Tuesday, February 28, 2017


My first note this morning was an e-mail from Susan Branch, with all sorts of Spring happies and notes and sayings, and it’s just in TIME.  Because she sent me pictures of her little happy creatures and sayings and her perfectly wonderful art and attitude,  I’ve set this day, today on the cusp of March, the day-before-the-winds-come to cleanse the air and sweep away the leftover woolies of Winter---this day is to be the beginning of a whole new putting-together of our NEST.   I’ve got filmy curtains to drape on the windows, a lovely ferny-green cover for the sofa, wisps of pink tulle to festoon the wide treetop windows of Sweetpea’s room upstairs, and many, many lovely PINKS for the kitchen that I’ve been setting aside for When Things Are Just Right.   (And they haven’t been for so long and so severely that if you could see my house, you wouldn’t eat my cookin’, as my Mammaw used to say).

My Miss Mary will be here at 1:30, and she’s a whirlwind all on her own, up ladders and on her knees beneath furniture, swiffing and swirling away a season’s accumulation of grubbies in her few hours in the house.   And tomorrow's the day when the great beast of a "heavy garbage" truck growls and chews its way down the streets, gulping down all the throwaways and don't wants.   
The little hum of anticipation, that small quiver beneath the breastbone which says things are in the air, and change is coming---that’s been so elusive for so long, I’ve simply ignored and walked around and let lay things that should have been tended as a matter of course.   The bills stay paid, the bathroom shining and ready, the beds with fresh linens scented of lavender, and everybody’s laundry is daily fresh to hand, but I’ve let clutter and disorder and TOOMUCHSTUFF get the upper hand.   And today, I say NO MORE.

This day is the Turning, and for more inspiration I’m going back a whole seven years, to a day less than two years of blogging, when such order was a habit ingrained for a lifetime, when pressed linens and shining tables were the norm, when we didn’t soon-as-not grab paper plates and sit down before Netflix at the end of a where-did-the-time-go? fruitless day.   Back to when things were orderly and I GOT THINGS DONE, despite a little one in the house ten hours a day.  

From LAWN TEA, Spring, 2010,

I am the Keeper of a Nest. I just read that concept, in those four little words, on Dear Daisy Cottage, and it was just as if I saw our home and my role in it in a slightly different way. I’ve been pondering that new idea---an idea as old as old can be, from the first fur-huddled families coping with the dark and cold in whatever sheltering cave they could lay bloody claim to.

In the great ages since then, this nesting thing has grown and grown; wars have been fought, and territories seized; lives have been staked and lost; castles and hovels and sheds have all been refuges from the same dark and cold.

And we, the Keepers, have padded these nests with the comforts we could afford or find or make or, in earlier, bleaker times, wrest from weaker nesters. As long as the WE of us were taken care of, the driving, surviving force in us left others outside our own fold to fend for themselves. Cloth and feathers for easing our rest, and chink-mud to keep out the elements; a floor and walls and the thatching for the rain; pots to cook in, water to drink, water to bathe----everything encountered, I think, was looked at as a measure to improve the comfort and well-being of the family, to keep the WE of us warm and safe.

I try to think of the heart and mind of the first nester to pick a flower, take it into the abode, and place it in a vessel formerly used only for practical purposes. And when that first blossom went into that first humble cup, something in the world clicked into a different place. We saw that our hands could create and provide not only comfort and necessities, but something beautiful, no matter how small or hard-won. I think it's part of our nature to crave something pretty to enhance our worlds.

I think of my own forebears---especially those women of the Scottish Highlands. The centuries of deprivation and hunger and cold, the waiting for the men’s return from battle, the dread of loss, of starvation, of eking out that last scatter of oats or mutton-fat into a meager bowl for their families. That sharp, chilling wind and the sparse landscape, with nothing between it and their clan but their own courage and work. How they must have waited and wept, with hope fragile as life, and despair as their daily bread. And what WAS beautiful in their lives? Did they just stand looking at the sunrises and sunsets, or the hills with their fleeting purple haze?

We went to see; we rode and walked those hills of the Highlands, and the great spaces and crags and rust-hued rocky expanses are still there, looming and forbidding, their great beauty the blush of purplish heather in the Spring and perhaps the necklaces of stone fences and crofts, laced upon the hillsides to mark their territory, like pearls strung on a map.

And I thought deeply of those Grand-Dams of mine, those centuries-back female ancestors, whose lives were grim and sere---I could see them woad-smeared and wielding weapons, as easily as I could imagine their tending their smoky fires and nursing babies too soon gone. I hope they had the solace and uplift of something pretty---a polished stone, a braid of grass, a bird egg hand-cradled miles home, just for its curve of glorious color---and I hope they felt the great accomplishment of adding to the life of their family, not just their survival. 

The other side of me came from other parts of the British isles, told in the “Nutmegs” post last year. And Heaven knows, when my ancestor came over/was transported BECAUSE of those nutmegs, the things back in Ireland and England weren’t much to write home about, either, for folks of our working class.

So I suppose that yearning for a home, for a comfortable place to live and raise children, is so ingrained in my genes that I love being home, putting little touches, finding little additions, prinking with a curtain, a bit of lace, an old brooch which would look nice on a totted-up lampshade---those are certainly not talents, but needs, I think.

I NEED to make a nest, to feather it well for me and mine, to add and subtract (the subtracting part becomes more difficult with the addition of each year) and to make it comfortable and warm and welcoming. And whether our nests are the neat rounds of redbirds, with smooth straw and feathers for warmth, or the mud-daubed hammock-roosts of swallows, 
or the thatchy, gewgaw-frantic piles of magpie gleanings, the lost pull-tabs and gum wrappers arranged into their own wee versions of tatty yards with an old Maytag and a rusting Ford sprawled about---they are OURS, with our mark upon them.

So, we choose our own nests, and we build them to fit the fabric and the taste and the tenor of our own lives.   A bright-lit, topsy-turvy bursting-at-the-seams one, a little bit different from most, with its own windswept flair and all awhirl with people and activity and the bustle of daily life, or a serene sunlit spot, safely high, with a lovely view of the world, and the cool blue beckoning you home.

Or my own choice: A soft, comfy happy nest, with a lot of comfort, a little bit of something beautiful, and a lot of chicks to fill it.  That's my kind of nest.  And today's the day.

Thursday, February 16, 2017


All the moons and comets and stars have been great items of interest in the past little while, and we’ve stood out in the cold back yard, breaths wafting up into the darkness, as we took in these once-in-a-lifetime moments of astronomical significance.  All that cosmic display, going on for untellable time, just up there for the looking at---we seldom think of what grandeur just goes on without us, heedless of our little plans and designs.  

Caro just sent me a lovely video of an unimaginably-painted scene---Van Gogh’s STARRY NIGHT coming to life atop a bowl of dark water.    In a moment, the artist’s hands scatter-spatter, then splash-drip the paint in childish blobs.   Then he magically swirls and contours the masses of  quivering colour into the familiar beauty of Vincent’s nightscape with just a few dips and strokes of brush and fingers.  I cannot think how he ever thought to DO it, let alone honed such a technique into such a frangible art form, ephemeral and fleeting as smoke.  

A moment to take in the beauty of it, then a magnificent swirl of the heavens, like a cosmic interruption that shook galaxies in the creation of the Universe.   A few more drops of colour bring a magical transformation into another familiar painting---simply stunning in the making.

This is too beautiful not to share. Do make it into full screen and use your sound---Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata lends the perfect accompaniment.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


Young and sweet and innocent as these small images are, this must have been an ADULT Valentine, or at least meant for teenagers, when I was of the send-one-to-every-person-in-your-class age.  If we first, second, third graders had come to school with such a racy message in hand, ready to stash it in the big red box covered just that week by our busy hands in construction paper and streamers of crinkly red crepe, we, as well as the object of our momentary affection, would have been teased beyond bearing.   It was absolutely NOT DONE to verge into romantic territory at our tender ages, despite the heart-strings of the holiday.  You'd have been hearing about tree-sitting and K-I-S-S-I-N-G til the cows came home.

Our little twenty-for-a-quarter packs of the small bright die-cut sentiments were painstakingly chosen for just the right person, though the lack of variety at Leon’s Drugstore limited us all to buying identical crinkly red cellophane packages, with perhaps five designs total. They came in small swinging rectangles, hung from the neat hooks on the SUNDRIES aisle which at other seasons might have held corn pads or cards of needles, and the Valentines were cushioned in a thin grey cardboard frame, like the cut-off bottom of a small cheap box.  The whole thing was sealed in a thick, almost indestructible sheet of cellophane impervious to most fingers and even our blunt-nosed scissors, though we were not above employing a quick nip with two eye-teeth to start a little slit for tearing.

I assume there was an unwritten law that you HAD to write out your Valentines the night before, for I cannot remember any earlier contact save for the buying, though I was known to lay them out like a gaudy game of Solitaire on my bed in the days before, choosing the receivers by pattern or poem or whim.   I was also not above putting an unobtrusive small penciled number on the back, with a corresponding name on a line in my notebook, until I could make that final important decision.  I hope that I remembered to erase all those furtive numbers, for I fear that more than one of us knew that trick.

We’d carry our carefully-lettered little flaps of colour up to that big fancy box, inserting them one or two at a time into the slot in the top with everyone avidly looking on, hoping for a flash of their own names to appear as a card was slid into the box, or for the glimpse of a secret crush, revealed to all as the card disappeared between the ruffly overlay of the mail-slot.

Occasionally one or two of us would have had a splurge at the Ben Franklin two towns over, and might just have lucked onto a little cardboard platter from another company, with quite different pictures and quotes inside the red cello cover.  But most usually, when the giver-outer of the Valentines stood reading off the names, and we’d go forward and receive our mail, it was more like dealing out a big stack from a four-card deck, as the little sailor dog and the bird in the tree appeared over and over, interspersed with small Shirley Temple clones and windmills and mice.   But oh, the heart-pounding moments as you waited, heard your name, stepped forward with a trembly hand outstretched, and received another of the showy little slips.  I never looked at mine til the calling had finished and the teacher took off the lid to
see if any errant Valentines might still be caught inside.   I’d made sure that every single one of mine was safely clutched to my front like a nervous gambler, with the white side hidden so no one could see who did and didn’t send me one. 

Being limited to twenty when there were sometimes twenty-five people in our class was no problem either, for quite a few of us girls would make special ones for a few good friends, all festooned in hand-cut little hearts still bearing the center-crease from the folding-to-cut, and with perhaps a little slip of a ribbon bow or some of that squiggle-ribbon which curled when you pulled the scissors blade down the length of it.   So we never truly left out anyone, despite the limit on “bought” cards, and I can remember only perhaps two girls who went around the room asking cattily, “And how many did YOU get” or crowing “Eye got Twenty-NINE!” when we all know perfectly well there were not even that many people in the class, and the handwriting looked mighty similar on at least five of them (and similar to HERS, at that).

Oh, for something so anticipated and pleasurable and fraught with delighted dread as those little cheap, primary-colored bits of childhood. Weren’t we innocent?  Weren’t we small?   I know I’m smiling.

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