A Grace Period

(Click to enlarge)

Had T.S. Eliot lived in coastal Texas, he might have chosen August rather than April to be his cruelest month: bringing, as August does, a wasteland of over-heated concrete, limp vegetation, and silent birds.

Picking lethargically at their food, the birds show little more interest in the world around them than their increasingly silent, sighing human companions. Caught between memories of the delicate, blooming spring and desire for October’s cooling winds, spirits grow dull, insensate: failing to revive even when washed by overheated rain.

Coastal summers have their pleasures, to be sure, but those pleasures evoke a certain ambivalence.  No carefree romp through soft, bending grasses here, or long, pensive walks along cooling shores. More commonly, summer ends as a grimly determined march through heat and humidity, interspersed with episodes of cabin fever associated with too much time in overly air-conditioned buildings. 

Still, there are moments. A bit of dew sparkling on morning grass betokens cooler nights. A ripple of birdsong catches the breeze, then flies away into silence. Shades at the window take on a different tilt, and from seemingly impenetrable walls of green, bits of red and yellow yield to gravity, circling back to earth’s receptive soil.

On such mornings, Summer turns like a waking child: lazy, but willing to consider the day. Her visit nearly ended, she rises to ready herself for leave-taking — a subtle and nearly silent process unmarked by the inattentive.

Some have seen that preparation, and taken time to record its gentle necessities. Emily Dickinson’s recognition of Summer’s departure, and acknowledgement of the graces overflowing the interstices between seasons, invites us to remember that grace as well. As a gardener, she experienced Summer’s leaving. As a poet, she captured it, and held it forever.

The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing, Grace
As Guest that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
                               ~ Emily Dickinson

I photographed the still-unidentified lily (perhaps Zephyranthes pulchella (yellow rain lily), or perhaps Habranthus tubispathus (copper lily), at the Dudley Nature Center in League City on August 27.
As always, comments are welcome.

Auntie T and Anti-T ~ Part II

Cousin Jimmy shares his bicycle with me

I didn’t know my cousin Jimmy’s father, although I knew his name: Red Conrey. He and Aunt T divorced before I was born and, in the way of children, I simply accepted the answer I received when I asked why Jimmy didn’t live with Aunt T and Uncle Harold: “Your aunt was married to Mr. Conrey, but they aren’t married any more. Jimmy lives with his dad.”

Still, the family was close, and there didn’t seem to be any lingering resentments. Each time she arrived from New York, Aunt T made a point of visiting Jimmy at his home in another town, or he came to stay with my grandparents.

Red was working as a house painter when he and Thelma married. Raised in nearby Knoxville, he may have met her there after she graduated from high school and began working at the Marion County Treasurer’s office. When my cousin Jimmy was born, Red was as proud as any father could be. One of the earliest photos of Jimmy, taken in July, 1938, shows him in his father’s arms.

Unfortunately, the photo accompanied a headline that had all of south-central Iowa in an uproar. (more…)

Published in: on August 21, 2016 at 7:09 pm  Comments (89)  
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Auntie T and Anti-T ~ Part I

Julia Child and friends

The familiar voice — an absurd, bird-like trill of enthusiasm — pulled me toward the living room. Irrationally hoping that the doyenne of dough had raised herself from the dead to once again begin unraveling the mysteries of pâte feuilletée or asperges au naturel, I found instead the trailer for Julie and Julia, the charming, if slightly overdone true tale of Julie Powell, a dissatisfied office worker who determined to prepare every recipe in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking within the space of a year.

Watching the clip, I wasn’t inspired to go searching for my pastry cloth, but I did remember how closely Julia Child resembled my beloved Aunt T. My father’s younger sister, she seemed both exotic and mysterious. In the course of her occasional visits, she dropped advice, humor, and an alternative view of the universe into my life like so many bouquets garnis: nudging me to look beyond the bland certainties of a 1950’s childhood. (more…)

Attentiveness

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One flower at a time, please,
however small the face.
Two flowers are one flower
too many, a distraction.
Three flowers in a vase begin
to be a little noisy.
Like cocktail conversation,
everybody talking.
A crowd of flowers is a crowd
of flatterers (forgive me).
One flower at a time.  I want
to hear what it is saying.
                                                      “Bouquet” ~ Robert Francis

(more…)

Published in: on August 6, 2016 at 6:59 am  Comments (101)  
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Panhandle Pandemonium

Grain Elevator in Floydada, Texas
Long, long ago, before the arrival of the VCR — let alone Netflix and TiVo — there was something called the summer re-run. It offered a chance to view episodes of television programs missed during the year or, if the offerings were good enough, to see them again. 
Whether you’ve read this “re-run” or whether you haven’t, I hope you enjoy the story and the song as much as I do, every time I remember it.

Floydada, Texas is cotton country, although it’s also known for good pumpkins, and likes to advertise itself as the Pumpkin Capital of the US.

It’s a flat, expansive piece of Panhandle real estate, a land marked by impossibly distant horizons and days barely distinguishable one from another. Strangers develop a habit of looking around, as if to orient themselves. Even Texans who’ve grown up with the wind, the dust, and the storms say it aloud now and then, as if to remind themselves: “This place will run you nuts, if you let it.” (more…)

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