Friday, September 20, 2019

Floating . . .


Between earth and sky
Ancient mountains remember
A time without man. 

They have seen him come,
Death in his every footstep,
They will see him go.

Patient in their age,
The mountains wait.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Bread and the Knife by Dawn Drzal

This delightful memoir is so tasty that I devoured it almost in one sitting.  

I was drawn to it because in the spring I'll be doing a workshop at Isothermal College and my subject is the use of food to enhance one's prose. (Think of the eating scene in Tom Jones--or the antebellum sumptuous meals of Gone With the Wind reduced to Scarlett's postbellum gnawing on a raw turnip--or was it a carrot or a radish? I can't remember and my online sources don't agree. Anyway, you get the point.*)

Dryzal hit upon a wonderful structure for her memoir--twenty-six vignettes about different foods, arranged chronologically and alphabetically.  

From Al Dente in which we learn about her Italian grandmother and the importance of family rituals; through Nova, the story of her summer as the lone Catholic at a Jewish camp, her first kiss (at this same camp) and her on-going preference for Jewish men; to Zucchini Blossoms  (fried) where we come full circle back to her grandmother and her grandfather-- the gardener who grew the zucchini. And a small reflection on the ineffable sense memories stored in these twenty-six vignettes.

Drzal serves forth an absolutely delicious memoir-- well stirred and seasoned with wit, wisdom, and nostalgia.

*It was a radish -- I checked.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The Nightshade Family

Good title for a sit-com, right? But I'm talking about vegetables.

My little porch garden continues to give me lots of pleasure along with a continuing small supply of produce.  The nightshades--tomatoes,peppers, and eggplants--just keep chugging along. Josie and I already 'harvested' our tiny crop of purple potatoes, also nightshades.

Speaking of which, I've been investigating the claim that nightshades cause inflammation and arthritis.  Most of the sources I looked at said that there are no scientific studies to support this claim -- but if you have arthritis and you find that avoiding nightshades makes you feel  better -- then that's what you should do.

The green peppers are blooming and bearing . . .

The jalapenos are hotter than usual . . .

And this one purple/yellow/orange tomato whose name I don't know fascinates me with its strange markings.

It's the purple of an eggplant . . .

The tomatoes are medium-small and mild-flavored--tasty if not as good as a Cherokee Purple. . .

Some of them really look like planets.

The Japanese eggplants seem determined to go on producing.

All of these plants would no doubt have done even better with larger pots but I've fed them monthly and watered them daily--sometimes twice daily--which is something they wouldn't have gotten down in the garden.

I have plans for expanding my porch domain next year . . .

Monday, September 16, 2019


These dramatic seed pods carry a warning -- poison! Jimsonweed (Datura stramonium) is common around here -- this one showed up in our garden. I already knew it has hallucinogenic qualities--a neighbor told me years ago that when she was young, thrill-seeking teenagers would lay one of the little seeds inside their lower eyelid and it would make then see strange things.  

What I didn't know was that the name Jimsonweed was originally Jamestown Weed, derived from Jamestown, Virginia where English soldiers, attempting to put down a rebellion in 1676, boiled and ate a quantity of the leaves "the effect of which was a very pleasant comedy, for they turned natural fools upon it for several days: one would blow a feather up in the air; another would dart straws at it with much fury; and another, stark naked, was sitting in a corner like a monkey   . . .

In this frantic condition they were confined, lest they should, in their folly, destroy themselves--though it was observed that all their actions were full of innocence and good nature. . .a thousand such simple tricks they played, and after eleven days returned to themselves again, not remembering anything that had passed."

(From The History and Present State of Virginia, Book II-1705

I'm not tempted.

Depending on where you live, the plant is also called thornapple, moon flower, hell's bells, devil's trumpet, devil's weed, stinkweed, locoweed, prickly burr, or devil's cucumber.

Its poisonous ingredients include atropine, scopolomine, hyoscyamine, and tryopane alkaloids.

A perfect plant for a witch's garden.  Maybe between to the foxglove and deadly nightshade . . . 

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Red Moon

Last night's moon made me think of a favorite poem by Garcia Lorca. . . sorry I can't manage the diacritical marks for the Spanish.

Cancion de Jinete
Song of the Rider

Cordoba. Lejana y sola.
Cordona. Far and alone.

Jaca negra, luna grande,
Black pony, big moon,

Y aceitunas en mi alforja.
and olives in my saddlebag.

Aunque sepa los caminos
Although I know the roads

yo nunca llegare a Cordoba.
I will never get to Cordoba.

Por el llano, por el viento,
Through the wind, across the plain,

jaca negra, luna roja.
black pony, red moon.

La muerte me esta mirando
Death is looking at me

desde las torres de Cordoba.
from the towers of Cordoba.

Ay que camino tan largo!
Oh, how long the road!

Ay me jaca valerosa!
Oh, my brave pony!

Ay, que la muerte me espera,
Oh, for death awaits me,

antes de llegar a Cordoba!
before I get to Cordoba!

Cordoba. Lejana y sola.
Cordoba. Far and alone.

Saturday, September 14, 2019

Friday, September 13, 2019

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to reading this brilliant novel that a friend brought me months ago.  It reminds of one of the reasons I love to read--total immersion in another life, another place.

The place is Naples in the Fifties--a village-like street in the poor part of town. We follow the early lives of two ambitious girls in minute detail, at the same time absorbing the inter-family politics of their small world.

I found it riveting. And lucky me!--there are three more books. The quartet is meant as a novel in installments.

And there's a television series (see picture above)--which I won't watch until I've read the other three books. I'm having to restrain myself from reading any summaries of their plots (this is a bit like a soap opera but with excellent writing, and I really want to know what happens but please don't tell me.) 

On reflection, I think I do know what put me off at first. At the beginning of the book is a daunting cast of characters and I probably read it and decided there was no way I could remember all those names and put the book back down.

This time, I just leaped over the cast and started right in. I was hooked at once. And while there are a lot of names, I only needed to turn back to consult the character list two or three times.

A terrific read! I'd love to hear if any of you have read the other three books and, if so, what you thought of them. Ditto for the television show.

My next read is THE OVERSTORY . . .

Wednesday, September 11, 2019


Our painting class was quietly working away, soft music in the background from a classical music station,  when an announcer broke in with the horrific news. 

There was no more painting that day, only shocked silence as we listened to the news. 

When it seemed that the worst was over, that no more planes would be flying into buildings, not this day, the class dispersed.

Suddenly life had changed. I had intended to do some shopping after class, but even as I headed for for the mall, I felt a strong desire to be at home and turned around.

And life has changed. Several wars later, we still aren't safe. And I still prefer being at home.

I don't go to the mall and I avoid most crowds. It's partly personal preference (I never have liked crowds or the mall) and partly the growing number of terrorist attacks. 

Not by Muslim extremists, mind you, but by our own home-grown crazies--for the most part dissatisfied young white men with access to automatic weapons. 

I'm not exactly cringing behind the sofa. But these days, I do wonder what worries me more--the copperheads in the rock walls at home or the crazy guy intent on his moment of notoriety at my local Walmart. 

 The enemy within.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Josie Insisted

She just had to take pictures with my little Sony. I showed her how it worked but she insisted on bringing it up to her face as I do with my Nikon.

We're going to have to work on this.

Monday, September 9, 2019

When the Last Bee Has Been Poisoned . . .

When the last bee has been poisoned,

When the last sweet drop of honey is gone,

When precious plants are pollinated by hand
(Produce too expensive for the likes of you and me,)

When the busy buzz of wings is forever silenced,
then will we at last see that, blind and unaware,
 we had been entertaining angels all along?