Friday, October 31, 2008

the last of October

Thinking of a homemade witch costume and pillowcase clowns, a beautiful princess, Felix the cat.  A Charlie Brown Halloween.  "I got a rock."  Snoopy and Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin to rise up out of the pumpkin patch.  Carving the jack-o-lantern.  Bobbing for apples.  Caramel apples.  Witches brew.  Popcorn balls. Trick or treat!  Plastic pumpkins filled with Kit-Kats and Reese's Cups, Snickers and Tootsie Pops.   Happy haunting on Halloween!  

Thursday, October 30, 2008

a hundred handkerchiefs

Years ago, in a cabinet at my aunt's house, I found a huge stack of handkerchiefs.  Hundreds of nine-inch squares of white linen, each with a crocheted lace border.  Turns out they had been made long before by my Italian grandmother.  So soft and comforting and abundant, they totally captured her essence.  Aunt Eleanor tucked dozens of the handkerchiefs into my suitcase as I packed to go home.  That was a decade ago and I couldn't have imagined how much I'd use them.  The pile in my dresser drawer is smaller today, in proportion to the tears that life seems to wring out at every turn.  Tears of supreme joy, tears of deep sadness.  I can picture Grandma Degni right now in her favorite living room chair, small dog asleep in her lap, crocheting miles and miles of lace.  To soften the hard edges of life.  

the daily special

Just in case that sweet, chatty waitress from the sitcom Alice happens to stop by my desk today with her little pad and pencil, here's what I'm ordering for lunch:

1.  chicken salad on pumpernickel, made with red grapes and golden raisins, walnuts, chopped celery, scallions and mayo with curry, a dash of salt and a swirl of honey.  
2.  one juicy tangerine
3.  a handful of gingersnaps
4.  iced spiced tea

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

school daze

Alarm clock rings.  Kettle sings.  Hot chocolate poured.  Homework gathered.  Lunch packed.  Backpack loaded.  Jacket zipped.  Cheeks kissed.  Bus rolls.  School day begins.   

Monday, October 27, 2008

Monday marching orders

Spread love everywhere you go:  first of all in your own house.  Give love to your children, to your wife or your husband, to a next door neighbor . . . let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.  Be the living expression of God's kindness:  kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting. - Mother Teresa

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Postcard from Connemara

You'll have to cross a footbridge and hike up a winding path to reach the big old farmhouse in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  There are ponds and small lakes on the property, miles of trails and a majestic scenic overlook, even a stable of precious goats. Connemara itself is the stuff of poetry, a fitting home for America's two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning 'poet of the people,' Carl Sandburg, who lived and wrote here from 1945 until his death in 1967.  Today the estate in Flat Rock, North Carolina, is part of our National Park System, a gift to the people.  The house remains exactly the way the Sandburg family left it, right down to the kitchen table, which is set, and the thousands of books on the shelves. It's a beautiful, spirit-filled place to visit anytime, but especially in autumn when, if you listen closely, you just might hear a voice in the wind.

Theme in Yellow
I spot the hills
With yellow balls in autumn.
I light the prairie cornfields
Orange and tawny gold clusters
And I am called pumpkins.  
On the last of October
When dusk is fallen
Children join hands
And circle round me
Singing ghost songs
And love to the harvest moon;
I am a jack-o-lantern
With terrible teeth
And the children 
Know I am fooling.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

every vote matters

Early voting has begun.  I just bumbled onto it at the library an election or two ago.  Lines are kind of long, this being a big election, but I highly recommend it. Come November 4th, you'll have the entire day to bask relaxingly in your civic mindedness and great forethought.  Besides a new president, here are some other things I'm voting for this fall:
1)  unscheduled Saturday mornings
2)  the poems of Linda Pastan
3)  curried pumpkin soup
4)  lush scarves and faux brooches
5)  caramel apples rolled in sprinkles
6)  a handmade afghan on every bed
7)  the Rays to win the World Series
8)  the Mustangs to make the play-offs
9)  Thai salad at 131 Main
10)  daily leaf walks in autumn glory

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

things remembered

We are, all of us, memory collectors . . . Papa at the helm of the Silver Meteor, swimming across Kingsley Lake, Moon Jewelers in Tallahassee . . . Each day in the world, we add to our collection, constantly sifting and sorting, choosing some to lay down, others to hold dear . . . collecting sand dollars on Anna Maria Island,  the Charlie Brown bulletin board at Poinciana Elementary, Do-As-You-Choose Fridays . . . Imagine a beautiful and mysterious container for these memories . . . picking avocados in the piano teacher's yard, vintage ornaments from Mr. Tinsley, singing Ave Maria at midnight mass . . . Open it and feel the sunlight and soft pink petals, hear the Bach Cantata, taste the dill bread warm from the oven . . . it's right there, all of it.  And, magically, there's always room for more.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

you'll bee enchanted

The Secret Life of Bees is a honey of a movie, with cinematography as gorgeous as the morning light slanting across the peach groves.  The setting is achingly real, from a dingy tract house to the bright pink home where things begin to turn around for an abused little girl with a mother-sized hole in her heart.  There are a few times the story becomes sticky sweet, but that is balanced by the raw emotion conveyed by a cast of superb actors.  It is one of the few films that does justice to its book, with a wonderful, soulful soundtrack.  Savor every golden moment.  

Sunday, October 19, 2008

When a member of Homecoming royalty resides in your midst, life takes an exciting turn.  Beautiful floral bouquets arrive at the door.  Beaded dresses are purchased with little regard to price tag.  Cameras flash with regularity.  Homage is paid by family, friends, neighbors.  Perhaps none so sweetly sincere as the poster by Mrs. Garner's smart and creative third grade class.  It came in the form of an acrostic, a verse in which the first letter of each line forms a special word.  Signed by the children, it was delivered by fairy godmother after school on a busy, rainy Friday.  Thereby making not only the day, but a memory to keep forever.  

acrostic awesomeness

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

puttering around

Sometimes happiness boils down to a serendipitous half hour spent in the children's section of the library.  If you're really lucky, on the shelf there'll be a new volume in the 'Mr. Putter and Tabby' series by the ever amazing Cynthia Rylant.  You can follow this dear man and his cat through all kinds of antics as they paint the porch, take the train, see the stars, pick pears, fly a kite and even write a book . . . aided and abetted by kind neighbor Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog, Zeke.  It's the profoundly simple stuff of everyday life.  Emphasis on profound.      

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

just do it

Don't we all secretly wish for a large-and-in-charge Mrs. Doubtfire to be waiting in the wings of our everyday lives with loving advice and a chicken pot pie?  To guide and console us when we're confused, worried and exhausted?  This reproduction of a British WWII poster brings her to mind.  It's showing up in all the design mags and blogs these days, a comfortingly authoritative edict to get on with the getting on.  Ordering us to stop fixating on the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the ten o'clock news, our own navels.  Whatta' blessed relief!  

Monday, October 13, 2008

paging Leonardo!

We're talking da Vinci here, not Di Caprio.  Because it is Monday morning and some serious mental jump-starting must be done if we are to access our inner genius and reach full potential this week.  It took 20 minutes and two cups of coffee just to locate Michael Gelb's How to Think like Leonardo da Vinci on the bookshelf.  More than merely an exhilarating read, it actually lays out principles that'll get you from groggy to genius in seven steps.  In a nutshell, this involves curiosity, exercising the senses, whole brain thinking, learning from our mistakes, embracing ambiguity, cultivating grace and appreciating the interconnectedness of all things.  Focus on this and I dare you to have a flat day!  My sister is one of the most brilliant, creative and artistic people I've ever known. Her beloved childhood stuffed animal was a precious floppy little lion.  She called him Leonardo.  

Saturday, October 11, 2008

glow in the dark

On the kitchen counter during October sits a ceramic jack-o-lantern (circa 1969) handmade by Aunt Carol. Shipped from Utica, New York, it arrived in flawless, festive condition at our house in Florida and quickly became a family heirloom.  Fast forward a generation and it is still casting a cozy glow over the kitchen at o-dark-thirty on school mornings. Makes me ponder the chi, karma and soul that things handmade with love bring to a life.  And vow to get busy creating a few myself.  

Thursday, October 9, 2008

taste of autumn

I defy you to create a better fall salad than this one!  

mixed greens
slivered almonds
small slices of Brie
dried cranberries
chopped fresh apple

Mix everything together and toss with Olde Cape Cod Orange Poppy Seed Dressing.  Add turkey or chicken if you're really hungry.  Enjoy!   

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

God spelled backwards

Sometimes love wanders into your life and you don't appreciate it at first. You view it instead as a nuisance and an expense. You cringe when it chews the wood trim off the house and again when it snatches a $20 bill off the kitchen counter and eats it.  You wonder how you will keep up with all this and just wish for a rest. Then an afternoon comes when you're reeling from the harsh words of an angry teenager, a work day gone sour or the lingering sadness of 9/11.  A peaceful presence appears at your feet, breathing softly in and out. Soon you are doing the same. For the first time, you truly begin to fathom the mysteries of unconditional love and grace. And you will never be the same.  Happy 7th Birthday, Cocoa.  

Saturday, October 4, 2008

How fun is this?!  It's called a Wordle.  These are little 'word clouds' created by Jonathan Feinberg for all to enjoy.  You can make your own at