Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Aji's garden

Aji loves flowers, including eating rose petals. 
(Her mother Masa is more interested in food and naps.)

She enjoys nibbling on wheatgrass too.

This is the first time I've had indoor cats, a decision made after having two cats disappear and knowing we have coyotes and fishers in the neighborhood, as well as living on a busy street. I thought it would be difficult and unfair to the cats, but it's been really easy. We give them lots of attention, playtime, nice  places to nap and look out the window.

It helps that there are two of them. The shelter will only let kittens be adopted with another kitten or the mother cat, which makes a lot of sense. My son Luke and I adopted them together. They were found under a porch when the kittens were about a week old. I don't know what kind of life Masa had before that, but she's content to stay inside.

Luke fenced off part of the yard so Aji can enjoy the sights and smells of the outdoors.

He potted plants for her garden, and I added some too. She loves it out there. He or I sit on a bench nearby and read, but she hasn't tried to escape. She enjoys chasing bugs and feeling the grass and the breeze.

Masa mostly paces, so I usually take her in after a few minutes. Apparently she had enough of the great outdoors in her previous life. 

She prefers a screen between herself and the world.

Aji stalking an ant.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

dreams of sea anemones

canal, Lowell

Lowell, where my studio is, has many canals, which were used to power the old textile mills. Canals make me think of Venice, which I visited once, and Amsterdam, where I've never been, but I think I would like. My reading these days takes me farther afield. I left India and went to Chechnya, via the deeply moving, beautifully written, interesting (and harrowing) novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. The first line:

On the morning the Feds burned down her house and took her father, Haava woke from dreams of sea anemones.

Isn't that the most wonderful sentence? It encompasses the novel--harshness and the beauty.

sea nettles

It brought to life for me Chechnya, a place I've only had the vaguest understanding of, though Chechnya was much in the Boston news after the marathon bombings, because the accused brothers have Chechen roots. (Read more about Chechnya here.) There was an eerie aspect to reading it in light of the bombings, since amputations due to land mines are an important part of the book. (One of the main characters is the only doctor left in a hospital abandoned in war-time.)

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena is a deep and poignant story of families who are connected in unexpected ways. A dark book--but that makes what light shines through more powerful. It's a book that I know will stay with me.

sea nettles

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

around here

Lilacs, the flowers of my childhood.
 I inhale their fragrance like I'm dying for air 
and they are my oxygen.

 More big books about India:  A Suitable Boy, Shantaram and The Far Pavilions, and the non-fiction book, India, by Flora Annie Steel, pictured here, published in 1905. An excerpt:

"A quail calls from its hooded cage. A municipal sweeper, coming along with his broom, propels an evil black flood along the gutter; and that tall, spare, bronze-faced man in a white uniform who rides along at a foot's pace, his keen blue eyes everywhere, is the English police-officer.
He stops, says something to a yellow-legged orderly at his heels, then passes on.
Therein after, there are tears in some balcony or liquor shop, since order must be preserved in the bazaar."



Lilies of the valley, lemon tea bread, cherry blossoms, and those lilacs...

In May, everything seems possible.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

a spring country weekend

The sun shone through the trees and it was just warm enough that I didn't need a sweater in the afternoon. Wading in shallow water, ferns unfurling, wildflowers popping up...

All the greens:
spring green, apple green, moss green, forest green...

Checking the frog pond for tadpoles or frogspawn. Frogspawn reminding me of a favorite poem, Death of a Naturalist, by the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney. (Read the entire poem here.) Remembering as a child in Virginia collecting frogspawn in jars and tadpoles in buckets...

...There were dragon-flies, spotted butterflies,
But best of all was the warm thick slobber
Of frogspawn that grew like clotted water
In the shade of the banks. Here, every spring
I would fill jampots full of the jellied
Specks to range on the window-sills at home,..

-Seamus Heaney from Death of  a Naturalist

Monday, May 6, 2013

a country kitchen

The kitchen in the house in the woods is finished.

I love the red cabinets with soapstone counters,
the farmhouse sink, the mushroom wood floor,
and the black island with Carrara marble top.

I love having more windows and fewer upper cabinets.

Dishes go in drawers with nifty dividers.

The tiles are beautiful, but there are more of them in more places than I expected. (One of the problems of a long distance project = miscommunication.) They are subtler than they appear in these pictures (you can get a better look below), but a little bit goes a long way--and they seem a bit busy. I'm going to live with them for a while and then see how I feel.

I don't love the sage paint (darker than it appears in the pictures). It needs some toning down, especially with the colorful tiles, and at some point I will repaint in cream.

I love the red beadboard on the back of the upper cabinets (which are off-white).
The reds in the kitchen are reminiscent of barns.
Upstate New York, where the house is, 
is dotted with family dairy farms. Many have gone out of business,
but the barns still stand.

It's a comfortable, spacious and warm place for family and friends, and already feels lived-in.
We've owned the house and spent many weekends there for 11 years,  and will retire there one day. It's become the place where our family gathers--and this kitchen will get plenty of use and love for many years to come.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

the 42nd parallel

One day it's winter, I'm lethargic, depressed, and the next day it's spring and I am bursting with energy and ideas. I'm sure that yesterday there were no buds on the trees.

I'm leaving today for a 3-day weekend in the Catskills
and when I return will these lilies of the valley be blooming?

Is spring the time of bell-shaped blossoms?

The gaudy scent of viburnum washes away the grays.

Everywhere I look there is something new.

Spring comes late to the Catskills too.

It's the same latitude as Boston, 250 miles west--almost a straight line as the crow flies, to our house in the woods. The 42nd parallel north also passes through Wyoming, Corsica, Albania, Kosovo, Mongolia, North Korea...

The 42nd Parallel is the name of a John Dos Passos novel, which I've never read, but now plan to do so. It sounds ambitious, passionate.

And the new kitchen is finished. It was a big project. I'm nervous. I'll report next week.

Enjoy your weekend--I hope spring has found you.