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.