Thursday, August 07, 2014

Studying Sunflowers




While most of last year's crop of sunflower seeds were fed to the birds, I saved some for planting this year. On two or three different occasions I put some in places I thought would make a sunflower happy, but to be honest,  didn't keep good track of where they were. I left the weather in charge of watering them, and was pretty lucky on that front; it was a wet spring, but not overly so, from what I could tell.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Warp and Weft



I've mentioned before that my interior design style is best described as "ya done with that?" Even now when it's not the financial necessity it once was, I'm still likely to accept free things friends are getting rid of, just in case. That's what happened a few weeks ago when someone offered me two blue curtain panels. . 

Once they were an option, I realized they would be a good replacement for the ones hanging in my bedroom. Sixteen years hanging in south-facing windows had caused them not merely to fade, but actually tear from sun damage. So I was surprised, as I took them down, to find myself a bit melancholy. They were more woven into my history than I had realized. 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


I startled this praying mantis when I cut some of the basil this past weekend. Since then I've checked for it whenever I'm in the vicinity, and it has always been there. I wouldn't have thought basil was especially appealing to insects of any kind, with the essential oils being so strong, but apparently praying mantises and lady bugs are actually drawn to herbal plants. Since both insects are known for eating garden-destroying bugs, I'm always glad to see them around. I also just think they're cool. 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Competing for His Affections

When we first met five-year-old J, I thought perhaps I was imagining the spark when she saw Bill. But her father (a college friend of mine)  chuckled and whispered to me, " I think somebody has a crush." It was instantaneous and adorable. Bill loves kids, but often feels out of his element, doubting his ability to connect with them. It was obvious though that J was ready to take him in hand. 

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Favorite Books: The Charioteer by Mary Renault


This is another in a series that has been forming here over the years without me realizing it: musings on favorite books. Whether it's true or not, on general principle I will say that spoilers abound here, so if such things bother you, don't read this essay. I'll be talking about bird feeders, or dogs, or something else soon. The quotations in the essay all come from:

Renault, Mary. The Charioteer. New York: Pantheon Books, 1974


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At one point in The Charioteer, by Mary Renault, Laurence Odell (Laurie, or Spud to his friends) is rereading Plato’s The Phaedrus, a book he has found deeply inspiring since adolescence. When a friend asks him to describe it, he is momentarily stymied for many reasons, but one of the biggest is “it had been a part of his mind’s furniture for years…” (p.108). This is as good as any description of my relationship with The Charioteer. It has been a touchstone for me since I first picked it up thirty-five years ago. Trying to describe that relationship, however, has proven elusive; I doubt I’ll ever be able to do it effectively. I suppose it’s like trying to describe any important long-term relationship. I've probably read it dozens, even scores of times, and almost every reading has revealed something new. I think the book is wiser than I am, with insights that wait patiently for me to see only when I’m ready for them. It has anticipated and marked key changes in my life and gave me hope at key points. I would even go so far to say it had a hand in shaping my ethics.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Pan Is Not a Gentleman

Pan is not a gentleman. Do not invite him in, thinking he will wipe his hooves. If you ask, count yourself lucky if all he does is smile, or chuckle a bit. The stink of him, a goat in rut, will settle like a fog and linger long after he’s gone.

He’ll bring friends too, will Pan. They will decimate your flowers, rummage through your compost piles and garbage cans, trample the inedibles under hooves and paws and claws. Their shit and piss will befoul your tidy walkways, burn your ground covers, erode your limestone accent rocks, and somehow always, always end up on your shoes. They’ll bare their fangs when you try to shoo them out of your prize-winning azaleas, chasing you back into your climate-controlled house, shivering, to seek out poisons or weapons. They’ll bite and sting, raising itchy welts that seep and scab, making you want to claw your skin off or lose a limb. They’ll chew away your foundations, infiltrate your kitchens, wander across your legs in the night, buzz against windows or your ear, and reduce your wooden porches to sawdust.

Pan is not a gentleman. He won’t care a bit for your Greek-inspired gazebos, your filtered water features, your decorative figurines of ducks and frogs. He’ll appreciate the gnomes a bit, recognizing them as tribute, but he’ll laugh at the bucolic dress, the pathetic attempt to hide his horns and hooves, his nakedness. 

He won’t break your rules; he will never bother to learn them. He won’t even know such things exist. Your boundaries and preferences, your focal points and accents, your easy access and parking lots, he won’t see them all. He’ll use them if he likes, and erase them if that’s better.

Do not ask for a little wildness, just around the edges of your life. There is no such thing. Vigorous roots will sink deep, vines will strangle your carefully manicured shrubs, lush, enormous leaves will sprout from branches or spring from the ground, soaking up the light and rain, draining all the nourishment from the soil, leaving your tender exotics to wither and desiccate. 

Pan is not a gentleman. He’s just life.


Thursday, September 12, 2013

Remembering Heather Hughes: A Personal Snapshot

A year ago today, my friend Heather Hughes died. Chances are you all have gotten a glimpse of Heather once or twice, whether you knew it or not. If you ever saw the movie Singles, she's the redhead working with Tim Burton in the scene in the video store. Her work in that little scene made such an impression on Cameron Crowe, he asked her to be in the video for the movie's song (the Singles single, if you will: she's the bartender). 

Those two tiny snippets don't really tell you much about her of course, other than perhaps to show that she was, as our friend Kim said, equally at home being sexy or dorky (though the video clerk is probably more snarky than dorky). She's the first friend I've lost who could be memorialized in part by videos on Youtube, so maybe that's why I share them. The internet is a weird new facet in remembering friends these days. I'm not going to get into that right now. Take a look at the videos, and refresh your memories of the early nineties, if you like. 

Use Your Neuroses

I think it's Edith Piaf who is credited with the advice "use your faults." I've always loved that idea, but have rarely known how to implement it. This morning though, I woke up mulling over my own version of this thought. I've spent most of my life battling, or at least trying to hide my neuroses. I wonder what would happen if I found a way to use them instead? 

This idea hasn't triggered a specific game plan any more than Ms. Piaf's advice has. But I'm feeling hopeful. Have you ever found yourself using some previously hated part of yourself, and finding it effective? What got you there? And did success on one occasion make it easy to keep hold of the lesson, or is this one of those lessons one has to relearn regularly? God I hate those, but they seem to be what life, at least middle-aged life, is all about. 

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