Posted by: ktzefr | July 12, 2021

To Catch a Thief…or not!

It happened years ago at a time when I was using a cleaning service.  I had been working fulltime and was on maternity leave.  On cleaning day I grabbed a bag and the baby and left for the day. 

It was spring, the closets were already switched to the new season.  I would not miss the skirt to my best suit until the weather turned cold again.  I would not miss my old high school class ring until I discovered the wool skirt missing and got suspicious.  I would not miss the fire coral necklace from a long-ago trip to Hawaii because I rarely had occasion to wear it and had forgotten about it.

I stopped using the cleaning service when I stopped working fulltime.  When I discovered stuff missing I berated the maids in absentia, even though I didn’t know their names or their values or whether or not they had always been thieves.  Occasionally, I wondered if one of them was still wearing my class ring.  The fact that I hadn’t worn the ring since high school didn’t matter.

Years later, I saw an identical fire coral necklace in a glass case at an antique shop and imagined that it could have exchanged hands many times from my jewelry box to this junk store.  I even imagined the book I might write about a lost necklace making its way from one person and place to another over the years.  Could a few bits of coral strung together shed light on the experiences of different people the way Annie Proulx’s little green accordion had in Accordion Crimes, linking the voices of disparate characters with the music they loved and the lives they lived?

Alas, I never started the book.  But a few years ago I was putting a piece of jewelry back into my jewelry box and one of the drawers would not close.  It kept bumping up against something.  So, I unlatched the sides and slid the drawer completely out.  There, in a back corner, something bright orange had jiggled loose from its hiding place — the fire coral necklace!

I felt a twinge of guilt and regret for having accused the maids.  But the guilt didn’t last long.  After all, the skirt half to my favorite suit never magically reappeared and neither has my high school class ring. But, to be honest, the person I was when I wore those things hasn’t been around for a long time either.  Besides, I’m sure neither one would fit anymore.

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | June 16, 2021

3 Dad Stories…

With Dad, 1971

WESTERNS

My dad loved all the old cowboy pictures and TV shows of the 50s and 60s.  When we got our first television I was in early elementary school.  It was a small black and white with reception from only one channel in Knoxville, Tennessee.  The first program was The Lone Ranger.  Such was the beginning of years of watching TV Westerns. 

Each show climaxed with a shoot-em-up and the good guys always won.  The endings were immensely satisfying.

“That’s what happens in life,” Dad would say.  “You can’t do wrong and get by.”  A lot of moral lessons could be taught watching Gunsmoke or Rawhide or Bonanza.  When the men of the Ponderosa got into some kind of trouble I became anxious with worry, but Dad would laugh it off saying, “They’ll be okay; the stars of the show never die.”

The good guys always win and the stars never die – in cowboy shows.  It would be a few years before I discovered that in real life the good guys didn’t always come out so well and all stars eventually die.

Still, if I could give one piece of advice to new dads on Father’s Day it would be this: Childhood is an awesome time.  Let your kids be kids.  Reality comes soon enough.

*****

GAMES

My dad was good at games – cards, board games, the tricky set-ups where few win at carnivals.  Every year in August the carnival came to town and there were various game booths that offered prizes for tossing rings or coins or darts.  I liked the Duck Pond best.  Pick up a floating duck and compare the number on the bottom to the prize – usually a tiny stuffed animal or toy that fell apart before I got home.  But Dad mastered the right angle for tossing quarters into dishes in the middle of a ring to win a variety of carnival glass bowls and platters.  Mom used them to hold fruit and nuts at Christmas.

I still have the carnival glass mixed in with other odds and ends – every day dishes, pieces of silver from our wedding, and the Talavera pottery I’ve picked up on trips to Mexico over the years.  I discovered a long time ago that food doesn’t taste any better on expensive china.  It’s what’s in the dish that matters and the memories that come along with it  – shrimp layered with ice on the big silver platter, tortillas and peppers in the colorful Talavera, the English trifle I made the first time in the big yellow carnival glass bowl.

Every time I use a piece of the carnival glass I remember my dad and there’s always a story to tell.

*****

DELIVERIES

My parents had a small grocery store in the country and a few of the customers in those days didn’t drive and had a hard time coming to the store.  So my dad delivered groceries once a week to a few houses, and occasionally I went with him.

I especially liked one elderly lady who lived with her middle-aged son in a small house up a hollow.  Dad always blew the horn when we came into the yard to give the son time to come out and get the dogs.  They had a pack of ferocious dogs that would run to the truck barking and baring teeth.  But, once the son corralled the dogs in the crawl space beneath the old house and locked the door, we could get out with the bags. 

The house was wooden frame, never painted, three rooms – kitchen, living/bedroom, and another bedroom.  No bathroom or running water inside.  But all around the room, pinned and taped to the walls with Scotch tape and straight pins, were glossy pictures torn from magazines.  Pretty snapshots of faraway places looked very different from the Eastern Kentucky hills.  Advertisements for televisions and vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances the old lady was not likely to ever own.  But she was proud of her “pictures,” as if she’d painted them herself.

My dad complimented people sometimes on things that didn’t seem worthy of praise.  But he respected people who had less, and he respected people who had more.  I was taught not to be envious and not to hate and to look for the value in all people.  I learned that one of the worst things you could do is to openly pity someone because it made them feel worthless, as if they had nothing of value to offer. 

In this world, in our time, there are people who hate the poor and others who hate the rich.  I’m grateful that I learned early on not to hate anyone for what they had or didn’t have, that everyone has value, and everyone has something to offer. 

*****

HAPPY FATHER’S DAY TO ALL DADS!!

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 10, 2021

What’s Under Your Bed?

“…little packages, oh yes,

all old women make little packages

and stow them under their beds.”

~ José Donoso, from The Obscene Bird of Night

One doesn’t have to be an old woman, of course, to store stuff under the bed.  It’s a great space for useless treasures.  We didn’t have much storage space when I was growing up, so this was the best place to put something out of sight, out of mind.  Besides, a room could look clean and organized with everything in its place in a few minutes time by simply lifting the spread and giving a shove to any extra odds and ends that had nowhere to go.    

The clematis is blooming! Photo:KFawcett

In Botany class one spring I had to collect and classify 50 different plants.  I gathered leaves and blossoms and sprouts in the yard and the woods and arranged them on individual sheets of paper with the corresponding information.  Years later, on a visit home, I found the box of disintegrating plants and paper under the bed.  It was still hard to toss out all of that work.

Today, the only things under our bed are two long boxes that hold a bookshelf with the instructions for assembly.  I bought it four years ago.  I tried twice to put it together, but didn’t get any further than the instructions before putting everything back in the boxes and slipping them under the bed.  Nothing exotic, no family treasures.

Judith Ortiz Cofer in her poem, “Old Women in Their Rooms,” writes: 

“Stored under groaning mattresses

are the remnants of lives

wrapped in little packages, taped

or tied with string: photos

jaundiced with age…

stacks of magazines…

balls of string…

and old shoes curling tongue-to-heel.

In the thick air

of wet coughs and medicinal tea, 

everything returns to what it once was: 

paper to pulp,

cloth to fiber,

dust to dust.”

My mom kept a chocolate-covered cherry candy box under her bed filled with old family photos that we took out from time to time.  There were stories, some happy and some sad, to go with every snapshot.  With so much dependence on computers nowadays and photos being stored “in the cloud” I fear that this simple bonding activity between generations may be lost.  

Mom kept her “good” shoes in their boxes under the bed, too, and after my dad died and she was living alone, she purchased a handy security system —  a pistol that she slipped between the mattress and box spring. 

Some people say it’s bad to store anything under your bed because it messes up the room’s energy, its Feng Shui, and causes nightmares or prevents sleep.  Old photos may keep you stuck in the past, or magazines with all those words in other people’s voices may be distracting.  Or not. 

A box with extra blankets or pillows, however, is considered perfect to slide under the bed.  But how boring is that?  

What’s under your bed?

**********

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 9, 2021

Magic at the Museum

2003ish…

Otavalo Market, Ecuador; Photo:MFawcett

I’m sitting in the museum on a stone bench that is part of an exhibit of a village in South America.  I have returned recently from Ecuador and the surroundings are familiar.  The bench is perched outside the little plaza church with its tower and bells across from the market place where plastic women in colorful skirts sell fake corn and potatoes and quinoa.  The men, dressed in fedoras and ponchos, are open mouthed, forever caught in conversation.

The llamas at the market have big eyes and peaceful, almost smiling, faces.  Surprisingly, llamas look that way in real life, too.  Behind them in painted green fields with blue skies and high, cloud-shrouded peaks are other llamas that grow smaller and smaller in the 3-D distance.  The least of them is the size of a toy.    

Real people, mostly tourists, walk through and gaze at this exhibit of a “moment caught in time” in an Andean village.  At the far end, at a coastal scene, they admire the white cliffs where plastic seagulls perch forever with their flocks.  When kids read the plaque that says the whiteness of the fake cliffs mimics the white bird poo splattered on the real ones, they point and laugh.

They all ask the same question:  why is that boy wearing the clothes of an old man?  A poncho and fedora.  Black rubber boots.  The children in the exhibit are little copies of larger images.   Some people stop to find answers, to read about the traditions of the Andes – the clothing, the music, the food.  Most don’t bother.

I’ve been sitting still, reading, remembering the real village plazas and marketplaces of Ecuador and thinking how this lovely, authentic exhibit looks, but doesn’t feel, real to me.  Then, in a quiet moment, I notice a small boy letting his eyes wander to take it all in, looking up at the little chapel and the towers with their bells that will never ring.  Suddenly, his mouth falls open.  He points to me and says: 

“Mommy, that statue looks almost real!” 

Almost, indeed.

I hold my breath for a few seconds and then watch his widening eyes when I smile.  There’s always unexpected magic at the Museum of Natural History.

**********

Some pics from the very real village of San Pablo near Otavalo in northern Ecuador…

Herding cows at end of day, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:KFawcett

Taking the sheep and pigs for grazing in the highlands, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:DFawcett

April, Hacienda Cusin, San Pablo, Ecuador; Photo:MFawcett

*****

Posted by: ktzefr | June 8, 2021

105 Voices from the Past…

 “All nature indeed teaches that man is born for happiness.  It is the effort after pleasure that makes the plant germinate, fills the hive with honey, and the human heart with love.”

~ Andre Gide, from Fruits of the Earth 

What a mess my study today, but it’s 88 degrees in the shade and the cicadas are screeching nonstop at a decibel that can’t be good for the ears.   So here’s to staying inside and the happiness that an old book can bring.

This tome is thick, the pages yellowed, the hard cover torn.  It looks like it was chewed at some point by one of the dogs we’ve owned. But trapped inside are the voices of “105 of the greatest living authors.” This was published in 1950.  Most of them are no longer alive – Faulkner, Hemingway, Malraux.  There are stories, poems, essays, biography, and drama.  (The World’s Best, edited by Whit Burnett)

What were people writing about in the late 1940s? What did they love, hate, fear?  What future did they imagine?  Did it come to pass?  Old literature provides richness on a personal level that you can’t get from reading timeworn newspapers or history books.

One of the reasons I love anthologies is that they offer the reader a taste of a time and place or places from many different points of view.  To read only one writer is to see the world through one set of eyes.  Likewise, if one only reads writers who share their own beliefs and opinions, they aren’t likely to learn anything new.  

Years ago a colleague saw me with a book of poetry by Ernesto Cardenal and asked why I was reading an “old communist.”  I like his poetry, I said.  I love Neruda, too, and so many other writers that I may not agree with on politics or religion or worldview.  I have always felt that if I know who I am and what I believe, the opinions and beliefs of others are not a threat to my own, but they are a chance to look at and, perhaps, understand why they see life as they do.  

This particular anthology is divided into four sections featuring writers from the Americas, Europe, the British Isles, and Asia.  How might Richard Wright’s autobiography, American Hunger, look different from Nehru’s memoirs from Time in Prison?  The French diplomat Paul Claudel’s essay on The East I Know: Here and There is quite different from Hu Shih’s The Civilizations of the East and West.  And two favorite poets – Robert Frost and Pablo Neruda.  Who has not heard Frost’s famous “The Road Not Taken”–

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Simple, yet powerful, words remind many of youthful decisions.  Neruda’s Summits of Macchu Picchu, on the other hand, show a different kind of power – the strength found in the absolute beauty of words to produce awe-inspiring images.

“Then up the ladder of the world I climbed,

past the terrible tangle of the lost forests,

unto you, Macchu Picchu.

Lofty city of laddered stones,

ultimate abode of him whom the earthly

did not hide in robes of sleep.

In you as in two parallel lines

the cradle of the lightning and of man

rocked in a wind of thorns.

Mother of stone, foam of the Condors.”

Different lives, different places, in a different time.  A variety of “facts” and “truths” seen from many perspectives.  Do the facts sometimes change?  Does the truth ever change?  Or is it the other way around?  

Fun to think about, and there’s no better way on a rainy day or a hot, lazy day or on any other day than to spend time thinking with an interesting old book and a good cup of tea.

*****

 

Posted by: ktzefr | June 3, 2021

20 Minutes in Haiti

I wasn’t expecting the stop.  I hadn’t even looked at the ticket.  After two days of trying to get to Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe, we just grabbed the tickets that were offered and ran, literally, to get to the next plane.

Earlier, Atlanta had been fogged in and we circled until the gas was low and were diverted to Columbia, South Carolina.  Then, back to Atlanta just in time to miss our next flight by less than ten minutes.  After another long line, long wait, an Air France employee found us a connection requiring a sprint to a flight to Miami that would take us to Guadeloupe the next morning. 

No one mentioned Haiti.  

The next morning, for the first time in years, we were treated to real food on a flight.  Air France offered a full breakfast followed by a basket of warm croissants.  Everything was great until the flight attendant announced that we would be landing shortly in Haiti.  What?  I rummaged through my bag and found my ticket to Guadeloupe — with a stop in Haiti.  

This would add yet more time to the trip.  No time to get off the plane.  More sitting and waiting.  Nothing to see or do.

But the woman sitting beside me was ecstatic.  She was dressed in stylish, expensive clothes and jewelry.  Her grown children were sitting behind us and she turned around every few minutes to chat with them.  She told me she had lived in London for many years and had not been home in a long time.  She wanted to bring her children to see her island and many relatives.  

I got a few glimpses over her shoulder as we started to descend.  My image was that of a sad, brown island, having read that it was one of the most deforested countries in the world with less than 1% of its primary forest left and already undergoing a mass extinction of its biodiversity.  But the Haitian woman and I were clearly seeing two different places.

She sat with her face plastered to the window, waving her arms to call back to her kids to look, look, look!  She had been humming on and off softly and then started singing, her eyes filling with tears.  Port-au-Prince airport in view, the country’s own red, white, and blue flag waving, she turned to ask if it was okay, her singing La Dessalinienne, the national anthem.  For the country, for the ancestors, let us march. Let us march united…

And so we landed. 

Now, when I hear French Caribbean music, zouk — not national anthems — I remember the missed flights, the surprises, and the lost luggage that traveled far and wide, including a trip to Paris where it was snowed in for several days before finding us again in the sunny Caribbean, just in time for our return trip home to the cold.  But I also remember the Haitian woman. 

For twenty minutes we had sat on the tarmac as the Haitians and their luggage deplaned.  I imagined the woman and her three grown children making their way to reunions with relatives and her joy at being able to show them all of the special places of her island. 

I remembered a quote from Henry David Thoreau — “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.”

*****

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | May 27, 2021

Wanderlust — Adventure or Peace?

“Wanderlust

is a powerful force

that leaves the eager traveler

longing to live

two lives

at the same time,

one of adventure,

the other

peace.”

~Margarita Engle, With a Star in My Hand: Ruben Dario, Poetry Hero

I don’t have a bucket list of places I’ve never been.  My bucket list is all about the places I’ve loved and long to return to.

This last “Year of Staying Home” is the longest span of no travel since I was a kid.  My first trip alone was by greyhound bus when I was in my early teens.  The bus took almost all day as it stopped in every little town across the state of Kentucky.  I was going to visit my brother’s family in Louisville, and that solo trip with its new experiences and anxieties helped give me the confidence to begin a life of journeys.

Mojigangas, La Alborada and Festival of San Miguel; San Miguel de Allende, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

I’ve been to London and Rome, Vienna and Geneva, Paris and Copenhagen and Amsterdam and the small towns and villages in between.  The tourist sites, the local foods, the history – it’s all great.  But I lost my heart a long time ago to Latin America – the rainforests of Costa Rica, mountains of Mexico, and the beaches of the Caribbean.

I’m not talking about stretches of sand with a slew of umbrellas and fruity drinks and the same island tunes spinning over and over.  My special places are quiet stretches of sand off the beaten track, where you can sit all day beneath a sea grape tree and hear only the birds singing and the footfalls of deer or donkeys in the forest.

St. John, USVI; Photo: KFawcett

On the other hand, I also love the noise and color and organized chaos of Mexico – the parades and fiestas and lollipop-colored houses in the central mountains and the spectacular birding in the thick mangrove forests of Yucatan’s Gulf coast.

Birding, Celestun, Yucatan, Mexico; Photo:KFawcett

After a year of relative peace and quiet – tainted with worry — I am anxious to travel again to the places that fill that need for adventure but also soothe my soul.

*****

What about you?  Are you hoping for more adventure or more peace or a little of both?  What are those special places that you want to go or go back to?

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | May 5, 2021

In My Mother’s Kitchen

Mom at the beach, summer 2002.

Mother’s Day, 1950s and 60s — In the opening shot I am dancing in the sunlight of my childhood kitchen.  Any story about my mom would have to begin here.  Mom’s kitchen was the center of the universe.  It was the place where every insignificant detail of every day took place and every special event got its start.  In hindsight, I suspect the least important activity we did in the kitchen was eating. 

I learned about traditions.  In the spring my mom and her sister Thelma made crepe paper flowers at the kitchen table to decorate the graves on Memorial Day.  They started weeks ahead, creating tulips and roses and chrysanthemums with red and yellow and orange crepe paper, winding the petals one-by-one around a thin wire cut to size, which they wrapped in green.  I learned how to cut the proper petals from a pattern and fit them tightly into place.  We dipped the blossoms in a pot of melted paraffin and allowed them to dry.  The flowers filled baskets and were fitted into “sprays” and wreaths.  On Memorial Day the cemetery bloomed with flowers that held up even in the rain.

Summer in the kitchen was all about canning – corn and tomatoes and blackberries for jam.  We peeled the labels off empty Van Camp’s Pork and Beans cans and made vegetable choppers for the garden relish making.  Mom filled a big aluminum pan with cabbage and peppers and onions and spices and we chopped until there wasn’t a shred bigger than a sliver.  Canning wasn’t especially my idea of a fun summer day, but I learned a lot about patience and rewards.  There was nothing better on a cold, snowy morning in winter than to wake up to biscuits from the oven and hot blackberry jam made from a jar of berries picked and canned in summer.

For one full day in November my dad took over the kitchen space, though Mom was always quietly in charge.  The hogs were killed and she ground the meat for sausage and deposited it in one huge lump in the middle of the kitchen table.  My dad liked to add the herbs and spices, the sage and pepper and salt, and supervise the kneading and mixing of the meat.  Sausage was made into patties for the refrigerator and freezer and for canning.  My mom fried some of the patties and canned them in gallon-sized glass jars, sealing the tops with a sufficient amount of pure grease to cover.  Yes, that was good sausage!

I liked to watch my mom cook.  She always made perfect fried chicken – the skin a crisp, golden brown.  I took note of the way she salted and peppered and rolled the pieces in flour before adding to the bubbling grease.  What I didn’t take note of was the timing or the need to simmer the meat for a while.   The first fried chicken I cooked had that same golden brown look, achieved in a few minutes time, but the drumsticks were tough and raw inside.  I learned that there is a time for everything and that the timing is as important as the process. 

My mom would get frustrated when she was trying to cook and too many other things were going on in the kitchen.  She’d drop a hint – “it’s hard to get around in here” – but rarely raise her voice.  Dad would spread the newspaper across the table, reading Parade magazine and the comics aloud.  Dagwood and Dogpatch.  Sometimes I wasn’t the least bit interested; sometimes I couldn’t wait to hear the story or the punchline.  But I learned that hints rarely work if you want something done.  My mom knew that too, of course, but she wasn’t one to demand anything.

On Sunday afternoon in winter we played board games at the kitchen table – Monopoly, Careers, Dominoes.  I loved Careers because you could choose to be anything you wanted to be for an afternoon – a movie star or teacher or prospector for gold.  Players earned stars and hearts and dollars based on the choices they made.  In the game, happiness was a competition measured in money and fame and love.  It was a little like life, except the choices were temporary and had no effect on the real future.  Still, winning was important to a house full of competitors and things didn’t always end well.  Mom usually chose to do something else and had a way of putting things in perspective.  “It’s just a game,” she’d say, trivializing the angst. I learned that a little less drama is not a bad thing. 

One night a week, my mom ironed in the kitchen.  She put a “sprinkler” on a Pepsi bottle filled with water, dampened the clothes, and rolled each shirt and blouse and dress into a ball fit snuggly in a basket, and she took out one at a time to press.  I learned to iron handkerchiefs and pillowcases and aprons.  It’s a skill I don’t use now, but I enjoyed those times together.

Sometimes she told stories while she worked.  One of my favorites was about my grandma who had run away from her first husband on their wedding night.  Her parents had chosen him against her will.  So she went out to the privy before bedtime and just kept walking.  The family didn’t see her again for two years.  She decided to return home after another long walk, 50 miles across the Cumberland Gap to meet my grandpa, the man she’d always loved.  They were married.  The legality of this was never discussed, so I have no idea how it was resolved.  I do know they had 10 kids and stayed together until she died.

The kitchen looked like my mom – the shelves of “State plates” she had collected from her own travels and the trips of others, canned stuff lined up on the cabinets, the flour in a big bowl kept in a drawer in the cabinet because the flour bin/sifter was a place to keep cash.  The 25 silver dollars used to pay the doctor when I was born had been stashed in the old flour bin.  Her cabinets had real glasses and jelly jars for drinking, mismatched plates, and carnival glass bowls.  She had a rolling pin, but never liked to use it.  Instead, she used a tall glass to roll out dough for biscuits and cookies and pies.  It didn’t matter whether she was using the appropriate gadget or not; she did things her own way.

Much of what I learned in childhood I learned at the kitchen table.  Most people who came to visit, relative or friend, came in the back door to the kitchen.  It was a place to cry and laugh and hope and mourn.  A place to talk and sing and argue and explain.  A place to dance.

I remember spinning round and round on my toes, living in the moment, dancing with the abandon of childhood.  Not thinking of the past or future.  My mom used to say that today, the moment, is all we can be sure of.  It was all about living in the present.  I think that’s what we lose when we get older — that youthful joy in the moment.  As we grow up, decisions are made based on past experiences and future hopes.  The “now” quietly dissolves.

My mom enjoyed living in the present.  She had a profound faith and she practiced what she preached.  She was completely certain about who she was and what she was meant to do, and she was always optimistic, never being too concerned about controlling the future.  Those traits are a gift.  And her life was a gift to all of us who spent time in her kitchen.

“If you have kids, every day is Mother’s Day,” Mom used to say, at the end of a hard day doing mostly stuff for the rest of us.   She was right.

**********

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | April 22, 2021

5 Things I Learned During the COVID Year…

Stop and smell the flowers…or just admire the bee.

Butterfly bush bloom; Photo:KFawcett

1)  The pandemic year started with a whole bunch of things that needed to be done.  I learned that almost everything could wait and, after a while, I realized that some things didn’t need to be done at all.

2)  I can be a control freak.  If you want something done right, do it yourself – that sort of mentality.  I learned that most stuff can be done by almost anyone and sometimes done better.  Big surprise?  Always being in control is not that much fun.

3)  I used to go to the market every day.  I spent hours each week choosing the perfect pears and chicken and pastries.  I was sure if someone else shopped and brought the bags curbside they would pick overripe fruit and outdated meat and the wrong chocolate chip cookies.  I was wrong.  Some of the best discoveries came when the “shopper” had to substitute for a missing item and I found that I liked the substitute better.  I would never have switched items or brands otherwise.  And I love all the extra time I have sans shopping to do stuff I enjoy.

4) Being able to just say NO.  If there is one good side effect of the pandemic, it’s that avoiding covid is an easy excuse for everything and anything one does not want to do.  Easy excuses are hard to come by; most require extended explanations accompanied by frustration and guilt. 

5) I don’t really miss much.  My “everyday” life is pretty much the same as always.  I DO, however, miss seeing the people I love, travel — the places I long to go back to, and the freedom to do whatever I please, whenever I please. 

Freedom is the bottom line.  It’s at the core of what it means to be American.  It permeates every aspect of our lives.   I realize, after a year of the pandemic, that I have taken freedom for granted all my life.  What a gift that is and a reason to be immensely grateful. 

What important insights have you gained over the last year??

 

 

 

Posted by: ktzefr | April 14, 2021

7 Favorite Flowering Trees

“Spring rain: and as yet

the little froglets’ bellies

haven’t got wet.”

~ Buson

I don’t know if the frogs’ bellies have gotten wet, but the spring rains have brought out the dogwood and magnolia blossoms.  Here are a few of my favorite blooming trees…

The dogwood has always been a spring star for me, whether perfectly pruned throughout city neighborhoods or growing wild in the Kentucky hills.

Dogwood; Photo:KFawcett

My favorite tree of all — the Royal Poinciana or flamboyant (flame tree) of the tropics.  Although it grows in Mexico and many of the Caribbean islands, the burst of red in late spring on the lush, green hillsides of St. John in the US Virgins is stunning.  Sometimes a tree takes your breath away…

Royal Poinciana, Flamboyant tree; Photo:KFawcett

Flame Tree, St. John, USVI; Photo:KFawcett

There was a white magnolia on my college campus, a park with pink magnolias near my office in the city for years, and now pink magnolias to befriend on my morning walks.  I like the subtle connections in life, the links from one spring to the next, especially the ones that bloom.

Pink Magnolia; Photo:KFawcett

Central Mexico is one of my favorite places in the world.  I love all of the seasons in the Sierra Gorda. At higher altitudes the weather is perfect — spring-like all year long with warm days and cool nights.  And the perfect harbinger of spring is the jacaranda tree in bloom.  Bluish-purple clouds of flowers decorate cities and towns and small villages everywhere.

Jacaranda blooms; Photo:KFawcett

Jacaranda in bloom, San Miguel de Allende; Photo:KFawcett

When I was growing up in Eastern Kentucky we had a snowball bush that grew alongside the chimney to the living room fireplace.  It was rather tall and slender but full of big white blooms every spring.  The snowball flowers meant the real snow was over, that spring had come, and in a few weeks time I could pull off my shoes and go barefoot until fall.  

Chinese Snowball Vibernum; Photo:KFawcett

Spring in DC is all about the cherry blossoms and that flurry of white/pink blooms can be spectacular.  But my favorite cherry is the Kwansan.  It’s not quite as fragile and the flowers last longer.  I like trees that keep their blooms for awhile.  I like to stretch out the spring season before we jump into hot, muggy summer.  

Kwansan Cherry; Photo:KFawcett

Kwansan Cherry tree; Photo:KFawcett

Years ago I used to go bike riding on a trail in the Virgin Islands National Park, and along one stretch beside the sea there was a row of Golden Chain trees (also called Golden Rain trees or Shower trees).  I would ride beneath and reach up and touch the long chains of yellow blossoms.  I didn’t realize the tree was poisonous.  That rain of beautiful flowers created a lasting image.  I didn’t find a photo from that time, but check out the link to this spectacular tree.   

Another tree that I don’t particularly like by itself but love to see growing wild along the hillsides in Kentucky is the redbud.  Spring wouldn’t be spring without it.

Redbud tree; Photo:KFawcett

What are your favorite flowering trees?

 

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