Thursday, April 29, 2010


Y from here
Y is for Yes.

So far, 2010 has been the year of No.  No to dreams and wishes.  No to plans and schemes.      

After four months of this nonsense, I've decided on Yes.  Spring made me do it.  Buds and flowers and sunshine and even floods--the beautiful onslaught of all this life and growth--has pulled me through.  I'm waving goodbye to No.
I love the letter Y.  Just look at it with its arms flung wide: Y

Yes, Y is for Yes.  
It's also for You, with my thanks.  

Monday, April 26, 2010


Remember when you were a child reading your ABC books?  The early letters were simple: A is for Apple, D is for Dog, L is for Lollipop or maybe Lemon.  Toward the end of the alphabet, things became more tricky, especially when it came to X.  By default, most books read, “X is for Xylophone," since so few words a child would ever use begin with X.  

In fact, few words an adult ever uses, besides Xanax, begin with X.  A few of my favorites include Xyloid, for something wooden or woody; Xanthine, for something yellowish in color, Xerotic, for something dry (nowhere near as interesting as the word looks or sounds); and Xiphoid for sword-shaped.  

One of the most fascinating X-words is Xanthippe, which means a shrewish nagging woman.  Actually, Xanthippe originally meant a blond horse (In Greek, xanos=blond, [thus xanthine=yellowish] and hippo=horse).  Xanthippe came to mean a shrewish woman because it was also the name of the wife of Socrates.  The Greeks often named people after horses, much like people today sometimes name kids after cars, like Mercedes or Porsche (Porsche, by the way, is a variant of Portia, which in Latin means pig--think porcine).   Socrates apparently adored his wife and praised her for speaking her mind.  Other men, including some of his pupils, weren't quite as fond of her opinions and confidence.  Over time, her assertiveness became labeled shrewishness, and her name became synonymous with what today people might call a bitch.  Hmmmmm . . . where have we heard this story before?

My all-time favorite X-word, though, is, of course, Xanadu, for the "stately pleasure dome" written about by Coleridge in Kubla Khan in 1797, and then re-imagined in the 1980's in that roller-skating disco film  starring Olivia Newton John.  Who could ever forget the Xanadu theme song?  "Now we are here in Xana-du-u-u-u . . . ."

So, it’s true, X doesn’t begin all that many words in English--dozens rather than thousands.  In order for X to have its eks sound in a word, it needs to be preceded by a vowel, like e, for eXample.  Otherwise, X sounds like Z, as in Xylophone, so this is no help to a girl who's just trying to learn her sounds.  In fact, it's positively eXasperating.  

But think of the eXcitement when you slip X inside a word, or how eXceptional it is on its own: L doesn’t mark the spot, or Q, or even D.  No--X, in all its cross-hatched glory, marks the spot.  And for centuries, X has been a legal signature if one couldn't sign one's name.  That's power.  

It's also half the fun of tic tac toe.  And it's the kisses in xoxo.  It's the unknown in the X-Files.  It's the anonymous or unnamable or the missing.  It's the task we complete and X off our list.  And as Simon Cowell can tell you, it's that special talent, that X-factor, that it's difficult to name, but when we see it, we just know. 
And then there’s three in a row: 
Something forbidden or lethal or even enticing, yes, like triple-strength ale or poison or porn.  When I was a girl, we'd visit Chinatown in Boston after trips to the science museum.  Inevitably we'd pass by the old porn clubs and movie houses, like the Naked-i Cabaret.  Those places are gone now, cleared out during the 80's and 90's, but those mysterious signs with all their flashing red X's are burned into my memory.   Who knew how eXtreme, how eXcessive, how seXy a letter could be?

The fact that X is the least common letter in English makes it a perfect eXample of how powerful letters and language are, how they fill our mouths and minds and hearts with meaning.  How rich they are with memory, how replete with possibility, and how much we need them each day from the moment we wake until the moment we sleep.   

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

W is for Wild

No, not girls-gone-wild kind of wild--
violets and ospreys and blue herons kind of wild,  
reeds and new-spring-green-just-beneath-the-water wild,

rivers and swamps and spooky trees
set against a haze of green,
tiny new growth up close,
blossoms that take your very breath,
and a patient turtle who lets a muskrat use him 
as a picnic bench.

Climb the steps to the secret path
where the fairies live (yes, they really do),

or sit by the marsh,
breathe deep, and just wait 
for the next great blue heron to take wing--
that's my kind of wild.

Happy Earth Day!

Monday, April 19, 2010


is for Variety

We've all heard the expression that Variety is the spice of life.  In my case, it it the chili and pink peppercorn of life, or the lime and black peppercorn of life, or maybe the rose and pistachio of life. At least that has been the case ever since I won the chocolate giveaway at Pretty Far West.  If you have never visited Mise, you simply must.  Her posts are as delicious and peppery as the chocolate flavors I mentioned above.  I read and relish every single one.  Particular recent favorites have dealt with that current blogging quandary of great import: what to do with all the Bonne Maman jars we have stockpiled in our effort to be conscientious lifestyle bloggers, homemakers, crafters, recyclers, photographers, and cool chicks.  The solutions range from the practical to the debauched.  Now that's a blog a girl can love.

I know it may be hard to imagine, but I have actually been sharing my amazing Cocoa Bean Chocolate Company stash with others.  At first I put them out on a pretty tray, stacked neatly in a most artful and tasteful photo-ready fashion, and, sadly, below is what remains.  I forbade anyone to throw the wrappers out until I had photographed them, no matter how crinkled, for that is what life blogging is all about.  I try to tell myself I am not obsessed, but then I just break off another large hunk of chocolate and snap another photo.  That makes me feel much better.  Thank you, Mise, for adding variety and spice to three of my favorite habits compulsions loves: blogging, photography, and, of course, chocolate.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Come Sit By Her Fire With Me

Hello, friends!  Today I am visiting over at my friend Relyn's beautiful blog, Come Sit By My Fire.  Relyn devotes the entire month of April to people's passions, which is only fitting, since she herself is a woman full of passion and creativity.  I hope you'll come on over and visit with us, too!

Have a beautiful weekend.  

Monday, April 12, 2010

U is for Under

From here

U is for Under construction.  These are two shots I took yesterday of the mill across the street from the one where I live.  In a post earlier this year I told you that they are redeveloping this great old place.  They've finished demo and are onto (re)construction.  In the second photo, that's not flooding from the rains, it's the canal that runs between our buildings.  I was happy to capture the sun beam in the first photo and the flares in the second one.  Thank you, sun!
U is also for underwater.  While the big rains have finally stopped, much of our region is still flooded, including all the places where we usually walk.  The person off in the distance in the above photo is wearing hip waders, smart cookie!
U is also for Under the daffodils.  I think sometimes the best way to look at a flower is to lie on the ground and look up at it.  For me, this simple move changes the scale and my own sense of relative importance.  Suddenly flowers that seemed small and sweet when I was standing above them become majestic to me from this angle.  Oh, that's right, I say to myself, I'm not the center of the universe! 

U is also for under the weather, which I am, but since I have established the fact for myself that I'm not the center of the universe, I will keep this little cold in perspective and forge ahead.  I'm finishing the first draft of the story today.  Maybe I'll find myself a pair of hip waders for the revision process.  I think I'll need them.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

T is for . . .

Sorry my posts are sporadic of late.  
Writing has swallowed me whole.
I need a break, though, so come on over.  
The kettle's on and I've got Earl Grey white or chamomile. 
And there's raw Savannah Bee Company honey. 

Tea is for two: 
me and you.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

S is for Song, and S is for Spring, and for Ships, and Stories, too

Some songs linger with me for days and weeks, flavoring a period of my life with tone and mood. This spring, a few key songs are weaving in and out of my days, and so I thought I'd share one. It's Fanfarlo's "The Walls Are Coming Down." The lyrics are rather fatalistic, which is as it should be, for I am currently writing a story whose protagonist feels no hope. This song makes me think of him with its mix of lilting beauty and fatalism.

As some of the lyrics go,

For atoms have gone as far as atoms will go
Your books write themselves
They line up in row after row

The walls the walls are coming down
The here and now is coming round
It will some day let you down
The ships the ships are coming in
The great ideas are wearing thin
There is nothing left to do

The great irony for me, of course, is that I cannot share this view as I type away at my own books and poems and stories and essays--and yet, I love this song.

And who is this pessimistic character I mention? He is a seventeen-year-old boy, and I am having an amazing time living a part of each day in his head and his world. I'll admit, though, that sometimes it takes every bit of strength and will I have to do it. Teenage boys, as you probably know, can be high maintenance.

Someday, when I finish writing this damn story (fingers and toes crossed), I'll introduce him to you.

In the meantime, here's Fanfarlo. What songs, I'm wondering, are running through the playlist in your mind this month?

Sunday, April 4, 2010

R is for Ranunculus

Easter weekend blooms from my husband.  
The rain has cleared, the sun has returned.
Wishing you joy,
Wishing you peace.

Friday, April 2, 2010


is for Queens and Quests

One of my passions in life is fairy tales.  Give me a story with a queen, a prince, a tower, a quest, a cat in swashbuckler boots, or a cursed frog, and I will lose myself in it.  That's why I am happy to celebrate the birth of one of the great literary fairy tale writers, Hans Christian Andersen, who turns 205 today.  Unlike the Brothers Grimm, who gathered, altered, and published several editions of traditional oral fairy tales, most of Andersen's tales were original works, including The Ugly Duckling, The Little Match Girl, The Red Shoes, The Nightingale, The Emperor's New Clothes, The Little Mermaid (Disney's version is very different from the original, which is absolutely beautiful), Thumbelina, and the tale that many consider to be his masterpiece, The Snow Queen.  The Snow Queen illustration above is from an edition of Andersen's tales published in 1911 with illustrations by one of my favorite fairy tale illustrators, Edmund Dulac.  

If you're reading this post today, April 2, you might want to fly on over to Google to see their tribute to Andersen.  And if you're a fan of fairy tales, too, there's a lovely recent collection of his works edited and annotated by the wonderful Maria Tatar.

In many ways, Andersen's own life was a quest for recognition, which he eventually received, and for love that he never found.  While he wrote memoirs that colored his life as a fairy tale, the truth of his life was far from enchanted.  His tales are achingly beautiful, often satirical (read The Nightingale for a scathing portrait of aristocrats), explorations of love, the quest for spirituality, and the importance of the artist in society.  

A special note of thanks today to all my blogging friends.  Your comments and sense of community inspire me and teach me.  Have a wonderful weekend, and if you celebrate Easter, may it be a blessed and peaceful day of joy.  xo