Friday, April 18, 2014

flowers in unexpected places

flowers at home

Yesterday I drove the first leg of a trip and hit hell traffic, a zone of time and space where it seemed certain that I would spend eternity on a New Jersey highway going one mile an hour. By the time I reached the motel I was so tired and stressed that I picked a daffodil from motel property (surely a misdemeanor) put it in a water glass on the bedside table, and it helped, it really did. Today's drive was better, but when we stopped at CVS to buy necessities like single serving cereal boxes and Cadbury chocolate, I smelled the hyacinths before I saw them. So now I have a nice pot of purple hyacinths in my room. I've taken to always putting flowers in hotel rooms. Last time I was in New York I got orange tulips at the Korean grocery. They bring life to impersonal spaces.

Enjoy your weekend!
xo, Jen
p.s. Do you know why this post is framed? Not sure how that happened.

Monday, April 14, 2014

ditch flower, Catskills

In the country this weekend, the only flowers I saw were these little yellow ones (hawkweed?) growing alongside the ditch. Todd, who's lived there his entire life and grew up on a farm, says it's the latest spring in memory.

It was sunny and warm, though there were still some chunks of ice, and I could almost hear the buds and sprouts forming. I read The Hobbit, and could imagine Bilbo Baggins, who "wished to see great mountains, and hear the pine trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking stick" dropping by for tea between goblin and elf adventures.

Monday, April 7, 2014

flowers in the New England house

No flowers in the garden. 

I keep looking, where the first crocus, the first snowdrop, 
usually appear. But it will happen--I know, because look at Jane's flowers.

I keep supermarket daffodils close by, 
because they smell like spring, even when I'm not looking.


I enjoyed this book. And this one.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

mind your frocks and trousers

last summer in the Catskills
Today was the first day that felt like spring,
the freshness, the possibilities...  

Last summer I got deep into the wildflowers in the country,
 and I can't wait for this year's crop.

Meanwhile, I found this hand-bound book, 
Wild Flowers of New York, published in 1912.

The illustrations are lovely, and the prose is informative and delightful. In discussing wild strawberries and blackberries, the point is made " children who gather the luscious strawberries from the low vines that trail through many of our fields, or the equally delectable blackberry that is to be found in thickets, along walls or by the roadside and whose thorns are often the cause of severe reproof of the parents when the child returns with frocks or trousers sadly in need of repair."

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

armchair travel

The wind is howling and there's a blizzard on Cape Cod--I kind of wish I was in Provincetown in heavy snow and winds, the wild ocean surrounding that little spit of land, windblown tales of shipwrecks and endurance...

Speaking of endurance, I recently read two powerful works of non-fiction: Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala, who lost her entire family (husband, children, parents) in the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, is harrowing and beautifully written. Unbroken, A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand is also harrowing, suspenseful, and a real page-turner.

When I was sick I mentioned that I was reading the Bruno, Chief of Police detective series. I also read The Martian, by Andy Weir and thoroughly enjoyed it. Simply written, oddly compelling. Some brilliant short stories from Archangel, (natural science and history) by Andrea Barrett and The Things They Carried (Vietnam War) by Tim O'Brien balanced things out a bit. 

I've discovered something about short stories--it's good to mix them up. They can be intense, and sometimes stories by one author can have a similarity of tone. Following the voice of one author with a different one keeps it fresh. I know a lot of people don't think they like short stories (we discussed that here) but they can fill a niche of time or mood.

When I felt better I had a craving for a big India book. I have a lot of novels that take place in India and I feel compelled to keep them together. You can see many of them in the picture above (and a glimpse of the foot of my bed--always have book choices handy). I remembered that I'd only read the first book in Paul Scott's Raj Quartet, and had mixed feelings about it, but I read the second book and loved it, so now I'm reading the third.

In the last month my reading has taken me to Sri Lanka, Japan, France, Mars, Vietnam, and India. Is there a book you love that has a strong sense of place?

Friday, March 21, 2014

zen kitty

(I won't complain, I won't complain, I won't complain...)

So what if it's cold and windy and my yard is still snow-covered?

(and all the other blog kitties are showing off their homegrown daffodils)

                                                                  I will read zen poetry, 


and savor flowers from distant lands.

Or maybe I'll just watch Maru the Cat videos.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

I meant to live a quiet life

Snow, slush, ice. Warmish days start the melting, then it freezes. Bits of brown grass are visible around the edges. The birds are singing more, as the wall of winter opens to distractions and daydreams.

In five days it will officially be spring. A poem by Mary Oliver:


This morning
two birds
fell down the side of the maple tree

like a tuft of fire
a wheel of fire
a love knot

out of control as they plunged through the air
pressed against each other
and I thought

how I meant to live a quiet life
how I meant to live a life of mildness and meditation
tapping the careful words against each other

and I thought--
as though I were suddenly spinning, like a bar of silver
as though I had shaken my arms and lo! they were

of the Buddha
when he rose from his green garden
when he rose in his powerful ivory body

when he turned to the long dusty road without end
when he covered his hair with ribbons and the petals
         of flowers
when he opened his hands to the world.