Saturday, December 31, 2016


I’ve got a file full of reflection jpgs. I love being able to flip the pix onto their sides and cropping them down to just the mirror image. I get some unusual pictures, but none as unusual as the first one I ever took. What better time to post this piece than the end of the year – we’re looking back and looking forward, these pictures look sideways too. Sorta…  

This might not look too interesting this way. It's just a picture I took from the
train going from Kristianand to Stavanger in Norway.
The year was 1981

When I was putting the photo in my scrapbook, I happened to flip it on its side
do you see what I see up there at the top?  Ugly fellow. 

So this picture put me on the lookout, all these years, for great reflection pictures.  I've seen several good ones, but none that I could save until these last years when I could keep them on my PC. Here are a few more: 

Another monster - this one from the camera of Jacqueline Donnelly.
She regularly posts wonderful pictures and stories
of her regular nature treks in her
blog Saratoga Woods and Waterways (SWW)

A Colorado specter from Jeff Howe -
it's fun when a reflection has 'eyes'


interesting - another from SWW

and another from Jacqueline Donnelly, this of the Hudson River bank - 

Lots of things to think you see in this one

on and on...

Turn this sideways, and you'll realize that
this is Japan. Credit unknown.

and these two, just because I like them:

Rakotzbrucke Bridge, Kromlau, Germany
Picture from Designmilk, via Atlas Obscura

and this one I took in 1982 - I like it just because it was a wonderful place to be - at Peter Freebody's boatyard along the Thames in Maidenhead, England

Sunday, December 25, 2016

HAPPY HOLIDAYS... everyone - Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and, to one special pal of mine who was born on this day many, many years ago and is still young at heart, I wish a very Happy Birthday.

Enjoy the day everyone. Here's a toast to a happy, healthy, busy year ahead, with not too much craziness on the political front.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016


The winter solstice, today, when the sun begins to shine for a longer time each day, was celebrated in almost all of the cultures of the northern hemisphere. Think of the many megalithic monuments that serve as calendars to insure the correct date of the solstice, and think of all the observation and study that went into the precise building of them. Inquiring minds wanted to know. Picture a tree growing from the base of the pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The rites of the celebrations were many and varied and usually lasted for days. Today’s winter celebrations are branches of that same tree. They are all holidays - festivals or celebrations - rather than holy days or solemn commemorations.

It is generally agreed that Christ was born when the shepherds were abiding in the fields, watching their flocks at night, so it would have been almost any time of the year except winter.  Most likely it was the spring, but the proselytizers, the spin-doctors of the early Christian era, in an effort to attract pagans to their way of worship and thinking, cleverly placed the celebrations of their major and most attractive events to coincide with those of the solar calendar. The spring equinox became Easter, and the winter solstice Christmas.

The winter event was celebrated as Saturnalia in Rome, Yule by the Germanic people, as Lenaea, the Festival of Wild Women, in Greece, and under many other names by people such as the Druids, the Buddhists, and the natives of our own southwest. Until the more modern spin doctors of the eighteenth century elevated it again and made it more lucrative, Christmas was celebrated as a very minor holiday; Easter was the major holy day. In some places, such as Cromwell’s Puritan England of the 1700’s, the celebration of Christmas was banned. Many Christian sects still do not celebrate it.

There is more real history associated with Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, than with Christmas. Starting on 25 Kislev, a date on the Hebrew calendar, Hanukkah, in its modern spelling, is an eight day festival commemorating an event in 165 BCE. On that day, the Maccabees drove the army of Antiochus IV, king of the Syrians, from the Temple in Jerusalem. In celebration, they rededicated the Temple and lit the eternal flame. They had only one day’s supply of consecrated oil, but it lasted for the eight days it took to prepare and consecrate a new supply. This miracle became a good reason for a winter celebration, and, minor though it was then, it was a good antidote to the Greek festival celebrating Zeus. Yes, it too was a minor holiday, but in the last century it came into prominence perhaps as another antidote - this time to all the Christmas hoopla.

Most winter symbols transcend religion. Greens, especially evergreens as boughs or wreaths in the north, were always a part of the solstice celebrations. Many rural homes shared their living space with the livestock.  In many homes the windows were for light, not air, so in northern climates the unglazed windows were covered over in winter. It was customary, probably downright necessary, to bring fresh-cut evergreens into the homes to freshen the air during the winter months. Candles too are part of the winter celebrations. Whether the eight on a menorah or the multitude on a Christmas tree, real candles or electric, they represent the light and joy of the season. 

However you celebrate the coming of Winter, I wish you and your family a meaningful and happy Christmas and Hanukkah – and in many of our homes it is both.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


Here we go again - I forgot to post this yesterday. This is another piece I wrote for our community magazine.  It was published this month, along with an article and pictures on a Dickens Village collector.

Not Dickens, but a dapper Washington Irving

Yes, what the Dickens.* Many believe Charles Dickens to be the first author to celebrate Christmas in literature. Not so. Dickens credited Washington Irving. Washington Irving, who, in turn, credited another source, was born in Manhattan in 1783, the same week the American Revolution ended. We know him best for his two most famous stories, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle. What is not well known about Irving is that one of his collections, The Sketchbook of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent., the collection written around 1820 that contained The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, also contained five Christmas stories. These stories, later published separately and called Old Christmas Sketches, were the later inspiration for the Christmas festivities portrayed by Dickens in his 1843 novel A Christmas Carol. Earlier, in 1812, when revising A History of New York, Irving inserted a tale about a dream he’d had about Saint Nicholas soaring over the treetops in a flying sled. Sound a bit familiar? The dream idea, it’s said, can be found in that of Ebenezer Scrooge, and the flying wagon in “a sleigh full of toys and St. Nicholas too.”

Irving had his own inspiration from the notes he made while traveling in England and Europe for two years in the very early 1800’s. During one holiday he stayed at Aston Hall in Birmingham, England. Surely it was then he came upon The Vindication of Christmas, written in 1652, telling of the festivities and customs of the era. Irving’s Old Christmas Sketches idealized the traditions and made them popular among the new Americans who then revived many of the customs that had been forgotten over the previous two centuries. Though now part of the holidays, and introduced from Germany to England by Prince Albert in 1841, the Christmas tree didn’t make an appearance in A Christmas Carol. That work though, published the same year as the first printed Christmas card in England, did revive many other lost customs there too.

Imagine having to have a place to store all this, and having to set it all up,
and then take it all down? It's a labor of love that I wouldn't love to do.

On both sides of the Atlantic, Dickens’ works were much more widespread and popular than Irving’s. Basically, this is the reason we talk today about a Dickensian Christmas, or collect “Dickens Village” figurines. In December, we wonder as we wander through many a city or town’s creation of a Dickens Village of shops, crafts, foods and beverages. Alas, none of them are named for the American, Washington Irving.

*From The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act III, Scene II,   by William Shakespeare 

Friday, December 9, 2016


I'd never seen such a range or recycling bins.
I'm glad we aren't required to have all these in our homes. 

I had to laugh at my own thoughts this morning – I tossed a used paper towel into the trash and wondered what garbologists of the future will think of what else I’d thrown out.

I know they’ll know my name and where I lived because of the section I tore out of an unsolicited form I was sent to apply for life insurance, a credit card, cable service, or some other thing I didn’t want in the first place. I recycled the rest of the form. I’m a conscientious recycler, but every once in a while I’ll toss out something that really could have been recycled. I have a momentary pang of guilt, but just momentary. And sometimes I hear someone in the future going “tsk, tsk.” But then I tell myself that they’ll find just this one thing in there and will know from the absence of any other recyclables that I was basically a good person. Yeah, right? It beats me why I sometimes think of what the future will think of me – I’ll be dead, why do I care?! It's a waste of time and brain power.

Do any of you remember this picture?

I’ve had this picture in my head for years. I named it “Our Lady of the Toilet Seat.” Perhaps that really was her title. I vaguely remember the story, so I googled “woman with a toilet seat on her head,” and came up with the picture and an entry from Mentor’s Reader.  The Picture comes from David Macaulay’s Motel of the Mysteries. I remember reading the book, but not owning it. (We did own and have passed on down many of his wonderful books like The Way things Work, Cathedral, City, Castle, and our favorite, which we still have, Mill.*) I recall that the folks in the fictitious future didn’t know what to make of the toilet seat. I wonder what other things might pose a question for garbologists.

I say garbologists, but in fact, garbologists study today’s waste system, it’s the poor archaeologists of the future who will be dissecting and studying the trash we bury today. By then it will be routine, and I’m sure that today’s archaeologists are delighted that they don’t have to study modern garbage dumps. Modern middens usually don’t interest them. Give ‘em a random pot shard, a bronze artifact, even an old bottle, and they are content.

*As an aside, and just by coincidence, in double-checking the titles of the many Macaulay books we’ve owned, I discovered that in 2015 he published his work called Toilet: How it Works

Friday, December 2, 2016


                …and salutations!             


Here's one just out in our community magazine, held over from last year. I did use it in a blog last November, so I am cheating today. I must admit that I still like real cards - to receive and send. I make my own greeting cards, using photos like the one above that I've taken throughout the year. I enjoy planning and using just the right photo for each occasion.

Handwritten, hand-decorated greetings date back for ages. The ancient Chinese sent New Year’s greetings. Each year they had a different animal theme to work with. From medieval times on, handwritten cards like Valentines were sent in many European countries. By the Renaissance era, cards were available from the printing presses. During Victorian times the Christmas card became popular. The Victorians positively excelled at the greeting card, and inexpensive postage stamps help spread the holiday cheer. From the first British printed Christmas card in 1834 to the first electronic card in 1994, billions of printed cards wended their way around the neighborhood and around the world.

Gifts, a cake and candles aside, how do you like friends and family to help celebrate your birthday: a greeting card, a phone call, a surprise visit from a hired entertainer, or an e-mail or e-card? How do you like to send and receive December holiday greetings? Do you delight in amassing and displaying dozens of cards? Of course you delight in receiving some of the now-popular photo holiday cards, especially if they are of your grandchildren. Do you like to make and send your own creations, or send store-bought cards? Have you saved a tree and opted to email your greetings?

Even Hallmark - “When you care enough to send the very best” - has joined the ranks of Blue Mountain, American Greetings, Jacqui Lawson, and others in the field of e-cards. Yes, Hallmark. It was bound to happen. Most people, though they still prefer snail mail greetings, don’t mind e-greetings, knowing that the sender still cared enough to think of them. 
Some have opted out of the holiday mailings, but if you haven’t, whichever you choose to send, hand-made or boxed cards or annual letter, you can make life easier for yourself by tackling the job early. Right after the holidays, update your card list (be ruthless!), then save money by buying your cards at the January sales. If you make your own cards, the summer months spent indoors in air conditioning are the ideal time to begin creating. Begin working on your holiday letter as the newsworthy events occur. Start addressing the cards and finish the holiday letter just after Thanksgiving. Sounds easy and, when you start early and stick to it, it is.

Friday, November 25, 2016




We never eat fruitcake because it has rum
And one little bit turns a man to a bum
Can you imagine a sorrier sight
Than a man eating fruitcake until he gets tight?

                                                                       The Chad Mitchell Trio’s version of The Song of the Temperance Union

Ah, fruitcake! The stuff of legends. Derided in song, derided in the media, it seems to be the ubiquitous non-comestible. To tell the truth, there are some very awful versions of it foisted on the public each year. These are the overly sweet, grossly dense, preserved-fruit-laden hockey-pucks-on-steroids available in every supermarket in America. Glacéd, crystalized or candied, whatever you choose to call them, the fruits and citron can overwhelm the taste buds. It is really a mystery why thinking people would purchase these cakes as gifts. It becomes a tradition to laugh over or to moan over. Just think of the waste when the rejected cakes get tossed into the trash. What will future garbologists think of us?

There are many, many verses to The Song of the Temperance Union. They suggest that there is little to be eaten or done, including drinking water and jumping rope, that can’t turn a man into a beast. The fruitcake lyrics might have been apt many years ago, but today, though they can be found, it is rare to find a good spirit-lace fruitcake for sale.

Oh, but you can certainly make a soused version in your own kitchen. Work with whatever fruit or nuts type cake or bread recipe you have. The key to a good soused version, be it done with rum, bourbon, or whatever tipple you prefer, is to have a good cake-to-fruit ratio: smaller pieces of fruit and nuts, easy on the citron, as with a good Italian Panettone cake, and with more cake to absorb the liquor.

The secret to the sousing is to start early. Plan on baking the weekend after Thanksgiving - I'll start mine tomorrow. Fill a spray bottle with your beverage of choice. Once your cakes are out of the oven and cooled, begin the process of spraying them thoroughly on all sides. Store them in air-tight containers or bags. Get them out once a week for four weeks, and spray them thoroughly again. By the holidays you will have a scrumptious fruitcake to give or keep - and keep it will. Some soused fruitcakes, properly kept in the bottom of the refrigerator, have been known to last, slice by slice, remembered now and then for a special treat, for well over a year.

Friday, November 18, 2016


This is a huge tom. I do miss seeing these big birds wander through
the back yard, year round, of our previous home in upstate New York.
This picture could have been one of mine.
And did you know they could fly? Yep! As we were driving down our dirt road,
we'd come upon a flock of them and watch them scatter
and fly up to the overhanging trees. Lots of noise and fluttering,
and a strange sight to see.

The menu varies from time to time, and from place to place, but the basic Thanksgiving meal that comes to mind traditionally consists of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, cranberry sauce, rolls, and apple pie. Purists say that the only things on that Thanksgiving plate native to this country, meaning the lower forty-eight, are the turkey, wild as it was, and the cranberry. If we consider just that lower forty-eight, yes, that’s correct, and only because those two were here before humans came across the land bridge from the other side of the world. Most of the rest of the meal made its way from Central and South America with population movements throughout the hemisphere.

We can assume that those original travelers brought food stuffs with them, but they would have found plenty to eat here. There were wild rice, which isn’t a rice but a grass, and nuts: walnuts and pecans, to name two. That’s a fair meal if that’s all you have, but they could forage and include wild grapes, black cherries and other berries, and greens like amaranth, wild asparagus, and others. You have to know what you can and can’t eat, and you have to know how to cook them. Trial and error. Of course, there were always fish and game, and honey and fruit for sweets.

If we consider all of the Americas and what was here before the Pilgrims celebrated that first Thanksgiving, if we really want an American meal, then we have to leave out what the Europeans brought to these shores: anything made of wheat, which originated in the Near East, and apples, which come from Central Asia. There go the rolls, the stuffing, and the apple pie. Corn bread anyone?

Cranberries before the deluge. Many people thing they grow under water.
Check out the Ocean Spray website and learn more.

People around the world have always celebrated and given thanks for a bountiful harvest. We Americans have raised the tradition onto a pedestal. And yes, especially as far as our feast menu is concerned, we do have a lot to be thankful for - for the turkey and the cranberries, and for the corn, the potatoes and sweet potatoes, the beans, the tomatoes, the peppers, the wild onions, the pumpkins and other squashes, and the bouquet of sunflowers for the table.
The Europeans brought the wheat and the apples - all the rest were here, waiting to be enjoyed and spread to the rest of the world.

Friday, November 11, 2016


In honor of my husband on this Veterans Day, I am posting this article I wrote for this month's community magazine. Frank is a font of stories about his time in the army during the Korean War - some are funny, some upsetting, some would just curl your toes and make you want to run for cover.

Frank at Ft. Chaffee, Arkansas, 1952

One day in 1952, Frank Johnston, a young man from the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn, arrived in Korea. He arrived there via Fort Chaffee, Arkansas, where he’d gone through basic training, had turned down the dubious honor of being Soldier of the Month, and had filled out a questionnaire about what he’d done in civilian life. Among other thing, he’d been a mechanic and he knew a thing or two about engines and motors. That knowledge got him into what was then called the 556th Signal Radio Relay Company, and to the top of a mountain in Korea.

He vividly remembers the voyage across the not-too-Pacific Ocean. Fortunately, or unfortunately, as the case might have been, he had good sea legs. He’d spent a lot of his preschool years on the tugboat of his dad who was the harbormaster of New York City’s Erie Basin, so seasickness wasn’t a problem. His older brother had advised him to be sure to take a top bunk near a ventilator opening, and to take his shoes up with him into bed at night.  Good advice, as it turned out. It was a very rough crossing and guards made sure no soldier went out on deck. The vast majority of the guys on the transport go very, very sick. Trashcans were soon brimful of the results. The regular hands on the ship noticed that Frank was among the healthy, and so he was dragooned into dragging trashcans full of “upchuck” up on deck to empty them overboard in high seas. They tossed a few trashcans, contents and all overboard before the crew realized what was happening and made them tie the cans to the railing. The healthy guys were on trashcan duty and KP, but they got to eat whatever they wanted, including steak.

The northern and eastern parts of Korea are fairly mountainous, much like our Appalachians, and they posed problems for effective communications – thus the Radio Relay teams. Up on the mountain, Frank was part of a team of nine who, assisted by men of the Republic of Korea Army, known as the ROKs, maintained the generators and equipment needed to transmit information between corps headquarters and the front lines. There was no road up the mountain. Everything, including the generators, cans of fuel, food, and other supplies came up on the backs of the ROKs. At one time they even carried Frank up the mountain after he’d had a dose of a potent pain killer for dental surgery at base camp.

The winters on the mountain were brutal. Everything froze. Surrounding it with the fuel and food to be kept at a useable temperature, they had a stove glowing red hot in the main tent. Sitting around that stove, they roasted their chests and froze their backs. It was always cold up on the mountain. When headquarters called for the return of winter clothing and bedding in the spring, the savvy guys failed to comply.

The mountain wasn’t an easy posting. Among other “interesting” incidents, there was the time when rats became a problem at the base of the mountain, so the whole base was fired to kill the rats. It only succeeded in driving the rats up to the top of the mountain, providing excellent target practice for the overrun relay team.

Frank got to travel a bit around the country. There was the time he went to visit a buddy he’d met in basic. The guy was a forward observer, and Frank got pinned down with him under enemy fire for several days. Occasionally, he’d travel to the coast and bring back fresh seafood, especially octopus, for the ROKs. They declared Frank to be “Number Huckin’ One!”

On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Frank got to visit the Korean War Veterans Memorial. It happened to be raining that day. Frank said that the men in the squad were carrying all the different arms and equipment appropriate to the time, and were dressed for the rain and gloom of “The “Forgotten War.”

On a rainy morning at the Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC.
Frank recognized the guys and their gear.

Friday, November 4, 2016


I’ve read many of Stevenson’s novels - Treasure Island, Kidnapped, and others – and I grew up with A Child’s Garden of Verses. I’d never read any of Stevenson’s other poetry, that I remember, until I came upon this one at The Writer’s Almanac this past April. I’ve saved it until November, Stevenson birth month.

I Will Make You Brooches

I will make you brooches and toys for your delight
Of bird-song at morning and star-shine at night.
I will make a palace fit for you and me
Of green days in forests and blue days at sea.
I will make my kitchen, and you shall keep your room,
Where white flows the river and bright blows the broom,
And you shall wash your linen and keep your body white
In rainfall at morning and dewfall at night.
And this shall be for music when no one else is near,
The fine song for singing, the rare song to hear!
That only I remember, that only you admire,
Of the broad road that stretches and the roadside fire.

In searching Google Images for an illustration for this poem, I came upon the lovely calligraphy above by Susan McGill, and also the fact that the poem had also been put to music. I didn't know that. Learn something new every day.

Friday, October 28, 2016


Not wild swans at all, and not at Coole. I photographed these at Stourhead,
a National Trust estate in Wiltshire, England. The year was 1984.
It had just started to rain, and a drop on my lens blurred the mama swan.

It was January 1962, the second semester of my Sophomore year at college, and after taking a half-year course in Chaucer, Middle English language lab a requirement for that, I started the second half of the year with a course on Yeats. There should have been a “language lab” in the wild and wonderful, for that’s how I found Yeats’ poetry. This one has been one of my favorites since then. (And why, I’ve wanted to know for ages, don’t we pronounce Yeats as Yeets, or Keats as Kates?)

The Wild Swans at Coole

The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky;
Upon the brimming water among the stones
Are nine-and-fifty swans.
The nineteenth autumn has come upon me
Since I first made my count;
I saw, before I had well finished,
All suddenly mount
And scatter wheeling in great broken rings
Upon their clamorous wings.
I have looked upon those brilliant creatures,
And now my heart is sore.
All’s changed since I, hearing at twilight,
The first time on this shore,
The bell-beat of their wings above my head,
Trod with a lighter tread.
Unwearied still, lover by lover,
They paddle in the cold
Companionable streams or climb the air;
Their hearts have not grown old;
Passion or conquest, wander where they will,
Attend upon them still.

But now they drift on the still water,
Mysterious, beautiful;
Among what rushes will they build,
By what lake’s edge or pool
Delight men’s eyes when I awake some day
To find they have flown away?

Wednesday, October 26, 2016


This morning, Atlas Obscura, that daily compendium of the strange and unusual that comes to my inbox every day, has this article about turning corpses into light. It is the future of death.

Constellation Park lights up the East River through pods containing decomposing biomass — the cemetery of the future. COURTESY OF COLUMBIA DEATHLAB

This is a wonderful idea. It would be lovely to think I could end my physical presence on this earth by decaying as a source of light. Do read the full article.

Friday, October 21, 2016


Alice and Maggie
1988 - Colorado Springs Pioneer Museum 

Awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild

This is really Alice, lovingly known to me as Alice From Our Palace Big Job New Yorker. She is Alice to us, her parents, and to most of her family, but to the rest of the world, including her husband and children, she is known as Maggie.

When she moved to Massachusetts, one of her new roommates said “you’re not an Alice, you’re a Maggie!” and Maggie it was from then on as she was introduced into her new community and workplace.

The New Yorker lives in Texas now. I Love both of her.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


(This is an article I wrote for this month's community magazine here at Sun City Carolina Lakes. Many of our residents are from the north and hardly realize the important role of the south in the American Revolution. History has become more interesting for a lot of us.)
They'll be firing the big guns today

… of the midnight ride of Paul Revere? No! You shall hear of the end of it all and that it was on this day, October 19, 1781, 235 years ago, that the British General Charles Cornwallis officially surrendered his troops to General George Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, effectively ending the Revolutionary War.

“On the eighteenth of April in Seventy-five”, the British were planning to attack on the colonists in Massachusetts, but it wasn’t known how they would proceed. It finally was “two if by sea,” and Revere rode out to warn the people in Lexington and Concord and other Middlesex towns. Paul Revere’s Ride was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow some eighty-five years later. This poem, along with the one that relates the story “the shot heard round the world”, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Concord Hymn, written in 1837, added to a vague recollection of the Boston Tea Party and the burdensome taxes imposed on the colonists, and they often constitute the only idea many adults have of our Revolutionary War history.

Though “the shot heard round the world” was hardly that, the first shot at Concord marked the beginning of our formal break with the mother country.
To many of us, especially those from the northeast states, all we remember of the Revolution are those first battles and, perhaps, George Washington crossing the Delaware. But if it wasn’t for the south, the Carolinas and Virginia, we’d all be British.

Though the primary action of the opening years of the war was in the north, at the same time the persistent southern forces were handling British actions in Charleston and eastern Florida, and nagging at the British and Loyalists whenever they could. The North began to get help from the French, and in the last major battle there they defeated the British at Saratoga in 1777. Still the British remained a large presence in the north, harrying and engaging the forces in a series of smaller battles. 

The same year as Saratoga, the southerners did lose Savannah, their biggest city, to the British. Then Charleston went, and the Americans retreated in defeat to the Carolinas. There they met the British in several engagements: one of them was the Battle of the Waxhaws. For about a year it didn’t look good for the American cause, but then the tide turned and they won at Kings Mountain and Cowpens.

The British kept at it, winning some battles, but at great cost to themselves. King George III, who even thought of abdicating, lost control of Parliament to the factions within his own country who were disgusted with the loss of live and the expenditures, and sued for peace with the Americans. Finally the American southern, northern, and naval forces came together in Yorktown to defeat the British and accept their surrender. And that, in a nutshell, was that.  

Sunday, October 16, 2016


Earlier this month (and before all the latest revelations of several of his more salacious, remarks) …

In an awkward debate moment, she had said Trump was 'absolutely' a role model for children.

I'm surmising that an idiom like this begins when a person first uses it and someone else understands what was meant. Then that person who understood it uses it again, and again. Walk back - why not just say retracted? No wonder people from other countries can’t understand a word we say.

Senator Ayotte didn’t use the idiom, Politico did. But anyone who thought, even for a moment, that Donald Trump was a role model for children has, to use a popular idiom, a screw loose.

Friday, October 14, 2016



I had to smile when I read about my Canadian friend feeding her resident chipmunk. I do miss the chipmunks we had in when we lived on a few rural acres in upstate New York. Chipmunks are such precious things. Needless to say, we couldn't tell one from another when there was a bunch of them out under the bird feeder, but there was one we always knew - we called him Chop because he'd lost most of his tail. For over twenty years we usually had a Chop in residence. Then we had Chip, Cheeks, and Chuck. If there were any more than four we gave up.

I miss the woodland noises, chipmunk chucks included. Twenty years in relative silence spoiled us. I did have a quiet walk this past Saturday morning, since there was no weekday traffic out on the main road.  It’s over half a mile away, but there is usually some modern age noise, traffic, train whistles, emergency sirens, to interfere with the silence. Every once in a while, if I’m out really early, I’ll hear the hoot of an owl, but here the sounds of nature that were once every-day to us are rare. I miss the hoot of an owl or the scream of a hawk or a bobcat, the mad fluttering escape of a startled grouse (we were both scared!), the chuck and chip of the chipmunks, and the chittering of the squirrels and the songs of the birds, and, on fall days like these, the sound of the katydids. Katy did - Katy didn’t. I’m sure there is some variety of them here in Indian Land, but I’ve yet to hear them.

Katy did. Katy didn't!

If you listened every night, you recognized that the slower the made their calls, the colder the temperatures were getting. They sang of the coming arrival of winter.  

Friday, October 7, 2016



Image result for whale tail

A whale breaches and that elegant tail fin slowly sinks beneath the waves

A baby laughs

A dragonfly lands on a reed

Take a break, get comfortable, and close your eyes and think about all the different things that could be happening in the universe -

     Where are you?

           Make something happen – mundane or marvelous

                Let your mind roam outward from your daily self

                       Keep the feeling with you the rest of the day



Friday, September 30, 2016


Just wonderin’…

Who would want all those lamps?

When I was a kid, I’d sometimes watch a daytime game show. Many times the prize would be so many dollars’ worth of Quoizel Lamps. I’d think to myself “Who would want all those lamps? Don’t they already have lamps?” I could understand advertisements for things that got eaten, or used up like toilet paper, or even wrecked, like a car. But lamps? 

Even today, watching shows like “How It’s Made” I wonder who would want all those pocket knives, or wristwatches, or surf boards, other doo-dads. Don't surfers already have surfboards? I don’t need them, how come they make so many of them?  Dumb of me, I know, but the consumption of such things, I call them “things you didn’t know you didn’t need,” is still a mystery to me. It’s a good thing that there aren’t too many others like me, otherwise our economy would stagnate.

By very strange coincidence, my stepdaughter works for Quoizel and has done so for over twenty years. Good company – they make a lot of lamps.

Friday, September 23, 2016


Just wonderin’…

Remember the party standby, deviled eggs? Just plain deviled eggs. Today, according to a recent issue of Saveur magazine, they marinate the whites in soy sauce and raspberry vinegar - just for fifteen minutes, mind you - and then fill them with the yolks that were combined with lump crab meat, avocado, and apple.

Chefs are getting inventive. Food is getting fancy. I suppose that’s a good thing, yet I wonder what “comfort food” will be to generations to come.

Friday, September 16, 2016


This is a brief piece I wrote for the Southern Writers series in our community magazine. O. Henry sure was an interesting character, and I enjoyed researching his life as much as I enjoy reading his work.

William Sidney Porter

Many people remember O. Henry around Christmas time, thinking of his classic short story The Gift of the Magi, but this writer was much more than the author of that one prominent piece. O. Henry was the pen name of William Sidney Porter, born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in September 1862.

A voracious reader from the start, Porter was a sketch artist and draftsman, a ranch hand and cook, a teller and bookkeeper, singer and musician, and a licensed pharmacist who also wrote articles and short stories on the side.
It was his job at a bank in Austin, Texas, that got him in trouble: he was suspected of embezzling funds and adjusting the books and was fired. A while later, the Feds audited the bank’s books and, long story short, they called for his arrest, he took off for New Orleans and then Central America, and, because the wife he’d left in Texas was dying, he went back and faced his sentence. Porter had had many stories published under a variety of pennames, but it was while he was in prison that he became known as O. Henry, the name he was using most often.

Porter, O. Henry, was a master of the twist at the end of the tale. In The Gift of the Magi, his short story most likely read by everyone during their school years, husband and wife sacrifice their one prized possession to get the other something to enhance that prized possession. In The Ransom of Red Chief, the kidnappers pay the boy’s father to take him back. In many stories, someone does a kind deed to help another, and then winds up suffering for it. In others, the person doing the good deed, though he was formerly a criminal, is let off because of the deed.

In his short lifetime, Porter died at 47, he wrote hundreds of stories. Many were originally published in collections of his works such as “Cabbages and Kings.”  His more famous stories are usually included in American short story anthologies, and in high school English texts as great examples of irony.

Two interesting notes:

In Honduras while evading his prison term, in one collection of stories he wrote, Porter coined the phrase “banana republic, now defined as “a small nation, especially in Central America, dependent on one crop or the influx of foreign capital.”

And, like the S in the name of Harry S. Truman, the O in O. Henry is a compromise of sorts, and just stands for itself.