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NaPoWriMo Eve, 2021

On the cusp of National Poetry Month, I’m excited about focusing (a little more than usual) on poetry for the next 30 days!

I’m also sad because temperatures are expected to drop significantly below freezing the next three nights, and all the plants that have begun blooming and leafing out will be severely damaged. It may seem trivial, but the past twelve months have been difficult, and my capacity for resilience has dropped considerably.

Here are some pictures from my yard, while everything still looks beautiful and alive.

Days 9 and 10, NaPoWriMo 2020

Thanks to my Gauntlet-mate Eileen Rush for the prompt that led to this poem.

Self-portrait as a trivet

in a child’s hands I went from cool
slab of shapeless clay to thick
disk, ornamented with patterned
impressions of fork and crayon and pen
cap, then painted a bright favorite
orange, sealed with glaze, and made
firm and finally useful by prolonged
exposure to intense heat


This is what I imagined my daughter was thinking last weekend.

Third week of online college classes from home

What is it with parents
and cleaning? Today
mine are washing the patio
furniture like Jesus himself
is coming over for a cookout.


2020 National Poetry Month Poster-50

Holiday reservations

I was raised to understand that patriotism is placing the welfare of the whole – community, nation, society – above personal interests, trusting that service to others becomes, in the end, service to ourselves. Those ideas seem lost amid public expressions of individual freedom that grow louder and more ostentatious each year.

They say birthdays cease to have meaning after a while, and I always thought that was a comment on the passage of time. Now I’m not so sure.

Holiday reservations

This year on the Fourth we have plans to celebrate family birthdays –
except for Uncle Sam’s – he’s been acting so strange of late
we feel like we don’t know him anymore, which is saying a lot
because we have a pretty high tolerance for strange in this family.

Most of us are afraid for him – his health, his stability – but some
are afraid of him, of what he might do next. We don’t really know
how to talk about any of this – with ourselves, let alone with him –
but he doesn’t seem to be listening anyway. So we’ll have cake

and ice cream, and candles but no fireworks – not even sparklers –
and sing “Happy Birthday” and open cards and maybe a few
gifts. Then we’ll sedate the dog and turn in early, burying our heads
in the pillows to muffle the sounds of gunfire and other explosions.



Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) from my yard



Election day poetry

I’m taking a poetry class this fall, and one of our assignments was to write a praise poem making use of anaphora. One family member recently said he’ll be relieved when the election is over and soul-sucking campaign ads go away. Another family member reminded him that the campaign for next year’s gubernatorial contest has already begun here in the Bluegrass State, and that even national figures are positioning themselves for the 2020 presidential campaign.

It’s always election season somewhere

Praise for the First Amendment and freedom of speech.
Praise for lies and slander, attack ads and smear
campaigns, for fake news and media hype, fearmongering
and fact checkers, for dark money and tracking polls,
backbiting and mudslinging, for chants and slogans, bumper
stickers and yard signs, for phone calls and leaflets, billboards
and rallies. Praise for turning out the base and turning off the electorate.
Praise for public service announcements and voter registration drives, fiery
oratory and nonviolent protest, for town hall meetings and candidate forums,
viral videos and op ed columns, for endorsements and letters
to the editor, electronic voting machines and paper ballots.
For the First Amendment and freedom of speech, we give praise.

Late summer garden beauties

hibiscus in septFor the sake of arachno-squeamish readers, I’ve begun this post with a photo of my Hibiscus moscheutos — reblooming!

But the lovely lady pictured below made my whole summer when she appeared in the side yard last week. She’s an Argiope aurantia, commonly called a black and yellow garden spider, and the first I’ve ever had in my own yard. She’s somewhat small, only about an inch long in body, but I love that she’s out in her web during the day, which means I get to see her as I come and go.

argiope aurantia 2

(As I write this, I’ve been watching a Neoscona sp. outside the living room window. It’s overcast today and she’s repairing holes in her web in anticipation of better hunting this evening.)

Wishing you the joy of whatever is on display in the gardens around you!

Not a poem: fog

It’s fascinating how fog obscures some things and makes others visible.


A cold Neoscona huddling in the center of her beautiful web.


Same spider and web, different angle.


A different smaller orb weaver in the back yard. (I didn’t get close enough to identify her because I didn’t want to disturb her, but she wasn’t large enough to be a Neoscona.)


Another small (non-Neoscona) orb weaver’s web. This one swayed gently in the morning breeze like a lace curtain.


I regret I didn’t get a shot of the neighbor’s lawn in deep shadow, with dozen’s of tangle webs like piles of diamond necklaces. I saw all manner of webs in trees and shrubs and lawns that I would never have seen on a clear morning.

Not a poem

After weeks of what has felt like swirling around in the giant toilet bowl of life, there was yesterday: the closest I’ve been to a total solar eclipse. I gave my entire day over to it and annoyed everyone on Facebook by posting the whole time. Here’s a summary of the day:

First, I hooked my laptop up to the TV so I could watch the live stream from NASA on the big screen. There were more than a few production hiccups, but I don’t think any seriously geeky folk minded much.

Here was my own setup for watching the eclipse. The cat provided invaluable assistance, as always.


After making sure everything was working, there was nothing to do but wait for the moon.


The beginning!


It may be hard to see, but a thin layer of cloud passed overhead.

About this time I had a sudden realization: why hadn’t I bought some Moon Pies and Sun Chips to snack on?

Ten minutes later, the clouds had moved on.


Another ten minutes later.


Real life eclipse disasters: when you’re so distracted you put too much water in the rice cooker. 😕


The dog also helped with the eclipse watching.


This was about fifteen minutes after the previous eclipse photo.


More clouds passed through.

A friend on Facebook asked me where I was watching, to which I replied, “From my living room!”

Five minutes later.


At this point, the sun was clearly shining outside but it had gotten dim enough that my daughter turned on a light so she could read.


Getting close to the 95% of totality we were supposed to experience.


This was it.


I stepped outside. Everything was slightly dimmed, like I was wearing sunglasses. Except for human activity, everything was very still. The cicadas stopped singing and I could hear crickets.


Even the trees showed the eclipse.


The cat got a little weird and started racing around like she sometimes does in the middle of the night.


As the moon moved on, the day brightened back up to normal. The cicadas started ramping up again, and the crescent sun shadows cast by the leaves changed direction. That was curious and very interesting.


My youngest sister has been visiting, and it was delightful to share another eclipse with her. Her recollections about watching the 1979 eclipse together were invaluable in setting up for this year. It’s the same telescope, which is kind of cool.


And lots of love to my daughter, who gave up most of her afternoon to indulge me in my nerdy fangirlness.

Not poetry: swallowtail

I’ve been so busy with poetry and other stuff that I’ve neglected to post about what’s happening in the garden.

My lovage plant didn’t survive the winter, but it left a couple of self-sown offspring to be remembered by. I was delighted to discover this fellow on one of them last week:

swallowtail 16jun17

swallowtail larva in the open

I checked on him today, and he’s almost twice as large. He’s a little hard to see because of his excellent camouflage, but that’s a good thing: I don’t want him snapped up by the neighborhood robins or cardinals.

swallowtail 21jun17

swallowtail larva hidden

Holiday post: Santa whistle


This charming fellow was the gift of a dear friend, who designed, hand-carved, and painted him. The windway (the place where you blow) is on the bottom and the window (the opening where the sound happens) is carved into the back. It produces a soft, clear tone. We always put this ornament somewhere prominent because just seeing it makes us happy.

Holiday post: Angel bell

As sometimes happens, I’ve been caught up in the activities of the season, the most recent of which was decorating. We spread our holiday decorating over the four weeks of Advent, so the final Sunday is very festive indeed. Part of the fun of decorating the tree is telling the stories of the ornaments, where each came from and what memories we associate with it.


This little ceramic bell is one of three that hung on the trees of my childhood as far back as I can recall. I have two siblings (both sisters) so our things tended to occur in batches of three. I don’t remember how it came to us, but it seemed old to me even as a child, so I suspect it may have come from the household of a great (grandparents or aunt and uncle). It makes a sweet sound and remains one of my favorite ornaments from childhood.