Saturday, September 23


Saffron banners hanging from Christo's gates contrasted brilliantly with black, winter-bare trees in Central Park during a recent February. Late summer's grass in a nearby green swath, recently taken over by condo developers in my neighborhood, sets off the "Gates of Kenilworth" down the street a fewblocks from me. So far I haven't seen walkers, sightseers, photographers taking in our local color, but it won't be long. Maybe I should be posting to the newspaper's blog. Do they have letters to the Editor with photos?

Sunday, September 17


The coffee took some work, as the electric coffeemaker broke. In fact, this was a week of breaking. I broke a small bone in my right wrist during the rescue of a trapped hummingbird. My car's water pump broke and cost me a lot of money. Then the coffeemaker went berserk. But the bubbles at the top of the coffee in the French press are beautiful. You'd never see these inside the coffeemaker, no sireebob.

The sun cleared off the early fog and shone in on the table.

There are pale violet asters, white hydrangea, butterfly bush, Mina lobata, and pale yellow and deep orange nasturtium. The flowering vines (including the orange and yellow Mina lobata above) are coming into their own. There's cypress vine with mixed blossoms in pink, deep rose, and white; climbing Thunbergia with rich yellow-orange blossoms and medium green heart-shaped leaves; Love-in-a-Puff, with intricately lobate green leaves, tiny white flowers on stalks, and pale green balloons; climbing spinach, coming along slowly; morning glories, mostly deep purple, with one Heavenly Blue; and one more vine still a mystery. I'm hoping it's cardinal flower, wither red or yellow.

Sunday, September 10


If you live around here, you know these bumper stickers, shiny red with white letters. The original ones said, simply, "WE STILL PRAY." We all knew right away that this bumper sticker indicated that the car contained good Christian, Bible-believing folks, who don't hold with all this modern confusion about life. It's simple: the Bible tells us so. And "WE" still pray, no matter what bizarre practices YOU might engage in. It always bothered me, though, that the implication was that unless you were in the red-sticker club, you most certainly did NOT pray. Clearly you were a secular humanist liberal who holds mankind in the highest regard and has no need or thought for any numinous quality to the universe, for any suggestion of a Mystery beyond what our senses perceive daily.

Then we started seeing variations of the message. The more irreverent ones declared "WE STILL SPAY," while book-lovers who frequent Malapropr's independent bookstore in downtown Asheville could declare simply "WE STILL READ." Let the passerby by on the street put that in his pipe and smoke it, anyway he cares. The message was not, "We don't pray," but simply, "We like to read." One who reads might well read the Holy Bible, or the Pentateuch, or the Qu'ran, or Nietzche, or Dorothy Day, or "Bread and Jam for Frances," or Dashiell Hammett. We might read Danielle Steele, or Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Book of Mormon or "Good Night Moon." Whatever it is, we (those who still read) leave room for the imagination, for entertaining the thoughts of others, for the consolations of poetry and the satisfaction of a well-plotted mystery, for deep thought or for simple refreshment. But we do like to think and ponder the world as it lays itself out before us in all its splendid complexity.
So around here, this bumper sticker might be variously interpreted, but folks recognize it, as one part of a conversation in the public arena. But this summer I went up to New England, where my red sticker provoked only "Huh???" Apparently, the good folks in RI and Massachusetts aren't telling us whether they pray, or read, or spay, or at least they're not displaying this information ont heir cars' bumpers. Leave it to those reticent Yankees to keep us all guessing what it is they do. They're not wearing red stickers to proclaim their preferences to the world. Down here in the South, we let it all hang out -- on our bumpers.

Sunday, September 3


This is where you throw the rings. You work so hard to grab them, but the park people don't want you to take them away, so you're challenged to throw them here. If you hoard them, they're gone from the currency, and there's no free flow, no exchange. It's like respiration, breathe in, breathe out. You are supposed to take in the world, and then give it back out, changed, worked on, hopefully a bit improved, or mended, or enriched. If you just take in all the time, no matter how good you are at taking in. you're not keeping up your share in the world's energy creation. Just keep throwing those rings back, even if they miss the clown's mouth. It takes timing, and constancy, and will, and then just plain abandon.

Saturday, September 2


Heading south, July afternoon, on the way to Allentown for the night, remembered now because now I'm not free to punch in the music or novel on tape and set my sights for the west and south. Remembering the white line, the trucks, the hills, the signs for NYC, and you are relieved to be heading west, away from the City, away from the parkways and turnpikes and bridges that jam and hold up cars in miles long lines. You're on the way down to Pennsylvania and on to Virgina, following the great valley between the Blue Ridge and the Cumberlands, down past Winchester and Newmarket, then Harrisonburg, and Staunton, and down to where the valley and down to the southern Blue Ride, where the valley narrows and the highway sweeps past Roanoke and Salem, past Fairfield where we broke down one New Year's Eve and the three children and I were towed three hours to Kingport, Kate and Zack riding high in the station wagon up on the Jerri-dan, Caleb and I in the cab with the tow truck driver, on down to Wytheville and Marion and Abingdon and into Tennessee, then south over the mountains to Asheville.

Hah -- you thought I was going to say something pithy and philosophical, to accompany the cloud pic? Nah, just telling you about the picture.

That evening, in Allentown, two boys explored the backyard pond.


In today's New York Times, Maureen Dowd's always lively column addresses the subject of President Bush's reading program, one that seems quite ambitious for one unused to literary reading, philosophical consideration. It includes Camus' The Stranger, as well as some English classics. Funny coincidence, or maybe not, that on Friday a colleague of mine who is both a local poet and a high school teacher of English literature, and, importantly, Canadian, emailed me a picture which I shamelessly show you here, flouting all regard for copyright. My rationale is that you might not otherwise see it. Most of us have limited exposure to the Canadian press, though I suspect we'd be better if we had more.

I'm told the billboard is "in Canada, where else?!"