Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Memorial Day

Joshua at Thoughts from Kansas wrote about Memorial Day:
Memorial Day is meant as a day to remember the soldiers who died in our nation's various wars. That roster has grown longer in the last few years, and we should remember and honor their sacrifice...

I've never understood this use of the term "sacrifice." Sacrifice means
  1. offering something to a deity...
  2. forfeiture of something highly valued for the sake of [something of] greater value
  3. relinquishment of something at less than its presumed value
Skip #1. I don't think soldiers are offering their lives to a deity. #2 and #3 seem contradictory. But I think really, in this context, "sacrifice" simply means "death" and I think we should be less squeamish about it.

On Monday NPR's Talk of the Nation spoke about military deaths in the voices of the families of dead soldiers and the men who brought the news of the deaths to the families. Newshour with Jim Lehrer featured Wyatt Prunty's poem, "The Returning Dead" honoring the pictures or the soldiers whose pictures Newshour shows every night.

Thoughts from Kansas goes on to say:

    I think it should also be a day to remember the people who have died in the fight against war.
    And he posted this picture. I think few young people will recognize the picture. Yet, in some ways this was the event that changed our world. It brought us the fear that American troops could, and would, kill American citizens.

    This is also a time to remember people whose lives have been changed by experiences related to wars. I'm pretty sure that's all of us.

    I imagine not many people under the age of fifty recognize the picture of the Kent State students. For a surreal description see the Kent State Library's collection which gives new meaning to the term "Riot Act." I wonder what will have happened by 2040 to displace the pictures in our minds of the falling buildings in New York in 2001.

    Sunday, May 28, 2006

    Sidetracked again

    I'm on my way to the garden. Really. But on my way out the door I saw three big birds beyond the garden. "Hmm. Turkeys. No, wait. Go get the glasses." Fleshy red head, black neck. Not turkeys. Check the book. Turkey Vultures! Get the camera. I know you can't see them very well here. But they were pretty spectacular. There were three. One flew pretty soon after I came out of the house. But I was able to get to within about fifty feet of them before the others flew. I was hoping to get a fairly close picture of them on the ground and I was hoping to get a picture of them on the wing (which is surprisingly difficult with the time lag of the digital camera.) So this isn't art. But it is a record.

    Gardening Rush

    The push is on to get things planted as we approach the end of the frost-risk season. I want all those warm weather things to have the advantage of every possible frost free day to grow. So, it's all about dahlias, peppers, cucumbers, beans and more today.

    Remember all those things I got at the plant sale last year. Despite the fact that it turned out that most of the labels were not indelible and I can't seem to find the careful lists and maps I made, gorgeous plants are showing up everywhere. This geranium 'Katherine Adele' is an unexpected beauty.

    And this Pulsatilla vulgaris, 'though it's not the red variety I expected, is beautiful and it makes me wonder why I never grew it before.

    Friday, May 26, 2006

    Home again

    We cut these from one of the few azaleas in our gardens that has survived deer depredation. Azaleas are beautiful and I love this color. But every year I'm reminded that they smell just awful - pungent and skunky.

    Maggy will appreciate this reminder of the importance of unpacking promptly. That's Tang sleeping on my clothes. He's always liked sleeping in boxes. I should probably get him one of his own.

    I haven't unpacked yet. Wednesday was taken up with meetings. Yesterday errands and another meeting. I'm eager to get outside today. But it rained this morning. So, maybe I can catch up indoors while I wait for the grass to dry.

    Wednesday, May 24, 2006

    New York

    We had a great time in New York last weekend. Saturday, after lunch at Arte Cafe, we walked toward the sound of music in Central Park. There we listened to David Ippolito's mellow guitar and vocals. He says he's been singing at this spot in the park for fourteen years.

    The main event of our weekend was Cirque du Soleil. Maggy didn't seem to be intimidated by this clown. The show, tho' smaller scale than the televised ones, was delightful. I couldn't help thinking of Hangar Theatre production manager, Adam Zonder, with whom I worked for several years: the rigging, the props, even a bit of pyrotechnics and, in addition to the hundreds of entrances, stage left and stage right, there were quite a few from directly above.

    On Monday, after lunch with Maggy, I wandered over to Bryant Park, adjacent to the 42nd St Public Library. The north side of the park is designated Bryant Park Reading Room. Among the cafe tables and chairs, there are carts of books, magazines and newspapers. One end of the area is set aside for people playing chess and the entire park has wireless internet access, good coffee (and an excellent public restroom.) I have to admire a place where so many people are happily occupied - even in the middle of a weekday - reading, playing chess and browsing the internet. And it's my favorite pastime: reading, drinking coffee and watching the people.

    Finally, tempting tho' it was to grab a glass of wine and sit in my sister's garden, we made a heroic trip to Ikea to look at furniture for Maggy's apartment. My sister's garden is bordered by this azalea through which you walk (see the doorway?) to get to the driveway. But we opted for Ikea, which Cynthie describes as a trip to a theme park. Sure enough, its model rooms and the arrows on the floor directing you which way to walk (and making it impossible to get anywhere directly) impart a surreal feeling. With some effort, Maggy was able to find the pieces she wanted and arrange for them to be delivered.

    Today, it's back to reality. My garden looks great, thanks to Belinda's weekend efforts while I was away. I can't wait to get out there to pull a few weeds and plant a few more things.

    Friday, May 19, 2006


    Ontario Wanderer often posts sunrise pictures. I'm rarely out with the camera at sunrise, but here's the sunset on my way home from the Planning Board meeting last night.

    Thursday, May 18, 2006

    Cirque du Soleil

    Maggy and I are going to Cirque du Soleil this weekend.
    Corteo, which means "cortege" in Italian, is a joyous procession, a festive parade imagined by a clown. The show brings together the passion of the actor with the grace and power of the acrobat to plunge the audience into a theatrical world of fun, comedy and spontaneity situated in a mysterious space between heaven and earth. The clown pictures his own funeral taking place in a carnival atmosphere, watched over by quietly caring angels. Juxtaposing the large with the small, the ridiculous with the tragic and the magic of perfection with the charm of imperfection, the show highlights the strength and fragility of the clown, as well as his wisdom and kindness, to illustrate the portion of humanity that is within each of us. The music, by turns lyrical and playful, carries Corteo through a timeless celebration in which illusion teases reality.

    "The passion of the actor... the grace of the acrobat... the mysterious space between heaven and earth..." Doesn't that sound like fun?

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Bird counts and songs

    Committing to submit regular observations to My Yard Counts! has made me more aware of the birds I see and hear every day. My Yard Counts!, a project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, asks for 20 minute counts of birds within a half acre around your house. They ask that the times of the counts be planned in advance to avoid the tendency to think, "Wow. There's a lot of birds at the feeder this morning. I'll count them now." So, the first thing I noticed was that from 5:20 to 5:40 Friday afternoons (I scheduled my count to coincide with cocktails) there are far fewer birds at the feeder than I expected. For my own satisfaction, I started recording birds at the feeder at other times of day. No conclusive results yet. The determining factor seems to be the twenty minute limit.

    The next thing I noticed is that I pay more attention to bird songs and seek out, at least with my binoculars, the birds that don't actually show up at the feeder. My handicap is that I'm not very familiar with birdsongs. For most of my birding life I've depended on my friend Bill to whom birdsongs are as familiar as English. It's like an open-book quiz. I never seem to remember the songs of birds I don't see. I just keep asking, "Bill, what's that...." And he never tires of providing the answer. I've been listening to Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs which is pleasant, but includes so many songs I'll never encounter, that my attention wanders. With the help of sites like Bird Songs, I can fairly easily put together a disk of particular songs I'm interested in, with identification for lessons and without, for quizzes.

    Finally, I noticed that the best parts of birdwatching have nothing to do with counting. Last weekend, we were privy to a hummingbird's leisurely shower in the water dripping over the edge of the "cup-runneth-over" birdbath.
    Bill tells me hummingbirds never bathe in still water. I imagine when you're that size, there's a danger of drowning. But he happily hovered for several minutes in the dripping water before landing on the wire fence to groom. I didn't run for the camera. I just sat and enjoyed watching the hummingbird's grooming. (This is last year's picture of the birdbath. The hummingbird's not in the picture. You can also see last year's picture of a hummingbird in the bee balm here.)

    Friday, May 12, 2006


    I recently put new rubber treads on my back steps. Here are the instructions (I think they were written by a mother):
    1. Remove Step Guards from the bag and throw the bag in the trash.
    2. Make sure the step surface is clean and dry. Determine the preferred position for the Step Guard on your step. The edges of the Step Guard should not hang off or over the step.
    3. Peel the tape backing off the Step Guard and throw the tape backing in the trash.
    4. Press the Step Guard to the step in the desired location.
    5. Make sure the Step Guard is firmly secured to the step.
    6. Repeat above instructions until all Step Guards are securely placed.
    7. Discard all bags and tape backing.
    Somebody took a lot of time writing these instructions. I think it was a mother. She's helped us avoid several pitfalls in this process.
    • Step 1: We're not throwing away the bag with the Step Guards still in it.
    • Step 2: We're being sure the preferred position for the Step Guard is on the step - not, say, on the lawn.
    • Step 3: We're throwing the tape backing in the trash, not just on the floor.
    • Step 4: We're putting the Step Guard, not just any old place, but in the desired location.
    • Step 5: Having pressed it firmly, we should now be sure it's secured firmly.
    • Step 6: Luckily there are only two Step Guards in the package so I don't have to repeat the steps all the way down the sidewalk.
    • Step 7: In case we missed the first two "discard" instructions, here's another chance.
    Sadly, the man we may have delegated the task to isn't reading the instructions, so be prepared to go pick up the bag, the instructions and the tape backing and put them in the trash.

    Seriously, writing instructions is tough and sometimes comical. We should all practice it more often. I wonder why it's not a party game, like Charades.

    Wednesday, May 10, 2006

    Random Stuff

    All my writing lately has been over at Dryden Democrats. I've been spending a lot of time in meetings lately. So, when I'm home, I want to be outside. The weather's beautiful and the yard and gardens look great. I actually have evidence of that on the camera but no time to download the pictures and get them up here.

    I've started contributing to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology My Yard Counts! (cute name). It makes me feel like I'm doing something useful counting the birds while I have a cocktail on Friday evenings.

    Bill and I finished - well, almost finished, repairing the chicken coop so the little chickens can live there. I kind of miss hearing their peeping in the woodshed.

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Fruit Trees

    For several years, we've been trying to establish some new fruit trees. The original six bareroot trees from Miller Nurseries were spectacularly unsuccessful. Several died the first year and were replaced under Miller's guarantee. The rest died the following year. And, in fact all but one of the replacements have either died or sprouted from below the grafts. I'm really not that bad a gardener. The Shiro plum from Greentree Nursery is doing fine but they're not stocking fruit trees this year. And the Stella cherry from Agway is fine. In fact, they're both blooming, as is the one survivor from Miller's - the Santa Rosa plum.

    We found a replacement for the Sungold Apricot at Cayuga Nursery. But they don't have Moongold Apricot - recommended to grow with Sungold for cross pollination. So, in the true spirit of trying the same thing over and over expecting different results, we decided to get another Moongold Apricot from Miller's. In an effort to improve our chances, we drove to Canandaigua to select the tree personally and drive it home to get it planted as quickly as possible.

    Turns out it's not easy to find Route 16 in Canandaigua - though it's perfectly clear on the map. But find it we did, in a lovely, affluent, lakeshore neighborhood. From the cold warehouse, we chose a bareroot Moongold apricot with good roots and plenty of well-spaced branches whose buds are obviously alive.

    In a fit of enthusiasm we also chose a Mericrest nectarine to replace the one we have that's showing only the feeblest sign of life this spring.

    The clerk at Miller's who wrapped the trees said they'd keep for two weeks. He said several other things I don't believe. So, I'm off to get the trees planted right now.