Friday, May 30, 2008

Stop--look--and listen

I took this last week on a perfect, clear-as-a-bell late spring day. The leaves had morphed from their baby soft chartreuse into their true state: green, shiny, challenging the wind.

The sky was perfectly blue with a wisp of a cloud here and there. But this cloud drew my eyes away from all the splendor because it reminded me of a funnel cloud.

On Monday a very strong tornado ravaged an area just a few miles north of us in the farmland of Hugo and Blaine. It left eerie, and in some cases, total devastation in its rickrack path.

These colors combined reminded me of a beautiful flag of sorts--green and white on a blue background.

See more sky or to join in at SkyWatch Friday , hosted by the intrepid Tom.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

What goes around comes around

Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another,
You too?
I thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis

It made me happy to receive a blogging excellence award recently from Judy @ Cheery Tomato Productions--such an honor coming from someone who lives up to her title as CAO (Chief Artistic Officer) of her wonderful blog. She likes my eclectic blog and I like her enthusiasm for her art, family and life.

Therefore, I am sending this award and sentiment to these bloggers extraordinaire:

Wil at ReaderWil who lives in the Netherlands; when you visit her blog you'll think you are in a wonderful new place

Judy at Midlife Bliss whose blog is full of her many interests & talents with photos to prove it

Beatriz in Italy where her Suitcase Contents are like a Pandora's box of cooking with her son, her art, running and much more

So many sites I visit make my day richer, get me to thinking, get me on or off my soapbox, encourage me as well as showing me the world through their eyes. In gratitude I raise my cup of coffee to one and all.

Sweet! its ABC Wednesday!

ABC Wednesday's letter is the "S" which just seems to appear in many situations. . .

a singing bird at Como Lake--note his windblown hairdo


from California

whimsical sculpture in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden behind the Walker Art Center

and the sweetest treat of all--Rice Krispie Treats made by Erica with her own special secret recipe and sent home for me and her dad when I visited her in D.C. earlier this spring.

To see more esses or join in the fun at ABC Wednesday, visit Mrs Nesbitt here.

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

tir-ə-ˈmē-sü on Tuesday

To be tagged for a book meme on the day after a holiday is like being handed a nice helping of Tiramisù--a pick-me-up for the doldrums. This came my way from the generous and talented Anno , so here we go:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

The book nearest me at the moment is The Ginger Tree by Oswald Wynd (1977). I picked this up at a thrift store just this morning for $.60 because it was 25% off Tuesday and vaguely remember that it had been made into a Masterpiece Theatre drama a few years back. On page 123 I read the fifth sentence and here are the sixth through eighth:

I remember twice the blood seeping through those bandages from a wound that wasn't healing, perhaps because of the way he was forcing himelf to walk on that leg. I read the names of these villages through which he probably marched with his men, An-ping, Hsiao-tun-tzu, as though they were stations along a railway line I traveled often, though in the names I saw blood and ruins. This is Kentaro's second war in only a few years.
The entire novel is the diary of Mary MacKenzie--described as 'lively, curious, unspoiled'-- and her trip from Scotland in 1903 to the Far East where she is betrothed to a military attache. Enlarge the lovely cover art giving clues to her adventures and where and with whom. Actually I'm a sucker for the cover illustrations on any book, so I might not have otherwise stopped to look at a historical novel set there in that time period. But as with my introduction to India at the turn of the last century from Rumer Godden's book The Peacock Spring this might be another lucky, serendipitous find that will change me even more.

Here are the first lines from Mary on the SS Mooldera off Aden, January 9th, 1903:

I was sick yesterday on my birthday, after not having been sick crossing the Bay of Biscay and even in the storm off Malta. It seems silly to have been sick in a little sea like the Red
Sea, but when I did get to the deck at sunset, to escape from Mrs Carswell's groaning, the Second Officer came up beside me at the rail and said that I had been unwell because of the ground swell from Somalia.

...and so adventure begins in a beguiling--and changed--part of the world during a time I can only read about. I'll keep you posted.

No. 5 of the meme requires me to tag five others and I. . .pick. . .

--Judy who is in Midlife Bliss
--Inland Empire Girl who hosts a Gathering Around The Table
--Bobbie who is Almost There
--Simply Me who asks, life, how did I get here?
--Imelda, the Greenish Lady

Friday, May 23, 2008

One generation plants the trees ...

... under whose cool shade another generation takes its ease. Proverb

My view of the sky from an old farm area where I walk. Spring has sprung in Minnesota.
For more sky views or to join in, visit Tom at SkyWatch Friday.

Happy Friday!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


Today's ABC Wednesday letter is "R"--ready?

Dave and I saw this pristine model parked on the street in White Bear Lake one Saturday. He knew it was a 1959 Corvette by the grooves in the hood. What I knew was that it was the most gorgeous red I'd ever laid eyes on. Roman Red to be exact.

And, if these pics have you humming 'Little Red Corvette,' remember that Prince is from Minnesota too.

Happy Wednesday--for more fun 'r' words, or to join in, drop by Mrs Nesbitt's.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

By slow Meander's margent green, & in the violet-embroidered vale.

My walks so far this week have figuratively unearthed little clumps of violets and patches of Jacob's Ladder, [I think] along Como Lake. Best of all, robins are flying overhead with mouthsful of wiggly worms--and you know what that means!
In the lake were many goslings from proud and aggressively wary Canada geese and one large bobbing batch of Mallard ducklings. As I walked I bothered all manner of wrens, nuthatches, chickadees and two varieties of swallows--all way too quick to sketch. The goslings were hard enough.
When I first moved to Minnesota, a friend said that spring happens overnight, just like September turns to autumn overnight--she was right. Verdant greens, flowering trees and lilacs ready to explode are everywhere.
I thought that spring must last forevermore
For I was young and loved, and it was May.
by Vera Brittain
from "May Morning" -- May 1916

Vera Brittain English writer, poet, pacifist

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Soul in the updraft

Your music cracks my heart open
Taking my spine two stairs at a time
Leaving every door ajar
Colors alight with hollow bones

Aching melodies spin
Crinoline clouds weep
Granted and received

Truth and wonders
Are the fragrant petals
You toss through the gap-toothed
Windows of my soul.

Based on a prompt of 'soar' for Sunday Scribblings, my gratitude to Ludwig van Beethoven for his short, sweet Symphony No. 6, Pastoral, which causes a mighty separation of soul and body every time I listen. Listen to my favorite, the fourth movement here.
[The graphic above is from a painting called "The Bedroom"--1658/1600 by Dutch painter Pieter de Hooch.]

Camera you see 'em, now you don't!

If you don't know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.
Yogi Berra
Visit Camera Critters for more incredible animal feats of cuteness. Happy Sunday!

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bend little willow. . .

If you reveal your secrets to the wind you should not
blame the wind for revealing them to the trees.
Khalil Gibran
My contribution to SkyWatch Friday -- my favorite tree, the weeping willow, not quite in full leaf, shining flourescent against the bright blue sky last week. More sky views at Tom's place.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

There is a fair and fruitful island.

O.K., so I had an extra cup of coffee this morning before heading out for the walk around Island Lake, posing two problems: the restrooms don't open until 8 am and my legs couldn't keep up with my scattered thoughts. Since I haven't had an original thought since before Christmas, I welcome these unusual bouts of free-floating, stream of consciousness ...

ÑIf I could, I'd like to sit on the edge of the stage, legs dangling, and talk with Jeff Tweedy of Wilco for awhile. That's when we'd discuss the horrors of migraines and the finer points of Montessori schooling. Then he'd sing Theologians a capella and all would be right with the world.

ÑI've always wondered what advice Jackie Kennedy gave to her granddaughters before she passed.

ÑImagine what might have happened if a young Adolph Hitler had told the art critics and admissions people at the art school that denied him a spot to go f--k themselves. What if he then decided to paint anyway and raise German Shepherd puppies?

ÑI still wish it was possible to let all the little wet birds stay in my bedroom at night to get out of the storm. Their fate haunted me growing up and sometimes I wonder--mostly about when I'm going to get over this.

ÑI wish I found myself standing behind Walt Whitman in Starbucks. Then I'd ask him what he packed for his lunch in his knapsack that day.

ÑI have it on good authority that llama mothers hum to their young ones.
So ended my reverie as I remembered the PBS special I'd watched about what might have really happened to the Minoan culture. What I do know is they had the right idea, keeping those palace rooms airy, decorating with a lot of blue, etc., etc. All decorating tips aside, my favorite fresco has always been of the happy dolphins swimming around Crete on the wall of the Queen's Room...above.

Even brave Odysseus knew about the people on Crete:
'There is a fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly peopled and there are ninety cities in it: the people speak many different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans, brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.' [from the Odyssey, Book XIX]
Life was good.

detail from fresco found in King's Palace, Knossos, Crete

...and if I could talk to John and Elizabeth Edwards again, I'd say: "Damn! I'm sorry."

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

a quantum leap

A quizzical appurtenance on a University of Chicago building, a face that prompted many of my own existential thoughts when I walked through the campus to work.

My prized possession, a commemorative tin from the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. After searching for a similar one that I had been gifted, I found this one in mint condition last fall--a find of a lifetime.

Vintage Sergio Mendez & Brazil 66, Mas Que Nada:

Que no?!

The Peaceable Kingdom, the last painting done by Edward Hicks, a Quaker.
Whew! I made it. . .this week's ABC Wednesday letter is 'Q', not the easiest to cover. To see more posters pdq, check out Mrs Nesbitt's place.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Its been said, 'a leap year is not a good year for sheep...'

A little more from my afternoon at the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival on Sunday. These were just some highlights for me, keeping in mind there were three whole county-fair buildings of juried exhibits and vendors in addition to two more buildings full of sheep and llamas. Read: overwhelming and blissful all at once. I came home with a pincushion/wool roving ball of many colors and a bar of Western Juniper-flavored handmade soap and an inclination to learn the art of wool rug hooking. This could work against me--as in the guilt from not finishing all the other knitting projects piling up--or for me as in a new and wonderful reason to go to yarn shops. Always thinking, I am.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Welcome to the Twilight Zone. . .

I caught a glimpse of this little angora rabbit at the Shepherd's Harvest Sheep & Wool Festival yesterday in Lake Elmo. I have never felt anything so soft either. But his ears were too much because I'm old enough to remember how we had to manipulate rabbit ears --with foil wrappers--to 'bring in' the show we wanted to watch on t.v. All very high tech.

This guy is my entry on Camera Critters today. I hope he makes your day. See Misty Dawn's site for more critters that will make you smile.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Looking for the sun!

To love and be loved
is to feel the sun from both sides.*

So many good wishes go out to my friends who are mothers, mother someone else, mother me sometimes, have a mother, and keep the world grounded on its axis by just being here.

I'm borrowing a quote from Queen Sized Funny Bone just for today. Thanks, Tammy!

Friday, May 9, 2008

But, the phone never rings.

He answered with a question mark,
As if surprised by the sound
Coming from his kitchen.
He had only borrowed phones
Refusing to own one
Instead, stopped at a relative’s house
To make a call to someone else.

No rambling during this visit.
He seemed like a new person
I’d recently met.
Tidbits about a new doctor
And a banana a day
Had made him feel better than ever.
I took keen notes.

I think about you often, Daddy.
But, my phone never rings.
A fact I couldn’t deny.
How can you marry fear to love?
Or envision this old man ever doing those things?
I didn’t want that time to return
Or this new encounter to end.

Love was mumbled
Across the wires.
I said I’d talk to him soon
And because he knew I liked the sound of it,
His perfect ‘arrivederci’
Was the last sound I heard.
My memory from the prompt 'telephone' from Sunday Scribblings. Ring up other writers here.
[photo by Helen Levitt--New York, 1940]

'We could hardly wait to get up in the morning.'

“The desire to fly is an idea handed down to us by our ancestors who...looked enviously on the birds soaring freely through space...on the infinite highway of the air.” ~Wilbur Wright

I'm pretty sure the Wright Bros. were watching eagles soar when they said these words. One beautiful day this week, while walking at Como Lake in St. Paul, I looked up to watch a bald eagle spiralling lazily on the air currents above me. At first I was just enjoying the soft cloud pattern and then saw the black spot turn into a six five feet wingspan against the bright blue. I'm told eagles follow the Mississippi River that divides Minneapolis and St. Paul. I haven't been able to enjoy this skyward view since we left Idaho.

Just a small reminder that even majestic eagles have to start out a bit funny-looking, feathers popping out everywhere, demanding, looking slightly bewildered and gangly.

Today is Friday and that means,this eagle tutorial is my contribution to Skywatch Friday, hosted by Tom @ Skywatch.

And just because its Friday, I'm adding a classic R.E.M. about our sky.
Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

word-less Wednesday

ABC Wednesday arrives

P for pairs

P for Peony... last year's crop. I've given myself license to use my photos again because it'll probably be until June when we see peonies in Minnesota this year.

Is there anything more delicious than the subtle scent of a peony in full bloom? They spell Memorial Day for me, taking huge bouquets in large tin cans to the cemetary to leave at family plots. My job was to hold them so they wouldn't spill in the car. So much better to hide my face in their soft petals and inhale.

Chinese artist Yun Shouping, Qing Dynasty, 17th Century

For other photos of life beginning with the letter 'P' stop by Mrs Nesbitt's who hosts ABC Wednesday worldwide.

Life is good!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

"Planting colorful flowers is effective because the flowers appear to be glad to see you."

Wandering aimlessly through the library recently an aptly titled book caught my eye: Planted Junk by Adam Caplin. Most of what I own is junk well-used after all these years and then I go right back out and scout for more junk collectibles every chance I get. This is a book that approaches the marriage of color and junk forms in a really fun and eye-pleasing way. He uses everything from old drawers to kid's toys, especially beach pails, to strategically place just the perfect plant, color or texture. I especially liked the stately foxglove planted in the bow of an old wooden boat (!) or single black pansies in orange-flavored San Pellegrino cans. His old found teapots spilleth over--my favorite: white nicotiana in a big red one. [Difficult to find, I love to plant the true nicotiana -- flowering tobacco -- for its height and delicious fragrance.]

So, back to my patio slab, I probably won't get away with a painted yellow tire full of fragrant, dark purple petunias but a teapot or a drawer full of alyssum would be surreptitiously perfect. I jotted down some of my faves above so I wouldn't forget. Forgetting seems to skip merrily hand in hand with 'older' stuff.

hopeful crop of rhubarb in a neighbor's yard

Simplicity and complexity need each other.
John Maeda

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Hit me!

The whispers accelerated during the summer. And the whisperers were not as cautious about anyone hearing what was on their mind.

‘They will sit around on their asses, never bathe, or lift a hand to help with the dishes!”
“We’ll be expected to cook for them and drive them all around to visit relatives.” I couldn’t wait.

The escape plan for my cousins was to be whisked off to Wyoming to spend two weeks on Charlotte’s ranch. My request to go along was summarily denied. I’d never met anyone named Charlotte nor had I been on a ranch. Never mind, because I was needed to help out when they descended on us. I moped.

They were the several adult children of the old man who lived in the basement. He was my great-uncle, who shuffled along with a cane and had never lost his broken English, Grandma Philomena’s brother Tony. As usual I only had half the story because children were to be seen and not heard, especially crazy Jimmy’s daughter. What I knew of the visitors-to-be was they lived in Denver and they had multiplied like rabbits. Two daughters and one son had all married other Italians and had led a mysterious life far away from their father. Our family held their secrets tight against their chest and only in times like an impending visit were they forced to show some cards. Being Jimmy’s daughter I expected the worst.

When you’re young, families are enigmatic to be sure, because they are all we’ve got just then. Imagine my surprise when I first laid eyes on the two daughters from Denver. They were blond! Of southern-Italian descent, brown eyes and black hair, I’d only dreamed of being a platinum blond. And they had done it. ‘Sure,” Rose laughingly explained. “We thought it would be fun to be blond and it, is so we’re staying that way! I’ll fix your hair later, kiddo.”

These visitors prepared wonderful food while they were in town. Taking over my aunt’s kitchen, they laid out a banquet of things I’d never eaten before like stuffed cannelloni, sausage lasagna and sublime pastries. After meals they would sit around with coffee, laughing and reminiscing for hours.

One visit included a son, Salvatore, who it was whispered was always too busy being an accountant to come up to see his dad. I watched from the kitchen, dishtowel in hand, when after dinner one night, Cousin Sal reached in his pocket for a deck of cards. Forbidding glances were passed around the room. Some sat in and others tittered. He asked me if I wanted to play and I blushingly stammered I had to dry dishes and besides I didn’t know how to play Blackjack. That was the day I learned that men could be kind because Sal said he’d teach me the game. It didn’t hurt that he was very handsome, smelled good, and spoke softly. He was smiling when he said all I needed to know was how to count to twenty-one. Sal taught me to say ‘hit me’ when I wanted to add another card. He would never know that for a 12-year-old abused girl, this was the last thing she’d want to say. Card games still conjure up memories of beginners luck and Sal winking at me as he dealt the cards.

One more thing I learned that summer: Rose showed me that you should always pull the dishcloth between each tine of a fork when you’re washing dishes otherwise they won’t be really clean.

This familial memory sponsored by Sunday Scribblings. Read, enjoy, contribute here.

Butterscotch Belly plans her escape route

Ever since we left our house in Chicago and moved into an apartment in Minnesota, Bean, aka Butterscotch Belly, has been trying to get back to her bed atop a bookcase in Erica's room downstairs. She's pretty convinced that it is through the front door, out into the hallway of the apartment, past the Coke machine. . .

Lately I've seen her peering out the sliding door toward the open road. So, will she go north to Duluth then into Canada or will she cross the Mississippi into Wisconsin? She has a small but highly developed brain and can leap tall buildings in a single bound, so, who knows. Right now she's resting up for the trip. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, see more Camera Critters and the folks who love them.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

'An optimist is the human personification of spring.'

To May

Since thy return, through days and weeks
Of hope that grew by stealth,
How many wan and faded cheeks
Have kindled into health!
The Old, by thee revived, have said,
'Another year is ours;'
And wayworn Wanderers, poorly fed,
Have smiled upon thy flowers.

~William Wordsworth~

Friday, May 2, 2008

Sky Watch Friday

A vivid example of the kind of sky we've been having lately: polished aluminum gray atop gray water. But in spite of the monochromatic landscape, little creatures can find something to sing about. A good lesson.

This view of Como Lake in St. Paul sponsored by Sky Watch Friday. To see more watched skies, ask for Tom.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

"The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people." Cesar Chavez

The strongest bond of human sympathy outside the family relation should be one uniting working people of all nations and tongues and kindreds.
Abraham Lincoln

Last May Day I posted the history of labor and workers unions in my family as well as in Dave's. My views are the same but the urgency of the upcoming elections is nagging at me and because I'm not getting any younger, my daughters are moving toward their 30's I am feeling a trifle bewildered . . . a little less hopeful. My drive toward Utopia has slowed with each decade because I'm learning there is no perfection and a lot of compromise is due. Admittedly I believe I can adapt to the big changes if I have to but would definitely like to see things go in a different direction--and soon! The mantra of my generation was you can't trust anyone over 30. I never quite got it and now I know why, because 'they are us.' Granny Smith at her blog has posted on her sidebar the classic Pogo comic strip that goes like this:

We has met the enemy and they is us.

The voices of prophets crying in the wilderness since the 1960's about over-population, DDT, pollution, preservation, emissions controls, or recycling are now being echoed by a bright new generation that wants to see even bigger changes--and there exists a mighty deadline. Caring about the inhabitants of our beautiful planet--each other-- is one integral aspect that cannot be taken for granted. Writer/activist Anne Lamott said:

“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don't give up.”

Here's to the year following, to May Day, 2009: hope for all 'workers.'