Napatree

In my mind I am often on Napatree. You're welcome to come along.

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April 30, 2014

Every day the words find me. This morning I decide to write about the pansies idling on the kitchen table, the lavender ones, I am going to transfer from plastic seed containers into a clay pot. But then the phone rings and the voice I hear changes my story.

The man calling is a farmer who has been contracted to do some tilling in the field garden. He is a big man, tough. His skin is weathered, his hands are huge. I have looked at those hands and wondered if he has trouble finding gloves to fit them. But what is most remarkable about this man is the musculature of his upper body. It is of weight lifter proportions. It seems he could lift up the front end of a small truck with little effort.

We get to talking. About the snow of the past winter, of the difficult spring. He talks about not having enough propane to keep baby turkeys alive, about financial hardship. Then this tough man, in a culture where newspapers are filled with stories of trusted men who have taken advantage of innocent children, casually mentions this. “My pumpkin crop was so infested from the wet spring last year I was only able to realize a handful of pumpkins come fall. And I had promised to give a truckload to a school for handicapped kids. You know, I couldn’t disappoint those handicapped kids. I called around and was able to buy up a truckload of pumpkins.” 

6:03 am cdt | link 

April 29, 2014

This morning it is windy and rainy. It has been windy and rainy for days. Worry edges my thinking about greenhouse seeds, hoop gardens, washout in the field garden. Inclement weather. My Native American grandmother knew when the snow would arrive, when the fish would be biting. I do not know what she knew. Nor do I know and understand all the effects man has had, and continues to have, on rainfall, snowfall, those fish.

So I whisper my worries to the wind and the wind shouts back. My, our, actions have created this angry, belligerent, back-talking weather child. We harvest what we sow. Oh, but the everywhere lawns are turning beautifully green for us to admire, taking not a blade of blame, as they should, for inclement weather.

5:38 am cdt | link 

April 28, 2014

Book groups, or book clubs, flourish. Some reading groups stick to a particular genre: mysteries, science fiction or maybe women writers only; other groups read across the board. Locally there is a group of mothers and their teenage daughters who make up a book group, I also know of several reading groups composed of couples. Libraries all have book groups and churches often do, too. Book groups are social, fun and often get you reading, and discussing, a book you might otherwise not have read.

Writing groups also flourish. I happen to belong to two. One is a group that focuses primarily on poetry writing, reading and appreciation, the other a group comprised of writers who work on stories, memoir pieces, book chapters, essays. At the meetings the writers read what they have written and the other members give helpful input. These groups, like book groups, are social and fun. And when a member’s piece is published, there are good wishes, celebratory support, and champagne, all around.

My above words about reading and writing are prompted by an advertisement for iPad Air on the back cover of  this week’s The New Yorker, an advertisement I am looking at right this moment. “Everyone has a passion. A new idea to share. A stanza to add to the world’s story. What will your verse be?”

6:14 am cdt | link 

April 27, 2014

The plane ride is not the highlight of my trip, journey, vacation. Being stuffed into a tin cigar between a cougher and an anxious flyer, is not my, or most anyone’s, idea of fun. So much of traveling by plane is standing in line, having no control and waiting. The bright moments of the trip are the kindness of strangers and the pleasure felt when arriving at one’s destination. And if you are sitting by a window, the occasional visage of earth altered but so perfect in its imperfections. So I was not expecting to be struck by the beauty of a small plane. A plane with a history.

I am in the airplane hangar of a friend. Examining, with eyes that know nothing about planes, his old, but restored and flyable airplane. This plane is beautiful. In beautiful condition and beautifully painted, blue and yellow with a red and white striped tail. Used as a training plane in WWII, the Stearman has two open cockpits where I imagine, for a moment, a leather helmeted instructor and a future fighter pilot sitting. I am caught up in examining the outside of the plane, caught up in the glimpses, through small openings, of the plane’s spruce armature. Built in 1941 the aircraft I am looking at is all about flying. It is about our desire to move among the clouds, our ability to figure out how to leave the earth’s gravitational pull and soar. Well, we  did it. And the story is a good one.

8:40 am cdt | link 

April 26, 2014

Yesterday my friend stopped to show me a European fashion magazine. She had just been downtown and because she knows I love poetry, she had picked up a couple of poems for me from stores that were giving them away. By giving poems away I mean an event happening in Northfield promoting poetry called Poem in Your Pocket. Poem in Your Pocket is the give-away of a short poem, printed on a small piece of paper, to literally take and put in your pocket. One of the poems she gave me, a poem I was unfamiliar with by Marsden Hartley, is called "Fishmonger."

 Fishmonger

I have taken scales from off

The cheeks of the moon.

I have made fins from bluejays’ wings,

I have made eyes from damsons in the shadow,

I have taken flushes from peachlips in the sun.

From all these I have made a fish of heaven for you,

Set it swimming on a young October sky.

I sit on the bank of the stream and watch

The grasses in amazement

As they turn to ashy gold.

Are the fishes from the rainbow

Still beautiful to you,

For whom they are made,

For whom I have set them,

Swimming?

 

My friend, who shares my love of words, said she was certain I would like this poem. Oh, and I do!

7:58 am cdt | link 

April 25, 2014

I am pondering the word “adapt.” We adapt. To new people in our lives, to changed financial circumstances, to a new address, to loss of hearing or some other physical impairment, to an altered diet, to a different lifestyle. Sometimes we can work to change that which threatens us, impels us to act, sometimes not. Without adaption or change, we are, or can be, in trouble.

When we moved to Minnesota from warmer Connecticut I could not bear to leave behind a Japanese red maple tree given to me as a birthday gift. It was a small tree, bushy, and a beautiful accent to the garden with its winey colored leaves. Minutes before the moving van arrived we dug up the tree and wrapped the root ball in damp burlap. When it was loaded on the van, I watched with crossed fingers. Days later the van was unloaded and the tree planted in a Minnesota garden. The date was December 17th.

The chances were slim that the Japanese maple would survive. But it did. In a climate known to be too cold for this variety of tree, it has somewhat changed its normal shape yet it flourishes. A few days ago I checked on the health of the tree after one of the coldest winters on record. Buds. To survive here the maple has adapted. I have, too.

5:54 am cdt | link 

April 24, 2014

Should the Admiral, and the General, come to dinner, or should I have an audience with the Pope, should I be invited to take tea with the Queen or for a ride on Air Force One, I am, thanks to Amy Vanderbilt, going to know how to behave.

A few days ago I was dusting off a bookshelf and there, unnoticed since I can’t remember when, was Vanderbilt’s Complete Book of Etiquette. I think this tome belonged to my mother. Giving it a quick perusal it appeared that etiquette, when this book was written, belonged to those folks who were regularly invited to an embassy, were friends of the Du Ponts or filled out dance cards at Downton Abby.

I recently heard a bride-to-be mention that she was having a hard time planning her wedding reception because invitees weren’t returning the reply cards included in the wedding invitation. Should she just guess, she wondered, at how many might be coming or should she make telephone calls to find out? She was unsure what to do.

Times change as do rules of etiquette. But using good manners, I think, just means being thoughtful. There is no rule saying we have to give up our seat on the bus for that woman who is nine and one-half months pregnant, the one holding a bag of groceries and clutching the hand of a toddler. It might be, though, the thoughtful thing to do.

5:54 am cdt | link 

April 23, 2014

Baby carriage, never used, for sale.

The above six word short story is attributed to Ernest Hemingway. He is said to have written it on a bet. His writing it, though, is really more legend than fact. What is fact, however, is that the assignment for the last fifteen minutes of today¹s English class was the writing of a six word story by each student.

Thoughtful students had fun writing stories.

Man finds oil, builds an empire.
Painted canvas fills room with genius.
Rabbit runs under porch. Cat waits.
Foolish actions capsize boat. Three die.
Sweet kisses, promises made, promises kept.
Single shot fells president. History determined.
Neighbor boy grows up, marries money. 

Your turn now, tell the story! 


 

8:21 am cdt | link 

April 22, 2014

A couple of days ago I saw a toad, felt it, too, as it brushed along the back of my hand when I was cleaning up in the garden. Today I heard the peepers.

I loved hearing peepers in the wetlands along the Connecticut River, a regular spring sound near the ferry landing on the South Glastonbury side of the river. A place I walked the dog almost daily. The peepers were many in number, and their chorus could be heard almost a mile away. It is a male chorus only, though, and the frogs are singing in hopes of attracting a mate. Going in search of the vocalizing frogs, wanting to witness their singing, is a futile task. They are artfully camouflaged and hide themselves in a way that only the female of the species can find them.

The peepers that I heard today are singing from a habitat called Sibley Swale. Not a particularly large area, only a bit of wet and wild scrubland, really, in an established neighborhood. But a beautiful place. A place where a chorus of frogs sounds like hundreds of tiny bells. And spring.    

7:31 am cdt | link 

April 21, 2014

A friend has me thinking about poet Marianne Moore. And the line, "imaginary gardens with real toads in them," from her poem, "Poetry."  I mentally switch the words  to "real gardens with imaginary toads in them." Both phrases hold me and I toss them around and look at them from different directions. Poet Moore tells the reader of "Poetry" we do not appreciate what we cannot understand. But wait.

I am in the real garden and I have just seen a real toad. A tiny creature smaller than a spool of thread. As I removed leaves from the Oriental poppies, he brushed against my bare hand.  I am clueless about this reptile, know little about him except that he resides in what I refer to as my garden. But it is his garden, too. And both of us surprised to find the other there.

We regularly visit, I think, both real gardens with imaginary toads and imaginary gardens with real toads. But we exist, I know, in the real garden with the real toads.  

7:16 am cdt | link 

April 20, 2014

Napatree. Today. The sky is cloudless and the wind, blowing about ten miles per hour, is from the southeast. It is cool, in the fifties, but a brave soul is walking barefoot. At 1:39 p.m. the tide will be at its highest, rolling in and leaving ocean stories on the beach. Provisions for walking to the point include tuna sandwiches, oranges and for the children, chocolate eggs. Join us.  

8:26 am cdt | link 

April 19, 2014

"If you have no daughters, give them to your sons, one a penny, two a penny hot cross buns."

In Tudor times a street cry, which preceded the nursery rhyme, went like this. "Good Friday comes this month, the old woman runs, with one or two a penny hot cross buns."

The Easter season brings with it food heavily associated with symbolism. Eggs represent beginnings and ham represents luck. Lamb is associated with new life and sacrifice, rabbits, even the chocolate kind, represent fertility. Hot cross buns, about which there are interesting and varying histories, are little spiced breads served on Maunday Thursday through noon on Good Friday. The buns, marked with a white frosting cross, represent the death of Christ.

I purchased some very good hot cross buns at a local bakery. We ate them all, unwittingly, before noon on Good Friday. There used to be rules surrounding when hot cross buns could be made and eaten. The breaking of such rules came with punishment.

In New Zealand and Australia, chocolate chips are often used in hot cross buns instead of raisons or currents. A sweet advance for Sunday¹s Easter basket candy. 

8:12 am cdt | link 

April 18, 2014

The late afternoon wedding took place at a beautiful New England church. The reception following, at a local golf club. The bride¹s mother requested that during dinner, before the live band appeared for the after dinner party and dancing, the DJ play classical music. Shortly into the meal the mother-of-the-bride went to talk to the DJ. When she reminded him that she had requested classical music, he responded saying he was playing classical music. He was playing Frank Sinatra.

My friend has just taken a course on standard music. Standard music meaning, I think, music that has endured, music originating on Broadway or in smoky piano bars. Music sung by Billie Holiday or Helen Merrill, Nat "King" Cole or Frank Sinatra. Songs like "Star Dust," played by Artie Shaw and his Orchestra, "Stormy Weather," played by Duke Ellington. Music passed along and rearranged and rediscovered.

The standard music course provided three CDs which my friend has shared and I have been playing. When I hear Lena Horne, Nina Simone, Etta James, I am back in the kitchen on Emery Street listening to my mother singing, too. 

7:55 am cdt | link 

April 17, 2014

Sugar. It¹s bad for us. It¹s hard on our teeth and hard for our body to metabolize. With what is referred to as an epidemic of diabetes, we are, all of us, becoming more careful about what we eat.  So we read labels on cereal boxes, for sugar content, and we purchase sugar free soda. We pass on dessert and opt for fewer Christmas cookies and a slimmer slice of birthday cake. Knowing now that orange juice is often sugar filled, we choose, instead, to eat the whole orange.

Sunday is Easter. Supermarket and grocery stores have stocked up on cut flowers and flowering plants, hams and pineapples. And candy. They¹ve stocked up on boxes of chocolates and Easter basket candy: jelly beans, marshmallow Peeps, chocolate rabbits, crème filled eggs, circus peanuts and sugar coated gum drops to name a sampling. At the risk of sounding virtuous, which I am far from, I try and stay away from sugar in my diet. My mantra has become, "Just a tiny piece for me, please." But, it¹s Easter which comes only once a year. I have my eye on those marshmallow Peeps.

7:20 am cdt | link 

April 16, 2014

Living in a colonial-era Connecticut house, and gardening directly behind that old house, finding objects when digging in the soil was a regular occurrence. Pieces of tools, horse shoes, nails and especially pieces of broken crockery, once an intact but lidless tea pot, were ordinary finds. I came to mentally picture a woman, in long dress and apron, standing at her back door heaving out what she didn¹t want in her kitchen.

Once I was driving on a one lane, winding road behind a car whose driver tossed a fast food container out the driver¹s window. A little later, a French fry box went sailing. Then, a soda cup flew out and, lastly, a crumpled napkin. After a time the driver ahead of me pulled onto a scenic area along the Connecticut River and got out of the car. As I passed I could see the single inhabitant of the car I had been driving behind. A tiny woman who looked to be in her eighties.

About littering, we are not quick learners. There is wisdom in the expression my Swedish grandmother said when I was young. Translated it is this. What is hidden in the snow comes forward in the thaw.       

8:09 am cdt | link 

April 15, 2014

Last fall we planted hundreds of bulbs in the field. Tulips, daffodils, lilies. In the last couple of weeks I¹ve been planting hundreds of seeds in the greenhouse. Scabiosa, statice, larkspur, gomphrena, stock, prairie flower mixes and various kinds of asters. The winter past was so fierce with the earth, even under a generous snow cover, freezing deep.  Spring planting conditions, too, have been difficult. I have been worried. The field bulbs did not appear when I felt they should. Nothing. Had they frozen and rotted? Would the greenhouse seeds germinate well, or at all, with day after day of cloudy skies and cool, greenhouse temperatures?

Someone gave me a small paper notebook I treasure. It is titled Blue Notebook though the paper cover is black. On the front of the notebook is a wood-cut design around the words "Keep Hope Alive." Even better are the tiny words, printed in red ink, on the inside of the cover which read, "If you lose hope, you can always find it again."

Yesterday I noticed the field planted tulips pushing up. A sea of them. And in the greenhouse a peppering of green in the seed trays. I confess that I had misplaced hope. But hope found me.  

9:10 am cdt | link 

April 14, 2014

I am mulling over the word "missing." At the moment I am missing my bracelet. Some people would phrase the absence of my bracelet as, "My bracelet has gone missing." Like my bracelet made a choice to roll off away from my clutches.

It is not unusual to see the occasional missing cat or dog poster attached to a phone pole or tree in our neighborhood. We are a caring community. In the past few days, though, there have been flyers posted featuring the photograph of a local man who has been missing for over a week. A man who was last seen walking on the neighborhood golf course.

For weeks the world has been aware of a missing airplane. A plane filled with hundreds of souls, as I have heard my pilot friend refer to those on board an aircraft, headed to China. I imagine those in charge of finding both the missing man and missing aircraft, ponder if man and plane are missing or have gone missing.

A missing bracelet, even if it is a treasured one, means nothing. The anguished faces of those whose innocent loved ones are on the missing plane, tell us missing people mean everything. 

7:11 am cdt | link 

April 13, 2014

On Sunday nights my mother regularly served our family cream of tomato soup and sandwiches she called Cheese Dreams which were, I recall, nothing more than grilled cheese sandwiches. When my mother and I went out for lunch at the Caramel Corn Shop, which we often did, I always ordered a peanut butter/banana sandwich made with mayonnaise.

Good sandwich making is an art. I am not particularly adept at sandwich construction but I love, and appreciate, a well-made sandwich. Definitely quality bread combined with fresh and sometimes unusual combinations of fillings. The sandwich should be cut well and not overly full and not look messy and be, in "Chopped" vernacular, plated well. Now here I sound like I know what I am talking about, but I do know we eat with our eyes.

Diane in my bridge group introduced me to peanut butter and bacon sandwiches. And living near the shore, lobster roll was a favorite. Today my sandwich of choice is called Mike¹s Bike which is served at our Division Street bagel shop. Roasted red peppers, havarti cheese, spinach and a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar. A perfect sandwich.           

 

 

 

9:27 am cdt | link 

April 12, 2014

 

Louise was my first Connecticut friend. She taught me things. She taught me how to prepare lobster, swim through the surf and savor mocha ice cream. She shared her maternity clothes and her mother’s recipe for potato salad. She lived in a place I was a stranger to but she opened the door and let me in. One day she brought me a gift of a  thyme plant in a strawberry pot. So, Louise. I put the pot on the patio and my toddler promptly backed into it with a tricycle. Almost the next day Louise died. But Louise was my age. And I loved her. How could she possibly die when I needed her in my life?

 

I just went out into my garden. The thyme Louise gave me is greening up. After her death I rescued it from the broken pot and planted it on the edge of the patio where it thrived. And when we moved to another Connecticut home, some of the thyme moved with me. Then it moved again. And again. A few years ago, after it spent days in a moving van, I planted Louise’s thyme in a Minnesota garden. The planting took place on a cold December day. The thyme came back the following spring and now, even after this hard winter, flourishes in abundance.

 

I carry Louise's lessons with me, along with the thyme.

 

 

9:11 am cdt | link 

11 April, 2014

 

There were times that Joyce, our large tri-colored collie, would be greeted in startling fashion by our sons when they returned home from a summer job or a semester at college. Each of them, on occasion, would scoop her up, she was heavy, and run a brief distance around the yard. They did this, I suppose, because they were strong and glad to see her and happy to be home. And at that particular moment in time, needed to act like they were ten-years-old.

 

A few years ago I was walking our sheltie, Mickey, along Spring Creek near Bell Field when a student approached and asked, “Would it be okay if I pet your dog?” Mickey was a mellow creature and, though he’d been rescued from the pound, he had been cared for and loved. I said petting him would be fine. The Carleton student dropped his books and knelt down to the dog’s level. He talked to him and held the dog’s head in both his hands. Then he stood up and said that he had heard from his mom that his dog, also a sheltie, had just died. A pet he had received for his fifth birthday. I asked the student where home was and he said Washington State. He asked if he could take the dog for a little run and I silently handed him the leash. But to my amazement he didn’t run alongside the dog, he picked Mickey up and jogged, holding him in his arms, for a minute or two along the creek. Behavior I had seen before. When he returned, he muttered thanks. And I pretended not to notice he was crying.  

 

7:32 am cdt | link 

April 10, 2014

People, it is said, can resemble their dogs. Because of my window desk which faces a sidewalk, I¹d  agree. Regularly I observe a short, energetic couple each hanging on to the leash of a Jack Russell terrier, a very blond woman walking a golden lab, a serious looking man with his two serious appearing German shepherds and a nondescript old man ambling along with his nondescript old, mixed breed pet.

Recently someone told me they were thinking about getting a collie, and they asked if I thought a collie was a good dog choice. I guess they had seen me with my bi-black sheltie, Scarlet. A large sheltie often mistaken for a small collie. Having owned two Lassie-sized collies, Barron, who was  bequeathed to our family when the owners had a baby with asthma and severe allergies, and Barron¹s successor, Joyce, rescued from a bad puppy breeding operation, I answered her in the affirmative. I told the inquiring person that we loved our collies like we have loved our shelties, rescued Mickey before the rescued Scarlet, and found them intelligent, loving and loyal family pets. I looked carefully at the woman who was asking about collies. She had an earnest face and kind eyes. She also had thick and beautiful hair. I knew it would be a perfect fit. 

7:15 am cdt | link 

April 9, 2014

It¹s Wednesday. Short day. School starts an hour late. In some communities school is dismissed at noon giving teachers a half day for in-service learning, for preparing and catching up. Wednesday used to be flute challenge day in high school band, a fact I recall with slight trepidation. I remember learning to spell Wednesday at Boyd Elementary School, Miss Thorngate breaking it into sections. Wed-nes-day.  And Wednesday¹s child, according to Mother Goose, is full of woe. Mid-week Wednesday is also known as hump day, the day that brings the weekend in sight.

You probably know, I just found out, that the days of the week are named after mythical figures and celestial bodies. Sunday being Sun¹s day, Monday Moon¹s day, Tuesday Tiu¹s day, Wednesday Woden¹s day, Thursday Thor¹s day, Friday Freya¹s day and Saturday Saturn¹s day. Woden was a chief Anglo-Saxon/Teutonic god and leader of the hunt. 

But maybe, like me, you didn¹t know this. In social networking and Instagram the hashtag for Wednesday is this: "Way Back Wednesday." The day you post old pictures of family, those baby pictures of you and your kids taken years ago.  

8:16 am cdt | link 

April 8, 2014

Yesterday I rested on a garden bench in the sun doing nothing, really, but letting my mind wander as I absorbed the welcome warmth. Only a couple of feet from where I sat I watched a chipmunk haul a sweet potato skin from the compost pile and stuff his cheeks. A wild and pretty sight.

Chipmunks look innocent, and cute, and when I see them I give no thought to what damage their burrowing might do to garden plants. Instead, I enjoy their busy ways, their perfect coloration. My concern is their protection from the ginger cat that lives across the street, a cat that too often frequents the garden.

My father, who connected with the wild more than anyone I¹ve ever met, would fill his hands with peanuts and sit quietly, so quietly, in our backyard until the chipmunks came to eat from his palm or climb into his shirt pocket.

So much wild living goes on near us it is important that we stop, on a sunny day, and appreciate it. The wild living taking place around us is reminder we are wild, too.  

7:39 am cdt | link 

April 7, 2014

I remember a line from a book, or maybe it was a scene from a movie, where a grown woman tells someone that her mother died when she was four and she has missed her all her life.

It is an April morning, only thin crusts of dirty snow remain in shadowed places on the landscape. The trees are not green but they look pregnant. A flock of juncos has been hanging around one of the feeders for the last couple of days and robins stride across the lawn in robin fashion. The morning sky, which lightens a little earlier each day, is, today, a color that has no name.

My mother died in April on a day just like today. I was older than four but too young to lose her. I echo the words of the woman in the book or film. I have missed her all my life.  

7:17 am cdt | link 

April 6, 2014

On my book shelf I have a book entitled How to Package Five More Eggs. It is a Japanese book containing black and white photographs of packaging. Like most all Japanese art forms, the packaging photographs show techniques that are precise, minimal and beautiful in their simplicity. Techniques that hold meaning and bring meaning like the techniques behind ikebana flower arranging and the writing of a haiku.

 A haiku is traditionally an observance of an everyday occurrence. In Japan it is often written as a single line but in English we write it on three lines with words containing five syllables on the first line, seven syllables on the second and five syllables on the third. In a traditional haiku there is often a kireji, or cutting word, which cuts the stream of thought. There is also a seasonal reference, which may be just a single word, called a kigo.

This very moment I looked out my window...

Earth wanting to warm

absorbs unwelcome late snow

A robin listens.

 

Your turn! 

 

8:47 am cdt | link 

April 5, 2014

"Henny Penny, Henny Penny, the sky is falling, the sky is falling," cries Chicken Little when an acorn lands on his head. Chicken Little, in the old fable, has come to signify mass hysteria and paranoia. A mental condition which has been given the name Chicken Little Syndrome.

Earlier this week I was at a gathering of thoughtful people when the talk turned to climate change. Or, as it is often euphemistically referred to, global warming.  There are still those who believe we residents of Earth have nothing to do with climate change, that scientists predicting more violent storms, increasing temperatures, rising sea levels, and other dire phenomena because of a changed and disrupted atmosphere, are Chicken Littles. Everyone at the recent gathering I was at, however, sincerely believed the sky is indeed falling.

The old fable about Chicken Little and Henny Penny and Turkey Lurkey and Loosey Goosey has, interestingly, two ending. One ending says the anxious birds are taken advantage of and eaten by a fox. The other says they are courageous and take their story to the king. Maybe our story has a choice of endings too. We will have to decide.   

9:19 am cdt | link 

April 4, 2014

When I was young I read and enjoyed the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. A particular picture the writer created of a geranium in a schoolroom window, and the effect this plant had on the main character, Francie, remains in my mind. In the midst of New York City poverty a simple potted red flower had the ability to brighten a poor child¹s school day. I have often thought about this scene from the book when I have given an amaryllis bulb to a grade school teacher as a gift.

The sky is a Beethoven sky. Dark, ponderous, heavy with snow. Snow on April 4th.  So much, too much, has been written about a winter that has, like a thoughtless guest, arrived too early and stayed too late. We are winter weary. On my hall table I have treated myself to the equivalent of a red geranium.

Yesterday I purchased twenty daffodils from the supermarket. They are long-stemmed and I have placed them, willy nilly, because daffodils are the most difficult flower to arrange, in a pleated plastic vase I purchased years ago in the MoMA gift shop. The vase is the same yellow as the flowers. The daffodils are doing what flowers have the power to do, what a red geranium did for Francie. They light up the room.   

7:36 am cdt | link 

April 3, 2014

Today, around noon when the greenhouse is at its warmest and I can work without mittens and a jacket, I am going to plant, in trays, annual Sweet William seeds. I have several biannual Sweet William plants in the garden though never quite enough. I love Sweet William. I have loved Sweet William since we first met.
 
It was years ago when a new friend, and her new baby, came for lunch. My new friend arrived carrying her infant in one arm and a bouquet of Sweet William in the other. After first admiring her baby, I admired the red, pink, purple and white flowers she carried, flowers which I was unfamiliar with. She explained they were Sweet William from the Middletown, Connecticut, farm garden of her German grandmother.
 
I have grown Sweet William blooms almost from the time I first became introduced to them at that long ago lunch. They are hardy, a wonderful cut flower, early spring bloomers, and because they are in the carnation family, have a clove-like scent. It is almost noon and time for me to head to the greenhouse. As for that new friend, she became an old friend, a best friend. And the infant in her arms, now a tall and handsome man. 

7:22 am cdt | link 

April 2, 2014

In my email today was an invitation from a local yoga studio. The studio is
inviting parents, educators, daycare workers to sign up for a class on
teaching yoga to children. Earlier, I had gotten an email flyer from the
yoga studio listing the benefits of yoga for kids. Somewhat condensed, this
is the list: Yoga reduces stress and anxiety in children. Yoga increases
balance and body awareness; it helps decrease sports injuries. Yoga takes
place in a safe environment and promotes interaction with peers. Yoga
promotes mindfulness and builds respect and contentment.

Not long ago I asked my friend, a yoga teacher, if she would visit my after
school class and introduce yoga to the students. She graciously agreed to
come. I divided the class into three groups of fifteen; three times I
watched my friend work magic. She had the students remove their shoes and
sit quietly in a circle. She spoke softly, never raising her voice. She
helped and complimented the students. Her ways were peaceful and pretty. She
smiled often. I watched 45 children, kindergarten to fifth grade, children
whose first language is not English, children who struggle, for various
reasons, in the classroom, some children thought to be behavior problems,
settle. I watched good things happen.

7:22 am cdt | link 

April 1, 2014

Ah, the day of fooling and foolishness. A day celebrated by western societies since we are unsure when. It is a day that possibly dates back to ancient times and the beginning of spring or the adoption of a new calendar. Today Pacome may avoid having a drawing of a fish pinned to his back, or he could play offense and pin a fish to a friend's back. In France, April Fool's Day is called Poisson d'Avil and involves representing fish in foolishness and trickery. 

Several years ago a Boston professor came up with a theory to explain the origin of April Fool's Day. He said it likely began in Constantine's court by jesters who wanted to take over running the empire for just a single day. These jesters persuaded Constantine to let one day in the year be a day of absurdity. They were able to have their idea accepted because jesters were actually seen as wise. They always put things together, including life, with the addition of humor. This professor's theory was picked up by the press and given credence. It sounded plausible and came from an authority who knew what he was talking about.

The press, and the people reading the theory, forgot one thing. The professor expounded his theory on the 1st of April.

Happy April Fool's Day. 

7:58 am cdt | link 


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