Posted by: ktzefr | February 3, 2010

Poetry, Roosters, and Wood fires…

“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought/I summon up remembrance of things past” ~ Shakespeare

My dad was a stern disciplinarian with a soft spot for poetry.  He quoted the Bible and the poets with equal fervor.  His favorite book was a small text titled The Golden Treasury of Songs and Lyrics.  As a child, I carried this book around the house and sung its verses when no one else was home.  I didn’t understand a thing I read — or sung!

Today, the pages have yellowed with age and gone ragged; the spine is falling apart, but the “dog ears” are still folded over and the margin notes still clear.  Scribbles beside a Lord Byron poem reference the rhythm of 2 Kings 19; others show the ababcc rhyme scheme of Jonson’s  “Hymn to Diana”; and the date, Thursday, March 8, 1922 is significantly noted (the “why” is a mystery).  On the Contents page this cryptic note appears in fountain pen:  This is a wicked old book.  If you don’t believe it, read it.

My dad quoted Robert Herrick –“Gather ye rose-buds while ye may/Old Time is still a-flying:/And this same flower that smiles to-day,/To-morrow will be dying”… and Shakespeare — “Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds”… and Dorothy Parker — “Men seldom make passes/At girls who wear glasses.”  I didn’t initially grasp the wisdom of Herrick and Shakespeare, but growing up as a “four-eyed” kid, I clearly understood and loathed hearing Ms. Parker’s words!

Today, I sit in the cozy warmth of my study looking out at the brand new snow…

Snowy day in DC

I have the luxury of sleeping in on occasion, setting my own hours — unlike my parents who were always up before daylight in the winter.  I walk two miles and pour a carton of yogurt into a bowl for breakfast; my mom and dad had to build two fires — one at the house and one at the grocery store where they worked…and mom cooked bacon and eggs and baked homemade biscuits.  I often get up before the alarm goes off; they got up before the roosters crowed.  My house is filled with the scent of tropical lilies in the vase at the bottom of the stairs; in winter, our house in Kentucky was always filled with the scent of smoke from blue gem coal.

While traveling in the Andes some years back, I kept having a feeling of deja vu that I couldn’t unravel.  Ecuador was foreign and familiar at the same time.  Clearly, the mountains set the stage…but what else?  A peek at my notebook from that trip…

It is still dark when the rooster crows, starting up a chorus of birds that reaches across the valley, through the village, and into the hills.  A thick curtain of moisture drapes the high peaks.  All but the base of Imbabura disappears in this white haze.  But poca a poca the bright equatorial sun melts the curtain, revealing the many shades of green and blue and deep purple of the ancient volcano that towers over this village at its feet.

Imbabura Volcano: Ecuador

In the garden Lily of the Nile is in full bloom with globes of lavender flowers.  Hummingbirds hover around the orange-flower trees.  At breakfast there is green juice from the naranjita fruits, sweet pastries, and eggs.  Stale wood smoke hangs in the air.  Though the days here are always like summer, the nights get cold and the scent of wood fires never goes away.

Lily of the Nile at Hacienda Cusin in Ecuador

On our first morning in Quito, in a sixth-floor hotel room in the middle of that city, we had been awakened by a lone,  though somewhat vocally-endowed, rooster.  Later, rising with the country rooster’s call in the village, was automatic.  I’d stumble first into the bathroom, turn on the faucet, and watch blue flames shoot across the bottom of a hot water contraption that was attached high up on the wall beside the shower, wondering how it could possibly hold enough water for three people.  We learned to take quick showers.  By the time we were off to breakfast, the rooster —  having completed his primary job for the day — was strutting the hacienda grounds looking for bugs.

After that trip to Ecuador, I started collecting roosters.  (I have many collections of many useless items.  I start with enthusiasm and stop when I’ve had enough.)  In a trinket store at a Delaware beach one summer my mom stumbled onto a handsome life-sized bird with real feathers.  Though he’s a regal fellow with a glimmer in his eye and legs begging to strut, his most excellent attribute is that he cannot crow!

Fake rooster with real tail...

Enjoy the snow, the rain, or the shine — whatever is happening at your place.



  1. those photos are timeless,
    cutest post of the day, 😉

    • Thanks!! Stay tuned…

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