Saturday, March 31

March goes out in a blaze of flowers

These are the first to bloom this year of the lovely. starry pink tulips sent to me last year by my newest blog reader. I think there will be more: some are in the back yard, on the north side, where things come later. Today I'm planting my nasturtium seeds in the ground. The other annuals and climbing vines are popping up in the flats, and the yard is being taken over by chickweed, which I'm getting my exercise extirpating.
I've started a separate reading blog, which will be added to the list as soon as it has some images on it. My vow is always to have pictures as well as text.
Tomorrow is Palm Sunday in both the Eastern and Western traditions, and the ladies of a local Greek church are preparing wonderful food for lunch. I have a big order placed to take out to the country.
Here are more flowers from the yard. See how the bluebells and trillium have advanced.

Wednesday, March 28

I'm stunned

And I'm flabbergasted over Oprah's new book club choice. Who woulda thunk it? I don't think I even have an appropriate picture for this post. This one's not bleak enough, but it's a destination they might get to.

Sunday, March 25

Spring Comes

I can't resist posting a nosegay of signs of spring. It's a lovely and innocent season, with only, maybe, the wild bloodroot showing in its new-born freshness the blood in the root, or maybe the message comes from the two sets of twin newborn goats out at Holcombe Branch, four, but minus one, the infant who was "lost." Birth and death, they're all there in the seed, in the bulb. The new shoots bear in their newness the promise of eventual death -- and regeneration. No wonder the old farmers and citizens were more aware of death, of the inexorable sadness and innate beauty of things. Maybe now in our clean and technological, managed world, Charlotte's Web would have a harder time gaining acceptance. In the new versions of an old tale, the wolf doesn't eat grandma but stows her in the closet. Is it any wonder than horror films have full page ads in the Times? Maybe our subconscious craves recognition of blood, or sorrow, of death in the midst of life. To parents I would say, Would you rather your child be exposed to Chucky and Saw or read that in "once upon a time" wolves may have et grandma but the wise hunter would come to release her intact, that goblins could take away babies but mother love wins out always and the baby returns, that Charlotte dies but her three babies live? I know where I come down on this one. So, in the spirit of Wiliam Blake, who knew that Innocence and Experience were the two eternally fused aspects of life on earth, here are a few images of the innocence and beauty of spring.

Blubells (Mertensia)

Trillium budding

March brings breezes loud and shrill,

Stirs the dancing daffodil.

Christina Rossetti, The Garden Year

Sunday, March 18

Earth, Air, Fire, Water

I went to the beach and did as I pleased. Other than mistakenly using dish liquid for sauteeing I had a great time, and that wasn't even awful, only in thought. I swam in the ocean, picked up shells, walked on the sand, saw kites flying, and roasted hot dogs.

Friday, March 9

Layers of Housekeeping

It's more than just keeping the house clean: that's just the template for doing what you want to do without being hindered by dirt and clutter. It's keeping things, and bringing them out at the right time, like these lovely calendars made in different years by my sons. The soul of the librarian is part archivist. I once was visited by an acquaintance who commented on all the papers on my desk (which was at the time situated in my dining room). I asked him what he did with his papers. He said simply, "I don't have any!" Now I use a computer, too, but my life is not paperless, nor do I wish it to be. Paper is history.
Yesterday while raking my yard I found fragments of a handwritten letter. These fragments are fascinating, as you have to infer a story from only a part. Hints of drama, like "AA" and "he refuses to" and "don't know if my life" and the like. Someone once collected such shards of lives and wrote about it in the NY Times.. Someone else has a website for tiny things -- maybe it's Squirl. I'll find out. I'd like to add my Scarlet Tanager head to such a site. The skull is covered with still-red feathers, and there's a small beak. Once I peeled back part of the skin to see the little translucent skull, but the skin and feathers still cling. It's from the maritime forest at Hunting Island, SC.

Of course, there's the necessary but less inviting financial layer to housekeeping, and I need to get back to Google spreadsheets and my taxes.
Meanwhile, here are two lovely details from my house, Royal Worcester and the fringe on an old linen:

Wednesday, March 7


The trouble with me and housekeeping was always that I'd rather make the catnip mouse look at the carpet monkey than keep them all shiny clean. More and more now, I like them all clean, but mostly I'd still rather play, or read, or talk to the cat. But I did once win an award, and I have the proof. In 1961 (or 60) I won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow award. I've spoken about it before, but maybe not here. It's behind occasional "Housekeeping" entries, so here it is. Betty sponsored an annual contest through high school home ec. departments. I wasn't in Home Ec., but the guidance counselor got wind of it and told me I should take the test. Well, I won for my small state because, like most of the other (female) winners, I was smart and had enough common sense to be able to answer which kind of sandwich would squish in a lunchbox and other esoterica. For winning I got a medal, a $1000 one-time college scholarship (1/3 of an annual expensive education back then), and a week-long trip to New York City, Williamsburg, and Washington DC (back before every fifth grader went there every year). This trip was a big deal and lots of fun. I'd scarcely been out of my 50 mi. X 30 mi. state, and I loved every minute of it.
But the irony was that we lucky few were not all home ec. students, but future teachers, scientists, doctors, etc. At least some of the other girls took their home ec. teachers. I took an English teacher who was the yearbook advisor, and the home ec. people were miffed they hadn't gotten to go, but I didn't even know them.

I feel as though I make a home as well as the next person and have always done so, but it's not always the traditional picture, the -- "Betty Crocker," as we'd say.

In liberated later decades the award was renamed the "Future Family Living Leader" or something dumb like that, to include boys.

There's just one medal; I made a collage to show front and back.

Housekeeping notes will return: washing dishes! ironing! sweeping! Honey bears -- uh oh, they just busted in -- revenge for Goldilocks, they're shouting....

Tuesday, March 6

The Advance of Spring, or The Equinox Doth Not Tell It

"Every morning now is a fresh wonder, no two quite the same. Thursday, March 1, a cloudless day, the wind blowing easily across the city ." So says Louis J. Halle in his ever-refreshing Spring in Washington (1947, 1957, my Atheneum PB edition from 1963).

Halle rode his bicycle to work at the State Department from his home over the river in Virginia, riding through the parks and watching the life cycles of the birds. whose behaviour sginalled to him the coming of spring weeks before the equinox.

"The mathematicians reckon that spring begins March 21, but the mathematicians are a month behind the season the year around. For those who observe the first signs, spring comes earlier than others know. Before the end of January, while the scenery remains desolate and the sun leaves no warmth, the first sparks are already being enkindled in the breasts of songbirds. As I left my home at daybreak January 22, under a cloud rack becoming visible, in a dead tree across the street a cardinal was singing cue-cue-cue-cue-cue-cue rapidly, all on one pitch and without variation. [and get this!] Up to that moment, for many silent months, I do not recall that my mind had been occupied with other than the indoor thoughts of the hive. In its dark winter quarters it had survived entirely on a diet of paper...."

What writing! And what lovely first hand observations you can share as you perch on his shoulder on those bike rides. Especially vivid to me were the descriptions of Rock Creek Park in both its urban and rustic aspects, because I one lived for five years a few blocks from the edge of the Park. To live in an urban neighborhood but close enough to a small wilderness that pileated woodpeckers perch in the top of the magnolia across the street and at dusk you can watch raccoons in their capable but ungainly descent from the shade oaks is to have the opportunity to observe nature. Once while living in our three story house I happened to go out on a porch rooftop. For the first time in my life I saw warblers. Three stories up (because of the basement) there was another view of my environment. So, Halle is an inspiration to anyone who loves to watch the natural world and its cycles. If the book is not still in print, I'm sure you can find a copy at abebooks.
Coming up: a perfect children's book! (Hint: Publ. 1907 or 1911)

Friday, March 2

Lots of Shiny Things

from the Speller:

Place a bowl of prunes on the table. Are you able to reach that plain saucer? There are four lemons on a saucer. Place the melon on the table. Does he grow citrons in his garden? I bought that pretty saucer at a sale. Bring a bowl of water for the table. Place the melon on the scales. --What made your face so pale?

I love the unexpected question at the end. A sudden change of mood, suggesting there's more going on than we thought in this domestic scene. (I added the dashes.)

Today's NY Times reports that there will be a memorial service today, presented by the American Turkish Society, for the late Ahmet Ertegun, with several notables speaking, including Susan Steinberg. Ertegun made an impression on me when I was young and mostly ignorant because of his unusual name. I used to wonder if he was real. Years later, when I knew a little more, I realized that he was Turkish.

Also in the Times today is a story about pedicab drivers in New York. The subheadline is "Drifting Through Manhattan in a Pedicab, as Though Down the Mississippi on a Raft." The story makes me want to go to NY and ride in a pedicab. A driver says of his work, "You're outside all the time. You start when you want, quit when you want, take whatever days off you want. You're pretty much your own boss. It's one of the last bohemian jobs left." Sounds like great work to me, though it's being threatened -- of course -- by new regulations.

Okay, so there are more important things in the day's news, but this one caught my fancy.

Here are the miniature spring flowers, joining the crocuses and daffodils:

These are Iris reticulata. Next to them are Tete-a-tete daffodils, but I don't have a good picture. And here is my new mailbox, given me by my doctor-artist neighbor, whose house was formerly #9:

Views are of its west, south, and east-facing sides. Zack's ship is still supporting it but needs to be repainted to match the shiny new box.

One more note: March 7 will mark the 20th anniversary of -- ????