Napatree

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

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June 30, 2014

After dire weather forecasts, the weather turned beautiful. It was a spectacular weekend. It appears that the mother robin, who has been sitting on the nest she built in our garage in mid-May, has a single baby robin to care for.  One very anticipated and overdue baby. Lilies are blooming in the field, lavender astilbe in the little garden. Years ago we received a mammoth shallow bowl from Stacey and Mo which has, over time, received a couple of nicks on the rim. Today I filled that gorgeous red and yellow flowered bowl with water and put it on the garden fence near the catbird nest so they, and the other garden birds, could bathe in Italian splendor. I am not always a lover of someone’s wise words attached to an email but the words of the Dalai Lama attached today to the email of a friend’s husband, hold me. “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” 

6:02 am cdt | link 

June 29, 2014

Roadside signs for strawberry picking opportunities have appeared. And adjacent to our last row of field flowers, raspberries are happening on the canes. As much as I enjoy these berries, peaches, the fruit of late summer, are my favorite.

My mother bought peaches by the crate. Thin wooden boxes, which had to be pried open with a hammer, were filled with peaches individually wrapped in a piece of tissue. I do not remember where these peaches came from but because of below zero Wisconsin temperatures, they were not locally grown. We ate the peaches fresh and my mother also canned them.

Peaches are native to China but they were introduced to our country from Iran. There are many varieties but peaches are referred to as either cling peaches or freestone peaches. These terms have to do with the how the flesh of the fruit reacts to the pit. Peaches are related to nectarines. They are related to almonds, too.

I am getting ahead of myself with the seasons. It is time for strawberries, or strewberries as they were called because they appeared to be strewn across the ground. Strawberries in the morning on cereal, strawberries at noon in salads, strawberries at night, with whipped cream, for dessert.

7:44 am cdt | link 

June 28, 2014

I’m texting. In case you missed it. ICYMI

5:34 am cdt | link 

June 27, 2014

What might, and what did, comprise a June, Minnesota evening

A sky perfectly clear after a cloudy day

An armada of vehicles which included several pick-ups

Vital looking people doing yoga

Chickens

Blankets of diners on very green grass

Blond children

A band that included a banjo

A horizon of corn fields

Wine bottles with pretty labels

Transplanted easterners

Two cared-for brown horses

Zinnias bordering a vegetable garden

Babies, beautiful babies

A few, purebred dogs

Several people wearing cowboy boots

Noise

The aroma of mosquito repellent

The aroma of pizza

An over-the-shoulder sun giving a soft shadow, benediction

7:14 am cdt | link 

June 26, 2014

My dad was a commercial artist. Today, he would be called a graphic designer. From him I probably inherited my love of design, of type. I like type, in all forms, and I like signs. I enjoy a well-designed sign. Actually, I just like signs.

Every summer a Connecticut church in a town adjacent to where I lived, had a carnival. "Our Lady of Peace Carnival" read the garishly painted sign annually tacked to a phone pole. I loved this incongruous verbiage and I loved thinking about Our Lady of Peace at a carnival. This sign also got me thinking about church names which themselves, are distinctive.

Catholic churches often have big names having to do with saints and Mary: Church of the Immaculate Conception, Saint Leonard of Port Maurice, Chapel of Our Lady of Good Voyages, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Our Lady of Fatima. Churches of Baptist and Congregational denominations are often numbered by their appearance on the landscape: First Baptist Church, Second Congregational Church. Lutheran Churches also use saint names and numbers: St. Matthew’s and First Lutheran; they also use simple names like Bethel and Grace. Trinity and Christ Church are common names for an Episcopal church, and the words free, evangelical, fellowship and community are often found in the names of newer, non-denominational congregations.

The Quaker Meeting House, constructed over the winter, is almost complete. I will be interested to see if it will be given, other than meeting house, a name.

5:37 am cdt | link 

June 25, 2014

In researching material about our state, used in a program for children of immigrants or children new to this country themselves, I learned things I didn’t know. Who, I ask you, knows that we have an official state muffin and it’s the blueberry muffin? I suppose we could guess that our state fish might be the walleye, our state bird the loon. And if you think hard about it, you might be able to answer that our state grain is wild rice, our official state drink, milk.

Before Minnesota signed on as the nineteenth state to join the union, there were 20 million acres of Norway, or Red, pine, pinus resinosa, flourishing across parts, mainly the northern part, of our state. A valuable tree which we used, and use, for lumber in building our homes. Over time that 20 million acres of pine trees were reduced to one million acres. Because we have come to realize this tree’s immense value on so many levels, we are now working hard to conserve and restore what was lost.

The pinus resinosa was designated the state’s official tree by the 1953 Minnesota Legislature. It is a native tree called by early Norwegian immigrants Norway pine because it looked like a tree they had left behind in Norway. Native people also used the tree in various ways and, though I don’t know the words the different tribes used to describe it, I’m sure they did not call it, or think of it, as Norway pine. 

5:35 am cdt | link 

June 24, 2014

The desk calendar I’m currently using, I think it came from the bank, is one that gives the stages of the moon. We are coming up to the last quarter of the moon on Thursday. The calendar also lists special days and today, if you didn’t know it and I didn’t until I happened to notice it, is St. John the Baptist Day.

In ancient times bonfires were lit to honor the summer solstice on or about June 21. With the spread of Christianity in France, the focus shifted to honoring St. John the Baptist. Although the festival declined in importance over time, it was revived in 1834 as a patriotic celebration for the people of Quebec. Today this feast is a celebration of Francophone identity, culture, history and achievements. This June 24, remember to wish your French speaking friends “Bonne Saint-Jean-Baptiste.”  “Bonne Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Pacome”

5:59 am cdt | link 

June 23, 2014

Yesterday Portugal and the United States battled to a tie. Each team scored two goals. Portugal made the first goal and the United States the next two. When it seemed the game had been won by the United States, Portugal made their second score on the last kick of the game.

The shoes the players are wearing in these World Cup games are spectacular. Bright and beautiful. As are the goal tenders’ uniforms. The players are all normal-sized, none are huge because they would be unable to run like they do if they were, and all seem to be about the same, pretty average height. They all are, however, incredibly physically fit.

A World Cup game is filled with surprises. The team that is taking the majority of shots does not always win the game and a momentary lapse of concentration by a single player can be the downfall of a team. To those who enjoy watching the games, beautiful ball movement, incredible foot skills, speed and teamwork are the skills they appreciate. I enjoyed watching the United States and Portugal battle in The World Cup. I love futbol

8:40 am cdt | link 

June 22, 2014

What is so rare as a day in June?

James Russell Lowell’s rhetorical question, following days of stormy weather, is becoming strangely easier to answer.

12:30 pm cdt | link 

June 21, 2014

Today is a wedding day. The bouquets and arrangements assembled, the flowers for it are done. I reach back for another wedding story.

The wedding ceremony and reception took place in Farmington, Connecticut’s beautiful Sunken Gardens of the Hill-Stead Museum. The bride, too, was beautiful; she was tall with strawberry blond hair. I remember this wedding because the bride’s dress was unusual. A floor length, pale green chiffon dress printed with soft and blurry watercolor looking flowers. The bride wore a flower in her hair. I think the flowers for the wedding were pale pink roses and ivory roses. Wedding cake was not served but I recall hearing that vendors, pushing carts, offered a selection of different kinds of pies to guests after the garden dinner. The bride was happy with the flowers. The romantic and sophisticated wedding, I heard, went smoothly.

Sometime later I was invited to a dinner honoring the President of Wesleyan University. During the cocktail hour of this formal gathering the mother-of-the bride, the bride whose wedding had taken place in the Sunken Gardens, approached me with a surprised look on her face and asked me, “Why are you here?”  I don’t recall what I told her but I remember what I didn’t say.

9:02 am cdt | link 

June 20, 2014

There once was a shop in Watch Hill, Rhode Island, at the base of Napatree, called weeds. The letters w e e d s, on its sign, were stretched apart and in thin, lower case type. Unimportant looking maybe, much like actual weeds. But the well-designed word used by the store was stylish and well done. It was like the merchandise that the store sold. I remember buying a couple of gifts there and one summer a string of pink, wooden beads. Beads which I wore for a while then took apart to sew onto other things. Even if I didn’t make a purchase at weeds, I always liked looking.

I am familiar with several weeds. Each garden seems to harbor a personal variety. Right now in the field gardens I am battling quack grass, sour grass, a reddish-edged pointy leaf weed, a weed that looks like a dandelion but isn’t, something my dad called night weed, and thistle. Lots and lots of insidious, long-rooted thistle. Thistle which is quick growing and hard on the hands. In truth, though, I like to weed. I like to be close to the ground on my hands and knees, low enough to look into, to smell the soil. I like freeing space around a larkspur or a celosia and I like the feeling of accomplishment that a weed-free, for the moment anyway, patch of garden brings. It is a good thing that weeding is salubrious for me, brings me pleasure. There is much of it to do.

8:36 am cdt | link 

June 19, 2014

Driving home from the field, heading north and east, the sky was a pale blue. Not a sky blue, baby blue or a robin’s egg blue, just a cloudless, pale blue. Almost a dusty blue. To the west and south, fat gray clouds filled with rain assembled across the horizon. The skies are big in Northfield, bigger than in Connecticut with its more wooded and hilly landscape. Here, looking across acres of fields, it seems you can see forever. The big skies fascinate me, hold my attention. I am always amazed how quickly they can change.

After both fourth and fifth grades, I spent the summer in a program at the University of Wisconsin. It was an experimental program to see how well students could grasp learning subjects they were not exposed to in their regular classrooms. Those summers I was introduced to plant and animal taxonomy, ornithology, Spanish, Norwegian, woodworking, Wisconsin history, physics, music composition, the art of conducting an orchestra and natural history. We were also allowed to spend hours playing in a creek. It was an exciting for all the kids involved. We were also taught about clouds. From knowledge gained in that long ago program, I know that the rain clouds I saw to the south and west, when I was driving home, were not cirrus clouds or cumulus clouds. I know the sky I was looking at was not a mackerel sky. I was instead looking at a nimbostratus bank of stormy weather clouds.

Lately we have had too many such clouds overhead. We have had too much rain.

10:32 am cdt | link 

June 18, 2014

There is much I don’t know about ordinary, day to day things. Things I think I should know about because they are not incomprehensible like black holes or nuclear fission. Things that do not require big minds and years of research.

In May a robin built a nest on the overhead metal bar of our pull-down garage doors. Her home choice our fault, really, we are not good about closing the doors. Bikes coming and going, slamming car doors, a barking dog has not deterred her from this nesting site. Over time she has come to know us and we her. The nest is a big one and she is always, save for forays out for food, sitting on it. Our robin, I have come to think of her as ours, has been sitting on her nest since mid-May. And no baby robins have happened. I do not know why.

Robins tend, on average, to lay one egg a day for four consecutive days. The gestation period of these eggs is 14 days. These are facts I know. I have just read there are occasions when the eggs are not fertilized which in this case might have been what happened. Or maybe there are not four eggs at all, or maybe she left them one day for too long a period of time. The nest is overhead so I cannot see inside it but I am so aware of it, of her. Instinct, I think I know, is what keeps her brooding so long on a nest constructed on the mechanics of our garage door. A nest where nothing seems to happen. Though maybe a robin, too, can hope.

8:58 am cdt | link 

June 17, 2014

I am doing the flowers for a wedding being held this coming weekend. The bride has told me she will be wearing her grandmother’s wedding dress. She says it is ivory with long sleeves and features trails of tiny, covered buttons. Her grandmother, I believe, was married sometime in the 1950’s.

Yesterday was my wedding anniversary. The dress I was married in was white. It was made of cotton eyelet and had no train; I remember not wanting to be slowed by trailing fabric. It also had short sleeves as I wanted my arms to be free. Whatever is worn to one’s wedding, be it a dress in the style of Kate Middleton’s wedding gown or a strapless Vera Wang, comes with a story. I look at wedding pictures of gay couples whose marriages are now legal. What these couples wear to their weddings come3 with stories too. Happy stories, historical stories. Stories that have come with a price.

9:16 am cdt | link 

June 16, 2014

War rages in Iraq. Men, wearing sashes of bullets, are photographed as they raise their guns. Here, two small girls sit in a front yard on a blanket. I notice, as I bike by, that one of them holds a thermos. I can also see two dolls on the blanket and what looks like a plate of cookies.

Yesterday these words, once said by Pete Seeger, were texted to me. “Well, normally I’m against big things. I think the world is going to be saved by millions of small things. Too many things can go wrong when they get big.”

6:11 am cdt | link 

June 15, 2014

My father did not play ball with me, teach me to read, to dance, to drive a car. We did not ski together in the whiteness of Wisconsin winters, play at golf on green hills visible outside our windows. I did not call him father, daddy, even dad. But often Ira would come home from work and ask, while loosening his tie, do you think there’s time for fishing? As answer I would rush into rich earth for worms to fill a bait pail.

We would pick up sandwiches from Trudeau’s tavern, a single beer, a soda pop for me, then rent a rowboat at Shaft’s landing, where, to tender sound of boat and water, we’d  ease through weeds and row into the soul of Lake Wissota. Eating, watching stars poke through the cover of their sky we’d sit as stewards of our fish lines. Wanting nothing, waiting only to grow up, grow old. Grinning at each other in mosquito darkness.

On father’s day these words are written for my dad who I respected and admired. They are written to honor a father that I loved.

8:48 am cdt | link 

June 14, 2014

Today, according to my calendar, is Flag Day. The day, June 14th, set aside to celebrate our American stars and stripes. Over a hundred years ago a Wisconsin teacher arranged a day for pupils to acknowledge and honor the flag. The year was 1885. In 1889 a New York teacher planned appropriate ceremonies for his school, and the observation of Flag Day was adopted by the New York School Board. It was not until August 3rd, 1949, that President Truman signed an act designating June 14th as National Flag Day. A day when all citizens of the United States were encouraged to honor and display the American flag.

These little facts are new to me. Though I do not own an American flag, I would display it today if I had one.

10:47 am cdt | link 

June 13, 2014

Late spring into early summer is peony season here. My neighbor’s pink peonies have already come into bloom. The lighter pinks, whites and maroon-red flowers will follow. I know a few things about peonies, just a few. I know that ants, often seen on the buds enjoying the sweet nectar, are not a problem. I know that peonies are native to Asia, Europe and areas of North America. I know peonies are herbaceous plants meaning they have non-woody stems. Yellow peonies, which do not totally die back and have woody stems, are called tree peonies. These few things I know about peonies. I also know that I like to cut them for an impressive arrangement. I know they are beautiful.

8:57 am cdt | link 

June 12, 2014

Recently I read that one day in June, I can’t remember which, is Random Act of Kindness Day. I probably missed it. One random act of kindness I watched happen years ago, and remember, is this one.

My friend and I were having lunch in New Hampshire. We had left the kids at home and had driven north for a shopping trip. A needed day away. My friend, who is a fabulous knitter, was wearing a stunning pair of mittens she had made. The waitress noticed them, and commented on them, when we were being seated. After lunch when we were getting ready to go, my friend told me she was going to leave the mittens for the waitress. And she did. She perched the lunch tip on top of the mittens. As we were going out the door she called over to the waitress, serving someone at another table, telling her that the mittens were for her.

Now a random act of unkindness that I also remember. It was late January and I had a baby due who was already over a week late. I was hugely pregnant and parked in an icy parking lot in front of a toy store where I was shopping for a birthday present my five-year-old needed to bring to a that-afternoon birthday party. With a small child attached to each hand, I inched across the icy landscape and into the toy store. Focused only on making it safely across the parking lot and getting the necessary birthday gift, I forgot to lock the car. When the three of us returned I found a large cardboard box of baby kittens, I think there were five, on the front seat of the car. Next to the box of kittens was this note, written in pencil, on a sheet of tablet paper, “You look like someone who will take good care of these kittens."

My two young children were delighted with the kittens, we already belonged to a dog and cat, but I was not. Somehow we made it home, kids, kitten and baby who was born only hours later. My neighbor, who I am thankful for to this day, took charge of the kittens. Gerri, though not random, yours was an appreciated act of kindness! Thank You!

10:09 am cdt | link 

June 11, 2014

The summer sound of lawnmowers. Constantly audible because it has been a rainy spring with cool temperatures. Lawns, this morning, are lush rectangles of green cut by straight strips of sidewalk and road, the curve of a garden. Lawns and the industries surrounding them, lawn mower and lawn tool manufacturers, sod farms, landscape maintenance companies, pesticide companies, the teenager down the street, and on and on, are a big, and 'green,' part of our economy. Grass, as Carl Sandburg wrote in his poem, “Grass,” is covering all.

Slowly, though, words like monoculture and native and sustainable and xeriscaping and groundcovers are creeping in to our lawn vocabulary. Our attitudes about turf grass landscapes should be changing. We realize that high maintenance, thirsty, grass lawns in Arizona and New Mexico, put in place by transplanted mid-westerners, don’t work. That estate-sized lawns, requiring so much time and money, are hard on our pocketbooks. That nothing but grass, with our house sitting tall in the center, provides life for few others.

Wild areas, small habitats, native plantings, various groundcovers, gardens planted to attract birds and butterflies, are preferable to expanses of grass. I’ve been told this by the red start warbler and the baby rabbit. My knowledge about lawns and landscape is coming from the barred owl family living at the corner of our street.

8:59 am cdt | link 

June 10, 2014

The Twins just signed Kendrys Morales as their designated hitter. This is good news coming after a 14 to 5 beating by Houston and last night's 5 to 4 loss in Toronto. Hopefully, Morales will be able to help turn things around for the team. It is no fun being in the basement.

When we moved to Minnesota I almost left the Red Sox behind. Almost. They, too, are not starting out well this season, at the moment they are ten games behind Toronto. In Connecticut you are either a Yankee fan or a Red Sox fan. Allegiances  are very clearly defined.

I have never played baseball, not really softball either. I know, or once knew, how to properly hold a bat. I have memories of putting on a baseball mitt, the heft and smell of it. The mitt in my memory probably belonged to my brother.Thanks to childhood summers of attending baseball games with my dad at Carson Park, games played under the lights by the Eau Claire Bears during which my dad and I would sit in the stands behind home plate cheering while eating hot dogs or sharing boxes of popcorn, I know and understand the game of baseball.

My mother did not like sporting events, my brother not much either. I did. I was the family member that accompanied my dad to baseball and basketball games. Going to games on a summer evening, getting to stay up late, watching people, keeping score on a program, were some of my childhood's happiest times. Watching sports with my dad. I learned the rules of the game, the fun of following a team. Best of all was the time spent together. Once a fan, always a fan. Go Twins. 

6:56 am cdt | link 

June 9, 2014

I am still thinking about yesterday’s blessing of the bikes. The Harleys and the Yamahas. We are, all of us, interesting people who regularly ask that divine blessing be given motorcycles, food, babies, fleets of fishing boats, soldiers, houses, the less fortunate, sinners, a person who sneezes, our animals.

It was Christmas Eve. We were in Manhattan for a play and dinner out, spending the night at a hotel before heading back in the morning to Connecticut and Christmas responsibilities. The city trip was a family Christmas present; we had our teenage children with us. The Broadway matinee was wonderful, dinner, too. Walking back to the hotel we decided to step into a beautiful large church on Madison Avenue for their Christmas Eve service. Some lovely music I remember saying to the kids who weren’t interested in lovely music or a church service.

The service had already started when we entered. The interior was dim, you were aware of the bustle of many worshipers, the sound of an organ. After a moment of acclimation, you were aware of the animals. The everywhere animals. Ferrets on leashes, birds in cages, all variety of dogs wearing strings of blinking lights and Santa hats and lame jackets. Cats with ribbons, cradled in someone’s arms, a monkey in an elf suit, a parrot tethered to someone shoulder. I heard one of my teenagers delightedly hum the theme from "The Twilight Zone."

We are the fragile species living on the edge. We require blessings. I’m sorry to have missed yesterday’s blessing of the bikes.

6:48 am cdt | link 

June 8, 2014

Yesterday, when I was doing the Star Tribune crossword, I happened to glance over at the religion calendar. Something I don’t think I’ve ever done. I saw the following listings all of which sounded interesting. A program called "Symposium on Angels" at the First Unitarian Society, a program called "Karma, Freedom and Destiny" being held at the Spirit United Church, a discussion entitled "Voices of Faith" at the Breck School, a program called "Summer Institute of Spirituality" at United Theological Seminary, services of celebration at the Basilica of St. Mary and a gathering called "Know God," followed by a community meal, at the East Side Neighborhood Services building. Particularly intriguing to me was a listing called "Blessing of Bikes" at Mount Olive Lutheran Church. After the blessing a motorcycle ride was taking place.

My cousin Paul, wild, often in trouble, and older than me by several years, raced motorcycles. Reading about the blessing of bikes pushed a childhood memory forward in my mind that gives me pleasure.

My mother’s family was from the right side of the tracks. My father’s side of the family, part Indian, was not. My mother, Paul’s mother, who was my father’s older sister, and I were, decades ago, at a motorcycle race that my cousin Paul was competing in. I remember Paul, fearsome looking with his hair tied back in a ponytail. I remember the sound of the bikes, the long, huge rumbling of many motorcycles, and I remember dust. Everywhere dust. I recall with clarity my mother, my Aunt and I standing near the finish line when Paul’s motorcycle roared past. It was a tough setting, a grimy setting but my mother, so very out-of-place, was clapping for her nephew with enthusiasm. She was wearing white gloves.

6:53 am cdt | link 

June 7, 2014

Kindness. I am thinking about kindness because of this occurrence. I have two friends I will call Kim and Kate. I treasure both of their friendships. Kim and Kate, because this is a small town, have knowledge of one another but do not know each other well. One might call them acquaintances.

The other day Kate mentioned she was in the grocery store when a customer, who was on some sort of food program, did not have enough money to pay for all of the items she had brought to the checkout. The customer started sorting through her groceries, removing packages of ground beef and pork chops to reduce her bill. Kate said that Kim, who was in line behind this customer, stepped forward and without ceremony, handed the checkout person a twenty dollar bill so the stranger could bring home all the food she had picked out. The telling of the incident was about Kim’s generosity.

A day later I was in a group with Kim. Kim brought up the grocery store incident not knowing I had heard it. She mentioned that Kate, who had observed what Kim had done, approached her and gave her a ten dollar bill she happened to have in her wallet because she wanted to share in Kim’s generous act. Kim’s story was about Kate’s kindness.

6:50 am cdt | link 

June 6, 2014

June is the month of weddings. A pretty month, a blue sky month. I grow flowers, often flowers for a wedding. I own wedding stories.

The wedding took place in a slip of a town in what I think of as quintessential rural Connecticut. Rolling green hills, stone fences lacing through the countryside, fields embroidered with horses. The ceremony took place in an old building which had been a town hall or community center at one time. The bride was a veterinarian and her dog, a black lab, was part of the wedding party. The reception was held in a white tent erected near the site of the old community building. In a wonderful, economical sort of way, neighbors of the bride’s family and friends of the bride provided a buffet dinner as a gift for the couple who had requested no presents. Delicious looking food was lined up in attractive china on tables under the tent. The wedding cake, too, was made by the bride’s cousin.

The setting was beautiful. Unpretentious, Martha Stewart-like and warm. Unseasonably  warm, downright hot under the tent where I was decorating the tent poles with ivy. So hot in fact that the homemade, tiered wedding cake, with its buttercream frosting and lack of supporting structure, caved in on itself causing the cake’s baker to run from the tent in tears. Somehow a neighbor woman and I, the only ones around during the ceremony, were able to transfer the broken cake, which we adorned with leftover ivy and ox eye daisies hurriedly picked from the field outside the tent, onto two separate plates. The wedding cake became instead a wedding dessert.

5:45 am cdt | link 

June 5, 2014

Outside my window 60 or more lupine bloom, or are coming in to bloom. They are shades of pink, purple and white. Years ago I put a single lupine plant, purple as I remember, in this garden. I am looking at this original plant’s descendants.

Lupine are members of the pea family and the name lupine, means wolf.  It was once thought that lupine, in the manner of wolves, robbed the soil of nutrients. This, though, is not true. Lupine benefit the soil by adding nitrogen. Once I was in Nova Scotia, it was late June, when I saw fields of blue lupine growing wild. A truly beautiful sight.

As a gardener, lupine teach me things. Plants know what they like, they find their way. They flourish where they flourish, they do not always like to be transplanted. And a certain amount of hands off in a garden leads to wonderful surprises. I cannot control what I might want to control in the garden, or in life. The cones of lupine color outside my window, beautiful today and blooming where they want to grow, remind me that can be okay.

7:33 am cdt | link 

June 4, 2014

I had worked all morning planting the slips of flowers nurtured, these past weeks, in the greenhouse. On my knees in muddy soil I dug homes for larkspur, asters and celosia. As I crawled along, I enjoyed the swallows, the mutterings of nearby chickens, the feeling of accomplishment of putting tiny plants where I knew they would thrive. At the end of the day I was tired. Too tired to go to the weekly Weitz foreign film? Maybe. No. I was happy I was not that tired.

"Carmina O Revienta" is a sub-titled Spanish film. Ribald, maybe depressing, colorful, humorous, it is filled with little splashes of insights and big characters. Carmina is a foul talking, neurotic, saint loving, hot-tempered, clever, fearsome, overweight married mother of three who owns a grocery store. She smokes and keeps a goat as a pet. Her family owns the word dysfunctional. The movie takes place outside of Seville and because the characters often speak to the camera, it is referred to as a mockumentary.

We all know someone a little like Carmina. I, am a little like Carmina. Life, is a little like Carmina. I did not expect to like this movie as much as I did, and I did like it. A lot. Carmina says this near the end of the film when she is in a good place. “Sometimes life is so beautiful it could be real." What she says might be true.

9:07 am cdt | link 

June 3, 2014

It is the season to graduate. From nursery school, from a doctoral program and from everything in between. Graduates, in 2014, have mastered sitting quietly in a circle and have learned to put their snacks in a cubby, they have survived difficult comprehensives and frightening orals. They’ve arrived at the door of kindergarten, they’ve made it to a hard won career. Now, they can celebrate.

High School graduation parties are very much a part of the local social scene. Still a newcomer to these festivities, I delight in seeing the hand painted signs leading to a celebration, signs that often include the name of the student and clutch of balloons in the school colors. I like driving by a house and seeing a party tent in the yard, chairs lined up on a newly mown lawn, crepe paper streamers affixed to a lamp post. I like the feel of these parties, too. The grandparents and neighbors mixing with the people from church, the office, the graduate’s friends. I like colorful sheet cakes and brats on the grill. I like the graduates on their best hosting behavior, being grown-up, making an adult debut.

I did not graduate from nursery school because I didn’t go. School started for me in kindergarten. High School graduation memories are only elicited by photographs. As for the particulars of my college graduation, I remember only the walk from the chapel to the athletic field. The strange, early afternoon shadows of heads, wearing mortar boards, following us along the sidewalk. My graduation from University I remember well. I remember the waves of my children.

7:04 am cdt | link 

June 2, 2014

With an abundance of rain in May, the ferns in the tree canopied area between our neighbor’s fence and our back door are healthy, lush and thigh high. They are beautiful.

The small Japanese ferns growing near the rain garden, the delicate pale green ferns hunkered under a pine, also thrive. Most ferns need moisture both in the soil and in the air to survive and reproduce, this spring has been cooperative. I know little more about ferns but I am familiar with asparagus ferns and leatherleaf ferns both grown for use by florists. These two ferns, in fact, are a florist’s staple.

I do know that ferns were around long before other flowering plants, that they predate the dinosaurs. I know they reproduce by spores. Though I have never known a woman named Fern, I know it was once a popular girl’s name and that it was the name of the little girl in Charlotte’s Web. And I recall, clearly, once being served fiddleheads at a dinner party.

Fiddleheads, I learned when they were on the plate in front of me, are the unfurled fronds of the ostrich fern. The dinner host, from Maine, grew up eating them; he was knowledgeable about their preparation. Fiddleheads were steamed and accompanied by hollandaise sauce. I found them nutty tasting and delicious. He warned, though, that like mushrooms, not all ferns are good eating. While he didn’t mention poisonous ferns, he mentioned the wrong fiddleheads can produce a very nasty stomach ache.

The fiddlehead season is in the past, the ferns in my garden are safe. I am not an adventurous cook, the ferns never need worry.  

6:33 am cdt | link 

June 1, 2014

Minnesota in the spring is breathtakingly beautiful. The landscape seems to display a thousand shades of green and in my semi-wild garden forget-me-nots, blue flax, anemone, wild geranium, coral bells, chives, honeysuckle, violets, Oriental poppies, digitalis and ox-eye daisy show their colors. But today, I would rather be somewhere else. I would rather be in Watch Hill, Rhode Island.

Watch Hill is a tiny community, a summer community, which is a part of Westerly, Rhode Island. It is comprised of several interesting shops, historic old homes, a tea room, two large resort hotels, and an eatery that sells the best ever lobster rolls. There is also a carousel on the curve of Watch Hill’s main street. This carousel, which has been operating since 1876, is called The Flying Horse Carousel because the horses, with real leather saddles and manes and tails of real horse hair, are suspended on chains. When the speed of the carousel picks up, the beautiful old wooden horses seem to fly. And if you are lucky, you will be able to grab the brass ring, from the post of rings, as you sail past it. An accomplishment that allows you a free ride in the future.

But it is not the carousel that draws me there today, not the lobster rolls, no matter how delicious, or the ice creams of unusual flavors. It is the Atlantic. The big water. The smell, the sound, the pulse of an ocean. And it is Napatree, the spit of land easing its way into the dark and shining water, the land occupied by osprey nests and gulls and sandpipers, that is my mental destination. Tomorrow the garden will look good again. Today, I wish to be on Napatree. 

7:34 am cdt | link 


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