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

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July 31, 2014

The final word on stones.

The definition of stone is mineral matter, coming from the ground, which is used for building and carving. A stone is thought of as a small piece of rock. Rock is defined as mineral matter of various composition assembled by the action of heat and water. Stone and rock are nouns, adjectives and verbs. A huge stone, a huge rock. Stone deaf and rock solid. Stone the murderer, rock the cradle.

Despite the horrible connotation of stoning, stone, I think, is a softer word than rock. It is a weight (14 pounds), a gem, and a delicious soup made by a starving community. Rock is something you don’t want to do to the boat; on the rocks is where you don’t want your relationship to be. And you certainly don’t want to be caught between a rock and a hard place.

Piano teacher Mrs. Stone was sometimes called Mrs. Rock by my oldest son.

7:49 am cdt | link 

July 30, 2014

Stones continued...

In downtown Hartford, Connecticut, 36 boulder-sized stones are arranged in rows on a triangular-shaped piece of land adjacent to what is called the Ancient Burying Ground. The commissioned work was done by minimalist sculptor Carl Andre who was paid $87,000, in 1977, to create this work. Since its installation, there has been ongoing controversy surrounding the piece called "Stone Field Sculpture." Many felt, when it was completed, that Andre should not be paid. And controversy has continued over the years. Is this art or is this installation a rip-off? Can stones be defined as sculpture, are stones art?

I know this work well. Runners run through it, people sit and have their lunch on the stones, children climb on top of them. Big silent stones huddle close to the ground casting shadows which are continually changing. Accessible, thoughtful, and as close as we can get to eternal; it is art.

One of my children had a piano teacher named Mrs. Stone. Sometimes this young child slipped and called his teacher Mrs. Rock.

6:05 am cdt | link 

July 29, 2014

At the moment I am tangentially involved in a landscaping project involving large stones. My involvement is nothing more, really, than being aware that my neighbor, who lives down the street, has, with the help of heavy equipment, moved over a dozen huge stones to a property where they will be focal points in a prairie landscape and a rain garden.

Coming from New England I have a heightened awareness of stones and the stone fences that stitch their way through a landscape. By 1871, 61,515 miles of stone fencing existed in Connecticut. Stones, left from melting glaciers and unearthed when fields were being plowed, became fences that determined property lines, gardens, and animal enclosures.

Wood rots, earth crumbles but stones hang on to time. If only we could, as Annie Dillard suggests in a favorite book of mine, be capable of, Teaching a Stone to Talk. 

5:39 am cdt | link 

July 28, 2014

Clothes tell the story according to Vogue editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour. And clothes include sunglasses. I went online to find out the story behind sunglasses, sunglasses I tend to lose, break or forget to don so hardly ever wear. But sunglasses are cool and who doesn’t want to be cool? So here is the info on sunglasses compiled from a couple of different blog sources.

White frames on sunglasses might look momentarily cool but they also look cheap and don’t flatter.

Over-sized frames say that you peaked in high school. You should only wear them if you are famous.

Transition glasses make you look like Richard Belzer from “Law and Order: SUV."

Pink tiara glasses let the world know you are permanently on a one-woman bachelorette weekend.

Costas are the defining sign of a frat star.

Mirrored sunglasses are out for men, women should wear them only if they have rainbow frames. Drug addicts tend to wear mirrored sunglasses.

Rimless sunglasses say you are an original type person.

Shield sunglasses are an immediate attention grabber.

Wayfarers tend to say you are not too serious about life.

Aviators say you are a person who means business but they should never be worn with jeans or a leather jacket.

Exaggerated cat-eye glasses state you appreciate old-world glamor.

Black and white frames on sunglasses say you usually have the last word.


So now you know. I just this moment rummaged around to locate my sunglasses and learned that I peaked in high school.

7:36 am cdt | link 

July 27, 2014

My Swedish grandmother, who lived in a large Victorian house, had a room devoted exclusively to sewing. When my mother and I visited her I would spend time in that sewing room quietly checking things out. I was fascinated by the treadle sewing machine, particularly fascinated by the dressmaker dummy I was told had my grandmother’s exact proportions. But best of all I loved the buttons. A box of buttons I would empty and spread out, then sort and match and count. I enjoyed ranking the buttons in order of size, color or which I liked best.

We are told everything is passed down and carried in our genes. Science can tell us about our traits, tendencies and diseases we will fall prey to. I do not look at all like my late grandmother. And even though it is hard to compare different generations, I seem not to share the ways or interests or personality of my mother’s mother. But as I write I can look over at the glass box on the table in my studio. A box filled with hundreds of oh-so-beautiful-and-important-to-me, buttons.

7:01 am cdt | link 

July 26, 2014

One doesn’t think about cell phones, everyone uses one and everywhere. Spoken words surround us. Traveling a couple of years ago in Los Angeles, I slipped, on a Sunday morning, into a very large cathedral to sit quietly and rest in the back of the church. There I noticed congregants talking and texting as they stood in the long aisle waiting to take communion. I have observed fly fisherman talking and texting on phones while they cast out their lines and water flowed around them.

We have much to say all the time about everything. Yesterday in a coffee shop I heard and wrote this conversation down.

“Okay, okay. Yeah. Okay, I’ll keep an eye on it and let you know. I like that and I was telling Natalie when I was in Old Navy, I didn’t know if they were out of that or what. Anyway, is that why you were laughing because your sister got you the pink one?  Oh, Amanda is in a play and I gotta run. Okay, see ya, bye.”

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July 25, 2014

Last evening I sat on my neighbor’s porch overlooking an expanse of lawn, of garden, of beautiful shadows. When darkness pushed away the light, a firefly punctuated the leafy night and sent me to a different place.

I returned to the pasture near Napatree. A pasture, adjacent to Roaring Brook, behind a stable where Henry’s seven cows ate away their days, and a small red fox regularly eyed me from a thicket. It was in that pasture I paced my way through a July night waiting in the heavy warmth for news I needed to hear. In the darkness I was surrounded by fireflies, hundreds of them, maybe thousands, and in those walking hours I breathed in the night to become a part of everything that was that landscape.

There is the power in a single Minnesota firefly to light one’s way back home.  

6:51 am cdt | link 

July 24, 2014

My sewing materials are, at the moment, inaccessible. The wool of knitting feels too warm on my skin. But my hands are restless, needing to make, to do. Carefully I fold origami paper into paper airplanes. And I let them fly.

7:39 am cdt | link 

July 23, 2014

If your birthday is today...

this year you focus your efforts on the clients, projects and jobs that are truly stimulating to you. Your curiosity leads you to a very special relationship in August. A career leap is featured in September. Give a relative a hand now and the favor will be returned in January. Finances improve in October and May. Your lucky numbers are 5, 13, 38, 26 and 50.

The Star Tribune Horoscope told me so.

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July 22, 2014

I have been asked to do flowers for a July wedding next week and I am looking forward to it. The bride is lovely. I did the flowers for a July wedding a few years ago and it was memorable, but not in a good way. The bride, though, was also a lovely person.

And she was beautiful. Dark-haired and dark-eyed, tall with an innate sense of grace. She wore a sparkling white gown and carried a romantic red rose bouquet. Her attendants, there were five, wore sophisticated black dresses and carried a single red rose. The ceremony took place at an old stone cathedral, dark but candle lit, a serious place to pledge a troth.

Everything appeared to be in order. The flowers were arranged in the church, the women in the wedding party had received their flowers and I had given the boutonnieres to an usher to deliver  to the male members of the wedding party. I waited around at the back of the church to see the bride walk down the aisle. No bride, and the organist played on and on. Finally, the priest stood in front of the church and announced there would be a slight delay. Actually, the delay was a long one. The groom and his best man were drunk. They had been sitting, for some time, in a limo drinking. They needed serious sobering up before standing at the front of the church.

The assembled wedding guests must have ached, like I did, for the lovely bride. The marriage, I heard, lasted only weeks.

8:28 am cdt | link 

July 21, 2014

Scarlet is exceptional, she has her ways. Every animal is exceptional, has their ways, too. This morning at the field Scarlet decided to run, really run. Something clicked in her herding dog brain and off she ran, in widening circles, fast and low to the ground like an animal of the savanna, the veld. Scarlet is a big sheltie and she periodically appeared in waves above the grasses planted as cover crop. Neither hunter or hunted she ran from an inner joy and it was beautiful to witness. When she was done she found me weeding the asters and sat close, looking into my eyes and leaning in against my shoulder.

8:34 am cdt | link 

July 20, 2014

On the kitchen table I have a vase of cosmos. Because the table is in front of an open window, the flowers are backlit; the lavender and bright orange blooms on slender stems appear to move like butterflies. Cosmos, a mid to late summer flower, are just starting to bloom in earnest. They will continue blooming into September. A memory of them I have hanging in the back of my mind took place in September. September 11th to be exact.

It was in a Connecticut store where I was shopping, that I heard the news of the first attack on the World Trade Center. Quickly returning home I remember driving into the driveway, anxious and upset, and noticing, almost subconsciously, lavender garden cosmos slightly swaying in the morning breeze. I clearly recall thinking the world had tilted off balance and everything had changed. Everything had changed except those beautiful, oblivious cosmos.

6:58 am cdt | link 

July 19, 2014

To welcome a son’s serious girlfriend to our home in Connecticut, she is now our daughter-in-law, we lined the driveway and sidewalk leading to the house with farolitos or luminarias. She said she was touched when she saw the bags of twinkling candle lights. She also explained that in Santa Fe, her home, these lights are called farolitos, or little lanterns, though the rest of the world refers to them as luminarias, or festival lights.

Our neighbors down the street have hung an Italian flag on the front of the house to welcome home their college age daughter, who has spent a wonderful year in Italy. Seeing it you have to smile. It is a loving and welcoming sight. 

5:23 am cdt | link 

July 18, 2014

It is share day at the CSA Farm where I grow flowers. In mid-July the gardens offer up ageratum, lilies, veronica, liatris, cosmos, zinnias, coleus, larkspur, sunflowers, statice, bachelor buttons, yarrow, snapdragons, lisianthus and calendula.

Sweet peas in pink, white, salmon, purple, lavender and crimson abundance, are waiting to be picked.

8:12 am cdt | link 

July 17, 2014

My friend moved to Minneapolis bequeathing me a needle case filled with needles, an etui, in crossword vernacular. I sew, I was delighted to have it. When I fished it out of my purse where it had been for several days, I studied it carefully.

The needle package is made by a company in England named Milwards. The case looks to be made from faux alligator. It contains many types of needles, beautiful gold and silver needles, which appear never to have been used. What really held my attention was a small, enclosed card. The card said this. Useful Information: Sharps are used for general domestic sewing. Embroidery needles have a special long eye. Darners are used for all household mending. Tapestry needles have a blunt point and an extra wide eye. Chenille needles are similar to tapestry needles but have a sharp point. Betweens are short strong needles for fine work on heavy material. I like this useful information and like sharing it.

6:49 am cdt | link 

July 16, 2014

July is a birthday month. Birthdays mean cakes. Birthday parties used to mean an afternoon of dressed up children, a weary parent overseeing party games, inexpensive presents given to the celebrant and the two hour party topped off by a birthday cake.

Times change. Children’s birthdays have become events with trips to an amusement park, rented ponies, professional entertainers, afternoon at the bowling alley followed by supper at a pizzaria. The guests invited to a birthday party now are often requested not to bring a gift and instead they return home after the party with a bag of elaborate and expensive party favors. Birthday cake, however, is still part of a birthday celebration.

My mother let us choose which kind of birthday cake we wanted her to make and our choices became tradition. My brother’s choice was a dark chocolate cake with vanilla, butter cream frosting. My dad’s cake was an angel food cake with fresh fruit on top, and my cake choice was a white layer cake, with lemon filling, iced with 7-minute frosting sprinkled heavily with coconut. A thing of beauty which took hours to make. On her birthday my mother made herself a spice cake with penuche frosting.

Though I occasionally like to tackle a birthday cake, I rarely have the time or inclination. And we are fortunate to have a wonderful cupcake shop on Division Street.

5:38 am cdt | link 

July 15, 2014

From my desk, I look out on a garden landscape which includes several varieties of grasses. Chest high grasses which flank one entrance to the garden, thin bladed grasses, silvery grasses, short thick grasses, grasses that ramble. It is windy and today the grasses sway and dance. Grass filled garden landscapes are ones that I find exciting and have come to love. It may have to do with my prairie roots.

Or, it may have to do with a man I heard speak, years ago, at a Connecticut Horticultural Society meeting. Landscape architect and garden designer James van Sweden opened my eyes at that meeting to seeing things differently, to appreciating gardens and landscapes more natural, full of movement and interesting in all seasons. I wish that I could thank him.

6:12 am cdt | link 

July 14, 2014

Germany 1, Argentina nil. Germany won the World Cup.

Postgame, a 15 pound gold trophy was passed among the German players, Angela Merkel gave her players hugs, tears streamed from the eyes of many Argentinians, sportsmanship was shown by both teams, the air was filled with confetti, smoke, fireworks. And behind the row of special guests who were greeting the players, stood a row of beautiful women wearing brown suits and red hats adorned with draping white scarves. Who were they?

7:38 am cdt | link 

July 13, 2014

It’s 8:00 a.m. and the bird I hear, on the bird clock, is a black capped chickadee.

Years ago we acquired a ‘bird’ clock. I don’t remember if we purchased it or if it was a gift. Every number on this clock is accompanied by an illustration of a bird; when that hour comes around, you hear the singing of the bird illustrated. At 5:00 o’clock you hear a tufted titmouse, at 6:00 o’clock, a Northern oriole. Many times someone visiting, who has not seen the clock and hears the bird sing, assumes that we have a caged bird somewhere in the house.

I would like to say that I have learned the songs of the 12 birds pictured on the clock. Though I pretty much know most of them, I don’t have all of them down. But yesterday a friend in Arizona emailed me an interactive poster of birds created by the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Conservation magazine. All you need to do to hear, and hopefully learn, the song of any one of the birds pictured, is to place your cursor on the illustrated bird. Probably we would learn bird and song faster if we actually saw, and heard, the bird in our backyard, but this way works, too.

10:40 am cdt | link 

July 12, 2014

Someone left the door to the gorilla enclosure unlocked at the Como Park Zoo in St. Paul. Could it have been Curious George or the man in the yellow hat?

I visited zoos as a child, have taken my own children to zoos. Once, my partner at a dinner party was a zookeeper. I've seen famous zoos on the cutting edge of zoo technology; I've seen zoos, in small towns, that contained only a handful of animals. Large or small, i do not like, I am uncomfortable with, zoos.

Years ago three dirty polar bears lived in the Irvine Park Zoo in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. They existed in cave-like structures behind metal bars. These bears were observed by bus loads of children on annual class trips. I was one of those kids and I hated seeing the crazed and pacing bears, hated noticing how they rubbed against the bars of their cages causing their fur to wear away. I did not like to see indigenous animals like badgers, racoons, deer and wolves, caged and confined, either.

Zookeeping practices have improved. But for me, there is something intrinsically wrong with confining wild animals for our entertainment. Confining them in zoos can make us feel superior. Even more frightening is the possibility that feeling superior to wild creatures, we can slip into feeling superior to human beings. 


8:15 am cdt | link 

July 11, 2014

The intractable conflict between Israel and Palestine continues. More bombings, more deaths and more destruction. The media reports the violence; the world shudders and turns away. Egypt, at the moment, is attempting to negotiate an end to the confrontation.

My knowledge of the situation is very little. I do know about border disputes, security issues, water rights and control of Jerusalem, but not much more. I sometimes study the media photographs of grieving families on both sides of the conflict and note that their anguish is always the same.

No one has called me in to advise on this situation but maybe, they should. I would advise that Israeli and Palestinian mothers, women who fear sacrificing their sons, should sit at the head of the table where discussions are taking place. Maybe women, from both sides, who understand that no one can ever really own the land, any land, and that a river exists to be shared, should face each other. Maybe women who wish not to be widows, who wish to know grandchildren, who wish not to live in fear and close mindedness, who wish to know each other, should be brokering a peace. Maybe they could make it happen.

7:20 am cdt | link 

July 10, 2014

Now’s the time. Swim suits are on sale. July 4th is still in the rearview mirror, and prices are reduced on swimming suits. Is summer really over?

Swimming suits are important to teenagers. Wearing the right swimming suit at Lake Altoona or Half Moon Lake, is serious business. I know this from experience. Every year meant a new suit because one summer of regular swimming, a camp experience and high school swimming classes during the school year, were hard on a swimming suit. Rose Marie Reid, Cole of California and Janzen were the swimming suit names of my youth but those suits were expensive. To acquire the perfect swimming suit you baby sat, car hopped or waited tables. Working for a new suit was a given.

Swimming suit pressure long ago disappeared. I peruse the swimming suit catalogues now with little or no interest. But it is July. And I do remember.

7:00 am cdt | link 

July 9, 2014

There was, when I was growing up, a shop in our neighborhood called a dairy bar. Tim’s Dairy Bar. Tim’s sold all things dairy: milk, cream, butter, cheese, whipping cream, sour cream, cream cheese, etc., anything that you found in a supermarket dairy case. The dairy bar’s specialty, though, was ice cream. Ice cream cones and hand-packed ice cream.

A Tim’s clerk, wearing an apron, would take a white, pint-sized or quart-sized paper container and pack, with a scoop, your choice of ice cream into it. You would watch this being done hoping that the container would be so full, as it usually was, that the flaps would barely close together on the top. I have no idea why Tim’s hand-packed ice cream was more desirable than Tim’s ice cream already packaged; I suspect they tasted just the same. But as we also eat with our eyes, watching it being packed probably added to ice cream enjoyment.

July is an ice cream month. Ice cream, I recently heard, is good for you. So treat yourself and choose a never tried before flavor. 

7:02 am cdt | link 

July 8, 2014

My friend named her new daughter, Lily. A beautiful flower name which has come, in the last few years, back into popularity.

Newly arrived Lily has me thinking about flower names for girls and their waxing and waning popularity. Heather seems to remain popular; I happen to know several Heathers. I know a Rose but I know more varieties of Rose like Roseanne and Rosalie. Who can forget Daisy Miller in the book of the same name by Henry James? Fern is forever the little girl in Charlotte’s Web, Veronica forever associated with Betty in Archie Andrews comic books. Growing up I knew someone my mother’s age called Ivy. I didn’t like Ivy and I am embarrassed to write she seemed to me, as a child, to be a whiney, clinging sort.

My mother’s friend was named Violet and everyone called her Vi. Because of my mother’s Swedish roots, I have known two women named Linnea. I have never known a Marigold but have recently read that it is a very popular name now among upper class Brits. Marigold. I am saying it slowly, picturing a Marigold in my mind. It seems to work.

9:29 am cdt | link 

July 7, 2014

Just a sighting. A woodchuck, in all his woodchuck beauty, moves with haste in late afternoon sun along the porch garden and into to my neighbor’s side yard.

A woodchuck story. My friend caught three woodchucks in Have-a-Heart traps when he was restoring an out-building on his recently purchased property. It was softly raining, more like a mist as my friend described it, when the man known as The Humane Trapper came to pick up the trapped woodchucks for release into a wild area south of Glastonbury on the Connecticut River. My friend started to hoist the traps into the back of The Humane Trapper’s pick-up but was stopped. “It’s kinda wet outside," the trapper told him, "they can ride up in the cab with me.”

6:27 am cdt | link 

July 6, 2014

A week ago farmworkers had a spur-of-the-moment picnic at the field. Sandwiches picked up at Subway, my contribution of potato salad from Econo Foods, strawberries from a nearby farm. The air was still, the evening a lovely one.

Picnics on Napatree, with kids, were usually food brought from home, food the kids, who were more interested in the setting, often forgot to eat. Picnics there with friends included wine. An anytime picnic on Napatree, with anyone, could mean buying lobster rolls, to go, from a local shop.

When I was young my Aunt who lived in Texas sent our family a picnic basket. A serious picnic basket. It was huge and contained, along with an aqua checked cloth, compartments for the included cups, plates and for the silverware with aqua plastic handles. When my mother packed that picnic basket I knew we were off to somewhere special like the Herman cottage on Lake Wissota or the Bergs’ log cabin on Sand Lake.

July is picnic month. Plan a picnic.

7:26 am cdt | link 

July 5, 2014

Julius Caesar, responsible for our calendar, named a month after himself. July. My favorite month of abundant flowers, an annual 4th of July party, the birthdays of friends and family, corn on the cob.  July is also a character in the prize winning book, July’s People, by Nadine Gordimer.

8:32 am cdt | link 

July 4, 2014

Yesterday was share day at the CSA, Community Supported Agriculture, farm I am associated with. My responsibilities to the farm are only flower shares every other week. As annuals are just beginning to happen, flower shares yesterday consisted of garden lilies, both brownish and gold, dark blue delphinium, red snapdragons, yellow/orange calendula, and maroon cosmos. The bouquets, sans white or pastels, were intense.

Supporting CSA growers is almost as good as growing your own vegetables. It is also informative to most of us who live not as close as we should, to the earth. There are so many variables in growing food, too much rain and the strawberries rot, too little rain and the berries are small. With little a grower can do about it. Also, there is environmental knowledge to be gained when we realize our dependence on water and growing conditions for all that we eat. We cannot disregard the role climate plays in food production. The CSA model is a good one and I am pleased to support it.

8:00 am cdt | link 

July 3, 2014

This year’s American involvement in World Cup play is over, the discussions had. The game against Belgium was a game of fierce defense. As a fan, it was a game of holding one’s breath during shot after shot on goal, during corner kicks which were constantly happening.

At the farm soccer game talk will continue. The tall young man from the east, the man hired to be this year’s assistant manager, will approach us, as we are weeding on our knees, and want to talk. About the young strikers, about the play of the goal keeper, about the prospects of the teams making it to the semi-finals. He will tell us where he watched Tuesday’s game, describe the two or three other folks, also watching the game, in the bar in which he found himself. He will tell us for that period of game time, soccer loving strangers became his friends.

So in a Minnesota field, talk about the beauty of a sport, a team and the disappointment of a soccer loss, will continue. And while the discussion is taking place, we will all eat handfuls of raspberries, freshly picked.

7:27 am cdt | link 

July 2, 2014

In the email today I received a photo of an empty bench overlooking a beach and a large expanse of water. The caption beneath the picture reads, “If you could invite anyone, past or present, to sit and talk with you on this bench, who would that person be?"

My first thought was I would ask my mother who died before I could ask her my many questions. My other possibilities were my dad or my late friend, Louise. I also entertained asking a writer or an artist that I admire to join me, but reconsidered, thinking maybe those famous would not think it such a treat to talk to me.

I decided I would ask my grandmother to join me there. The grandmother I never knew, my father’s Native American mother. I decided I would ask her because I knew she would have a story, a story I wanted and needed to hear.

And you? Who would be joining you on the empty bench?

9:30 am cdt | link 

July 1, 2014

At my desk and looking out the window, I saw a woman walking her old dog. A dog moving slowly along the sidewalk and growing tired. Then, I saw the woman stoop down, pick up her dog and continue walking with the old animal in her arms.

The news is filled with stories about people who do despicable things to other human beings. And, about people who give organs to strangers and organize fund raisers for sick friends.

When we got Scarlet from the animal shelter she had earlier been abandoned at a foreclosed farm. She had barked herself hoarse and her black fur had turned a reddish brown which the vet said was a result of her being sunburned. At the shelter she was treated with caring and kindness. The vet who stroked her damaged fur did so with the gentlest of hands.

We are capable of cruelty to both humans and animals. We are also capable of so much kindness. I brushed Scarlet this morning. Her fur is black and thick. It gleans. She stood patiently. Like Scarlet, we are also capable of forgiveness.

8:40 am cdt | link 

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