Friday, April 28, 2017


On Arbor Day in 2015 I posted an article with the poem “Trees Need Not Walk the Earth” and a story about my oldest granddaughter. I took another look at that blog this week, and I was struck with the almost offhand caption I wrote for the picture below:

“…and the First Prize is awarded for The Best Use of a Tree”

In these recent years, I have become more and more aggravated by the worst use of a tree: junk mail and catalogs. Truly, almost all the paper in our weekly recycling is just that: junk. It comes in and goes right into the bin. It’s a shame. 

Friday, April 21, 2017


I love penguins. I always did like them, but they became special favorites when my mother made herself a gorgeous wool, portrait-collar dress. The sides and back were black, the front panel and collar were white. She called it her penguin dress. After that, I bought her a penguin or two – a sculpture, which I still have, and a Steff penguin called Peggy among them – and I’ve always been alert to things ‘penguin’.


by William Jay Smith

I think it must be very nice
To stroll about upon the ice,
Night and day, day and night,
Wearing only black and white,
Always in your Sunday best—
Black tailcoat and pearl-white vest.
To stroll about so pleasantly
Beside the cold and silent sea
Would really suit me to a T!
I think it must be very nice
To stroll with Penguins on the ice.

Friday, April 14, 2017


Rock Cakes - this is the first photo to come up in Google Images,
and they look perfect to me. 

How many times has it happened to you: you hear something out of the ordinary in your daily life, and then you hear it again, even the same day? I had that happen twice today.

First case in point. This morning I read in the N.Y. Times email Morning Briefing about the child-molestation scandal at Choat Rosemary Hall. O.K., a cover up, etc. Tsk, Tsk. Later, I was proofreading the May issue of our community magazine. One of our astute writers had written piece on President John F. Kennedy who was born 100 years ago in May, 1917, and went to prep school at, yes, Choat. How often would Choat come up in the daily scheme of things?

Then, Frank was reading one of Agatha Christie's Hercule Poirot mysteries. He stopped and asked me "what are rock cakes?" I told him. Being an Anglophile, I know about such culinary delights. Then I started reading a Kindle version of Rise, by Karina Bliss. What were they having for tea? Yes, rock cakes. Another quirky coincidence. 

I love when this happens!  

Friday, April 7, 2017


This is another article I submitted to our community magazine. Caldwell died just thirty years ago this month. That would mean I was 44 then, but I really had little knowledge of him and hadn't, as far as I remember, read any of his work. Delving into his life and work has been quite interesting. 

Did you ever hear anyone describe a place as being “right out of an Erskine Caldwell novel?” In the musical classic The Music Man, one of the busy-body ladies is describing Marian the Librarian – “She advocates dirty books: Chaucer, Rabelais, Balzac!” If the show had been set in the middle of the 1900’s, the lady might have added Erskine Caldwell.  

Caldwell’s output, which included about fifty novels, dozens of short stories, non-fiction, and editing, was, along with his travels, far reaching. With his second wife of four, the photographer Margaret Bourke-White, he collaborated on three photo documentaries, including Have You Seen Their Facesa pictorial about the troubles in the rural South. 

The two most well-known of his works, Tobacco Road and God’s Little Acreboth of which were made into movies, are set in that poor, rural south. Caldwell, who died 30 years ago this month, wrote about the social problems, the racism and the poverty, in works that won great critical acclaimHe said: "I could not become accustomed to the sight of children's stomachs bloated from hunger and seeing the ill and aged too weak to walk to the fields to search for something to eat. In the evenings I wrote about what I had seen during the day, but nothing I put down on paper succeeded in conveying the full meaning of poverty and hopelessness and degradation as I had observed it." 

Born in Georgia in 1903, Caldwell’s parents were a Presbyterian minister whose Scots-Irish ancestors were here before the American Revolution, and his schoolteacher wife who was descended from English aristocracy and landed Virginia gentry. Ira Caldwell’s itinerant ministry took them all over the rural south during his son’s formative years. The writer’s maxim is “write what you know,” and Caldwell came to know and champion the rural poor. He wrote of the working men, the farmers and share-croppers, the factory workers. He wrote vivid descriptions of their lives and their living conditions.  

While his works were getting critical acclaim, they were condemned elsewhere for their profanity and explicit sexuality. God’s Little Acre, published in 1933, was banned, where else, in Boston. The Georgia Literary Commission recommended that anyone reading it be jailed. The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice had him arrested and tried. He was exonerated. Caldwell’s fellow southern writers, among them Margaret Mitchell and William Faulkner, condemned him for painting such an awful picture of their beloved South. All that was about 85 years ago, and times and social mores have certainly changed - or have they?

Wednesday, April 5, 2017


At the Store

Clumps of daffodils along the storefront
bend low this morning, late snow
pushing their bright heads down.
The flag snaps and tugs at the pole
beside the door.
The old freezer, full of Maine blueberries
and breaded scallops, mumbles along.
A box of fresh bananas on the floor,
luminous and exotic…
I take what I need from the narrow aisles.
Cousins arrive like themes and variations.
Ansel leans on the counter,
remembering other late spring snows,
the blue snow of ‘32:
Yes, it was, it was blue.
Forrest comes and goes quickly
with a length of stovepipe, telling
about the neighbors’ chimney fire.
The store is a bandstand. All our voices
sound from it, making the same motley
American music Ives heard;
this piece starting quietly,
with the repeated clink of a flagpole
pulley in the doorway of a country store.

I am not a fan of free verse poems that seem to be sentences broken down and stacked phrase upon phrase, or chunk upon chunk. They tell no story, paint no pictures. This poem, as with much of Jane Kenyon’s poems, paints a picture, sets a mood, and tells a story – a in the space of a few lines. It is lyrical.