Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Oh To Be Jo March

Happy 184th Birthday to
"The Most Beloved American Writer"
By Norman Rockwell

Today's Google Doodle in honor of Louisa May Alcott
More in the Telegraph and on youtube

I intend to get back around to writing more about beloved author Louisa May Alcott and her beloved heroine Jo March; but until such time, there is this great Alcott Blog to look at, with lots of illustrations!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving Like a Planet

"End of Season" ~ Photo by Cate

The Gathering

Outside, the scene was right for the season,
Heavy gray clouds and just enough wind
To blow down the last of the yellow leaves.

But the house was different that day,
So distant from the other houses,
Like a planet inhabited by only a dozen people

With the same last name and the same nose
Rotating slowly on its invisible axis.
Too bad you couldn't be there.

But you were flying through space on your own asteroid
With you arm around an uncle.
You would have unwrapped your scarf

And thrown your coat on top of the pile
Then lifted a glass of wine
As a tiny man ran across the screen with a ball.

You would have heard me
Saying grace with my elbows on the tablecloth
As one of the twins threw a dinner roll
Across the room at the other.

by Billy Collins

Thanksgiving at the Little Planets' Table
~ Cartoon by Steve Breen ~

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Getting Ready

The week before Thanksgiving, Unlce Al sent us
an update from the Garden of Paradise:
"Lovely autumnal day.
Apple tree is a bit pitiful though."

The pumpkin, however, is brilliant!
Welcome Autumn! Welcome Guests!

The Guest House ~ Rumi

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

Be not forgetful to entertain strangers:
for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.
Hebrews 13:2 (KJV)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Happy Hollow Hawk

Red - tailed hawk on Robinson Street

Earlier today, this pre - Thanksgiving visitor was strolling down the sidewalk near my house -- not at all rare perhaps but unusual for me to see at ground - level! My kids tell me that our nearby middle school teams are known as the Happy Hollow Hawks because the adjacent park is full of hawks. Oh, that explains it! By the time I got outdoors with the camera he (she?) was high up in the tree.

Dan: You're going to fix him a plate, yes/yes?

Me: I was just hoping that he wouldn't swoop down and punish me for taking his photograph!

Dan: Nah, he looks mellow.

Peg: So handsome and regal.

Additional Visitors

Every season, a few of these little guys make their way
into our attic and have to be repatriated to the woods

Stopping by the back deck just to say "Hey"

Foraging Friends by Delilah Pierce

Sunday, November 20, 2016

"Here's Some Nature"

Earlier today, my friend Andrea shared this poster
from Janis Ian and Dean Jackson.

So true! Many years ago, when my little friend Natasha was about five, she gave me a rock that was special because it had a hole in it. Handing it to me, she said, "Here's some nature." How could I ever forget that? I still have it in my key - chain drawer.

More recently, young Liam gave me a marble as a souvenir of my visit to Bainbridge Island, and I still have it in my counter - top water fountain (that the cats drink from).

Thanks, Little Ones, for these treasures!

Here's Fuqua drinking from the fountain!

And Beaumont, back in May 2013

Thursday, November 17, 2016

How the Light Gets In

~~ 12 November 2016 ~~

A week after the U.S. Presidential Election, my friend Burnetta* and I were exchanging photographs of the full moon: "I know you will post one of your own," she wrote. "All of my friends are so down, Kitti. We must figure out what to do, how to act, and take back the best aspects of our democracy. Of course, we practice those every day. I hope they are enough. Everyone I know feels the same. Peace, love and hope for the coming days, weeks. May we find the high ground and work from there."

Mourning not only Hillary Clinton's lost chance at running our country, but also the death of Leonard Cohen, Burnetta posted this song as the pefect tribute to a timeless songwriter and a fitting response to our post - election trepidation:

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.
Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

We asked for signs
the signs were sent:
the birth betrayed
the marriage spent
Yeah the widowhood
of every government --
signs for all to see.

I can't run no more
with that lawless crowd
while the killers in high places
say their prayers out loud.
But they've summoned, they've summoned up
a thundercloud
and they're going to hear from me.

Ring the bells that still can ring ...

You can add up the parts
but you won't have the sum
You can strike up the march,
there is no drum
Every heart, every heart
to love will come
but like a refugee.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.
That's how the light gets in.

Words and music by musical genius, poet, and man of vision Leonard Cohen
(September 21, 1934 – November 7, 2016)
~~ 13 November 2016 ~~

Another favorite of mine is the "Song for Bernadette":
So many hearts I find, broke like yours and mine
Torn by what we've done and can't undo
I just want to hold you, won't let me hold you
Like Bernadette would do . . .
And every now and then we try
To mend the damage that we've done . . .

By Leonard Cohen, Bill Elliott, Jennifer Warnes
The Jennifer Warnes rendition is popular,
but I prefer Anne Murray or Judy Collins.

~~ 14 November 2016 ~~

*Previous Burnetta Posts:

Dawn of Doom (Dark Vapors) ~ 10/7/16

Roots of Kindness ~ 4/29/16

Your Poem, My Poem ~ 2/23/16

May Day Birthday ~ 5/1/14

The Wire Brush of Doubt ~ 3/16/14

The Fish Hatchery, Neosho ~ 2/8/14

Never Quite the Same ~ 1/9/14

Moons of Wintertime and Beyond ~ 12/28/12

Whatnots ~ 12/1/13

City Wonderland ~ 12/3/12

Come Back to the Present! ~ 10/22/12

Autumn Days ~ 10/17/12

Chrysanthemums ~ 10/9/11

Huckleberry ~ 7/21/11

All Souls: Never Alone ~ 11/2/10

Fair ~ 7/2/10

Opinions & Facts ~ 4/20/10

April Leaf ~ 4/8/10


Friday, November 11, 2016


Painting from Fall Celebrations @ Joyful Toddlers

For the past six years I've written a Veterans Day Post on November 11th, but this year, I'm going to branch out and write about St. Martin's Day instead -- a long - lost but lovely opportunity to light up a scary night.

As the Armistice at the end of World War I was signed at eleven o'clock in the morning, on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918, so too does the celebration of Martinmas begin at the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Not widely observed in the United States, St. Martin's Day commemorates good St. Martin, a Hungarian Bishop of the 4th Century who cut his coat in half to share with a freezing beggar. It is the day that amongst other things, we can sort through our closets and donate half of our coats and sweaters to clothing drives for those more needy. That way, there will be plenty of room available when we receive new sweaters and jackets for Christmas a few weeks down the line. In fact, Martinmas (November 11) is the middle point between Michaelmas (September 29) and Christmas (December 25).

Coming less than two weeks after Hallowmas , Martinmas incorporates many of the same traditions: lantern carvings, neighborhood processions, the distribution of sweets, honoring the dead, bonfires, harvest celebrations, loss of daylight hours, and anticipation of the coming winter.

Martinmas Lantern Walk

Indiana poet Norbert Krapf draws another connection, from the tragedy of Kristallnacht, occurring November 9 - 10, 1938, to the hope of Chanukah, as the Martinmas lanterns "merge into the menorah":

St. Martin's Day

In damp dark, we parents and children
line up in groups behind teachers
in the Pausenhof of the Grundschule

to walk in procession to the park
behind the baroque palace. As we
move forward in unison, we sing songs

to celebrate the legend of a knight on horseback
who cut his cloak in half with his sword
to comfort a beggar on foot. The children

carry tiny flames through the dark
in lanterns they have made in school
and hooked to the end of sticks.

"Laterne, Laterne, Sonne, Mond und Sterne,"
they sing. In Elizabeth's blue box burns
a candle illuminating a paper angel, an apple,

a moon, and a star cut out in construction
paper she glued together. Before the arched
Orangerie in the park, the children stand

in semicircles to sing. Some play recorders,
some play violins, some tap rhythm
on tambourines. Behind them, facing

us parents, is a big illuminated sheet,
before which silhouetted children
actors mime the action of Martin

and his beggar as classmates narrate their
lines. At the end, all sing the round
"Hebet die Laterne / Lift the lanterns,"

repeat the refrain "Licht zu bringen
in dieser Welt / To bring light into this
world," and follow a rider on horseback

into the dark. As they wind along geometric
walkways in the Schlosspark, stringing
beads of light through the dark with their

handmade lanterns, I remember the first question
Elizabeth asked after we arrived in Erlangen:
"Daddy, do they celebrate Chanukah here?"

Fifty years after the Kristallnacht, I see
burning beads of light along looping walkways
merge into the menorah held in uplifted hands.

by Norbert Krapf

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

No Quandary

Wearing my sterling silver "Duke" earrings,
except today they stand for "Democrat." Thanks Ben

On "America's Choosing Day,"
everyone should read Walt Whitman & Robert Frost.

How to decide?

First of all, I do not think of Hillary Clinton as the "lesser of two evils." I think Donald Trump is vile (an anagram of evil). Hillary Clinton is neither of those things. No contest in my mind. However, even if one is of the "lesser of two evils" position, what is the quandary? Has there ever been any nobility in choosing the greater of two evils?

Second, as adults, every day, our lives are filled with a series of choices for lesser evil. (E.g., killing all the ants on the kitchen floor feels kind of evil, but allowing them to continue living there seems even worse.) Many of our beloved and well respected Presidents have made choices for lesser evil when presented with two or more imperfect choices.

Except in the world of cartoons, we are rarely granted the luxury of a choice for perfectly good vs pure evil. In real life, and even in good fiction, the choices and conflicts are always more complicated and problematic than that.

My well - respected brother,
The Rev. Bruce Carriker, agrees:

So, here's the decision some people are still wrestling with:

A distrusted, dislikable individual who, despite some really questionable judgment, has been cleared not once but twice of wrongdoing by the FBI; and has been investigated eight times by her political opponents in Congress for her actions as Secretary of State, without a single charge being filed;


A serial adulterer; racist, misogynist bully who threatens to jail his opponents; banishes the press from his campaign events if he doesn't like their coverage; admires political despots in other countries; says he may turn his back on our allies; wants to cut taxes for his rich friends; doesn't pay taxes himself; boasts about what certainly sounds like sexual assault; mocks the disabled; operates a fraudulent "charitable foundation" for his own personal gain; bribes at least two states attorneys general to drop investigations of his fraudulent "university"; says the judge in his "university" fraud case is unqualified simply because of his race; questions the patriotism of Gold Star parents because of their religious faith; calls Latinos rapists and murderers; and wonders, if we have nuclear weapons, why don't we use them?

How this is even a decision seemingly reasonable people have to think about is simply beyond me.
[Click for further thoughts]

And if you don't believe us,
how about Hadley Freeman,
writing for the Guardian:

" . . . the media promoted false equivalencies throughout this campaign to a degree never before seen.

On Tuesday, the Times headlined its editorial about the election “Tough Choice”, as if the decision between a woman who used the wrong email server and a racist, sexist, tax-dodging bully wasn’t, in fact, the easiest choice in the world. Clinton’s private email server was covered more ferociously than Trump’s misogyny. That Clinton had talked at Goldman Sachs was reported as a financial flaw somehow analogous to his non-payment of tax. However much people want to blame the Democrats, their voters or Clinton herself, the result of this election is due at least as much to anyone who pushed the narrative that Clinton and Trump were equally or even similarly “bad”.

Shame on them. The most qualified candidate in a generation was defeated by the least qualified of all time. That is what misogyny looks like, and, like all bigotries, it will end up dragging us all down."

A Vision for Election Day!
Thanks for the bulletin page Good Shepherd ~
Chapel of the Good Shepherd!

"And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision,
and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it."

Habakkuk 2:2, KJV
Pride was not made for men, nor furious anger for them that are born of a woman. They that fear the Lord are a sure seed, and they that love him an honourable plant: they that regard not the law are a dishonourable seed; they that transgress the commandments are a deceivable seed. Among brethren he that is chief is honorable; so are they that fear the Lord in his eyes. The fear of the Lord goeth before the obtaining of authority: but roughness and pride is the losing thereof.
Ecclesiasticus 10: 18 - 21, KJV

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Losing Daylight Time

The Hampton Court Astronomical Clock appears briefly in the background in The Tudors. My brother Bruce and I noticed it when we were watching binge watching the first coupple of seasons, and we had to rewind -- the movie, not the clock, haha! -- so that I could get a closer look!

Equally amazing is the world's oldest working astronomical clock (in Prague, dating from 1410). My friend Mimi says, "I'm always amazed when these things have continued to function after so much time! Wonderful!"

[And More!]
I know there's really no such thing as gaining an hour or losing an hour. Time doesn't really slip away. It merely gets rearranged temporarily or manipulated to suit our temporal purposes, as will be happening tomorrow when we "fall back." The sad thing about the return to standard time is that even though we seem to gain an hour's sleep, we also lose the evening light. But not to worry, in a few months we'll spring forward and the light will return.

In the meantime, in observation of the time change, here is a sad and lovely passage from last year's Pulitzer Prize winning novel:
"For all of Marie-Laure's four years in Saint-Malo, the bells at St. Vincent's have marked the hours. But now the bells have ceased. She does not know how long she has been trapped in the attic or even if it is day or night. Time is a slippery thing: lose hold of it once, and its string might sail out of your hands forever" (376).
from All the Light We Cannot See
by Anthony Doerr

And a couple of favorites from Storypeople
Just right for the end of Daylight Savings Time

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Soul Cakes

The Cider Mill, 1880
John George Brown, 1831 -1913

Back in Medieval times, back before Halloween candy, there were Soul Cakes. The cakes had a twofold purpose -- an offering for the dead who might be back to visit; and a refreshment for the soulers who came a'souling from door to door (like trick - or - treaters / Christmas carolers), offering prayers and songs in return for treats. The prayerful Hallowmas Season comprised three consecutive holidays: Halloween (aka All Hallows' Eve) on October 31, All Saints' Day (aka All Hallows') on November 1, and All Souls' Day on November 2.

On their Holiday Celebration Album, Peter, Paul, and Mary sing a jolly good rendition, rousing but with a hint of ancient mystery. I have not yet discovered why they alter the spelling from soulin' to soalin' -- perhaps to avoid some taboo of invoking the dead souls from beyond the grave.

A Soalin'

Hey ho, nobody home, meat nor drink nor money have I none
Yet shall we be merry, Hey ho, nobody home.
Hey ho, nobody home, Meat nor drink nor money have I none
Yet shall we be merry, Hey ho, nobody home.
Hey Ho, nobody home.

Soal, a soal, a soal cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.

God bless the master of this house, and the mistress also
And all the little children that round your table grow.
The cattle in your stable and the dog by your front door
And all that dwell within your gates
we wish you ten times more.

Soal, a soal, a soal cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.

Go down into the cellar and see what you can find
If the barrels are not empty we hope you will be kind
We hope you will be kind with your apple and strawber'
For we'll come no more a 'soalin' till this time next year.

Soal, a soal, a soal cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.

The streets are very dirty, my shoes are very thin.
I have a little pocket to put a penny in.
If you haven't got a penny, a ha' penny will do.
If you haven't got a ha' penny then God bless you.

Soal, a soal, a soal cake, please good missus a soul cake.
An apple, a pear, a plum, a cherry,
any good thing to make us all merry,
One for Peter, two for Paul, three for Him who made us all.

Now to the Lord sing praises all you within this place,
And with true love and brotherhood each other now embrace..
This holy tide of Christmas of beauty and of grace,
Oh tidings of comfort and joy.

" . . . we'll come no more a 'soalin'
till this time next year . . . "

In addition to singing along with Peter, Paul, and Mary in the car, Ben and Sam got to experience the Soul Cake tradition firsthand as students at St. Peter's School in Philadelphia. Halloween Day was celebrated in the conventional way, with costumes, apple cider and donuts; All Saints Day was pretty much business as usual; then came All Souls Day with an all - school circle dance before school and the ceremonious distribution of "Soul Cakes" -- unceremoniously referred to by Sam as "stupid store - bought gingersnaps."

I tried to rectify the situation by baking a more authentic batch of Mrs. Sharp's Soul Cakes. These were not a big hit with the children. But that was fifteen years ago, so maybe it's time to try another batch:

Cream together:
1 cup butter
1 cup sugar

Beat in:
3 eggs

Add & mix:
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon extract

Sift & add to butter mixture:
4 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon allspice

Stir in:
1/2 cup currants

Add to soften:
1/2 cup milk

Form into flat cakes & place on greased cookie sheet.
Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.


Some Modern - Day Soul Cakes
Everybody's Favorite Homemade Gingersnaps!

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Poem Slips & Weathergrams

Autumn Maples with Poem Slips
by Japanese painter, Tosa Mitsuoki, 1617 – 1691

Poem slips! What a beautiful tradition to observe the changing seasons or to honor the dead -- or both at once, as this time of year always reminds us. When it comes to honoring the dead, I love the idea of stretching Halloween out to include All Saints and All Souls -- three full days and nights of Allhallowtide!

In Up from Jericho Tel -- a novel of time travel and communing with the dead -- beloved YA author E. L. Konigsburg describes a concept identical to Mitsuoki's beautiful 17th Century depiction of the Japanese poem slips: the weathergram.

Up From Jericho Tel, features a couple of introspective middle - schoolers, Jeanmarie and Malcolm, who come across a dead blue jay and feel that it deserves a proper burial "as far away from civilization" as they are allowed to roam. They find a spot of natural perfection right at the edge of their mobile home park:
"We weaved our way through a stand of evergreens where the underbrush was ragged and full of sticklers until we found ourselves in a clearing. As we stood in its center, we saw that the pines . . . were part of a thick protecting circle . . . We knew as soon as we saw it that it was the proper place to bury the jay."
They pushed aside the pine needles, dug the grave, and made a small pyramid of pine cones: "This will be the grave marker. Not a gravestone but a gravecone."

They call the pet cemetery "Jericho Tel," and for each deceased animal, they create a weathergram: "a poem of ten words or less that a person writes on plain brown paper and hangs on a tree. . . . The message is rubbed by the wind, faded by the sun, washed by the rain and becomes part of the world."

For example, in honor of the deceased blue jay: "May your soul have flown to heaven before you sank to earth" and for a stricken luna moth: "Fly. Fluttter. Falter. Fall" (9 - 10, 13).

I can hardly think of a lovelier transition rite or ceremony for All Saints Day than poem slips and weathergrams.

See also ~ Flowering Cherry with Poem Slips ~ Mitsuoki
"The land of the living was not far removed from the domain of the ancestors. There was coming and going between them, especially at festivals and also when an old one died, because an old one was very close to the ancestors. Life from birth to death was a series of transition rites which brought us nearer and nearer to our ancestors"(122, emphasis added).
Chinua Achebe ~ Things Fall Apart