reading glasses, get aroused from a mentally dulling week and respond audibly with “thanks, I needed that.” I see missing relatives in the actions of creatures around me because my grandmother, my father and his brothers, would recognize it as a reliable conduit for uncommon communication. I needed that kind of jolt from the minutiae of management, from packing and unpacking, laundering and bill paying, food shopping and cooking, cleaning and sorting and realigning with routine. The next morning on my way north, an ethereal image of heron-on-green-pond-in-morning-fog appeared. Had I heeded the advice of the sparrows, I would have had my camera with me and would have stopped - staff development be damned – because there can be value, and very personal liberation, in having that 'cat who ate the canary' feeling.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Preparing for the west coast...

Real summer life has kept me from virtual life...not much posting, browsing and commenting...and I won't be very active the next two weeks because I'm finally visiting my daughter in Seattle. Haven't taken a vacation in years...hope to have quality items for Show and Tell upon my return. Meanwhile, I've left a July album and added a new guestbook for the enjoyment of anyone who stumbles here...and while you're at it, check out my older posts...this is a journal blog rather than one that contains time-sensitive material...

Good thoughts!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

FIELD NOTES: She never returned...

Sunday morning musings

…after I last wrote about Charlotte, her web became erratic and haphazard for a few days, her construction too feeble to withstand ordinary rain and wind. Like her namesake in the book, I wondered if she had produced her magnum opus and then proceeded to die. As if to say farewell to my apprehensive daughter who had been in New York City for a few days, the web reappeared towards the end of the week and then, no more. She was gone. For the first few nights, I kept flicking the front light on and off and then I stopped, got out of the habit. Without having to think, without purpose or planning, we could now use the new front door. A burden had been lifted. But my oldest son was the first to say out loud: “I miss her.” Isn’t it just that way, when we have taken the time to perhaps not wholly love, but certainly appreciate, a web of life? Oh that I should be a burden missed! Quite the compliment…

Sunday, July 12, 2009

FIELD NOTES: The eye is sometimes the lens best suited for the subject…

Sunday morning musing

…and so it goes for spiders in the night. Charlotte has become our nightly fascination and has even found converts among us. I discovered my daughter (who is ‘grossed out’ by bugs of any sort) trying to best me with her camera shots, but joined me in stronger appreciation for professional nature photographers instead. She also called out the window one afternoon when I drove into the driveway that it was alright to use the front door because the web had blown away. I sensed that we both felt some sort of remorseful gladness. We don’t really ‘like’ spiders; small spiders tend to get squished when they appear in the bed or bath, but Charlotte is BIG. She is big in more ways than one. Initial suggestions were made to perhaps relocate her so we could actually use our new front door, but the nightly lantern, the gutter and close proximity to the garden seems to be an ideal encampment. Wanting to spread appreciation, the teacher in me called the little neighbor boy over to see The Great Web that had stayed intact for most of Wednesday. He was properly fascinated and returned later with a friend…(Ah, a taste of the old days!...B.C. - before computers - when every kid was an entrepreneur by ‘charging admission’ to anything that constituted a ‘show’). So as we continue to use the garage or back door, kudos to Charlotte for her tour de force; it was difficult to use the front entry on a summer’s night anyway because the screen door is usually loaded with moths, Japanese beetles and the like. I counted twelve ‘packets’ in her web last night and watched as more unfortunates careened into the sticky trap for the love of lamplight…Love is blind?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

FIELD NOTES: America's got talent....

Red, White & Blue much so that I found myself entertained late in the evening with choreographed bungee jumping, intuitive engineering and delicate balance, not on the television, but across my front door. Determined to have my new front door painted bright red for Independence Day (my favorite front door color), I had locked the storm door with the top screen down to let the paint dry overnight and, in the light of the hanging lantern, discovered at work a sizable spider…more sizable than one usually cares to have inside the home. To be repulsed or impressed, that was the question, but lucky for me deep fascination trumped instant rejection and I was treated to a free show. My fifth grade teacher gave me the wonderful gift of E.B. White in Charlotte’s Web…insight and judicious writing all in one place…and now this night, some forty years later, I could reap a benefit. The spider’s dramatic downward dives caught my heartbeat, popped my eyes and canted my head. She moved with such complete confidence, determined and adept in weaving her own safety net, that she took my amazement to some level of envy. She instantly responded to a vibration and from the center of the web, speedily sidled out on a spoke and shrink-wrapped a meal for herself in a matter of seconds. As I prepared myself and the house for sleep, I kept checking on Charlotte and saw that her web spanned the entire width of the door. I left the front light on for her and the new American flag I had hung to go with the new door. In the morning, the flag was briskly flapping in a beautifully crisp breeze…at last, a break in the weeks of daily rain storms…but alas, the web was pathetically disheveled like the morning after a wild party. But, come nightfall, Charlotte climbed down from the gutter and saw opportunity…again. I texted my younger son to use the basement entry instead. In the morning, I found a sticky note on the kitchen table from my daughter that read “There is a big ass spider in the front door!” and she explained she had to turn the light off because it “grossed” her out. Her younger brother on the other hand, just walked through the front door as usual. But, Charlotte keeps working, after all, she has to make a living…and this is America …and America’s got talent…naturally. Today’s sticky note is from my oldest son: “Spider made a new web. Don’t destroy it this time.”

Sunday, June 14, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Her favorite color was green...

Sunday morning musing

...that’s what I remember my mother telling me when I asked her that question. Little-girl-me turned up her nose as if a piece of cabbage had just been put in her mouth. Green? boring. Back then I was all about purple and pink…BRIGHT purple and pink…even going so far as to paint the bathroom tile with grape juice. I still can admire violet and fuchsia in the garden, but I have recently noticed I am going ‘green’ in a different context…my appreciation moving farther down the plant…sliding down the slender slipperiness of the stem…to water sipping, life-sustaining…green. Perhaps it is me getting better with age…like fine wine and cheese…or…becoming more like my mother (a mode some swear they’ll never allow)…but as most conditions go, so goes green with both positive and negative connotations. I do find myself unconsciously attracted to green in my clothing choices, accessories and home d├ęcor…and if I gathered it together like a bushel of vegetables, it might make a serenely self-describing still-life…..…but then of course…….there’s blue!

Garden: Day 20

Garden 'camo' (NOT green)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Rescued from the fall...

...a beloved Edith Wolford iris, from the famous White Flower Farm in Litchfield, a gift of one rhizome now repeated a dozen times around my perennial garden, fell to earth because of rain and my previous lack of foresight. The house came with an awkward rectangle of grass between the front of the house and the walkway that leads down to the driveway, so I scooped it out and planted. I should have replaced the old pressure-treated border and raised the bed to level the landscape, but too late now. Stem and stamen tilt forward whenever weighted with water and I find myself propping things up with rocks and ornaments and wiry devices...a dependent relationship. The senior citizens of my garden - the baby's breath and an inherited lavender - have finally lived out their expected lifespan and failed to return this year...and the tiger lilies that stood sentry in the background seem to have been choked out by a relative newcomer, Moonbeam Coreopsis, that I didn't keep my eye on. So I owed it to the one who fell to prop her up in place that was complementary to her complexion and where everyone could continue to view her elaborate tiers of ruffles in pale yellow and violet that I would never keep in my own wardrobe, but in nature's dress shop, anything goes, everything is always in style and grand old ladies deserve to go gracefully.

Monday, June 1, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Birthday haiku...

Teach. Learn. Visit. Explore.
Revel. Relax. Read. React. Write. Walk.
Find chi. Make art. Live more.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

FIELD NOTES: My own Flower of the Day...

Last day of May

...a picture-perfect weekend...and I am head over heels for the temperature and sun and breeze and blooms...barely have time to compose the words to express it. Although I always have hopes, I don't quite know what I will get when I plant things, but...if we consider the potential in what we sow and do our best to nurture its growth, we can love whatever comes of it; we can feel joy at its birth and accomplishment at its blooming...or, if it fails, take the opportunity to assess and develop the patience to persevere. Gardens teach us a lot...take care in choosing what you think you will love, know the care you will need to commit to and understand the power of weeds...

Featured flowers: Peony and Edith Wolford iris

Sunday, May 17, 2009

FIELD NOTES: The lilacs are gone but still remain...

...I had a lilac house in the place where I grew up. It was just a row of bushes separating our driveway from the neighbor's backyard, but to me it was another world…the world of my imagination. I wore a path through the shrubs creating an entryway, a kitchen and a rear patio. An old saw horse was the kitchen counter where I made pies and cakes with mud and leaves in my toy aluminum pan. After a good summer rain, I could pretend to take a shower by shaking the branches overhead. Those looking out their windows would see a little girl standing in the bushes, perhaps thinking that I was lonely…or weird…but in my lilac house, I was confident and creative, brave and independent and in control…now isn’t that a wonderful place for a little girl to be?

Find favorite mother-daughter book share: Mud Pies and Other Recipes - A Cookbook for Dolls at Vintage Kids' Books My Kid Loves

Wednesday, May 6, 2009


Comment on a post by The Everyday Adventurer
Snake Attack
"In defense of the garter snake, king snakes eat garter snakes as well as rattlesnakes, birds eat them, cats eat them, so one man's snake may be another man's dinner! Having grown up as a nature girl, I guess I learned to accept the indelicate side of the natural world early on, but find the beauties of nature intensified by virtue of this contrast. Respect in the natural world is very important, sometimes for our own safety. As a teacher, I try to challenge myself to bring these two sides together because as the saying goes: "We hate some persons because, we do not know them and we will not know them because we hate them" can go for all creatures (bugs, snakes). Frogs and ladybugs can seem cute so we like them! I wouldn't say I 'like' snakes, but I felt awfully bad when I accidentally ran over one with my lawn mower! That was NOT a pretty story and I will spare you the details! If anyone would like to take the challenge, here's a good site for easing into the world of snakes: Dave's Garden"

Sunday, May 3, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Uncommon scenery....

...I was not looking for on my walk, but this has been hanging on a tree at the back parking area for weeks and, for humor's sake, I finally documented it. I remember going for a walk near our favorite 'swimming hole' with my grandmother. She spied a nice pair of pants lying in the woods and used her walking stick to lift them out of the brush. Her enthusiasm curdled when a swarm of flies was released from what was covered up there. I am sure any of us who walk have encountered strange articles and I always wonder...where do their owners think this stuff is going? My PBS station 'happened' to show Dances With Wolves last night...and I 'happened' to think of the saying below...which 'happens' to be from a Native American chief named Seattle...where my daughter 'happens' to live...connecting lines...

"Leave nothing but footprints and take nothing but memories."
- Seattle, Chief




...........................HILLSIDE FULL OF TRASH BEHIND IT.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Ticket not required...

Through the window

...but the birdsong is so amazing this morning, it seems like it ought to be. The eighties are much too hot for April in New England - early morning and all the windows open from the night before. A lumbering breeze tries to stir the indoor air as I try to smooth out the night from my face and hair in the bathroom mirror – not an easy task as I’ve just recovered from my first stomach ‘bug’ in about ten years. But the cardinal is as brilliant as a soprano at the Met and the other small birds in chorus add their melodious backup with verve, as well as the raucous crows that try out like high school ne’er-do-wells who think Chorus will be less boring than Study Hall. Birdsong trampolines my soul…rebounding whatever is weighing it down to airy heights…over and over and over. Good thing no one is listening as they’d be bored with how many times I utter words like…beautiful… gorgeous…amazing…alright already! This will be the most comfortable portion of the day…early morning is my favorite and I wish it would last all day, but then of course it wouldn’t be morning. But imagine having to have a ticket issued in order to hear morning birds or bells or chimes, to smell flowers or rain shower or fresh wash on the line, or view an amazing spider web or bird’s nest. Maybe it would cultivate a culture of new values; values for things not currently taxed, calculated, counted, packaged, adulterated, tested or hyped. As for me, I thank my feathered friends…well, maybe just not the woodpecker jack hammering my cedar shakes!

My Life in Birds (a winter story) short PDF

Friday, April 17, 2009

FIELD NOTES: I have a compost bin...

Not your usual TGIF (the end of Spring Break)

...of chicken wire and pressure-treated wood at the side of the shade garden where red worms (the good ones for composts) are free to come and digest…banana peels, melon rinds, wilted lettuce, eggshells, coffee grounds…I flip over a season’s worth of dirt and organic scraps from the left side, sift it through the homemade screen into the storage barrel and toss what’s left (usually the last scraps added before a hard freeze) back into the right side of the bin. Left, right, left, right, lift, sift, toss…it is repetitive, physical labor, but out in the new spring air, one of my first…and most satisfying and meditative…outdoor chores. I love jumping right into the bin and filling my shoes and cuffs as I work. To gardeners, this is real ‘black gold’. I will churn it in the vegetable garden or fertilize the plants with compost tea. My father made the compost bin for me when we bought our little house fifteen years ago…and it’s still holding up…it’s still returning to the earth what belongs to the earth, and turning plain, old dirt into beautiful soil. I have a compost bin…

I have discovered there are about as many different ways to make a compost as there are to make meatloaf - and you can't screw it up! Email or leave a comment if you have any questions about simple - and free - backyard composting - I'm not an expert, but I've made plenty of mistakes!

Here are some links - when I find more I like, I'll add to the list:

Tips for the Lazy Gardener
Better Connecticut urban compost video

Thursday, April 16, 2009

FIELD NOTES: Amethyst stands in the seed aisle next to me…

a Spring Break afternoon

...and she wants all the flower seeds, but her mother tells her that they don’t have all the different kind of suns in their yard. I only know her name because her mother sings it. I think it is a beautiful name. It means stability, peace, balance, courage, inner strength, sincerity and a calm disposition and I always wished that the February birthstone were mine because I loved purple when I was Amethyst’s age. I want to tell her mother to go ahead, let her buy all the seeds you can afford, don’t discourage for one bit this enthusiastic little gardener. She could be a Miss Rumphius. But Amethyst is content to joyfully skip away after her mother…a picture perfect pair…I choose sunflowers, large bottle gourds and Kentucky Wonder beans, then with a smile, I move on to pick out garden gloves and quick-release hose connectors. Everyone in the store seems giddy with the coming of spring…especially Amethyst!