Tuesday, May 19, 2015


No real excuse for posting this, as I don't suppose it's of much general interest and has nothing to do with being old -- except that it did involve something I  hadn't done before, which is  always noteworthy after more than 89 years. Yesterday I photographed a catbird.
Catbirds are not rare, but you don't see them often.  They skulk.  There's another first -- never typed that word before, probably never even said it aloud. No other word for it, though -- catbirds skulk.

 But wait -- there's more! 
Just now as I sat typing this, darned if the bird didn't appear again, and it's not even scared off by my reaching for the camera.  I didn't take the time to get the light right, but perhaps you can see it has its beak half open in begging feed-me! mode.  Clearly a baby that hasn't yet learned it's supposed to skulk
- - - - -
And just as I finished posting this, I find I must amend it to inform you it's back once more, and this time it's after the cake of suet, the one that's usually frequented by woodpeckers.  Definitely a mixed-up catbird. 
That sparrow over on the niger feeder seems bemused also.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

At Ease

Reading the obits as usual -- last Sunday it appeared the Greatest Generation is leaving the room in formation.  These obits mentioned the Battle of the Bulge, the beaches of Normandy and Iwojima ...  these are, after all, the ones who came home.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

That Phrase

Yesterday I heard a phrase that took me back at least 80 years -- that's how long it must have been since I'd heard it.  My cousin's daughter, missing her mother, in a manic phase again and evidently forgetting to take the pills, phoned from Boston.  When that happens I settle down with a game of solitaire on the computer and just let her talk.  Every 20 minutes or so she pauses for breath and I say "uh-hm", which seems to work just fine. 
      When I was a child we lived in Boston, and what I want to know is -- was That Phrase she startled me with a local thing, or was it used all over?  Have you ever heard it?  Is it still used today?  Maybe it is--I had no trouble googling "Images" to fit it.
So yesterday my caller spent a lot of time on the subject of her sons.  One has just bought a condo with his girlfriend, she says, the young woman is charming, they love her, and
                       She Has The Map of Ireland on Her Face.

Friday, May 1, 2015

M'aidez !!

Look what turned up on the front door handle this May Day morning!
I suspect I know who left it -- her Mother hung a May Basket in the same spot maybe 40 years ago.  And my daughter may have had something to do with it also.
Was (is?) this just a New England custom?  When I was in grade school, back in Boston, we were each allowed to choose a single sheet of construction paper (this was during the Depression after all ) and make a May Basket to take home.  (Remember construction paper?)
In Louisa May Alcott's book Jack and Jill, a whole chapter is devoted to the girls in the village (certainly Concord), excited about making May baskets.  They find only a pitiful few early flowers -- if I remember right, the kindly grumpy old neighbor rescues them by sending over lots from his conservatory.
And when I taught at a college in Maine, in the 1940s, there was plenty of excitement about May Day.  With no garden flowers out yet (it was a late spring) students went into the woods and picked early-blooming snow trillium to hang on each others' doorknobs. We can only hope there wasn't any worry, back then, about endangered species -- and that they weren't breaking too many laws!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Maida Revisited

It had been eighty years – at least – since I last read “Maida’s Little Shop.”  Invalid child wishes she owned the penny candy shop she sees near the school, in a quiet neighborhood of Boston.  Famous, fabulously wealthy father buys it for her, sets her up in disguise to run the shop and live in an apartment above it.
     A friend lent me her copy recently.  The copyright date was listed as 1909.  In the early 1930s I had probably read a later edition, maybe this one.
     Back then, the story was full of things that were so much like my own neighborhood  I could lose myself in the story.  At eight or nine I took for granted, hardly noticed, that the children picked up horse chestnuts to play with, that the basement under Maida’s shop included a coal cellar, that the little girls played the singing game “In and Out the Window” at recess.  And went home every day for lunch.  And bought little china dolls for a penny.  And hung May baskets on each others’ doors. 
     A sloping street near the shop was blocked from traffic so the children could coast  – I remember that. Crepe hung on a door announcing a death – I remember that.  A child died from diphtheria – I remember that also.  
     The book was written before World War One, and the kindly doctor who cures cripples comes from Germany.  I would have remembered Jo March’s Professor – back then Germany was a cliché for wisdom and learning.  And -- how come it never struck me in the 1930s, when all the kids were afraid of the Truant Officer – that no one thought it odd Maida wasn’t in school, or that her crippled young neighbor, who stayed home to care for his baby sister, hadn’t ever learned to read?
     But it was gratifying, these days when so many things are hard to remember, to find that at least eighty years on, I had no trouble understanding the children’s secret language.  Maybe you remember it too?
     ig-Pay atin-Lay.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Power of the Press

A blog comment from Anonymous (CMS) questions whether the proprietor of that funky Lamp Repair shop looks old enough to have been there when I accompanied my husband to pick up a repair 25 years ago.  He is indeed, Con, and here's how I know.  When I stepped through his front door, he came out from the back workshop and stopped me in my tracks with two words:  "Edith Lank".
And as further proof of how old his is -- he still reads the newspaper.  Not only does he  remember when I came in with Norm, he said he sees my picture at the head of the column every week.
That picture is about two centimeters high -- a bit more than half an inch.  But it's evidently more powerful than I ever realized.  Last week's mail brought a letter from jail.
That happens a couple of times a year -- the address is in a lot of newspapers and prisoners are lonely.  This one tells me that he is bored and lonely and with one look at my picture he was "instantly turned on (smiley-face icon)".  Not bad for a two-centimeter head-and-shoulders of a woman in her 90th year, actually. 
He's looking at the picture as he writes and "all I see is beauty and wisdom.  I'm very attracted to women of your era and age." 
He quotes the column's promise to answer all letters* -- tells me he's getting out in 10 months.  And he's incarcerated, as it happens, in my state.   
The kids recommend I get a post office box immediately.  But that seems silly -- the address has been in newspapers ever since 1975, and anyhow, it'd be locking the barn door after this particular horse has already been stolen.

*will not answer this one.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Very bad news.

These days the doctor spends a lot of your visit typing away, and when you check out you're presented with a stapled bunch of papers.  The secretary highlights your next appointment, because who's going to read all the rest of that stuff?  At least, that's the way it goes at my doctor's these days.  But yesterday I figured I'd see what all the rest of the printout said. 
I wish I hadn't.
Very bad news on page 4.
My vitals are listed -- blood pressure actually good for a change.  Weight where I knew it was.
But height -- ay, there's the rub.
For lack of 16/100th of an inch, I'm now less than five feet tall.
Reading that is the kind of moment you don't forget. 
It's now official. 
Less than five feet tall.
It's amazing, what a difference losing an inch or two makes.   You learn to make adaptations -- I rearranged the refrigerator shelves with the big stuff on middle shelves instead of top ones -- and then found exactly that change in a list of Aging in Place suggestions.  (And by the way -- when you come right down to it, everyone on this planet, this minute, is Aging in Place.  No big deal.)
But anyhow -- if you're looking for a thoughtful inexpensive gift for your Grandmother, let me recommend The Grabber.   I wasn't sure how to google for illustrations.  Grabber is the term we've always used in this house, but that didn't seem very technical.  We can't have been the only ones to call it that, though -- Dozens of  "images" came up immediately.
You don't need to wait till you're old.  You don't even need to have a grandmother.  Get one today and you'll thank me when the sweater falls behind the couch, or the boy throws the newspaper far into the bushes.
Assuming you still get the newspaper.    

Friday, April 3, 2015

I Wish You Could See

Two days ago I realized I needed a pair of brass candlesticks, preferably old, and I needed them in a hurry.  For some reason I didn't even think of the Internet -- probably because of the hurry part.   And for some reason what came into my head was an odd shop on the other side of town I'd seen once, maybe 25 years ago, when Norm needed to pick up something metal that needed fixing.

What was I thinking?  That the metal guy  would tell me where to look?  Was the shop still there? Could I even find it? 

Well, it was and I did.  And I wish I could show you that place -- turns out its name is Lamp Repair.  I should have taken a picture of the show window -- at any rate, here's what that window looks like from inside.

The showroom has two counters.  This one, complete with properietor,  shows his back workroom.

And here's the front counter.  I'll give you another shot of that, so you can find the cash register (look hard in the middle of the picture.)

And what did I come away with, out of all that?  Can you believe?

When I got home, 15 minutes on the Internet identified the pair as inverted-beehive- and-diamond pattern, 1800s Victorian, made in England. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Today Only

You may want to take a look at Google Maps today -- try an address in the city.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Censored Verses

As a P. S. to yesterday's Woody/Seeger concert:
If I was hearing right, one singer appeared to have unfamiliar verses in This Land is Your Land. I did catch one line "...on the back side, it didn't say nothing" -- followed by a smattering of applause and laughter from people in the audience who had better hearing aids than I do.  So today I googled the phrase and found original verses that record companies omitted in the days of the Commie Scare and the Cold War:
One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple
By the Relief Office I saw my people —
As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if
This land was made for you and me
Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn't say nothing —
That side was made for you and me.

Another P. S.:  Some years ago I tuned in to the CBC -- used to pick up Toronto nicely in the car -- and came in on the last few minutes of a program that was bewailing the US influence on Canadian Culture.  Even our movies copy them,  the host complained.  And then there's all that pop music from the States ...etc. etc.  And then the program ended with his usual theme song:
This land is your land, this land is my land.
From Bonavista to Vancouver Island
From the Arctic Circle to the Great Lake waters
                                                             This land was made for you and me.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Hootenanny !

I don’t go to concerts any more – that excellent book Shouting Won’t Help used the right word – orchestras now sound like “cacophony”.  But guitar is another story, and the names Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger stood out in boldface from the list of What’s Doing Today.  Who, I wondered, would attend?  who would perform? who remembers the Depression, the Labor Movement , the Vietnam War?
Well – the church sanctuary was filled.  Those pews were just right for an audience of more than 500, average age probably near 70.  I’m used to older groups these days, but not to at least half of them being men.  Lots of grey and nicely trimmed facial hair in evidence, both audience and performers.  If you want a clue to the generation represented – every fourth musician was named Dave.  And why had I bothered to change out of dungarees (okay, blue jeans) just because I was going to a concert?  I'd say maybe 300 people were wearing them.  Some on stage.

We had it all – Union Maid, Deportees, Hobo's Lullaby – and the old men in the audience knew all the words and sang along.  We had a mandolin, an autoharp, banjo, harmonica, lots of mikes, cords, wires and speakers, and a stunning collection of guitars.  When they started Where Have All the Flowers Gone I thought – well, that was a popular hit, they could have skipped it.  And five seconds later,  surprised myself by bursting into tears -- nothing like music to bring back old emotions.

And we ended – of course – in old-fashioned hootenanny style, with all the performers on the platform (one hesitates to call it the stage in a church) and the number that’s always sure-fire for group singing – This Land is Your Land.  Then it was We Shall Overcome, which evidently involves grasping the hands of those next to you and swaying back and forth ( I guess I’m behind the times.)  That would, I thought, have been more effective if there’d been more than one black person in the place.  But it meant everybody's heart was in the right place, so what the hey.

The best thing that happened all day came after that, in the sunshine of the parking lot.  One of the women singers came up and asked wasn’t I the person who’d heard them sing Pete Seeger’s Get Up and Go at the Farm Market and asked for the words?  That must have been six or seven years ago – and what followed was even better:  She said she remembered my sister.  She’d been in the chorus of the early Gilbert & Sullivans in the troupe Esther founded – a thriving institution that has already survived my sister by more than 20 years.  I smiled all the way home.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Red Birds and Deer

What will they spend considerable money to say about you when you're gone? 
Whoever wrote Doris's death notice the other day took pains to let the world know that Dodie collected red birds.  This doesn't strike me as odd, for I know someone who has a bedroom devoted to hundreds of teddy bears, most of them purple.

And I know I promised not to send any more bulletins about the weather hereabouts, but this was exciting -- I just saw a deer for the first time in a couple of months.  I've been worried about them.  This one found a narrow green patch that just opened up-- just as well it doesn't know we're promised

                              more snow over the weekend.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Leisure Seeker

 While I was snowbound, I ran out of library books and took another look at the for-some-reason-I-don't-want-to-give-these-away bookcase.  I pulled out what may be the most recent book in there  (copyright 2009) -- The Leisure Seeker.  It's just as delightful a re-read as it was in the first place.  My only objection is to the picture on the cover of my paperback.  It would appear I came away with a pretty good mental picture of the 1978 motor home known as the Leisure Seeker.  For starters, it's a real motor home -- I knew that as soon as Ella mentioned the captain's chairs for driver and passenger, but the one shown here is just a trailer.  And I photographed a closeup of that illustration, to show you what struck me as completely wrong -- John's fine, but Ella was definitely not slim, and there's no way she could possibly have stood on one foot. 
I was glad to see, googling for illustrations, that the hardcover edition shows the proper vehicle, sneaking away from Detroit heading for Route 66.     I'm trying to find the right way to persuade you to get hold of this novel, because I know you'll enjoy it.  Granted, there aren't too many stories with protagonists in their 80s, but it is totally captivating.  Of all the review raves (it must have been one of those that put me on to it in the first place) the one I like best calls it "Kerouac-lite...On The Road with shorter sentences and less drugs and sex." 
 But not, I would add,
without any.

P. S.  I know I promised to stop already with the winter complaints, but this morning I finally succeeded in photographing a snowfall -- don't know if the flakes will show up on your screen, but anyhow, here's what today started out like.  For a change.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Happy Spring!

Last time I'll post about the weather, I promise.  But it's hard to resist, waking up on this first day of spring -- here's what it looks like out there this morning, and you probably won't be surprised to hear that it is
snowing.  Heavily and sincerely.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Thoreau Wouldn't Approve

But I shall use this improved means to share today's unimproved news with you  -- here's a glimpse of the birthday bulbs on my desk, and behind them -- what you can't see in this picture of the back yard is--
 that it is snowing. 
P. S.  I just  walked past the livingroom, which I don't enter from one visitor to the next, and happened to notice that in spite of all that thaw, we're still pretty well supplied with icicles.