Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer's Fly

Humorist Ogden Nash wrote:
God in his wisdom made the fly
And then forgot to tell us why.

No one need tell me who made this fly or why.His rainbow feast of oily electricity speaks for itself.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


My father's basement workshop exhaled sawdust, paint blotches, brush bristles, fresh and old honeycomb, and fumes roiling of oil and thinner. Always a tinkerer, he enjoyed his tools -- small ones: hammers, saws (including a beautiful antique one with decorated wood handle), screw drivers, ratchets, pliers, vises, planes, screws, nails, hinges, and the like; and large ones: table saw, table drill, lathe, welding equipment. An engineer by training, Daddy created objects for his own pleasure and our use. My home today bears witness to his creativity: a chandelier turned from a storm-felled tree in the front yard, four tables, a copy of the metal Robin Hood that hung from our driveway lamp post, and one decorative, humorous critter.

One of my brothers is also an engineer by training who works as a businessman, directing the same business my father co-founded some 62 years ago. His workshops have always been immaculate, with barely any disorder or splatters and splotches on his floors or surfaces. His tools are carefully cataloged on peg board, aligned as neatly as entries by an expert accountant in an official record. Like Daddy, he loves his tools, but unlike Daddy's, his are orderly and locatable by others.

Lately, I have been thinking about my own tools and my own habits of tool-keeping. I am more like my father than my brother: I cannot keep them organized neatly. Like both, however, I love my tools. Although I have never been able to afford the best ones, which both of them seemed to do, I respect my tools, especially on days like this one when I use them.

Good tools -- the right tools for specific tasks --, whether top-of-the-line or just short, make quality work possible and working joyful.
I love my tools.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kitty Comfort

Rainy days call for what a friend's feline finds in a basket.
I want one, too, a comfy womb woven, soft and flexible, to curl into on a rainy day.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Folded Books

Folding makes for a number of clever little books -- like these, which I made this afternoon from single pieces of paper. Seven creases, some folding, cutting boards, choosing papers, covering the boards, slicing slots, cutting ribbon, gluing in the folded page -- and a small book emerges. suitable for a pocket or purse slot.

Now if I could only figure out how to use the beaded ribbons correctly to keep each book closed.
Another task for another day of enjoyable binding.

The Tomato

Another word for summer is tomato.

Who knew their variety? Grocery stores sell red ones with skin like cellophane and flesh like cool mush. Happily, small farmers have re-introduced heirloom varieties most of us never before knew.

Now I love orange, yellow, maroon, scarlet, green, chartreuse, spotted, strange-shaped, unpredictable tomatoes.I eat them every day, sometimes on a sandwich -- simply -- with fresh basil, local multigrain bread, and a little cream cheese.I luxuriate in the delectations of tomato.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Turkish Map Fold

What a difference good directions make.

Over a period of two and a half days, I tried three different sets of directions to learn a surprisingly easy folded form called the Turkish map.
The first two sets were opaque at best, missing information at worst. The third set, however, was magic. The fold is so simple when properly explained that I learned it in less than 10 minutes.After spending the better part of another day preparing a new book idea that uses the fold, I reached an impasse. I will start again, but in the meantime I shall savor the fuel of thought and planning, steps of "making" often belittled and despised. I enjoy the mulling as much as I did the smell of my mother's percolating coffee.

Here are the magically good online directions, courtesy of David Rosen.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Naked Pink Ladies

Georgie calls these lilies "The Naked Pink Ladies of Sewanee."Imagine each grande dame just bathed, her thin skin glowing pink veined with blue and purple, dainty and one-stemmed (my grandmother always said, "A lady has only one stem"), before her mirror, powdery and pearlescent.Marvel at their shameless elegance.

(After posting this, I learned from a friend that a more proper name for these is "surprise.")

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tiny Plums

Purchased from a fellow who bought these from Crow Mountain Orchard, the tiny blood-red plums squirt their juice, sweet as candy. Unlike Helen Chasin's, these offer no tart resistance to teeth or lip or tongue, but freely surrender their soft flesh. So delicious, the size of marbles, popped in the mouth, eaten whole. All reply, deserving a poem of their own as beautiful as hers. The Word Plum

The word plum is delicious

pout and push, luxury of
self-love, and savoring murmur
full in the mouth and falling
like fruit

taut skin pierced,
bitten, provoked into
and tart flesh

and reply, lip and tongue
of pleasure.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The Perfect Screened Porch

My favorite room in childhood was the large screened porch opening from the living room through folding glass doors. My father installed glass windows all around for the winter (making for beautiful Christmas tree spot), but it's the summer I remember most fondly.

On Sunday nights with the Chenoweths, the grown-ups would gather there for cocktails while the kids ran in and out to the yard and games. Later, when the lightning bugs came out, some would float through or escape from our punch-hole-lidded jars. On lazy afternoons, my cousin and I would play camp-out there on the brick floor and in the one flat grassy place just below, down the railroad tie steps. On weekends, I often practiced and performed on the stage of three steps, using the drapes across the doors as the stage curtain. More often than not, I acted with Tallulah Bankhead on her Co-Star LP. On weeknights, while we waited for Daddy to come home from work, I would wait there for him. I corralled him, taking him away from his martini, and made him play catch with me in the yard. Sometimes, I just sat on the screened porch, under the slow moving, iron ceiling fans with one of my cats, staring off into space. I sure wish I had a screened now.

My friend Boo has the perfect screened, fitted with an old chaise and assorted tables and chairs. Always accessible through an open door, the porch serves as second home for her cat and dog, who come and go, to perch and sleep as I would like to do under a canopy of green.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Happy Birthday

Yesterday, on her 5th birthday, my friend rang my doorbell, gave me a basket of hand-picked flowers (saying, "Like always"), introduced me to one of her party guests and insisted we shake hands (as her mother and father have taught her to do), and invited me for a piece of birthday cake. Of course, I accepted

Along with her brother and sister were five other young guests, two adult guests, her cousin, and her parents. The cake (made locally and decorated with Hello Kitty) and ice cream were delicious, and the pinata a big hit, especially after her father beat it three times with a 9-iron. As her special treat, family friends took her, her siblings, and her mother for a ride in their reconditioned 1940s Oldsmobile woody convertible. I loved my small participation in my friend's party.

And I loved seeing the car, on whose blaring horn I traveled down in memory to my own childhood and my father's woody station wagon. Oh, how I loved that car and the family trips, even though I was often stuffed in the middle between older (and frequently warring) brothers. Trips to the river past the "gypsies" who wanted to steal us (so Daddy said); long hauls to Virginia and my mother's family; hilling and daling on Sundays; excursions to cut a Christmas tree; rushing Mother to the emergency room after she tried to do the running long-jump on the school playground -- so many images leapt to mind in such an unexpected way that I spent much of the evening lost in thought about childhood, cars, birthdays, and neighbors.

I thank my young friend for her kindness and friendship, and my parents for providing me with some of the same magic I witnessed yesterday.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Google Doodles

Yesterday, in celebration of the first landing on the moon, this image appeared on the main Google page.

Anyone who remembers that day also remembers the remarkable view of Earth enjoyed by the moon walkers, changing the way we humans view our fragile planet. I get chills still just thinking about seeing the images for the first time.

Since then, we have seen photographs of even greater miracles, including the birth of stars. Google Earth and other online mapping programs make even these revelations seem common.

Google publishes pictures like these on occasion and calls them Google Doodles. They're one reason why I love checking the search engine every day. Why not have a little fun and celebrate something worth remembering?

Among my favorite Doodles of 2009 are Eric Carle's first day of spring, Charles Darwin's birthday, and the moon landing.

To browse for your favorites, go to Google's Holiday Logos page.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Lunch Treats

Summer is in full flower now, demonstrated in today's four lunch treats:

an heirloom tomato and cucumber sandwich (courtesy of Ronn's garden) on local bread ("Flower Power" made by Scott and Ginger's The Bread Peddler in Monteagle);
a bunny visitor who snacked below the bird feeder and hopped to the front yard where he lingered;a yellow butterfly;and another beautiful day.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Flowers from a Neighbor

Mary, my 4-year-old neighbor, rang my doorbell a bit ago and shyly handed me a gift: flowers she insisted on picking from her mother's garden for me.

I adore Mary, whose barrel-chested voice echoes across our joined yards and who has been known to ring and ring and ring my doorbell or exclaim "Robley!" as she and her family arrive for a Sewanee visit.

I adore having neighbors with three children and visiting family and guests.

I only wish they were here all the time instead of summers and holidays and random weekends spread through the year.

They are part of the reason I love living here, where neighbors are neighborly.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The View

In fictional Florence, there was a room with a view.

In Sewanee, there are houses with views.

My house views please me.

Whether from my study
or my deck,
I find movable feasts for the eyes.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Windy Reading

On a beautiful day, the wind lifts ears and eyes and mind from page to trees and sky. Even a good book surrenders.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Words swirl.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


My friend Lisa recently invited her friends to name words whose sounds they love. Here's one: sinuousness.

Say it, and your mouth hisses from the sibilant s into a puff of cheek to the n held on the top of the tongue against teeth to the pout of mouth with u to the more open O of the ous back to the n into e and s, mirroring the beginning.

Saying the word mirrors the meaning: the circular shape of natural grace.

Sinuousness: this tendril of vine seeking a place to anchor, a pert circle in space, dancing its green exclamation.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sound Snap

A friend posted a wonderful website on Facebook today -- Open Sound New Orleans: A Collaborative Soundmap of the City.
According to the site, "Open Sound New Orleans is a community media project. The idea is to share recordings of the sounds of our city. This is an open-source project, meaning that we believe in the ability of the community as a whole to use the source materials contributed by users to the site, under certain conditions."

Superimposed on a remarkably sharp Digital Globe aerial image of the city where I lived for more than 20 years, icons represent voice, music, and ambient sound files. Click one and a gentleman talks about pigeons taking over his mailbox, another and a streetcar rocks along the St Charles track, another and the birds in Audubon Park honk and chirp and scream.

While the Internet can't carry NOLA smells-- wisteria and sweet olive, crabs and shrimps and chicory coffee, mildew and wet leaves -- I can close my eyes, open my ears, and travel down in memory to a place I once called home.

Monday, July 13, 2009


In his patch in the Sewanee Community Gardens, Ronn grows food -- for the body and the spirit.

I never satisfy my appetite for earth flowering bursts of chartreuse and lemon, gold and scarlet, and orange.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Moth on the Screen Door

hangs upside down like a sleeping bat.
What attracts it to my kitchen screen door in mid-day? Why attach itself for much of the afternoon? Is it resting in shade? Waiting for something? What?

When I hunker down on the floor -- a tide box under my elbows to steady my camera -- and adjust the camera inches from its head, does the moth watch me as I watch it?

Does the moth see me with its enormous eyes? What is the me it sees? Many persons at once? Me many times? Me not all? Are the eyes even open? Are they focused?For the moth, what is "me"?

For me, what is the moth?

A beautiful insect, a living thing with barbs and fur, a miracle of flight and stillness at mid-day.

Moth Photographers Group
Moth Eyes
Butterflies and Moths of North America
The Butterfly Website

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A New Cliche

My mother always hoped I'd sleep like a bug in a rug.

I'd be happy to sleep like a cat in a basket.
Tigger knows comfort.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Bird Bath

I could watch robins frolic all day, playing and preening in the water and be happy.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Who Goes Here

Under the sunflower's

unfurling petal fold
a neon leafhopper --
an electric torpedo, striped
turquoise, russet, lime --
lingers in shadow.

(for information about this sunflower leafhopper see this site)

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Lunch with Young Friend(s)

Lunch with a young friend (a former student) meant lunch with a young friend and ten of her friends, all energetic participants in the Sewanee Young Writers' Conference.
How energizing to spend a spirited 45 minutes or so with teenagers spilling over with love of learning and words and each other.

Bottle their zest, spritz everyone I know, and my world would be a more welcoming place.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beauty Is in the Eye of the Beholder

Today, someone took offense at photographs I recently printed on greeting cards and postcards. I was puzzled. I am puzzled. The building and the photographs are beautiful, just as dignified old buildings with character always are, in my eyes. Once again, I re-learned an old lesson.

But I still find these beautiful.

Monday, July 6, 2009

A Little Sunshine

Even squirrels enjoyed the return of sunshine and a cool breeze today.

This little one took a siesta on my deck rail. He leaned like this for quite a long time, soaking up the rays.

I'd rather he and his friends not try to eat my birdseed, but I admit that I like their intelligence and agility. And like this one's cheeky familiarity.

A Lesson for the Fourth

In 1988, I taught eighth-grade English for the first time. One of my fifteen or so students was a Vietnamese girl who had arrived with her father in the U.S. only about 9 years earlier. She proved to be a fine student and a life-long friend. Now completing her Ph.D. in business, Anh and her friends Tina and Fumi, a couple who marry in a month, spent two nights and a day to celebrate the Fourth of July with me in Sewanee.

Anh is not just a survivor (she and her father were among the "boat people" refugees), but a hard-working, grateful, kind, companionable, and accomplished individual. She and her friends (one Austrian and one Japanese, both new professors) represent one thing July 4 celebrates: our country's strength in diversity and freedom.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Forty-five Minutes

can bring great pleasure if they're spent in a beautiful place.

Such a place is Jill's garden, which I visited to see diving beetles and boatmen. They proved too wily for my camera, but not so others, who posed for me.