Monday, October 30, 2017

No Snow

For all my friends near and far who are saying, "It's snowing!!" on blogs and facebook, I'm letting you know -- it's not snowing here. Just in case you were wondering. This is the view out my craft-room window:
The trees are still green, as is the grass (kind of). The air is quite chilly today, but this week it will warm back up into the mid-70s again. We are still fully in Autumn Mode.

Adam, sadly, has been battling his nemesis -- plumbing:
He's redone the lines to the kitchen sink a number of times, and still there is a leak, and still the pressure is too low. Adam's strength in any project is a diagnostic one; he is a problem solver. It may take time, but he will get to the bottom of it! But his hands ache and his knees and hips hurt from crawling under the house. This is a kitchen we plan to rip out entirely in the spring, so I guess this is a start!

Last night was the Fifth Sunday Sing for the Oriental, NC churches.
 We met at St. Thomas Episcopal Church this time, in their beautiful sanctuary. Episcopalians do know how to do Beautiful, quite well.
Each choir presented a little special music. Here are the Free Will Baptists.
In other creative pursuits, I'm still writing on my book a bit. I'm getting into the "thick" part, where the plot must be carefully managed, and each chapter, each conversation, each development, each setting, must be well presented. I'm also trying my hand at a little music writing ... well, arranging. There are a few hymns that, to me, would benefit from having an alternate tune and arrangement. Right now I'm doing "In the Bleak Midwinter." The weakness of the current tune is that it's in 4/4 time, and oh! does it plod! I'm setting it to 3/4 time, so it will have a slightly happier lilt. Even if the snow is deep and bleak in a hymn, I still don't think the singing of it should be depressing.

I'm also working on "This Is My Father's World." I want to start "A Mighty Fortress" (talk about clunky!) and "Beneath the Cross of Jesus," which I do love, including the tune, but it would be fun to find something newer. I'd like a new tune for "And Can It Be," but there are some very fine alternate meters listed in the back of the hymnal that would serve it perfectly well.

I'm still Christmas shopping. I think I have my children's gifts all "sorted out," as the British say. Now I must turn my attention to our parents. It's very difficult to shop for older people who've already amassed everything they really need. But I will try! 

Lastly, here are some more photos of leaves that Adam is painting:


And ... I did show you the lovely little Royal Doulton child's cup, in the Bunnykins pattern, that I found at the Hospice Thrift Store, didn't I? I can't seem to find it on the blog, but Pom Pom and I chatted about it in email. Oh well -- here it is again, if you missed it before, which I clearly did!
 Someday, when I have grandbabies, I want more of these.
It is perched atop my Shorter OED :)
Have a happy day, all!

Friday, October 27, 2017

Autumn Beauty, Christmas Shopping

Is your weather chilly at last? Ours is. I didn't quite get the heat turned on last night, and it was a four-blanket night! The watercolor above is for my Autumn Journal. 
I'm listening to Christmas music -- John Rutter's Star Carol album on my iTunes :)

Adam has had a hard day. He began by clearing out the back of the garage in preparation for making that space his new concrete-leaf-making studio. It will serve the purpose well. But then he went to finish the repair on our eaves that causes the living room ceiling leak. (He's putting on some special tape, followed by a tar/fiberglass mixture.) While on the ladder, he noticed another leak, a leak from our kitchen sink that was going down the outside of the foundation. (Sigh. Oh, the joys of a cheap fixer-upper.) He is handy at all manner of work, but plumbing is certainly his least favorite. He's spent the afternoon tending to that, with several trips to the hardware store.

We went to the beach yesterday with Beau and Trixie. Here are a few photos:

Trixie went for her first shots today.
The vet says she may well be part Pom.

I knit on the ferry.

 We ate lunch at a well-recommended place: Royal James Cafe in Beaufort on Turner St. We had  peeked in there last year, but decided ... no ... it looks like a bar.
 Well, it is a bar ... but not at 11:00 a.m. I must say, that burger was the best burger I've had in years. I kept mentioning it all day long. A double cheeseburger for $3. Small fries for $2. Can't beat that! They only put onions, mustard, and "chili sauce" on the burgers. Chili sauce is sweet, sauteed onions. It's like the most delectable Krystal burger you've ever dreamt of, for those who grew up with Krystal burgers as I did -- but bigger, moister, yummier.

 I mostly sat in my chair and stared at the sea.
 I've now purchased my Christmas books! Here they are:
 The Silmarillion was supposed to be for Adam, because his copy mysteriously disappeared with one of our children departing for college. The day after this one arrived, I saw him walk into his office and return with his own copy! Ah well. He'd bought it at some point, so now we'll have two.
My local Michael's art store no longer sells any watercolor sets with half-pans - a "travel set." But the store in Morehead City still does, so I got one for me for Christmas (from Adam) - with a 40% off coupon :)
 This one has different colors, and more, than my current set, which is running low.
I found this gorgeous cast iron Asian tea pot, brand new, at the local thrift store. It's for Anna (for Christmas, of course). I already showed it to her to make sure she would like it.
 I truly am trying to get Christmas shopping done early, but some family members are so hard to shop for. You know who you are! If you don't want socks again ... you'd better let me know what you need or want.
Keep those autumn lights burning, ladies.
 Dig out your favorite warm socks and sweater, light a candle or three, do whatever creative thing you do, and notice the new slant of light that happens this time of year. Find a nice winter movie, make some popcorn, and snuggle on the couch for the evening.
Bye-bye for now!

Friday, October 20, 2017

Back to the Books

 I shared this photo on facebook, but wanted to show it here too. This was the sky on Tuesday evening as we drove to church. Flat places like Pamlico County may lack mountains, but we have lots of sky!
As promised, I'm digging into Richard Wilbur's poems each day. "Lightness" was today's reading. 
 He's so, so good. I can't imagine having that kind of talent and that kind of poetic discipline. Oh, and that's another bookmark I dabbled.
 I decided to sketch a feather, since my chickens leave hundreds lying around :) I think I need to practice some more.
I put it into my Autumn Journal, next to a passage of Scripture I've been musing and praying over, for some friends going through difficult times.
 I like having various pages in this journal. It'll be fun to read back on them in a decade, don't you think?
So -- a page for our hoped-for tea garden. And a page about what we did on Sunday at church.

I'm back at the prayer shawl group on Thursday mornings - yay!! I've missed that quiet, friendly hour each week with sweet ladies and lots of yarn.
Afterward, I sat by the river and took this photo. I miss the river, I do. But the farm is a very fun replacement. Adam and I strolled around today, looking at what's growing (peas - again! and willow trees!) and we made fun plans for the future. That's one of the sweet activities for couples to do, I think -- just talk about your hopes together.

I've not been enjoying facebook lately. I don't want to give it up altogether because I have so many dear friends there I don't want to lose track of. But it only takes a few people speaking rudely, being unkind or thoughtless, being mean, to nearly ruin my day! So I think I will back off of my interaction there, and spend more time with my blogging friends, who are consistently kind, supportive, and considerate. You ladies are a classy bunch!

So that's what I meant by "back to the books." Off the screen a bit, reading more, studying poetry, journaling, walking the farm, reading the slowly dwindling stack of books on my desk. I do love how books and blogging go quite well together. We love to share what we're reading, don't we? 

Oh! Do you have time for one more thing? If not, that's okay, you can dash away. But this book I'm reading, Touring Through France by Elizabeth Shackleton, is so very fun. She's bubbly and delightful, just the type of writing voice you'd think would belong to an intrepid woman traveler in a car in 1924! Here's a passage I loved, describing a little cottage in rural France (Briton) at that time:
"Here the men had flat black hats tied under their chins with brims rolled at the side and the women were washing on their knees in the dooryard puddles. One with whom we stopped to talk, looking at her flowers growing under the drip of the eaves, asked us into her house. Her one room had one iron-barred window, the door to the front and a way out at the back. The floor was bare earth, hard trodden and clean. Two fire armoires of dark brown oak, waxed and well-kept, stood against the back wall. Their long, gracefully cut escutcheons shone like gold in the room. A high-set oak table, long and narrow, topped with a three-inch oak plank, stood near the window, its top so set as to slide back and forth and allow a hutch below to be reached. Two long-legged benches of oak had rests for the feet and low backs of turned wood. The overhead beams showed and the whitewash was on the back of the unplastered outside stones. The fireplace was several inches above the floor and let out smoke into the room when the door stood open. In one corner a built-in bed looked like those in remote corners of Scotland, with openwork doors which could be drawn shut, thus excluding the bed from the room. A yellow cat, an old dog, and a child hanging by her mother's skirt gave a homey air to it all, a sort of enduring sincerity like the heavy oak table. It was all going to go on for a very long time. On the fire a three-legged iron kettle, the chaudiere, -- our word chowder comes from that -- had something good simmering in it."
The author's photo of women washing clothes in the puddle in front of a cottage

If you're still reading, you are a trooper. I love such vivid, detailed description. This is less than 100 years ago. The oldest lady in our church would have been 7 years old at this time -- but this house has dirt floors, a fireplace for cooking, a single room, no back door - just an 'way out.' And doing laundry in a puddle outside? Isn't it fascinating how much life changes? Mrs. Shackleton thought it would go on and on like this. Another war was around the corner. And then technology would change us all. Perhaps this is another reason I want to go "back to the books"; I love the older lives we find there.

Whatever you're reading, I hope it is just as fun!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Richard Wilbur, My Poet Friend

Related image

Richard Wilbur, my favorite living poet, is no longer on the planet with us. He died on Saturday at the fine age of 96, and I'm thankful he stayed with us so long, and gave us such beautiful word gifts. I wish I'd met him, but he is great, and I am small, and that meeting will have to wait for another time.

I pulled out my anthology of Wilbur's poetry, New and Collected Poems, 1988. 
Image result for wilbur new and collected poems
I've perused this book and used it in teaching and for my own enjoyment. But I feel now a desire to study Wilbur's work more thoroughly, so I plan to study a poem each day until I'm done. I turned to the last poem, "The Beautiful Changes," a lovely piece. Somehow, I wanted to drift through the book from front to back, but then I told myself that was silly, and turned to the table of contents to see if perhaps they were in chronological order from front to back. However -- they are not. They are in chronological order from back to front! So my desire to study "The Beautiful Changes" first, going back to his early work in 1947, was intuitively spot-on! I won't bore you with a blow-by-blow of my thinking on each poem, but occasionally I may plop a Wilbur poem here for our enlightenment. 

I love Wilbur's work because he is clean and rather clear-speaking, for a poet. He has a deep skill in rhyme. His poetic agility appears as effortless as Mary Lou Retton's routine on the balance beam: actually the result of years of grueling work, I'm sure. He eschews flounce and fluff and involved, dramatic expressions. If he can't say it with simple elegance, he won't say it. 

His dislike for useless metaphor is the topic of this poem, "Praise in Summer":

Obscurely yet most surely called to praise
As sometimes summer calls us all, I said
The hills are heavens full of branching ways
Where star-nosed moles fly overhead the dead;
I said the trees are mines in air, I said
See how the sparrow burrows in the sky!
And then I wondered why this mad instead
Perverts our praise to uncreation, why
Such savor's in this wrenching things awry.
Does sense so stale that it must needs derange
The world to know it? To a praiseful eye
Should it not be enough of fresh and strange
That trees grow green, and moles can course in clay,
And sparrows sweep the ceiling of our day?

And while asking such good questions, and giving perfect examples of both arguments, he also writes a sonnet. (Sigh)

Even in his last three lines, designed to showcase a simple voice in poetry, he cannot escape alliteration and just a little bit of metaphor. Does the day have a ceiling?

Do you know Wilbur? Do you have a favorite poem of his?

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


On facebook this week a new hashtag has sprung up: #metoo. Women post it who have experienced sexual abuse/assault or sexual harassment. Many friends, particularly younger ones, have shared that this offensive experience has been theirs.

I pondered. I've never been sexually abused. But have I ever been sexually harassed? At first, I thought, "No ... I don't think so." I reviewed my workplace experiences, and could not find an example. I've worked with and for some kind men who knew how to behave. And about 20 years ago, when sexual harassment became a more public issue for women, the workplace was the focus; women should be able to stand at the copy machine without their sexuality being brought up.

Then I remembered when I was 12. One Saturday I dressed in my favorite "cool" new outfit: cut-off blue jean shorts and a gray t-shirt that stated "West Virginia Is for Lovers." A strip mall across the street had a little store far in the back, in the dark inside of the mall, that sold something I was interested in -- I forget what. That mall was always empty. A guy was the sales clerk, and as I looked around the store at the wares, he began standing too close to me. Then he began brushing up against me, and it made me very uncomfortable. I wanted to think it was an accident, but when it happened a few times in five minutes, I knew it wasn't. I quickly left the store. I never went back.

He was a creeper, as we'd say now. I wasn't much damaged by the event except that I was scared. I was a child; he was an adult. We were in an isolated place. The physical contact was intentional and inappropriate.

For a funny story, about 15-20 years ago we were tubing down the French Broad River in Brevard, NC. It's the last time we went, because low water made for a tedious, painful ride. Failing to float over a rocky stretch, I picked up my inner tube and walked clumsily, bedraggled, plump in my ugly purple bathing suit, wrangling the tube, my wet hair plastered across my grumpy face. Suddenly I hear from the river bank a loud wolf whistle. For me! In such a state! I look over, and some very rotund geezer is standing there, grinning at me. I stood in mid river on the rocks, and I laughed. I laughed at him, and I made sure he could hear my assessment of his taste in feminine beauty. Because he was ridiculous (and blind) and I wanted him to know it.

When the #metoo thing came up on facebook, I asked Adam about these incidents, whether they qualify as harassment, and he said yes, they certainly do. He's a man, and he knows how men think. The whole idea that a man can look innocently upon the female form and, without a sexual thought, let out a big wolf whistle to let the woman know he's looking, is ludicrous. The man on the river bank was lewd, period. Adam said he probably was not primarily trying to communicate to me; he was probably doing it for the sake of his buddies in the truck.

I was about to post on facebook: #metoo, followed by a question mark. Because my very-mild experiences of harassment are almost an insult to the women who've experienced horrific abuse, assault, or harassment. I was about to post, I had my fingers on the keys to type ... and then I remembered.

I remembered the experience I should have thought of first, but I'd forgotten. It was the earliest, and certainly the most damaging, sexual harassment in my life of limited harassment. I was about 4 years old. It was spring, I think. We would move from West Virginia that summer. It was an ongoing experience over months. My four older brothers sometimes played football in the field next to our house with other neighborhood kids. A boy from down the street, probably 5 years old, would come find me and tell me to come into the big bushes with him. The bushes were tall and large enough that we could stand inside them like a little room. He would then take off his pants and urinate, and tell me to come watch. He also told me to urinate for him to watch, which I think I did once, but I didn't like that, so later I refused. I was scared and embarrassed, and he told me not to tell anyone. I was ashamed and guilty. This event happened various times - I don't know how many, or for how long. I was quite young. But when it became clear our family was moving away, he was upset, and he threatened to tell my grandparents (who lived in town) about what we'd been doing, if I moved away. His last name was Main; I don't remember his first name. I only give the name so that any childhood friends would not mistake some other family or boy for the offender.

He was five years old. Can a five year old commit sexual harassment? Was it sexual? He didn't learn such behavior on TV (back then), so where did he learn to threaten, to hide, to humiliate, to demand? What was happening in his home? 

I didn't tell anyone about this for many years. The shame of a 4 year old girl, scared in the bushes, lasted so long. I could have yelled for my brothers, who were only a stone's throw away, and they would've beaten him up. How did he know I wouldn't do that? How does a five year old boy balance thrill, risk, control, manipulation? What, in his character, was already so broken that he found this pleasurable in some way? I don't know.

So, yes. Me too. But women's experiences are so different, so unusual, so nuanced. My early experiences taught me to be distant with guys, intimidating, stand-offish. I became a young woman who, without an abuser in the family (thankfully!), was fairly safe as long as I did not allow guys close to me. I did not flirt (unless I knew the guy was safely off limits); I did not send out "bids" or invitations for romance. I would never be "caught in the bushes" again. That early harassment impacted my temperament, my relationships, and how people thought of me -- for decades.

I'm proud of those who are willing to say, "me too." We'd be wise, men and women alike, to think carefully about what constitutes harassment, about how we think about each other's sexuality, about how careful we are to treat everyone with dignity, privacy, and respect.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Blog Banners And Sad Poetry

Hi, friends. Since I have a "creative space" now, I've been painting and dabbling, and I painted three blog banners. The third one you see above with the leaves, pecans, acorns, and pumpkin. 

I also painted this one:
I never was satisfied with it, so I didn't take it over to Ribbet and apply text to it.

The first one I painted I really liked:
But with its roses, it seemed better suited for spring, so I'm saving it until later. I'm enjoying this banner-making, and it gives me an excuse to paint something specific. That's another reason I love the Autumn Journal -- I have somewhere to PUT my paint dabblings. Before, I would paint something, and lacking any purpose for it, or any place to display it, I ended up stacking various "paintings" (it's a stretch to call them that) in a drawer.
One more page of fallish dabbling:
That was pecan-practice for the banner.

Here's a little poetry from the Forest's Robe book I mentioned before. I'll only give you one stanza of "Desolate" by Gerald Massey because the rest of it is so depressing!

Wild winds of Autumn go wailing
Up the valley and over the hill,
Like yearning Ghosts round the world sailing,
In search of the old love still.

Isn't that lovely? The rest is about the sadness of loneliness -- too much!

I'll end with a poem by William Morris -- yes, the textile designer. He was a poet too.


O Love, turn from the unchanging sea, and gaze
Down these grey slopes upon the year grown old,
A-dying mid the autumn-scented haze,
That hangeth o'er the hollow in the wold,
Where the wind-bitten ancient elms enfold
Grey church, long barn, orchard, and red-roofed stead.
Wrought in dead days for men a long while dead.

Come down, O love; may not our hands still meet,
Since still we live today, forgetting June,
Forgetting May, deeming October sweet -
- O hearken, hearken! through the afternoon,
The grey tower sings a strange old tinkling tune!
Sweet, sweet, and sad, the toiling year's last breath,
Too satiate of life to strive with death.

And we too -- will it not be soft and kind,
That rest from life, from patience and from pain;
That rest from bliss we know not when we find;
That rest from Love which ne'er the end can gain? -
Hark, how the tune swells, that erewhile did wane!
Look up, love! - ah, cling close and never move!
How can I have enough of life and love?

I read this poem very slowly this afternoon, letting each phrase sink in and materialize into a picture in my mind. The poet sways back and forth in his emotional state -- things are over and nearly done; no, they're not! There is still time for love! Poor man. The final word for him is that he longs still for a little more of life, a few more moments of love.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Three Fun Reads, and Yummy Tea


I've finished the above two books. I enjoyed both although they're quite different. I'm wondering if Mr. Smith's books are all as delightful as his #1 Ladies Detective book. I love the narrative voice.
Elizabeth Goudge is in a league nearly by herself. I'd like to print a passage from late in The Scent of Water that will give you a feel of her smooth, comfortable, elegant style:
"She went to bed early and lit the oil stove she had purchased with the fist cold weather. She thought she would keep it alight in this her first snow, especially as Tiger had favored her with his company. When she was in bed with her lamp out, and the little cat asleep on her eiderdown, its glow gave her a cozy feeling of nursery comfort and warmth. The flame had a murmuring voice but no louder than the ticking of her watch, and neither voice could so much as finger the garment of the silence. She did not at once sleep deeply yet she was not aware of weariness. She dozed and woke again and saw the light shining on John's photo and on her six snowdrops in a vase beside it, and smiled and slept once more."
The book is full of delight, sorrow, growth, and love. It has a fascinating old house inherited by a woman trying to find her way in life. Don't you love that line above: "The flame had a murmuring voice but no louder than the ticking of her watch, and neither voice could so much as finger the garment of the silence." Who could imagine silence as a garment, and little sounds in a room as fingering the edges of that garment?
Now I'm beginning this fun book. Her first-person style is matter-of-fact, lively, direct, quick. It's a traveling book from the early 1920s.
 The opening flyleaf has a large map, so I can follow along as she drives her car around France, over 4000 miles.
 In the first few pages she describes attempting to legalize her car in France after its been shipped over. She asks the crane operator to pause so she can take a picture. He does ... and then we get to see the photo she took:
 The book is full of photographs. She traveled, a woman, with only a maid/companion. I think she'll be delightful as a tour guide through France when the roads were made of stone.

And now ... some very good news. I have a dear friend from years ago who, unhappy at my treatment at the hands of the TSA, sent me some of that delicious Teavana tea!!
 What a thoughtful thing to do! And she inquired about the specific type of tea, so she sent just the right thing.
 Many dear friends were alarmed at my (not atypical) experience, but it is a special person who then seeks to alleviate the awful effects of the fall in our world, and reverse the offense with joy.
Then! Another dear friend (who wanted to surprise me, but then gave it away), also sent me the tea too -- look at how gorgeous it is. You can see the cardamom pods:

 Adam and I would love to attempt to replicate this tea someday, from our tea-garden-to-be, if possible.

This friend also sent me a pretty tin to keep the tea in, and I've been enjoying it in my green cup and saucer. I found a cookie tin at the thrift store this week to keep my biscoff and windmill cookies in:
 (Windmill cookies always remind me of Jean Belz at Cono -- for all you old Cono/Iowa friends.)
And one last thing -- Granny Marigold and any other bloggers who want to be sure NOT to be a "no-reply" commenter, here is a link that may be helpful:
Carol sent me this link. I checked my own status, just to be sure. Gretchen has said before that it's not really hard to email a reply to a "no-reply" commenter ... but ONLY IF I already have her email address in my system. So for Gretchen, if I want to email a reply to her, I simply delete the "no-reply commenter" email address, and replace it with hers. But Granny M., I've never had an email address for you, so I can't do that either. Today, I noticed Melissa's email actually disappeared straight out of my inbox! It was there, and then when I clicked over to it, it was GONE. I could still see it on blogger, and publish it, but I don't know what's going on with Gmail. Grrr. Someday we will figure it all out!