Thursday, December 31, 2015

So Wags the World

     While we were eating a bite of breakfast along the wrinkled, rag-ends of this cold, old year, they were celebrating the imminent future in shirt-sleeves in Sydney.

So wags the world away.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

A Stack of Books

     After a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago this summer, my daughter and I ate lunch at a nearby Belgian café. We sat at our small, marble-topped bistro table in the front window of the café eating tartines and watching the passersby. When my daughter got up to look in the bakery case for something to sweeten her tea, I found myself looking at the young man seated alone at the table across from me. He was reading a book with an interesting title and cover art. People who read books in public are magnetic to me. When he looked up, he caught me watching him and smiled. It was the kind of smile that made me feel free to ask him what he was reading. He was happy to show me his book so I asked him if it was good.

     “It’s beautiful,” he said. The look on his face and the sound in his voice confirmed it. We chatted about the author for a couple of minutes before I returned to my tea.

     Later that summer my daughter and I were sitting in the car engrossed in our Flavia de Luce mystery novels while my husband ran in to the grocers to buy orange juice. It was a warm afternoon with the windows rolled down. A man in a truck parked next to us. “What are you reading?” he asked through the open windows as he stepped out of his truck. He had just finished reading Harper Lee’s recently published sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and we spent a moment discussing it.

     I revel in the situations where complete strangers find an instant affinity through books. I have read many books I might never have found but for the recommendation of others.

     Last January, I took up the challenge from my bookstore to read 30 books this year. I have never counted the books I read so I didn’t know if it would be a stretch for me. As it turns out, 25 or 30 books a year is a comfortable fit. The real challenge for me came in reading more contemporary, non-fiction and mystery novels than I usually do. Perhaps those of you who also love to read might enjoy a glance at my list:

Dark Star Safari by Paul Theroux
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte (again)
Toujours Provence by Peter Mayle
The Famished Land; A Novel of the Irish Potato Famine by Elizabeth Byrd
Tales from a Troubled Land by Alan Paton
The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity and the Making       of the Oxford English Dictionary by Simon Winchester
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare (again)
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline
Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett
On Such a Full Sea by Chang-rae Lee
Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
The Little Friend by Donna Tartt
A Good Year by Peter Mayle
The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley
The Heretic’s Daughter by Kathleen Kent
Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin
Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel
The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag by Alan Bradley
Lords and Ladies by Terry Prachett
A Red Herring Without Mustard by Alan Bradley
London by Edward Rutherford
Snobs by Julian Fellowes
Sleeping Coconuts by John and Bonnie Nystrom
The Wandering Falcon by Jamil Ahmad
The Color of Magic by Terry Prachet
I am Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley
A Pebble in My Shoe by Katherine Hoeger Flotz
French Lessons by Peter Mayle
Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton (again and again)

     Of the first-time books I read this year, I enjoyed these two the most:

Wolf Hall

Going Postal

     What was your favorite read in 2015?

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Let the Stable Still Astonish

Let the stable still astonish
Straw, dirt floor, dull eyes,
Dusty flanks of donkeys, oxen;
Crumbling, crooked walls;
No bed to carry that pain
And then, the child--
Rag-wrapped, laid to cry
In a trough.
Who would have chosen this?
Who would have said
"Yes, let the God of heaven and earth
Be born in this place?"
Who but the same God
Who stands in the darker, fouler rooms
Of our hearts
And says,
"Yes, let the God of heaven and earth
Be born in this place."

                                                             ~ Leslie Leyland Fields ~

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Singing in the Rain

     We drove past the marsh on the way home from church today. It was a wet, gray day with spitting rain. Beyond the marsh the street is lined with modest homes. Standing alone in the rain at the end of one driveway and facing the street, a young black boy in a hoodie was playing a junior sized guitar and singing his heart out. A few blocks later I asked my husband to turn the car around and go back. Something about that boy touched my heartstrings. When we reached the budding street musician we stopped and I rolled down my window.

     “Why are you singing in the rain?” I asked.

     “I got bored in the house,” the boy answered.

     I smiled at him. I have grandchildren his age who get bored in the house too. “What are you singing?”

     “Oh, just some random stuff.”

     “Would it be alright if I gave you a dollar?” I asked, realizing belatedly that most kids would have turned around and run away as they are often taught to do in school. But I have white hair and a Mrs. Claus face. The boy smiled back at me and approached the car.

     “Will it be okay with your parents if I give you this money?” I asked as I handed him the dollar.

     He nodded. “Yeah.”

     “You know, the people who play music on the streets in the City put out boxes or buckets for you to put money in.” His smile grew bigger and he nodded as though he had seen for himself what I was describing. “I was in the City yesterday, and I put money in the buckets of the musicians whose music I liked,” I explained. “You made me feel so happy as I drove by and saw you singing, that I wanted to give you something too.” He didn’t say thank-you, but he didn’t need to; his smile was speaking for him.

     “Merry Christmas,” I said as I rolled up my window and waved. He waved back and began singing again.

     I wish I had given him five dollars.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Toosies Fromsies

     Yes, it is that time of year again when I make my annual foray into crafting. This year I have used those odd bits that I have been collecting for a few years: Scrabble tiles, broken ornaments, wine foil caps, pebbles from the beach, leftover debris in the clearance bin...even a Converse tag that came in a shoe box. The urge to create suddenly came over me in the middle of wrapping gifts at midnight and I plugged in the glue gun to make my own toosies fromsies. I do so love a beautifully wrapped gift.

     I understand if you think I have wasted effort on something that will, most likely, end up in the rubbish heap. But you would be wrong in thinking so. You see, years ago when finances were tight, I couldn't justify buying the really nice gift tags just to throw them out when the gifts were unwrapped. So I began making tags and saving them along with the better store bought ones to reuse year after year. That was long before recycling was cool. Somewhere along the line it became a tradition. My girls look forward to seeing those now vintage tags with the Campbell's soup girl that have been appearing on their gifts since they were babies. My oldest daughter still keeps the tags from her family's gifts to return to me after Christmas.

     I am not a rampant recycler, although I try to do my bit. My primary motivation for this year's craft is my love of bricolage.

Merry Christmas to all of you lovely folks in blogland who come to visit me.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015


     I've got my green on slogging my way toward Christmas. And I have a lot on my mind. Most of the shopping is done. Cards are addressed and stamped. Apart from the tree which has yet to be purchased, the halls are decked. But there is still the wrapping and posting and baking and all of those dangling bits of fa la la...

     Sadly, the most essential part of the celebration gets elbowed aside by my resolve to get it all done. So, even though there are piles of laundry to be folded and dust balls collecting in the corner of the kitchen, I sat down with a cup of calm to ponder two of my favorite Christmas hymns: Of the Father's Love Begotten and Pie Jesu.

Pie Jesu
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem
Agnus Dei
Qui tollis peccata mundi
Dona eis requiem
Sempiternam requiem

Merciful Jesus
Who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest
Lamb of God
Who takes away the sins of the world
Grant them rest
Everlasting rest

     I shall be doing something similar to this every day until the end of the year. It doesn't change the number of things that need to get done, but it puts a smile on my face and makes the load feel significantly lighter.

Friday, November 13, 2015


     I awoke in the wee hours of the morning to the sound of the wind shouting to get in. I usually feel quite friendly toward this visitor and his brethren, even the overblown ones, but this time he was pounding on the door like a drunken sailor. My normally placid windchime was ringing a frantic warning. When I peeked out the bedroom window, I saw that my lovely wintercreeper, clinging tenaciously to the corner of the garage beside my front walk for over twenty years, had been cruelly ravaged and thrown to the ground.

     Such piratical behavior is not welcome here. So I kept my door firmly shut against the loudmouthed marauder, but as the windows continued to rattle and wave after wave of tide-wind slammed against the house in fits of rage, I must confess to a little trembling beneath all of my bravado.

A furore septemtriones libera nos, Domine
From the fury of the northwind, Oh Lord deliver us!

     I was alone in the house. It was dark, still several hours until dawn. And I most certainly could not go back to sleep. So I sat in a cosy room furthest from the sound of the wind cracking its blustering cheeks and crocheted a winter scarf striped with echoes of the Aurora Borealis.

Wild wind, sail me away
Over the greensward sea,
My bark and I shall leap the sky
And toss upon the lea.

Mad wind, bear me away
Across the grassy tide,
Break thy steed o'er the coursing mead
Mount where the corbie rides!

                                                                         ~ Nib of Nib's End ~

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

My Veterans

Homage to a Grandfather

     It has been nearly three years since my father passed away. He was a very young man when he joined the Navy and went off to fight in the Pacific in WWII.  He was understandably proud of his three grandsons (two of them pictured above) who joined the Marines and fought in Iraq.

     I went to put flowers on my parents grave last month when I went home to visit with family. They are buried together in a veterans cemetery, and there are many more headstones surrounding their plot than the last time I visited. It took my sisters and I a little longer to find it. As I read the inscriptions of their neighbors, it struck me how many wars and different branches of service are represented in that one section of the cemetery.

     To my shame, Veterans Day has, more often than not, been just another day on the calendar for me. Not any more. Since that day that I experienced the deeply moving level of respect and honor veteran strangers demonstrated toward my father at his burial, it has changed my perspective and my response.

     It is personal now.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Sound of Fog

     "It's fun walking in a cloud," said our live-in daughter.  "I like the sound of it."

     We woke up to fog this morning. We seldom get it where we live, so it feels like an anomaly. I remember the moaning of the foghorns out on the Puget Sound where I grew up. To me, that is the sound of fog. But the only body of water large enough to need them where we now live is nearly an hour away.

     "What does the fog sound like?" I asked my daughter.

     "It sounds like rain...only it isn't."

     She is right.  Here, in this long pause between the cornfields and the Lake, the trees were dripping with cloud this morning.

     What does fog sound like to you?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

The Passenger's Wife

     It is three weeks since I last saw my husband, and then only for a few hours. I was visiting family in Washington State when he left for Alaska and then Australia and Papua New Guinea. When I got home from my trip I found these waiting for me.

     It warms the cockles of my heart that he has left an echo of himself to keep me company.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Fidélité - The Prayer of the Dog

    I was visiting family in Washington State earlier this month. My oldest sister showed me this photo her son took of his recently deceased golden labrador. Liberty was buried alongside other beloved family pets beneath the dogwood tree at my sister's house. When I complimented my nephew on his artistic eye, he modestly replied that if he takes enough shots, eventually one will be good.

     I am skeptical about his statement. I think this photo is unique. It looks like a painting to me and the emotions it evokes epitomize The Prayer of the Dog from Carmen Bernos De Gasztold's book of poems: Prayers from the Ark

The Prayer of the Dog

I keep watch!
If I am not here
who will guard their house?
Watch over their sheep?
Be faithful?
No one but You and I
what faithfulness is.
They call me, "Good dog! Nice dog!
I take their pats
and the old bones they throw me
and I seem pleased.
They really believe they make me happy.
I take kicks too
when they come my way.
None of that matters.
I keep watch!
do not let me die
until, for them, all danger is driven away.


     My nephew is the assistant pastor in a small church in a small town in Washington. There aren't many accolades or much recognition for such a position in such a place, and yet, he faithfully keeps watch over the souls in his care until, for them, all danger is driven away. Amen.

poem translated by Rumer Godden

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The London Doorknob

     You will, of course, want to see what I did with the doorknob that I bought in Nottinghill when I visited this spring. I hung it in my kitchen beneath the painting of the coffee cup. Some mornings, as I sit at the breakfast table with my tea and toast, I imagine I can just turn that handle and walk through into Westminster. Sigh.

     Perhaps I will find a spare tesseract or mislaid Babylon candle when I go down to clean the basement.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015


     I was recently given a packet of Medura brand teabags by Australian acquaintances visiting the United States. It is a lovely blend of Ceylon and Australian black tea leaves that I am enjoying each morning.  I find the directions on the bag intriguing.

     Must one be reminded to use the teabag only once?

     I suppose there are frugal persons in the world who feel it is wasteful not to squeeze every ounce of flavor from the leaves, and for some it may even be a necessity. I must confess, I have tried it myself a few times, but the second cup is always too bitter and I would rather go without.

     I had a friend in college who was raised in India. Her parents were missionaries there for many years. She told me her family had received some bizarre packages from the States over the years, but there was only one which made her mother weep. It was a box of used teabags. Someone, who couldn't bear to throw the bags away after using them only once, had taken the trouble to save them up, pay the postage and send them all the way to India, the second largest tea producer in the world.

     I would have cried, too.

     It was a profound lesson to me on the nature of generosity and I rarely throw a teabag into the trash bin without being reminded of it. It takes grace to become a truly generous soul.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Howling at the Moon

     We sat outside on our deck in the cricket darkness on Sunday evening watching the earth eclipse the moon. I have experienced a solar eclipse and several lunar eclipses in the past, but I had never seen a blood moon. I admit I was expecting something less in the citrus, fall gourd and bad tanner spectrum of color and more in the grisly murder or gloom and doom spectrum.

     Even so, I was not disappointed. Though I understand the physical science of an eclipse and do not believe in its auguries, it always infects me with a sense of its mystique. There is something elemental in the movement of the spheres that lifts it beyond science.

     And I know that I am not the only one who feels it. Just as the veil of earth's shadow dropped over the last splinter of light at the edge of the moon, in a distant corner of our neighborhood, a coyote lifted its face to the sky and howled; a long, haunting note that overwhelmed its wary blood and burst from its throat like a cry of hunger. The coyote howled again and again. Then, here and there, a dog barked in response; whether in sympathy or warning, I do not know. And, mad woman that I am, I howled back because it seemed the appropriate thing to do.

     Sitting in quiet communion beside me, unruffled and even amused by my occasional quirks, my husband reminded me that there was a baby sleeping in the house next door.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autumnal Equinox

     It is the first day of Fall and stick girl is poised to kick up her heels.
Vivaldi anyone?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Passenger's Photo Album - Brazil

     The Passenger has taken hundreds of photos of doorways. He also finds closeups of the hardware and doorjambs intriguing. This was taken in Paraty, a town on the coast of Rio. Of all his doorway photos from Brazil, I think I like this one the best. Maybe it is because, this time, I was with him when he snapped it.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Sprats

Jack Sprat could eat no fat
His wife could eat no lean
And so betwixt the two of them
They licked the platter clean.

     I don't like bacon...except for the crisp, buttery bits at the ends and between the meat. My husband, on the other hand, loves bacon, especially the thick, chewy, meaty parts. It works well for us on the occasional mornings when we fry up a few strips to go with our eggs and toast for breakfast. I tear off the lean, jerky-like pieces of my bacon meat to give to my husband, and I often return to the table from rinsing a teacup or pouring a glass of orange juice to find a few choice tidbits of melt-in-your-mouth friable fat on my plate.

     As I am often on the lookout for the gifts to be found in the commonplace and ordinary, I think it is sweetly romantic that my spouse shares the best of his bacon with me.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Halcyon Day

     We sidled our way north for a picnic beside the shore to celebrate our anniversary a few weeks ago. Afterward, with the remnants of our lunch gathered up and stowed in the hamper, we dozed on our blanket in the shade of a sandbank and dreamed of other worlds.

Dragon's Head

Dragon's Claw

Sand Castle



Fairy Wings

Elfin Lace

Monday, August 31, 2015


     My husband travels with his own noise canceling headphones, so the headphone covers he receives with his toothpaste, travel socks and eye mask on the airplane are superfluous. I do my best to avoid pitching perfectly good paraphernalia into the dust bin, and I think my stick man from Ikea looks dashing in his new repurposed beret...

      But what do I do with nineteen of these?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


     She is waiting to greet you as you approach my front door. But she is small and her voice is so soft that I am the only one to notice. No matter, she is not offended. As much as it is in her nature to be small and quiet, she also greets life with a giggle.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Case in Point

     I gave my granddaughter, Girly-bird, a picture book for her ninth birthday. She told me she is getting too old for such books. I assured her one is never too old for picture books.

     Case in point: I received two picture books for my birthday this year. I was given The House that Mouse Built from my live-in daughter. I follow Maggie Rudy's blog, Mouses Houses. The world she has created for her little mice and photographed for her books and blog is clever and delightful.

     And I also received Journey by Aaron Becker from Punkybean, Girly-bird's five-year-old sister. It is a wordless book and requires simply an imagination to read. Journey is a Caldecott honor book and the first in a trilogy of magical adventures.

     Picture books are a unique expression of art and literature and these two will find a home on my bookshelf with the other fifty or sixty that I own. The idea when I began buying them many years ago was to have a collection ready for the day when I had grandchildren to read them to; but I sometimes sit down and read them to myself. As I said: never too old.

Saturday, July 25, 2015


     My husband chopped down a hollow tree on our property a couple of years ago. I asked him to cut the trunk into sections so I could use them as planters in the garden.

     Unfortunately, the rabbits who live under our deck have been enjoying them too.

     At one time, I gave our resident bunnies sweet little names like Hush and Whisper. I have named their descendants Pillage, Plunder and Thug. Grrr. I wonder what Beatrix Potter would make of it.