Sunday, August 9, 2015

The Courtyard Garden Saga, Part 1

At the center of our very large house, we have a courtyard.
 Here are some photos of it in times past:

There were four large shade trees in that courtyard, and the garden men cut them down because they were dying; the roots had gone down as far as they could and hit the ceiling of the underground store rooms.
So they planted new trees,  but a bad windstorm a year or so later blew one of them down, so the garden men removed the other three, and planted four dogwood trees.  Then, one of the dogwood trees died, so the garden men took all four of those out. Now we have four little evergreen trees, which don't look very healthy to me.  We will see if the garden men take them out.
Then, we have the Crepe Myrtle trees... Eight of them, I think.  They were flourishing  and blooming all summer, and the catbirds and robins nested in them in such a way that we could see them from the cloister corridor inside.
See how big that tree is?   Well, our new head garden guy had his men "trim" those trees down to where they became sad little bushes:
Note, too, that the garden men removed all the pachysandra that was a ground cover throughout the courtyard, and replaced it with three little azalea bushes, and some spring blooming bulbs.
So for three weeks in Spring, it looks like this:
but the rest of the time, it looks like this:
and in the center beds, the garden men planted very hardy rose bushes which bloom all summer:
Except that there are these large bare spaces in which evergreen hedges ( much beloved by the birds) grew.   The garden me tried to plant a few Easter lilies there, and they grew and bloomed for about two weeks, then died.
So... I have this overflowing perennial garden around on the other side of  one of the wings.  In the first diagram, it's on the side of the grey wing... that's the one that will either be sold or razed in a few years.  So my garden is not long for this world. 
So I have been jumping through the hoops here with the chain of command with the Administrator, the CEO, and the Head Garden Man, offering to transplant many of the plants in my garden to the courtyard.  No cost.   So I have the OK, except that the Head Garden Man has written and said it should be put off until the fall so that the transplants won't die of shock in the August heat.
So I am waiting to see what happens in September.
In the meantime, I have begun to transplant in the bare spaces on the "D" side:  so far:
three Hostas, two Columbines, one Perennial Sage, some Cherry Bells, some Irises, some Foxgloves, a Dianthus, a Cardinal Flower,some Lamium Maculatum, and a Plumbago .
Foxglove, Iris, Dianthus ( plus the Azalea and the resurrected Crepe Myrtle)
So the Courtyard looks like this now.  Hopefully, if I am still here ( in Emmitsburg!) next Spring, I can follow up with a more colorful garden.

Monday, August 3, 2015

On the Nature of Suspense

I was listening to the NPR podcast  “Pop Culture Happy Hour” and the participants were talking about suspense, primarily in films.  This made me consider the films and books I have found most suspenseful.

Of course, Alfred Hitchcock tops the list, and his film that tops the list for me is “Notorious” with Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, and Claude Rains.  The scene in the wine cellar when Bergman breaks the wine bottle which is actually filled with uranium ore ( re: Nazis in South America) had me just barely able to sit and watch.   The second Hitchcock film is “Rear Window” for some of the same reason:  Cary Grant , who has a badly broken leg, is watching through his apartment window as Grace Kelly breaks into the apartment across the street and Cary can see that the murderer who lives there is on his way up to the door.  Aaaaah!

Many other films come to mind. “ Speed “: The one with Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves and Dennis Hopper…. on the bus with the bomb…

Not as good as Hitchcock, but kept me on the edge of my seat.
Another fairly cheesy movie which kept me on the edge of my seat, and which I still remember clearly after about thirty years, is "Arachnophobia."  That's all I can say about it.


What about books?  Gone Girl, as much as I disliked all the characters, was very suspenseful.  I recently finished  The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell, which had  many suspenseful moments but for me

An unsatisfying “deus ex machine” conclusion.


I can’t think of any TV shows, but then I don’t watch much TV.


Will keep thinking and add to this entry.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Blue Moon

The EarthSky website says that the second of two full moons in a calendar month is called a Blue Moon.  We had one last night.

Here is a photo of it at Cape May by my friend, photographer Tina Giaimo:

I can get lost in this photograph.

Here's another photo posted today by a friend:   Bunny, taken by Eileen Hildt Wise:

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

On Vocal Fry and Uptalk

Now I have a term for what I first noticed in the speech of Bill Clinton back in the early 90's :
vocal fry.  It was the way his sentences ended in hoarse soft growls, as though he had oncoming laryngitis. 

And now I have a term for what I heard coming from students who imitated the "Valley Girl" intonations:  uptalk:  ending all sentences with a question mark?

Both of these verbal  -what ?   things?  tics?  affectations?   irritated me twenty-five years ago and still aggravate me now.  I like a nice, clear, bell-round down turn at the end of a declarative sentence.
I like clear, non-gravelly vocal tones.  

Recently on Facebook, someone posted an essay by Natalie Wolf from the UK's  The Guardian
complaining about these verbal mannerisms.  Natalie Wolf implied that they are used by women and by using them, young women are turning against their own strong female voices.

Then, my poet friend Kim Bridgford wrote a rebuttal to Natalie Wolf's piece - which I presently can't find but will come back to when I find it.

Then, I heard an interesting segment on NPR's Fresh Air about these same verbal mannerisms, saying that they point to another cultural turning point in speech patterns, and that these patterns which are used , not exclusive to women or men, but to the young...say, those under thirty? and these will stay in the lilt of the language for several generations.

I won't be around to hear it happen in thirty years; suffice it to say that it offends my ear in the present.   Old fogey that I am.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It is Enough

sunset at Glacier Park... photo by Elizabeth McFarland

Saw this poem posted this morning on the "A Year of Being There" blog:

by Anne Alexander Bingham:

It is Enough

To know that the atoms
of my body
will remain

to think of them rising
through the roots of a great oak
to live in
leaves, branches, twigs

perhaps to feed the
crimson peony
the blue iris
the broccoli

or rest on water
freeze and thaw
with the seasons

some atoms might become a
bit of fluff on the wing
of a chickadee
to feel the breeze
know the support of air

and some might drift
up and up into space
star dust returning from

whence it came
it is enough to know that
as long as there is a universe
I am a part of it.

Chickadee... photo by Diane Porter

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Convent Culture 5: Storage Space

I'm not sure if this is my fourth or fifth blog entry about convent culture. Anyway...

Eight days after my release from the hospital, I am much much better and eating fairly normally.
It's my new normal, on this low residue diet, and watching how much I eat and how fast I eat it.
My memory of the pain and misery of last week will be a big incentive.

This illness has changed any travel plans I had, so I am at home, happily listening to murder mysteries on either CD or ipod, or doing some baking, or praying. Need to get back to writing.

In the meantime, I have been straightening up and weeding out my earthly goods. Went through and organized the winter clothes and separated them from any summer clothes I had never pulled out of the bins. Threw out some fifteen year old shoes that had seen better days.  This activity made me reflect on what I have and where I have it.

How many women do you know who have an academic robe and a Cape May sweatshirt hanging on their bathroom door?

I live in one room, and whatever doesn't fit in that room is stored in the one storeroom that eight of us share.

I have two shelves in the storeroom. The shelf with the maroon bins and the shelf with the grey bins are my shelves. Anything that doesn't fit in my room goes there.

We have a common clothes rack in the storeroom where most of us hang our winter coats and jackets.

That's it.

Clutter happens easily when I am in a hurry, or when I come back from travelling and don't get things back in their designated space.

oh... almost forgot the trunk of the car. I don't own a car; it belongs to my religious community. I have it for my use, because I need it to get back and forth to school, and to do the grocery shopping.  But the trunk becomes a catch-all for everything from a camp chair to a snow shovel.
When I think of photos of convent "cells" with nothing but a bed and a chair, I realize how much "stuff" I have.  But when I think of my well-loved married friends who have houses full , I realize I don't have much.  Everything is relative.
Books are my addiction, as is the case with most English teachers and writers.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Thoughts on French Toast

This is what I think about when I haven't had solid food for almost five full days:

I'm thinking about it today; earlier in the week I couldn't bear the thought of any food.

I'm in the hospital with a bowel obstruction.  Not going into any of the gory details, except that it involved vomiting.
This is the sixth ( or maybe seventh or eighth episode ) of this misery since June 2014. I kept thinking it was a norvirus  that kept coming back, but this round was much worse, and involved pain.
So I went to the ER and they did a CAT Scan and it showed this obstruction. The gastroenterologist tells me that every episode was caused by this same thing: a relatively obstruction that reverses itself.
I'm going to need to have surgery for this, but I don't know when.

So after three days of IV fluids and bedrest, I am feeling better and waiting for the doctor to come in and tell me his verdict.

Last night I had some clear liquids, and this morning I had a breakfast of "low residue" food.  French toast was on the list, so I ordered it.

It wasn't low residue; the texture was more like Styrofoam.  I ate about four bites and quit.

It was like the Texas French toast the food service serves at my house: prepared a long time ago, frozen , thawed Styrofoam with syrup:

It's not that I yearn for fancy French toast ala IHOP.

I yearn for old fashioned French toast the way my mother made it: just plain white bread with egg, milk, and cinnamon, with a little syrup.

This photo comes close, but it still looks more stiff and dry than I'm envisioning.

So when I get home, maybe I'll make some.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Going to Heaven

“Instead of going to heaven at last,

I’m going all along.” Emily Dickinson
Last Tuesday, we went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see the Impressionist exhibition.
The statue of Diana the Huntress graces the main foyer stairs. 
 I found some of the artwork on Google images, which I've posted here:
 Pissarro: Entrance to the Village of Voisins
Renoir: Two Sisters 

Renoir: the cup of chocolate 
Renoir: Dance at Bougival 
Manet:   Boy with Sword 
Monet: Poplars  
To see the original paintings did something for me, the vivid colors of the Renoirs, especially.