Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunday, March 30, 2014

At the Halls

like old friends,
daffodils --
veined, thinning --
grow still
more beautiful 
& vibrant 
even as they
age, nod, & fall
over the lip
of vase.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Time to Open the Windows

so the cats can sit in the sun
sniff the air
and welcome me home

Friday, March 28, 2014

Sweet Tooth

Danger ahead: my first-ever box of macarons!

Here's the bad news:
the instructions say they last only a week in the fridge.

Here's the fantastic news:
that means I have to eat more than one a day!

Thursday, March 27, 2014


I just want to sit and watch the sky change.

Where I live, I can do that,

and always be surprised.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My Green Age

Despite my years, 
I feel my green age 
in spring, lying aground
among last year's leaves 
and this year's flowers.

Dylan Thomas - The Force That Through The Green... by poetictouch

Tuesday, March 25, 2014


Outside this happened. Not once. Several times. With sun in between.
On Facebook, I asked, "If the devil is beating his wife when the sun shines during rain, what's he doing when the sun shines during a snowstorm?"

A former student, far more clever and quick-witted than I today, replied, "Maybe she's giving him the cold shoulder?"

No cold shoulders inside.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Confusion along the Trail

Prone across the steep trail down into Shakerag Hollow, I heard this: "Are you all right?"

Where I walk, strangers often ask me this question because I look like the old woman-who-has-fallen-and-can't-get-up. I'm only taking pictures, but that's not always readily apparent.

"I'm fine," I said, "just taking pictures."

"What of?" he asked.

"This hepatica, and I'm not having much luck."

"Oh," he said. "What's that called?" And I told him again.

"Have you seen the multicolored things hanging from the trees?" he asked.

"Not yet," I answered. "I am only just now going downhill. Are they insect cocoons?"

"I think they're for Monarch butterflies! They're in all different colors and hanging about head-high," he said cheerfully and headed up the hill.

Not possible, I thought. I finished shooting the frustratingly tiny flower and took off, looking up rather than down for a while. 

First, I saw one of the colorful felt birds someone has hung along the Perimeter Trail. Surely he didn't think . . . no . . . . And then I found this (and several others):

I've seen little packages like this one before, and they weren't butterfly nurseries. Moths. That's what's developing in there, but what kind I don't know. I've seen more than a few, and I've finally learned to recognize them.

I admire the gentleman's certainty and enthusiasm. He asked if I were a wildflower expert. "Not quite!" I exclaimed. "An admirer, perhaps!" What I didn't tell him is that every spring I confuse the rue anemone for the hepatica and when the Odonates begin to emerge (soon, please?) I must review them once again in one of my books. 

Just call me enthusiastic dilettante, writ large.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

A Walk on the Wild Side


Coleridge carefully wrote down a whole page   
of them, all beginning with the letter b.   
Guidebooks preserve our knowledge
of their hues and shapes, their breeding.
Many poems have made delicate word-chimes—
like wind-chimes not for wind but for the breath of man—
out of their lovely names.
At the edge of the prairie in a cabin
when thunder comes closer to thump the roof hard   
a few of them—in a corner, brittle in a dry jar   
where a woman’s thoughtful hand left them to fade—
seem to blow with the announcing winds outside   
as the rain begins to fall on all their supple kin
of all colors, under a sky of one color, or none.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

No Faerie Is S/he

but asleep in a daffodil blossom, the lady beetle seems more ladylike (think Titania or one of her companions) and less beetlish than the hundreds of his/her kind I dispatched at The Lemon Fair earlier today.

May she slumber soundly.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Three Beautiful Things: Dylan Thomas, Hyacinths, Congressman John Lewis and Happy

(inspired by Clare Law's blog found here)

1.  My first poet love, Dylan Thomas, features in today's New York Times in a beautiful article by Ondine Cohane. Like her, I discovered Thomas's poetry in high school. I listened to his voice recordings and read the poems over and over and over again the way some teens today obsess over a song or musical artist. In my junior year, I won the school's poetry contest (think oral interpretation) with "Fern Hill," and those beautiful lines still, all these years later, come quickly to my tongue and mind.

2.  The hyacinths in Abbo's Alley unfold slowly from bud to olive-cream to blue-purple flower, and with them I celebrate the coming of that season that reminds me of the generous fecundity of the world in which I am but a small part. I lay on the "fields of praise" this morning, snapping again and again and again only for the joy of looking.

3.  In my youth, racist terrorists tried to kill Congressman John Lewis, then a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist dedicated to winning civil rights for all those living in the country he calls "The Beloved Community." A hero. A true American hero. A fellow native Alabamian, a man with dignity and faith in our better selves and commitment to doing good, no matter the cost, and joy in living. He dances. He is happy, and he makes me happy. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Time for White!

When I was little, my mother (and all the women I knew) said we had to wait for spring to wear white. 

That was a long time ago.

Our last spring seems just as distant, but today a new one arrived on the calendar and in the weather. 

Finally, sun and blue sky.

And my favorite whites burst forth: the weeds lining the canal by the Lake Cheston bridge, tiny little star bursts on bare thin branches, and the tall Star Magnolia shrub (though this one is more like a tree) at the Georgia Avenue corner of the College Library.

I opened my car door and smelled the blossoms from across the street. Now that is the scent of spring!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

This Time Last Year

the sun shone and flowers bloomed, but this year the sky stayed gray, all day, like unleavened and moldy bread, flatflatflat. 

So I looked back and found this and this and this.

These will have to do until the sun decides it's time to reappear.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lake Cheston ABCedarian Day 9

J is for JUNK

The kind a dog leaves, not once but three times over at least three visits, in the company of his human, who leaves it where the canine deposited it. This pile is at 6:00, with others at 11:00 and 3:00.

The kind an adult leaves for someone else to pick up or throw away, that someone wondering if the child left with cold feet.

The kind an animal drags from somewhere else.

Happily, the insects don't seem to mind the junk nearly as much as I. A leaf inside a plastic container will do just as nicely as any other leaf.

Monday, March 17, 2014

In the Fog

In the Fog

I stared into the valley: it was gone—   
wholly submerged! A vast flat sea remained,   
gray, with no waves, no beaches; all was one.   

And here and there I noticed, when I strained,   
the alien clamoring of small, wild voices:   
birds that had lost their way in that vain land.   

And high above, the skeletons of beeches,   
as if suspended, and the reveries   
of ruins and of the hermit’s hidden reaches.   

And a dog yelped and yelped, as if in fear,   
I knew not where nor why. Perhaps he heard   
strange footsteps, neither far away nor near—   

echoing footsteps, neither slow nor quick,   
alternating, eternal. Down I stared,   
but I saw nothing, no one, looking back.   

The reveries of ruins asked: “Will no   
one come?” The skeletons of trees inquired:   
“And who are you, forever on the go?”   

I may have seen a shadow then, an errant   
shadow, bearing a bundle on its head.   
I saw—and no more saw, in the same instant.   

All I could hear were the uneasy screeches   
of the lost birds, the yelping of the stray,   
and, on that sea that lacked both waves and beaches,

the footsteps, neither near nor far away.

published online here at Poetry Foundation

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Verbal Legerdemain

Writing is hard. I should know. I have tried to teach it for most of my adult life, knowing all the while that it can't be taught. Or that I, at least, can't teach it.

But attending can be taught, and if one attends to the world and to words, sometimes magic happens.

Richard Rodriguez is a magician: his words appear as fast as any rabbit from a hat, and they delight and surprise.

On a day without walking (weather and work), some of his words from Darling will serve.

Of Elvis Presley, this: "The platter spun at 45 rpm. The aural helix opened like a can of white-meat Apollo: an engorged voice; a slurred diction; a humpy, syrupy croon."

Of Liberace, this: "Liberace addresses us as the Big Bad Wolf might address an infant or a canary or a little lamb lost -- a petting voice, not unkind. Necessarily, he supplies all the answers to his petit catechism. It is exactly the cadence and the Socratic method of Mister Rogers. He tugs the tonnage of his train along the lip of the stage."

At the beginning of the "Sisters of Mercy," this: "I would never in a million years have thought of lobbing a 'darling' Franz Schurmann's way, though Franz and I had lunch almost every week for twenty years. Now I wish I had, for Franz would have sluiced the noun through the brines of several tongues, finally cracking its nacreous shell."

And finally this about cloistered orders: "Often the founders of such congregations came from upper-middle-class families, but most of the women who swelled the ranks of missionary orders had left peat-fumed, sour-stomached, skinny-cat childhoods behind."

Better than any walk or any set of photographs today, these words leave me both sated and hungry for more.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

The Kindness of Strangers

At the Lake Cheston dam bridge, a large black and white cat lounged.

"Is the cat yours?" I asked the man teaching his children to cast.


"Does he follow you all or the dog?"

"Us! Usually our second cat walks with us, too."

I liked the man teaching his children to cast, finding it normal that his cats would join them on a stroll, belling his cat.

That large cat joined me on my stroll, rubbing my legs, weaving through them, lying on the path and rolling in the dirt, then running flat out ahead of me, turning and running back.
I didn't even need to call Here kitty kitty! because the cat was calling me, on.

At the trestle bridge, that black and white cat ran up the iron as if to dare his own companion, a female muted tortie who suddenly appeared. She too made my acquaintance, and then satisfied to have found each other, they nosed one another and lingered while I walked on.
Two more turns and I picked up other strange companions, a group six ducks, male and female, I think, adult and young, I think. They drifted toward the beach and I loped along on the path. When they stopped, I stopped, and when they paddled, I wandered.

For a moment, I feared they would fly off, startled as they were by the sight and sound of man and boy and two dogs, who happily did not see me or my ducks, and disappeared up the hill. Left with my little flock, I studied them and they ignored me, and when they turned back toward to the fat of the lake, I crossed over and wove around to find them joining a seventh duck, another kind, who had found the right place to dive.
All in all, I enjoyed a companionable stroll among strangers: two children learning to cast, one wet hairy dog, one kind man, two curious cats, and seven ducks of two kinds. That's my kind of late afternoon.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Memorial Bench

The number 2
appears three times 
on the stone.
One of many
memorials in Abbo's Alley
honoring a beloved
Sewanee son or daughter,
this one reads
Class of 2005.
Despite the rules
against picking flowers,
someone has strewn
a spring bouquet
across his name,
a stranger, probably,
like me, out for a walk
and then drawn
to sit a moment
by the fish pond.
May she or he
have thought as I did
of the young man
remembered here
before walking on.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Yes, Billy Collins, Yes!

by Billy Collins

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,
so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw
open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary's cage,
indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths
and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight
that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight
on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants
from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,
holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,
well, today is just that kind of day.