Friday, August 29, 2008

Last Hurrah

As Labor Day approaches, I’m not saddened by the loss of summer, but thankful at the prospect of fall. While spring may be the most eagerly awaited season, with the puppy dog anticipation of crocus shoots and longer days, autumn brings a sigh of relief with its colorful, cool days.

Spring gets you pumped up; autumn encourages you to let go.

In February and March, I find myself looking out the window at my garden, brown and trodden. I watch for the first green sprout to show itself among the soggy leaves. One by one as the early daffodils, daylilies and iris present themselves, my heart pumps faster with each green bud. Like a bear coming out of hibernation, my spirit starts to stir.

By April I find myself circling the perimeter of my yard. Sometimes two or three times a day. What’s growing new today, I wonder. By May the peonies are emerging so quickly I would swear they leap up when my back is turned. My heart soars when I notice the first buds on the hydrangea, so you can imagine the exaltation when the apple tree glows pink with blossoms.

And then before you know it, it’s July. Hot, humid, relentless, with the steamy days, blazing sun and breezeless nights. The leaves of the peonies become crispy brown. The lawn forsakes all hope that spring promised. Slugs, beetles, thrips beat you down with their tenacity.

O fall where art thou?

Labor Day is summer’s last hurrah. Who cares if I can no longer wear white...I can see a rosy touch of pink in the sky, hear a note of reprieve in the birds’ song, and feel a kiss of coolness in the night air. While I’m so happy to fill pots with flowers as spring begins, I find myself in August longing for the day when I can store the hose away.

Until it begins all over again in a few months. To be continued…

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Stranger things have happened

In the mid to late 70's I lived in San Diego. While I was between jobs I did some baby sitting for a very sweet girl named Amelia. That's her pictured here. Lovely, isn't she?
I always wondered what became of her. Amelia would be in her 30's now. Is she married with children of her own? Or maybe she's an astronaut in training for the next shuttle launch. An archaeologist? A nurse? An athlete?

I'm posting her picture here because I believe in fate. I'm hoping someday, someone will stumble upon this blog and recognize that sweet face. Slim chance you're thinking. Well, stranger things have happened.

When I was in college I had a friend, Diane, who was a couple years older than me and who was an important influence in my life. She was an artist with an independent spirit. While I was wondering where the next party was going to be, she would balance me with discussions about politics, literature and current events. Her sense of humor was amazing. To this day I can see her throw her head back in a bout of laughter.

After school, Diane married a fellow artist and I moved to Atlanta. We stayed in touch, but in the days of no Internet or cell phones, our connection was not as close as it once was. A couple years into her marriage, Diane became pregnant with twin boys. I saw her not long after the babies were born and she was a a radiant mother.

My next visit back home I spoke with Diane's husband and received the sad news that she had cancer. The prognosis was not good. A few months later, Diane passed -- her sons were not yet two -- and over the years I lost touch with her family.

Fast forward thirty some years to about a year ago. I was attending a local theatre production and began thumbing through the program prior to the performance. Looking at the credits, I noticed a familiar name. The same name as one of Diane's sons. I contacted the head of the theatre company -- did this man have a twin brother?

My message was passed along and before the day was over I communicating by email with one of the boys. It was a heady experience telling him stories about his mother. So many wonderful memories and feelings resurfaced. He 'd lost his grandparents and his aunt, so connections to his mom were dwindling, and the stories were well received.

Don't doubt the power of fate, the presence of serendipity. At my last lunch with Diane's son, I learned that her grandson had been born on my birthday. Coincidence? Of course. But still a powerful reminder of another connection to a dear friend I thought I'd lost many years ago.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Welcome to Dakota

If you meandered down the left side of this blog and read my "profile", you saw that one of my favorite books is Dakota: A Spiritual Geography by Kathleen Norris. Kathleen, and her husband, were young poets living in New York when a family member in Lemmon, South Dakota passed away. They offered to move to Lemmon and manage the farm interests thinking it would be a short term adventure.

That adventure turned into many years building a new life that was grounded by a growing love for the prairie landscape and the inertia of rural life. Dakota captures the wonder of the Great Plains -- the harsh and the sublime -- eloquently told through the eyes and soul of a poet.

Scattered throughout the book are "Weather Reports", reflections on how nature and the elements bring beauty and hardship in equal measure. Below is the report for March 25:

Mud and new grass push up through melting snow. Lilacs in bud by my front door, bent low by last week's ice storm, begin to rise again in today's cold rain. Then clouds scatter in a loud wind.

Suddenly, fir trees seems like tired old women stooped under winter coats. I want to be light, to cast off impediments, and push like a tulip through a muddy smear of snow. I want to take the rain to heart, let it move like possibility, the idea of change.

I thought of "Weather Reports" today because it was such a blissfully beautiful day in the flatlands. And while I sat on my porch and tilted my face into an unexpected breeze, I knew I could never begin to capture the imagery that comes so naturally to Ms. Norris. So to honor her and to honor the gift of this day, I repeat her words with the hope they drop into the open arms of a grateful reader.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I Haiku, do you?

August branches bend
give perch to hungry starlings --
No apples for me.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Vocabulary 101

I am a great admirer of language and sadly English is the only one I know. I also regret that I do not have a more powerful vocabulary. Over the years as I would read, if I came across a word I didn't know, I would write it down so I could look up the meaning. Open any drawer in my house and those little pieces of paper with undefined words on them will float out.

There were times when I did manage to make it to the dictionary and jotted down the pronunciation and definition. But more often than not my brain didn't retain the information.

There is one exception: untoward. I came across it for the first time in a Vanity Fair article. I looked at it for a long time trying to figure it out, failed, and then looked it up. Webster offers a couple options, but in the context of the article I've always remembered it as "not favorable; adverse, improper".

To this day I am delighted when I come across it and can call up it's meaning. Untoward. It's a funny word. Look at it long enough and it takes on different connotations. Not toward? Did you know that while toward means "direction, along a course", towardly means favorable or pleasant. See, that's why I like language.

Another word I love is doyenne. Not so much for what it means, or even how it looks -- which is a bit odd, but because of the way it sounds in my head: doiyyyyyenn. With reverberation. Much like a sound effect you would hear in a Road Runner cartoon.

As a woman of a certain age my body has begun to leak estrogen. And as goes this hormone, so go a few stray brain cells skipping out on me as well. That makes learning new words, or even remembering old favorites, a challenge. A friend of mine says she can't remember nouns. My dismissal process is not so selective. Along with nouns, I'm missing the ability to recall verbs, adjectives, names and points in time.

From time to time I hope to talk about new words I've learned or ones I've finally figured out how to use in a sentence. If you have favorites, I hope you will send them my way. But please include the definition. I'm running out of scrap paper.

A blog virgin no more

My first posting and already the anxiety is proving a challenge to my new antiperspirant. It took me -- a techno-feeb-- forever to get the template set up. Now I'm seeing tabs that say "Edit Html" and "Post Options" but I'm afraid to click on anything for fear of losing what I've so far put into place.

There are also tabs for "Moderate Comments" and "Dashboard" (what?) but I'm more concerned with finding the spell check function. It would also be very cool if there were a function that bleeted "trite" or "pretentious" every time I'm compelled to write something less than literate.

Even better....when my grammar is faltering, the voice of Mrs. Berutti, my high school english teacher, would kindly ask "Do you really want to use that word?" Or when I'm tempted to portray someone in a less than kindly manner, the stern admonishment of Sister Leo Gene would ring out, "Patricia! Be nice."

But it appears I'm on my own here. Bear with me.