Showing posts from June, 2008

Out on a Limb for the Love of Trees

There are tree huggers and there are tree huggers. The ones that have been tree-sitting (literally) in Berkeley, California, for the past couple of years are the kind I respect. I wouldn't mind having them in my corner when the (wood) chips are done. They've been hanging out in and around a grove of oak trees that stand in the way of a planned University of California athletic center. They've been chased and taunted and deprived of food and water, but they're hanging in. I respect their commitment and their cause. I admire people who stand by what they believe, even if they have to go out on a limb. The AP has the story here.

Weekend Snapshot: White Flower Farm

Last week my daughter and I stopped at White Flower Farm to take a little walk through some very beautiful gardens on our way from Wisdom House to Waterbury to do our chores.

These urns at the main entrance survived the trip from Greece. You know I didn't drive them over! It was a drizzly day, and my daughter felt chilly, so she was happy to get back in the car and enjoy these flowers from there.

Across the street were these lovely creatures, destined for sale as "Angus beef." I'd love to bust them out for a brighter future on the road!

The most precious gift we can offer others is our presence. When mindfulness embraces those we love, they will bloom like flowers.(Thich Nhat Hanh)

Weekend Snapshot

One Single Impression: Doorways

Dark and dust here,
Light and breath there.
How many years to cross this portal,
To get from here to there?
Too many or none.
Call me. I come.

(Very recently reconnected with an old friend--a very good old friend--and realized that living well is a matter of being in love with life on its terms, not mine, and of letting it be. That, I think, is the only invitation necessary to pass through the portal.)

One Single Impression

Blog Your Blessings: Boys and Friends

Every time my daughter comes home with a story about some nightmarish little girl cat at school or on the playground, I find myself telling her to hang out with boys. At her age, girls can be pretty tough on each other. The advice doesn't much help yet; in her almost 10 years on this planet, she has remained unconvinced that there are any boys who aren't gross, with the important exceptions of her cousins. Maybe I'm a fool and should instead encourage the "boys are gross" idea for another ten or so years.

But every time I giver her the boys-are-more-fun advice, I recall my own experiences of the boys who were my friends when I was younger. Having endured the trials and tribulations of what girls do to each other, I emerged from the bag of cats by my high school years to enjoy the company of some really good guys. I think of them and I smile. We had fun. I recall the laughter and see the big smiles of plain fun.

The other day I received an email from one of these…

You Love Who You Love

I love you, right? Why? Because I'm supposed to? No. Because I can't help it....You can train your mind and you can learn from experience--that's what growing up is--and you can take responsibility for your actions, but you can't make your heart behave....You love who you love. Don't ever apologize for that. Don't ever feel you have to. (Miles Roby [Ed Harris], Empire Falls)

Empire Falls (2005) is an HBO movie about small-town life starring everybody--Ed Harris, Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Helen Hunt, Aiden Quinn...--that I watched over the past few nights. It was great. The above lines sum up Roby's raison d'etre as he expresses it to his teenaged daughter. I typed them up while I was watching because these words are beautiful.

Skywatch Friday: Solstice Rose

Roses always bring to mind "The Queen of Argyll" by Scotsman Andy Stewart (formerly of Silly Wizard). Here's the refrain of this courtliest of ballads:

And if you could have seen her there
Boys, if you had just been there

The swan was in her movements

And the marvel in her smile

All the roses in the garden

They bow and ask her pardon

For not one could match the beauty

Of the Queen of all Argyll

More Skywatch Views at Wigger's World

For You

I wouldn't mind being a rose
in a field full of roses.

Fear has not yet occurred to them, nor ambition.
Reason they have not yet thought of.
Neither do they ask how long they must be roses, and then what.
Or any other foolish question.

(Mary Oliver, from "Roses, Late Summer")

Thursday Thirteen 39: Lines from George Carlin

Comedian George Carlin was a master of the obvious. His keen eye for the world around him and his gift for the best and fewest words to name his observations made him a master of understatement as well as of comedy. "In his always irreverent, often furious social commentary, in his observations of the absurdities of everyday life and language, and in groundbreaking routines like the profane “Seven Words You Can Never Say on Television,” he took aim at what he thought of as the palliating and obfuscating agents of American life — politicians, advertisements, religion, the media and conventional thinking of all stripes" (New York Times)."

Here are 13 lines that express his genius.

1. I think it's the duty of the comedian to find out where the line is drawn and cross it deliberately.
2. a series of dogs.
3. "I am" is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that "I do" is the longest sentence?
4. As a matter of pri…

I Love Lemonade Girl

TERRE HAUTE, Ind. - Call it a lemonade standoff. A girl whose lemonade stand was robbed of $17.50 chased the suspect into a nearby home and called police, who spent nearly an hour trying to coax the man into surrendering...(more)

Wordless Wednesday: The Light of a Summer Day


Weekend Snapshot: In Bloom at Topsmead

I was in Litchfield, Connecticut, on Saturday morning, so I stopped by Topsmead to see what was in bloom. First I came across these wildflowers in the tall grass,

and then I came across some beautiful poppies in one of the formal gardens. They were a little tired but beautiful nonetheless.

Weekend Snapshot

To Call Myself Beloved

Late Fragment

And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
I did.
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself
beloved on the earth.
(Raymond Carver)

Blog Your Blessings: Rain Outs and Rug Rats

We've had so many heavy rains this month that everything is lush and green. Those plants that have withstood the pelting downpours are especially vibrant. The more fragile are slowly lifting their heads to determine whether there is any promise of sunshine, I think. Though I am not among the fragile, I do feel a bit timid when I look up these days. Looking through the gap between two trees the other morning, I saw more of the same was on its way. It seems minding the celestial gap is the only sure way to predict the weather these days.

Every year my nephew's bunch of Boy Scouts goes camping in the middle of Bridgeport, Connecticut. Once Connecticut's garden city, this run-down post-industrial blight magnet of a city has been doing its best over the past decade to reclaim some of its former claim to fame. It has also sought to attract sports fans by building a hockey arena and a minor league baseball park. Here's where the camping takes place. After the game, the boys a…

Good-bye, Mr. D.

Our longtime family friend Harry Denney died on Wednesday, June 18. Whenever I think about him, my mind returns to Long Island Sound and those countless outings on our boats. I feel the summer heat clinging to everything, the sand as my flip-flops shoot it up the back of my salty wet legs, the press of the webbing of old aluminum lawn chairs in the back of my legs...I taste the awful chili again, and I wait for the silliness and adventure that came with having anything at all to do with Mr. D.

But silliness and adventure won't come. Those days are over even if they live well in the Shangri-La of memory.

Memory....Here's one that firmly planted Mr. D. and my dad as heroes in my mind.

I recall a relentlessly stormy night of one of our camping trips on Shea Island in Long Island Sound. Though we could see Norwalk from our campsite, the yellow lights of civilization offered no comfort that particular evening. There would be no getting there from where we were. So, after the campfire …

Skywatch Friday: Mind the Gap

We've had so many heavy rains this month that everything is lush and green. We've gotten so that we don't look anywhere but up to find out about the weather. The clouds are subtle, deep, and beautiful. It's nice to look through the gaps in the leaves watch their rapid movement and the changing shapes. By mid-week, the thick cover gave way to this:


More at Skywatch Friday

Thursday Thirteen 38: A Few Things About Mark Twain

A view of the conservatory from the porch of Mark Twain's home in Hartford, Connecticut.

On Saturday we visited Mark Twain's house in Hartford, Connecticut. It sits alongside fellow author Harriet Beecher Stowe's house and defies many conventions just by being there. For one, the kitchen faces the main street because, two, it actually faces Stowe's house, and, three, it looks more like a riverboat than a house anyway. None of these things bothered Twain, who like the place just fine and lived there with is family for 17 years at a time Hartford was the richest country in the nation and he was the most famous person in the world.

Twain's house is lovingly and faithfully restored to look exactly as it did when he and his family entertained the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and other famous people of the time. We took the tour from the kitchen to the billiards room at the top floor and enjoyed every minute of it and of the docent's presentation.…

Wordless Wednesday: Peace and Love to All Who Enter Here

This detail
adorns the front porch of the Chamberlin-Burr Day House, headquarters of the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford, Connecticut. Here's more of the porch.

More at Wordless Wednesday

Peonies Survive the Storm

On Saturday night, this part of Connecticut endured a deluge that defies description. Wind and rain stripped the rhododendron, mountain laurel, and lilac of their blossoms. Torrents of rain carved new streams into the sides of hills. Rocks washed into the roads. We came home from a washed out baseball game looking like, well, very wet possums.

But these peonies in my parents' garden didn't mind the cold shower. These are pictures of two of them the next day.

Weekend Snapshot: The Twain and Stowe Homes

We visited the Mark Twain (top) and Harriet Beecher Stowe (center) houses in Hartford on Saturday. Both sites offered special activities as part of Connecticut Open House Day.

From Twain: "A man cannot be comfortable without his own approval."

From Stowe: "The truth is the kindest things we can give folks in the end."

The roses basking in the sun in one a formal garden on the Stowe property.

More at Weekend Snapshot

Blog Your Blessings: Mom and Dad

When the first selectman left me an automated voice message telling me to be very careful in the intense summer heat on Tuesday, I was only too happy to oblige. So was my daughter, who agreed that getting out to the school bus on time would exceed the town father's recommended amount of exertion per minute per square inch of person.
So, heck, we played hooky--or, more accurately, she played hooky and I was her willing accomplice. In fact, I thought up the idea. It made sense--to a lot of people. Wherever we stopped, someone would say, "No school today?" We'd say, "Playing hooky and going swimming." They'd say, "Good for you. I won't tell." Wherever we went, we had accomplices who weren't working too hard or fast, either.
Ever so slowly, ever so carefully, we rode over to my parents' home in Newtown to plant some pumpkin, cucumber, and radish seedlings and to swim.
Along the way, we happened upon one box turtle who had not heard that s…

Skywatch Friday: Lazy Daisy Sunday

Last Sunday, we stopped at Topsmead State Park to take in the formal gardens and have a walk around the grounds. There are some very beautiful wildflowers around this natural treasure in Litchfield, Connecticut. Sunday was humid, hazy, and heavy with the sweet perfume of summer, ready or not!

More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen 37: The Family Album

A few weeks ago, I met a nature photographer who was standing in the exact place I like to stand when I take nature shots near our pond. He gave me the wonderful advice of simply paying attention to what's going on around me to find all kinds of life to photograph. I have taken his advice, and it has worked some kind of magic. I am discovering animals everywhere. In addition to the above images of wildlife in Connecticut, I've come across these fellow travelers:
1. Turkey vultures,
2. Muskrats,
3. Beaver,
4. Barn swalls,
5. Chickadees,
6. Foxes,
7. Deer,
8. Woodpeckers,
9. Seagulls (of course),
10. Deer,
11. Feral cats,
12. Rabbits, and
13. Horseshoe crabs.

I've seen all these creatures without wandering very far from my front step. So many I don't have pictures of many of them because I have come across them at dawn or dusk when I have been out for a walk without my camera. Perhaps I'll have the family album done before the end of summer.

More at Thursday Thirteen

Saturday Is Connecticut Open House Day

If you live in Connecticut, please follow this link and find out what's going on Saturday, Open House Day. Historical sites, museums, gardens, and other great places will be open free of charge or at a reduced rate for the day. This is an excellent way to see what's so great about the Nutmeg State.

Wordless Wednesday: Gentle Friends


Field Day: The Road to Hell

Ready for some high-energy fun, I instead watched a cliche unfold during an event at my daughter's school-wide field day recently. The cliche: the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The event: a game called cupid's arrows in which three children stand between two rows of children, who are armed with small foam balls, and toss up hula hoops. The child on the side who passes his ball through the hoop receives the honor of replacing one of the children in the middle who had the hula hoop. On it goes as the center children are pelted with foam balls and clunked on the head with their own rapidly descending hula hoops.

Field day is organized mayhem during which the parents are invited to come along and see firsthand the challenges of keeping 20 or so kids alive during PE. For this parent, for whom the mere word gym invokes image of hellfire and dodgeball, showing up for field day is the ultimate labor of love. I did it. Yes, I did it. And I found myself assigned to this fla…

Weekend Snapshot: The Bride Lost her Head

Years ago a friend wrote a flash fiction story about a bride who looked in the mirror and discovered she had no head. She screamed. End of story.

Exactly, I thought when I read the piece. A bride is at once the most decorated item at a wedding and the least important. On one level, weddings are about property and prestige; they are commercial ventures. On another, they're about the gears of one family meshing, or not meshing, with the teeth of another.

There's not a lot that's strictly personal about a wedding. Visiting the Gunn Historical Museum last week to see antique wedding dresses worn in the rural town of Washington, Connecticut, over the past few centuries drove that point home to me. In "The Fabric of Marriage: Wedding Dresses," the dresses on display--everything from heavy beaded satins to gauzy homemade muslins--obviously outlived the women who wore them and survived to tell the history of the town.

More to my point, though, they were draped on headless m…

Blog Your Blessings: Standing by for a Turtle

A venerable turtle making his way to a glacial kettle full of deep, cool, clean, water at the same time I was driving my daughter to school one rainy morning became a small-town celebrity for, oh, fifteen minutes this week. Though we didn't have our cameras this particular morning, we found ourselves among the paparazzi--eight others who stopped their cars to ensure this fellow's safe passage to the pond.

I stopped when a woman at the nearby stop sign flashed her lights; the next duo stopped when I flashed my lights to them before I pulled over. A third vehicle stopped when he saw all our parked cars. Like excited kids at a petting zoo for the first time, we were all standing in the road in an instant, though the turtle wasn't in any kind of hurry.

"If I hadn't not have come with you, I would have missed this," said one older lady who was travelling with her daughter. Out came the camera, and the older woman snapped away. The flash caused the turtle to hunker d…

Skywatch Friday: Love Echoes

How deeply do I love me?
Asked the moon of the moon.
I would drown but to kiss my face--
I would drown but to change my place
How deeply do I love me?
Asked the moon of the moon.
Too much, too much....
(The view made me think of Langston Hughes's poem "Suicide's Note"--"The calm/Cool face of the river/Asked me for a kiss."--without the fatalism!)The dark bump in the water in the foreground is a frog.

More Skywatch Friday at Wigger's World

Thursday Thirteen 36: Lines from Lao-Tzu

In the Buddhist meditation group that meets twice a month in Waterbury, we've been studying the Tao. We read a new verse every two weeks or so and try to make it a part of the way we go about life. It seems to me one verse is very much like another and that distinguishing one from the other is difficult and perhaps even counterproductive. With that in mind, I present this passage that I think deserves thinking and rethinking, oh, 13 times.

1. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
2. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
3. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
4. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.
5. Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kind…

Wordless Wednesday: Ocean Beach Park, New London, Connecticut

We went to Ocean Beach Park in New London, Connecticut, on Memorial Day. There we saw seagulls, cormorants, a crane, and this endangered piping plover whose egg lay in the sand on the beach. My daughter, her friend, and I guarded it like mother hens. Though our efforts kept the heavy feet of a marauding bunch of sun bathers from scrambling it, we didn't help this bird get any closer to it! (More photos are here.)

(Thanks to Me & My Puppies for the name of the bird.)

Wordless Wednesday

Ask the Cow

There are dog people--out-going, plain-speaking, and down-to-earth--and there are cat people--reticent, removed, watching carefully from the shadows. And there are fish people--silent observers who delight in the mysteries of the deep--and there are bird people--dreamers enchanted by all that is or seems to be exotic.

And there are donkey people, goat people, chicken people, insect people, cow people....

Author Rita M. Reynolds is a cow person. And a dog person and a cat, donkey, goat, chicken, insect, person. In fact she's an every-living-thing person whose animal sanctuary in Batesville, Virginia contains so much life, she could populate a Compassion Zodiac.

Animal people respect animals as friends, companions, fellow-travelers in this magical world, and as teachers. Who doesn't spend some time playing ball with the dog after a long day at work? Who doesn't mark the beginning, middle, and end of every day by walking the dog? Who doesn't introduce their baby to a puppy s…

Weekend Snapshot: Yellow Irises

A lily of a day
is fairer in May
Although it fall and die that night,
It was the plant of flower and light,
In small proportions we just beauties see;
And in short measures, life may perfect be.
(Benjamin Johnson)

Weekend Snapshot