Saturday, June 30, 2007


I thought I had so much time to post about this subject, and now it is the last day of June for another year. June - my birth month and my anniversary month, the prettiest month of the year (or at least tied with May), the month when the delicate little wild prairie roses bloom and give off their heady scent. And now summer is one third over!
Under Daisy's tutelage, I had meant to share her "Greedy, Juicy, Learning Summer of Personal Delights." (And in my mind I always added the word "Luscious").
Oh, I have done some things. I have sat out on the deck on lovely evenings and enjoyed how the setting sun slanted through the trees and illumined the grass. I have read more books, always a greedy delight to me. I have sniffed the sweet smell of yellow clover - the scent that means summer in North Dakota to me.
I have been enjoying everyone else's flowers, as I have taken a one year hiatus from planting my own flowers. I have sipped glasses of lemonade filled with plenty of ice. I have eaten dinner at an outdoor restaurant on a balmy evening. I have had strawberry shortcake. I've had fresh corn on the cob slathered with butter.
But there are so many things I have not done yet! I haven't taken my little trip to see the bluebird trail. I haven't eaten a ripe peach and let the juices slide down my chin. I haven't taken a slice of watermelon outdoors and spit out the seeds. I haven't been anywhere near a river or a lake. I haven't even driven out to the country to just sit and watch and listen to nature. Bismarck is really such a small city that many would scoff to even call it that, but it is a city and I do feel hemmed in by it so often.
I would love to go for an evening boat ride on the Missouri River and feel the cool water spray on my face (no friends with boats at the moment!). I would love for my sister and I to take one of our infrequent jaunts to Minot (we used to drop her kids off at the State Fair and then do our own thing). How I wish we again lived close to Minnesota so I could smell the pines and hear the loons and (yes, I admit it), shop the quaint little stores.
There are pleasures still to be had - the peaches and watermelon are there to be purchased. I'll speak to my sister about that trip to Minot, even if both her kids have jobs now and are too old for the State Fair anyway. Maybe one of my friends would like to take a drive west to see the bluebird trail and visit the monks at Assumption Abbey.
Ahead there's still the Fourth of July celebration on the Capitol Mall, with fireworks and music furnished by the Bismarck-Mandan Symphony. My sis and I will go to Art in the Park in Mandan on the Fourth if she doesn't work, and there's the Capital Affaire on the Capitol Mall in August.
I can drive out to Sibley Park, just south of town, and watch the river slip by. I'll drive out to Fort Lincoln and go up the hill to the blockhouses. I'll hear meadowlarks and bobolinks and watch the setting sun (too many trees around my house). After having just read about Crazy Horse, I'll be thinking about how all this land was once owned by the Lakota and how they were robbed of it by the whites.
There are some movies coming that I actually want to see, so I'll beat the heat with a few matinees. I'll have a hot fudge sundae at the DQ and think about my Aunt Mary, who always had to have a hot fudge sundae when she came to town. I'll buy some Coppertone and slather it on myself - even though I don't go in the sun anymore - because that will surely be a sense memory for me.
Yes, there are still many more personal delights to be had during my greedy, juicy, learning summer.
What is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there's never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing,
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
'Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
'Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season's youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep 'neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.

by James Russell Lowell

Friday, June 29, 2007


I just had to use this painting even thought it does not depict a full moon!
Note added Saturday morning: Sorry, I didn't mean to ignore my Aussie friends who also celebrated the Blue Moon today.

JUNE 29, 1974

Determined to be a June bride, I made it - barely!

Welcome to Langdon, North Dakota's, first hippie wedding! It wasn't really, but that's what people in Langdon called it. It was the first outdoor wedding in the town's collective memory, which must have translated into "hippie" for them! (Langdon was very conservative at the time and probably still is.)

Thirty-three years and about two hours ago, on a warm, mellow late summer afternoon, my fiance, Dan, and I walked together across a city park toward a crowd of our friends and families to say vows we had written ourselves. The day had started with much less promise.

We awoke that morning to wind and angry black clouds threatening rain. I and my friends spent most of the day cleaning the Jaycee Arena, where the reception was to be held - and the wedding, if indeed it did rain. The previous party that had rented the hall had left it in bad shape, with muddy floors and a mess throughout. We only had time to clean, not decorate it. Tired and dirty, I was almost crying by late afternoon.

But everything did come together for a beautiful ceremony that was in keeping with our plans for a simple wedding. My dress was simplicity itself - handmade at a cost of under $100.00. I was daring to go with the hat, because brides those days seldom wore hats. On my hat and in my bouquet I carried simple garden flowers - roses, daisies and bachelor's buttons (some pink carnations, too, I think.) Our friends sang and played guitar on songs including "Bridge Over Troubled Water" and "The Wedding Song" by Peter, Paul and Mary.

As a bride to be, I was anything but "Bridezilla." In fact, I was the opposite. I refused to have a bridal registry anywhere. To me, it seemed like "Gimme, gimme." I only ordered flowers for myself, Dan and our attendants. That upset some of the ladies so much that they picked flowers from their gardens to put in vases, as shown in the photo above.

Since Langdon is such a small town, and since Dan was known and loved by everyone as "Doc Fred" in his job as a physician's assistant at the clinic and the hospital, we invited everyone, and a lot of people showed up! For the reception, we didn't want to feed people justs dinner mints and nuts, so we had our friends at the local Greek American restaurant make up huge roasters of comfort food, and the ladies who worked at the clinic served it. The two doctors that Dan worked for footed the bill for the booze. The docs used to have champagne parties after hours at the clinic, and this party was no exception - the champagne flowed!

We had one small glitch later on - the band hired by Dan's little brother Scott failed to show up, but we just moved the whole party to The Eagles Club, much to the chagrin of my brother and sister, who were only teenagers. Everyone had a great time, which was our intent and focus.

I just die now to think that I let Dan choose his own powder blue wedding suit and accessories (see Bridezilla note above.) Everyone said he looked like a Southern gentleman instead of a Norwegian NoDak.

I set up the pose below, in imitation of those old-fashioned photos in which the groom is seated and the bride STANDS beside him (what was that all about?), neither of them smiling. I later had the photo printed in black and white to further the effect. We unfortunately lost our wedding photos in a house fire in 1982, but Dan's mother graciously gave us her photos. And I do mean graciously, because I remember her huge gasp when the photographer gave her the bill for the large set of photos she had ordered!

Oh, those white shoes - he's more dressed up than I am!

Much later that night, we hopped into our chrome yellow Volkswagen for the two-hour drive to Grand Forks. We had a plane to catch the next morning - to Athens, Greece!

Here we are, Bonnie and Clyde, off and away in the V Dub.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


After reading my previous post, Lila from Indigo Pears suggested printing a list of the 10 Most Beautiful Sounding Words in the English Language.
I did an Internet search and found some lists, many way longer than 10 (try 223!). The first list I found was The British Council's list of the 70 most beautiful words in the English language, topped by "Mother", and containing other words with beautiful concepts behind them, like liberty. I had to refine my search to most beautiful SOUNDING words.
Louis Funk, author of "30 Days to a More Powerful Vocabulary," proposes these: Asphodel, Fawn, Dawn, Chalice, Anemone, Tranquil, Hush, Golden, Halcyon, Camellia, Bobolink, Thrush, Chimes, Murmuring, Lullaby, Luminous, Damask, Cerulean, Melody, Marigold, Jonquil, Oriole, Tendril, Myrrh, Mignonette, Gossamer, Alyssum, Mist, Oleander, Amaryllis, Rosemary.
Poet Louis Untermeyer says, "The most musical words seem to be those containing the letter "L". I think, offhand, of such words as Violet, Lake, Laughter, Willow, Lovely, and other such limpid and liquid syllables."
Annie Dillard, in "A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek," wrote: "My friend Roseanne Coggeshall, the poet, says that 'Sycamore' is the most intrinsically beautiful word in English."
Here is reporter, editor and author Willard R. Espy's list of the 10 most beautiful words: Gonorrhea, Gossamer, Lullaby, Meandering, Mellifluous, Murmuring, Onomatopoeia, Shenandoah, Summer Afternoon, Wisteria. I would have to strike Gonorrhea because of the bad association connected with it. And Summer Afternoon -two words - is cheating! He's taken them from this quote by Henry James: "Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language."
I've drawn some favorites of mine from among the lists: Cadence, Caress, Cherish, Diaphanous, Dulcet, Ebullient, Effervescent, Eglantine, Ethereal, Evanescent, Glistening, Grace, Languorous, Lilt, Lustrous, Nevermore, Redolent, Renaissance, Scintillate, Susurrus, Tintinnabulation, Whisper.
But where is my "Thistledown"? It's not even on the list of 223, and now my head is swimming with words and I must stop. But thistledown is on some list, somewhere. That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.


I think one of the reasons I love fairies so much is that I love flowers so much. How lovely it would be to have a hat made of petals and carry stalks of flowers larger than myself!

In celebration of the day, Vicki at Victoria Station has put together a wonderful collection of fairy pictures, poems AND a video on her blog. Just clink on the link under my "Kindred Spirits" sidebar. Please, please check it out.

In one of the poems on Vicki's post, it says that a fairy's breath is the wind. While I was at the mall yesterday I bought a sympathy card for Daisy's family. As we were returning to the car a gust of wind grabbed the little bag out of my hand and the bag, the card and the envelope went flying away in three different directions. Each would travel a while, land on the ground, and then just as I was about to pick one up, it would lift up again and go sailing again. It took me a long time to finally gather all three pieces up. I traveled a long way across that parking lot. So far that my sister drove her car over to meet me where I finally ended up. I think it was a sign from Daisy: "You don't need this card; my family doesn't need this card. I am here. Today I am in the wind, teasing you a bit. Tomorrow I may be in the rain. I am in the stars and in the moon, I am in the flowers and the trees."

In another of the poems Vicki posted, I saw the word thistledown. Isn't that a beautiful word? In my post on Thursday regarding our Fairy Day celebration, I mentioned that I had given my friends little gossamer bags. In a comment under this post, Rowan from Circle of the Year said that gossamer is a perfect word to associate with fairies. I agree, and I think thistledown is another. I once saw a list of the ten most beautiful sounding words in the English language, and both words were on the list.

I have a collection of the Faerie Glen fairies because I think they are the prettiest of all. They also have the prettiest names: Fernwhisper, Willowshimmer, Seamurmur, Shadowmyst, Dewdance. So evocative!

Saturday, June 23, 2007


I have to make up excuses to post so that I can use up all the wonderful Fairy Day images I have stored in my computer!

Thursday is the day we held our book club/solstice/fairy day celebration. Thursday is also the day my new company received its license to abstract in Morton County, which is across the river from Burleigh County where Bismarck is located. So to celebrate the company president invited us to have drinks and snacks at Fiesta Villa, a Mexican restaurant in Bismarck. What a dilemma - I had so much left to do to prepare for the party. (Yes, I am a procrastinator.)

I felt I had to make an appearance as I am a new employee and I do work in the Morton County office. I am glad I went. We sat out on the patio, which is shaded with small trees and filled with flowering planters. It was a perfect June evening, I had a great strawberry margarita and chips and salsa (my supper) and I got to meet the people from the Bismarck office. But all the time I'm thinking, I gotta go, I gotta go. Fortunately, I was not the first to leave. At 6:00 someone left and I made hurried apologies as I got up too.

At home I scurried around, filling my gift bags, checking and re-checking them, looking for the temporarily-lost fairy wands (WHERE CAN THEY BE???), printing things off the computer, adding last-minute touches like stickers, rummaging through all my craft supplies to find the embroidery thread because the rings on the fairy charms were so small I couldn't use ribbon. The next thing I know, Gracie has snatched the card with the five colors of floss and taken it out in the yard. I had to chase her around for five minutes before she got distracted by Penny's ball and left the card in a gummed up mess on the lawn. Fortunately, the lavender color was not harmed.

Finally, I am ready to go. I'm late, but I'll make up for lost time by speeding. Bad idea! All the bags fall off the seat onto the car floor. Then I get lost finding my way to Vicki's. I can never find her place, which is ridiculous, seeing as how I used to live just a few blocks from there.

I gather everything up haphazardly and dump it willy nilly into the bags. Fortunately Vicki came to my rescue. We dumped all the bags out on her bed, sorted things out and re-filled the bags. You can imagine the state I was in, but then I stopped and thought. We are celebrating fairy day. Would a fairy act that way? She would take everything in her stride. Stop acting like a human and start acting like a fairy. So I did, and the rest of the evening went very well, and when I left, I drove straight home, because I can always find my way BACK from Vicki's.

I am sure that in the fairy world, all things go smoothly all the time. Never a ruffled feather or fairy wing, never any mud, never any hurt feelings, never anything but play and rest and beautiful music and reading. But alas, I spend 99.99% of my time in the human world. But hopefully I can keep on thinking like a fairy and not get so ruffled all the time.

We have to recognize the boy fairies too!

Friday, June 22, 2007



My friend Jude, whom I often mention, is a kindred spirit to me for many reasons, not the least of which is that we are both Cancers and we ALMOST share a birthday. Her birthday is the day after mine next week, so today we shared a birthday lunch at Kroll's Kitchen, a replica of an old 1940s diner. In addition to being nostalgic and serving great chocolate malts, Kroll's also features knoephle soup, a German staple around these parts. It and the other Kroll's Kitchens in town have cute TV commercials featuring ladies with thick German accents saying, "Sit down und eat!" We chose Kroll's because it is three minutes away from my new office, but I digress.

We generally don't gift each other, so when we saw that each of us had pretty gift bags in our hands, we said, "Now, we aren't going to make a habit of this!"

I got Jude a nice pink, capped pen and "J" note cards just like I had featured on my blog a few weeks ago. My sister and I happened to go back to TJ Maxx a week after I bought my stationery. Lo and behold - and I could have sworn there were no more left - there was a box of the "J" cards. What serendipity! Jude is a lady from the old school - she still writes notes and letters in longhand, bless her.

I also got Jude a card that is a reproduction of a Victorian folding fan. On the back I wrote, "It isn't a nu shu Secret Fan, but I hope you like it." This is in reference to the book "Snow Flower and the Secret Fan," which our book club read last month.

An important part of the book is the tradition of Chinese women sending each other messages on silk fans in nu shu, or secret women's writing. Jude had the inspiration to add some writing on the fan next June and send it back to me, and so on and so forth. I have heard of people doing this with Christmas cards, etc. I hope this starts a great new tradition. Leave it to a kindred spirit to think of something like that.

The plaque above is Judy's gift to me, just right for my new front garden. I have seen the Dante poem before, but I was thrilled to have it on a plaque so I can read it often.

She also gave me the card shown below. To know Jude is to know that even picking up a CAT card is an ordeal for her. She is, shall we say, very "uncomfortable" around cats. "They are too unpredictable," she says. However cats always seem to go straight for Jude, even in a crowded room. At our book club Christmas party, Jude leaped onto Kathy's lap when the resident cat decided to stand up and put her paws on Jude's - and ONLY Jude's - legs.

So, for Jude to get me this card is extra special. By the way, the inside of the card reads, "Have a happy birthday, if you must." Just like a cat!

Tomorrow - a saga of angel food cakes and a special BD card my sister gave me!

Thursday, June 21, 2007


It's 11:55 PM - only 5 minutes left of Midsummer Night (taking it literally). I have had the best Summer Solstice ever. I have long wanted to celebrate the occasion but never found the opportunity until now. Tonight was our regularly scheduled book club meeting, so I asked the hostess if I could add a little celebration within the meeting.
Since Vicki can't build a bonfire in her yard, and since her neighbors would look askance (and aghast) at us 50- and 60-something ladies dancing naked in her backyard, I decided to pass on a pagan-type celebration and instead observe Fairy Day a few days early.
I have had so much fun the past few weeks, looking for fairy-and nature-related items to give to each member. I made up gift bags, each containing the following: A fairy/zodiac magnet (half of us are Cancers!), a fairy postcard, a fairy temporary tattoo, little embroidered flowers, a little gossamer bag filled with soap leaves, a fairy wand (of course!), some stickers, bubble-blowing liquid and a little vial of fairy dust tied with a string and a little fairy charm. I purchased the magnets, the postcards and the tattoos at These fairies are decidedly adult, and not at all cutesy. Risque is more like it!
I also printed out the Fairy Meditation from, and cut it into strips so each woman could read part of it. I ended up with five strips, so I printed out three fairy poems from the Internet so each of us could read something aloud. Afterward, we went out on the deck so we could blow bubbles (because fairies are attracted to bubbles.) After that, we went in and applied our tattoos.
After we enjoyed Vicki's sinfully delicious dessert and her hazelnut coffee, I had everyone look under their cups. My friend Jude found a sticker under hers, so she won the "grand prize," a little resin fairy and a small dream catcher.
Everyone, may I say, enjoyed the experience tremendously! And as I was getting into my car after it was over, I gazed up at the half moon, and gave a little wink and a nod to Daisy.
And yes, daughter dear, I have one of everthing left to make you a bag too!
There's still time to plan a celebration for Fairy Day, which is Sunday. The website listed above is full of ways to celebrate: e-greeting cards, free graphics, kids' projects, tips on decorating your house, and recipes. (I was going to make fairy sugar but didn't have the oomph to get it all together.)
P. S. When I got home from work today there were two huge boxes that came in the mail. I already know, without asking, that my niece Lisa will forbid me to open them until Monday. The big question is, can I resist?

Monday, June 18, 2007


(Painting by Alana Harley)

I have always longed to have a front garden, and now I'm going to get one!

I used to be an avid gardener. I wrote a column called The Garden Gate for the Bismarck Tribune. I prepared the newsletter for the Bismarck-Mandan Garden Club, and I took the Master Gardener Class. I had a pretty nice perennial garden going in my back yard, but as our huge American Elm got even huger, the garden got shadier and shadier, and eventually everything died out. My lovely little herb garden is too shaded as well. Although I continued to grow a lot of annuals in containers, my dream of having a beautiful perennial garden evaporated.

Funny how some things come together. The north half of our front yard - where the sun shines all day long - had gone badly to weeds in the past couple of years, so this spring my husband rototilled it all up. Weeks later, he still has not planted the grass and the weeks are back with a vengeance.

Then, a certain home improvement store, which I won't name, but starts with Lowe's, finally gave us a refund on a badly-installed floor. (I'm still going to fight to have the labor costs refunded too.) However, it was in the form of store credit, not cash. Well, I certainly am not going to buy another floor at Lowe's, so what to do with the money?

I made Dan a proposition: "For Father's Day, let's use part of the money to get you a really nice, new gas grill for a change. And," I continued, "why not let me turn the front yard into a front garden? That way you'll only have to seed the boulevard." It didn't take him long to answer. Done deal!

While we were at the garden center I picked out 40 leaf-shaped stepping stones for laying out curving paths. It turns out that the front yard is bigger in reality than in my mind's eye, so I will go back tomorrow and pick up some of the stepping stones that have a Celtic look to their design. I also have a collection of decorative stepping stones from my pathetic shade garden that will now go up front. I already have an arbor with a seat that will go in one corner.

At least for now, I think I will be putting down plastic mulch to squelch the weeds. It's more important, I think, to get a lot of hardscaping done now. I will put in the perennials gradually, and I'll plant seeds this fall like bachelor's button that will sprout in the spring. And of course, I will fill in blank spaces with annual bedding plants.

I do have a picket fence and an arbor over the sidewalk, on which grows a monstrous William Baffin climbing rose. (The poor mailman should have a machete to whack at William when he delivers the mail.) William is in full bloom right now, and he is gorgeous. I also have other hardy Canadian shrub roses against the fence, and some lilies, so I won't have to start absolutely from scratch. In fact, a lady passing by once told me that my house looks like a fairy-tale cottage!

I have a birdbath and some large pots that I will put to good use in the front. And, I have a large collection of fairy statues, and a sign that says, "There are fairies at the bottom of the garden." So, as I am imagining this fairy garden, a light bulb went on in my head. Who loved fairies? Who loved gardening? Who gave herself a nom de plume made up of two flowers' names?

Yes, my garden will be in honor of Daisy Lupin. I will put a little plaque or marker to that effect somewhere. Even though I don't have a digital camera, I will try to post a few pictures now and then to show you the progress of Daisy's garden.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Lutheran Ladies Janet Letnes Martin and Suzanne (Johnson) Nelson
Authors of "Lutheran Church Basement Women" and other funny books
I really, really needed a laugh today, and I got it, courtesy of Lila from Indigo Pears (link at right). Lila knows I am a Lutheran, and her mom is Lutheran as well. In fact, Lila's mom sent this to her: (Bold, italicized comments are mine):
Garrison Keillor
I have made fun of Lutherans for years - who wouldn't, if you lived in Minnesota (or North Dakota)? But I have also sung with Lutherans and that is one of the main joys of life, along with hot baths and fresh sweet corn.
We make fun of Lutherans for their blandness, their excessive calm, their fear of giving offense, their lack of speed and also for their secret fondness for macaroni and cheese. But nobody sings like them. If you ask an audience in New York City, a relatively Lutheran-less place, to sing along on the chorus of Michael Row the Boat Ashore, they will look daggers at you as if you had asked them to strip to their underwear. But if you do this among Lutherans they'll smile and row that boat ashore and up on the beach! And down the road!
Lutherans are bred from childhood to sing in four-part harmony. It's a talent that comes from sitting on the lap of someone singing alto or tenor or bass and hearing the harmonic intervals by putting your little head against that person's rib cage. It's natural for Lutherans to sing in harmony. We're too modest to be soloists, too worldly to sing in unison. When you're singing in the key of C and you slide into the A7th and D7th chords, all two hundred of you, it's an emotionally fulfilling moment. (I can't hold a tune in a bucket, but I sing in church.)
I once sang the bass line of Children of the Heavenly Father in a room with about three thousand Lutherans in it; and when we finished, we all had tears in our eyes, partly from the promise that God will not forsake us, partly from the proximity of all those lovely voices. By our joining in harmony, we somehow promise that we will not forsake each other.
I do believe this: These Lutherans are the sort of people you could call up when you're in deep distress. If you're dying, they'll comfort you. If you're lonely, they'll talk to you. And if you're hungry, they'll give you tuna salad!
The following list was compiled by a 20th century Lutheran who, observing other Lutherans, wrote down exactly what he saw or heard:
1. Lutherans believe in prayer, but would practically die if asked to pray out loud.
2. Lutherans like to sing, except when confronted with a new hymn or a hymn with more than four stanzas.
3. Lutherans believe their pastors will visit them in the hospital, even if they don't notify them that they are there.
4. Lutherans usually follow the official liturgy and will feel it is their way of suffering for their sins.
5. Lutherans believe in miracles and even expect miracles, especially during their stewardship visitation programs or when passing the plate.
6. Lutherans feel that applauding for their children's choirs would make the kids too proud and conceited. (Believe me, this is true. It was FORBIDDEN to clap during our Sunday School and Bible School programs.)
7. Lutherans think that the Bible forbids them from crossing the aisle while passing the peace.
8. Lutherans drink coffee as if it were the Third Sacrament.
9. Some Lutherans still believe that an ELCA bride and an LCMS groom make for a mixed marriage. (ELCA is the most liberal branch of the Lutheran church, LCMS one of the least.)
10. Lutherans feel guilty for not staying to clean up after their own wedding reception in the Fellowship Hall. (This is my theory: Catholic guilt is instilled by the priest. Jewish guilt is instilled by Jewish mothers. And Lutheran guilt is instilled in oneself.)
11. Lutherans are willing to pay up to one dollar for a meal at church.
12. Lutherans think that Garrison Keillor stories are totally factual.
13. Lutherans still serve Jell-O in the proper liturgical color of the season and think that peas in a tuna noodle casserole add too much color.
14. Lutherans believe that it is OK to poke fun at themselves and never take themselves too seriously.
15: My addition to the list: Lutherans never, ever, sit in the front row. It's that modesty thing.
And finally, you know you're a Lutheran when:
*It's 100 degrees, with 90% humidity, and you still have coffee after the service;
*You hear something really funny during the sermon and smile as loudly as you can;
*Donuts are a line item in the church budget, just like coffee;
*The communion cabinet is open to all, but the coffee cabinet is locked up tight;
*All your relatives graduated from a school named Concordia; (I wanted my daughter to go to college at Concordia Lutheran in Moorhead, MN; she would have none of it. "I'm not going to a religious school," she said, which is totally ironic when it turns out that she went to Georgetown University (a Jesuit school) and is attending grad school at Catholic University of America.)
*When you watch a "Star Wars" movie and say, May the Force be with you, you respond, "and also with you";
*And lastly, it takes ten minutes to say good-bye. (This is more of a Norwegian thing, but I'll accept it.)
And how do you tell the difference between a Catholic and a Lutheran?
Catholics glorify Mary; Lutherans glorify rice.
I hope neither I nor Garrison Keillor (a god to me) have offended you; it was all in fun. And if you get the chance, please read one of the Scandinavian/Lutheran books by the Lutheran Ladies.


Oh. my.gaw. Tornado sirens are going off all over Bismarck. Dan reports there's nothing to be seen in the sky, and the dogs are howling their heads off, just like they do whenever the tornado siren test is held at 9:30 AM every last Friday of the month during tornado season.
I have lived in North Dakota all my life, and have never seen a tornado. But that doesn't mean I am never going to see one, does it? Dan is always the calm one, while I am running like a chicken with its head cut off trying to round up everyone including pets to the basement. (Ever tried to get a cat go to to the basement when she doesn't want to go?) Tonight, I sit relatively calmly at the computer.
I am especially wary this evening, as The Fargo Forum today ran the first part of a five-part series on the F-5 force tornado that devastated a large part of Fargo in June 1957. It killed 13 people, including six children from one family.
I knew about the Fargo tornado. In one of our journalism classrooms at UND, there was a copy of The Forum printed the day after the tornado, with the above photo. The Forum won a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the story.
What I didn't know, though, was that the tornado's damage was concentrated in the Golden Ridge area of Fargo. At that time in Fargo's history, the Forum's story today related, the Golden Ridge suburb was a lower-class neighborhood in many Fargoans' minds - with low-income people or renegades who didn't want to pay city taxes and follow city rules.
It took a tornado to change people's minds about the Golden Ridge residents, as other city residents reached out to help them with food and blankets, shelter and emotional comfort. After that, Golden Ridge was mentally absorbed into the City of Fargo, and today, of course, the boundaries of Fargo stretch far beyond what was then the northwest edge of the city.
Okay, the sirens are done, the dogs have quit howling, the tornado has moved northeast of Bismarck. All is calm.



I don't really have the spirit to blog today, but this is timely, and besides, Lisaoceandreamer is reminding us to tell those close to us that we love them before it's too late.

So, Dan, even though you haven't seeded the lawn and the weeds are growing like...weeds, and even though you mowed down a third of my beautiful lavender irises this spring, I LOVE YOU, and HAPPY FATHER'S DAY, because you are a great dad!

Because I lost two pregnancies before Kristen, Dan had to wait a long time to be a dad, but he made up for lost time. The day Kristen was born, he went out and bought her a frilly pink dress. The saleslady, who turned out to be our new neighbor when we moved into our house, told us later she had never seen a prouder dad than Dan.

Because at that time he was on the road from Monday morning until Thursday evening, their dad-daughter reunions were much anticipated. That's Dan giving Kristen a horsey ride not long after he got home and changed into his comfy scrubs.

When Dan wasn't on the road, he was the one who got up with her for night feedings when she was an infant. He and she would watch old war movies on TV and he would, he joked, tell her all about "tin futures in Bolivia." Whatever he did, it put her to sleep! Thanks, Dan, for that.

And thank you for giving me my Saturdays. Every Saturday afternoon he volunteered to take care of her so I could shop or go to a movie.

It was Dan who found Kristen an inexpensive but good little red car to drive in high school, and it was he who found her an inexpensive but good little car - also red - to drive in Washington, DC. He drove it out to DC this past March, the most unpredictable winter month.

For years, Dan and his pal Al would take Kristen and Al's three girls for a dads and daughters fishing trip. Dan even took Kristen turkey hunting when she was still very little and was proud of what a little trouper she was.

I may have told this story on my blog before; I've certainly told it to all my friends. When Kristen was in second grade, her teacher asked her if her mom could bake some treats for a class party. "Well, I'll have to ask my Dad," she replied, "Because my mom doesn't bake." So true. Dan was the baker. Every Christmas Eve Day Dan and Kristen would bake huge batches of sugar cookies and decorate them.

When Kristen was hit by a car when she was 10, I wasn't able to reach him right away. I'll never forget the look on his face as he came tearing into the emergency room and the relief that replaced it as I told him she would be okay. Later, when she was 22 and deathly ill in a DC hospital, I could hear the panic and worry in his voice when he called me. It was harder for him, having to stay in Bismarck, than it was for me being at the hospital, and he was so grateful for the tiny little bits of good news I was finally able to give him.

Kristen used to call Dan "Silly Daddy" a lot when she was little. At almost-25, she loves her old Dad but still thinks he's pretty silly sometimes, especially when he starts repeating himself. He has asked her umpteen times how her car is doing, and told her a gazillion times that he thinks her boyfriend is a "great guy and a really hard worker." She teases him that the only TV programs he watches are on "the war channel and the killing channel." (The History Channel and The Hunting Channel.) She also teases him about being a wanna-be cowboy, with his cowboy boots and hat. She knows he is a man of simple tastes, happy with the gift of a book or a flannel shirt. She knows he is extremely proud of her accomplishments and brags about her to all his friends and customers. And she knows she can count on him in good times and in bad times because she has his unconditional love.


Dan had a really good example to follow in his dad, Earl, who died when Kristen was in grade school. Earl always helped Dan's mom with the dishes and cleaning. He showed Dan you can be a man and still do housework. He took Dan and his brothers hunting from an early age, teaching them sportsmanship and a love of nature. He was a wonderful grandfather to Kristen, his "little chicken," and like Dan, he was a good husband to his wife. And what better kind of Dad can you be than one who loves and cherishes your child's mother and treats her with kindness and respect?



I wrote yesterday that I would write a tribute to Daisy, but instead I am copying this from Lisa at Lisaoceandreamer (link at right). I could never write a better tribute than this to our friend Daisy.
(Lisa, that is exactly the kind of picture Daisy would have chosen.)

Daisy always wore moonstones, she taught us about the phases of the moon and the affects of the moon and cycles of the moon. She talked of sleeping with the moon light on her pillow. She would lay her moonstones on the window sill to absorb the moon light. I own moonstones now because of her. For me, she now dwells in the moonlight. She is the blooming garden, she is the mighty oak, she is the Rowan tree, she is quiet village life and fairies that dance among the blooms. She is the reading of a good book on a wooden chair in the sun of summer. She is fairy lights and incense and the Green Man upon her sitting room wall. She is a days ride on the local bus wearing her magic hat. She is shawls on a cool day and dangling earrings every day. She is the loyal friend, the wise goddess, the healing teacher. She is a glass of wine with candlelight. She is fairy podlings and spirit dolls. She is her childhood imagination and Sunday tea. She is the train through the countryside and the waves of Cornwall. She is the hippie heart. She is music playing. She is the songs Ladies of the Canyon and Suzanne. She is the finch and the shy crows and the blackbirds and thrushes she sees from her garden chair. She is the color purple and bare feet. She is the smell of jasmine and roses and Vanilla. She is Sunday rest. She is history retold. She is the willow tree. She is springtime and Saturday market. She is faery steps that lead upward. She is the Lunar months of the Celtic calendar. She is the cool breeze on the first Spring morning. She is so much more....and she will remain within all our hearts and when we see these things, feel these things, touch these things, read a certain book, hear a song, watch the night sky or a bee landing upon a will be her. Daisy will live on through those she touched and will forever be in the moonlight and dancing with her cat in the kitchen and out with the flora in her garden.

We used to talk about wishing we were Ladies of the Canyon from the Joni Mitchell song or how each of us loved the Leonard Cohen song Suzanne. I will hear these beloved songs differently now, my heart will swell and I will remember my friend, the friend I never met but who touched my life profoundly.

This is her chair in the garden – she took this last summer.

Just so there is no confusion, the following was written by Lisa as well:

Remember to tell those you love and care about how you feel. Remember to let others know they matter, they enhance your life, they make you smile, they brighten your days. Carry their hearts in your heart. This community, this internet blogging community is real and it's amazing and it's life changing and it brings people together in unimaginable ways. It changes lives. Between words and deeds and sharing and our lives and our hopes, dreams and sorrows we connect on a level so extraordinary. Don't take it for granted. Honor the crossing of paths.I carry your hearts, I carry them in my heart.........each and every day - you all matter!

Saturday, June 16, 2007


(This photo was taken from Daisy's first post of the New Year 2007.)
I am in shock, and I am in mourning.

I have just learned from other blogs that Daisy Lupin has died. Her daughter, Lydia, posted (on Daisy's blog) that her Mum has passed on.

I say "passed on" because I am sure Daisy is in another realm, right now. I am not sure if she is with the fae, sipping nectar from the flowers, or wearing out her shoes by dancing all night as a member of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, having finally found her eleven sisters.

Other than that, I have no words right now to express what I am feeling. Although I have never met Daisy, she became a dear friend to me. I will write a post in her honor, later.

Thursday, June 14, 2007




I found the illustrated quote shown above a while ago and have been saving it in "My Pictures" until I found a use for it. I think I found the perfect quote/poem to go with it, thanks to Gemma, who published it in her blog a few days ago. (


-Chief Seattle


I live in the heart of plains Indian country. Drive a ways south of Bismarck-Mandan, and you'll see a sign that says "Welcome to the Great Sioux Nation." I get a thrill every time I see that sign even though there is nothing to see but more sagebrush. Most people probably don't even see the sign, intent as they are on getting to Prairie Knights, the Native American casino.

Most Americans are familiar with the Sioux - or Lakota - Indians. (Lakota, their name for themselves, means friend; Sioux means enemy. ) Their introduction probably came from the Kevin Costner film, "Dances With Wolves." While DWW played in Bismarck, the theatre was always packed with Native Americans (a rare sight) and they seemed to very much approve of the movie. The movie was filmed in South Dakota. As we North Dakotan have to remind everyone, "Dakota" country is an advertising image. There are TWO Dakotas.

The Sioux were nomads, but we also had Mandan Indians living close by. The Mandans were an agricultural-based people, living in stationary communities along the Missouri River bottoms. Many villages were swept under water when the Garrison Dam was built. Today, the Mandans are joined with the Hidatsas and the Arikaras into the Three Affiliated Tribes. We also have the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa in the state.

Living in Bismarck, I have learned some of the native culture - or what passes for it. I have attended powwows at United Tribes Technical College and been mesmerized by the drums, the dancing and the colorful costumes. I've attended Native American art shows. I've purchased dream catchers. I've tasted Indian tacos (made with Indian fry bread and taco fixings).

I've read "Grass Dancer" by Susan Power, and studied the Ghost Dance which led to the massacre at Wounded Knee. When I walk down Fifth Street in Bismarck I sometimes think, "Sitting Bull walked down this.actual.street." I've burned cleansing sage gathered from prairie. I've learned bits and pieces of Native spirituality: About Wakan Tanka - The Great Spirit, the Medicine Wheel and the Four Directions, Buffalo White Woman.

I've seen the rare white buffalo at Jamestown, ND, long anticipated and very revered by the Native Americans. I've visited The Crazy Horse Monument in South Dakota (and I don't like his big-nosed face!). Fort Abraham Lincoln - George Armstrong Custer's last post - is closest, just south of Mandan and across the river from Bismarck. From there, Custer and the Seventh Cavalry left for Montana and the ill-fated Battle of the Little Bighorn (they died on my birthday!). At the same location, but in an earlier time, the Mandans had a village of earth lodges.

But for one who lives so close to the source, my knowledge of Native Americans is pitiful. At this stage of my life, as I seek wisdom, explore my oneness with the earth and try to find my place on the planet, I am eager to learn more of Native American spirituality.

Several people who commented on Gemma's post wrote words to the effect that Native Americans "got it" long before the rest of us, and hopes to the effect that "WE get it before it is too late." The respect these aboriginal American held for the environment was natural and abiding. (Yes, Native Americans are our aborigines, which is merely a term for indigenous people. American Indians referred to themselves as "The People", because, in the beginning, there were no other people.

We would all do well to follow the Native American Ten Commandments, which I ran across recently (author unknown):

1. Treat the earth and all that dwell thereon with respect.

2. Show great respect for your fellow beings.

3. Work together for the benefit of all mankind.

4. Give assistance and kindness whenever needed.

5. Look after the well being of mind and body.

6. Remain close to the Great Spirit.

7. Do what you know to be right.

8. Dedicate a share of your efforts to the greater good.

9. Be truthful and honest at all times.

10. Take full responsibility for your actions.

I just obtained a copy of "The Journey of Crazy Horse," by Joseph M. Marshall III, and plan to read it soon. I hope that reading this book about the famed visionary and brave warrior is just the first step I'll take in learning about Native American religion, culture and wisdom.

I have no wish to be a Native American "wanna be" or all of a sudden turn into a shaman who smokes a pipe in a sweat lodge or has vision quests and practices the Sun Dance. I mean no disrespect to Native Americans. I just want to "get it" myself before it is too late, and I want to feel a oneness with "The People" who share our web - our circle - of life.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


I've been working at my new job for two weeks now and haven't posted anything yet. I guess I feel as if it is still a dream, and if I write anything about it, I'll wake up and find that it doesn't exist.
Or maybe the reason why I haven't written about it is that I feel like a fraud and an impostor. A fraud because I've had hardly anything to do and they are paying me money for it. A certain card needs to be inserted into my computer before I can start doing abstracts, which will be the major part of my job. They received a card in last week, and everyone was rejoicing, but it proved to be the wrong card, so now we wait until next week. In the meantime, I do owner's and encumbrance reports for lenders or do scut work like filing document and plat cards. After that, if there is still nothing to do, I draw out legal (land) descriptions. My husband says to relax and enjoy it because there will come many days when I will be overwhelmed with work. Having worked in this industry for nine years, I know he is right.
And I feel like an impostor because they gave me my very own office! In 36 years of being in the working world, I have never had my own office before. I've either been in cubicles or had a desk in a room full of desks. My former supervisor worked in this industry for 24 years - as a department manager for many of them - and never had an office. So in addition to feeling like a fraud I feel guilty!
It's only a six-minute drive from my driveway to the parking lot. The office building we work in is new, and so everything in our office is new and freshly painted. There are only four others working with me so far. The people are nice and everything is quiet and peaceful. No more jibber-jabber from 14 desks in one room, or shouting from room to room. At lunch time, if I choose, I can go into my office with my lunch and shut the door.
My office is mine to decorate as I please. No more of those horrid inspirational posters for me! So far I haven't put any pictures up. I guess I don't want to put any nails in their fresh new walls unless they decide to keep me. Such insecurity! I have bought some items from Tarzhay (Target) and they are all of a Zen theme. In one corner of my very large desk I have the Buddha shown above, a white hydrangea in a "stone" block and a small picture with bamboo and Chinese writing.
On the window sill (yes, I have my own large window after being in rooms with no windows for so long), I placed a black rectangular wooden tray with three green candles in glass cubes (also from Tarzhay), a small fountain that I bought elsewhere and a photo of my daughter. Obviously, I'm striving for a tranquil and ordered feel after the turmoil I experienced in my other job. Hopefully, when I am rushed and harried in days to come, I can look at my little Zen displays and find peace and calm. And, I tell myself, if this job doesn't work out all these things will look great in my home office.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007


Someone gave me a brand new, hardcover copy of the book, "The Vein of Gold," by Julia Cameron ("A Journey to Your Creative Heart").
I already have a copy, so I am holding a giveaway! Just add a comment on this post and I will put your names in a hat and draw for a winner.
I have not "done" any of Julia Cameron's books, and this is the only one I own. If you'd like to add more to your comment, those of you who have followed "The Artist's Way", "The Vein of Gold" and "Finding Water" can answer me this: Are they worth doing? Or, comment on any old thing!
I'll close the giveaway on Sunday, June 17.


My good friend Jude was a rock to me throughout my recent trials and tribulations, especially when I professed on my blog that I had fallen into a situational depression, and that I was in the grief stage over losing my job.

Jude wrote,

"Hi, Jules,

Anyone who has ever grieved knows that grieving carries with it a tremendous wear and tear to the body, never mind the soul. (I read that somewhere and it is very true.) Take baby steps now. It's the steps that count, not the size.


In the next few days she sent me the following five baby steps:


One wee step for today - you know the chair you like to sit in? Give it a plumping and a bit of a vacuum, maybe even a spritz of Fabreze on the cushions. You know the table next to it where you might rest your cup? Give it a clearing off & a polish. Now you're ready to brew that cup of tea and sit down and think of five things that have made you the happiest and let your mind wander where it will forever long as it takes.


You know that cupboard you went to yesterday to get your tea? Well how about straightening the tea/coffee supplies, throw out the old, and give the whole shelf a spit & polish and the next time you are out and about, buy yourself a new tin of tea for your afternoon pleasure. There's nothing quite like it for a pick-me-up.


(This was written with the knowledge that I had a job interview that day.)

Prior to 4:00 PM, read Galatians 5:22-23. Meditate upon what the Bible says about the fruits of the spirit such as peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.


No matter what happened yesterday, your step for today is one of "strengthen." Remember the comfy chair, the one you fluffed and freshened? Take a seat and simply, silently, hold your hands together. I know of no better way to communicate love and mercy to ourselves. Try not to think nor to fix - just let the goodness and grace flow.


This will be the fifth step from me but not for you. You, my dear, will continue to climb and your happiness is all up to you. Don't depend on others to make you happy. Continue too develop your talents and interests that are God given to you. Do not worry about "the speck in someone else's eye." The rest of the stairway is yours and I know you will learn something to gain and guide you each step. As you said [regarding my interview], they "really, really want me" so keep this as your mantra to take into your work each day. . . what empowerment. Now you "really, really want" yourself to be happy.


As you know, I got the job. And once I started practicing the baby steps around the house, the floors were cleaned, everything was dusted, new sheets and a comforter were purchased for the bed in summery blues and greens, the throw rug on which Gracie had piddled too many times was tossed, and all the bills and papers were paid/examined/organized/thrown. I still haven't organized the tea/coffee/soup packets shelf, but I plan to get a tin of tea on Saturday and before I add it to the shelf the shelf will be cleaned!



Barrie, one of my newly-discovered Scottish cousins, sent me "The Clinton Saga" written by his uncle, Eddie Clinton. In the saga, Eddie writes, "Granny's father [meaning MY Great-Grandmother Hughina Munro] was a MacDonald, a shepherd in Wester Sutherland. His family came from (the Isle of) Skye and, I believe, were direct descendants of Flora MacDonald of Bonnie Prince Charlie fame."

What a tantalizing tidbit! Could I, myself, be a direct descendant of Flora MacDonald?

Flora MacDonald (or Macdonald) is a Highland Heroine, having helped Charles Edward Stuart ("Bonnie Prince Charlie"), the young pretender to the Scottish throne, escape the clutches of the English.

Following the overwhelming defeat of his forces at the Battle of Culloden in April, 1746, Prince Charlie, with a bounty of 30,000 pounds on his head, was on the run for months, hiding out in the Western-most islands of Scotland. Since the outer islands were overrunning with Redcoats, it was determined that Charlie should make for the Isle of Skye in the Inner Hebrides. It fell to Flora to guide him. After some hesitation, she finally agreed to help the prince. Most sources say she was not a Jacobite (supporter of the Stuarts' claim to the throne), but, says one writer, "Flora would never have seen the prince betrayed though she sympathized not with the Jacobites."

Another theory is that Flora was handed the task because she was young, healthy, full of spirit and practical, and she could obtain passports using the ruse of visiting her mother on Skye. Whatever the case, she later told the English Duke of Cumberland ("The Butcher of Culloden") that it was "an act of simple humanity", and she would have done the same for him.

To further the ruse, Bonnie Prince Charlie was disguised as Flora's Irish maid, "Betty Burke." Although clothing was rounded up to fit his big frame, he made for a very funny woman, taking giant strides and having difficulty managing his skirts. His big clumsy boots nearly gave him away.

The journey was fraught with peril at every turn, but Flora successfully delivered Charlie to Skye, and he eventually went into exile in France.

When they parted, Charlie supposedly gave Flora a gold locket, and told her, "Madame, we shall meet yet at St. James." By that he meant that he still hoped to be king one day and welcome her to St. James' Palace in London. Flora never saw the prince again.

Bonnie Prince Charlie never returned to Scotland. He died in Rome in 1788. For her part in the escape, Flora was sent to prison, including a brief stay in The Tower of London. However, she became highly regarded as a heroine and was released in 1747.

The lovely Flora, who was described as having soft features, gentle manners and an elegant presence, later married. She and her husband immigrated to North Carolina in the Colonies, but later returned to the Isle of Skye, where she is buried.

Some say Flora and Bonnie Prince Charlie fell in love during their brief time together, but "simply knowing that she put her life on the line for the fleeing prince is romance enough for most." And it is enough for me as well.

Am I her descendant? This could be all poppycock. Supposedly I am related to Buffalo Bill Cody as well (but not directly, as he had no children). I may never know, unless my super-sleuthing second cousin, Shirl, tracks our family back that far (and she's the one who could do it.)

In the meantime, it is fun to think I may be descended from such a courageous, bold, beautiful lady, a Highland Heroine.



(By G. W. Joy)

"Far over yon hills of the heather so green,
And down by the corrie that sings to the sea,
The bonnie young Flora sat sighing her lane,
The dew on her plaid and the tear in her e'e.
She looked at a boat which the breezes had swung,
Away on the wave like a bird on the main;
And aye as it lessened, she sighed and she sang,
Farewell to the lad I shall ne'er see again;
Farewell to my hero, the gallant and young,
Farewell to the lad I shall ne'er see again."

Tuesday, June 5, 2007


The very successful poetry fest initiated by Daisy Lupin, which features best-loved children's poems, got me to thinking about my favorite books as a child.

I was amazed to discover how many of the best-loved children's books I did not read until I was an adult: "A Wrinkle in Time," "The Secret Garden", "The Indian in the Cupboard," "The Velveteen Rabbit," "The Little Prince," "The Borrowers," "The Hobbit," "Charlotte's Web",
"The Giver," "Anne of Green Gables," "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," "Little Women", "Amelia Bedelia". Gosh, that's a lot of great children's literature to which I was never exposed.

When I was a student at UND and was tired of my study carrel in the library, I would sneak down to the fiction section and read "The Secret Garden" until I felt refreshed enough to study again. My college roommate and I read chapters of "The Borrowers" aloud to each other because it was a requirement for her kiddie lit class. Some books, like "The Velveteen Rabbit" and "Charlotte's Web", I read for the first time after I bought them for my daughter.

I always had my nose stuck in a book, so what, then, did I read as a child? Of course, a few books came readily to mind: the Bobbsey Twins series, the Nancy Drew series and the Little House series. I was so upset when "Little House on the Prairie" became a TV series. Hardscrabble, bearded pioneer Pa was nothing like Michael Landon. And the pretty actress who played Ma should have been drabbed down a lot.

The Little House books, now they were the real thing! I followed the Ingalls family from their "Little House in the Big Woods" in Wisconsin to "The Little House on the Prairie" in Minnesota to Indian country in Kansas and finally to De Smet, SD. Pa, always restless, always looking for the frontier, was forever uprooting the family. They lived "By The Shores of Silver Lake" and "On the Banks of Plum Creek" and in "The Little Town on the Prairie". They suffered through an extremely tough "The Long Winter" in South Dakota.

I loved reading about Pa's cleverness with making and building things. How Ma cherished her beloved Delaney dress, how Mary and Laura played with corn husk dolls and were delighted to receive oranges in their stockings at Christmas, how Jack the Brindle Bulldog trotted faithfully behind the covered wagon for hundreds if not thousands of miles in his lifetime.

I attended a one-room schoolhouse, and its "library" was just one small bookcase. But it contained "Pippi Longstocking", and "Heidi." Johanna Spyri could make a simple meal of bread and butter and goat's milk seem like heaven! The library contained a couple of really odd (to me) books: "Water Babies" and "White Patch," but it also contained a book I read over and over again, "Call it Courage," by Armstrong Sperry, about a young Polynesian boy who accidentally ends up stranded alone on an island and learns to fend for himself.

I adored "Caddie Woodlawn," by Carol Ryrie Brink, about an adventurous girl growing up as a tomboy in Wisconsin in the 1800s, and I so enjoyed Elizabeth Enright's "The Saturdays" and "Four Story Mistake," about the Melendy children who lived in a house with a cupola. (Love that word.)

Outside of school, I somehow found "The Yearling", by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, about a young Florida girl who tries to keep her pet deer even though it ruins her father's crops. I discovered "Where the Lilies Bloom", about orphans who struggle to make a living and hide the fact of their parents' death. I bawled over "Lassie Come Home", and I read "Lad" and every other dog book I could find by Albert Payson Terhune.

From my grandma's bookcase, there were the charming older books like "The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew" and "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch." I also discovered the Ramona books, by Beverly Cleary, whose books for teenagers became my favorites later.

My book club friends who grew up in Minnesota would surely add the Betsy-Tacy books, but sadly, I was never introduced to them. Must be a Minnesota-Dakota thing.

The more I thought about my favorite childhood books, the more they seemed to rise up out of the mists of my mind. Take, for example, "Blue Willow," by Doris Gales, about Janey Larkin, the daughter of itinerant farm workers who only wants to live in a place like the scene from her family's one valuable possession, a Blue Willow plate. I haven't thought of that book in years!

I'm sure if I thought about it some more, I could unearth some other jewels from my memory. Please share your favorite childhood books with me - I might be reminded of a few of mine!

Monday, June 4, 2007


James Abbott McNeil Whistler
I must add another of my favorite childhood poems. Obviously, I was attracted to repetition and alliteration, and romantic death!
Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,
In a kingdom by the sea,
That a maiden there lived whom you may know
By the name of Annabel Lee;
And this maiden she lived with no other thought
Than to love and be loved by me.
I was a child and she was a child,
In this kingdom by the sea;
But we loved with a love that was more than love-
I and my Annabel Lee;
With a love that the winged seraphs of heaven
Coveted her and me.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.
The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.
But our love it was stronger by far than the love
Of those who were older than we-
Of many far wiser than we-
And neither the angels in heaven above,
Nor the demons down under the sea,
Can ever dissever my soul from the soul
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee.
For the moon never beams without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide,
I lie down by the side
Of my darling- my darling- my life and my bride,
In the sepulchre there by the sea,
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

Sunday, June 3, 2007


"Snow Flower and the Secret Fan"
Lisa See

This book - which was my book club book this month - is about Lily and Snow Flower, Chinese women who become "laotongs" or "old sames", in the old Chinese tradition of pairing two women to become lifelong, extremely close friends. These emotional pairings were so important they were arranged by marriage brokers.

If you think being a woman is difficult sometimes, you should read "Snow Flower" to put things in perspective. It tells in vivid detail how women's feet were bound in excruciating fashion to create the tiny, desirable golden lilies. A member of our club searched the Internet for pictures of golden lilies, and the pictures were more gruesome than one could imagine.

A girl born in 19th Century China was considered to be very nearly worthless. Her only hope was in making a good marriage. After she was married, she moved into her husband's home, where she held the lowest position in the household, working slavishly for an ill-tempered mother in law. She might regain honor if she bore sons, but not worthless daughters.

Laotongs would engage in "nu shu," secret women's writing, sending each other letters written on the folds of silken fans, as well as small gifts like embroidered handkerchiefs, "thereby reaching out of their isolation to share their hopes, dreams and accomplishments.
"Her Father's Daughter"
Gene Stratton Porter

I picked this book up at the antique mall last Saturday, having read Porter's "Girl of the Limberlost" and "Freckles." I enjoyed these books, as old fashioned and sentimental as they are today, because the heroes and heroines are always so plucky in the face of adversity and because Porter's descriptions of our natural world are so beautiful.

"Her Father's Daughter", published in 1921, features another plucky heroine - an intelligent, independent, forthright girl. I loved the descriptions of the edible plants the girl sketched and painted after trips to the deserts and canyons near Los Angeles. It would have been glorious to see the paradise that was California before it was overpopulated and overdeveloped. Just the descriptions of the lush orchards and groves would have been worth the price of the book. What I did not like about this book, however, was its horrid anti-Oriental sentiments, with Japanese people characterized as "the yellow peril".

"Isolde: Queen of the Western Isles"
Rosalind Miles

I want to thank Lila from Indigo Pears for recommending this book to me. I have read a lot of books set in Scotland, but had never read much about the Irish (except, of course, for Leon Uris' "Trinity"). I have been wanting to learn more about the stories and myths of Ireland since I found out about my Irish heritage. This book filled the bill very well. It follows, to some extent, the story of the legendary lovers Tristan and Isolde as set out in the movie "Tristan and Isolde," starring Sophia Myles and James Franco. I loved the movie, and I love this book. I had never read Rosalind Miles before, but I have already ordered the second and third books in the series.

"How Reading Proust Can Change Your Life"
(Not a Novel)
Alain De Botton

De Botton posits that by closely examining the writings of Marcel Proust, you can improve your life. Chapter titles include How to Read for Yourself, How to Express Your Emotions, How to be a Good Friend, How to Open Your Eyes and How to be Happy in Love.

I have previously professed a dislike for self-help books, but this is one I really enjoyed. The chapter on how to open your eyes teaches you to learn to appreciate your surrounding by studying works of the painter Jean-Baptiste Chardin. Proust gives an example of a young man gazing dejectedly around his mother's kitchen, a bourgeois and mundane scene of great contrast to his taste for beautiful and costly things which he cannot afford.

But, Proust would say, look at how Chardin takes objects of an ordinary nature and turns them into extraordinarily evocative and beguiling paintings: "A peach to him was as pink and chubby as a cherubim. " These paintings were windows onto a world at once recognizably our own, yet uncommonly, wonderfully tempting."

"The Dance"
Oriah Mountain Dreamer

Yet another self-help book - two in one month! This book has been around quite some time, so it is probably familiar to a lot of people. I did find it useful, judging from the number of pages I earmarked. Basically, she finds hundreds of different ways to say the same thing that is on the book jacket: "What if the question is not why am I so infrequently the person I really want to be, but why do I so infrequently want to be the person I really am?"

"Summer of Glorious Madness"
Christy Yorke
This story of a female psychiatrist who falls in love with her manic-depressive patient for one "deliriously liberating summer" is definitely beach read material. It was highly enjoyable though highly unbelievable. But it's set in San Francisco and the patient is a gardener, so it was thoroughly entertaining for me. At the end of the summer, life goes back to normal (but improved and enhanced) for the psychiatrist, and at the end of summer I will go back to more weighty literature, but for now, no apologies from me for reading lightweight material!