Posted by: ktzefr | April 15, 2014

6 Favorite Poets and Pics

In celebration of National Poetry Month and the beginning of spring, here are a few special words from six of my favorite poets:

Treasures in the clear water of Hawksnest Bay, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

Treasures in the clear water of Hawksnest Bay, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett


“A pearl in the shell

does not touch the ocean.  Be a pearl

without a shell, a mindful flooding,

candle turned moth, head become empty

jar, bird settling nest, love lived.”

~ Rumi, “Wilder Than We Ever” from The Soul of Rumi, translations by Coleman Barks


Forsythia in bloom; Photo:KFawcett

“Listen, are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?

While the soul, after all, is only a window,

and the opening of the window no more difficult

than the wakening from a little sleep.”

~ Mary Oliver, “Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches” from New and Selected Poems, Vol. 2

Sunset, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

Sunset, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

The Spanish language is prettier than English in most cases.  However, I think these words and the images they produce are also lovely in the English version.

“La noche está estrellada, y tiritan,

azules, los astros, a lo lejos.

El viento de la noche gira en el cielo y canta.”

~ Pablo Neruda, “Puedo escribir los versos más tristes” from The Essential Neruda, edited by Mark Eisner


“The night is full of stars,

twinkling blue, in the distance.

The night wind spins in the sky and sings.”

~ Pablo Neruda, “I can write the saddest verses”

Golden Chain Tree; USVI National Park; Photo:KFawcett

Golden Chain Tree; USVI National Park; Photo:KFawcett

“Something sudden, a windfall,

a meteor shower.  No–

a flowering tree releasing

all its blossoms at once,

and the one standing beneath it

unexpectedly robed in bloom,

transformed into a stranger

too beautiful to touch.”

~ Lisel Mueller, “How I Would Paint Happiness” (Imaginary Paintings), from Alive Together: New and Selected Poems

Dogwood; Photo:KFawcett

Dogwood; Photo:KFawcett

“I light a candle on the wood table,

I take another sip of wine,

I pick up an onion and a knife.

And the past and the future?

Nothing but an only child with two different masks.”

~ Billy Collins, “In the Evening” from The Trouble With Poetry

Kentucky meadow; Photo:KFawcett

Kentucky meadow; Photo:KFawcett

“Over the Blue Ridge, the whisperer starts to whisper in tongues.

Remembered landscapes are left in me

The way a bee leaves its sting,

hopelessly, passion-placed,

Untranslatable language.

Non-mystical, insoluble in blood, they act as an opposite

To the absolute, whose words are a solitude, and set to music.

All forms of landscape are autobiographical.”

~ Charles Wright, “All Landscape is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself” from Appalachia


Posted by: ktzefr | April 12, 2014

Favorite Foto Friday: Yucatan Butterfly

In January this year I was in the Yucatan and spotted this gorgeous butterfly on the grounds of the hacienda where we were staying near the ruins at Chichén Itzá .  It was a perfect specimen.  I think I’ve identified it correctly as a Ruddy Daggerwing (Marpesia petreus), but please let me know if you’re a butterfly expert and have other suggestions.

These beautiful creatures begin life as pretty orange and black caterpillars with black spikes and black antennae and they love the strangler fig and wild banyan trees in the tropics.  The adult butterflies prefer flower nectar and, of course, they have a world of blossoms to choose from in Yucatan.  I’m not sure what this one was doing amongst the stones, but the color contrast certainly made it more noticeable. 

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

Ruddy Daggerwing Butterfly, Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett


Posted by: ktzefr | April 8, 2014

Nothing like the real ting!

St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

Ask anyone who loves the Caribbean to name their favorite island drink and you’ll likely get a bunch of different answers.  Mojitos in Puerto Rico, painkillers in the BVI, pina coladas everywhere.  Some people like Red Stripe beer and enjoy having their pictures taken with a bottle on the beach, though I have no idea why this is the thing to do.  I also don’t understand why sunbathers stretched out in lounge chairs love to take snapshots of their feet, but I digress.  Drinks aren’t cheap.  But rum, produced in the islands, is cheaper than milk.

Ting & Daffodils; Photo:KFawcett

ting & daffodils; Photo:KFawcett

A pina colada every now and then is okay, but what I really like — besides afternoon tea, which is one of my favorite times of day even in the hottest weather — is an ice-cold ting straight from the bottle.  Made from Jamaican grapefruit juice, ting is both tart and sweet, with a little bit of pulp in the carbonated brew.  (Years ago there was a soda produced in Wisconsin that went by this name, but it has since changed to “Flavor 8″ with several varieties; it was not the real ting.) 

The story goes in Jamaica that when the formula was first developed, someone asked, “What we gonna do wid dis ting?”  Thus, ting was born!


Look for the little green bottles, produced at the soft drink facility owned by Pepsi in Kingston, Jamaica and you’ll find the original grapefruit drink with fizz.

The first warm day last week, I went out and bought  a bottle of the real ting to celebrate the sun finally making it’s way to the northern latitudes.





Posted by: ktzefr | April 4, 2014

Favorite Foto Friday…orchids

“The orchids grow in the woods and they let out their fragrance

even if there is no-one to appreciate it.”

~ Confucius.

Orchids at Hillwood Mansion Greenhouse, Washington, DC; Photo:KFawcett

Orchids at Hillwood Mansion Greenhouse, Washington, DC; Photo:KFawcett






Posted by: ktzefr | April 3, 2014

Ten Happy Things


Fuzzy the Squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

Fuzzy the Squirrel; Photo:KFawcett

1)  For 2 days straight we’ve had at least partial sunshine.  No rain.  No snow.  Yesterday, for a brief time, the sky was an amazing blue.

2)  I saw a big, wild bunny on my walk this morning.  It’s good to see the real deal when I’ve spent the last several months finding only footprints in the snow.

3)  The forsythia bushes are blooming!  Clouds of yellow along the back path.

4)  Migratory birds and locals are coming and going.  Someone new at the feeders every day.  Grackles, titmouse, juncos, cowbirds, towhees, black-capped chickadees.  Robins searching for worms in the back yard wood chips.  My family of blue jays come for peanuts when I whistle.  I’ve learned to speak blue jay!

5)  I think our semi-domesticated squirrel may have a new family in one of the neighbor’s trees. 

6)  I can sit under the leafless maple on my own back porch and read.  I don’t have to travel long distances to sit under a tree with a book, though I do like traveling those long distances and I do like a change of trees every now and then.

7)  I can almost smell the first rack of ribs on the grill.

8)  Soon…not yet, but soon, I can start planting geraniums and petunias and impatiens.

9)  The holly bushes may be dead after this frigid winter.  I don’t like holly bushes.  You take your life in your own hands when you try to trim them.  There are 13!  I don’t know the person who planted these 13 holly bushes in the front yard, but I’d just like to know why.  So many shrubs are prettier.  The cost to replace them with something else, however, is not a “happy” thing.

10)  I’ve seen several of my neighbors this week.  All winter we caught only glimpses of each other coming and going in the cold.  One had lost weight, another had gained, someone had dyed her hair and someone else had lost some.  We’ve all traveled, had personal news to share, seen our doctors for one thing or another.  So we had plenty to discuss  — places, parties, pains.

One not-so-happy thing did happen today.  I packed up my laptop, straw hat, notebook, cushions for the chair, and a chocolate bar and headed outside to the porch to read and work in the sun.  It was only after I got everything set up that I smelled something in the air that my memory took hold of right away — that undeniable scent of spring in the country, on the farm, the loft above the barn.  One of my neighbors was happily spreading cow manure or some mix thereof into every crook and crevice and onto every bare patch of earth in his yard.  I lost my appetite for the chocolate bar, which is just as well.  But I did stay on the porch, intent on eking out of the day every tiny, happy moment I could.  Now and then I was rewarded with a shift in the wind.  


Posted by: ktzefr | March 27, 2014

Time Travel with VOGUE: 10 glimpses of the early 40s

It snowed all day yesterday — again.  So, I decided to clean my study.  Reorganize.  Get rid of stuff.  Every time I do this, which is not nearly as often as it should be, I re-discover treasures.  And then, of course, I have to spend time getting reacquainted instead of reorganizing.

IMG_3035This old book has yellowed pages and a broken spine.  It was published in 1942 and has, “trapped inside,” the voices of more than 70 authors.  Among them Hemingway, Wolfe, Maurois.  Katherine Anne Porter and Carson McCullers.  Clare Boothe and William Saroyan, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Archibald MacLeish.  Vogue’s First Reader is a treasure trove of personal essays.  None of them has ever appeared in another anthology.

I love essay anthologies.  It’s fascinating to glimpse a time and place or places from many different points of view.  The challenge is to bring together these disparate views of the world and try to envision the whole.  Each piece uncovers important “facts” of the time and yet the larger “truths” may be impossible to discern from reading a single piece. What were people writing about in the early 1940s?  What did they love, hate, fear?  What future did they imagine?

Filled with dog ears and underlines and “stars” in the margins, it fits perfectly with like-minded counterparts on the shelves of my study.

Here are a few facts, truths, and/or images that I picked up from my journey through this wonderful tome and back in time:

1)  “He wrote a thousand-page history of the world in the form of weekly letters to his daughter from jail, where he had no benefit of reference books.”  ~ “Nehru of India” by Krishnalal Shridharani

2)  “In New York — even in London now — you go to the theatre by subway, streetcar, bus, taxi or in a private automobile.  In Chungking, there are no subways, streetcars, buses, or taxis, and only the highest Government officials had cars.  You walked on foot through the ankle-deep dust of the side streets…half-lined by bomb rubble, bustling with new little bamboo-sheltered shops, and half by freshly plastered modern buildings. As fast as the bombs knocked it down, the Chungkingers built up their city.”  ~  “Chungking’s Broadway” by Clare Boothe

3)  “Spain was my first war, and in those days I thought that humour and high spirits in the face of danger were peculiar to the Spanish character.  But…I discovered that political agony was never too great to produce a witticism….  In the tense and strained atmosphere of Rome, only a few weeks before Mussolini pushed the country into war, Italians could still smile at the story of the man who hailed a taxicab and said to the driver: “Are you free?”  Came the quick retort: “Of course not.  I’m an Italian.”  ~  “Humour — the Bomb-Proof Kind” by Virginia Cowles

4)  “To pass the time we poured lead, which we were not supposed to do until New Year’s.  We melted down our broken tin soldiers in a spoon and let the molten lead drip into a glass of water.  The sizzling metal plopped into strange, lovely shapes, from which we tried to guess the future.”  ~ “I Remember Christmas in Austria” by Leo Lania

5)  “Little by little, the exiles found their homes; or rather, created them.  Lisbon became Munich, Manchester, Marseilles.  Small replicas of a dead Europe were erected all over the city, tenderly, rather shabbily.   French and Belgians flocked to the boulevard cafes; Germans to the shady beauty spots; English to the tennis courts; Jews and South Americans to the fashionable tea shops; Dutch and Norwegians and Jugoslavs to the cliff-lined beaches.  Everyone managed…to be contented; or almost everyone.  There was plenty of coffee, butter, beef.  Warsaw, Rotterdam, Belgrade were never mentioned.”  ~ “Landscape–with Figures” by Frederic Prokosch

6)  “…there is a world each of us can reconquer, there is a land each of us can liberate alone, and that is the World of Inner Life, the World Within Us.  Here, open to us, unexplored, lies an immense and rich country, peopled by memories, lighted by thoughts and meditations….  War may deprive us of our comfort, of our security, of our liberty, but nothing except death can deprive us of ourselves.”  ~ “The World Within Us” by Andre Maurois

7)  “…there were signs to be found among the debris that the Phoenix would rise again….  Among the charred remains…the blossom trees, the roses, and the honeysuckle were in flower again.  The little angel still trumpeted triumphantly through the shattered roof of St. James’s, Piccadilly, heartening us to face with resolve any disasters the winter might bring, together with the confidence that not only can we ‘take’ it, but can fight back.”  ~ “The Scars of London” by Cecil Beaton

8)  “We do not fight against Germans, or Italians, or Japanese.  With all the inevitable sorrows and tragedies of war, this fact must be kept clear in our minds if a better, more humane, more just world society is to arise from this gigantic struggle.  More truly, if we see things clearly, we are fighting for these peoples, insofar as they are the helpless tools or the deluded followers of their rulers.” ~  “Here We Stand” by Mary Ellen Chase

9)  “Two thousand miles away, upon the coast of Maine, a silent road beside the sea…. There’s almost nothing quite so good this time of night in New Orleans: they split a crispy, French and flaky loaf of bread…. Across the width of Indiana the merits of Carter’s Liver Pills are blazoned in the moon, and from the upper sweep of Brooklyn Bridge, the blank walls of the tenements….The fields are dreaming through Virginia, there is the silent stature of the moonlit trees….Great barns sleep proudly in the swelling earth of Pennsylvania Dutch; at night-time there are furnace flares across New Jersey….  Night has a million windows and a million feet are marching somewhere in the night — where shall we go now?  And what shall we do?” ~ “A Prologue to America” by Thomas Wolfe

10)  “…I, who am forty, touched my first elephant…. He was a big, tired, friendly old fellow…who did not seem to mind having his trunk patted while he reached for a peanut.  Instead of its being cold and rubbery, and sort of snakelike as I had always imagined, I found it to be quite warm and soft, and just a little furry, or perhaps bristly is the better word.  I do not know why I should consider this important enough to talk about, but I do.  Somehow, when you have lived with one idea for forty-odd years and then, overnight, have to change it, it matters.”  ~”I Like the Circus” by Paul Gallico




Posted by: ktzefr | March 19, 2014

People Watching: Mérida, Yucatan

san miguel 041Mexico is the quintessential place to people watch.  With so much color and life almost bursting at the seams, any ordinary day can feel like a special occasion.  All one need do is sit for a spell in the town plaza.  Every Mexican town has its zócalo, or main square. 

Here are some of my favorite moments in Mérida’s zócalo and surrounding historic center:

Chasing pigeons is a universal kid thing to do…



Try to read amongst the chaos is what grown-ups do…

IMG_2369 (3)

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Student performances take center stage…

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

(Note the whitewashed tree trunks.  This is common in many Mexican towns and brings back memories of my own growing-up years in eastern Kentucky when we whitewashed the trees in our yard.)

Colorful costumes, empty streets.

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Every Sunday morning the streets in Centro, the historic center of town, are closed to traffic…

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

and it’s all about biking!  If you don’t have one, you can rent one.

Biking.  Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Biking. Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

(Don’t be shocked by the $119 Prix Fix lunch price; this is in Mexican pesos — about $9 US.)

Other non-motorized vehicles are okay, too.  Calesas are used as taxis around town and are especially handy on Saturday nights and Sundays when cars are not allowed.  

Calesa.  Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Calesa. Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Private moments in public places…

Wedding.  Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Wedding. Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

Every Saturday night local restaurateurs pull tables and chairs onto the streets, musicians set up mini stages, vendors open up shop, and there is dancing in the dark until the wee hours.  Then, just about the time you start to turn off the lights and head for bed…

the sound of drums breaks the silence.

Midnight parade.  Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett

parade. Merida, Yucatan; Photo:KFawcett


“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,

the world offers itself to your imagination,

calls to you like the wild geese, harsh

and exciting —

over and over announcing your place

in the family of things.”

~ Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”


Posted by: ktzefr | March 15, 2014

Favorite Foto Friday…window to the sea

Window to the sea, St. Thomas, USVI; Photo: KFawcett

Window to the sea, St. Thomas, USVI; Photo: KFawcett

(Taken from the back terrace of At Home in the Tropics, my friend Pam’s (and Matt’s) wonderful B&B in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas — where you can sit on the front porch and appreciate more fully the million dollar view!)

Posted by: ktzefr | March 7, 2014

Favorite Fotos Friday…sun and shadow

Let the sunshine in…

Sun and Snow; Photo:KFawcett

Sun and Snow; Photo:KFawcett

Sun and Blue Water, BVI; Photo: KFawcett

Sun and Blue Water, BVI; Photo: KFawcett


Sun and Shadow; Photo:KFawcett

Sun and Shadow; Photo:KFawcett




Posted by: ktzefr | March 4, 2014

Snowy Thoughts


Icicles; Photo:KFawcett

Icicles; Photo:KFawcett


I once tasted snow in August…

On Mont Blanc.  We were in the Alps somewhere along the border between Italy and France.  A few hours earlier we’d left a lush green valley with temps in the 70s and headed up the mountains into snow and ice. 

Percy Shelley wrote a poem about this mountain –

“Far, far above, piercing the infinite sky,

Mont Blanc appears – still, snowy, and serene…”

This is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world with thousands of hikers and skiers making the annual trek.  A few years back they helicoptered a couple of outhouses to the top to accommodate visitors.  Seems a lot of foul stuff was flowing down the mountain in the spring thaw.  Perhaps I wouldn’t have eaten the snow had I known this at the time.

When I was little my mom made snow cream.   A cup of snow, vanilla flavoring, a few spoons of evaporated milk.  We were careful to scoop new snow from clean surfaces right after it fell.  Then one winter we had to stop.  Grownups said the snow could have traces of nuclear fallout.  We saw it on the news, read about it in the papers. 

During the intense nuclear bomb testing from 1961 to 1963 the US and the Soviet Union exploded bombs that injected the same amount of fallout over the Earth as would be created by more than 7,000 Hiroshima bombs.  Earlier, in the 1950s, fallout had amounted to another 5,000 Hiroshima-equivalents.    Hundreds of bombs were tested in the open-air by the U.S., the former Soviet Union, and other rising nuclear powers, sending more than 400 million tons of TNT-equivalent into the atmosphere. 

We had a fallout shelter beneath our school building back then and often played in the concrete “ditch” leading down to it.  At recess we challenged each other to see who could jump across the ditch without falling into it.  We wondered what was inside the shelter and whether everyone in the school could fit.  Was there enough food?  Would there be snacks and a television inside or just healthy stuff and school books?  Sometimes we fussed about these small details, but mostly we were angry at the people who had ruined the snow.

Years later, when I scooped a handful of snow on Mont Blanc, I had forgotten all those fallout warnings.  I was a long way from home and the old shelter beneath my school.  What I didn’t know was that France had not signed the Test Ban Treaty the U.S., U.K., and the Soviet Union had signed in 1963 and was still testing nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.  Who knows what fell with the snow that summer…

I read recently that in the area surrounding the Fukushima power plant in Japan, which was damaged during the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, scientists have found mutated snowflakes.  Instead of those beautiful hexagonal structures, they are lumpy and malformed.  Don’t know if this is true or not.  There was an interesting piece a few years ago in the New York Times about the existence of giant snowflakes “as big as frisbees” found various places around the globe, with a mission at the cost of $1 billion to locate and study them.

When the heaviest snow was falling Monday morning a grackle flew to the feeder outside my kitchen window.   The bird’s black body and iridescent blue head stood out against all that white stuff.  I grabbed the binoculars for a closer glimpse of the grackle’s bright yellow eyes.   There are, indeed, moments of magic on snowy days.

“Among twenty snowy mountains,

The only moving thing

Was the eye of the blackbird.”

~ Wallace Stevens, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”


Facts about Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in Western Europe


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