Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Outside My Window

White-breasted nuthatch Sitta carolinensis

The nuthatch and I
staring across the feeder
neither of us moves.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Rainy Day - some ya win some ya loose

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Another Wet and Foggy Day

Night rolled away into a beautiful sunrise; the mauve and wine tones faded into gray and then grayer. It began to rain. Now it is wet, foggy and gray... I guess am still tired from my trip to the city... Think it will take a day of recovery for every hour I was out (my but it was fun!). I have no creativity and the fatigue makes it very difficult to find any. Even the pileated woodpecker that came to the big stump hasn't provided enough incentive to put my brain into gear for the moment.

Telling myself I was searching for something that would light that spark of inspiration, I was wandering around looking at birder’s blogs and found my way over to Home Bird Notes http://www.homebirdnotes.com/ (a nice site for an internet birding stroll by the way), where I discovered another tired person has posted a link to some online jigsaw puzzles.
Check out Jan’s online jigsaw puzzles This evening the site opened up with a puzzle of a gray squirrel. So I feel right at home trying to figure out how to deal with the usual delight and bane of dealing with our friend the gray squirrel. There are lots of puzzle options! Not only do you have your choice from many, many of her own lovely nature photos, but you can pick your style of puzzle pieces and the difficulty level of the puzzle. I just finished putting together a beautiful cardinal puzzle and now I am headed for bed.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


It is interesting to walk the streets of Manhattan after several years’ absence. Perhaps the thing I notice most is the change of attire. There are still the easily identifiable cashmere topcoats and leather briefcases of the financial district men and women but the vast majority of people are wearing jeans (Ok, a lot of them are designer jeans) and down or leather jackets, carrying backpacks. I joined the backpack group and instead of taking a taxi took the subway or walked, enjoying the feel of the city. Bought a hat and a sandwich from street venders. Admired the sights and simply enjoyed a day wandering.

A special treat for myself today was a stop at Salon Ziba at 200 West 57th Street for a hair cut. I have been wearing my hair long and pulled back in a knot or ponytail for several years --- a real change from the short hairstyles I favored when I was working. I decided it was time for a change and gathering my courage I told Ernesto to have his way with my hair. Watching in the mirror, I was really impressed with the way he was cutting my hair. He is very skilled with a pair of scissors. When it was time to leave, I was not so happy with the way I looked. It seemed to me that there was more hair than there was me. I am certain it must be an in look but not for a country girl and I wasn’t very happy. Out on the street I actually considered getting someone else to cut off even more hair. However, the stiff wind blew my hair into a very different but comfortable style. My daughter reminded me that no one in the family likes the way I look when I come out of a salon --- it is only after a day or so that I begin to look like myself again. Now that I have gotten over the initial shock and my hair has had a chance to settle, I can say that Ernesto gives a fabulous haircut!

More new experiences: My daughter took me along to her acupuncture appointment at St. Vincent’s Hospital World Trade Center Healing Services. http://svh.nymc.edu/wtc/default.asp She has found a great deal of relief during the few months she has been getting the treatments. I had just planned to wait for her but there was space available so I took my skepticism along and had a treatment. I am no longer a skeptic. Much to my amazement, my neck pain and headache disappeared. Guess I will have to make some trips back to the City after all.
Oh yes, that hat I bought… It looks great with the new hairdo.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Staten Island - Ferry

If you have never been to Staten Island let me tell you it is made up of hills. I don’t know how it happens but all of them go up --- or at least that is the way it seems when I am walking. Even though I have now lived in New York for about ten years, this is my first trip on the Staten Island Ferry.

Today the winds are fierce. Much of the time it is difficult to stand up out on the deck… of course I want to be on the deck so that I can take some photos. I did try to take some photos through the windows; that is impossible. Spray blows up against the glass leaving so many spots that it is even difficult to see out. Of course the regular commuters are sleeping, reading the paper or listening to something on their earphones and they spare not a single glance for the scenery that is so-o-o-o attractive to tourists or newcomers. The ferry is very different from the tour boats where the glass is cleaned regularly and everyone is interested in seeing the city skyline and the Statue of Liberty. The trip across takes about thirty minutes and as a free ride it is the best sightseeing bargain a tourist can find. We join the crowds exiting through the terminal then we head to the subway

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Braving "The City"

Off to the city…. For someone who has been living in the country and only seeing the occasional stoplight this has been an adventure. I had forgotten about TRAFFIC!

Went straight into Manhattan – well we wouldn’t want to make things too easy would we? Even found a place to park… ha-ha! now that is the miracle of the day isn’t it?

One of the things on my agenda was to buy a camera. Had checked out reviews, the internet, friends and more reviews. I had decided to get a Nikon; the only question was which one. More reading made it seem clear to us that the place to pick up a camera was B & H photo-video

I walked in the door and was nearly speechless! The place is huge! It must be as big as a football field! There were at least a hundred people and I think that is only making a count of the staff. We talked to several consultants and assistants. The person wearing the Nikon logo was not particularly helpful --- perhaps he had a bad cup of coffee today. At any rate I felt his answers were abrupt and not really responsive. Less than a block away J was the Canon consultant who patiently answered question after question. When I went in the Canon had been my second choice but by the time I had asked all my questions (I thought) I came away with a Canon and enough bags to feel like I needed a line of porters to carry all my purchases.

This short description does not begin to detail the four and a half hours it took me to explore even a small part of the store!

My biggest disappointment was that the battery for the camera was not charged. I was glad to hear that it would only take ninety minutes but I could scarcely wait to begin using the camera. I know that it is going to be a lot different and it will take me awhile to get acquainted and learn how to use the new features. Even before I ever thought about a different camera there were so many things I had left to learn.

Everyone tells me that actually taking pictures is one of the best ways to learn --- so see ya later…

Monday, January 23, 2006

Sew What?

Needle, thread
on my worktable
Pencil Sketch

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Watercolor on handmade paper

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Artist Way Second Week

The morning pages have been refreshingly helpful. I am finding inspiration and freedom to explore many things in my life from a more creative perspective. Yet, as days go by I begin to experience some growing frustrations and I wonder if it is just me or if others have a similar experience?

Reading the written material in week two brings back to mind one of the frustrations that surfaces every time I read this chapter --- Certainly there are situations where “crazy makers” in our lives could be part of some codependent self-defeating relationship but relationship problems are not always rooted in co-dependency. More often, for most of us, “crazy makers” are just a part of life. At least part of the time the root is unclear or unstated expectations (mine and others). Sometimes problems develop because we have let ourselves become too busy or fragmented and unfocused. Sometimes I may even be the “crazy maker.” Life is about learning to cope with difficult people. “Crazy makers” may be one of the challenges in life but the biggest problem is my response.

I don’t dispute that there are people who seek to control by manipulating us. Some of the time we simply have to get out of the relationship. Other times, it seems to me there may be very important relationship issues that need to be addressed. Before we can address them we need to have the tools to deal with these people who are in our lives. Having the tools and knowing how to use them will go a long way toward giving me/us confidence and can open a path to recovering a sense of identity.


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He bobs his head
and I,
in hurried concentration,
continue with my task.

He moves ---
and then
nothing is between us
but the window pane.

Sitting on a ledge
beneath his feeder
as though he senses
that I need a friend?

He turns his bright black eye to me
as if he’d asked a question
and is awaiting
a reply.

For a time
nothing else is urgent.
He rests companionably
beside me.
We commune together,
soaking up the sunshine
he and I

Picking up a seed
he cracks the shell.
Bobbing his head again
he raised his crest
he flicks his tail

good by.
And he is gone.

Friday, January 20, 2006


I opened the windows to let the fresh air flow through the house taking away the closed-in winter smell --- Here I am thinking of spring when the hard days of winter have not even begun…

Sunshine makes me want to be outside checking for buds and growing things. I wonder if the ground is still too frozen to plant some bulbs?

I wonder why we spend so much time talking about the weather? I used to think it was because it was a safe topic of conversation --- perhaps so, but I wonder if it may also be because our lives are so greatly modified by the weather --- what we wear, whether we drive, walk, or take public transportation --- whether we can get out at all: snow or ice storms trap us at home; floods and hurricanes make us evacuate; tornados and earthquakes catch us unaware. We likely don’t spend a lot of time each day contemplating these influences on our lives, unless we are weather persons or working in emergency management, but rain, snow, sleet, sun, wind, cold or heat, they make a very real impact on our daily lives.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

January Spring

Golden light fills my room
the window amber in the sun.
I open the window
to a rain washed earth
dazzling in morning light.

The storm is past
warm sun has overcome
winter’s darkness.

Snow melted rivulets
race down the hillsides
to the river.
The snow is gone.
In wonder I murmur
The snow is gone.

Like the snow,
winter cold and
fatigue within me
in the light of the dawn.

The woods call to me.
Footsteps sinking
in wet brown grass
fringed with new green
freed from its blanket of snow.

At the feeder,
close enough to touch,
black and white
crowned with scarlet,
a downy woodpecker.

Wet winter slopes,
dark hemlock
water seeping over
moss ringed stone,
chipmunk has left his burrow
eating seeds
in warm winter sun.

Bright sunlight,
warm winter night,
snow melts,
January Spring.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Rain again....

Why is it that I have not been expecting this kind of a soaking rain in January? I also have not been expecting the thermometer to reach fifty-three degrees! It has rained much of the night and so far all morning. I was expecting cold and snow….

Snow is gone---- Yes that’s what I said: The snow is gone! If I search I can find a spot or two… not really big enough to gather together for a snowball. I expect it all will be gone before evening --- unless this storm changes and it begins to snow again.

Yesterday I was taking pictures of ice patterns on the windows and in our tiny stream. Today abundant large clumps of club mosses show fresh bright green throughout the meadow and to my surprise there are grasses where yesterday’s snow lay! Ferns fringe the edge of the woods; their rich greens stand out against the gray of the bare rocks and the red brown of the wet leaves that have so recently been covered with snow. Ferns are abundant during the spring and summer but I had not expected to find them in the middle of winter.

The rain stopped. I have opened the windows and am letting my room fill with wonderful fresh air. It is also washing the cobwebs out of my mind.

The sky is filled with fast moving clouds. Gray upon gray, more shades of white and some more gray; here and there a tint of lavender; the thinner layers even glow with hints of gold. Occasionally the clouds part and I can see layers of even more clouds and above them even another layer. All of the layers of clouds, moving at different speeds, are racing furiously toward the east.

Bald Eagles are riding the air currents; two mature eagles and one immature.
Not a wing moves in the deep slow beat I am used to seeing yet they rise upward and, after gliding for awhile, drop on some invisible eddy then rise again to catch another, circle and soar high above then turn, heading downstream through the trees and out of sight. They too seem to be reveling in the respite from the storm. Light catches their white heads as they soar above the treetops. I have no idea how fast the clouds are moving but they move across my view in seconds. Blue sky is beginning to open here and there. As the clouds part, they allow the sun to break through for a moment setting the woods and hills aglow. For a short time the skies are filled with soft pink clouds which disappear as the storm once again covers them with its blanket of gray and the darkness of night settles in.

Artist Way Week Two

Slipping back into morning pages seems finally natural and comfortable like familiar well-worn robe and slippers. I guess doing them for a couple of years, then not doing them and beginning to write once again, has brought a sense of familiarity such as I might experience when visiting with an old friend.

My Artist Date:
This is a rainy, rainy day. Got a cup of Rooibos tea, settled into my comfortable chair and spent several hours listening to Barbara Rosenblat read Pilgrim at Tinker Creek written by one of my favorite authors Annie Dillard.

The last time she visited, my daughter introduced me to Rooibos tea. It is supposed to have all sorts of health benefits but I drink it because I enjoy it. The one she brought me is flavored with pears and vanilla - delightful! Of course I had to go on line and learn more about it: Rooibos, an African word of Dutch origin meaning “Red Bush.” Rooibos is pronounced “Roy Boss,” and not surprisingly, I learned far more than I wanted to know.

One of the things I appreciate most about Annie Dillard is that she opens my eyes to the things that are around me. After reading her books I have a new vision and appreciation for things that I previously rushed past. Her writing has helped me relish slowing down and taking time to let my mind, as well as my eyes, see.

What a refreshing and satisfying way to spend a rainy day!

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

American Goldfinch

One of the things I like best about this secluded perch on the hill above the river is the number of birds that frequent our yard. In spring and summer we have a wonderful variety of birds nesting on the property. Year around the most common of our birds is the American Goldfinch. These friendly visitors are a continuing delight and entertainment. In summer these birds seem made from sunshine and shadow: the males have a plumage of yellow with white wing bars on black wings, a white rump patch and a notched black tail and a black crown over their foreheads. They change their feathers for winter wearing a softer and less conspicuous olive-brown with some yellow still showing on the head

The Latin name for the American Goldfinch is Corduelis tristis Corduelis for their preference for thistle seeds and tristis for their call which some say is a sad call. The calls I hear are canary like, clear and light: sweee-eat or di-di- di or punctuating their undulating flight, with per-chic-o-ree to me these are happy comforting calls. A group of goldfinches is known as a charm.

Their food preference seems to be the thistle seeds. They will line the thistle feeder from top to bottom leaving not a single perch empty. Goldfinches also enjoy the black oil sunflower seeds we keep in a number of our hanging feeders.

They nest late in the season. We often see young birds just beginning to come to the feeders in August and even into September.

Goldfinches at our feeders and bring pleasure with their presence all year round.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Artist Way

Back in the early nineties several friends told me that they were reading “Artist Way” and they were so enthusiastic that I picked up my own copy. From that introduction I began sporadically writing morning pages. I read chapter one but mostly skipped the exercises guess that was my first blurt – I really didn’t think they applied to me. I got out my notebooks and see that I actually completed a number of the exercises but skipped whenever I didn’t like the exercise or wasn’t in the mood to deal with the stuff that might surface from exploring the assignments. Morning pages did make a real difference in my life but like many other things, they got put aside when there were other important pressures.

Somehow a few months back I began morning pages again. When I saw the blog “Blogging the Artist Way,” I thought “that is nice but not for me.” My daughter encouraged me to join when she saw me reading the book “Artist Way” so I am once again struggling through those exercises that generated so many blurts all those years ago. Funny thing… they still generate blurts. Especially the “I am a brilliant and prolific ____.” Somehow that seems to really inspire blurts.


“I used to envy the father of our race, dwelling as he did in contact with the new-made fields and plants of Eden; but I do so no more, because I have discovered that I also live in 'creation's dawn.' The morning stars still sing together, and the world, not yet half made, becomes more beautiful every day” --- John Muir. Morning came softly out of the darkness; a pale softening of the edges of the night. Nature is laying out her palate of color. Deep shades of orange barely rimmed the hills, warming the deep indigo. Spreading wash after wash of color she displays the entire spectrum of shades of oranges and yellows. Just as I think I have seen all the possible shades, she changes the tints again.

Ice and snow reflect the light from the sun-glittering patterns, moving as branched shadows sway in the wind.

Nature is not done with her morning presentation; she drapes clouds over the hills setting out dramatic patterns of light.I need words --- not only do I not know what to call these phenomena but I don’t even know how to describe them to myself. I reach for the National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Weather. It seems as though nature has set out a complete textbook display of clouds.

I think I find cumulus, cumulonimbus, cirrus, perhaps a sun pillar - well there are more than I can identify. I think I am certain about the iridescence. What do you think?
I need to learn a lot more about what is happening in the clouds!
I guess the pictures may have to speak for themselves.

Sunday, January 15, 2006


The storm pummeled the house - first left, then right - howling triumphantly with each blow, battering walls with swinging birdfeeders, flinging not only snow and sleet but whatever it can catch up as it rushes past: branches of pine, oak or beech sail through the air. Even clouds rush from its fury. Stars like spectators watch as the curtain of clouds is rolled back.

The tumult drags me from my warm cocoon of sleep. Bleary eyed I stumble to the door flip the switch on the wall --- no power. The storm has triumphed over the inventions of mortals --- it has consumed the power in its wake.

Fumbling through the darkness I find my way to the loft, a pale glow from a flashlight my only guide. The skylight opens with creaking, crackling and moaning as it pulls free of its covering of ice and snow.

Palest tints of rose rim the hills, their colors muted by billowing clouds. The clouds fill the sky changing it tone by tone to a silvery mauve. The wind continues its wandering, sounding notes as it blows tunes on everything in its path as though tentatively exploring the sounds and blending them into a symphony. The melody carried by the deep notes of the rushing river accompanies the wind’s own tunes as it strikes cords on the house and sets each tree vibrating with sound. Grabbing at the trees, it beats a rhythm using branches for drumsticks.

An intermission --- the curtain of clouds falls back in place --- yet the storm continues to conduct the music even with its audience hidden from view.

This is not a time for lounging in robe and slippers --- I don layer after layer of warm clothes, cover them with a warm cape and wander from window to window searching for photographic material --- still too little light. The constantly changing scene is filled with clouds hiding away the light.

I let myself sink deep into my chair listening to the concert. Wrapped in comfort I enjoy its wild tumultuous wailing song. Drifting with the clouds --- I rest my eyes ---- and sleep.

The birds know it is time for the sun to rise and the day to begin --- they come out from the protected corners where they spent the night only to discover snow and ice covering the ground as well as every feeder.

The wind has not let up for a moment. As I looked out the window during the night, the trees were spectacular in their covering of snow. This morning, wind driven billows of snow lift from the treetops and arc over the house leaving the trees bare. There is no place for the birds to shelter from this driving wind. Food that has been set out for them is lifted by the capricious wind and blown throughout the clearing and up into the woods.

The wind succeeds in driving away the clouds, leaving the clearest of blues filling the sky. No matter how bright the sun or how blue the sky, this bitter wind surrounds us with biting cold.

At the top of our list of blessings today --- Gratitude for the return of Electricity bringing warmth and light in the midst of the storm.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Wow - It is Raining!

Rained most of the night. Occasional breaks in the clouds allowed the moon to fill the woods and clearing with magic. Clouds drifting across the face of the full moon painted mystical shapes and patterns on the forest floor.

Morning clouds filled the sky holding back any light from the sun. Daylight didn’t really arrive until nearly ten this morning.

January Spring --- the warmer temperatures = Spring Thaw? Leaves are seen again in the woods instead of white snow the ground is covered with damp leaves. The air is fresh hinting of pine, fern and moss. Clumps of bright green club moss spring free of the snow. Trailing Arbutus has been growing under the snow blanket, wrinkled and sleepy, the foxgloves begin unfolding their leaves, ferns poke out from between the rocks and fringe a fallen tree.

I can see the earth!

Water is cutting trails down the hillside, small streams – mostly snow melt, pool in the meadow part of the clearing, creating a spongy bog.

The chatter of the little birds rises higher and higher in alarm --- these are strange sounds --- the birds are fluttering around in distress. Not a bird at any of the feeders; squirrels are scolding; no cat. I don’t see anything but a crow perched in the tall deciduous tree at the edge of the clearing. Grabbing the camera --- the crow comes into focus in the viewfinder. --- Oops. Crows don’t have streaked breasts or bands on their tails --- a Sharp-shin Hawk --- A very wet immature Sharp-shin Hawk surveys the clearing. Flying just beyond easy reach, sounding continual calls of alarm, a flock of small birds, mostly goldfinches, circles over the sharpie’s head. Round and round --- while the drenched sharpie sits as though in a daze. Somehow the birds and squirrels have some way of knowing this hawk is young, inexperienced and disoriented. Many of the birds express anxious chatter recognizing the presence of the hawk yet going on about their business --- the hawk seemed to be continually vigilant, never relaxing, constantly turning his head in every direction. Other than its constantly turning head, the hawk sat perfectly still most of the time. Occasionally it did stretch a leg or wing or turn its head to preen or scratch, once it scratched the side of its head with a foot. We watched for more than half an hour before it went on its way searching for easier hunting. What a variety of weather! Mother Nature is cleaning house. A bit of water and heat, melting all the ice and snow in the clearing, even leaving the slopes in the woods bare. Fresh pine scent; the river running full of water roaring along with the wind, which is sweeping the leaves from the forest floor. Yes --- Mother Nature must be spring-cleaning.

Well --- the illusion of spring is suddenly over…. At least an inch of snow by eight this evening. Wind is howling; tree branches bang against the house; by eleven there are two inches of snow on the front deck; wind is knocking the birdfeeders into the house; gusty, swirling, howling.

Friday, January 13, 2006


Last night there was a mist. Pallid and chill
The yellow moon-blue clove the thickening sky,
And all night long a gradual wind crept by,
And froze the fog, and with minutest skill
Fringed it and forked it, adding bead to bead,
In spears, and feathery tufts, and delicate hems
Round windward trunks, and all the topmost stems,
And every bush, and every golden weed;
And now upon the meadows silvered through
And forests frosted to their farthest pines--
A last faint gleam upon the misty blue--
The magic of the morning falls and shines,
A creamy splendour on a dim white world,
Broidered with violet, crystalled and impearled.
--- Archibald Lampman

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Night Time Blossom

Night Time Blossom (Alone in the City)

City lights fill the night skies.
Planes fly overhead.
The dark night covers me.
I rest my weary body in my chair.

Protected in the shadow
of the dark night.
My soul is hiding
away from the light.

My mind focused inward,
Shadows surround me,
with darkness I’m filled
My heart finally peaceful
but empty and stilled.

Vines trailing around me
reach over my chair.
a leaf ever twining
is caught in my hair.

My cheek turns and beside me,
it brushes a leaf.
A tear trickles downward
welling up from my grief,

My eyes turn outward
and fragrant petals unfold.
A blossom is open
hope is restored.

Carolyn Morgan, © August 22, 1999

I began this poem in a time of great stress and was unable to complete it. Now I can look back at those days from the advantage of distance, which provides a tad of relief from the pain. From this distance I was able to finish this poem today.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The Mist and All

The day hangs suspended in the mist.

“There is no such thing as an empty space or an empty time.
There is always something to see, something to hear.
In fact, try as we may to make a silence, we cannot.”
- John Cage Through the drizzle comes the call of the Canada geese as they move out to open water. Then the rousing call of a flock of eight to ten crows making their early morning tour of their territory before settling in to their day’s routine.

Most of the day’s activities are taking place at the bird feeders. The thistle feeders are filled from top to bottom with American Goldfinches. Seeds on the railing provide a landing field where takeoffs and landings are as busy as at Kennedy Airport. An inquisitive acrobat, the black-capped chickadee is a favored entertainer. They are becoming so tame that we keep thinking of sitting out on the deck to see if they will begin eating out of our hands. Next at the feeders is a tufted titmouse. Before the titmouse can crack open his seed the white-breasted nuthatch lands and clears away all competitors before carefully picking over all the seeds and choosing a plump sunflower seed. The gray squirrels don’t seem to bother the birds and they certainly ignore the competition and antics of the other small creatures coming in to the feeders.

The long window feeder and the suet feeders are attracting downy, hairy and red-breasted woodpeckers along with the nuthatches, chickadees and titmice.

Just barely visible through the fog, a bald eagle glides down to the Delaware River where the fishing is much better this year than up along the dam.

Juncos and morning doves are working the ground under every feeder. Today they have competition in the form of a hungry chipmunk and now and then one of my favorite visitors a small red squirrel.

The Cooper’s Hawk is thwarted again. He comes through the clearing in a long swooping dive, missing his prey and simply climbs into the air again, headed off to look for less alert and wary birds for breakfast.

Working head down, the red-breasted nuthatch circles the white pine searching for insects that have bundled down warm and snug in cracks under the bark.

There are not many cardinals coming to the feeders this winter, I wonder where they are. We have only three males and two females. In years past I have seen a cardinal at one of the feeders nearly every time I glanced out the window.

The pileated woodpeckers hammering rings through the clearing sounding like a jackhammer in the still air.

The woods at the backside of the house are perpetual motion with pine siskins joining the busy chickadees, juncos, titmice and goldfinches. Here and there I can spot the tiny golden-crowned kinglet chattering to its friends as it flits through the treetops.

The Carolina Wren is noted for its loud song, popularly rendered as "teakettle-teakettle-teakettle". Both male and female birds sing.

The Mist and All
I like the fall,
The mist and all.
I like the night owl's
Lonely call -
And wailing sound
Of wind around.
I like the gray
November day,
And bare, dead boughs
That coldly sway
Against my pane.
I like the rain.
I like to sit
And laugh at it -
And tend
My cozy fire a bit.
I like the fall -
The mist and all.
---Dixie Wilson

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Library Tuesday

“Consider what you have in the smallest chosen library. A company of the wisest and wittiest men that could be picked out of all civil countries, in a 1000 years, have set in best order the results of their learning and wisdom. The men themselves were hid and inaccessible, solitary, impatient of interruption, fenced by etiquette; but the thought which they did not uncover to their bosom friend is here written out in transparent words to us, the strangers of another age.” "Books" Society and Solitude, Ralph Waldo Emerson Libraries have been an important part of my life since before I began school. Our local library had a summer reading program and Mrs. Kelly, our gifted librarian, helped us to feel that reading books was one of the most delightful things we could learn to do, right in the category of learning to ride our bikes and making new friends.

“Here is where people,
One frequently finds,
Lower their voices
And raise their minds.”
---Light Armour

When our own children were small we moved into a rural community whose library consisted of a storage room provided by the local drugstore. Our librarian, Jessie, had retired and retired again but continued serving as librarian because of the satisfaction of watching children fall in love with books.

Our family got actively involved in seeing that we had a “new” library and community center. We raised funds, stripped and re-finished display cabinets, helped to clean and sort books, and even participated by presenting some of the community lecture programs.

After moving to Sullivan County New York, we discovered we are part of a large library system. By Internet we can access books from many county libraries, having them delivered to our local branch library for us to pick up. Since deliveries are on Tuesdays and Fridays, Tuesday has become our “library day”. “Believers and doers are what we need -- faithful librarians who are humble in the presence of books.... To be in a library is one of the purest of all experiences. This awareness of library's unique, even sacred nature, is what should be instilled in our neophytes.” — A Passion for Books, Lawrence Clark Powell The Eldred Library, http://www.rcls.org/eld/ --- Sunshine Hall Free Library, to give it its rightful name, is one of the centers of community activities. In addition to the story hour and reading programs for children, our librarian, Carmel, offers weekly French classes. Many of my friends are people I met at library programs. The Friends Of The Library provide very active support; volunteers come each day to see to the routine tasks of keeping the library going. When we first arrived and were trying to keep names and faces straight, there were some of the people we knew by the day of the week they were volunteering at the library.

Thinking about the limited resources of our little library… I have no idea how so many services are provided. The librarian must work with a miniscule budget, woefully inadequate for something so important to the community.

Today I can order from the library network and receive not only the best sellers, but audio books, history books, nature journals, art books, and on and on. The service gives me online access to historical collections, technical data as well as things like consumer reports. While the Internet has expanded my pool of information the library is still one of the centers of our world.

“There is not such a cradle of democracy upon the earth as the Free Public Library, this republic of letters, where neither rank, office, nor wealth receives the slightest consideration.” Andrew Carnegie
A Branch Libraries card is free to anyone who lives, works, pays property taxes, or attends school in New York State.

"There was one place where I forgot the cold, indeed forgot Siberia. That was in the library. There, in that muddy village, was a great institution. Not physically, to be sure, but in every other way imaginable. It was a small log cabin, immaculately attended to with loving care; it was well lighted with oil lamps and it was warm. But best of all, it contained a small but amazing collection from the world's best literature, truly amazing considering the time, the place, and its size. From floor to ceiling it was lined with books - books, books, books. It was there that I was to become acquainted with the works of Dumas, Pasternak's translations of Shakespeare, the novels of Mark Twain, Jack London, and of course the Russians. It was in that log cabin that I escaped from Siberia - either reading there or taking the books home. It was between that library and two extraordinary teachers that I developed a lifelong passion for the great Russian novelists and poets. It was there that I learned to line up patiently for my turn to sit at a table and read, to wait - sometimes months - for a book. It was there that I learned that reading was not only a great delight, but a privilege." — Esther Hautzig, The Endless Steppe

Monday, January 09, 2006

Photographic Light Box

For a number of years I have wanted a photographic light box but something has always seemed more important or urgent. Discovered a tabletop light tent that seems like it will at least help us take better indoor pictures of small things. Of course I only have a vague notion of how to use the light tent so that helped to keep it toward the bottom of the list. This week it moved to top and this morning Connie and I opened the box and set up the lights and the light tent. The first thing we discovered is that it arrived with more wrinkles than any of us will have if we live to be a hundred years old. I got out the steamer and took out many, many wrinkles. We then set up the lights, got out the tripod and set up the camera. In the first pictures we discovered there were more wrinkles that I hadn’t noticed. Also the first few pictures were very over exposed or harsh, the lights were too close. Connie is the one with the most courage for trying to master the art of using the lights and the light box. There are a lot of things to learn about this photo light box, then, whatever it is called. We started just placing a doll in the tent, turning on the lights and taking her picture --- well --- we could do better than this taking her outside on a slightly overcast day. We didn’t find a lot of information on using the light box on the internet --- surprise --- I thought we could learn just about anything here on the web.

Somewhere we read to put the dark cloth over the top, a very different effect, some improvement but no keepers yet. Next the lights were moved around again and then again. So we keep on working. Each experiment seems to be progress. Wonder how long it takes to learn how to get consistently good shots in this light tent.
Do you know where I can find some good basic information about taking photos using a light tent?

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Baking Bread

"There are two kinds of poetry: one in words, the other in the way of being. If one lives imaginatively and creatively then every human act can become a poem." ---Satish Kumar The kitchen counter is lined with loaves of homemade bread rising in pans. I look on with a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment as the yeast expands the loaves.

Art goes beyond being decorative, like painting or writing poetry, baking bread provides an outlet for creating something new and satisfying; a sense of creative accomplishment. I enjoy the process of kneading the bread, watching the yeast grow and the bread rise. To bake bread, I have to move away from the rush of daily life. By slowing down while the bread is rising I gain time for thinking. There is a connection with life.

The bread I baked today is a recipe I developed myself. While the bread was rising and baking my mind was filled with images of family times together, kneading the dough side by side, shaping the dough into loaves, small changes suggested by the children or my husband that have improved the recipe, meals where we eat home baked bread, working together on a special meal, baking breads for gifts to friends. Each loaf of bread carries a tiny bit of creativity by which the baker shares a bit of himself with family and friends. When my children were young, we made family memories together as they “made bread” with me. Sitting on a tall chair squishing dough between small fingers they also took part in creating. With great pride they brought their loaves to the table to share with their grandparents and their father. I suppose I could find a good loaf of bread in the market but putting it into the shopping basket does not bring the same memories of family times together or the same satisfaction in personal involvement in a creative process. Today all of the children have grown to be capable and talented bread bakers.

Frustration and reward are hallmarks of baking. The gasses emitted by the yeast and the off gassing while the bread bakes make me ill. Oh, yes, we use vents and filters and they help. Do they ever help! Without these devices that control the air I would not be able to experience the sense of achievement and fulfillment that comes from baking bread. I love the feel of the dough, the curves of the loaves the sparkle in my husband’s eye. Yes, baking bread is satisfying
Why don’t people write
Poems about bread?
The sun warming the earth
The rain sprouting the seed
Sun and and wind kissing the grain
The molasses or the honey
The growing yeast
Giving life to the loaf
The aroma
The joy of baking
The fellowship of eating
The satisfaction of a task well done

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Sunlight and Shadow

"Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces up, snow is exhilarating; there is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather." - John Ruskin

Stars give way to a bold and blue morning. The woods begin to glow with light, snow glitters, light paints a wash of cobalt blue across the sky. Dark pines are luminous in the cloudless sunlight morning. Light drifts through the wood catching the trees and casting layers of light and shadow on the snow. Wind playing with the oaks and maples sets light rays dancing.Ice in the shadow does not melt but ice touched with rays of sun begins to thaw sending rivulets of water down the hillside and across the clearing. Where water moves into shade it freezes only to melt when touched again by the sun. Creatures seem more active in the warm winter sun. Chipmunks have come out of their dens. The red squirrel is here today. The gray squirrels are racing up and down through the trees. Flocks of siskins come and go. The birds and animals are feeding voraciously as though they know that another storm is on the way and they must prepare.

"The adventure of the sun is the greatest natural drama by which we live..." -Henry Beston