Because Lauren needed to know- and because I understand why she needed to know so urgently- I wanted to offer a little update on our cardinal chick friend.
The Eldest continued to keep close tabs on the nest. Yesterday, he heralded us with the good news- "The chick sprouted pin feathers! Come see!"
Sure enough, the thick hard texture of pin feathers lined the outside of the baby cardinal's wings. And the wide-open beak, voracious, begging to be fed.
You can really get a good glimpse of the pin feathers as layered along the wing here. Amazing, too, how his head is filling out with a thicker, dark skin, the preface to feathers.
The continued growth and burgeoning size of our baby chick friend suggests that a mother is still nurturing him. So far, so good. We're keeping our hopes up here at the tiniest, most frugal castle in the world.
Scroll down for this free printable download.
The Eldest's study of the Civil War led us through the Underground Railroad earlier this week. It's a topic I love to explore because it demonstrates how the actions of a few determined, good people made a difference in the lives of those African-Americans who ran from slavery.
People trying to escape slavery could not afford to ask most Americans how to get North. Asking directions in a society that held no laws to protect slaves was a risk that usually led to getting caught. The man or woman on the run cannot rely on the friendliness of common folks. Instead, the slaves fleeing towards freedom devised clues and secret codes to help them find the direction of "North" on their journey.
One clue was that moss tends to grow on the North side of trees. So, in long excursions through wooded areas, they could look to the trees to determine their direction.
Out in the fields and plains, however, there were few trees to consult. In treeless areas, these brave individuals consulted the skies. They knew that migrating birds flew north in the summer- so they followed the large groups of birds heading north. They also knew of a star called the "North Star", frequently called "Polaris" in astronomy books and charts.
Unlike other stars, the North Star never changes position. It always points to the north. If they could find a way to remember how it pointed North, then they could use the North Star as a guide in unwooded areas.
An easy way to remember the North Star's location was by looking for the "drinking gourd". Since many used hollowed-out gourds to dip and drink water, the Big Dipper resembled a drinking gourd to them. Two stars on the edge of the gourd always point to the North Star. By finding the “drinking gourd” in the sky, people traveling at night could always find the North Star.
Escaping slaves like Harriet Tubman, James Pennington, and Josiah Henson probably followed the Drinking Gourd to freedom. The song "Follow the Drinking Gourd" helped keep the memories and instructions of how to follow the invisible and very secret Underground Railroad alive for slaves in the South. The topic was such a neat one that the Eldest played the song on the pinao as I sang the lyrics in a pajama-attired evening performance for all. Then we set out to seek the Drinking Gourd itself on the front lawn. Even Gnome spotted the North Star in the gourd!
FIND THE DRINKING GOURD ACTIVITY To find the North Star, begin by looking for the Big Dipper constellation. Use the two small stars that form the edge of the cup away from the handle. Follow the line these two stars create to find the North Star.
I like to imagine that someday, far in the future, the kids will be stargazing as their thoughts inevitably return to the many African-Americans who dared follow the drinking gourd in the hopes of finding freedom from the injustice and horror of slavery. These are the stories in the stars- if we only agree to see them.
We've been witnessing a few bullying behaviors here in the castle- and there's nothing quite as painful to watch as little people using cruelty as a means of motivating one another. It's a form of slow torture for those who aren't content with a social darwinist approach to life. So, tonight, the King and I called a castle meeting to try and sort through a few things with our budding bullies.
One of my favorite free resources for castle meetings is the LifeTree Learning Systems Pax Curricula. A yearlong learning program enables you to teach kids how to make compassionate choices through activities, role-play, games, and empathy-building exercises. We use it for all our kids- and I think the little Gnome gets quite a bit out of it, even if the concepts can be a little abstract at times.
“Peace, according to Montessori philosophy, does not mean weakness, and it does not mean the simple absence of war. It means inner harmony and strong individuality, a full participation in community life, responsiveness to the world, and stewardship of its resources. It means respect for human dignity and diversity, and due diligence in protecting and supporting the rights of all. It is to this definition of peace that we dedicate our most passionate efforts.”
Tonight, we're going to focus on our imaginary friend, Wendy, who just can't seem to be happy no matter how many things she accrues and manages to take from others. Unlike her friend, William, who can find so many wonderful ways to play with a few sticks, Wendy finds herself angry at others for her own inability to enjoy all the things she has. She takes to picking on William- demanding his stick and throwing a tantrum when he won't give it to her. She calls him "stupid" and tells him that she hates him and that he is "disgusting".
No matter how much she gets, Wendy always wants more. And Wendy loves to talk about other people- there are so many people she "doesn't like". It's hard not to wonder if there is anything in the world Wendy does like. Selfish behavior aside, it's obvious Wendy doesn't like herself very much.
I can't wait to see how the kids think we can help Wendy find a way to enjoy what she's given. I also hope they offer a few suggestions on how to help a friend like William when he is being bullied or mistreated. Stay tuned.
All the astronomical learnings lately have me burning the midnight candles to create materials for us to dig deeper and deeper and even deeper into the magic of the night sky. Of course, you can't get to the good stuff without a rudimentary understanding of quantum physics, so we are building the scaffolds as we go.
Print your free copy by downloading the booklet from the link above. Happy exploring!
It was the Eldest who summoned me, in his most excited whisper, over to a corner of the backyard near a privet shrub. For the past two weeks, there'd been a pair of cardinals- one haughty red male and a soft brown female- flitting to and from the shrub. I didn't think much of it, but the Eldest kept an eye (and pen) on them, frequently referring to their actions in his nature journal. He also noted the day when the brown mother bird flew over to the shrub with a small twig in her beak. "She's building a nest," he declared.
An urgency in his whisper- perhaps even his ability to sustain a whisper against excitement's uncontrolled volubility- grabbed my attention.
Pointing within the shrub, the Eldest grinned. Inside a nest, three tiny little eggs, carefully laid and tended by our cardinal friends. "How did you know?" I marveled.
"Because, I told you, she was building a nest," he said happily. "And because I found the nest last week with dad but I was worried because it was empty." The expression on his face charmed me- a look of simple contentment and gratification.
The eggs imprinted themselves in our hearts and minds. Soon, a ritual developed. After watering the garden each morning- Gnome with her orange tin can and Prophet with ther yellow one- we crept over to cardinal nest to check on the eggs. Expectation and delight coalesced into a wonder-filled tenderness for the mystery and beauty of the three lives preparing to hatch in the midst of our unspectacular yard.
While conducting his daily nature study, the Eldest approached me on tiptoe, again, the discordant combination of excitement and whispering. I thought I detected a tinge of dismay as well. He tried to speak- "the eggs have hatched"- but then silenced himself ("Revererence?" I wondered) and, shaking his head, led me by hand to the privet shrub.
The nest was lying on its side, barely holding a mass of pink flesh within it. Something had happened to dislodge the cardinals' painstaking creation. I drew nearer, heart heavy, burdened by a sinking foreboding.
A pink mass of flesh nestled within the tipped nest. Only one- where there should have been three. My eyes met those of the Eldest. I understood his silence. There are few words to describe that sense when all is not well with the world.
Yet, I drew closer. The little one's head quivered as he brought it up and away from the mass of pink skin and gray fuzz.
Atop a slender, delicate neck, I could see two large black saucers that would eventually develop into eyes. But for the moment, the little chick remained sightless- blind to the fact of the two faces missing from the handwoven home.
What happened to the other two chicks? Did a hawk steal them? If so, would the hawk return to claim this one as well? Did raccoons climb trees to steal bird eggs? Had the cardinals chosen a dangerous location for their nest? The questions spun through my head. Those familiar, chest-warming maternal instincts drove my heart into a faster rhythmn, the beat of empathy for those more vulnerable and defenseless than our egotastic adult selves.
The Eldest looked on quietly. That's when I said it- "Oh no, little bird, you're all alone now...."
It must have been the sound of my voice, or maybe even the soft feather-like texture of the whisper, that drew the chick upwards, suddenly raising its blind head and opening its mouth in the hope of a worm.
I felt the lump rise in my throat, and the pressure of tears forming in my eyes.
As the Eldest delicately explained why we should leave the chick alone so its mother would return and feed it, I fought the tears, pushed them deep inside, saving them for a later time and place, a time without a blind baby bird all alone in a precarious nest.
The King walked over to investigate; I turned to address Gnome and Prophet, whose worried faces mirrored my own. Pouring a glass of water for a red-cheeked Gnome put distance between myself and the solitary chick.
But the distance was quickly bridged by the King's announcement of the a broken egg on the ground near the nest- and a large colony of ants eating something next to the empty egg shell.
At this point, I simply started crying.
Because that's what I do when things in the world defy my hopes of a fair and just outcome. Because doing anything else would be a lie or a subterfuge- a sentiment created for the consumption of others rather than a sentiment reflecting my earnest reckoning with my own feelings and fears.
The King shook his head, tried to find the right words, wrapping a warm, familiar arm around my shoulders. "It's not fair," I muttered, allowing the tears to garble the useless words.
The Eldest crept up alongside us, his expression contorted and unsure. "Dad," he said, in a certain voice, "I can feel how much it hurts mom to think about the chicks".
Bringing his face so close I could smell the lemonade on his breath, the Eldest continued, "Mom, it hurts me too. It's.... it's..... not what I thought would ever happen...." I leaned into the sweetness of his empathy. We stood, silent, cheek to cheek, for a moment, before he found words again.
"Even though it hurts, mom, it's just how Mother Nature works.... And the mother bird won't abandon her baby- that's not what's going to happen." I felt the balm of his words before I recognized them for the comfort they aimed to offer. My high-functioning ten-year-old son, the one who defies every expectation and limitation, soothed my soul and comforted me better than any neurotypical adult.
It was hard to keep mourning the broken eggs in light of the Eldest's courage and love. Even harder to keep from beaming at the King, who knows how much these moments mean to me- and who isn't too faux-manly to share them.
So two fragile and lovely chicks did not survive their hatching. But two adults and one boy discovered the comfort of each other between the broken shells. There is so much beauty to be found in all life's breakings.
Franklin Daugherty’s wry Isle of Joy pits boosters against historic preservationists in Mobile. Excellent characterization that brings Lee’s Smith’s sardonic touch to mind, though Smith never manages to create a character as thick as McCorquodale, who admits, “Interior decorating was not leading to my full individuation”. It was one of my favorite books last year- one that situated me squarely within the social status seeking of the Alabama leisured set.
Publishers Weekly offered the following summary review:
Sexy, iconoclastic McCorquodale de la Rouchefoucauld (the natives say ""Roshfookle""), the niece of a poor woman obsessed with uncovering proof of high-born lineage, is convinced she is ordained to be the savior of postmodernism. When H. Sloane Wolfe, a sexually predatory, socially prominent sexagenarian banking tycoon, falls in lust with her, she determines to parlay his attentions into her own avant-garde sidewalk cafe, which she hopes will be the cornerstone for establishing Mobile as the New World Mecca of postmodernism. Her plans run afoul of a group of nouveau-riche young Rotarian types who hatch a scheme to level the historic district and build a supermall and a ""Six Flags Over Jesus"" theme park. As the new South meets the old South, it's not exactly a case of the barbarians versus the cultured, since just about everyone who has something to say is more pedantic than intelligent. But Daugherty liberally salts his tale with subplots and themes involving greed, petty social ambition, artistic freedom, gay rights and Bible Belt puritanism. Happily, earnest social commentary never gets in the way of vigorous burlesque
The Isle of Joy is a remote southward island discovered in the 1870’s by TC DeLeon, a Jewish novelist and Mardi Gras enthusiast. King Felix III lived on the Isle but undertook an annual voyage to see his Maubilian subjects for three days of “misrule” and set sail at midnight of Shrove Tuesday to return. Much of the plot weaves through the local folklore and self-made mythologizing of the Sunbelt types and "suburban polyps"- the same suburban polyps whose penchant for extensive commuting and strip-mall shopping causes the "proliferation of parking lots" bemoaned by Daughtery's protagonist.
The real conflict emerges over schemes for downtown revitalization that somehow demand massive expenditures involving the Ten-Tom Waterway. The Tuscaloosa Eastern Bypass- with its plan to build six bridges through a public park dedicated to Hurricane Creek- was not far from my mind as I read this book.
Daugherty makes it clear that "convenience is the code-word", a far cry from the traditionalism espoused by lovers of local history and sustainable farms. The "terrible nightmares of elevated expressways” and “supermall schemes” run far too close to home to keep me from squirming a bit. Like the motto of the Hamburger Harbor Improvement Association (as if any organization with such a name should be allowed the dignity of even the most spurious motto)- “Improve through Improvement”- the thinking of local officials tends to be more directed at fast economic growth (i.e. Progress) than sustainable, long-term development.
It takes McCorquodale, a hipster debutante intent on radical chic, to rattle the cages of ill-conceived progressive development. When she's not busy debating the "intellectual underpinnings of Mardi Gras”, McCorquodale is offering outlandish solutions to the problem of a glut in growth policy. Take, for example, the possible appointment of a "Public necromancer” to predict which scheme which scheme on city plan would come to pass.
Daugherty’s section of the postmodernist “Radical Chic” play that went unremarked until Orville Tidwood of the Baptist megachurch put it in the media as a “moral threat” reminds me of Soapy Jones’ popular showing of “Turn Me On, Dammit” and the scandal which packed the Bama Theatre. Obviously, no one billed the film as a family event. Yet scores of Tuscaloosa citizens found themselves absolutely shaw-ked and a-PAUL-ed to hear of a film with a female protagonist that presumed her right to sexual pleasure paralleled that of her male-gendered classmates. It was a sad day for girls in Tuscaloosa, especially those young girls still struggling to discover and reclaim their sexuality from a world that damns them to being boy-toys rather than individuals in their own rights.
A visit to the Petaluma Seed Bank (from Modern Farmer)
The Kind and the Eldest have been discussing saving the seeds from our heirloom plants this year. I found myself thinking it was a lovely family tradition to hand along- one of those that lasts longer than a scrapbook or a photo album.
If you'd like to start planning to do the same, note that there are always extras that makes better gifts than objects left stashed in a drawer. Unless you own loads of acres, you probably don't need 100 seeds.
On my dream-list of things-to-do would be starting a community seed lending library open to all members of a community, including those who can't afford the leisure time to start full-time gardens. It would act as a resource to encourage good gardening practices and pass on local heirlooms and traditions to those who lack time or land or access.
Any and every question about seed saving can be answered in the free booklet and seed saving instructions provided by SeedSave. Fine Gardening also features a post on collecting and storing seeds. Here's more to help you on your way....
FREE PRINTABLE SEED PACKETS
Seeds From My Garden packet (Country Living)
Simple seed envelopes (joy ever after)
Old-fashioned seed packets with illustrations (Victoria Magazine)
Origami seed packets (Caustic Musings)
Scrapbook paper seed packet project (Vale Design)
Nostalgia-infused seed packets (Content in a Cottage)
Quoteable seed packet (Vale Design)
Large seed envelopes with blank label (Maggie Wang)
Large seed envelopes with planting instructions (Maggie Wang)
Printable herb seed packet labels (Just Dawnelle)
FREE PRINTABLE SEED PACKETS FOR YOUNG FOLKS
This weekend, the King cut the backyard grass for the first time in the spring season. At my begging request, he left a small patch of grass and wildflowers uncut under the shade of the pink dogwood trees. "It's for the fireflies," I explained. He shook his head, perhaps amused.
We read a dusty old book over a shared lemonade as the dusk insinuated itself around us. The fireflies gathered in the tall grass near the dogwood, that patch he didn't mow. "They need the tall grass because the female fireflies don't have wings," I whispered, my voice lowered in reverence for the wonder of the falling night.
The females lie down low in the tall grass and wait for their lovers to come calling. The flicker, itself, is the mating call. And response. As soon as the daylight dims, a female firefly prepares to answer potential suitors who happen to come calling. It is she who responds to his signal- not by rising up to chase him or follow him but by flashing her own light in response. And waiting for him to descend into the grass for a rendezvous at the location of her choice.
The King seemed enchanted; my seemingly irrational supplications concerning strange lawn-mowing patterns rewarded by the haunting presence of firefly love nearby.
As the day grows longer, the night gains all the magic and mystery associated with scarcity. The melody of the owl wafts towards our bedroom window, the one to which the King has trained a confederate jasmine vine to crawl. There is nothing in the world that compares to a spring night in Alabama.
When Gnome began to mumble something about being "scared of the dark" last week, I devoted myself to preparing a lapbook that might leave night's mystery intact while reducing the fear we associate with things we cannot see. I arm my kids with knowledge for lack of a better alternative- and because knowledge is the best form of self-defense I know.
NOCTURNES OF NATURE LAPBOOK(4 pages PDF)
MORE RESOURCES WE'RE USING TO STUDY NIGHT
NOCTURNES, a Spotify playlist
Nature Day and Night, a stunning book by Richard Adams
"Day and Night" video (Museum Victoria)
Living in Darkness activity and lesson plan (TES)
"As The Earth Turns" student web lesson (Beacon Learning Center)
How to demonstrate day and night (Learn Play Imagine)
"New study shows effects of prehistoric nocturnal life on mammalian vision" (University of Texas)
Nocturnal Life (BBC Wildlife)
Nocturnal Animal Fact Pack (Communication 4 All)*
5 animals you didn't know were nocturnal (WebEcoist)
Different adaptations between nocturnal and diurnal animals (TES)
Nocturnal animal noises video (Tom Woodward)
After the girls' ballet recital, I promised them something (I secretly hoped) that would be better than a rose bouquet (which I somehow forgot to purchase). Specifically, I promised them a visit to a local flower shop to pick their own favorite flower, and maybe do a little roamschooling on the side. So we took a little trip to Stephanie's Flowers, a local florist that's been around since I was a child.
The staff was super friendly and eager to show us inside one of the four freezers where flowers were stored.
Little B. wanted to know which flower she can choose.
"Any flower that looks like it grew just for you," I told her.
Inside the fridge at Stephanie's Flowers, and colder than we'd anticipated, the girls settled on two pink blooms (for Prophet and Little B.) and one yellow bloom for the Gnome.
Then the florist let the girls pick ribbons and tissue paper for wrapping their flowers.
As she wrapped their flowers, we talked about what it means to be a florist- how flowers are chosen and combined based on their colors and textures, how a certain taste for artistry and beauty is involved in the creation of every original bouquet.
Gnome skipped with joy once she had her flower in hand.
The Eldest fell in love with a $70 orchid. I told him good love didn't cost so much.
Finally, we toured the huge inventory and the Eldest kept making a point about how it wasn't fair that he had not earned a flower and how he would dance ballet if it scored a flower for him and that what he wanted most was a flower after his next piano recital, preferably an orchid he could plant and so on...
We are always grateful to local businesses that allow us to learn by visiting and talking to others. There's nothing quite like learning by exploring.
We save up our winter fireplace ashes in a tin trash pail. The Eldest claims "it's a Roman thing" because ancient Roman scientists and scholars documented the value of returning ash to the land.
In the 18th century, the benefits of ash-derived potash, or potassium carbonate, became widely recognized. North American trees were felled, burned and the ash was exported to Great Britain as "potash fever" hit.
It gets better. In 1790, the newly-independent United States of America's first patented process was a method for making fertilizer from wood ash (U.S. patent number 1: "An improved method of making pot and pearl ash)." But cheaper sources of lime and potassium eventually killed the commercial market for wood ash.
In our case, what could be cheaper than fireplace ashes? It's so simple it stings. All you need is a fireplace (indoor or outdoor) and a mini tin trash pail with a lid.
This past winter's wood ash.
Ash is so very fine and light to the touch. Unlike sand, which tends to be heavy, ash blows away easily, so you wait for a non-windy day to apply wood ash to your garden soil.
Please don't try to use a plastic trash can or bucket for this- ash stays hot for a long time after burning out. You will find yourself with a perforated wood ash pail. Stick to metals and materials with high melting points.
Also, there are certain variables and restrictions to using wood ash as a garden fertilizer. It works well in our clay-heavy soil, but plants like blueberries and rhododendrons don't take kindly to the increased alkalinity. Weekend Gardener has all the do's and don'ts on using wood ash.
I found this first poem on Tweetspeak, alongside a delicious recipe for collard greens. The thought of "eating and drinking poems" makes so much sense to me in the context of a carefully tended garden.
CUTTING GREENS by Lucille Clifton
curling them around
i hold their bodies in obscene embrace
thinking of everything but kinship.
collards and kale
strain against each strange other
away from my kiss making hand and
the iron bedpot
the pot is black,
the cutting board is black,
and just for a minute
the greens roll black under the knife,
and the kitchen twists dark on its spine
and I taste in my natural appetite
the bond of live things everywhere.
An excerpt from Mona Van Duyn's poem, "A Bouquet of Zinnias", where the description of colors sticks to my head.
"In any careless combination they delight.
Pure peach-cheek beside the red of a boiled beet
by the perky scarlet of a cardinal by flamingo pink
by sunsink orange by yellow from a hundred buttercups
by bleached linen white. Any random armful
of the world, one comes to feel, would fit together.'
Rosemary doesn't just stand for memories. Recent research indicates that it may keep you from losing yours! Even in ancient times, rosemary had a reputation for stimulating mental activity. Today it is being investigated as a possible treatment for senility.
Rosemary may also stand for remembrance because it "recalls" its color and scent so well. "For you," a character in The Winter's Tale comments, "there's rosemary and rue; these keep/ Seeming and savour all the winter long. . ."
The herb was originally carried to funerals simply as a protector against infection. It soon became customary, however, for mourners to drop sprigs of it onto the coffin as a promise that they would not forget the deceased. Woven into the bride's wreath at Tudor weddings, it reminded the happy couple not to forget their vows also.
It was so closely associated with marriage, in fact, that the nurse in Romeo and Juliet could ask, "Doth not rosemary and Romeo begin both with the same letter?" This may be due to its supposed empathy with Venus, the mother of romantic love (Eros). Like the herb, she was also supposed to have sprung from the sea. Unfortunately, later in Shakespeare's play, the friar has to adjure Juliet's mourners to "Dry up your tears, and stick your rosemary/ On this fair corse."
Perhaps because of its association with sacred rites, rosemary gained a reputation as a holy plant. Considered efficacious against black magic, it docorated church festivals, especially those celebrating Christ's birth. "Down with rosemary and so," writes the poet Herrick. "Down with the baies and mistletoe,/ Down with the holly, ivie all/ Wherewith ye deck the Christmas hall."
A charming tradition holds that the Virgin Mary threw her blue cloak over a rosemary bush during the flight into Egypt, transforming its formerly white flowers. For this reason, the Spanish call it romero, the pilgrim's flower, and contend that it will never presume to surpass the adult height of Christ.
An old manuscript sent to Queen Phillippa of England by her mother claims that rosemary "mighteth the boones and causeth goode and gladeth and lighteth all men that use it. The leves layde under the heade whanne a man slepes, it doth away evell spirites and suffereth not to dreeme fowle dremes ne to be afeade. But he must be out of deedely synne for it is an holy tree. Lavender and Rosemary is as woman to man and White Roose to Reede."
This association of rosemary with masculinity seems to be directly contradicted, however, by another old belief that the herb would only thrive where the woman of the house ruled the roost. I suspect that many bushes were subjected to surreptious snippings!
Meaning "dew of the sea," rosemary has also been called polar plant, compass-weed, or incensier, the latter because it sometimes took the place of more expensive incense.
The ancients burned rosemary, often along with juniper berries, not just for the pleasant smell, but as a disinfectant. Strewn along with rue in the dock at trials, rosemary protected spectators from gaol-fever.
Rosemary Fact Sheet (Herb Society of America)
The weather is too perfect to stay inside. Here's a little something I made (with proper attributions within) to give you another good reason for lingering outdoors this week....
Left off the highway and
down the hill. At the
bottom, hand another left.
Keep bearing left. The road
will make a Y. Left again.
There’s a creek on the left.
Keep going. Just before
the road ends, there’ll be
another road. Take it
and no other. Otherwise,
your life will be ruined
forever. There’s a log house
with a shake roof, on the left.
It’s not that house. It’s
the next house, just over
a rise. The house
where trees are laden with
fruit. Where phlox, forsythia
and marigold grow. It’s
the house where the woman
stands in the doorway
wearing sun in her hair. The one
who’s been waiting
all the time.
The woman who loves you.
The one who can say,
“What’s kept you?”
During my first pregnancy over ten years ago, I devoured books on the topic of raising boys. As with every new terrain, it made sense to cross-reference the maps made by those who came before me.
The most important conclusion from all my reading and research resulted in the taking of a vow. I vowed never to make the Eldest feel that he was only allowed to be half a human- that half currently recognized as the prototypical American male.
Having best friends that were guys taught me how much men suffered for the way we raise them to be caricatures of angry, sarcastic, beer-chugging brutes with "natural drive" for rape, destruction, and violence. Honestly, I've never met a man who fits the bill- though I've met way too many who lived like zombies for trying.
We treat men like they are naturally too insensitive, ego-driven, violent, and lusty to leave with out daughters. Then we wonder why the number of nuclear missiles in our arsenal continues to rise. The truth is that men and women are born with similar emotional needs and emotional expression.
According to various studies, around the age of four, the average American boys realizes that daddy (and his preschool buddies and favorite cartoon characters) doesn't like it when he talks about feeling sad. "Take one for the team," laughs the dad. Or, "crying is for girls- boys don't cry". Some variation on sarcastic disregard for what a boy is feeling and some form of withdrawal that teaches him to detach himself from any feelings lest he lose the affection and regard of his daddy and male peers.
The word "sad" is quickly removed from a developing boy's emotional vocabulary. But the sad feeling persists. Eventually, he learns that boys are allowed to get angry. He understands that winning makes fear and bad feelings go away. He agrees not to name all the complex congnitive emotional states he can no longer acknowledge. Instead, he does what "big boys do", namely, keep his eye on the prize and aim to win. Whether he is winning a soccer game, a promotion, a card game, a bet, a dare, or one of those emotional objects known as females, his develops only one response to losing- the response of fear and anger. Under these two words, entire worlds are submerged.
Men are not from Mars. Women are not from Venus. Both co-exist as human beings on the planet known as Earth. Books which promise to reveal why men and women can't understand one another usually fall back on the self-fulfilling prophecy of claiming that women are super-emotional and have emotional needs, while men are rational and lack complex emotional needs. Seriously, sitting in the stands of a college football game will quickly reveal the extent to which men and women are equally irrational and equally emotional.
Rarely do such pop psychology books acknowledge the cause for these differences is not God or "nature" or interplanetary travel. Rarely do they mention all the scientific studies that show these differences are largely due to the way in which males are socialized to ignore, project, or suppress their emotions. At no point does John Gray admit that male emotional illiteracy is normative but far from natural or even "normal". He's built a galaxy of cash on maintaining the stereotypes that keep men and their partners from being able to live life in its full variety of cognitive colors.
Reading one of my favorite magazines today returned me to the trenches of the old "unemotional male" sophistries. Describing five habits of "highly compassionate men", Kozo Hattori begins with the truth of the past- the early socialization against compassion in a culture that tells men "emotions" are something the other sex does.
Hattori remembers "being a very compassionate child"- the kind that "cried his eyes out" during the film version of "The Little House on the Prairie". By the time he became a young adult, however, Hattori's identity stayed firmly within what he calls the “act-like-a-man box”. Fitting popular conceptions of masculinity failed to equip him with the sort of self-knowledge that enables us to navigate the tight corners of fear and frustration:
Although I was what therapists call “high-functioning,” my lack of compassion was like a cancer that poisoned my friendships, relationships, business affairs, and life. At the age of 46, I hit rock bottom. Unemployed and on the verge of divorce, I found myself slapping my four-year-old son’s head when he wouldn’t listen to me.
At this point, Hattori questioned the self he had become and whether it served the spirit and soul of his body. Like many wise men before him, Hattori started seeking. He began with empathy. After workshops and seminars and hours of meditation, he grew into compassion. Or maybe compassion grew, naturally, from him. Either way, he discovered that the more compassion he felt, the "happier" he became.
Like anyone who discovers an ineffable and life-affirming truth, Hattori felt driven by the need to share what he had learned and, of course, continue his own journey of learning. So he interviewed a number of individual experts in an effort to determine what, exactly, makes a compassionate man. Or, how a compassionate man is made.
Interviewees included Dr. Dacher Keltner, co-founder of the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center; Dr. James Doty, founder and director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University; Dr. Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness; Marc Brackett, director of the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence; and Thich Nhat Hanh, the Zen Buddhist monk nominated by Martin Luther King Jr. for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967.
The conclusions were as simple as the feeling of compassion to an unbridled, open heart:
Hattori's happiness is contagious. I look forward to his research and encourage him to keep probing the depths, tackling difficult and onerous topics that assist fellow humans in resisting cultural influences against compassion.
The opportunities to make the world a better place for boys and men abound. So, the next time your son honors you by trying to explore and express his complicated heart, dive into the depths with him, rather than forcing him to tread water on the surface. Being born a boy should not relegate you to being less of a human being.
MY FAVORITE RESOURCES ON CULTIVATING COMPASSION
"Can mindfulness help kids learn self-control" by Sarah Wheeler (Greater Good)
"The way we socialize boys man harm them as men", a documentary must-see (All Voices)
"No more Steubenvilles: How to raise boys to be kind men" by Kim Simon (Yes!)
"Boys have become emotionally illiterate" by John Amaechi (BigThink)
"Male and female ability differences down to socialization, not genetics" by Robin McKie (Observer)
"I'm not socializing my kids- I'm humanizing them" by Kimberly Yvette Price (Home Education)
"Nervous Nellies" by Taylor Clark (Slate)
"How to deal with mean people" by Christine Carter (Greater Good)
"His hidden needs" by Nara Schoenberg (Chicago Tribune)
Barbie vs. Batman: The socialization of children's toys (Paula vs. Patriarchy)
"Creating a new generation of compassionate and sensitive men" by Dr. Ted Zeff
"We must look at how we teach our boys what it means to be a man" by Neil Irvin (Time)
"Strong men don't hide their emotions, they show them" by Jack Fischl (PolicyMic)
"The man who couldn't feel" by Contessa Schexnayder (Brain World)
"Helping men to help themselves" by Lea Winderman (APA Monitor on Psychology)
Understanding and Raising Boys (PBS Parents)
Peace In Relationships, Kozo Hattori's blog and counseling
RELATED STORIES FROM THE CASTLE VAULT
The Eldest's first soccer game.
Why I homeschool.
Cross-stitching with boys.
Home-schooling and socialization: The heart of the matter.
Is technology narrowing our perception of life?
A date with Adrienne Rich.
Mining a fallow field for stories.
Radical home-makers of all stripes.
Our bamboo bean teepee with seeds planted just a week ago with Bill's help.
The bean sprouts curl their way into a winding adulthood- one in which they will be judged for their ability to produce food. It's hard to under-emphasize the thrill of fruiting. Hard to temper my love for the way a seed leads us to the dinner table. Hard to imagine and cultivate an ethic of beauty and wonder completely devoid of practical considerations.
So I steal a few secret minutes while weeding this morning to acknowledge my admiration for the producers of food. And I hope no one says, "Hey mom, what are you thinking about?"
Marigolds growing around the tomato plants, per Mary's aphid-free suggestion.
The Eldests' heirloom Brandywines.
We celebrated yesterday's rain for the way it darkened the soil and replenished our rain barrel. Today, the Brandywine's stalks are covered in a thick coat of white hairs- I imagined the hairs as a fur coat when last night's temperatures dropped and the wind released loose pink and scarlet rose petals, a pattern of fallen skirts.
While planting cucumbers last weekend, the Eldest warned that cucumbers should not be planted close together lest they attack one another and "keep each other small". I laughed and inquired as to his source. He couldn't quite recall if it had been an almanac or a gardening book. So we planted our cucumbers across the garden from one another. Because, as I explained to the King, "Some boys are territorial and require ridiculous accomodations to their insecure egos".
The King looked as if he either A) understood or B) remained baffled. The thing about the King is you never can tell. His "I get it" expression is almost identical to his "I'm lost" expression.
The Eldest improvised a cucumber cage from twine and bamboo (see rear of photo).
Cucumbers do not cross-pollinate other vining plants. While you don't want crops growing into each other to create a tangle of vines, misshapen or poorly tasting cucumbers because of the pollen from nearby melons, squashes or zucchini plants. Only other cucumber varieties cross-pollinate -- all are the same botanical species. Cross-pollination does not affect cucumber fruit features or qualities, but it does yield hybridized seeds.
Over the years, I've collected quite a few resources for gardening with kids. Given my brown thumbs, it's rather incredible to see how little I've learned. But I sure did curate a tremendous number of informative and useful links.... So I went back through my gardening posts and added the most helpful, useful, and educational ones- the ones that inspire, inform, and amuse about gardening with kids. Thrive and enjoy.
THE BEST OF GARDENING WITH KIDS
Pre-school gardening club weekly activities plan (Little Green Fingers)
Preparing for our brown thumb garden (alina's adventures)
Is it garden bounty or garden booty? (alina's adventures)
Heeding the summons of spring (alina's adventures)
The hunt for the perfect compost (alina's adventures)
Cucumbers everywhere (alina's adventures)
Planting poppies (alina's adventures)
The Eldest starts his heirloom seeds (alina's adventures)
The surprise that conquered coxsackie (alina's adventures)
Making scarecrows (alina's adventures)
Getting your garden journal and notebook ready (alina's adventures)
Flower gardening with kids (alina's adventures)
Gardening at night (alina's adventures)
The magical garden of Maria Barnes (alina's adventures)
Gardens and good germs (alina's adventures)
Getting my hands dirty (alina's adventures)
The Eldest has gone ga-ga for hostas.
When we paid a weekend visit to The Plant Lady on Sunday afternoon, he managed to talk up such a hosta-appreciating storm that she gave him an $8 hosta as a gift. He promised to treasure it and guard it with his life.
I assured her that he was not kidding. Not at all. Meanwhile, the girls managed to score some free popsicles and I left with a blackberry bush. Hard to find anything to regret in such an outing.
After last week's spittlebug surprise, we found ourselves thinking, "Why note draw some spittlebugs- spittling- on a leaf?"
I provided a model and some watercolor pencils, along with a few leaves cut from used paper bags.
Prophet provided an inspiring variation, with lovely leaf veining.
The Eldest excelled in offering a blueprint.
Gnome and Little B. chose to explore their talents in a different fashion. They decided to hold a spitting content in honor of the "spitting bugs". Fortunately, there is only so much saliva one can spit across a room before insatiable thist kicks in and distracts you from the game.
I never found who won the spitting bug contest. Perhaps it is just as well.
Dutchman's breeches in Dublin, Ohio.
All the recent, rather immediate demands of a growing garden have kept me from reflecting on our trip to Ohio- from mining it for tiny kernels of insight.
But this morning, I found a crack, the kind that swells into a crevice, between the comings and doings.
As the kids worked on their book reviews, I flipped back through the photographs of our nature outings with the writings of Diane Kappel-Smith in the forefront of my mind. In retrospect, posting the photos alongside the text makes me feel as if Diane and I walked the woods together.
It's so much easier to write about the wonder and obvious beauty of nature than it is to acknowledge the extent to which it satisfies and cultivates a craving for fantasy. Surely I am not the only woman to have trudged through muddy trails with Thoreau at my side.
Today, I walk with Wintering in my head. Or, rather, I return and revisit under the electrifying influence of a particular writer who has more to reveal to me in all the things I have seen.
Walk with me.
"I come back to the papery leaves, the spring beauties, the sun which reaches me here, now, unfiltered. The twigs, leaves, and flowers that are on their way are already formed, were made last summer and packed away in scales and sheaths; all they have to do is expand like balloons, and then their branch tips will begin their hurry to make more."
"Trees grown in the open are thicker of trunk because the wind has blown them, and they choose to thicken in the parts of themselves most stressed by their own bending. Trees in the dense woods where the wood can't push them are thin as wands".
I would make an exception for the dense, heavy hardwoods growing in the Carpathian mountains of Transylvania. Their trunks are as thick as houses, possibly because their location on the side of high altitude mountains demands heftiness as a form of hardiness for the snow-heavy Transylvanian winters and sharp mountainside winds.
Of course, if American corporations have their way, these old trees will soon be logged to make fancy dining room tables for the rapacious consumers of Hollywood and Aspen. But I hope against hope that something happens to stop them.
The large white petals of the bloodroot plant radiate outward, but often only last for one day. One of the ways to recognize this plant is the leaf often looks like it wants to wrap itself around the flower. If you cut the stem or dig the root, it will bleed a bright red-orange juice.
"In these maples and birch and beech the branches reach out year after year, running skyward like the fingers of rivulets when water is poured on dry ground."
Critical Thinking Exercise on Diana Kappel-Smith review (PDF)
A little something I made for the Eldest and wanted to share.
YELLOW TROUT LILY
Trout Lilies like to keep their feet wet and are common, especially along river floodplains. There are both white and yellow species here. The six petals are usually recurved like this. The mottled leaves is a diagnostic character.
I love the way the leaves resemble purple tie-dyed shirts.
A golden goodbye whose shadow is even lovelier than its hue.
Strolling down to test the water at Hurricane Creek Park, we noticed some foamy masses in the branches of a scotch pine tree.
"Spittlebugs," mused Amy.
Having never seen a spittlebug, I stopped to snap a few blurry photos for later exploration.
Spittlebugs are the nymph form of froghoppers. And froghoppers earned their name because they have an incredible jumping range and their faces resemble those of frogs. In fact, NPR named the spittlebug "highest insect jumper", outstripping even the flea in its leaping skills. The same physics involved in archery enables spittlebugs to "jump like an arrow".
The froth serves a number of purposes. It hides the nymph from the view of predators and parasites, it insulates against heat and cold, thus providing thermal control and also moisture control. Without the froth the insect would quickly dry up. The nymphs pierce plants and suck sap causing very little damage, much of the filtered fluids go into the production of the froth, which has an acrid taste, deterring predators.
According to the New International Encyclopedia, the larvae and pupae of "froth-flies" (another neat name for these well-deserving nymphs) are found in a frothy exudation on plants and trees. This froth, often called "frog-spittle", is composed of sap which the insect sucks up through its probiscis. The sap passes through the intestine and is emitted as a clear mass, into which the insect draws bubbles of air by means of its tail claspers, and thus makes foam. Once the bubbles have formed, spittlebugs use their hind legs to cover themselves with the froth. The ‘spittle’ serves multiple purposes.
All this spittlebug exploring created an imperative for lapbooking- which, of course, led me to create a few spittlebug learning materials. Enjoy them because they're fun and as free as any spittlebugs you may find in a tree!
Spittlebug and froghopper pictures (PDF)
Includes a coloring page of froghopper.
Spittlebug booklet (PDF)
Includes images and questions.
MORE TO EXPLORE
Spittlebug information sheet (University of Minnesota)
Two-lined spittlebug (Texas A&M Extension)
Pine spittlebug fact sheet (Ohio State University)
Saratoga spittlebug (USDA Forest Service)
Pecan spittlebug fact sheet (LSU Extension)
Black and red froghopper (Tout un monde dans mon jardin)
"Spittlebug named highest insect jumper" (All Things Considered audio stream)
Cuckoo spit and froghoppers (Bug Blog)
Meadow spittlebug color varieties chart (Bug Guide)
Little B.'s free face painting from Homegrown Alabama.
I love Homegrown Alabama. The people are as locally-fresh and unfabricated as the veggies, cheeses, and craftmanship we find there.
The Eldest didn't shy away from face painting.
A few weeks ago, we went straight from ballet to the Homegrown Alabama market on the UA campus (located on the front lawn of our church). Prophet couldn't resist pointing out that we hadn't "been to church in years", by which I think she meant weeks.
While the Eldest hunted down tomatoes, Gnome, Prophet, and Little B. hung out in the children's area in the hopes of getting as many animals painted on their faces and hands as time would permit.
I discovered a delicious new goat cheese, purchased a Left Hand soap gift for Bill's super-late birthday present, scored another bottle of Hewett's honey, and simply enjoyed being able to touch and sample local creations while the little people were otherwise occupied.
Little B. is upset that I agree to take a picture of Prophet as well.
Then there were the strawberries....
Alabama homegrown strawberries for the taste test.
Originally, I purchased the strawberries to toss with the hearty arugula from Snow Bend's farm, but my salad plans fell apart upon our return to the castle. You see, the kids decided the weather was perfect for the succulent sweetnesss, as indicated by their boisterous parade bringing grocery-store strawberries into the backyard.
"Why not turn this into a contest?" I inquired. "Let's pit homegrown strawberries against those of Winn-Dixie. The winner receives the Coryell Castle Seal of Approval."
More cheers and merry-making, a consensus to taste-test had been established.
The results of the taste conclusively determined that the homegrown strawberries tasted better- "more tart and tangy"- than the grocery store strawberries.
In less than five minutes, two bowls of strawberries had disappeared from the planet known to its inhabitants as Earth. Alas, my arugula-strawberry salad with goat cheese will have to wait until next week- next Thursday, to be precise.
Officially, in the overly-concise language of nonprofit mission statements:
"Homegrown Alabama is a student-led group at the University of Alabama that seeks to educate students about the value of local produce, as well as to foster partnerships between local farmers and the University of Alabama".
You can visit the Homegrown Alabama Farmers Market at the Canterbury Episcopal Chapel lawn every Thursday, April 17- October 23 from 3:00–6:00 p.m. It's a lovely segue between school and dinner- a lovely way to fill in the blanks of what should be brought to table.
Sailing Transylvania from Baltimore back to her home harbor at Ono Island, Bunicu discovered a very helpful winged friend on board. Since the winged friend would not condescend to serving as first mate or skipper, Bunicu granted him the title of "co-helmsman". More evidence behind the theory that even dads lighten up about life as they grow older.
The cost of daily nature study with my children is this blooming ardor for all things green. I crave the company of wildflowers. There are times when I yearn for nothing more than a sheet of paper, a pencil, and a mute plant nearby. A particular plant with a story it wants me to tell.
There is a carpet of stunning purple-blue wildflowers under the camellias near our front door. Part of me finds herself hoping for a henbit identification. For some unspeakable reason, I maintain a steady affection- an openness to being charmed and re-charmed- for the henbit.
The facts, themselves, don't explain my affection. As a matter of fact, henbit is a member of the mint family. There are a lot of mints that do not smell minty, some of them are edible and some of them are not. In fact, some of the mints can make you ill. Though henbit lacks the minty smell, it is an edible herb. Eat the Weeds offers a detailed scoop on henbit's lovely qualities.
The mystery accrues, growing heavy with the weight of various Latin names and specifications. I aim for henbit, in spite of the bits that don't add up.
The more I study, the more I find satisfaction in touching the flower with all my senses- seeking a scent, lifting it, again, to the light. Sketching and re-sketching. Focusing on the stalk, adding tiny hairs along its length, bonding closer to my subject. Reminiscient of the way writing a poem breaks down the barriers between myself and what I allow myself to feel for and in the world around me, trying to find a name for this flower wraps me tighter into the wonder and magic of its existence.
Though I can't seem to find a better id- not even on Wildflower Identification Guide- it seems highly unlikely that this would be henbit. It lacks the characteristic heart-shaped, scalloped leaves that grasp the stem and give it the nickname grasping henbit.
I find myself focusing on the leaf shape, wondering if the oval is actually a lyre. Since lyreleaf sage grows well in this part of the country, I convince myself that the characterstic lyre-shaped leaves need not be quite as, well, lyre-like as the name suggests.
At some point I realize that more than mere science is at stake.
Pigmentation takes me further towards distracted fascination and closer to mis-identification. I discover a trance-inducing new blog, Anybody Seen My Focus, where I learn that the leaves of lyreleaf sage reveal the amount of daily sunlight it receives. The greener leaves are usually those of the plants who receive full sun. Purple pigmentation in the edges or flesh of the leaf indicates a shade-dwelling sage. This makes sense given the partial shade in which I found our flower friend.
The King reminds me of our plans for the day, the kids throb their way through the castle, a restless rhythm demands I drop my pencil, turn away from the mystery, and face the familiar music.
At this point, I recognize the religious pilgrim in myself- the spirit steadfastly seeking an intimacy from something outside the material world. My devotion to this simple garden weed becomes a journey, a quest for a name with all the potency of the Holy Grail. So I leave my awe, like a half-knit sock in the fair trade basket woven by women from Nigeria, for another time, another day, another moment.
But it's hard for me. Easier to drop the sock in the basket than to quash this burning urge which developed in pursuit of a plant.
Purple deadnettle vs. henbit factsheet (UT Extension)
Purple deadnettle (Brooklyn Botanical Garden)
Creeping charlie, or ground ivy (Edible Wild Food)
Beautiful images of henbit flower (Project Noah)
A lovely look at Lyreleaf sage (Anybody Seen My Focus)
Sometimes we fail to find the geocache.
The cry of those being eaten by America,
Others pale and soft being stored for later eating
Who saw hope in new oats
The wild houses go on
With long hair growing from between their toes
The feet at night get up
And run down the long white roads by themselves
The dams reverse themselves and want to go stand alone in the desert
Ministers who dive headfirst into the earth
The pale flesh
Spreading guiltily into new literatures
That is why these poems are so sad
The long dead running over the fields
The mass sinking down
The light in children’s faces fading at six or seven
The world will soon break up into small colonies of the saved
Everday brings another bird friend. Yesterday involved the discovery of a cardinal nest in the woodland shrubs bordering our backyard. The nest resembled a small cup or saucer; and two cardinals were not pleased to observe our curious exploration of their abode. Despite the cardinals' protective behavior, we couldn't find any eggs in the nest.
Given the dearth of bird songs and nests in our everyday life, I thought it might help the Eldest to gain a better handle on bird identification skills. So I created the youtube "birding" playlist above which combines five different made-for-youth birding videos from the Cornell Ornithology Lab.
After watching the videos, the Eldest tried his hand at the Cornell Lab's Bird Identification Skills module. He also ventured back to check on the cardinal nest and to note another incident up the street in which crows were mobbing hawks.
In preparation for International Migratory Bird Day, which takes place annually on the second Saturday of May, we reviewed all the lovely free materials and maps available online.
MORE FREE LEARNING TO EXPLORE
An * indicates a PDF document to download and print.
Bird Identification Game (Baton Rouge Audobon Society)*
Plugging kids into birding (10,000 Birds)
Garden bird hunt handout (Nature Detectives)*
Visual Key for Bird Identification
International Migratory Bird Day Educator's Packet (USDA Forest Service)*
Bird Behavior Hunt and Hike (National Wildlife Foundation)*
Bird-watching helps kids become nature-wise (Karen Stephens)*
How to find birds (Bird Watcher's Digest)
Bird journal coloring and identification pages (Tina's Dynamic Homeschool Plus)*
Connecting Kids Through Birds Project (Cloud Forest Conservation)
Bird footprint craft (Wild Birds Unlimited)
What's That Bird? game (Penny Rodrick)
Bird Matching Game (National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences)
Dee Dee's milk jug birdfeeder craft (Wild Birds Unlimited)*
"The Life of Birds" by David Attenborough (PBS)
Thou art a solitary, singular, front-yardish fellow,
a sight for making eyes sore.
"Only fools would pick such fallow soils",
I can't help muttering
(a way of saying without speaking).
And all those prickles for protection
just so you can saunter the lawn
draped in shameless scarlet.
Still, I admit that no one else
wears raspberry beret so very well,
all haughty and rather huffy.
Cora Millay and her three daughters lived in the Coffin House in Newburyport, a Maine town that sidled up to the waters of the Merrimac River. It was a house in which every one of its women turned and churned poems.
Reading Nancy Milford's biography of poet Edna St. Vincent Millay lit an image, perhaps even an association, in my mind, a line between two dots that harbors at least one story or poem. It is a relationship between a flower and what a pen does to a blank sheet of paper.
Narcissus poeticus (Poet's Daffodil, Nargis, Pheasant's Eye, Findern Flower, and Pinkster Lily) was one of the first daffodils to be cultivated, and is frequently identified as the narcissus of ancient times—often associated with the Greek legend of Narcissus. Linnaeus, who gave the flower its name, might have done so because he believed it was the one that inspired the tale of Narcissus, handed down by poets since ancient times.
In her childhood journals, Edna describes the yard being "infinite" with the flowers of Narcissus poeticus. Given the intoxicating fragrance of its bloom, the possible metaphors abound, especially once you learn that the Poet's daffodil, like all narcissi, is poisonous when eaten. Unlike other narcissi, however, this flower is extremely dangerous to consume- and even to keep. The scent is powerful enough that it can cause headache and vomiting if a large quantity is kept in a closed room.
Do something beautiful with that fact. Here's a handout I created for the Eldest this morning.
The stories in a Poet's daffodil (PDF)
Free handout describing Narcissus poeticus in history, myth, and legend.
JOURNAL PROMPT: Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay credits the poet’s daffodil with bringing poetry to her childhood days. Write a poem or a letter adopting Edna’s childhood perspective where she explains why the daffodils covering her front yard exposed or elicited poetry. Consider using the sonnet form for your poem, since this was one of the poetic forms in which Millay excelled.
If I should learn, in some quite casual way,
That you were gone, not to return again—
Read from the back-page of a paper, say,
Held by a neighbor in a subway train,
How at the corner of this avenue
And such a street (so are the papers filled)
A hurrying man—who happened to be you—
At noon to-day had happened to be killed,
I should not cry aloud—I could not cry
Aloud, or wring my hands in such a place—
I should but watch the station lights rush by
With a more careful interest on my face,
Or raise my eyes and read with greater care
Where to store furs and how to treat the hair.
DECLARATION OF LOVE
(written during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October, 1963)
I ask if I'm wise
when I awaken
the danger between his thighs,
or if I'm wrong
when my kisses prepare only a trench
in his throat.
I know that war is probable;
because a red geranium has blossomed open.
Please, don't point your weapons
at the sky:
the sparrows are terrorized,
and it's springtime,
it's raining, the meadows are ruminating.
you'll melt the moon, only night light of the poor.
It's not that I'm afraid,
or a coward,
I'd do everything for my homeland;
but don't argue so much over your nuclear missiles,
because something horrible is happening:
and I haven't had time enough to love.
I came across this poem in my dog-eared copy of Women On War. I appreciate the way she holds the ordinariness of love yet to be lived against the tremendous import of nuclear missiles and Cold War politics.
According to my book, Carilda Oliver Labra is known as one of Cuba's prominent poets and "one of the island's first feminist poets to champion women's rights to an erotic life without the constraints of Catholicism". Though her love poems made her famous, her Song to Marti paid tribute to the revolutionary hero. This poem was written in response to the 1963 Cuban missile crisis which brought the modern world to the brink of nuclear war.
You can learn more about Labra and read a few other poems at the delicious Drunken Boat.
Some trees never end up with a story that involves a precise identification. This red-budded tree found in Dublin, Ohio qualifies as one of those trees we left un-named.
The Eldest maintains it was a red maple- "they bloom in the spring, you know." I didn't know. Not knowing, however, keeps me in a fresh state of uncertainty.
I can't help thinking it must be beautiful, possibly fragrant, at first bloom.
After parking outside the Dublin Arts Council, we took a moment to savor the view. Then we decided to go ahead and hunt for the first geocache, a riverbox with an uncanny name, D'art's No Litter Cat Box, one that deserved further investigation.
For those unfamiliar with riverboxes, the Dublin Arts Center sponsors a series of geocaches called Riverboxes, all of which are created by local artists or artisans. You can download a Riverbox Passport and guide for free online.
The Eldest survyed the base of a statue on the front lawn of the Dublin Arts Center. He held the printouts which included only descriptive clues (rather than GPS coordinates) to the riverbox.
Once we got within ten feet of the cache, we were alerted to its hiding spot by the simultaneous chirp of three children- "Found it!" The riverbox was filled with swag and goodies. We left our names and logged it in the Coryell Castle Geocaching Logbook.
Upon entering the Dublin Arts Center, we discovered a large, golden tabby cat curled atop a desk near the front door. For a few moments, no one else appeared- it was just us and the cat. Gnome wasted no time in sneaking a pet.
Soon, a friendly lady appeared to introduce us to D'art, the gallery cat, the namesake of the riverbox we had just discovered. The ladies offered supplications and thanks for the swag. Meanwhile, the Eldest had wandered into the art gallery. We followed suit.
In addition to the wood art exhibit, there was a funky-looking piano in the center of the room. First they gawked at it.
Then they rocked it.
Because a funky blue-polka dot piano is only yours for the playing once in life. And who would you be to refuse it?
We set out down the hill behind the Arts Center in search of our second riverbox, Riverbox of the Sun. The littlest ones took the lead.
Bunicu stops to scout out a stump.
Inside the Riverbox of the Sun, we found a collection of painted rocks and pebbles, the sort of swag that hangs heavy in the pocket. Prophet counted the pebbles before announcing that each of us could only take one so that a total of twelve pebbles would remain.
As the Eldest and I did the dull work of logging and noting, other members of the caravan argued the case for running down the rest of the hill to the bank of swollen Scioto River.
Bunicu apparently spotted a few geese across the way, and the King noted a geocache located on the uninhabitable 10 foot island plumb center of the river. "It would only take a minute to swim across and log it......" observed the King.
Fortunately, everyone got distracted by the presence of an eerie building out back- the kind of building that ached to tell us a good, old-fashioned ghost story. Possibly the dwelling of the Scioto River rambler, a ghost known to travel with a hobo stick and knotted kerchief? If not a ghost, then at least an excellent creative writing prompt for the Eldest and his journal.
Something I found on the banks of the Scioto River.
Such a haunting, melodic performance by Margo Timmins and the Cowboy Junkies. I just don't think the firefly-laden dusk would taste the same without it.
Released in 1995, 200 More Miles is not a new album. And yet, there's nothing else I can substitute for the way the strings take over the songs. Nothing I can say except to assure you there are songs you should hear alone, laying in the grass, somewhere between soil and stars.
And in the corner stands a guitar and
lonesome words scrawled in a drunken hand
I don't travel past, travel hard before
and I'm beginning to understand
["200 More Miles"]
["Me and the Devil Blues", Margo's version of Robert Johnson's original]
["State Trooper", a sultry version of Bruce Springsteen's highway tune]
There's something about an afternoon spent doing nothing
Just listening to records and watching the sun falling
Thinking of things that don't have to add up to something
and this spell won't be broken
by the sound of keys scraping in the lock
["Sun Comes Up, It's Tuesday Morning", one of my favorite songs of all time]
Then I catch us in the bar-room mirror
with his arm around my shoulder
this girl I see has grown so unfamiliar
and as she stands to leave with a stranger by her side
she can't help but laugh at a life grown so peculiar
["Where Are You Tonight?", a tribute to yearning for a particular shadow]
I think I'll find a pair of eyes tonight, to fall into
and maybe strike a deal
Your body for my soul, fair swap
`cause cheap is how I feel
["Cause Cheap Is How I Feel", a classic if such things can be said to exist]
I don't like his suggestive tone
The way his words drip from his mouth
As he asks, "Can I take you home?"
I don't care how many miles I got
I think I'd rather walk them alone
Than to sit in the back seat
As his eyes in the mirror
Reduce me to flesh and bone
["If You Were the Woman, and I Was The Man", a tears of joy sort of song]
Just one question I'm dying to ask, you said,
do you know what it's like to be hunted?
["Hunted", a song about what it's like to be a woman in American. A subtle critique of a culture that consumes women.]
["Lost My Driving Wheel", a Beach Boys song turned into a full-bodied love song]
["I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry", because Hank Williams Senior can't hold a candle to this fire]
["Misguided Angel", a mind-blowing tribute to the love that shouldn't be.]
It took our trip to Ohio to make it clear that the days of shooting hoops have officially begun. The Eldest wanted nothing more than a basketball to play on the courts nearby.
His face lit up like an Alabama yard during Christmas when the King walked into the house with a blue and black tucked under his arm.
Shooting has become second-hand- a way to think through things, a way to do something with his hands that isn't so obviously stimming. Best of all, a way to enter any conversation in any city in any part of town that has a orange hoop and a little concrete.
Nowadays, while the girls dance ballet at Riverwood Classical School, the Eldest shoots hoops. I tried to join the four boys alongside Max this week. They were playing a game called Knockout.
I got knocked out first.
Perhaps excited by the latest craze to hit the castle, Prophet has started working on her dribbling as well.
"Let's stop somewhere with a hoop," a refrain more frequently heard during our weekly spring picnics.
I never played basketball when I was growing up. Maybe I tried it once in gym class, but it didn't catch my interest. That said, I love watching the Eldest dribble and shoot from the front window of the house.
And I love the lingering possibility that one day, I, too might find myself shooting hoops in the front yard. Just because it seemed like the right kind of day.
The soldier loves his rifle,
The scholar loves his books,
The farmer loves his horses,
The film star loves her looks.
There’s love the whole world over
Wherever you may be;
Some lose their rest for gay Mae West,
But you’re my cup of tea.
Some talk of Alexander
And some of Fred Astaire,
Some like their heroes hairy
Some like them debonair,
Some prefer a curate
And some an A.D.C.,
Some like a tough to treat’em rough,
But you’re my cup of tea.
Some are mad on Airedales
And some on Pekinese,
On tabby cats or parrots
Or guinea pigs or geese.
There are patients in asylums
Who think that they’re a tree;
I had an aunt who loved a plant,
But you’re my cup of tea.
Some have sagging waistlines
And some a bulbous nose
And some a floating kidney
And some have hammer toes,
Some have tennis elbow
And some have housemaid’s knee,
And some I know have got B.O.,
But you’re my cup of tea.
The blackbird loves the earthworm,
The adder loves the sun,
The polar bear an iceberg,
The elephant a bun,
The trout enjoys the river,
The whale enjoys the sea,
And dogs love most an old lamp-post,
But you’re my cup of tea.
Buds on a tree by the Scioto River in Dublin, Ohio.
You have not conquered me—it is the surgeOf love itself that beats against my will;It is the sting of conflict, the old urgeThat calls me still.It is not you I love—it is the formAnd shadow of all lovers who have diedThat gives you all the freshness of a warmAnd unfamiliar bride.It is your name I breathe, your hands I seek;It will be you when you are gone.And yet the dream, the name I never speak,Is that that lures me on.It is the golden summons, the bright waveOf banners calling me anew;It is all beauty, perilous and grave—It is not you.
The Eldest knew immediately from the pungent odor that these lovely flowers were wild onions. Merriwether's informative foraging web page helped us to confirm our suspicions. Also called wild garlic or meadow garlic, wild onion comes from the Allium family.
Allium was the Latin name for the onion. Some herbalists think the name comes from the Celtic word “all” meaning pungent. “Alla” in Celtic means feiry. Canadense means of Canada, but refers to north North America. Tricoccum means three seeds. Roman’s called garlic the “stinking rose".
Conducting an internet set for "wild onions" leads us to endless pages on how to "rid your yard of onion grass or wild onions". I try to hide my disappointment. Why not forage? I make a vow to keep from disparaging weeds in front of the little people- to honor what we find in abundance without demanding that our lawn "look like all the others".
I want to give my girls something to hold against a culture that tells them they should want to look like every other girl. That a "good lawn" is one that looks perfectly manicured, sterile, similar, immaculate perfection. So I offer our yard as an example of natural beauty- and how much nature has to offer if we honor it as we find it.
Looking at the tiny bulbs ready to burst with the miniscule onions, lifting my fingers to my nose to be sure of the scent, I think of the time Prophet found me in the kitchen, slicing onions for a salad.
"Why are you crying, mommy?" she asked.
"It's the onions," I replied, smiling through blurred eyes, "They make me cry."
"Then I don't like onions- if they make you sad."
I remember how strange it felt to try and explain that I liked cutting onions- that I enjoyed the way they cleared my eyes, savored the way they made me cry.
Rather than allow them to be mowed down by the lawnmower, we decided to harvest the onions. But when are wild onions ideally harvested? The Eldest runs inside to consult his sacred text, the book given to him by our neighbors, the Brooks, a few years ago.
Wild onion (Allium canadense)
Thus we find ourselves in the thrall of another wild plant- another afternoon devoted to discovering the mystery of the weeds beneath our noses. Another day where the lessons we planned are not quite the lessons we learned. My heart swells with gratitude.
Reading memoirs has the unexpected effect of adding new games to our repertoire. I discovered the game of Ergo in Jeanentte Walls' memoirs, The Glass Castle. It was a game Walls' father invented to play with his kids. All you need is a few players and the ability to communicate.
The word "ergo" means "therefore". I think therefore I am, promised Descartes. But what conclusions- what "therefore"- can we draw from limited information? At what point does a conclusion become an opinion rather than a statement of fact? Playing Ergo explores this dichotomy and encourages players to formulate their own critical thinking strategies.
HOW TO PLAY
To play the Ergo game, someone makes two statements of fact. Each player then has to answer a question related to these two statements of fact. If the answer doesn't follow from the statements, the player must say, "Insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion" and then explain why this is the case.
Here's a few examples that came to mind when the hamsters in my head hopped on their wheels and wouldn't stop spinning this morning.
Statement 1: Pigs and human beings are the only animals that can get a sunburn.
Statement 2: Some humans eat pigs for breakfast in the form of bacon.
Questions: Do human beings and pigs have the same form of pigment in their skin? (Insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion. We can speculate this as a possibility, but nothing in the two statements discusses what causes sunburn in pigs or humans.) Does the word "pigment" come from the word "pig"? (Insufficient evidence to draw a conclusion. The statements make no reference to pigment.)
If perchance you do play this game with your family or friends, I'd love to hear some of the statements and questions you formulate.
[Addendum: There's also a card game called "Ergo" in which you seek to prove your own existence while disproving the existence of other players. I need to remember to add it to our wishlists. Family, here's one of those "good gifts" that the entire family would enjoy.]
I burned the candle reading on the stoop outside our backdoor last night. The biblio-love with whom I communed, Mary Pipher's The Shelter of Each Other, resonated as clearly as the song of the barn own which visits our backyard at least once a week, the barn owl whom I have come to believe is divided between a past which took place somewhere in the woods behind our yard and a present which resides down the street from us.
The social construction of reality and the idol of Progress
Pipher, like Wendell Berry, dismantles the idol of "Progress" to which so many mega-churches and self-help groups are now dedicated. Just because science advances to give us the atomic bomb does not mean that this technological progress makes the world a better place. Like many, I am in the thralls of this consumer myth in the places where I least expect it.
We are, after all, one of those crazy families that gave away their TV set this year. That's right- we don't have a TV. Our kids are clueless about the latest exploits of Dora the Explorer or the how the Bratz feel about halter tops.
"Choose your books as carefully as you choose your friends," warns a grandmother in Pipher's book. For a woman who treats her books like lovers, the admonition is clear- my neural pathways are constructed by the books and media to which I am exposed. Ultimately, as an adult, I am responsible for creating the architecture of my own brain. As a parent, I am responsible for protecting and encouraging only the best and least harmless materials in the construction of my children's brains.
We all have our blind spots. Boys are one of them. Pipher writes about the challenges faced by boys in our mediated culture- the tension between messages given by the media and the voice of their conscience, as nourished in their homes. When a boy tells his parents, "You just don't understand," he is absolutely right. How can we understand what it's like to grow up in a culture that sets a standard of "cool" for men in which scoring is always the goal, whether in sports or in human relationships? How can we honestly confront the mixed messages given by media that glorifies killing without remorse and consuming sex as if it were a supersized McValue meal? How can we unravel the unspoken double standard that tells boys to kill and screw without warning them of the cost, whether jail, pregnancy, or emotional detachment that leaves them lonely, lacking the very friendship and intimacy which led them to try and impress others in the first place?
To confront this mixed messages requires us to admit the ways in we are complicit in their formulation. We tell our boys what is right and wrong, then we hand over the remote or iPad that reminds them the extent to which right and wrong are glorified abstractions and unrealistic expectations. We pat them on the head and refuse to acknowledge the way in which their kindness and empathy will be held against them in peer groups.
"Gentle boys who respect girls are at best ignored and at worst brutalized," writes Pipher. "To be accepted they must do things that are wrong and harmful", things which their peer groups will encourage and reward yet fail to assist them in coping with the consequences. The problem is compounded by the way in which our culture discourages kids from looking to their parents for help with complicated emotions and needs.
"We don't give teens permission to love their parents.... We teach them there's something sick about being close."
This is tantamount to denying the deepest and most essentially human need of all- the need to be loved and nurtured, the need to find meaning in the way we relate to one another.
Encouraging fatalism and despair
"There is nothing is new under the sun," we promise, when our children express despair over bullying or the images of dead civilians, mothers with children curled around them, on the television set. So our kids learn to keep quiet about the things that shock them. Rather than empower them with tools to make the world a better place, we establish a rationale for passivity. There is nothing you can do. Life sucks. So keep playing that video game. At least you have a chance of scoring.
Albert Einstein said that our theories determine what we are capable of observing. Rush Limbaugh doesn't see struggling single mothers trying to juggle two jobs and parenting- he sees only evil, selfish women trying to steal taxpayer dollars. If you listen to Rush Limbaugh, chances are you will see things the same way. Like it or not, he educates you and creates your worldview. He tells you what to think and what to care about. He lights that fuse beneath your bottom that makes you angry every time you see a young man wearing a hoodie. Worst of all, he convinces you that the world is nasty place where the ballots are rigged against anyone who considers themselves an "honest American".
I would argue that anyone who considers themself an "honest American" needs to take a step back and do some critical thinking and deconstructing of the phrase itself. The honest American is the one who admits what his lifestyle costs the world and all the children of developing countries. The honest American is one who repents of any "Americanisms" that allow him to justify the desecration of our natural world and its non-American residents.
To argue that change is inevitable is to say that planning and hoping is impossible. Its serves to deprive us of personal agency and identity, to sweep individuals into a dustpan where all are just undifferentiated dust flurries. Telling your kids that "that's the way the world goes round" as if it were a truism rather than just a funny song equips them with a sense of helplessness in facing life's challenges.
Offering a rather un-erotic sex education
Rather than provide our kids with a rich, compelling sex education, we skim over the technical details and allow the culture of porn to do "the dirty work" for us. Perhaps, deep down, many of us still believe that sex is dirty, something that contaminates those who speak of it. So children learn to have "McSex", to just do it and get it over with and consume it as quickly as possible. The difference is not so much in the people with whom you do it, but in the presence of specific condiments- ketchup, onions, anal, etc.
Honestly, are you surprised to see teens discussing sex as if it were banal, blase, and possibly even boring? Pardon my excitement, but if the coolest experience in the world (namely, sex) has become run-of-the-mill, what on earth is left to words to like "yearning" and "longing" and "hope"? I like words that represent feelings based on delayed gratification; they give us something to anticipate; they add texture and richness to everyday life.
Human development occurs within the context of real relationships. We learn from whom we love.
The poverty of consumerism- that feeling of never quite having enough- commodifies things that might otherwise be created, hand-made, seeded between people and allowed to bloom, grow, and blossom in unspeakably beautiful ways.
We're stuff-rich but oh so very soul-poor.
We're theory-laden and yet still desperate for love. All the books which punish people for living as if we truly loved others- for living our way through our loves- throw us back on the market in search of the next book or pill that might fill in the emptiness.
Cars before conscience
I admire the courage it takes for Pipher to say that character has more influence on our longterm happiness than the momentary notion of "self-esteem". To define "will as the ability to act on the basis of one's values". To bemoan the extent to which "cynicism is king". To point out that most teens see conscience- not a car- as a luxury they can't quite afford.
I wonder how we got to a place where kids feel more comfortable raising money to help pets or animals than fellow human beings. Have we made human-kind as unspeakably dirty as sex? Have we made it easier to show affection for an animal than a fellow human being? Have we made it harder for young folks to determine what they, as individuals, want as opposed to what they have been programmed to want? Have we extolled human nature above and beyond the power of human nurture? And do we really want to live the sort of world that exists as a result of these choices?
These are important questions to ask- as individuals, as parents, and as families. Relieving kids of the opportunity to participate in discussions about the challenges posed by our culture only disempowers them. Many of us (myself included) are better at teaching our kids to be rebels than helping them understand precisely what they are rebelling against.
Prophet brings me a bowl of flowers. I put down my pencil for long enough to remember why those books I take as lovers must remain, somehow, as side shows to the real show that unfurls everyday in our home.
In a world that tells us it is "safer not to care", the most daring thing we can possibly do is keep caring. And teaching our children to care, in spite of the cost to their "cool factor". If life is worth living, it must be worth engaging. We must agree to fight battles we can't possibly win just because it is the right thing to do. We must agree to be enthralled and delighted. Perhaps these are the best lesson to impart from our temporary, fragile nests.
Three eggs discovered at a rest area in Kentucky.
The last few lines from Gail Mazur's poem, "Evening", come to mind. The lines in which the elderly woman insists that she wants the blue eggs more than the promise of the bird tucked within them.
If it weren't for the specialized aptitude of the egg tooth, the baby bird might never emerge from the egg. The baby would remain a possibility rather than a probability.
The egg tooth fascinates me. Lodged in my neural networks, waiting to morph into the perfect metaphor, I hold it back like a pawn piece on a chess board, knowing the perfect exchange will appear to those with the patience to see it.
Chicks with wings that don't work, those baby birds, ensconced in the protective covering of the portable womb known more commonly as "egg". Since the beak and the claws of the chick are not fully developed and cannot penetrate the egg shell at the time when the chick is ready to emerge, the egg tooth plays it brief, dazzling role.
Found only in emerging chicks, the egg tooth's purpose is brief and to the point; it serves only to assist the baby bird in breaking through the hard shell in the process known as "pipping".
For a chick, the cost of growing within the egg-womb is a decreased ability to absorb enough oxygen through the pores of its eggshell. Compelled by its natural wisdom, the oxygen-thirsty chick uses its egg tooth to peck a hole in the air sac located at the flat end of the egg. This sac provides a few hours worth of air, during which the chick breaks through the eggshell to the outside.
Far from being a singular miracle, the egg tooth works in concert with a special muscle on the back of the chick's neck. This pipping muscle provides chicks with the strength to force the egg tooth through the inner membrane of the eggshell.
The chick hatches, leaving its shell behind. Soon it learns to open its mouth expectantly. Finally, a few days after hatching, the egg tooth falls off, its purpose exhausted.
C.D. Wright admires the egg tooth in "Obscurity and Selfhood", a poem published in 1949. I like the poem so much that I can't bear to parse it, to surgically remove pieces and pretend any life can be left in the dissected corpse. So here it is, in it's entirety, in honor of the marvelous egg tooth.
OBSCURITY AND SELFHOOD
by C. D. Wright
from a college.
living by himself
kept his fighting cocks in plain sight. Each had its own tether and
miniature shed and dish with embossed sobriquet. Their domestication
reserved for battle before the table. Gallus gallus domesticus. A young
male, a cockerel, my husband’s patronymic before the adoption. Some hens
are disposed to poach another’s egg. Once there were teeth. Given certain
conditions they could come back. If not a full set. Even now a breathing hole
has to be pipped for the offspring to break out. This is done with an egg tooth.
Not a true tooth. Love among the chickens involves a circle dance. He is
a wonderful dancer. It goes straight to her brain. Before and after they prefer
to wash off in dust. Ashes will work if no dust. If they aren’t forced into shedding
one another’s blood, they can live until their heart gives out.
My question is this:
Would you describe yourself
as a wanderer, a friend of the court, amicus curiae, falsely construed as a snitch, a blue yodeler,
an apostate, a lost cause, a bird in the house, a biter, a common blogger, a contender, a purse
snatcher, a false witness, a palterer, a silkie, a backyarder, channeler
for malevolent spirits, girt in the loins, figure on a shard of black pottery, moderately active, a fog
machine, a visionary miserabilist, a chook or a cuckold, a roundhead, a little seditious, a slow-wave
sleeper, a dead mule, a gongorist, honey on the comb, half goat half god, a white throwback, crossed
with a mongrel, a genesis, a retired fighting
There they are- the King, Gnome, Prophet, and Eldest, sitting in the pews of the Abbey Theatre of Dublin, Ohio.
The whole thing was my idea, of course. We went to watch a show billed "Toddler Theatre". The name evoked images of costumed creatures singing and dancing, a play especially crafted for toddlers, an introduction to the fascinating world of theatre, a world well-loved by myself and the King.
But Gnome and Prophet were neither amused nor intrigued by the interactive toddler dancing and music. They watched with all the curiosity of spectators.
"You two look like intellectual snobs," I parrotted in my best Katherine Hepburn voice.
Performer Marlene Metz played children’s music on her guitar and sang like a happy mermaid.
Marlene was joined onstage by Ladybug Girl, one of Prophet's favorite characters. I thought this might bring the snobs from their seats.
Prophet quickly informed me, however, that "the Ladybug Girl was not a real one", merely a "pretend version" paid to trick gullible toddlers.
Would you believe it if I told you that the ladies didn't budge from their seats for a second? It was the Eldest who saved the day. Because if anyone in that theatre was singing every single song and clapping right along, inserting his own cheers and "hoorays", it was our 10-year-old boy, the same boy who begged to go down and shake hands with Ladybug Girl, the only child above the age of six on the premises.
If it weren't for the Eldest, our excursion would have been a bust. Instead, it was an excuse for maniacal laughter when we jumped back in the spaceship and started back towards Bunicu's place. At the first stoplight, the Eldest announced, "Boy, that sure was FUN!". Then he added, "We should do that again sometime," as Prophet and Gnome glared ominously in his direction.
The days of bugs and fuzzy wuzzy worms are upon us. As I sit in the garden, seeking out small weeds, staking tiny tomato sprouts, some of which might yet be tender for the wider world of Alabama dirt, the kids build houses and hotels for various insects and bugs.
Hard to say how many times I paused and looked up because a little person brought me a bug.
Eastern tent caterpillar (Malacosoma americanum)
This proud friend was discovered by M. N., who held it in her palms, the tone of her voice dropping to a whisper to describe it. It is an eastern tent caterpillar, a devourer of oak and maple leaves, a furry crawler on its way to becoming a type of snout moth.
"It is called a tent caterpillar because the larvae build a tent up in the crooks of particular trees," I try to explain. The Eldest knows all the details. He picks up where I left off.
The Eldest describes the large castle he has fashioned for a cockroach who made the mistake of showing his face in the garage. He gazes at M.N.'s caterpillar longingly.
The adult moth of the eastern tent caterpillar emerges from the caterpillar-spun cocoon about 3 weeks later. The moth is reddish-brown with two pale stripes running diagonally across each fore-wing.
Gnome wants to know when we will see the moth. I tell her that she might meet it flapping against her bedroom window one night. Because moths are butterflies that prefer to play in the dark- butterflies that don't like the light.
"Okay mommy," Gnome smiles, nods, chews on a leaf. Our eyes meet for a brief, beautiful moment. Her expression unfurls into something light an expansive.
"You know what, mommy?" she asks.
"I know what you tell me."
"Maybe I can meet the moth on the outside of my window......"
"Hmmmm.... maybe so, Gnome."
"Because I AM a moth, too! I am a butterfly that likes to play at night!"
"So am I," I confess to this little kindred spirit standing before me barefoot, chewing on what I can only hope is a violet leaf. And so we are.
Turkey oak tree (Quercus cerris)
The King found a turkey oak tree nut on the sidewalk in Dublin. Ironically, the turkey oak is native to the land of my birth and other parts of southeastern Europe as well as Asia Minor. The genus is characterized by shoot buds surrounded by soft bristles, bristle-tipped leaf lobes, and acorns with hairy cups that usually mature in 18 months.
Spring winds brought down the last of the white flowering dogwood blooms this week. It didn't take long for the girls to notice the wild and beautiful shower of white petals basting the front lawn. It didn't take long for them to find a reason to revel in it.
Prophet droped her watering can and raced to catch "snowflakes" tumbling from the dogwood. Gnome scooped up handfuls and scattered the petals over her "pony's secret path". Far be it from me to point out that a path strewn with flower petals won't stay secret for long.
Wherever you are, I hope you are finding time to race across the grass and catch a face-full of falling flower petals.
The things I wish for are:
A color. A forest.
The devil and ice in my mouth.
that can’t be owned.
A leopard, a life, a kiss.
Never let me down.
To know that you have wanted me too
is as good as the deed
Stopping to collect dandelions at a truck stop other than the one we keep hunting.
Every couple of years, we pack the family into the spaceship and jet off to Dublin, Ohio for a week-long visit with my dad, Pam, and Grandma Vicki. Every year, it seems that the King spends the entire trip checking maps and reconfiguring old memories to try and locate the truck stop where he asked me to marry him.
A statue slumbering on the front porch of Bunicu's abode.
Every year, the truck stop eludes us and the memories grow a little fuzzier. In a way, it's like the Holy Grail of our relationship- this elusive, mysterious location where the King proposed holy things and I surprised myself by doing what I vowed I would never, ever do, namely, marry a male of the homo sapiens sapiens variety.
We arrived safely in Dublin with none of the usual spaceship troubles. Bunicu and Pam were overjoyed to see us. Apparently, they had forgotten how much non-stop, noisy fun occurred during our previous visit. I figured it wouldn't take long for them to remember.
Prophet and Gnome find some friends on the front lawn.
I was taken by surprise to find snow in the forecast for our first few days. Alas, I had packed light coats and cardigans- but nothing anywhere near a winter coat. After spending the full course of an hour complaining about the cold weather and reverting to less mature version of my teenage self, it finally struck me that whining was ultimately the most boring activity of all. All the nearby thrift stores were be hosting end-of-season sales for winter coats, so we made off with $10 and winter wear to last us through the next day's snow.
Undeterred by their mother's self-pity festival, the kids found ways to amuse themselves almost immediately. Much to the surprise of Doru and Pam, the kids decided that the silver lawn art was made for riding. Their superior horsemanship skills stunned my dad into admiring silence.
Even the town of Dublin, Ohio boasts its share of cowboys.
All the exciting activity on the front yard of a Dublin historic home inspired us to set out on the first stroll of many. The cold weather kept us moving and exploring.
We noticed several homes in which people kept bees.
"What is that white tree with flowers that looks like a fountain, mom?" inquired the ever-curious Eldest. When it doubt, resolve to figure it out. I made a note to snap a picture and save it for identification.
The beautiful weeping cherry tree opens its white blossoms in April.
Our gallivanting landed us at Monterey Park, where the Eldest organized acorn boat races down the small creek whose baptized name slips my memory.
Prophet's acorn was marked with a yellow dandelion flower, which she promptly rescued after a brief shipwreck. I love how this photo captured the presence of her reflection as well as her shadow, one super-imposed upon the other.
My dad's fancy-pants wine cellar.
After strolling for several miles, the little people got tired. So we ventured back, where the dudes played so many rounds of Dominion that the girls found themselves inventing songs with "dominionate" used as a verb in a lyric.