The Art In Nature’s Insult

In kindergarten, we were overwhelmed. In first grade, we forged alliances. By second grade, we were in the middle of the fray, taunting fourth, fifth and even sixth-graders with impunity. “So’s your old man!” “Your mother wears combat boots!”  “Cheater, cheater, pumpkin-eater!”

As our vocabularies developed we grew bolder and moved on to true insults. “When they were giving out brains, you thought they said canes and said, ‘I don’t need one!'”

Even at that age, the ability to give and fend off a good insult became the measure of our mettle. We enjoyed participating in a tradition reaching back to Shakespeare and beyond, a tradition marvelously and creatively maintained by sharp-tongued repartee artists closer to our time.

“He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends.” (Oscar Wilde)
“If you have nothing nice to say about someone, then come sit by me.” (Dorothy Parker)
“He has all the characteristics of a dog except loyalty.” (Sam Houston)
“His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork.” (Mae West)
“I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.” (Groucho Marx)

When Lady Astor remarked to Winston Churchill,  “If you were my husband, I’d poison your tea,” Churchill famously replied, “And if you were my wife, I’d drink it.” At the top of the insulters’ class, Churchill spared no one, as George Bernard Shaw learned when he telegraphed Churchill to say, “I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play. Bring a friend – if you have one.” Completely unfazed, Churchill sent a message of his own. “Cannot possibly attend first night. Will attend second – if there is one.”

Artful as politicians and celebrities may be with their words, perhaps no group has produced more snide, clever, memorable and flat-nasty insults than the literary sortsMy beloved T.S. Eliot once said, “Henry James has a mind – a sensibility -so fine that no mere idea could ever penetrate it.” Poor Robert Browning had to put up with Gerard Manley Hopkins saying, “[Browning’s] verse is the beads without the string.” Mark Twain always had something to say, of course, and Austenites no doubt still quiver to recall his words. Jane Austen’s books, too, are absent from this library. Just that one omission alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn’t a book in it.

Today, given the scourge called political correctness, our general loss of vocabulary, the promotion of crude and vulgar language by celebrities and the limitations of Twitter, an artful insult is hard to find. Nature, on the other hand, is unconstrained by such concerns. She continues to provide a yearly insult no one seems able to adequately counter – an impertinence called pollen.

In Texas, the spring pollen season begins early – in winter. Come December or January, the tree variously called Mountain Cedar, Ashe Juniper or Post Cedar begins to develop tiny, amber-colored male cones. In particularly “good” years, the pollen-covered cones blanket the trees, drooping the limbs with their weight and making the hills glow an unearthly orange.

When the wind rises, great clouds of pollen are released to drift down a broad swath of Texas, sometimes reaching as far as the Rio Grande. If conditions are right, you can hear the sound of the trees releasing their burden to the wind.

Still new to Texas, I once assumed references to cedars “popping” were hyperbole, nothing more than a folksy figure of speech. Soon enough I learned the “pop” of the cones can be audible, “cedar smoke” is a perfect description of particularly nasty pollen clouds and the ghastly allergy called “cedar fever” is nothing to sneeze at.

In his passionate and humorous Texas Monthly harangue on all things cedar, Joe Patoski writes,

I hate cedar. Especially this time of year, when central Texas cedars—one of the most prolifically pollinating plants in North America—dramatically release copious airborne pollens in explosive puffs of orange-red smoke whenever cold winds blow from the north. Like gnarly little fishhooks, the pollens invade my nostrils and sinuses. Before long I’m sniffling and vacant, sick and tired. I hate cedar fever.

As do we all. Some barricade themselves in their homes. Others buy stock in antihistamine manufacturers. The writer J.Frank Dobie famously left Austin every year when the pollen began to fly. As his biographer, Steven L. Davis, recalls,

Dobie suffered terribly from Cedar Fever, the winter allergy outbreak that afflicts many Austinites. For years he had made himself scarce during pollen’s peak months [and] had long arranged his university schedule so he could teach his “Life and Literature of the Southwest” course in the spring, after the pollen had died down.

Now that it’s April, the cedar pollen is gone. In Texas, we’ve moved into the season of oak, elm, ash and willow, hackberry, pine and pecan. Around the country, in locations as far removed as South Carolina and Oregon, the sneezing and grumpiness have commenced. But if the thin greenish-yellow veil covering patio tables, mailboxes, sidewalks and cars is Nature’s insult, there’s a certain compelling artfulness to her production as well.

Heavier than usual, this season’s gauzy green was remarkable for its pervasiveness and even distribution. In between sneezes, I amused myself by wondering if Wolfgang Laib, an artist who works in natural substances, might have had an easier time of it if he’d done his pollen-gathering in Texas.

From January 23 to March 11 of this year, Mr. Laib’s installation titled Pollen from Hazelnut graced the second floor Atrium of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. His largest pollen installation to date, it measured approximately 18 x 21 feet and no doubt required a good bit of patience to complete.

Why someone would want to do this, I can’t say.  Still, according to Ken Johnson, who provided a just-slightly-tongue-in-cheek review for The New York Times, “the sculptor and conceptualist Wolfgang Laib is the honeybee of the international art world”.

Since the 1970s, his trademark activity has been gathering pollen from trees and plants in the countryside near his home in southern Germany. He puts the pollen in bottles and flies to distant places around the world to create ephemeral installations of yellow dust on museum and gallery floors and inseminate the minds of viewers with thoughts of harmony between human civilization and nature.

While I don’t believe I’d fly off to New York to visit Mr. Laib’s installation, the interesting relationship between the layers of green and yellow pollen blanketing our world and his blanket of yellow pollen on a museum floor can’t be denied.

Other relationships seem equally obvious. The pendulous, pollen-bearing catkins of the White Oak evoke the marvelous chandeliers of Dale Chihuly.

A catkin caught on a thorn of the paloverde tree recalls the angular constructions of sculptor Louise Nevelson.

Even the slightest spring rain can be enough to wash streams of pollen from pavement and grass into the waters of a marina, where their swirls could as easily conjure a topographic map as a pen and ink study for a Van Gogh masterpiece.

In time, when the pollen has flown and the catkins have fallen, when the desiccated husks of nature’s revelry drift away and the world settles into summer, we may call ourselves relieved, eager for an end to the season of our distress, ready to let go of Spring’s art in order to be rid of Spring’s insults.

But we are human, and we are forgetful. When the flowers of summer fade away, when the harvested fields lie fallow and the chaste, silent winter descends, there will be another inquisitive someone who will be the first to turn to a beloved companion – or even a perfect stranger, for all that – and ask that most human of questions.

“How long until Spring?”

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115 thoughts on “The Art In Nature’s Insult

  1. ARRGGH! I have a sinus headache after reading this! Birch pollen, pine pollen, aspen pollen (then comes the sticky sap that RAINS down over everything for weeks)…

    I don’t understand people who do not exchange small talk about the weather and seasons. I can’t fit in someplace where no one considers the sky and all it has to throw at us. It’s a terrible disconnect that feels very, very wrong.

    I have my Benadryl. I’m ready for spring.

    1. Martha,

      See? I knew I could get your mind off the complexities of moving! Honestly – if you have your Benadryl, kitty treats and a wifi connection, you’re good to go.

      i love birch catkins. I have a set of dishes that are decorated with the pretty little things. I looked all over the web and couldn’t find an image – they’re Homer Laughlin, but a rare-ish pattern.

      Speaking of sap, I read the other day that people are rustling maple syrup in Vermont and Maine. Who knew?

      Small talk about the weather is wonderful. It’s neutral, it’s important, it reminds us that we do, after all, live in the world. Pollen or no, pretty soon you’re going to have some spring weather to talk about.


  2. I’m sensitive to many kinds of pollen, and yet I go out for hours at a time to endure nature’s insults. That’s an occupational hazard a nature photographer can’t readily avoid, a taxonomic tax that has to be paid.

    1. Steve,

      Hmmmm… I wonder if we could persuade the IRS to allow you to file a taxonomic tax report rather than a 1040? The terrifying thing is – some might go for it.

      I’ve wondered from time to time if you didn’t carry your decongestants along with your boots. There just isn’t any way to be outdoors without – well, being outdoors, with all that entails.

      It amazes me how differently people respond to pollens, and how much our responses can change over time. I went through a five year period when I’d lose my voice every December for about a week. Now, I don’t have any problem. But when the wind’s from the N or NNW, I always know when a little of your neighborhood is showing up in mine.


      1. I usually take a non-drowsy anti-allergenic pill before I go out into nature. It doesn’t do me a lot of good for allergies but it reduces the itch of chigger bites and other inevitable assaults on my skin.

  3. I especially like the last pairing! What a lovely commentary on the nature of creation. These days, your northern neighbours with allergy issues are enduring snow mold, a white lichen like tendril found on the grass as the snow slowly ebbs away. But we gladly endure it, refusing to shoot the messenger announcing the end of winter.

    1. Allen,

      I love that swirly pairing, too. The day the pollen began collecting in a corner of the marina, I happened to be home. I grabbed my camera and got a nice set of photos before the wind came up and dispersed it.

      I never have heard of snow mold. I just checked a couple of sites to see if it was around in Iowa when I was growing up, and indeed it was. Maybe my dad just took care of it. It seems funny that it comes in pink and gray. That sounds like a 1950’s Poodle skirt!

      I hope you’re done with winter. It sounds like there’s going to be another good snow across the northern plains this week, but I’ve not checked to see where it’s headed. We’ll hope not for you!


  4. How in the world do you come up with this? How do you find these remarkable (and a tad offbeat) artists? And all the others you tell us about? How do you take one thread — in itself unique and delightful — and wrap it round and round till we are somewhere else completely, yet we end back where we began — the artful insult.

    We swear there must be spring soon — it is, after all, April. And now it is late-early April, very nearly mid but not quite. There is nary a bud to be seen on any tree I’ve observed and believe me, I have been looking. A few brave daffs and tulips have shoved themselves into the world, but the color is still to come.

    They taunt us, as clearly as your masters of the put down do.

    The Chihuly and VanGogh parallels — quite splendid. I am in a bit of rapture, I fear.

    1. jeanie,

      Well, whatever it is that I “do”, it seems that the keys are paying attention, curiosity and a whole lot of thought. Sometimes in the middle of writing one of these things I get terrified that it’s not going to make a bit of sense to anyone but me. I suspect Mr. Laib had the same thought at least once, though, and he ended up at MOMA.

      I just checked your weather to see how things are looking for this week. I see that little bit of snow in the forecast, but my goodness! Look at all that wonderful rain. All your pretty blossoms-to-come are going to enjoy that, for sure. At least I haven’t heard any horror stories from the upper UP, where the growers suffered so badly last year.

      I knew you’d enjoy the Chihuly, especially. I think I’m fondest of his monochromatic pieces. Perhaps it’s because it’s easier to trace the details of the glass with them. Can you imagine having his work as part of everyday life? I’d never get anything done, I’d be so busy looking.


      1. Have you ever seen the Chihuly documentaries on PBS? There are several — it boggles my mind, the combination of creativity and the sheer work required to do them!

        I know we should be grateful for the rain after last year’s drought but it feels like we should start stocking the ark. Doesn’t help with the sinuses, either — never ending headache for five days and the nose is none-too-happy either! More rain predicted all week, though yesterday there was a break in the action and we got snow. It’s getting old. But this, too will pass. At least it may get warmer!

        Have a lovely Sunday and give that Dixie Rose a hug for me!

  5. So entertaining Linda. Marvelous wording in just the right cadence. Loved reading about our beloved cedar. Even thought the cedar is a notorious offender to many people ( for me also) the old stands of cedar have great value. That is, the old cedars not the scrubs provide the only suitable habitat for the Golden Cheek Warbler. This bird was and I assume still on the endangered list. Primary habitat has been thus far the hill country. But some nest only about 40 miles or maybe less from where I live. .

    1. Yvonne,

      When I first was introduced to the Hill Country, I met quite a few folks who were of the “bulldoze ’em all down” persuasion when it came to cedars. They offered all the traditional arguments – they use up all the water, and so on. Eventually, I found the other side of the story and discovered the cedar weren’t exactly the bad boys (and girls) I’d been told.

      The article by Joe Patoski I linked above is good because he perfectly describes all the “anti-cedar” arguments, then takes a look at them a little more rationally. I believe he mentions its importance as habitat, too.

      There are marvels in those stands of trees. I saw my first painted bunting in Hill Country cedar. Have you seen the Golden Cheek warbler?


      1. Linda,

        I have not seen the Golden Cjheek Warbler.I probably could have but missed those field trips to the areas where it had/
        has been observed during nesting season.

        It is one of only a few warblers that are summer residents in Texas.

        When I was an active birder I knew more info about many of the Texas birds and also the migrants from the north.

        My work completely held me in its clutches and I even gave up photography for quite a few years. I did not pick up a camera again until after I retired.

        My daughter,told me about the 1.500 acres that Michel Dell purchased that is habitat for the Golden Cheek Warbler.I think he turned that area over to Nature Conservancy or it might be Audubon or maybe he is the still the owner. The entry is on Bee Caves road. My daughter lives maybe five miles or less as the crow flies from the preserve. A tour of the area was done as a private tour a few years back and my best friend went with a group. They did not see the Golden Cheek.I understand that it is an elusive bird.

        1. Now that you mention it, I think I remember hearing about Dell’s contribution of land. I just listened to the bird’s song, and now I think some of the birds I’ve been hearing are warblers. There are more species than I realized, and some of them sound so much like a red-winged blackbird or meadowlark I’m sure I’ve confused them.

  6. Aw, you left out ‘Liar, Liar, pants on fire!” (Surely, you’ve seen the Progressive Insurance commercial. . . )

    Apparently, Churchill and Lady Astor had more than one such verbal exchange. She is reputed to have told him, “You’re drunk, Mr. Churchill,” to which he is said to have replied, “And you’re ugly. But in the morning, I’ll be sober.”

    I lament that our modern vocabulary of insult has shrunk to a handful of short, Anglo-Saxon derived farmyard words. Expressing one’s displeasure by hooting and flinging scat makes us different from monkeys only in that we do it figuratively instead of literally. English has perhaps the largest active vocabulary of any language on the planet. It is the language of Shakespeare, Austen, Darwin and Frost, and I find it embarrassing to be outclassed in slapping the verbal towel by those other cultures who can manage twice the sting with only half our vocabulary. Deplorable.

    About the pollen, preaching to the choir here. In addition to the usual suspects, we in the Panhandle have cotton stripping season beginning in late August onward with ginning ongoing til around Christmas, during which time the air is liberally laced with particles of dust and crushed cotton leaves coated with defoliant, bits of “gin trash” (stems and hulls), and tiny cotton fibers. See here:

    The haze on the horizon is dust. Yes. The land is that flat everywhere you look, for miles and miles (so everybody else’s pollen blows through too!) You’ll hear the ever present wind. The air is rarely still up here, and nothing to stop it.

    1. WOL,

      Actually, I just found I’m part of a new demographic called “zero TV homes”. Nielsen says there were two million such in 2007. Today, there are five million. All kinds of reasons, of course, but the bottom line is that I haven’t seen the Progressive commercial. I enjoyed being reminded of the taunt, though.

      I do love that additional story about Churchill and Lady Astor. I just saw that Margaret Thatcher has died. She was another one who could come up with a memorable line – verbal towel slapping, as you so nicely put it. As for the farmyard language – let’s not insult farmyards. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t used expletives a time or six in their day, myself included, but some of the language found today in internet forums, comment sections, television talk shows and such is just vile.

      The issues associated with cotton stripping remind me of the midwestern parallel – detasseling. That didn’t go on nearly so long, though, and the effect wasn’t as widespread. You’ve had other problems with dust this year. I saw some of the videos out of Amarillo a few weeks ago – not fun at all.

      Speaking of wind, dust and space, did I ever send you the marvelous tumbleweed video? In the process of writing this, I learned the tumbleweed is also called Russian thistle, and plenty of folks are allergic to it. The video was done by a storm chaser I follow – it’s one of the neatest ways ever to give a sense of your winds.


      1. Tumbleweeds had such a great reproductive strategy for their location and climate. Land is flat and windy. The bush sets seed all over it. The stem dries out to the point that it snaps off easily in the wind. The bush is roughly spherical so it rolls nicely, and seed comes off as it is rolled across the landscape by the wind.

        Tumbleweeds reminded me of the Louis L’amour novel “Connagher.” Sam Elliot produced and starred in a wonderful film version of it with L’amour consulting. Katherine Ross (Mrs. Sam Elliot) played the female lead, Mrs. Evie Teale. (It’s clearer in the book that she’s actually the children’s stepmother.) At one point, the isolation begins to affect Evie, and she begins to write her thoughts and feelings on small bits of paper, roll them up and tie them to tumbleweeds with thread. All the cowboys in the area are going nuts trying to find out where the notes are coming from.

        The book is great: but the film is even better. If you haven’t seen it, and have a friend with a DVD player, it’s a good “chick flick” film. Very well done film, and very period accurate sets and costumes. Also very thought provoking. The first couple of scenes are unbelievably gripping. Such courage people had in those days.

        1. I missed “Conagher”, but I grew up singing “Tumbling Tumbleweeds” along with the Sons of the Pioneers. Too bad the folks on the Santa Fe trail didn’t have the song – it might have made the miles more enjoyable – or endurable. You’re right about the courage those folks had. We tend to call the spectacular courageous today, but the long, daily slog can require much more.

          1. Roy Rogers was my first love. I was 6. They ran all the old Republic westerns on Saturday mornings. My brother and I would get up at the crack of dawn to watch them. I drove my mother nuts with my yellow plastic 78 of Roy and Dale singing “Happy Trails.” To this day, I love music where people sing together in harmony. Thanks for a blast from the past.

  7. A marvelous post, Linda! I enjoyed your collection of artful insults :-) Though we don’t get a lot of pollen here, the dusty film of the stuff as you’ve illustrated in that photo of the car reminded me of the “rain” of ashes we get when there’s been a fire in the hills. A few years ago, we had one a few miles from where I lived. The ash piled up in every crevice just like that gauzy green, only it was flaky gray.

    Anyway, I have a friend in Louisiana who’s planning to plant some cedars on her property. I wonder if it’s the same kind with the horrible spring habit….

    1. nikkipolani,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it! Do you suppose the cats have their own way of trading insults that we’re not privy to?

      I remember how terrible the fires were in 2007 and 2008 – not to mention all the others that have sprung up. I’m so glad you had to deal only with the ashes, and not embers.

      It amazes me how far ashes can travel. When there are agricultural fires in Mexico or when they’re burning the cane fields in Louisiana, we can suffer the effects. Controlled burns on the prairies can send residue our way, too. Since both ashes and pollen don’t mix well with varnish, I may be a little more sensitive to their presence than others. ;-)

      I remember you blogging about your visit to a friend in Louisiana – perhaps she’s the one planting the trees. There are several cedars that do well in Louisiana, including varieties of red and white cedar. I don’t think our Mountain cedar would do well there at all – it likes the limestone of the hill country.


      1. Oh, that’s good to hear.

        I was thinking of your post again yesterday when I came back to the office from an errand at lunch. Great gusts of wind had tossed all the dust into the air making me think of those pollen clouds in your photo. Soon, little acorn-like shells pelted the windshield as they were shaken free from the nearby trees. What a mess. I can’t imagine weeks of pollen-clogged air!

  8. You have some fabulous insults here, Linda. l just couldn’t stop laughing! Pollen allergy is no laughing matter, though. and wherever I’ve lived, there’s been an irritant: Wattle in Australia, something I never learned the name of in Japan, and Plátano Oriental (Wikipedia says this is Platanus orientalis) here in Chile. Without 24 hour non-drowsy antihistamines I’d be in big trouble half the year.

    1. Andrew,

      What’s most amazing to me is the “back and forth” nature of so many famous exchanges. It takes a tough skin and a quick wit to be able to come right back with a response instead of running for the exit!

      I didn’t have a clue what wattle might be, so I looked it up. What an amazement! Your Golden Wattle is “Acacia pycnantha” , and of course you know it’s Australia’s floral emblem.

      What surprised me is that it’s in the same family as our beloved Texas Huisache, “Acacia farnesiana” . It doesn’t take much of a look to see that these two are related!

      Aren’t modern pharmaceuticals wonderful? Those of us who have to be out and about during “The Season” need all the help we can get!


  9. Wonderful post! The artful insult is a lost art. One can imagine how much more entertaining social media would be if people had the skill of those writers and statesmen. Now it’s all just crudeness and potty humor.

    As far as pollen, by the time I left Texas, 20 years later, I had finally conquered my allergies there. After five years living in Idaho, I’ve rediscovered allergies and so am back to taking medicine full time. When you can see the pollen carpets all over town, then you know you’re in trouble.

    1. Snoring Dog Studio,

      I may be drifting dangerously close to old-geezer-hood, but it seems to me that humor generally was funnier “back in the day”. I loved Johnny Carson, and was as faithful a viewer as I could be. Intelligence and unpredictability were the hallmarks of his show, at least as I remember it. The last decade has been increasingly devoted to personal attacks and limit-pushing, and somewhere along the way I tuned out.

      It does occur to me I completely missed mentioning the juncture of humor and insult known as “Ruthless Rhymes”. A sub-genre was the “Little Willie Poems”. I first found them in a humor anthology my parents had, back in the 1950s. They’re so much fun. Here’s a “ruthless rhyme”.

      “While making toast at the fireside
      Nurse fell in the grate and died.
      But what made it ten times worse,
      all the toast was burnt with Nurse.”

      And here’s a “Little Willie”.

      “Willie, I regret to state,
      Cut his sister up for bait.
      We miss her when it’s time to dine,
      But Willie’s fish taste simply fine.”

      Can’t add a thing to that!


      1. I’m of the same generation who grew up with Johnny Carson, so believe me, I know that humor has deteriorated tremendously. It stuns me that shows like, Two and a Half Men are such big hits, given that the humor is so sophomoric and inane. If Dorothy Parker were alive, she’d be one of my best friends.

        1. Lookie what I just posted down below at Omar’s comment, from Dorothy Parker:

          “There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

  10. I love this post! Everything about it from start to finish is beautiful! I am waiting for spring to start it is -14C this morning. The person who coined the phrase “When hell freezes over…” Clearly, has never lived in Edmonton, AB.

    As for the insults in this day and age everyone seems to be offended by something or someone. It really is a no win situation. In the past year I have read posts on “What Not to Say to New Mother” or “Things Not to Say to The Childfree” the list could go on…It almost seems like a common courtesy not to have any discussion and avoid commenting when they complain about anything because you will just say the wrong thing. I think we are all becoming too sensitive.

    I also love Churchill’s retorts! I really do not believe many politicians could get away with it in this day and age.

    1. belleofthecarnival,

      I know a person or two who seem to be continually offended, and they certainly can shut down a conversation. Being offended by racism or environmental degradation is one thing. Being offended because the barrista didn’t remember you like a caramel swirl with your latte is another.

      As for those lists – I’ve seen them too. They make me laugh. One thing blogging has brought us is an exponential increase in the number of self-appointed experts. I’ve dipped into some of the so-called “mommie blogs” from time to time. The level of anxiety and the willingness to take advice from anonymous someones is remarkable.

      Writers seem to like those lists, too. There were “experts” all over the place when I started blogging, saying things like, “You MUST post every day!!!” and “More than 500 words? You’ll never get a reader!!!” There are other lists of rules, of course. Every now and then I’d like to have a list. When I get the urge, I read this one. ;-)


      1. Linda,

        I have to agree! I find it hilarious when people are offended over coffee or the little things in life. As for many Mommy Bloggers I do enjoy some but not all. I write about my kids sometimes but it has not been for a very long time. I really believe their privacy should be respected and I don’t think everything should be shared…I do keep a journal of stories about them but it is only for the future when we can look back and laugh about the memories.

        I really believe those top ten lists are great for starting out. But not anything to follow through with all of the time. I hate when people ask me what my niche is? I sum it up to being a life blogger for me life is everything a-z. I don’t want to limit myself to just one topic.

        In my view some of the best blogs are the ones that break the rules. They dare to be creative, share their thought, and that makes for much better reading.

        I think this is my favorite on the list “No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge”

        Best Wishes,


        1. I’ve always said – in fact I think I said so on your blog – that I want always to be personal, but not confessional. And I think you’re right to limit the kids’ exposure on the blogs. I always was cautious when my mother was alive – and even after her death – to post only what I was willing to share with her.

          “Life blogger” is a great way to put it, and A-Z does just fine. After all, we never know what life’s going to throw our way.

  11. Excellent! We are just now sort of winding down with out yellow pine tree pollen. It’s gotten so bad some seasons the breakers hitting the beach have yellow rather than white foam.

  12. Aaagh! How well I remember Texas pollen! As a child growing up in Illinois, I didn’t know what sinuses were. Never had an allergy. Never had a sinus infection.

    Transport me to Texas, and I lived with those woes for years! It wasn’t pretty, I tell you.

    Staying inside helps. So does air conditioning. So, too, does moving, but I miss living in Texas! And my allergies seem to have moved with me. Sigh.

      1. You know, I remember hearing just that (but for some unknown reason, I thought it sounded improbable). Thanks for the tip — I’ll have to give it a try. I hate walking into a room, sneezing and snorting, and have people avoid me, thinking I’ve got something contagious, ha!

    1. Debbie,

      Clearly, you weren’t allergic to corn pollen or ragweed. Lucky you! Next door in Iowa, I reacted terribly to both and went through the series of shots. I’d say I took them for at least two or three years, but they did help. And you’re right about the air conditioning. We didn’t have AC, but my folks bought a window unit for one room. When I couldn’t breathe, I’d take a book and go sit in front of the air conditioner.

      Newmexicomtngirl is right about the honey. It does have to be local honey, but I have several friends who seem to have reduced or eliminated their symptoms with it. If you look around you ought to be able to find some. I get mine at the farmers’ market, but there’s even one grocery store who stocks a little from a local beekeeper.

      Just to get you started, here’s a list from your Beekeepers’ Association.


  13. Bees are the answer. One more incredible fact that people overlook is that bees create a wonderful elixir that will help if not aliveate those woes of sneezing. It’s called honey. Wonderful sweet and bountiful honey. Buy the purest, raw honey collected close to your home area as you can get and eat it every single day. Sometimes more than one spoonful will be needed. I swear by it.

    I didn’t have allergies growing up in Missouri, but within 7 years of living in Durango, Co, myself and my then 7 year old son came down with hay-fever. The doctor said that usually within 7 to 8 years our bodies will take no more, hence the sneezing sniffling runny eye stuff we all hate so much. So I suffered every year since, until last spring when I was adding pure raw, unfiltered honey in my coffee every single morning. (Raw honey, not processed. bought from right up the road a few miles.) I didn’t have one sniffle or sneeze from pollen. This year I can’t have coffee anymore and started feeling that pollen yucky stuff and started again with spoonfuls of honey everyday.
    Try it. It’s healthy and is so much better than all those awful drugs that really don’t do anything anyway.
    peace n abundance,

    1. CheyAnne,

      There have been some studies done that claim to disprove the honey-helps-allergies theory. Most of them point out, as this one does, that since pollen is airborne, honey from plants not producing the pollen wouldn’t help anything.

      I understand that, but I also know that honey has helped several of my friends. Maybe it does act as a placebo, but if it does the trick – who cares? Best of all, even if it doesn’t do any good, it certainly won’t do harm.

      It is amazing how changes in our environment affect us, and how allergies come and go over time. Variations in the pollen levels are interesting, too. I haven’t a clue why certain trees pollinate early and others quite late into spring, but it does spread out the enjoyment for us humans!

      Thanks for reminding me about the honey. I hope it keeps doing the trick for you.


    2. I was talking with a friend today whose father was a country doctor long, long ago. She said that even in those days he often “prescribed” honey to his patients who were having allergy problems. And of course it was a standard for treating coughs and such. There’s so much available to us – if only we would make use of it!

        1. Don’t wait! One of my friends told me that she’s gone medication free after a year of local honey. She says just a spoonful a day, every day, has done the trick. Apparently the point is to think of the honey not as an aspirin for a headache, but as a way to build immunity over time.

          Here’s a local link for you – the “raw” in raw local honey apparently is as important as the “local”. Charleston Bees and Honey

          1. COOL! Charleston Hardware is within walking distance of the house. I’ll have to stop by and get some. In fact, I think I remember seeing some jars of honey with the comb last week, when I was in there. Thx!

  14. Hello Linda:

    Great blog post in more ways than one. The pictures are all lovely and right on the money. Dorothy “Dottie” Parker was known to have a witty mind and showed it off when she met with her peers at the Algonquin Round Table, a circle of friends whose barbed wit, like hers, was fueled by alcohol and flirted with despair.

    I suffer from chronic Rhinitis, so I’m tortured by Mother Nature all year round. Whenever there’s dust, old books, strong odors, pollen and so forth and so on, my nose starts to feel the pain.

    I know exactly when you mean when you say that Mother Nature plays tricks on us. Other prefer to call it revenge. Regardless of the semantics it’s a horrible feeling. I need special medication all the time to keep my nose under control.

    Best Regards,


    1. Omar,

      It’s a good thing I’m not particularly affected by dust, since I don’t spend quite as much time with a dust cloth as I should. On the other hand, while I delight in the smell of old books, bringing a boxful home from a sale can be an iffy proposition. I’ve always assumed it was pollen, dust and so on caught in the boxes, but perhaps it is the books themselves. It must be quite trying for you to have to deal with such things year ’round.

      My mother loved Dorothy Parker – or so I assume. I didn’t realize it until I went over to Goodreads and looked at their list of Parker quotations. One of my mother’s most common lines was there: “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.”

      And look at this little treasure I found:

      “There’s a hell of a distance between wise-cracking and wit. Wit has truth in it; wise-cracking is simply calisthenics with words.”

      Yes, indeed.


    1. Rosemary,

      That doesn’t surprise me at all. That’s exactly what you do so well – except you create the art from nature instead of just finding nature and art and plunking them up on the interwebs. (Well. Except for that photo of pollen on the water. I still can’t quite get over that set of photos.)

      I couldn’t help thinking about you when I put up the Van Gogh. See all those moon shells swirling in the sky?


  15. What a skillful juxtaposition of subjects! The “sit by me” comment actually comes from Alice Roosevelt, but Dorothy Parker surely coined many of her own. One exchange from the Algonquin crowd: Alexander Woolcott: “Ah, what is so rare as a Woolcott first edition?” Franklin Pierce Adams: “A Woolcott second edition!” And Groucho Marx insulted an entire nation when he attended a film festival in Mexico and was told that he and others would meet the president on the following morning. “What assurance do we have,” Groucho asked, “that he’ll still be president by tomorrow morning?”

    1. Charles,

      One of the greatest challenges I’ve experienced since beginning this blog is sourcing quotations. It’s always good when someone with better information comes along to help out! Two sources may do for the length of the Mississippi or the sponsors of a bill in Congress, but it seems that three or four are minimum for quotations.

      I’ve always been amused by a page “out there somewhere” that lists all the things Mark Twain was supposed to have said. As the author notes, since Twain was so clever and witty, people seem to naturally ascribe to him quotations they can’t otherwise place.

      Groucho Marx’s question is wonderful – humor rooted in even the slightest truth always is a little sharper. I’ve never read much about him. It might be more interesting than I’ve imagined.

      You’d be one to ask – do you have any recommendations for a good book or two about the Algonquin and the folks who gathered there?


      1. I’d recommend “Wit’s End” by James R. Gaines. Another good treatment of the Algonquin group is in “Harpo Speaks,” which Harpo Marx wrote with Rowland Barber. Harpo was more closely identified with the Round Table than Groucho was. The Marx Brothers comprise an interesting fragment of our history — five brothers from ah impoverished family who, because of their mother’s determination, succeeded in show business and — with respect to four of them — became international celebrities.

    1. Emily,

      I hope you have enough spring by now to be at least thinking pollen – although it seems the upper midwest is going to have another snow. The tail end of the system will graze us, and we’re hoping for rain.

      I had the most interesting thought the other day. In certain ways, a short story might be easier to write than one of these essays. In such a small space (twelve hundred words here) it can be a real chore to weave everything together. Now that I’ve learned how to do it on a small scale (however well or poorly), moving to a larger form might not be as difficult as I’ve imagined.

      I was fond of the ending myself. I love tying up loose ends!


  16. Not the point of this poignant piece, but while reading the introduction, I was wondering if you would drop down to the “Up your nose with a rubber hose”, which seemed the beginning of the downward spiral of literary intelligence and vocabulary. I think the character was Vinnie Barbarino, and name of that TV sitcom was “Welcome back, Kotter”.

    I, for one, welcome spring but only wish it would last longer. We seem to hop straight from spring to summer down the bayou.

    1. Bayou Woman,

      I’ve heard the expression and I’ve heard the theme song, but couldn’t remember ever seeing the show. I found the explanation. The show aired from September, 1975 to June, 1979. Half of that time I was in Liberia, and the other half I didn’t have a television. That explains that!

      Spring has come pretty gently over here, and if we can get her to linger into May, that would be wonderful. We’re finally getting some days without wind – though our next system is going to be another true front, with all that entails. I don’t know how it’s been for you, but every fisherman I know is flat grumpy about the wind. They’re eager for spring, too.


  17. Churchill may have made the “tomorrow morning” remark in 1946 to Bessie Braddock, not Lady Astor, but this is from the diary of British writer Augustus John Cuthbert Hare, dated July 16, 1882:

    The great A.B. was tremendously jostled the other day in going down to the House. A.B. didn’t like it. “Do you know who I am?” he said; “I am a Member of Parliament and I am Mr. A.B.” – “I don’t know about that,” said one of the roughs, “but I know that you’re a damned fool.” – “You’re drunk,” said A.B.; “you don’t know what you’re saying.” – “Well, perhaps I am rather drunk to-night,” said the man, “but I shall be sober to-morrow morning; but you’re a damned fool tonight, and you’ll be a damned fool to-morrow morning.

    A version of this insult was famously used in the 1934 W.C. Fields film “It’s a Gift,” usually ranked as among the greatest American comedies.

    Apparently some snubs are just too good to die!

    1. Charles,

      I still remember the first time I heard a version of this insult. It had worked its way into the junior high culture, and this is how I remember the exchange.

      Roy, to a high-and-mighty cheerleader: “You think you’re so great? You’re ugly!”

      Cheerleader: “Well, you’re stupid!”

      Roy: “I can get smart, but you’re always going to be ugly!”

      As you say, some snubs are too good to die. Who knows? Maybe this is the Ur-snub!

      Thanks for the recommends on the books. I just tossed a copy of “Wit’s End” into my Amazon cart and I’m looking forward to the read.


  18. As you likely know recent studies tell us that pollen counts and allergies have risen severely with climate change and will get much worse. There is nothing to look forward to in that regard but certainly something we should all be prepared for.

    Your Winston Churchill reply is my all time favorite come back. I don’t know if he really said it but I find it very funny. Laugh out loud funny!

    1. WildBill,

      Well, at the very least perhaps we can hope that bee-preferred pollens will increase, too, and help support those little creatures in their struggle for survival.

      I confess I’m a little sensitive about the whole subject of climate change just now. I don’t have the scientific background to analyze all the claims being made, but it’s clear to me that some are so much hyperbolic hogwash. Beyond that, I’m tired of being beaten over the head by “climate change believers” who ridicule and impugn the motives of those they dub “the denialists”. The absolute deliciousnes of the irony is inescapable – many of the same folks who deride religious fundamentalists are exhibiting precisely the same behaviors.

      I found this tidbit of advice about how to deal with “denialists” the other day.

      “And really, how does one make any activity socially unacceptable?

      The action must become associated with ridicule, shame, and confrontation. Deniers should be shamed, ridiculed, and confronted using the most aggressive methods available to us.

      The insane, the psychopaths, the a$$holes, and the paid liars need to be called out and shamed into silence.”

      Now, there’s an approach that makes me want to listen! :-)

      That said, there’s no question changes are afoot, both big and little. I’ve been working outdoors for 23 years, and over the past five years it’s become obvious the seasons are shifting and behavior patterns have changed. The dreaded “love bug” used to be a semi-annual scourge. I haven’t seen them in three years. The jellyfish called “cabbageheads” used to migrate through. Last year I saw only one or two. Drought has changed the migration paths of some birds, and reduced the food supply of others. Temperature variations are wreaking havoc with plant behavior. I don’t need to detail it for you.

      It all needs to be taken far more seriously, but there needs to be a little more rationality and respect in the process. And now that I think of it, if we had a few Winston Churchills, Dorothy Parkers and Groucho Marxes participating in the climate discussions, people might not tune out quite so quickly!


      1. I respect your caution of climate change. It is more than just cause and effect. The science behind it is rigorous. The issue here is that rather than educating people many are accusing others of being ignorant. This strategy never works. I am a scientist and yet I am clearly a very spiritual person. When other scientists ask my how I can justify this I always have one stock answer in the form of a question. This is “Do you understand how much science does not know?” Usually this question is met with silence.

        Keep a sharp eye out. Make your own observations. Our planet is changing quickly. It is scary for some. But to understand that it is changing is not the end of the problem. Certainly we must all act to conserve. This is our one and only planet.

        1. My view is one of caution, rather than flat rejection. And, you’re exactly right that effective education isn’t taking place. I suppose the reasons for that are as complex as the forces affecting our world.

          Maybe we need to find the people who created one of the most well-accepted and effective behavior modification campaigns I’ve ever seen – the “Don’t Mess With Texas” anti-litter campaign. By the time they got done, the Houston Texans, the Dallas Cowboys, Los Lonely Boys, a whole pile of musicians and other sports figures had done spots. George Strait did the spot for the 25th year anniversary of the campaign. And that’s the point – it wasn’t a six month blitz. They were in it for the long haul, with an emphasis on Texas pride touted by some of the best in Texas. And it worked.

          After all, who’s not going to love Willie singing about not littering? Even when the musician wasn’t so well known, the music was great.


  19. I had to succumb to taking Claritin twice a day for a few days, not a week, about a month ago. I was grateful to any office that had kleenex and I kept cough lozenges in my car console. My car was parked in the garage, but my husband’s truck in the driveway was yellow. (Really, we need to clean out the other half of the garage.) Your literary insults were humorous. The tie between those and Nature was so natural. Pollen in TX, a dreaded time of year.

    1. Georgette,

      It’s really quite amazing how quickly the effects can come and go. Wind direction plays such a role. When it blows from the north, everything from cedar to ragweed comes to pay us a visit. When it blows from the south, I rejoice and run out to lay varnish in the “clean” wind from the water.

      A neighbor who’s in real estate has been grumping pretty regularly. She needs to keep her car looking good, and for a while she was having to wash it every day. I’m not quite so regular, but it seems to be easing off now. If we get a really good rain this week, that should about put an end to it, as the pecans here are leafing out at last.


    1. reneejohnsonwrites,

      Truth to tell, much of our public discourse falls into one of two categories: (1) “So’s your old man!” or (2) “&%^# the $#^$ $&$ – ok?” We seem to have moved from witty to half-witted!

      So nice of you to stop by. Thanks for the comment – you’re always welcome!


  20. Now you have me thinking of the worst/best “left handed compliments”, such as: “You don’t sweat much for a fat girl.”

    If someone actually gets it together to insult me – I don’t get out much so it is a rare occurrence – can’t remember the last one unless it was a surprised: “You are still alive?” at a thirty or more year reunion of my “high school” class about 13 years ago.
    I pay attention.

    1. Ken,

      I’d forgotten the one about the fat girl. That was part of my childhood, too. Another one was, “You’re a good kid. But who likes goats?”

      And now I’m thinking about one of the best sports cheers ever. You can hear it at Rice University football games for sure, and probably at basketballs games. Back in the day, before Rice had some competitive teams, they liked to remind visiting teams: “That’s all right! That’s ok! You’re gonna work for us some day!”

      I’m not sure how to categorize “You’re still alive?” Here’s a retort, though. “I think so. Get me a mirror.” ;-)


  21. I enjoyed the selection of insults that you included and felt like weeping because of the truth that we are losing such delicacies along with our vocabulary and language.

    I can somewhat relate to the pollen issue although I have no allergies to it at all, other then when I wore contact lenses I found that fir pollen could take you down off your horse faster than anything else could. It hasn’t started here yet, but pine and fir pollen from out forests will coat the ground and leave a yellow scum on all standing water for weeks. I feel badly for those affected.

    1. montucky,

      Well, we’re just going to have to do our part to preserve the language, along with our other natural resources. It wasn’t so very long ago I was thinking about posting Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”. I decided not to for reasons other than language, but when I got to this verse, I stopped:

      “My little horse must think it queer
      To stop without a farmhouse near
      Between the woods and frozen lake
      The darkest evening of the year.”

      Obviously, there’s not a single thing wrong with the word “queer” in this context, and yet it’s been so loaded down with other meaning it made me pause. When I was writing about the circus and its elephants, I used the word “midget”. Then, I took it out. Then, I put it back in, because it was the right word in context. I’m glad I did.

      Lucky you, to be free of allergies! I wear hard contacts myself, and know a little about what heavy pollen days can do. That’s all right – if it weren’t for pollen, we’d be missing a lot of wonderful things in our world!


  22. Wonderful post! I do find it endlessly amazing how you set us as readers off on a path that looks to be going one direction, then get us going in another that at first might seem unrelated, yet all of it links up!

    I love your pairings of images–art in nature, nature in art, what could be better? As for insults, one of my prized possessions is a mug covered in Shakespearean insults. Really, is it possible to do better than this sort of thing: “Thou villainous fat-kidneyed barnacle!” Puts me in mind again of our earlier discussion about knowing the basics. I spent some time thinking about what might be immutable members of the list. Two I’m sure of are Bach and Shakespeare . . . but then I thought, how very “western” of me!

    1. Susan,

      How about this? “Thou spongy, ill-nurtured moldwarp!” Or, if that doesn’t quite do, there’s always, “Thou art the rudeliest welcome to this world!” (Pericles) For your amusement and edification, I offer the Shakespearean Insulter . Click the button, gain a new insult! (And how funny is it that the URL contains the word “Pangloss”?)

      Honestly, I don’t know that I have years enough left to explore all the paths that interest me – but we’ll keep trucking along.

      As for that “western” business… You set me thinking about one of my favorite classes in 9th grade – Western Civilization. Out-of-favor hardly begins to describe its plight now, and I think it’s shameful. As Eliot puts it, “home is where we start from…” and for many of us, the West is home. Do we stay there? No, of course not. But to throw over our heritage or, worse yet, to deny its value is just so sad.

      As for “context”, I found a perfect example the other day. I read an article titled, “Let Us Now Praise Knowing Stuff”, and the title was amusing and delightful precisely because I knew James Agee and his work. It’s been years since I read him, and yet he’s still there, part of the great gift I was given by my teachers. I fear fewer gifts are being offered these days.

      I know this – if I had school-age children, I’d be turning myself into a home-schooling mom. ;)


      1. Thou ruttish fat-kidneyed skainsmate! I’ve been found out on my consultation with the insulter!! Now as for Eliot, while a westerner in one sense, that only went so far. Don’t know as I’ve read do any fond memories by him of his home town of St. Louis, have you? As for schools, be encouraged that there are oases. My mate runs one of them.

        1. Well, Eliot heading off to England and Anglo-Catholicism seems “western” enough. I don’t know about any fond memories of St. Louis, but memories he surely had. More than the Thames flowed through his poetry – as in “The Dry Salvages”.

          “I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river
          Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable,
          Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier;
          Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce;
          Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges…”

          It’s not “Old Man River”, but it’s certainly recognizable as our river.

          Interesting read about the school. I had lots of questions as I read, but I couldn’t help thinking – what’s not to like about a school that honors gorillas and elephants?

  23. Ah, I adore your interweavings!

    Nature is just marvelous, even if it can cause some *issues* to our occasionally weak human forms. :) But without the pollen, where would our beautiful flowers be? So I’m not gonna complain. I have to take Allegra every day anyways for another condition – so bring on the blooms! What’s a brief sniffle and a weepy eye?

    LOVE that Dorothy Parker quote. How I would have loved to have sat at that table, just for a dinner.

    1. FeyGirl,

      Who knows? Maybe along with all its practical value, Nature rejoices in her pollen as a way to get back at us for all our insults toward her! My grandmother used to tell me, “You have to take the bad with the good”. When it comes to nature that surely is true – roses have thorns, the prettiest ice breaks trees, the same rain that nurtures the earth floods homes, and so on. It’s just the way it is.

      Wouldn’t it have been marvelous to have listened in on some of those conversations? One of my favorite Parker quotations happens to be at the top of the Goodreads list and probably would come close to being at the top of yours: ““The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”


  24. One of my plans when I moved back up to NJ was to take my daughter to MOMA, but I’ve had to postpone that due to financial constraints. My neti pot can only do so much, so I guess I also need to know when pollen season will be over at the museum.

    1. Claudia.

      I kept looking at that pollen installation wondering about air conditioning, impulsive people blowing on it, and so on. From what I could tell from the photos I saw of him installing it, there’s no adhesive – he just sifts it directly onto the floor. Who knows? Maybe he does it that way so he can recycle the pollen. Sweep it up, put it in a baggie and head off for the next museum…

      What fun it will be for you and your daughter when you get to MOMA. I let my membership at the Houston museum lapse for the time being. Once some other things get taken care of, I’ll rejoin. Keeping all the balls in the air isn’t always easy.


  25. Hi Linda

    What a brilliant post. That pollen is Texas snow ;) A pleasing visual coating but obviously that’s where its charms ends…

    Love the quotes, laughing and language, what’s not to like?
    I found a couple:

    ‘He must have had a magnificent build before his stomach went in for a career of its own.’ Margaret Halsey

    ‘He was either a man of about a hundred and fifty who was rather young for his years, or a man of about a hundred and ten who had been aged by trouble.’ P. G. Wodehouse

    And a favourite of mine, though it’s not an insult:

    ‘We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars’.
    Oscar Wilde

    The pollen work at MoMA is very intriguing and I like the associations you’ve drawn between natural phenomena and the artists’ work. Really thoughtful.

    I’ve been lucky with pollen. Being a gardener this was really a bonus. The only time that it got to me was when some tree surgeons were pruning some London planes and I had to run away coughing…so I know what it’s like!

    1. thinkingcowgirl,

      You’ve evoked a memory and made me laugh with your reference to pollen being Texas’ snow. Long ago, I was flying back to Houston from Salt Lake City, Utah. SLC is the airport for some terrific skiing destinations: Snowbird, Alta, Brighton, Sundance. In one of the kiosks, I picked up a postcard with a cartoonish skier buried in snow wearing a cowboy hat. Under him were the words, “If God had meant for Texans to ski, he would have made bull*$&% snow!”

      Your quotations are marvelous. I particularly like the Wilde, but the Wodehouse is great.

      When I first saw the MOMA piece, the first thing that crossed my mind was the work of Mark Rothko . It has the same luminosity, the same saturated color. It’s horizontal rather than vertical, of course, but who quibbles about a thing like that?

      I didn’t know what plane trees were. They’re lovely! And it’s lovely that you don’t have to contend with the dratted pollen!


  26. Linda,
    I visited last night but couldn’t finish. I just reread everything.

    I sneezed three time while reading this. I never heard of “cedar fever” and I had no idea you could hear the trees releasing the pollen. At least they give you fair warning. I usually pull the hose out and wash the pollen off my deck and porch a couple of times during the season. It’s always a little horrifying to realize we’re breathing all that.

    Wolfgang Laib must not be allergic. Can you imagine working with pollen? That’s what I call suffering for your art.

    Love that Oscar Wilde quote and I enjoy how you bring Texas to my doorstep. I can see how much you love it even when you tell us about nasty, old pollen. Our season has just begun.

    1. Bella Rum,

      All of the literature says that cedar fever isn’t really a “fever”, but I can tell you it’s just as miserable. Whenever I was affected, I felt as though I had a fever, no matter what the experts say.

      It’s completely amazing to be in the Hill Country on a day when the trees decide to do their thing. It can look exactly like smoke hanging over the hills. Up close – up really, really close – those pollen grains are awful. You can see one here, and you’ll probably appreciate the connection she draws between the pollen grain and the medieval weapon known as a flail. ;-)

      I will say this. A good dosing of pollen makes a coat of varnish sparkle. In fact, that’s the word varnishers around here use for pollen – “sparklies”. Aren’t we a herd of little Pollyannas?


  27. Thank you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading both your blog and the comments and here I am still smiling … How nice! I apologize for my delay. One thing I’ve learned is to never come to your posts when I’m tired or don’t have enough time to “really” read them.

    I love the Winston Churchill/Lady Astor insults and I’d love to try out the Groucho Marx
    “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn’t it.”
    next time I go out for dinner but I think Mr F would be so horrified he’d divorce me on the spot. :D

    My god that green slime on your car is quite disgusting!
    I wonder why I don’t recognize any of the names for the cedar -Mountain Cedar, Ashe Juniper or Post Cedar – because we lived in Dallas for a few years? Do they only grow in Hill country? But you’re in Houston? I dunno…

    I watched that tumbleweed video twice. omg Linda I cannot imagine trying to drive through that. They are huge and were all over the road.

    First time I’ve heard “Don’t look at me in that tone of voice.” I can’t wait to use it somewhere! I think you said its a Dorothy Parker quote but I don’t know her.

    1. dearrosie,

      I think I’ve mentioned that there is no “late” around here. I leave comments open on all my posts, and have received comments up to two years after posting! I’m often a late commenter myself, as you know. Sometimes I just like to think about what I’ve read. Ponder. Cogitate. Muse. It’s fun.

      You always could store away the Marx quotation for an exceptionally boring but obligatory museum function – if it wouldn’t get you fired, of course.

      Dallas is about the northern limit for the trees in Texas. They tend to be clustered most heavily around Austin and San Antonio, and through the Hill Country to the west. But of course, depending on the wind direction, the pollen really can travel. When it’s doing its thing in December and January, we’re also having the strongest winds – southerlies ahead of the fronts, strong northerlies after. That’s what allows Dallas and Houston to partake in the misery, too.

      Years ago I drove from Houston to Berkeley and back – combined business with pleasure. On the way home, I picked up a tumbleweed somewhere. I think it was in Nevada. I put it in the back seat and drove all the way home with it. I did get some strange looks at gas stations and such, but it was a wonderful plant. I had it for years until it finally got tossed in a move.

      Dorothy Parker was quite a woman. Here’s a nice overview of her life. I still hear that quotation in my mother’s voice. ;)


          1. forgot to thank you for the Dorothy Parker link. What an interesting life.
            Good lord her mother step mother uncle and father all died by the time she was 14! And that’s when her “formal” education stopped.
            She was a founding member of the New Yorker. Do you have a favorite Dorothy Parker book I should I start with?

            1. No, I really don’t. She’s one I know mostly by reputation – some entries in that humor anthology my folks had, occasional New Yorker articles and lots of quotations. I’m looking forward to learning more about her myself.

  28. I suffer from various pollen allergies, and there are times when, if I could market snot, I’d be wealthy enough to rival Bill Gates. Every time I move to a new location I have to go through hell until my body adapts to the new pollens. I had an awfully hard time when I moved to New Orleans in the mid ’70s. I worked off shore 14 days on 14 days off. By the end of the 2nd week on shore I’d be backed up and miserable and stay that way for most of the first week at sea. Then, pollen-free I’d be fine and then the cycle would start all over again when I’d have my 14 days on shore.

    One pollen I’ve not adapted to is that of the mango. Every year of the nearly two decades I spent in south Florida I’d suffer through the mango season and adapting to breathing through my mouth. Then I moved to Panama (Republic of) and was presented with brand new pollens unknown even in sub-tropical Fort Lauderdale. Not only that, but sitting on my front porch I can see two ENORMOUS mango trees. One has a spread of at least sixty feet and stands a good forty feet high! They’ve fruited out, now, so I’m good for another 10 months or so from that enemy.

    1. BTW: Winston is a distant relative of mine. His mother and I share a common ancestor. I guess the acerbic tongue which has plagued the Philbrick family and Churchill’s come from that common ancestor.

    2. Richard,

      I really understand and sympathize with the way being on the water or on the land played into your allergies. Even here, just a good wind shift from north to south can make a huge difference. Depending on the time of year, west or southwest can be terrible, too. I don’t know what’s growing in south Texas and Mexico, but it makes me sneeze!

      There are a good number of molds that affect us around here, too, but that’s a whole different subject and one I really don’t know much about – except to know that they’re bad.

      Strange that you’re allergic to the mango. When I was in Liberia I didn’t have any problem with the trees at all, but I figured out pretty quickly I was allergic as could be to the fruit. Cooked was fine, but if I ate it raw it made me itch and made my lips puffy. Strange. Lucky for me there was an easy solution – I didn’t eat it. Pollen’s not so easy!


    1. Gué,

      The story of your spring travails was one of the inspirations for this post! Heaven knows we had enough pollen to make even the most oblivious take note, but from what I read about your part of the world, it truly was a pollen storm.

      We had some rain with enough wind to blow the water in under the covered walkways here. When I opened my door the next morning, the pollen had been washed into lovely designs on the concrete. It looked rather William Morris-ish, actually. My art appreciation goes only so far – I got out the hose.


      1. LOL… I’m glad to help in any way I can. I just wish I didn’t have to suffer for your art!

        After reading your post and all the comments, I’m thankful I don’t live with the Texas cedars. The Southern Pines are bad enough. It’s also nice to find that I’m not alone with my seasonal allergies.

        I love the witty celebrity insults and I’m definitely going to have fun with the Shakespeare Insulter.

  29. What an absolutely beautiful post! I enjoyed every word and the accompanying images. We here in Alberta are not at the moment plagued with pollen (it’s coming, but probably not until late May, early June). No, at the moment we are plagued by yet another snow storm. No April showers for us. Instead it’s gale force winds and driving, sleet-like snow. As much as I feel for you and your pollen blues I can’t deny feeling just a little envious.

    1. klrs09,

      Oh, I’m so happy you liked it! I thought some of the pairings were really neat – and I love the Chihuly chandelier.

      I have another friend in Alberta, and I noticed her talking about snow in one of her blog comments today. It’s so funny – you’re a little envious of our spring, and I’ve been envious all winter of you northerners with your snow and cold. We just never really got a winter here this year. It wouldn’t be so terrible, except we’re going to have some weeds and insects with us through the spring and summer that weren’t killed off when they should have been.

      I hope your snow is kind to you and melts quickly. That’s one thing that’s nice about late snows – we can be sure they aren’t going to be around for months!


  30. Hello Linda

    your post must have induced an early bout of my hay fever! I’m off to hunt down some raw local honey – have heard about this before but it seems to work for so many of your community that it seems worth giving it a try. The placebo effect – where would we be without it? I agree with you that it doesn’t matter whether it’s the substance or its placebo effect as long as it works.

    Feel free to censor the next bit if you feel your readers should be sheltered from a good but vulgar insult.

    A number of years ago a friend was travelling on our local subway here in Glasgow. Opposite sat a man – decidedly not a gentleman, it became apparent as the journey went on. My friend gazed at what was being displayed and said in a bored voice: “My dear fellow, that looks very like a penis. Only smaller.” Exit crushed flasher at the next stop…..

    1. Anne,

      Censor? Oh, I think not. A time or two I’ve asked a reader to eliminate their own crude or curse-filled language, but I suspect someone other than me already has filed this one away for future use. Not that I hope for the occasion to use it, but you never know. I suspect the bored tone of voice is the key…

      I was sceptical for years about the honey, but I know too many people who swear it’s lessened their symptoms. In a few cases, they’re long-time friends, and I’ve been witness to the change.

      Here’s a wonderful story about the placebo effect. A friend’s father was a country doctor, years and years ago. He often had female patients, usually older, who’d come in complaining of lethargy, vague aches and pains, fatigue and so on. He told them he was giving them a prescription for a new tonic that would fix them right up.

      Then, he’d call the pharmacist and say, “I’m sending Mrs. Smith down to you. Fix up a bottle of special tonic for her.” The pharmacist would pull the bottle of Mogen David out from under the counter, fill up a bottle and slap a label on it. It always worked. It was his version of Lydian Pinkham’s.


    1. Zee,

      I’d not thought about it, but I don’t remember any pollen storms in Liberia, either. All we got there was red dust aplenty during the dry season! Clearly, every place has its pluses and minuses!


    1. Phil,

      Oh, gosh. I’d forgotten about them. Perhaps I’ve not so much forgotten as shoved them out of my mind. I’m not very sensitive to what’s been blowing around so far, but those things drive me crazy. It’s time to stock up on the benadryl!

      I just loved the Miller’s analogies test. “This looks like that” is such a useful tool for seeing the world!


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