Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mother Knows Best

Momma on the job
Perhaps I should have more faith in mother nature.  Yesterday's post implied that some errant bird had laid eggs too late to produce any chicks.  This morning I went out to the back yard to water my garden and glancing up at the nest, I discovered a beak still as a millpond stretching out from the edge.

So now I know that momma bird is doing what she is supposed to be doing.  But here's the hitch.  She picked the wrong yard to raise her young.  It would be much better to have nested in a tree in the property behind the fence at the back of our property. Over that fence is a convalescent home behind which is a parking lot and an open area with a few walking paths where virtually no one wanders.  The best thing about it is that the convalescent home has no cats.  We, on the other hand, have two birders, mousers, squirrelers that act without remorse when around feathered things--without regard for the innocence of youth.

I'll be watching closely and hope to be able to tell you that the beautiful blue eggs have produced two healthy chicks.  Guarded optimism is the order of the day. 

Stay tuned.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Cycle of Life

This evening my son pulled the ladder around and set it up to see a branch over the chair where I sit with my coffee and tablet in the morning or wine and book in the evening when I want to commune with nature.  He wondered what was inside the nest on the branch and, sure enough, he hit paydirt.  Two beautiful blue eggs.  What a prize!
Back yard booty

Now, of course, I'm wondering if so late in the summer these eggs could still be viable.  Down the street, my neighbor with the monster lenses spent a few hours today sitting on the sidewalk at the end of his driveway waiting for an opportunity to catch a shot of the bluebird babies nesting in the hole in his tree.  He had settled in with his sophisticated equipment, including a parabolic microphone, to see and hear the chirping baby birds.

I wonder if my eggs belong to a late-blooming mother whose sentiments are pure but whose understanding of the cycle of life is lacking.  She might want to take some lessons from the bluebird momma down the block.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Musical chairs? No, musical animals.

Winston:  I'm not kidding when I say "teacup" poodle.
While sons Seth and Pat are in France for a few weeks, Seth's dogs are staying with us.  Winston is a teacup poodle--about as small as a dog comes.  Seth adopted him from an old girlfriend when it appeared Jack and Winston were inseparable.  He adopts Milo's stuffed toys as soon as he arrives and challenges both Milo and Jack to attempt to separate him from what is temporarily his. He's sweet and docile with the humans in the pack.

Jack:  Ready for anything.
Jack is a Boston terrier--as terrier-like as any dog might want to be.  He's a pussycat with people, but with our pussycats, he's like a rabid rhinocerous.  When I water the garden, I have to keep him inside because any running water coming out of the end of a hose makes him crazy.  He figures the water is his to chew and try to chew it he does--in a way that is alternately hilarious and aggravating if you happen to be watering the garden--off limits to all the four-legged creatures.

Spike:  Wily beast.
While Jack and Winston are here, the cats go out in the morning and don't return until late at night when we say nighty-night to the dogs and cajole the cats to return to the hearth.  This evening, I called them both.  Max came in through the screen in the back door pretty quickly and I closed it behind him lest he decide to exit again.  Spike wasn't quite so accessible.  So first I tried to persuade him to come in by wandering around the front of the house in the dark without success.  Phil finally took a turn knocking against a can of tuna with a kitchen knife and promising a nice fishy meal. 

Milo and Max:  Ever buddies.
As Phil stood at the door with the tuna can, Max escaped through his legs.  As I approached to help, Milo took off.  So there we were out front in the dark persuading all three animals to return.  Max disappeared into the darkness.  Milo tried to herd Spike back toward the front door and Phil's fast action caught him in the neighbor's garden without actually trampling any precious flowers (though since it was pitch black out there, I can't be sure).  And because Phil held Spike in his arms, Milo trotted after him like the puppy dog he is.

I gave up on Max and had faith he would return--and return he did.  So now we're all back together until morning when the cats will return to the wild and Jack and Winston will emerge from their beds to protect us from our feline family


Sunday, May 11, 2014


Mothering is life's most precious act.  There is no greater sacrifice and no greater joy.

My own mother was extraordinary.  She was the mother all the other kids thought was cool.  She was permissive and friendly--an adventurous and wonderful cook.  She was not judgmental and since she was the minister's wife, other parents overlooked her liberal attitude--or they presumed otherwise and had no idea.  I am grateful that she was my mother every single day.

When in France, I encountered an exhibit of paintings in Avignon's Musée du Petit Palais.  The paintings were from the Gothic to Renaissance periods (12th to 15th centuries).  These particular paintings have religious significance; however, more important to me on Mother's Day is the poignancy reflected in the faces of these women.  It's the joy of motherhood.

My children give me immeasurable pleasure.  Nothing else I have done in my life equals in value the experience of mothering my three sons--all of them charming, funny, creative, loving and bright.  I could not be more thankful.    
Sandro Botticelli

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Adventures in the Southern Corners of France

Along the Mediterranean in Nice
Water wheel in l'Isle-sur-le-Sorgue
I invite you all to look at my recent book, Adventures in the Southern Corners of France.  Adventures chronicles the three months my husband and I spent traveling all across southern France in places we had been before and places completely new to us. 

Canal du Midi

We explored a tiny village in the Pyrénées where my brother-in-law's family had lived, a town in Provence formerly occupied by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the pepper capital of France, a pre-Roman fortified settlement in Languedoc-Roussillon and more.

The book shares experiences from these discoveries with photos to entice readers to enjoy the same experiences.  I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoyed revisiting the magical country of France.   

View to the Pyrenees

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Human Voice

In our churches, "Spirit of Life," by Carolyn McDade, has been popular since the mid-1960s.  It is a familiar song to me and others who have grown up in our denomination.  The melody is sweet and the message is compelling.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of life, come to me, come to me.

On Sunday, "Spirit of Life" was on the order of service.  It made me smile, remembering my youthful enthusiasm over singing--still for me an essential part of a Sunday service.  My father came to church with me to reconnect with familiar surroundings and familiar people.  When he was a young man, Dad had been encouraged to study voice.  Instead he chose the ministry where he met my mother--then the theological school choir director.  Over 20 years ago, Dad moved from his position of many years looking out from the pulpit to sitting among the congregation.  Now he is approaching his 96th birthday and is weaker of body and less sharp of mind.  His voice, however, does not age.

I enthusiastically joined in singing in earnest when Dad's voice became more and more a part of my consciousness.  I was overcome with emotion to hear him--even in his dotage--a voice as lovely as it ever was--true and precise and strong.  Unable to sing, I tried to gain control of my own voice, wiping my tears and hoping he didn't notice. 

This experience was a gift--a nod to the power of the voice and the human spirit.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Nose Knows

As I brought the first spoonful of raspberries to my mouth, I was transported back to my grandparents' home in Calais, Maine.  My great aunt and I were the pickers so we had first dibs on the berries, which we ate guilt free with cream and sugar.  Yes, sugar.  And I still use sugar.  My husband accuses me of gilding the lily.  Oh well.

Whenever I catch a whiff of jet exhaust, it reminds me of stepping off the plane in Santiago, Chile, to start my Peace Corps stint.  That arrival in Santiago was over 40 years ago!

And lilacs--uncommon in California's central valley--conjure up images of an enormous bank of lilacs bordering the back of our property in Haverhill, Massachusetts.  I really can see them in my thoughts. 

Scents, odors, smells.  They are the most direct route to our memories.  The other senses--taste, touch, sight, hearing--these aid our memories.  But nothing is as acute as the sense of smell.  That same great aunt who was my co-picker of raspberries, beans, peas, tomatoes and pears had no sense of smell.  But she loved her food even so.  I am grateful to be able to enjoy what the world has to offer using the full spectrum of my olfactory senses.

Thank goodness for those memories.

A Note to Readers:  After too long, I am back on course.  Over the last several months, my blog has experienced some hiccoughs.  Photos have disappeared from prior posts and I am unlikely to take the time to replace them all and the appearance of the blog has been impossible to change.  Bear with me as I try to "crack the code" to make it better.  I will continue to post regularly, however, with or without successful changes.