Showing posts from April, 2008

Wordless Wednesday: Speak

You're Invited
Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti
Photo Exhibit
The Funky Monkey
130 Elm StreetCheshire, Connecticut
April 29 to May27
Reception: 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, May 2

More at Wordless Wednesday

Acceptance and Rejection: Two Sides of the Same Coin

If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced. (Vincent Van Gogh)

Acceptance and rejection are two sides of a coin that must be invested and reinvested in the creative process. They are insights, holes in the walls that isolate us from the world around us and let in the light of understanding.

It can take time to assimilate both acceptance and rejection and avoid the pitfall of becoming complacent in response to the former and inactive in response to the latter. This can be difficult because artists are vulnerable at every turn in the creative process. They have expressed whatever is true and real in themselves in the truest, most real way possible, and they await a response. Will you stop and look? Give it a thought? Do you get it? Do you care?

On Sunday, I attended a forum on acceptance and rejection at Wisdom House. There, a panel of five artists--sculptor Joy Brown, poet Davyne Verstandig, visual artist and w…

Weekend Snapshot: Hello, Violet!

We spent Saturday morning cleaning up the gardens around our little home. Here we found violets, fiddlehead ferns, dandelions, and Solomon's seal growing where they pleased along with the imported ivy, rhododendron, and mountain laurel. We took a break from chores in the afternoon, when the sun dissolved the thin gauze of clouds and announced recess, and went for a walk along the Shepaug River in Roxbury. There we discovered a few other varieties of fern and violets, wood anemone, false Solomon's seal, jack-in-the-pulpit, and skunk cabbage among the up-and-about native wildflowers.

Next time we'll bring the field guide to further acquaint ourselves with the floral wonders of open spaces dedicated to their thriving.

More at Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Text

On Monday, my daughter couldn't wait to show her fourth-grade teacher the replica of the Declaration of Independence that she had bought as a souvenir in Williamsburg,Virginia. As I watched her little legs carry her and her overburdened backpack to the school bus that morning, my mind's eye replayed all the images of paper and pen that we had seen while we were in Colonial Williamsburg. Every class of society had a pen, ink, and paper--from the royal governor to officers and soldiers, to children. The book maker's shop faced the printer's; even the floor of the church was inscribed with the names of worshipers and the pews were filled with prayer books.

Text was everywhere.

Literacy, it seems to me, was the best weapon in the Patriots' arsenal. Put alongside that a confidence in the ordinary person's ability to reason and respond appropriately, and you've got yourself a revolution led by words. Everything else followed. Literacy is power. It is also a great l…

Skywatch Friday: The Eyes Have It

I misplaced my glasses more than a year ago, so a lot of life is a blur. I rely on my camera to bring in the far-away wonders of my world. Last week in Virginia, I took my morning walk down a little service road that smelled like paradise. I looked up with my camera to discover an arbor of wisteria, above.

Closer to my nose, I enjoyed this view from the inside of the Capitol Building in Colonial Williamsburg. Things look like this to me even when the glass is not melting! Looking through this bullseye glass, I realized being clear and being transparent are not the same thing...

More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen No. 30: Bloodroot

Away back in '78, I actually learned something in science class that I have kept with me. In the spring of that year, our teacher, Mr. Primini (a fiery Italian with no first name we could imagine) would take us out to the nature center built by our predecessors along a stream behind our school. He charged us with the tasks of measuring the girth of various species of tree, drawing fiddlehead, and finding a range of rare wildflowers.

Bloodroot was among them. Anemone and trillium grew in abundance there then, but bloodroot was a rarity. This, of course was a part of the lesson.

I came across some on Sunday when I was working at the Sharon Garden Project in Sharon, Connecticut. I was so taken by the flower that I decided to reacquaint myself with this one of Connecticut's native wild flowers. Meet my friend:

1. Bloodroot grows anywhere from 6 to 12 inches

2. in rich woods.

3. Also known as puccoon,

4. its white flowers, which are 1 1/2 inches wide, bloom from March to May.

5. The flo…

Wordless Wednesday: Tobacco, Elbow Grease, Garden Produce


Sharon Garden Project: Warming up for Waterbury

What's better than spending a warm spring weekend getting the garden ready for the growing season? After a long winter that stretched itself across the face of early spring, nothing seemed better to me when we started out for the Sharon Garden Project at the crack of dawn Saturday.

My husband, daughter, and I traveled North to the home of psychotherapists Dan and Mary Gates in Sharon, Connecticut, to work with a whole bunch of friends and strangers on the half-acre of organic gardens and the shed that are being created to serve the needs of folks in Waterbury by putting fresh vegetables on their tables.

The Gateses make their land available to the parishioners of St. John's Parish in Waterbury and Waterbury Baptist Ministries so that these two groups can feed patrons of Greater Waterbury Interfaith Ministries and Jubilee Harvest who need but can't afford fresh food.

"We've been doing this for nine years," Dan told me on Saturday. "I'd come out here and…

Weekend Snapshot: Soft Women, Steely Men in Williamsburg, Virginia

The hat and the hilt are artifacts of the Governor's Palace in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. The front hall of the palace was literally covered from wall-to-wall with weapons; the bedrooms were as soft as the foyer was hard.

Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Travel in Time and Space

We spent a lovely few days in Virginia this week. We returned to the Williamsburg area with neighbors so each of our one-and-only daughters could learn some American history and have some good company. The trip was pure pleasure from start to finish. Our neighbors are good people who are easy to be with. Their daughter is a few years older than Adella, and the girls complement, rather than compete with, each other.

The trip south was also a form of time travel that advanced spring for us by a good month. The flowers in the gardens and along the roads were gorgeous. The journey was a trip back in time, too. We filled our days with trips to Colonial Williamsburg, Yorktown, and Historic Jamestowne. At each site, the interpreters were as enthusiastic as they were knowledgeable about their area of interest, whether it was agriculture, trade, politics, government, or exploration.

Without a doubt, our favorite presentation came from a volunteer at Jamestowne who told us the story of John Smit…

Skywatch Friday: Standing between the Suns

We had a big storm early last Saturday morning. The rain rolled down in torrents to the accompaniment of thunder and lightening. Though I love a morning walk and never worry about the rain, this rain kept me in my warm bed. An hour later, peace prevailed and the sun rose to dissolve the mist that clung to the air, and the sky was as blue as can be. After one gorgeous cup of coffee, I pulled on my sneakers to see how the daffodils fared. To my surprise, I found the rain had baptized the new forsythia.

Clumsy as I am, I almost stepped on the very flowers I had been looking for as I snapped photos of the forsythia. It seemed as if the sunshine had emerged from the earth as well as descended from the sky. It was nice to be caught between the suns!

More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen 29: Beaver Ecology

There are many smallish bodies of water near our home, and many of them are homes of beavers. Often when I walk at dusk, a beaver will slap his tail on the water and swim off, bringing me out of my reverie and happily aware that our landscape is full of life.

Beavers are among my favorite animals. Though their taking down of trees and building of dams seem destructive, beavers are actually very creative engineers adept at modifying the landscape to suit their needs. They create win-win situations for everybody because they provide habitat for a variety of plants and animals. When I think of the benefits beavers bring to an area, I am awestruck by what these little guys can do with a few teeth and strong jaws.

1. Beavers dam rivers and streams to form ponds.

2. The base of a dam is made of stones and mud. Beavers place sticks on top of this foundation. Beavers scoop the mud with their forepaws and pat it down with their feet and snouts.

3. Beaver ponds provide habitat for beavers' foo…

Wordless Wednesday: Graffiti is a Scream

You're Invited
Strange Attractions: Exploring Graffiti
Photo Exhibit
The Funky Monkey
130 Elm StreetCheshire, Connecticut
April 29 to May27
Reception: 7 to 9 p.m., Friday, May 2

More at Wordless Wednesday

Remembering Virginia Tech a Year Later

"Nothing can make up for the absence of someone we love, and it would be wrong to try to find a kind of substitute: we must simply hold out and see it through. This sounds very hard at first, but at the same time it is a great consolation, for the gap, as long as it remains unfilled, preserves the bonds between us. It is nonsense to say that God fills the gap: he doesn't fill it, but on the contrary he keeps it empty and so helps us keep alive our communion with each other". (Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote this to his parents on Christmas Eve, 1943, from a Nazi prison cell.)

On April 16, 2007, Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded many more before committing suiciden on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. All who were affected by this nightmare a year ago are in my prayers today.

Weekend Snapshot: Brass Magnolias

Here is spring as it gently, slowly, quietly transforms Waterbury into a leafy old city. The magnolia in the top photo stands outside the Chase Building, pictured in all its aging glory in the second shot. Waterbury is full of such treasures, and I love walking about and taking them in.

This building was designed by Cass Gilbert, the architect of the Woolworth Building in New York and, later, of the U. S. Supreme Court. The Chase family, whose Chase Brass Company was at the top of the city's economy, also spearheaded and paid 75 percent of the cost of the building of City Hall, which is across the street. Gilbert designed that building, too.

The Chase family was also instrumental in developing a complex of other buildings nearby, all designed by Gilbert, that was a showplace of the latest in architecture and city planning. This complex exemplified the interdependent roles of government, business, and charities in building a prosperous and progressive city, and it promised to be a so…

Blog Your Blessings: Delmo

Our gold-and-grey guinea pig Delmo is very ill. He had been hopping on three legs earlier this week, so I took him in for an exam. The vet tells me he might be suffering from cancer, kidney failure, a severe Vitamin C deficiency, or a bone infection. Whatever the problem, something is causing his bones to disintegrate inside his quiet and gentle little body. He is on antibiotics in case the cause is infection and on Vitamin C in case the lack of it is the problem. There's nothing we can do about cancer or kidney failure.

I felt so useless after I brought him home from the check up. I put him on the floor and let him rest after two hours of being pulled and stretched by strange,strong hands. He squeaked from time to time. I stood by, feeling huge, human, and helpless. Then I put his big brother Tapper on the floor so he too could get some exercise. Rather than engaging in the normal exercises of exploring or trying to eat my bamboo chair, though, he headed for his little brother an…

Skywatch Friday: Kent, Connecticut

This is a Congregational church in Kent, Connecticut. I took the photo 12 years ago on a Saturday afternoon with my great Uncle Bud. He was a lovely man, and every now and again we'd go out in his Buick for a ride along the back roads to see what was there. This was a regular pastime for this an elderly widower who had spent his long life loving the world around him and taking it to heart through the lens of a camera.

He kept his camera in his trunk unless the weather was extremely hot or cold so that he could snap whatever looked interesting. Of course, snapping came after using the light meter and going through all the other movements of a photographer who wouldn't dream of doing anything automatically or imprecisely. At the end of his life, he had cabinets full of photos of interesting things he saw along the way. Each one was a well-composed work of art.

When we made our travels together, I would watch him sweet talk gallery curators in to letting him photograph displays or …

Thursday Thirteen No. 28: Accepting Charity

As an English teacher, I have often been required to teach students about politically correct language--what proponents of the stuff might call language free of bias. While some adjustments to our usage are useful and important, others are downright absurd. This is always the case when we have to talk about subjects that make us uncomfortable. We trade accurate, specific words for vague ones not to protect the dignity of the people we're talking about but to keep our distance from them.

Consider words connected to poverty. We have transformed the poor into people in need, the abused into people in crisis, and the mentally ill into people with issues. We have reduced charity to mere financial support.

Though these days the word charity refers to assisting the poor, it has its roots in love. Charity appears in the King James version of the Bible as a synonym of agape, or brotherly, love. I like this meaning of the word; it is kind and generous, free of the negative connotations that…

Wordless Wednesday: No Sleeping in on Sunday for These Birds


To Honor the Memory of Craig Lundwall

Craig Allen Lundwall
1966 - 2001

Today, April 8, marks the seventh anniversary of the passing of a dear friend. He chose to step back into the immense mystery of time and place by stepping out of this life when he was 34. I often wonder if he knew that by doing so he would become a teacher whose lasting memory, whose decision to close his book would open many others for me and perhaps for the many people who loved him.

I think of him every day. Daily, some part of our shared lives comes back to me in fleeting moments and leaves me thinking about the gaps in my knowledge of him, his life, and the struggles that plagued him incessantly through many of his 34 years. I often wonder what I didn't know as I reflect on what I did know. I do this free of any desire for hard facts; instead, I seek to find some understanding of the nature of his very beautiful being.

The greatest lesson I have learned thus far is that there are no definitive answers, no saying "this happened for this reaso…

Weekend Snapshot: Your Life is Sacred Text

Author and artist Jan Richardson of Florida led a women's retreat at Wisdom House in Litchfield, Connecticut, this weekend, and I'm glad I was there (video).

Your life is a sacred text, suggested Richardson, an ordained minister in the United Methodist Church who has been leading retreats for the past 20 years.

She discussed the practice of lectio divina, of seeing a passage of Scripture as story and allowing a word or words from it to rise from the page and enter our thoughts and pique our imaginations until they jiggle loose some new door that leads to a new understanding of the text. Passing through that door of understanding inevitably leads to a thin place where heaven and earth meet, where we know God's presence.

Lectio divina is the practice of reading a text, ruminating and praying over it, and then contemplating it that it might find its place in our hearts. For now. Because each reading of a text reveals different layers of meaning, opens different doors, closes yet…

One Single Impression

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Blog Your Blessings: Wind

I love to awake to the wind in springtime. The wind blew wild on Wednesday; my eyes opened at the sound of its dark and solemn music at four a.m. I lay and listened and watched the dull blue light of dawn blow in ever so slowly. After I pulled myself from my warm bed, I pulled on my sweats and went for a walk. I had wrapped an old winter coat around the warmth of sleep and enjoyed every last bit of it as the wind spun around me. I watched the trees sway and felt the music of the wind vibrating on the long and graceful branches of the ancient trees like so many violins. And the water. There's nothing more amazing to me than the wind moving across the water, blowing diamonds of light into shadows and shores. It is a silent movement, and it is magical. And the smell. I love the smell of the wind in my clothes. It is pure and clean and all its own. I love the thunder and strength of wind. It is the pulse of air, a proof of some mysterious, musical life that penetrates everything. It i…

Skywatch Friday: Sunbonnets for the Bank Windows

Here's the bank:

And here's the jailhouse just a few feet away. You can look, but you can't touch!

Thursday Thirteen No. 27: What's in a Word?

The Online Etymology Dictionary is my new favorite toy. To discover the history of a word is to discover the poetry of our origins one word at a time. I looked up 13 words that crossed my path this week. (A random list from my random life.) Here's what I found.

1. The meaning of the noun familiar, as "demon, evil spirit that answers one's call" was first recorded in 1584.

2. A tally mark dates from 1440 and means a "stick marked with notches to indicate an amount owed or paid. The meaning of "a thing that matches another" was first recorded 1651 and is said to be from the practice of splitting a tally with the debtor and creditor each retaining one of the halves.

3. Friend is an Old English word for freogan, which means "to love, to favor." It is related to the Old English word freo, or "free."

4. Prodigious is from the Latin word prodigiosus, which means, "strange, wonderful, marvelous."

5. To animate means "to fill w…

Wordless Wednesday: Wide Open to the World


Waterbury: A 'Pile of Junk' Some Call Home

Forbes magazine writer David K. Randall paid Waterbury a flying visit recently and pronounced it a "pile of junk" in the April 7 issue of the magazine. He noticed exactly one beautiful thing about the Brass City--the Union Station Clocktower--and found fault with everything else.

Randall spent his time in the city with Connecticut's former governor John G. Rowland, a Waterbury native who served 10 months in jail for fraud but who has been appointed by Waterbury Mayor Michael Jarjura to work with the city's chamber of commerce and the Waterbury Development encourage businesses to come to the city. Clearly, the reporter was himself unimpressed with Rowland, whom he presented as more interested in taking care of himself than the city.

Pointing out the obvious requires little journalistic talent. Rowland is not a credit to Waterbury. If he couldn't whisk this reporter around the Green and point out the marvels there--the churches, the museum, the Y, the histor…