Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Trees

All the complicated details
of the attiring and
the disattiring are completed!
A liquid moon
moves gently among
the long branches.
Thus having prepared their buds
against a sure winter
the wise trees
stand sleeping in the cold.

William Carlos Williams
(1883 - 1963)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

snow day Saturday

(art & text above from Winter Trees, written by Carole Gerber and illustrated by Leslie Evans)
Children rejoice, parents relax, dogs frolic, then nap and nap. Outside is a pristine white canvas, an invitation to a fresh start, to begin again. Footsteps appear, marking a path from one friend's house to another, to where a cup of this is borrowed, and a cup of that. A few simmering hours later, there's soup for all. For a moment in time, nowhere to go or be - nor wanting to - except right here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

state of mind

Butterfly cookies for the Biome Project have been made, the 7th grade math tutor has been paid (and paid!). There's been a great report on long term health from the pediatric endocrinologist. Higher education is on the agenda, with one child away at college and another prepping for the SAT. Prayers and a small donation are with Haiti. We support our troops abroad, especially friends Paul and Sam. Trying, as always, to balance the budget. Tax deadlines loom. But all in all, everyone's happy and well, it's sunny outside, the days are getting longer and life is precious. That's the state of our union this January.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

road trip

This is a small 'South Carolina' collage card I sent to my sister when she moved to Columbia. There's so much to do and enjoy there, with pretty much year-round good weather for outdoor fun like bike riding at Fort Jackson, golf and kayaking. The monk symbolizes Mepkin Abbey, the Trappist monastery situated on the Cooper River. The barn is a Wolf Khan painting in an exhibit booklet from The Gibbes Museum in Charleston, just a few blocks from the market where the kids have always liked to buy candy. The blue heron can be seen throughout the state, especially in the marshes of the low country habitat. South Carolina is a wonderful place to visit on a cold winter day, even if only in your thoughts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Faith is the bird that sings when the dawn is still dark. Rabindranath Tagore
Green Jay by American Modernist Charley Harper (1922-2007)

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Portrait of a Lady (and a Queen)

The story is fascinating, a lesson in history, geography, culture. There's intrigue, suspense and a great romance. The acting's supreme, as are the costumes. The cinematography is exquisite. And the scenery is a gorgeous visual bon bon. The Young Victoria is enthralling: both the lady and her movie.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

summoning up summer

Kiwi + cantalope + apples + grapes + honeydew + pineapple + strawberries = summer in a bowl

Monday, January 18, 2010

got MLK?

Remembering. Remembering the day my daughter came home from first grade inconsolable upon learning about a hero named Martin Luther King. That he got killed was horrifying, all the more so that it happened on her birthday, April 4th. How could everybody not love him, she asked, and for the life of me I couldn't give her an answer. Didn't want to give her the answer. Listening earlier today to a scratchy recording of the 1963 'I Have a Dream' speech, I marveled anew at just what an extraordinary thinker and orator MLK was. How he lifted our world with his words. And how much more he had to say.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

i think i can, i think i can

Debbie Tenzer got so overwhelmed by all of the sad and scary stuff happening in the world that she started chipping away at it on a micro-level, one nice deed at a time, performed each Monday. Then she encouraged her best friends to join suit. They, in turn, suggested the same to everyone they knew and - viola! - a kindness movement had begun. Her book is full of ideas to get you thinking and even started, with details how. Below is a sampling. Tomorrow is Monday. For the first time in a long while, I'm looking forward to it.
1. knit tiny clothes for premature babies
2. get to know your neighbors
3. don't pass along a bad mood
4. say a prayer when you hear a siren
5. make a $25 micro-loan to someone
in a developing country
6. thank a service member
7. give flower seeds to families moving
into transitional housing

Saturday, January 16, 2010


For a week now, I just haven't had the usual verve. Energy and enthusiasm in the expression of ideas. Vitality. Liveliness. Verve is also my favorite lipstick color that just ran out, so I stopped by the mall yesterday to replenish. I found plenty of verve there: cool chunky white ceramic watches, creamy sweaters to soften winter's hard edges, flowers dangling from necklaces, attached at the toe of shoes and embroidered on skirts.

Even the store windows had a lot of verve: Nordstrom's orange handbags on a brilliant turquoise backsplash (looking suspiciously like the Pantone 2010 Color of the Year), Anthropologie's garden hose curled below a cascade of flowers made from recycled plastic and, sweetest of all, the Louis Vuitton bird cages, suspended in mid-air, with little red and yellow birds perched in them. I only bought a tube of lipstick, but came home with enough verve to last 'til spring.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Birdsong In Winter
It broke upon the stillness
and whistled down the calm.
It made a sudden miracle
of field and tree and pond.
- Sarah Richmond

Saturday, January 9, 2010

backyard birds

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife produced this poster a few years ago featuring backyard birds common there during winter. I think I've seen a few of the same varieties in my own North Carolina backyard. No matter how cold and bleak it gets outside, there they are at the feeders, in the bushes and hopping along the icy slate patio. So full of life and cheerful and fascinating. An inspiration to the rest of us!

Friday, January 8, 2010

oatmeal days

There was a writer who called plain old, non-eventful, ordinary days (probably winter ones) oatmeal days. Which brings to mind mush or some kind of Dickensian gruel, not at all what my sister had in mind when she perfected the morning oatmeal ritual. Start with the real deal, not some additive-laced instant packet of oats 'n flavorings. Add milk, not water. Cook in microwave or on stove, doesn't matter. What does matter is the toppings. Below are some of our household standbys, but improvise at will. Be as culinarily creative as you want to be. What you won't be is hungry before lunch.

Oatmeal toppings for oatmeal days:

a pat of real butter
a dash of salt
a sprinkling of brown sugar
sliced bananas, if you have 'em
a smattering of:
golden raisins
chopped apricots
dried cranberries
chopped nuts
sunflower seeds
pumpkin seeds

Thursday, January 7, 2010

January poem

January Light

Zen colored, light of absolute zero,
light of still running mountain streams,
frozen banks rimmed with ice.
New Year's bells ring in thin air.
After the eggnog, the chocolate frosted yule log,
ribbon candy, sugar cookies, January's a plain song:
a glass of cold water, a breath of fresh air.
Outside my window, there are birches in a
snowy field,
apple trees on a hill of shale,
all the grasses dried
to the color of nothing. At the feeder, there are
mourning doves, chickadees, titmice,
their feathery
breasts like clouds just before snow.

- Barbara Crooker

Monday, January 4, 2010

first Monday in January

January is a fresh start, lofty resolutions, goals, dreams and beginnings. It's a new day, a good breakfast, a time to try something special and different. The nice thing is, though, that the old, the dear, the tried and true are still right here, too: a favorite book, a favorite place, camellia blossoms floating in a small bowl, even in cold winter. January is full of possibilities.

Friday, January 1, 2010

felice anno nuovo

For the past however many years, this is the calendar style that has graced the kitchen. It's like a little Italian time-out, every time I pause to glance at it between the comings and goings of the days, months, year. A new year starts today and with it are the inevitable resolutions (Get in shape! Save money! Be organized!) that you can drudgingly set the January clock by. The 365 Days in Italy calendar has always offered more life-affirming things to aim for. Resolutions that'll be a joy to keep:

1. turn a cup of coffee into a small celebration
2. hang the laundry to dry in the sun
3. drink in a gorgeous view at every opportunity
4. fill your life with art
5. raise a glass of Chianti to all of your blessings
6. sit quietly in a church and pray
7. appreciate the neighborhood and the neighbors
8. find pleasure in sunflowers and sandals
9. rediscover the kitchen as the center of the universe
10. take a walk with the family after supper