November 24, 2014

Savage Beauty

Evening skies have been breathtakingly beautiful recently. Just before and after the sun sets... still air, temperatures just this side of, complex color that glows and fades and induces moodiness and melancholy...impossible to capture; impossible to escape, impossible to resist.

 Painful beauty

 Yes. So beautiful it hurts, fall is.  In a way that spring, summer and winter are not,  I think.

 I read a biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay not long ago, SAVAGE BEAUTY by Nancy Milford (here). The title of the book is based on a passage from her poem  


I had forgotten how the frogs must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage beauty, suffer me to pass,
That I am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

Truth be told, despite reading the book not all that long ago,  I remember very little to nothing about her life, or her poetry.  

 Just an abiding impression of this concept of 

painful beauty...

 ....and now an abiding backdrop to all my thoughts as I walk and inhale the autumn air.

 I am one who looks down when she walks... not out into the distance, ahead or across the way. Perhaps this accounts for my poor sense of direction, and my often missing the larger forest for the smaller tree.

I attribute this to having needed glasses when I was five or the first grade...but not getting them until the fourth.  (Such things can go perhaps understandably unnoticed in a very large family in the midst of great upheaval and stress.) 

 Consequently, there seemed no point to looking at the horizon or the street sign or the left or right turn. All a big blur,  the blur to the north looking not unlike the blur to the south. 

But MY the world of beauty in a single leaf or acorn held in the hand and inspected carefully...up close and in great detail... a truly wondrous thing. 

Even now,  I can barely pass up the perfect leaf or pod, making leafy tussle-mussies and bouquets as I walk and gather.  Always looking down for the next treasure at my feet...still scarcely believing

that such beauty is there for the taking.  Later, when glasses were to be had and vision restored, I experienced that universal, collective miracle that all severely myopic sufferers experience when they
try on their glasses for the first time...

the sheer wonder of seeing those individual leaves on the distant tree. An obvious connection, between the individual frame...

and the larger story that marvels me still.

November 19, 2014


When you get right down to it, all we really need in life is a good map. A map to tell us how to navigate our way out of feeling lost, to righten the wrong turns, to proceed past the dangerous by-ways and around unexpected chains of events...

to guide us through the labyrinth of fate and chance and self-determination.

Husband and I love maps. Husband (unlike myself) is cartographically blessed with a mental map of the world engraved on his imprint he refers to frequently, easily, contextually, historically. He is the most geographically literate person I know, from the back roads of Oklahoma to the Bedouin trails of the Middle East.

Over the years we have been truly fortunate to have travelled a good (great) bit (we honeymooned for three weeks in Africa)...

largely to scratch the itch of Husband's insatiable wanderlust, a DNA trait inherited from his father...and passed on to his children (probably accounting for one of his son's residence in Delhi right now.)

We are not tremendous shoppers when we travel, but wherever we go, we do
try to come home with a map of where we have been...a souvenir of the place, a geographical memento and reference to the distance travelled and its relative remoteness, or closeness to miles and habit. This practice has resulted in an unintended collection of 'art' that now hangs on our walls and with their inherent beauty, decorates our home. 

Some are precious, most are not. Valuable only to us and the personal significance they hold for our family and our lives over the years. Whereas one is beautiful, many can be magical, and a dramatic (and educational) way to decorate a space and adorn a home. 

The three images above (not my own)  speak to the drama of maps in abundance...exponential cartographical beauty. Easy, inexpensive...and very meaningful. Find more ideas and beautiful maps at World Maps Online  or massive map 'wallscapes' at Map Wallpaper on HOUZZ.

November 16, 2014

The Gardener in Winter

I wrote a post last February about the garden in winter (read it here), referencing the great Rosemary Verey's book of the same name. (find a copy here). 

But what of ...

the gardener in winter?

I can't speak for others, of course, but THIS gardener...once the remainder of the fall garden chores is done...the last bulb planted, the hose disconnected, the back porch cleared of pots and shovels and rakes to make room for firewood, boots and ash buckets...

is MORE than ready to take a break from the garden's relentless neediness and insistent call. No pulling me in kicking and screaming as the days shorten; no bittersweet sentiment or sad garden goodbyes from this gardener. No sirree.

I am happy to move in for a bit...with the company of a cheerful fire and a companionable cup of tea or glass of wine.

I have stacks of library books and magazines  and, yes, catalogs 

that have been patiently waiting for my time and attention.

 Not to mention Husband, stacks of paperwork, and a disgusting refrigerator.

If you are looking for something delicious to consume in front of your fire, I highly recommend PERFECTLY MISERABLE, by Sarah Payne Stuart. 
It's the perfect read for a fall day...a non-fiction tale set in small town New England with historical references to Alcott, Emerson, Thoreau, Hawthorne...acerbic, funny, insightful, smart and touching. I half expected wild turkeys and little women to come fluttering out of its pages. Trust me on this will love it.

November 15, 2014

Bulb and Pansy Planting...with a Pick Axe

"The tulips were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of Easter blooms danced in their heads...."

A week ago yesterday, my friend James and I planted over 850 bulbs: 100 Menton, 100 White Cubed, 200 French Rose Blend, 200 Ivory Floradale, and 100 Dordogne tulips. (All bulbs from COLORBLENDShere)

We topped off the tulips with 25 Allium Christophii, 25 Allium Purple Sensation and 100 Blue Squill (my first attempt at blue squill; I firmly believe that to keep the excitement alive in your marriage with the garden  you try something new each spring...) 

Spring just wouldn't be spring without pansies and violas...this year only nine flats in hues of yellow and purple-violet-white...colors I used last year and wanted to repeat.

James convinced me as to the merits of using a Tomahawk pick axe (find one here) to plant annuals. Its heft and easy handling makes short work of planting pansies in moist earth (more muscle required, of course, in rock hard clay.)

The pointed end easily penetrates the soil to dig the hole, and the flat side scrapes and backfills the dirt, no problem. 

James and I gift tools back and forth, and he wisely gifted me one of my as not to keep stealing his, no doubt. It is now an indispensable
weapon in my planting arsenal.

 On more occasions than I can count, I have wanted to hurl it at a squirrel... or two, or three...

(I am woman hear me roar...)

But my aim and arm ain't so good...and James talked me down...

He was, after all, working in the vicinity.

~~~ I would HIGHLY recommend a Tomahawk axe/pick as an, ALBEIT STRANGE, stocking stuffer... ~~~  
(just a thought....)

November 4, 2014


Making a case for Enthusiasm

"I want", I told her, "to dress up for Halloween and I need some ideas." 
And with lightening speed she messaged me two ideas, as well as a pic of her own sweet self all decked out and cuted-up for a costume party.

I knew she was the perfect friend to ask for help, not just for her creativity, style and eager to help attitude,

but because of her enthusiastic, up-for-anything, playful, exuberant, let's have some fun, smiling personality...

...or, rather,...her 'take a bite out of life', utterly 


outlook on the world. (And without a hint of saccharine sweetness, I might add.) Unlike moi, (who at her age was a cynical, too-cool-to-care, jaded, listless, Betty Davis kind of gal...and who is still often so inclined...)

this charismatic young thing energizes everyone around her.

Her genuine, unbridled enthusiasm is a gift...

of her time and passion and effort and desire to make the space she takes up on this planet...glow just a little that those around her brighten and smile and laugh in her reflection (sometimes, despite themselves.)

 Case in point:

 Inspired by her enthusiasm, I decided to wear my scarecrow couture to the KFOR studio for my Friday 4 YOUR GARDEN segment. Watch it here (tulip planting tips).

 My friends there, rather than rolling their eyes...appreciatively and sweetly, joined in on the unexpected fun. We took selfies, tweeted, twerped, laughed, smiled  and were actually playful 

for a bit. (Play, my friend Color Girl would say, is in far too short a supply in us adults.)

 We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, short-lived enjoyment, but smiling and playful, nevertheless. I was happy with their enthusiastic response; they were happily appreciative of my enthusiastic gesture.

 Driving home in dot, my little green Fiat, (and looking not unlike a clown stuffed in a tiny car...) I passed a number of other commuters, some on bikes; some in cars. I made a point to smile and make eye contact sharing my Halloween attire.

Most smiled back, expansive in their response to the seasonal gesture.
In response to their response, I felt happier.

In contrast to how I felt at the reaction of a surly cyclist who could not be bothered with such fluff. Surly, in contrast to sad. Another little boy I passed, also on a bike, looked so sad and unhappy, that even this well-intentioned scarecrow could not briefly lighten his burden. 

But then, maybe there is an enthusiastic...

ghoul, transformer, or spiderman out there...
 who can.