April 19, 2016

Even though it is overcast and threatening rain this morning, the weekend gave us such a gift with the promise of spring.  Beautiful warm weather, and (finally!) a chance to sit on my back deck and soak up sunshine and bird songs.  While sitting on our deck we also started plotting some rather major changes to our home, and I'll look forward to sharing more of our ideas with you later this spring!

I have, I suppose, a rather unspectacular garden, but every plant and bush was planted with love and most of them were chosen for special memories from my childhood.  After weeks of seeing nothing but drab nothingness in the garden, it was so gratifying to see the lilac buds and leaves getting ready to make our month of May spectacular. The lilacs, with their tiny leaves and buds starting to burst forth, always remind me of my father and how he delighted in bringing my mother literally arms full of the lavender blooms each spring, cut from all the old fashioned lilac bushes growing everywhere in the country.  They were the very first thing I planted when we moved into our house, and now they bring not only delight with their beauty and their scent, they also remind me of the special love my parents had for each other.

The peonies and iris are coming up strong, and to my delight I was able to cut a small bouquet of fragrant hyacinths.  Bliss!

I always loved my mother's peonies, and have four bushes of my own.  Even though the bloom time is rather short, their old fashioned beauty charms me every spring.

My garden fairy is waiting for the day lilies and cone-flowers to bloom, but she will need to wait a little longer.  Patience may be a virtue, but I understand her readiness to embrace the garden's fullness again!

This cheeky little fellow stopped by to supervise my picture taking...

and from the back of the garden the forsythia has decided to embrace the "bloom where you are planted" philosophy.  It's been sulking ever since I moved it from one corner of the garden to the other, but evidently all is forgiven.

I think Emily Dickinson also reveled in this heady and intoxicating arrival of spring, as seen in her poem.  Bring on the experiment of green...we are all so ready for it!!

A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown--

Who ponders this tremendous scene--
This whole Experiment of Green--
As if it were his own!

And while we rejoice in the return of spring, let's all remember that...

April 14, 2016

Even though spring seems to be playing it coy this year - a bit of a tease - we did catch a few glimpses of her in downtown Pittsburgh.  We waved hello to her but she would pretend not to see us,  and soon the snowflakes would begin again.  

I really liked all the little triangular green spaces tucked away on city blocks.  As we strolled around downtown Pittsburgh, we saw a number of tiny inviting parks.

We visited Point State Park, where Fort Duquesne and Fort Pitt were located.  The robins and daffodils hinted that one season had arrived, but the wind certainly hadn't received the message yet!

 I love this photo - the juxtaposition of history and the future of the city.

Taken at the entry to the Ft. Pitt blockhouse, looking towards downtown

And fittingly enough, here is a poet by British author Robert Herrick (1591 - 1674) to start our day.  I've only included the first verse, as the second verse is rather dreary!  Let's focus on how lovely the flowers are instead of how fleeting their time with us is...

To Daffodils

Fair Daffodils, we weep to see
         You haste away so soon;
As yet the early-rising sun
         Has not attain'd his noon.
                        Stay, stay,
                Until the hasting day
                        Has run
                But to the even-song;
And, having pray'd together, we
Will go with you along.

 And as always, please have a lovely day and remember...

April 11, 2016

there and back again

I feel a bit bedraggled this morning, not unlike how I am sure Bilbo Baggins must have felt as he wearily returned to his snug hobbit hole after all his adventures!  I had a lovely weekend, but it involved racking up some serious car time! Phil and I left home at 3 am (yes, I typed the right time) on Friday morning, Pittsburgh bound.  He must have been reading Tolkien again...We must away, We must away...We ride before the break of day!

"The road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road is gone
Let others follow it, who can.

Farewell we call to hearth and hall
though wind may blow and rain may fall
We must away ere break of day,
Far over wood and mountain tall."

His wonderful Aunt Synorita was celebrating her 80th birthday and we wanted to be part of the celebration.  We only had Friday afternoon and Saturday in the city, and headed back home early Sunday morning.  Along the way we encountered family roots and connections, and made more great memories. We also managed to encounter wind, rain, and snow.  Is spring ever going to arrive?

shot from the car with my phone camera somewhere in Ohio...

 A great "blast from the past"...I didn't know Big Boy restaurants were still around!  My family used to stop at one on the way to taking me to college.  One time sitting in the next booth was actor Ken Curtis, who played Festus on Gunsmoke.  I was so excited, as I have fond memories of watching Gunsmoke on Saturday nights, sitting on my grandfather's lap in my nightgown after my getting-ready-for-church bubble bath.

Also in Ohio, taken from the car

It's always been a given with our family road trips that point A is followed by point B.  No deviations off the route for the world's largest ball of twine or world's largest reptile garden, or more frustratingly, for what looked like a really interesting antiques store, ever happened on my husband's watch!  I still remember longingly pressing my face against the car window as he heartlessly drove by a log cabin quilt store in the Smoky Mountains.  Yes, he's definitely a Point A, Point B guy!!  But this trip, to my delight, the rules were bent and a side trip was made to the Ft. Meigs Cemetery in Perrysburg, Ohio.  (It was only three miles off the interstate, but I am giving my husband HUGE kudos for this, hoping to inspire more off the map adventures in the future!!)
And what did we find at the cemetery?  My great-great-great-great-grandfather's grave and marker!  Joseph Badger was born in Massachusetts, and served in the Revolutionary War.  He was in the Battle of Bunker Hill, and after the war put himself through Yale Divinity School.  He then became, as the marker states, the first missionary in the Western Ohio reserve, ministering to the early settlers via horseback.  I was thrilled to be able to visit this site and pay my respects.

Then on to the real point B...Pittsburgh!  We stayed downtown and had a wonderful time strolling through the bustling streets.  The weather was lovely.  Okay, maybe not...!!!

But we still had lots of fun  walking around, admiring the sights and sounds of a large city. I loved all the architecture and history...

 and listening to Phil reminisce about his adventures when he was a teen.

But of course the highlight of the trip was celebrating with his family, and what a wonderful night it was!!

Phil and the birthday celebrant, Aunt Synorita
Phil and two of his brothers with their mother.  What a great family!
And then it was back in the car for another snowy drive home, with Bilbo's song ringing in my ears...

“The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say”

~~JRR Tolkien, Fellowship of the Ring

I can't wait to share more Pittsburgh photos with you during the week, but until then, please remember that...

April 6, 2016

fifty shades of gray...

Please don't get too excited!  I'm not referring to the steamy book or movie by that title, but to the rather overwhelming number of paint choices when trying to pick out new bathroom colors!  After installing a beautiful new shower, I decided to ditch the rather bright "Tuscan sunset" coral shade in my master en suite (I love using this word simply because the juxtaposition of the rather pretentious en suite with the reality of my teeny tiny bathroom makes me chuckle). 

Paint swatches in hand, I set off optimistically for Home Depot, a store I frequent so often I think I'm on a first name basis with most of the staff.  I had decided a very light gray on the walls, with complementary dark gray cabinets, would be a great color combination to replace the coral walls and weird whitish/silvery cabinets.  How hard could it be to find the right colors?  After all, gray is gray, right?

But oh my - so many shades of gray!  Blue, green or purple undertones, metallic grays, flat grays, greeny grays, bluey grays, and some grays that look almost taupe!  And then there was the lighting - what looked great in the store didn't necessarily look right in the room's natural light.  I had chosen a lovely print for the wall, and holding the samples next to the print made me think I almost needed a taupey gray.  But I had already purchased navy blue rugs and towels for a pop of color, and they didn't look as vibrant against the taupe.  Decisions, decisions!

And then, taking a break from painting to attend a concert in Milwaukee,  I discovered that gray was following me everywhere.  The skies were gray.

And the view outside our hotel window was definitely industrial gray!

And while not exactly gray, the interior of the hotel was about as beige-y boring as it gets...

Even the one semi-interesting piece of art was a taupe/gray!

I need a color infusion! In the midst of all this gray-ness, Mary Oliver offers hope for the blandness of life right now.  My bathroom will get finished, and more importantly, the sunshine will soon return (I hope!!) and spring will arrive and unpack her bags and settle in for a nice long visit.   Until all of that actually happens, we need to hold on to the idea of spring and the return of color to the world, like Oliver does in her poem Walking to Indian River.

Walking to Indian River

I'm ready for spring, but it hasn't arrived.
Not yet.
Still I take my walk, looking for any
early enhancments.
It's mostly attitude. I'm certain
I'll see something.
I start down the path, peering in
all directions.
The mangroes, as always, are standing in their
beloved sater,
their new leaves very small and tender
and pale.
And, look! the way the rising sun
strikes them,
they could be flowers

May your day be filled with unexpected pops of color and joy!  And please remember...

April 5, 2016

And may you happy live and long us bless....

God bless my mother; all that I am or ever hope to be I owe to her. 
~~Abraham Lincoln
Lincoln may have said it first, but I concur. 

What is a mom, but the sunshine of our days,
and the north star of our nights?
~~Robert Brault
Taken at Mother's 90th celebration last year

To My Mother

Christina Rosetti (1842)

Today's your natal day,
Sweet flowers I bring,
Mother, accept, I pray
My offering.

And may you happy live
And long us bless
Receiving as you give
Great happiness.

Mothers hold their child's hand for a moment, and their heart for a lifetime. 

Sonnets are full of Love
Christina Rosetti (1881)

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my lodestar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.
“My mother... she is beautiful, softened at the edges and tempered with a spine of steel. I want to grow old and be like her.”
~~Jodi Picoult


I love you, Mom.  Happy birthday.


April 4, 2016

a sky full of occasion...

Ah spring, you fickle season!  We had three seasons all rolled up into one weird weather weekend ...

A spring day in Wisconsin can start with a lovely view out the back window (hello, Mr. Bunny!)...

and then progress to this...

and the dark black clouds then lead to this...

which somehow becomes this!!

Which means you start in short sleeves in the morning, and by afternoon you are unpacking boxes in search of a warm flannel top and fuzzy socks to wear by the fire, which you thought you were through with for the year! 

I ran across this delightful poem by local Madison poet Sarah Busse last year.  Doesn't it describe this time of year perfectly?  It reminds me how my mother always remarks this time of year that we need a good rain to wash away the gray.  Piles of shrinking snow, grit, salt, and mud definitely dot my landscape, and yet, outside my window right this very minute a little yoo-hoo bird (my name for the black-capped chickadees) is singing his heart out!  

Evening walk, Mid-March
by Sarah Busse

Tho' there is no new path, just the usual
neighborhood circle, familiar as the salt
caking the pavement squares.

Piles of shrinking snow humped up along the curbs,
each night the puddles freeze, each morning thaw,
and grass, clumped and frizzled, and mud.  Mud.

Gritty, dull, the land, the houses.  Everything
needs washing, and a second rinse cycle.
But the Sky is full of occasion -- robins.

Robins invisible
in the still-bare trees, twittering, chirruping
cheerily around the entire suburban block.

It couldn't be called song,
that curiously bubbling chatter-sound they make,
waxy and bibulous as a pubhouse or bridal shower.

cheerio, cheeri-up, killup, killaree, killup killaree, cheeri-up, cheerio

Come spring, that much-dreamed distant season, these trees
will bust out green, our salt-stained eyes
rejoice -- but not then, not again as

everywhere now the chirping of robins, and water running,
and then and now we are arrived at home.

From Quiver (Red Dragonfly Press, 2009)

A special thank you to the poet for graciously allowing me to use this wonderful spring poem in today's post.  You can read more about her at http://www.pw.org/content/sarah_busse.  I hope that today, in spite of a landscape that is still rather dull and dreary we can listen for the bird songs in our hearts!  As always, please remember that...