zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
The BYM pruned the rogue rosebush yesterday, and some of the branches happened to be the right length for the tomato and pepper stakes I'd been meaning to set up, so today ended up being mostly about gardening.


Today's digging and weeding turned up shards of ceramic and glass, some shreds of cassette tape, a couple of nails, and a penny very much worse for the wear. In what I think of as the west tulip bed, I replanted some of the bulbs I'd dug up and divided earlier this month, cleaned up and transplanted the begonia I'd picked up from JVI, and sowed bachelor buttons and balloonflowers. In the east tulip bed, the mint is alive and the crocuses and tulips are dormant; today I added the two so-called mosquito-repelling geraniums I'd purchased at May's hospital party, putting them next to the gutter spout.

On the deck, I repotted two of the basil plants and gave up on the rail-planter zinnias (the ones in the leaky watering can are looking good, though, as is the lily the BYM received last fall).

Inside, I decanted and diluted the quart of Vinegar of Four Thieves I'd been steeping and shaking for the past fortnight. It didn't smell as foul as it looked, but it also didn't keep all the skeeters at bay. Later this week I shall try the clip-on fan thingie a physician's assistant recommended to me, and then I will likely concede defeat and swathe myself in long sleeves and jeans regardless of temperature (and even that didn't help me last summer -- I wore mesh from head to toe and the little fiends bit me through that, and denim too) and dab myself with vinegar/OFF!/etc. on hot spots.

I do like summer, though, godawful bugs and ginormous electric bills notwithstanding. I enjoy not having to factor school zones into my schedule, my heartiest hollyhock is still heavy with flowers, and every now and then I glimpse a fat firefly flickering near the rogue rosebush.
zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)
February 1920, page 62:

James H. Shevlin, the newly named Prohibition supervisor of New York district, will take over the work of inaugurating a Federal campaign here against the use of narcotics. . . .

The campaign is designed to prevent the people who drank from turning to drugs now that they have been deprived of liquor. There has recently been much fear expressed that the drug evil will take the place of the whiskey evil.
zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
"F. S. Seymour Wimbourne will be glad if any one will inform him how he may bleach ferns, without injuring the veins, causing them to have a whitish or transparent appearance." -- "Notes and Queries," Pharmaceutical Journal, June 2, 1877

"Yellow Daffodils are under the dominion of Mars, and the roots thereof are hot and dry in the third degree. The roots boiled and taken in posset drink cause vomiting and are used with good success at the appearance of approaching agues, especially the tertian ague, which is frequently caught in the springtime. A plaster made of the roots with parched barley meal dissolves hard swellings and imposthumes, being applied thereto; the juice mingled with honey, frankincense wine, and myrrh, and dropped into the ears is good against the corrupt and running matter of the ears, the roots made hollow and boiled in oil help raw ribed heels; the juice of the root is good for the morphew and the discolouring of the skin." -- Nicholas Culpeper (1653?), quoted by Maud Grieve (1931, in A Modern Herbal)

The word oxymel.
zirconium: black pearl pepper plant at Cheekwood (black pearl pepper)
It sometimes feels odd to live in a neighborhood repeatedly (and with reason) characterized by journalists as teeming with hipsters (including in SPIN's profile of the late Ben Todd [trigger warning: depression/suicide]). Especially on a day when wild bunnies are frolicking in the neighbor's yard -- I caught sight of one when I got home from this morning's errands, and flushed out four when I took out some trash just now. What's more, two of them proceeded to chase each other around in circles for a while.

They sure were cute, but I'm glad they haven't found my vegetable plantings yet.

I accidentally fell down a research rabbithole yesterday, but before that happened, I went to a pool party at the Crying Wolf, a bar across from my yoga studio. That's me in the rightmost row, attempting to "flip the dog."

When I got home yesterday, I noticed that there were black bugs all over the leaves of the runtiest hollyhocks, so I mixed the Lovejoy spray described by Jim Long and doused the leaves with it.
zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
A problem with fascinating houseguests (in this instance, a carpenter with an international touring production) is how it leads to staying up with bourbon and turkey sandwiches while listening to him reminisce about the custom knives he bought in Japan and the diner we should have tried in Vancouver and the nonstandard rigging he sorted out for staging Wizard of Oz in three cities in Korea.

May was a blur of work, yoga, and gatherings (one wedding, one graduation, and a bunch of birthdays).

On the first day of June, I treated myself to a stand-up paddleboarding lesson. On the fourth day of June, I went swimming after yoga. Both days, it felt soooo good to be on/in the water, and I think my threadbare one-piece will last one more season.

I am in the middle of cleaning up one of the tulip beds in my front yard. Tennessee clay is as stubborn as I am, so excavating the bulbs for division is a chore. I confess to feeling grateful toward the moles for making it easier to transplant some of the hollyhocks.

Naturally, the one on the east side of the house (the side not visible to the public) is the one with the best show of blooms so far...


Read more... )
zirconium: snapshot of cookie cutter star from sorghum marshmallow making (Default)
Abby 001

You can never learn this world too well, nor will you ever be bored by it. I don't fault my dog for not being able to count to three. It took me a whole life, including a million bars of waltz time, not to get lost.

- W. A. Mathieu, "Triple Nature," in THE MUSICAL LIFE (1994)
zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
At church today, the conversations included...

  • a friend telling me during coffee hour that she wants Stephen Paulus's The Road Home played at her memorial service

  • another friend telling me during morning songs that she wants Jason Shelton's Morning Has Come played at her memorial service

  • plans for a veteran's birthday gathering

  • The topics also included:

  • the college selection, application, and financing process. The child in question is planning to major in marine biology.

  • grant applications (i.e., chatting with the head of a lab)

  • completing albums (the chief's daughter is a musician)

  • Wendell Berry. My hiking partner and her husband went to hear him at a fundraiser last weekend.

  • blue-eyed grass

  • vegan food

  • a riff on Richard III in a recent cartoon

  • In other news, I'm about to head to session 5 of my yoga studio's thirty-day challenge. (I had an earlier class on my calendar -- and slept right through my alarm. Whoops.) And, I'm seeing zinnia seedlings in the pots on my deck. Wheeee!
    zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
    [Source of subject line: http://www.elviscostello.info/wiki/index.php/Everyday_I_Write_The_Book]

    Seen in St. Louis:

    St. Louis

    (No, I don't actually covet this particular sofa. Especially since it got rained on during Easter weekend. But my own long sofa, with a sleepy doggie sprawled next to it? Awww, yeah...)
    zirconium: photo of Greek style coffee, Larnaca, October 2011 (coffee in Cyprus)

    This is, I think, a book for those readers and cooks who prefer to know what the original dishes are supposed to be like, and to be given the option of making their own adaptations and alterations according to their taste and their circumstances. There is, I know, a school of writers who seem to believe that English housewives are weak in the head and must not be exposed to the truth about the cooking of other countries; must not be shocked by the idea of making a yeast dough, cleaning an ink-fish, adding nutritive value to a soup with olive oil, cutting the breast of a raw chicken in order to fry it in butter rather than buying a packet of something called "chicken parts" from the deep-freeze and cooking them in a cheap fat or tasteless oil substitute.

    If I believed that English women really needed this kind of protection -- censorship it almost amounts to -- I would have packed in cookery writing long ago.

    zirconium: photo of bell tower seen on a walk to the Acropolis (athens bell tower)
    I turn 44 in a few weeks. On the one hand, I am enjoying my mid-forties. On the other hand, one does become ever more conscious of how little time is left. Neither of my parents made it to 65. I visit cancer journals now and then, including that of a fellow writer in his forties.

    Last night, I revisited my Penguin edition of Gerard Manley Hopkins's poetry and prose, and registered anew that he had died at the age of 44, and that his last words were reportedly "I am so happy. I am so happy." (According to Eleanor Ruggles, as quoted in Wikipedia, the words were "I am so happy, I am so happy. I loved my life." Now I am even more curious about these words, and why some accounts leave out "I loved my life.") So I hopped online to seek additional context, and stumbled on this passage in David E. Anderson's review of a Paul Mariani biography:

    Hopkins died on June 8, 1889, just six weeks short of his 45th birthday. He was diagnosed with typhus, but Mariani suspects it was complicated by Crohn's disease, a sickness unnamed until 1932. Hopkins's last words, repeated over and over, were an affirmation--or a plea to himself: "I am so happy. I am so happy." He died unheralded and unpublished, and it was not until 1918 that Oxford University Press published an edition of 750 copies of the poems edited and introduced by his old friend, England's then poet laureate, Robert Bridges.

    A decade before his death, however, Hopkins ruminated on the question of fame in an exchange of correspondence with his friend, fellow poet, and Anglican cleric Richard Watson Dixon. "Fame," Hopkins wrote, "is a thing which lies in the award of a random, reckless, incompetent, and unjust judge, the public, the multitude. The only just judge, the only just literary critic is Christ, who prizes, is proud of, and admires, more than any man, more than the receiver himself can, the gifts of his own making."

    Nearly a century later, John Berryman, a poet as singular as Hopkins, would appropriate Hopkins in one [of] his last poems, a poem of his own religious conversion:

    Father Hopkins said the only true literary critic is Christ.
    Let me lie down exhausted, content with that.

    I'm fascinated by this stance. As a non-Christian, it's not exactly of comfort to me, but as both a theist and a book industry professional -- having seen so many well-wrought works sell so very little and receive the barest flicker of attention -- I confess that my sanity has long been rooted in the conviction that one's job is to create the right poem/song/story/image for one's right audience regardless of its size, be that a single human being, a swarm of millions, or a silent yet merciful deity. So while the phrase "only true/just literary critic" makes my teeth itch, there's a part of me that nods in recognition at Hopkins's and Berryman's declarations.

    Assessing articulations of faith (when are they authentic? when are they obnoxious? when are they engaging? when are they derailing?) is a recurring activity in my various circles. I'm told that accusations of anti-Christianity were flung at critics of this year's Hugo nominations. Sports fandom has long been divided over expressions of evangelical Christianity on the court and in interviews; for my vacation this past weekend, to get into the spirit of Fed Cup, I brought along a pile of tennis-related reading I'd been meaning to get to. This bit showed up in a July 26, 1993, New Yorker essay by Martin Amis:

    To see Courier and Sampras on Centre Court was to see a dramatic opposition of will and talent: to see what Courier had given to get as good as he is, and to see, more simply, what Sampras had been given by God. (Refreshingly, neither player is especially religious, unlike Chang, Wheaton, Agassi, and, of all people, Nick Bolletieri.)

    Because I don't have cable here at home, one of the things that makes a vacation vacation-y for me is catching an episode of Chelsea Handler or The Best Thing I Ever Made/Ate. The TBTIEM show on cakes included a segment with Alton Brown; his feature on Apple Spice Bundt Cake led me to look up grains of paradise, and keeping company with it in the surfing-after-a-show rabbit hole was this interview about (among other things) his family's sense of stewardship, about saying grace in public, and about the discomfort being a churchgoer raises in other people.

    It hadn't been in the plan, but on Good Friday and Holy Saturday, part of my reading was Kathleen Jowitt's entries (so far) on her 2007 pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago. A sample of why I kept reading (and why I think some of you might find it likewise inviting/compelling):

    A Quaker challenged me, the summer before, about the idea of pilgrimage. God is everywhere: no place can be called holier than any other. What was the point? Actually, I agreed. Santiago de Compostela itself, the Holy City of the Iberian peninsula, held no greater attraction for me than any other place; I had my reservations as to whether it was genuinely the resting place of the mortal remains of Saint James the Apostle, and there were other European cities that would have taken precedence my 'must see' list. The traditional way of getting there, however, made it another matter entirely: one's own two feet; one's own pace -- quite literally; the chance to prove that five hundred years of civilisation hadn't turned one soft.

    Circling back to birthdays, it is April 23. A few weeks ago, I was reading another old magazine (this one purchased from a church rummage sale years ago) -- an April 4, 1964, issue of Saturday Review with Ivor Brown's "How Shakespeare Spent the Day" as its cover story. Here is how it opens:

    It is remarked by Hamlet that "everyman hath business and desire." That Shakespeare had desire we know from his sonnets. That he had his business in the workaday, money-earning world is sometimes forgotten in the appraisals of his genius. But that he chose to mind, and could successfully mind, the business side of his career is proved by what we know of his life.

    People today are apt to think of poets and businessmen as living in far separated worlds. But it was certainly not so in the case of Shakespeare, who was born on the premises of a small-town business. His home was a shop and his neighbors were shopkeepers. There was nothing strange to him in the process of buying, selling, and striving to make a profit.
    zirconium: snapshot of my dog on my deck (Abby)
    This is Charma, the young Kerry Blue Terrier who was the "guest dog" at the Museum of the Dog in St. Louis this past Saturday.


    As Herb and Kathy (her handlers) put it, she was "pushy-friendly." I told them that was exactly what my own dog is like. Charma greeted me by sniffing at the band-aid on my knee. Herb and Kathy told me about the local breeding and dog show scene and showed me how Charma's fur was turning blue lower down, closer to her belly.

    Upstairs, the artifacts included a handsome armchair with daschund-shaped armrests:

    armchair with dachshund-head armrests


    Downstairs, the painting I kept returning to was Kathy Jakobsen's Dog Walking in Central Park. It is fabulously detailed (dog in a fountain! dog in a bike basket! doggies lined up like ducklings! dog distracted by something while two mohawked lovers embrace!) and I've requested her book on New York from the library because I want to see more. There were also exhibits on military dogs, police dogs, sled dogs, show dogs...

    I wasn't expecting to pet any dogs today (although they are allowed at my hotel), but at Shu Feng's, there was a five-month-old Afghan Hound puppy, owned by two young women hanging out en route to a very dressy party. Like them, Sunshine was sleek and friendly. ;-)
    zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
    In the New York Times, Jodi Kantor asked Katty Kay about a list that Christine Lagarde carries with her:

    KK: She got so fed up of men coming up to her and saying, you know we'd love to have more women at the top of companies, or we'd love to have more women running things, but we just can't find the good candidates. This annoyed her so much that she wrote down a list of 10 really good women, qualified women, and put it in her purse. Every time a man came up to her and said, "It's such a shame we can't find a qualified woman," out would come the list.
    zirconium: tulip in my front yard, April 2014 (tulip)
    Here in Nashville, we've been under frost advisories this week, which in my case has meant re-covering the hydrangea, bringing in the plants I over-optimistically set outside last week, and snapping photos of the rest:

    tulips, season 3

    There was a sandwich board outside one of the bars down the street advertising a drink called the "Angry Gardener." I was tempted. But there was a magazine release party already on my calendar, and I was glad about prudence prevailing over temptation when, at the gathering, Emmely Duncan handed me a glass of strawberry vodka punch laced with black pepper syrup.

    front of the house

    Earlier in the day, I had been thinking it was time to bin the University of Michigan sweatshirt I was wearing. It was probably ready for the ragbag a couple of years ago, but today was the day I registered all the stains it had accumulated -- as in, I should've changed outfits before leaving the house. (Considering how laid back and grunge-tolerant my neighborhood is, this is saying something.)

    Of course, when I realized this, I was already too far along just to turn around, so I went into the drugstore anyway. As I looked at a display of brooms (so many things in my house getting ratty...), an older African American man walked by me. Then he turned back, exclaiming, "Michigan?" He was wearing a Detroit Tigers cap. Oh, I wish you could have seen how his face lit up.

    Speaking of clothing and identity, the New York Times published a piece this past Sunday sparked Harvey Fierstein's new play. The article is titled Clothes Make the Man, and -- potential trigger warning -- it raises all sorts of unsorted-out-ness about authenticity and beauty and comfort and gender, and, and, and ...

    This paragraph had me nodding in recognition -- I may not share the specific need to wear boy vs. girl clothes, but do I relate to how certain clothes are me and others are not, and how what I wear can affect how me I am at a given moment? Oh yes.

    "One person I spoke to said: 'When I have my boy clothes on, I feel like I'm at a party full of strangers, and there's great effort that goes into putting my best self forward. And when I put on my women's clothing, it's like walking into another room, and my best friend is sitting there, and I can breathe,'" Mr. Mantello said. "There's a certain poignancy in a transformation that feels cellular."

    And immediately following that is the passage that spooked me the most:

    If the guests at Casa Valentina love looking in the mirror at their femme selves, some of the actors have struggled with it. Mr. Birney recalled having a hard time making peace with how he looked as a woman.

    "I was heartbroken," he said. "I asked the makeup artist, 'Can you make me prettier?'"

    Mr. McGowan and the seventh man in the play, Larry Pine, said they had to reckon with their sagging middle-aged bodies, and the girdles and corsets used in the play.

    "I look in the mirror, and I see a hideous woman, absolutely hideous," Mr. Pine said. Asked if that hurt, he replied, "Yeah."
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    My local library branch has a book cart stationed by its main entrance, with culls from the collection priced between fifty cents and two dollars. A few months ago, I scored a copy of Skim, a 2008 graphic novel about a gothy Asian Canadian teenager. (I gather it won several awards, but its appearance on the cart was its first blip on my radar [that I noticed, anyway. 2008 was a rough year].)

    The library's kept three copies, which makes me glad, because it's a story I'd like to see remain available, particularly to other women who are experiencing or have experienced what it's like (1) to be an outsider, or (2) to be the target of misguided or self-serving concern. The story's topics include suicide, pagan practice, girls being judgey/cliquey, same-sex love, and whether Romeo and Juliet is a good play or not.

    (I'm also glad I read it before checking out the Wiki article or Kailyn Kent's appreciation. Keen as I am on spoilers most of the time -- un-recovered control freak that I am -- I really enjoyed following this story without anticipating its digs and twists.)

    (And, when I have a little more time, I want to spend some of it browsing through the illos on Jillian Tamaki's blog. The glimpses of Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea look phenomenal.)
    zirconium: sculpture of owl at Cheekwood, Nashville (Cheekwood owl)
    Rachel Lee Harris: What's one of your favorite cities on the schedule?

    Lynda Carter: What's so interesting about Nashville is that it's progressive. It really feels like it's alive. In any part of the airport, while you're waiting for your plane, you can go listen to a live country band. There is so much talent.

    - http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/travel/lynda-carters-travel-tips-from-water-to-walking.html

    zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
    When I was in grade school, I read Richard Shelton's "Certain Choices," and I have never forgotten the closing stanza:

    I have few friends, and none of them
    are replaceable. That's the way it is
    with friends. We make certain choices.

    I'd misplaced Shelton's name for years, and the rest of the poem too (it's one of those that unfortunately seems to get attributed to "Author Unknown" more often than the writer himself), but thanks to Google Books, I finally read the whole thing again within his memoir of being a prison volunteer. And some other people have reposted it on Tumblr and other spaces.

    In Camille T. Dungy's Smith Blue, there's a poem titled "Association Copy," which is about a book that used to be owned by Lynda Hull. The opening lines:

    Maybe you sold it to buy junk. Though I like to think not.
    And I don't want to think you used the money for food
    or rent or anything obligatory, practical...

    And then the fourth and fifth lines are very Linda, to my eyes:

    A pair of boots, perhaps. Thigh high burgundy boots
    with gold laces. Something crucial as lilies.
    zirconium: photo of ranunculus bloom on my laptop (ranunculus on keyboard)
    Par la bouche de ce canon il neige. C'était l'enfer dans notre tête. Au même moment c'est le printemps au bout de nos doigts. C'est la foulée de nouveau permise, la terre en amour, les herbes exubérantes.

    Snow is falling from the mouth of this cannon. There was hell in our heads. At the same time, spring's at our fingertips. Permission's granted to step forth again, the earth's in love, the grasses exuberant.

    -- René Char; translated by Ralph Freedman, Donald Justice, and Paulène Aspel
    zirconium: photo of flask with feathers in and around it (flask with feathers)
    In the most recent batch of picture books from the library, the one I like best is Hena Khan's Night of the Moon: A Muslim Holiday Story (Chronicle, 2008), beautifully iluustrated by Julie Paschkis with lots of blue, green, and gold. I especially like how Yasmeen's Eid present at the end ties in with the overall storyline of her gazing at the moon.

    In other goings-on:

  • fourteen takes on Hopkins's "The Windhover", including mine

  • a reading of Traci Brimhall's The Labyrinth

  • a reading of Uma Gowrishankar's At the Moment of Death: Bardo 1
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