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June 30, 2015

The email: “There is a suspicious looking plant growing in the rain garden at the church.”

More information followed:  One church member, very familiar with plants, felt the questionable plant was marijuana as did another member who was sure it smelled like marijuana.

An investigation took place. Could the monarda, the bee balm, have been mistaken for marijuana? Was it the great blue lobelia that had raised suspicions?  “Oh.” someone said when asked where exactly the suspicious plant was, “It was cut down. The gardener feels badly that his ‘stash’ has been discovered.”


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June 29, 2015


Recently I was asked to do the flowers for a fiftieth anniversary wedding party. A grand party held at a beautiful home on an idyllic, rural landscape. I was told that the guest list was long, the caterer excellent and that the music would be outstanding. Fifty years. The honored couple would be celebrating fifty years of marriage feted by their children and grandchildren and surrounded by a lifetime of family and friends.


On the marquee of the old Grand Theater the sign today reads "Christian and Derek, in celebration." Christian and Derek, congratulations. May there be a golden anniversary party in your future.


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June 28, 2015


Yesterday I listened to a radio show on NPR called "Dinner Party Download." I could identify; dinner parties are a part of my history. Dinner parties with dinner partners, invitations issued weeks in advance and appetizers served in clam shells. Dinner parties where the hostess knocked herself out cooking several days before the event, dinner parties dominated by what the males at the party thought about current politics and world affairs.  It was the way that it was.


On the radio show the hosts conversed with their guest, an artist, writer and musician whose new book is entitled, I Left My Noodle on Ramon Street. The conversation was interesting and the book sounded interesting, too. But the two dinner party conversational starters they queried their guest about were the most interesting.  The hosts asked the guest to tell them something they didn’t know, they asked the guest to tell them what he wouldn’t want to be asked at a real dinner party.


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June 27, 2015


Some days are ordinary. Most days are ordinary. There are no exceptional things happening most days. No promotions, found money, rainbows that reach across the entire horizon. And yet there are, close to home and right around you, extraordinary things to see. Yesterday when I was looking out on the pond I saw the Great Blue Heron fishing. I saw him, his patience paying off, snag a fish. Watching a heron fish is, for me, an ordinary sight. But then I saw a red-winged blackbird, one of several red-winged blackbirds that regularly harass this heron, land on his back and peck him. This bird was joined by another. The heron stood fishing with two red-winged blackbirds perched on his back. He was nonplussed.


Later in the afternoon when I was driving by an assisted living facility I saw a woman of many years, an obvious resident, sitting in a wheelchair, somewhat out of sight behind the bushes. She was smoking a cigarillo.


And that evening I saw a father walking with a daughter hanging on to each of his hands. One girl was about six, the other maybe eight and they happily bounced and hopped and skipped across Division Street. Their father was either somewhat attempting to maintain their high spirits or they were elevating his steps by their joy.



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June 26, 2015


Today, on share day, I will cut and package flower shares for subscribers of the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) farm where I cultivate several long rows of flower gardens. Flowers subscribers will receive as their share, what is available on this June day. It has been a beautiful spring for flowers, excellent growing conditions for both perennials and annuals. We have had enough rains so that watering is not too much of a burden and warm sunny days which has encouraged plant growth. So, subscribers will find in their share today delphinium from plants that are 7 feet tall, dark purple larkspur, yarrow in several shades of pink, cornflowers,  Asiatic lilies in pink and white and daisies, lots and lots of daisies.


Once I was in a class where the book Daisy Miller was being discussed. Why, the professor asked, did Henry James pick the name Daisy for his title character? As I recall, we discussed, as a class, that the flower daisy is a bloom without inhibition. That it is naïve, pretty, a spring bloomer that dies in the winter. Exactly like the character in the book.  


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June 25, 2015


The writing assignment this week is to explain what you are carrying, toting around at this very moment, in your purse. My list is brief. A wallet, a phone, a pencil, a little notebook, a red polo shirt, a very old apple and five skeins of embroidery thread – four shades of blue and a pale peach.


The items, with the exception of the embroidery floss, can easily be explained away. And reminded now, I will pitch the apple. The embroidery thread, purchased for a specific project, I will also remove and put away with other sewing materials. But I am slow to do this as scraps of fabric, yarn and thread are, for me, security. Like money in the bank.


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June 24, 2015


Not long ago I went to an exhibit of old journals and diaries at the Northfield Historical Society. The writings done long ago were interesting to read on many levels. We embrace, we write about, the ordinary. At times, though, we touch on the bigger world outside of ourselves. One entry I remember as going something like this.  “Uncle Peter has ordered seed. We heard this morning that President Lincoln has been shot. An assassination. Tonight mother made a delicious chocolate cake."


So my life, too, is stitched together with the ordinary, with scraps of fabric and attempts to understand the pond. Occasionally, with a piece of chocolate cake.  But these particular historical events brush against me today. “The women are playing soccer in the big leagues and at the soccer fields I can almost see from my window. And I say yes.”  “ While wearing his white zuchetto and his white mozetta, the Pope stated to the world that we are responsible for global warming and we best do something about it. Again, I say yes.”  “And though it is years late, because the Civil War was lost by the Confederate South and won by the African American population, it is finally up for consideration that the Confederate flag should no longer be flown over the South Carolina capitol. Yes. Of course, yes.”


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June 23, 2015

Martha Stewart just sent me recipes, via my email, for a variety of strawberry desserts. All of them, every one of them, look good. At the moment we’re in strawberry season, a brief season which seems to get briefer every year. I like strawberries, most people do, and I like them fresh in a salad or on cereal. Or just a bowl of strawberries, plain, tastes fine. My mother and grandmother made strawberry shortcake with baking powder biscuits they had made themselves. Strawberry shortcake, the shortcake lightly buttered, topped with sweetened, heavy cream, whipped. Strawberry shortcake takes one back, a comfort food dessert for sure, and though it was first made in Europe, it seems as American as apple pie.

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June 22, 2015


It’s a brave new world. It is always, a brave new world.


In preparation for study in France, the 16 year old is off to language immersion camp where only French will be spoken. Two weeks of intense French. Je ne comprends, Je ne comprends, Je ne comprends. I am assuming that communicating in French only, will be a challenge. But I am quite certain that being without any kind of personal device, not even a cell phone, will be even more of a challenge.


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June 21, 2015

To all of you, the overweight father I saw on Woodley Street running after his young daughter as she wobbly pedaled ahead of him on her lavender bicycle – a debut ride without training wheels,  the father I saw on Jefferson Boulevard who with one hand pushed a stroller holding a new baby, a stroller to which a dog on a lead was attached, and who with his other hand pulled a wagon holding a toddler clutching a balloon, the father I observed coming out of a restaurant holding a doll with red yarn hair as a red-haired child skipped in front of him, and to the father of my children, Happy Father’s Day. And a Father’s Day remembrance too, to the wonderful fathers in my life: my father, my father-in-law and Lloyd, the father who needed children and grandchildren. I think of you with love.

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June 20, 2015


These are the flowers that will tonight, be the centerpieces on tables at an outdoor rehearsal dinner, or grooms dinner, in Hudson, Wisconsin.


Bachelor buttons, or blue corn flowers, the color of truth or the South Atlantic when the sky and the light is just right. Hot pink yarrow and pale peach yarrow, beautiful blooms alone or together. Magenta snapdragons new to flower. Calendula, too, too, yellow. Lavender chive blossoms, just a few. The first of the larkspur in pink and white. Daisies, perfect daisies with fresh yellow centers. White yarrow so very common along with grassy weeds, two varieties, whose names I do not know. “Please make the flowers wild and unstructured like you have picked what is in bloom today.”  Which is what I did. And they are beautiful. 



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June 19, 2015


Yesterday, I took a trip with someone I haven’t seen in decades. We traveled to Second Ward School and the classrooms of Miss Adler, Miss Tjoflat and Mr. Bylander. We skated at Boyd Park skating rink, regularly taking breaks, from below zero temperatures, in a warming house with skate scarred floors and the forever smell of wet, wool mittens.


We traveled to the lake, Half Moon, where we stopped at Shaft’s Landing, the boat house where our fathers had rented row boats to take us fishing. Again, like we did then, we threw in lines for sunnies that idled in the murky water, waiting for our red and white bobbers to be pulled down, disappear from sight. We stopped at Carson Park to catch a game because the Bears were playing the nine from Minot. It was a cloudless night, the lights were bright and the game included a box of popcorn.


We journeyed with my parents, Ira and Marian, and his parents, Alton and Irene. No cathedrals, no monuments, no rivers with hard to spell names on our travels, only the familiar, the remembered, the loved. Our trip was a good one, the best. It was in fact, quite perfect.


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June 18, 2015


The writing assignment for this week, “Things I want to learn before I die."


Italian. I would like to learn to speak Italian. And, I would like to learn to juggle, make perfect puff pastry, and parallel park. Of course I would like to learn patience, wisdom and everything there is to know about the snowy egret who visits my pond. Who, I ask, wouldn’t? But I am of an age and just smart enough to know this. It is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.


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June 18, 2015


The writing assignment for this week, “Things I want to learn before I die."


Italian. I would like to learn to speak Italian. And, I would like to learn to juggle, make perfect puff pastry, and parallel park. Of course I would like to learn patience, wisdom and everything there is to know about the snowy egret who visits my pond. Who, I ask, wouldn’t? But I am of an age and just smart enough to know this. It is difficult to teach an old dog new tricks.


8:02 am cdt | link 

June 17, 2015


Parked in front of Blue Monday, I’m waiting for a friend. Also waiting for someone is a large dog tied to the blue seating area in front of the coffee shop. When I say large dog, I mean large dog. Larger than a boxer but looking much like a boxer, a brown dog with the shoulders of a bull dog and the markings of a Doberman, waits. An admirer of dogs, I notice that this particular dog is a gentle dog. There is sweetness in her face.


It is a busy time of day and I observe a number of people pass the dog. Some walk by without a glance shying away, some look and speak to the dog though I can’t hear what they say, a couple pat the dog on the head and two people avoid the dog by walking around the bike rack almost on to the street. When the owner of the dog comes out she pats the dog while speaking to her, breaking her danish in half to share with her pet. A pastry treat can be worth the wait.


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June 16, 2015


I wasn’t always a mother, a dog walker, a woman weeding gardens. On a June 16th day past I was a bride wearing a cotton eyelet wedding dress, carrying a bouquet of white roses and holding my head out the window of my brother’s used, Mercedes Benz on the way to Grace Church where, the future father of my children, the future co-owner of dogs and gardens, waited.


June is the month of weddings and anniversaries. Weddings and anniversaries that should be celebrated by all who wish them.

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June 15, 2015


The single feather I found caught between the wild grass that surrounds the pond and the mowed lawn preferred by humans, I am unable to identify. It is the color of heavy cream; one side of it brushed with soft gray brown, the other waves of delicate gray lines. The end of the feather is lacy and open like warp threads without a weft.


Studying its perfection, its beauty for which I have no words to describe, I understand something but I am unsure what. One feather from one bird. In this single feather is visible the pattern of survival and in my hand it is immediate, an essential thing.


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June 14, 2014

I’m the only person I know who likes to weed. I really do, like to weed. I usually start weeding with gloves on and I usually, after only a few moments, pull them off. I like the feeling of freeing a snapdragon or sweet pea plant from the weeds encircling it, closing it in, and I like being on my hands and knees, close to the earth. I like the smell of the soil, its dampness, the observation of insects and worms that are a part of the space I am at that weeding moment, inhabiting. Weeding, for me, is a visual affirmation of accomplishment. Look, the quack grass and thistle gone from a row of statice, asters and calendula. But with bare-hands weeding, there are drawbacks. In spite of vigorous scrubbing, fingernail brushes, and nail grooming, a gardener must not make their hands too obvious when seated at a formal table. They must keep them, in their lap.    

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June 13, 2015

On a “What is So Rare As a Day in June?” evening, I went to a wedding. An outside wedding under a cloudless sky. A wedding with beautiful music and beautiful flowers. A wedding with a charming groom and an exquisite bride wearing an exquisite dress. A memorable wedding. The cake was delicious, too.

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June 12, 2015


It rained Wednesday night. It rained all day yesterday and last evening it was still raining. Before the rain started, when I knew it was coming, I cut some peonies for the living room. They look and smell, lovely. I have always heard the word peonies pronounced as pee-uh-nees. But since moving to Minnesota, I have twice heard the word peonies pronounced pee-OH-nees. The emphasis on the OH sound. I looked up to see if an alternate pronunciation was listed alongside a couple of definitions and it wasn’t. Pee-uh-nees, the right one. But one person doing the mispronouncing was a dear, old woman I regularly see at the Northfield Farmer’s Market, a gardener I have great respect for. The other person, a native of Finland.


Somethings don’t matter in the least, and the pronunciation of the word peonies is one of them. Call them what you wish. But after a long Minnesota winter, you should surely call them beautiful.


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June 11, 2015


About that installation on Jefferson Parkway, not good. Oh, oh, oh. Not good at all.


Today I was buying a card to accompany a wedding gift. I couldn’t find one I liked. In spite of our texting and emailing, we still send cards. Recently I heard about a line of cards designed to send to someone who is probably not going to recover from an illness, cards that are, well, honest but caring. They are, I’ve heard, filling a ‘card’ need. Except for exceptionally funny cards with a punch line, I rarely read, or take to heart, the Hallmark type sentiments on a card. The best cards carry personal words. Today when perusing the card selection I saw a new category of card. It was a ‘Welcome to our Congregation,’ card.


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June 10, 2015

All of us watch, on our daily travels, a house being painted, being added on to, being built. Of late, I’ve been watching an installation taking place. On Jefferson Boulevard, a regular route for me, an installation, for lack of a better word, seems to be underway. Many young trees of the same variety, and of the same height, have been planted in diagonal rows on a grassy field area.  Further away, a similar group of trees have been planted in a copse. A week ago twenty huge boulders were lined up in no particular fashion along the boulevard, dumped near a shipment of yet unplanted trees. Yesterday about ten more big stones were added to the original group. I love to see trees being added to the landscape, I like to think there will be more habitat for birds and other living creatures. Trees and boulders and an architect’s vision are what I observe as I drive along Jefferson Boulevard lately. So far, I like what I see.  

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June 9, 2015

The eagle nest is empty. Only on occasion now does one of the eagles return to the aerie. I have watched the activities of the nest since the hatching of the first of three eggs at the end of February. What, I can ask myself, was revealed to me in the wild bird behavior I was witness to? The possibility, I think, of everything I couldn’t see.

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June 8, 2015

In the produce aisle of a Cub Supermarket I heard a boy of about eight or nine say this to his dad who was pushing a shopping cart. “Dad, I read that mushrooms make kids smarter and stronger. I read that.” The child’s father, a distinguished looking older man with a short gray haircut, said something I couldn’t clearly hear as he backed the cart up and reached for a container of mushrooms.  

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June 7, 2015


Someone, wearing a camouflage hoodie, is fishing in the pond. I see the line being cast out from the tall weeds first, only later do I see the fisherman whose back is to me. But wait. The fish in this pond belong to the great blue herons who visit here daily, to the egrets who high step on the pond’s periphery, to the occasional swooping eagle. They do not belong to someone who will catch and discard small fish only for the pleasure of reeling them in.


After a few moments I become aware that the person fishing is not an adult but a child of about 12. Good. Because this fact I know with great certainty. One best connects with the environment, loves it, learns its importance, honors it and wishes to preserve it, if they intimately connect with it. A connection that so often happens when one is young. With this knowledge I hope that the young fisherman will be a future John Muir or Aldo Leopold. But then, with surprise, I notice that the person casting out their line has the slenderest of wrists. A girl’s wrist. For a moment the angler adjusts the hooded sweatshirt so that a curly pony escapes to her shoulder. Maybe I am watching Rachel Carson fish. Maybe, I am watching, me. 


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June 6, 2015


Today is the birthday of my childhood friend. A friend I went to elementary school with, a friend who slept out, on hot summer nights, in my back yard. Sending greetings to her this morning I remembered the parties held to celebrate her birthdays. I remember them not because they involved pony rides or excursions or some sort of entertainment, I remember them because the parties called for guests to rise to the occasion.


The birthday parties meant a lunch, in the dining room, where the invited young girls sat at a white, cloth-covered table set with china and silver. Flowers graced the center of the table. There were always lovely favors at each place setting, one year small shells that opened out into flowers when put in one’s water glass. The lunch meant a salad, containing cheese and olives, served on a separate plate. It meant a layered cake, the pieces eased onto a dessert plate with a silver cake server. Those long past birthday parties meant being on your best behavior and wearing your very best dress. They were wonderful and memorable. Happy Birthday, Sally! 


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June 5, 2015

Yesterday the fifth graders had a graduating ceremony marking their move from elementary school to middle school. Hurrying down the hall to the gym where the ceremony was taking place, I noticed a well-dressed father carrying flowers, a presentation bouquet, for his graduating daughter.  A fifth grade graduate was about to receive a memory of her dad which will probably last her a lifetime.

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June 4, 2015


Elizabeth Kolbert is a staff writer for The New Yorker. I am a regular reader, a fan, of her work. For the June 1st issue of the magazine she wrote an article on colonizing the planet Mars entitled "Project Exodus." Well researched and informative, I was particularly interested in this piece because I had heard Scott Kelly, the astronaut on a year-away-space-mission having his physical and mental condition monitored so scientists can prepare human beings for the nine month trip to Mars, interviewed on NPR.


Ms. Kolbert in her article did not touch on the pros and cons of such a trip. She did not mention our drive to establish new frontiers on one hand, our inability to take care of the planet we live on, on the other. She gave the facts. But she closed her piece this way. “Perhaps the reason we haven’t met any alien beings is that those who survive aren’t the type to go zipping around the galaxy. Maybe they’ve stayed quietly at home tending their own gardens.”

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June 3, 2015

Yesterday felt like a lake day. A cottage, cabin, camp day. The memory of a place disguised as a breeze, a pattern of light, a clearness of the air. At the Farmers Market, part of my summer landscape, I saw things on the ‘lake’ day. Ordinary things of no consequence or of huge consequence. I saw a little girl of about four, holding on to her grandmother’s walker as the two slowly made their way down the sidewalk. I saw a farmer being kind to a town character, letting this troubled soul help him unload his pick-up truck. I saw a passerby help a woman farmer, who has only one arm, set up her market station. Sometimes it is unnecessary to decide between important or unimportant. It is enough to be a witness.

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June 2, 2015

One can be almost afraid to write this but…How about those Twins?

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June 1, 2015


The socks are beautiful. Wild pink and brown flowers on a blue, plaid-like background. Near the arch of each sock is a small white box with these words printed in it. “They don’t want you to, but I say do it."


I love these socks from my Connecticut friend Betsy, who wouldn’t? When I have them on I think of her. Wearing them, my feet feel happy.

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