Friday, May 29, 2015

Good news and Book Reviews

With the encouragement of my poet friend Valerie Fox,  I signed up my book for Poetic Book Tours,
in which some bloggers have read and reviewed  Reconnaissance. 

Here are some of them:

It's been great fun for me to read these positive reviews, and very encouraging, too.

Tapdance Day  by Sandra Boynton

Cape May: changing and staying the same

When you vacation at the same time, almost the same week, for many years, you notice the buildings, the shops, what changes and what stays the same.

Yesterday afternoon I took some photos and then found the "before" shots on Google.

Gone from the Washington Street Mall:

The Jackson Mountain Café

same building, but new management , new menu, new culture, and name changed to Delaneys' Irish Pub:

The Pilot House:

now closed and being remodeled:

no idea about name now.
Those were just two of the old standbys that had survived since my memory of Cape May began in 1986.   Many other places have come and gone.
I keep thinking of the Simon and Garfunkel song: 
Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences

Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They're all that's left you.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Procrastinating with Susan Hill

This morning I had a marvelous, long walk through the State Park at Cape May Point... one of my favorite birding places.  I've had some truly mystical encounters with birds there over the years. Today wasn't mystical, but I was delighted by several long looks at a Yellow-breasted Chat, who nests there every year.  I believe it is the same bird!
Yellow-breasted Chat... photo by Julie Zickefoose

I also heard a birdsong I didn't know, and searched a long time to see the singer, who was very loud, but hidden behind the leaves.  It might have been an Orchard Oriole.  I have to look up the bird and listen to the song on the Cornell website.

When I'm not out birding, I'm spending time with the murder mysteries of Susan Hill.
I've read almost all of them at least once; when I say "read," I mean that I have listened to them, unabridged , either borrowed from the library or purchased from audible.  Besides the gripping plot and excellent characterizations, her prose , especially her descriptions of the countryside by the fictional English village of Lafferton, is so vivid and elegant.


I read the novels out of order, and now I'm reading/listening to them in order.  The story of Simon Serallier, the main detective, is absorbing. His family members - sister, father, mother, stepmother, brother in law, are interesting characters in themselves... not to mention the women who fall in love with him.  The murderers and victims and even the other police constables and sergeants are well-developed and interesting.

I should be working on reflection questions for the June 24 retreat, or writing more reflective pieces myself, or writing more poetry, but here I am, just enjoying the views of the ocean, and the picturesque houses and gardens of Cape May, and reading Susan Hill.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Cape May 2015

Photos and artwork in this post were not done by me, but they capture the beauty of the place, so I posted them with credit when I could.

Cape May harbor   by Zach Mullock

Congress Hall     painting by Scott Griswold

Villa Saint Vincent -  photo by me in 2013.

It's different here for me in Cape May this year.  I'm vacationing by myself in the old house on Stockton Avenue, at least for the first five days.  Four of my sisters arrive after that,  and about twelve more, the day after that.

I feel that I am vacationing with ghosts.  I've been coming here for a week at this time of the year since 1986, and have only missed about two or three years.  But so many of the women who vacationed with me have died; if they lived, they would be in their hundreds.  Around the quiet living room, and on the quiet front porch, I see Margaret D, Denise, Dolores S, Marcella S, Jackie K, Beatrice W, and Maureen B.  That's only a few.    And of the living, so many can't do the steps anymore.    Our declining and aging population really shows itself this year. 
My parents visiting us down here in 1992.

Of course, the young and able women are here, but most are still in school, and many live so far away, now that our province stretches from Texas to Massachusetts, that they vacation elsewhere.

But I am still here, and in many ways I am relishing the solitude.  I'm out birding a good part of the day, as I was when there was a housefull.   But I am an Only Child,  and I rarely mind being alone.

I have lived with women who have never been alone in their entire lives. Some of them come from families of ten, and joined the community right after high school, and have lived in community houses with as many as twenty sisters, and they are actually afraid to stay in a house alone.
Not me.

So I'm reading and writing and birding and listening to books on tape and watching DVD's...
and walking around this beautiful town.

Perry Street    by Jennifer Ward 

Friday, May 22, 2015

My summer job

or -  my job this summer -   because this is one I haven't had for a while.  I'm giving a retreat to my sisters.  It's what is known as a guided retreat.  That means that I guide them through the eight days with material I have chosen for them to read and pray about. 

                                              Bluebell Forest    by Mrie-Line Vasseur

The format is this:
One conference each day of the retreat –probably no more than twenty minutes. The director also  
 invites the sisters to come speak with her at least once or twice during the retreat; not required, but offered.  Also, I plan to  offer one or two optional group sharings in the late afternoon before supper, or in the evening. 

This particular retreat is a Praying with Poetry retreat.  They are not writing poetry; they are reading it. 

This week I have been working on this.  I looked at the Scripture readings for the day of each retreat, and found them rich with possibilities for prayer and reflection.  I located a theme for each day, and have gathered poems for each day, from a variety of sources.  This has been fun!

I'll share some of the poems on this blog.   Here's one:

A Walk   by Rainer Maria Rilke


My eyes already touch the sunny hill,

Gazing far ahead of the road I have begun.

So we are grasped by what we cannot grasp;

It has its inner light, even from a distance –


And changes us, even if we do not reach it,

Into something else, which hardly sensing it, we

Already are;

A gesture waves us on, answering our own wave…

But what we feel is the wind in our faces.


                                    What you seek is seeking you.   -  Rumi

Thursday, May 21, 2015

It's a Jungle Out There

After finishing my thirty poems in thirty days, I abandoned this blog for most of the month of May! I was busy with final days of classes, exams, grading and turning in grades.
 We had graduation on May 10
After that, the pace slowed a bit.  I was able to turn my attention to my garden, which looked like a jungle.  All those lilies of the valley, in particular, had galloped away, encroaching on other plants. The hostas weren't far behind.   I had planted these things over the past ten years, hoping for good ground cover.  I got more than I bargained for!

in all its glory!

The holly bush and the boxwood that the birds planted have expanded to ten times their original size.

The Astilbe, just getting ready to unfold its gorgeous pink feather-like flowers, is squeezed on all sides by lilies of the valley  and Ajuga.

It's a battle for territorial control between the Sedum and the lilies of the valley.  An Easter lily from years past is also making its appearance, not to mention the weeds.  I should learn the name of this weed.

From another angle, one can see the daylilies, hosta, and lamb's ears growing into each other, encroached on the right by lilies of the valley.

from another angle, another volunteer holly, a gladiolus, two hostas, a swamp milkweed, and bee balm. 
from another angle, more hosta, azalea finishing blossoming, lilies of the valley, crocosima, sweet woodruff, and weeds. 
I'm working an hour or more most mornings, weeding , spreading mulch, and beating back the lilies of the valley.
The garden will still be disheveled and disorganized, but it will not be the jungle that it is now.