Tuesday, July 31, 2007


These are the books I read in July:

"Harry Potter and the "Deathly Hallows". Need I say more?

"Luncheon of the Boating Party" by Susan Vreeland. I waxed rhapsodic about this book in a post earlier this month.

"Sweetwater Creek," by Anne Rivers Siddons. I love ARS and have read almost all of her books. She writes so well about the Low Country of South Carolina. This book features the Low Country, a farm that raises champion dogs, and dolphins that visit the farm's Sweetwater Creek, so I was in heaven.

"Body Surfing" by Anita Shreve. What I said about Anne Rivers Siddons I'll say about Shreve. I have read most of her books. I think I have read "The Weight of Water" but I'll have to re-visit it because Lila from Indigo Pears got my interest piqued in it. It's funny how one thing leads to another. Lila posted a picture of a Childe Hassam painting which led me to comment about Celia Thaxter's gardening book featuring Hassam's paintings. Which in turn caused Lila to do some research about the murder of two women who were Thaxter's neighbors. Which led to a reference to "The Weight of Water" because this Shreve book revolves around these famous murders that occurred in 19th Century New England.

"Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky. We read this for book club. I was the first one to open my mouth about the book and was complaining that it seemed like it should have been two separate books. "Well, it was," said Barb N., the host who had chosen the book. "Don't you remember me telling you that?" Erm, no. I guess that's why they call it The CRS book club. Originally, Nemirovsky, who was Jewish, had planned to write five books about the German occupation of France. However, after she finished two books, she was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp where she died. I felt like such a fool. The first "book" deals with the sorrowful refugee evacuation from Paris when the Nazis invaded; the second "book" is about French villagers who learn to co-exist with their German conquerors.

I purchased "Night Gardening", by E. L. Swann, on the strength of recommendations by several bloggers. Daisy, I believe, was one. I can believe that, as it is filled with extraordinary descriptions of gardens. It also tells the love story of two older-than-average persons - one handicapped - which I greatly appreciated. And when I say love story I should say Erotic love story.

"Foolsgold" by Susan G. Wooldridge. If you're looking for something to jump start your artistic endeavors, or your poetry writing, go no further. What I like about this book is that she weaves her life into the book so that it's not at all a dry "how-to." I didn't realize I had another of her books: "Poemcrazy". Wooldridge overlaps this book with "Poemcrazy" to a slight extent but not enough to disappoint a person who has purchased both books.

"Tori Amos Piece by Piece", by Tori Amos and Ann Powers. This is no tale of a rock-star diva. Amos is an extremely intelligent, well-read woman who has thoroughly plumbed the depths of her spirituality in all its aspects. She is the daughter of a minister, had a puritanical Christian (read "mean") paternal grandmother and a loving maternal grandfather of Cherokee ancestry. That would be a fascinating enough mix, but Tori folds in discussions of myths, archetypes, goddesses, Mary Magdalene and the Sacred Prostitute, feminism, and older-than-average motherhood.

About the only thing I didn't like about the book were the chapter on her dealings with music moguls, and the chapter in which she deconstructs her songs. Not being musical, I found it extremely boring. However, I remember also being bored when reading ballerina Gelsey Kirkland's biography in which she deconstructed all her ballets. Ladies, first of all, it's boring. Second, leave a little mystique and mystery in your art!

Sunday, July 29, 2007


J. W. Waterhouse

Here's another lady that intrigues me - and a giveaway after the poem.


Alfred, Lord Tennyson
On either side the river lie
Long fields of barley and of rye,
That clothe the wold and meet the sky;
And thro' the field the road runs by
To many-tower'd Camelot;
And up and down the people go,
Gazing where the lilies blow
Round an island there below,
The island of Shalott.
Willows whiten, aspens quiver,
Little breezes dusk and shiver
Thro' the wave that runs for ever
By the island in the river
Flowing down to Camelot.
Four gray walls, and four gray towers,
Overlook a space of flowers,
And the silent isle imbowers
The Lady of Shalott.
By the margin, willow veil'd,
Slide the heavy barges trail'd
By slow horses; and unhail'd
The shallop flitteth silken-sail'd
Skimming down to Camelot:
But who hath seen her wave her hand?
Or at the casement seen her stand?
Or is she known in all the land,
The Lady of Shalott?
Only reapers, reaping early
In among the bearded barley,
Hear a song that echoes cheerly
From the river winding clearly,
Down to tower'd Camelot:
And by the moon the reaper weary,
Piling sheaves in uplands airy,
Listening, whispers
'Tis the fairy Lady of Shalott."


There she weaves by night and day
A magic web with colours gay.
She has heard a whisper say,
A curse is on her if she stay
To look down to Camelot.
She knows not what the curse may be,
And so she weaveth steadily,
And little other care hath she,
The Lady of Shalott.
And moving thro' a mirror clear
That hangs before her all the year,
Shadows of the world appear.
There she sees the highway near
Winding down to Camelot:
There the river eddy whirls,
And there the surly village-churls,
And the red cloaks of market girls,
Pass onward from Shalott.
Sometimes a troop of damsels glad,
An abbot on an ambling pad,
Sometimes a curly shepherd-lad,
Or long-hair'd page in crimson clad,
Goes by to tower'd Camelot;
And sometimes thro' the mirror blue
The knights come riding two and two:
She hath no loyal knight and true,
The Lady of Shalott.
But in her web she still delights
To weave the mirror's magic sights,
For often thro' the silent nights
A funeral, with plumes and lights
And music, went to Camelot:
Or when the moon was overhead,
Came two young lovers lately wed:
"I am half sick of shadows," said
The Lady of Shalott.


A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,
He rode between the barley-sheaves,
The sun came dazzling thro' the leaves
And flamed upon the brazen greaves
Of bold Sir Lancelot.
A red-cross knight for ever kneel'd
To a lady in his shield,
That sparkled on the yellow field,
Beside remote Shalott.
The gemmy bridle glitter'd free,
Like to some branch of stars we see
Hung in the golden Galaxy.
The bridle bells rang merrily
As he rode down to Camelot:
And from his blazon'd baldric slung
A mighty silver bugle hung,
And as he rode his armour rung,
Beside remote Shalott.
All in the blue unclouded weather
Thick-jewell'd shone the saddle-leather
The helmet and the helmet-feather
Burn'd like one burning flame together,
As he rode down to Camelot.
As often thro' the purple night,
Below the starry clusters bright,
Some bearded meteor, trailing light,
Moves over still Shalott.
His broad clear brow in sunlight glow'd;
On burnish'd hooves his war-horse trode;
From underneath his helmet flow'd
His coal-black curls as on he rode,
As he rode down to Camelot.
From the bank and from the river
He flash'd into the crystal mirror,
"Tirra lirra," by the river
Sang Sir Lancelot.
She left the web, she left the loom,
She made three paces thro' the room,
She saw the water-lily bloom,
She saw the helmet and the plume,
She look'd down to Camelot.
Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack'd from side to side;
"The curse is come upon me," cried
The Lady of Shalott.


In the stormy east-wind straining,
The pale yellow woods were waning,
The broad stream in his banks complaining
Heavily the low sky raining
Over tower'd Camelot;
Down she came and found a boat
Beneath a willow left afloat,
And round about the prow she wrote
'The Lady of Shalott'.
And down the river's dim expanse
Like some bold seer in a trance,
Seeing all his own mischance--
With a glassy countenance
Did she look to Camelot.
And at the closing of the day
She loosed the chain, and down she lay;
The broad stream bore her far away,
The Lady of Shalott.
Lying, robed in snowy white
That loosely flew to left and right--
The leaves upon her falling light--
Thro' the noises of the night
She floated down to Camelot:
And as the boat-head wound along
The willowy hills and fields among,
They heard her singing her last song,
The Lady of Shalott.
Heard a carol, mournful, holy,
Chanted loudly, chanted lowly,
Till her blood was frozen slowly,
And her eyes were darken'd wholly,
Turn'd to tower'd Camelot.
For ere she reach'd upon the tide
The first house by the water-side,
Singing in her song she died,
The Lady of Shalott.
Under tower and balcony,
By garden-wall and gallery,
A gleaming shape she floated by,
Dead-pale between the houses high,
Silent into Camelot.
Out upon the wharfs they came,
Knight and burgher, lord and dame,
And round the prow they read her name,
The Lady of Shalott.
Who is this? and what is here?
And in the lighted palace near
Died the sound of royal cheer;
And they cross'd themselves for fear,
All the knights at Camelot:
But Lancelot mused a little space;
He said, "She has a lovely face;
God in his mercy lend her grace,
The Lady of Shalott."
Loreena McKennit set this sad, haunting Tennyson poem to music and put it on her CD "The Visit". She was also videotaped playing the harp and singing this ballad at the Canadian Juno awards. Since I have an extra copy, I am holding a giveaway for Loreena's 30-minute DVD called "No Journey's End", which features the full-length live performance, Loreena speaking about her music, and segments of videos from her other songs. To enter the giveaway, just post a comment here on why you like Loreena McKennitt, or if you've never heard of her but would like to. I'll draw a name in a week or so.

Saturday, July 28, 2007


Henry Maynell Rheam
There are some ladies that enthrall me. Some are fey, some are legend, and some are real, living women. "La Belle Dame Sans Merci" (beautiful woman without pity) is one:



By John Keats

O WHAT can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
Alone and palely loitering?
The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

O what can ail thee, knight-at arms
So haggard and so woe-begone?
The squirrel’s granary is full,
And the harvest’s done.

I see a lily on thy brow
With anguish moist and fever dew,
And on thy cheeks a fading rose
Fast withereth too.

I met a lady in the meads,
Full beautiful—a faery’s child,
Her hair was long, her foot was light,
And her eyes were wild.

I made a garland for her head
And bracelets too, and fragrant zone;
She look’d at me as she did love,
And made sweet moan.

I set her on my pacing steed,
And nothing else saw all day long,
For sidelong would she bend, and sing
A faery’s song.

She found me roots of relish sweet,
And honey wild, and manna dew,
And sure in language strange she said—
“I love thee true.”

She took me to her elfin grot,
And there she wept, and sigh’d fill sore,
And there I shut her wild wild eyes
With kisses four.

And there she lulled me asleep,
And there I dream’d—Ah! woe betide!
The latest dream I ever dream’d
On the cold hill’s side.

I saw pale kings and princes too,
Pale warriors, death-pale were they all;
They cried—“La Belle Dame sans Merci
Hath thee in thrall!”

I saw their starved lips in the gloam,
With horrid warning gaped wide,
And I awoke and found me here,
On the cold hill’s side.

And this is why I sojourn here,
Alone and palely loitering,
Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

CELT 366

I was first introduced to this book of meditations by Robyn. I thought would be another good tool for exploring my Celtic heritage. It can be read a page a day, to last throughout the year (even a leap year), or, as the author, Carl McCulman, says, you can "get wild and swallow up a week or even a month at one sitting."
The pages aren't given dates, just numbers, so you can start and stop anywhere you want. Of course, I was not able to stop at one page, and today I am at Page 30 already, having just gotten the book a few days ago. Page 30 is the final page of the Path of Nature chapter. I thought this paragraph is a very powerful one:
"Whether you are a Celt by ancestry or by the stirrings of your heart, if you embrace the Celtic tradition, you are part of it. Which means that the choices you make, the poems you write, the decisions you come to in your life to honor the natural world, are all part of the ongoing symphony of Celtic mysticism. Celtic spirituality is not a museum installation, it is a living path of insight and illumination. Consider how you can honor the goddess of the land and allow the grace of nature to flow into your life. Then you will become a living conduit of the Celtic way."
There are 40 different chapters, or paths, in the book. Other chapters include The Path of the Fairies, the Path of the Goddesses, the Path of the Druid, The Path of the Warrior, the Path of Dream.
The author also promises that n 366 days (or less!) I'll have "covered a nice slice of the Celtic terrain." However, he warns, I'll still be "an absolute beginner in the world of the Celts."
Lest any of you think I am loaded with money, I purchase a lot of the books I talk about at amazon.com used books. I haven't been bitten yet, as all of my books have arrived in really great condition for as low as one penny plus shipping. I never go lower than "Very Good" condition but if you don't mind a truly used book you can save even more money. It's also a way to find books you might have read years ago and want to read again.


I am the proud owner of Danu, created by Lila at Indigo Pears. When Lila first posted her creation, I fell in love with her. Lila first made Danu as her interpretation of a Celtic goddess in an art doll exchange. She made another doll and posted it on eBay, and I was the fortunate one to purchase it.
Here's how Lila describes Danu: "Standing in the swirling mists from waters, she pours the rivers of the world as they bubble up from her basin. Her cloak is evocative of leather and straw or grass...as she is also the goddess of agriculture and cattle.
I did a little research on Danu before I purchased Lila's doll and that research clinched my decision to buy her. I have always intuitively felt I was of Irish descent but did not know it for sure until two years ago when I learned the identity of my birth father and found out he was half Irish. I was always drawn to the Irish, but finding out that I actually was Irish through HIM made me extremely bitter because he abandoned my mother before I was born. I have been trying to heal this wound through exploring my Irish heritage. Here's what else I found out about Danu:
"Danu is the oldest Celtic Goddess, known also as Don [Welsh]. Her influence spread far across the British Isles and Europe, where the Danube river was named for her. Few stories about Danu have survived, and yet the reverence in which she was held still remains. It is told that those who worshipped her, the Tuatha de Danann (the children of Danu), retreated into the hollow hills of Ireland when Christianity overcame the old ways. There, they became immortal, the Sidhe or fairy folk, and Danu's legend lives on as the Goddess of fairy ways. Danu is the power that is in the land, never to be overcome by mortals. And her power is in the imagination of those who see magic in the twilight mist between the worlds." (http://www.lunea.com/)
Another site said that Danu, also called D'Anu and Dana, is the Mother Goddess or matriarch of the Tuatha de Danann and that all of them are descended from her. About the Tuatha de Danann, one learns that they originally lived on the "islands of the west" (however, some say they came from Norway), and had perfected the use of magic. They traveled on a big cloud to the land that would later be called Ireland, and settled there.
They conquered the Fomorians, a race of giants who were the primordial inhabitants of Ireland. They also defeated the Fir Bolg, another race that inhabited the country, but they were kinder to them and gave them the province of Connaught. Eventually, the Tuatha de Danann were conquered as well, by the Milesians. They went into the underworld, "into another dimension of space and time." Now known as the Sidhe (pronounced shee), they are invisible to humans, except for a very lucky few.
Danu, mother, queen, life giver
Your sweetness is the salt kiss
where ocean meets land.
You are the wellspring of fertility,
Queen of all Sidhe,
shining jewel of Ireland.
I am enveloped in your mist,
your loving embrace,
a child come happily home.
Those words were written by Katrin Auch, but I feel as I could have written the last three lines. I do feel enveloped in Danu's mist, her loving embrace, and I am a child come happily home to the seat of some of my ancestors, Ireland. That is why Lila's Danu will always have a prominent place in my home.
P. S. I am in the process of thinking about a Spirit Doll thanks to Robyn's challenge. At first I wasn't even going to consider making one, being extremely untalented in the area of fabrics and sewing, but I am pondering ideas. I am taking a spirit doll class in September, but I might even make one before then! She might be a Prairie Goddess, since I have never seen one of those. She will definitely have some sort of connection with nature and the place I live. I already have a sage bundle for her to carry, and some powdered rose petals in a bag to symbolize the prairie rose. That's as far as I have gotten.

Monday, July 23, 2007


David Penfound

For those of you who wanted to know where I found my information about Birth Totems, here is the site:


I chose this picture because it makes me feel cool. It was 99 degrees F Saturday, 99 Sunday, 106 today and will be 103 tomorrow!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2007


I have been researching totems lately (oh, I am such a beginner on this spiritual quest of mine.) One type of totem is the birth totem. Mine is the woodpecker, or flicker, for people born June 21-July 21, according to Native American spirituality. Flickers such as the one I have shown above live in our neighborhood, and I absolutely love their song. Is that a coincidence? I don't think so.

I was amazed how well the flicker totem fits my personality and how its symbols appeal to me. The totem's flower is the wild rose. Now, I have written about the North Dakota wild prairie rose more than once in this blog. In fact, I have a pressed prairie rose that my mother preserved in a little transparent envelope. On it she wrote, "Julie just brought me this rose. She sure loves flowers! June 1959" The color aspect of my totem is rose. Not to brag, but I absolutely look my best when wearing a rose-colored blouse. My totem's musical vibration is the F natural note. Not being musical, I don't have a clue if this is right, but I bet if someone played me some music that was full of F naturals, I would love it.

My element is water, which I already knew because I am a Cancer, a water sign. My mineral totem is a rose quartz. So that explains why, in the crystal shop the other day, I was drawn to a wonderful, polished, rose quartz, and had to buy it. Robyn has been tutoring me in crystals, and I hadn't planned to buy any until she advised me on the basic (starter) ones to buy, but I was incredibly drawn to this one. (P.S. Robyn says that is okay. More than okay, it is what one should do - respond to a crystal that is calling to you.)

My totem's personality? Emotional, vulnerable but protective. Spot on! My weaknesses: self pity, envy and relying too heavily on others. Oh, my husband can tell you about relying too much on him. But that was early in our courtship/marriage. Now, I am not that way, and I have been trying so hard to conquer those other demons of self pity and envy.

My strengths? Resourcefulness (hmm, dunno), self-acceptance (yes!) and forgiveness. Oh, no! That's where I don't fit the profile. But I am mystified because one of my negative traits is "often unforgiving." Oh, yes, that has been me. So there's a contradiction. My other negative trait, supposedly? Moodiness. I don't really think so. My positive traits? Tender and sympathetic (Certainly, I'd like to think.)

My conscious desire? Emotional stability. Too right. Since my mother was emotionally unstable I look for signs of instability in myself all the time. My subconscious desire? Accomplishment. (I'll have to think about that one.) My spiritual path is "fitting in with the greater good." (I can relate to that.)

Some of the totem traits had no meaning for me, such as "my moon, seasonal aspect and wind direction." I'll have to study such items further. But when I found out that my flicker totem is a member of the frog clan, I quickly googled it and found that there, too, were many, many traits that fit me.

Next, I will write about an animal totem that I have chosen to be my spirit guide.


Our Harry Potter book came today and the mailman was smiling! We ordered our copy from Amazon.com and they made sure that the book arrived the same day it was available in the stores (albeit not at midnight!). The book warned Muggles not to ship or open the book before today!

At book club the other night my friend Kathy related that her daughter Delaney was reluctant to go to the midnight sale of H.P. at Barnes & Noble last night. Not our Delaney! She who has read all the books over and over, has tons of H.P. memorabilia, has camped out at the movie openings, has gone to H.P. camp??? The Tribune even printed a photo one year of Delaney and her dad, Bob, camping out at the theatre.

Well, it seems some friends of hers have been chiding Delaney, age 14, over her interest in the books. Apparently, she's "too old" for that sort of thing. What kind of friends are those, I ask you? Delaney didn't even go to the opening of the 5th H. P. film. But one night recently Kathy said, "Well, I'M going to the movie. Do you want to come along?" Delaney's reply: "Oh, I suppose." At book club Kathy related that once they were in their seats, Delaney broke down and said, "I'm so excited!"

"Good for her!" we practically shouted. (We get kind of excitable!) "Go home and tell her not to let friends influence her choices and kill the joy in something she really loves." Yes, we be fierce, we CRS women! So, to make a long story short, I hope Delaney was there at B&N last night.

Our daughter, Kristen, was the first in the family to read and love the Harry Potter books, then I read them all, then my husband did. He finished the sixth book a few months ago and has been impatiently waiting for the seventh book to arrive. I remember so well when Ginger, another of my book club friends, was in the hospital and a friend had given her the first book as a get-well gift. "Have you read this?" she asked me. "Oh, heaven's no," I said. "That's a kid's book." I have made many foolish statements in my lifetime (the last one Thursday evening and also related to book club, but I'll tell you that another time.) and this was one of them.

I told Dan that he could read H.P. first as I have a stack of books to read. So there he is out on the deck in 99 degree heat trying to read! I took one step outside with my book (Anne Rivers Siddons' "Sweetwater Creek") and retreated back indoors to the computer, which sits directly in front of the window A/C. Yeah!

Dan of course would never betray the ending to me, and if any TV, newspaper, blogger or friend reveals the ending to me I will - yes I will - rip their lips off!


I borrowed this from "The Croning of Miss R":

-Dzogchen Tantra
(To Elisie: NO FEAR!)


After posting my previous entry, I belatedly thought you might like to see pictures of Medora and the Marquis de Mores, so here they are!



This card, which is from the North Dakota Heritage Center, is from a painting by the Marquise de Mores. It will soon be winging its way to a new home Down Under, but I thought I would scan it first and tell you a little bit about the Marquise and the North Dakota town that was named for her.

Medora von Hoffman was a New York City socialite who spoke seven languages and was a gifted artist. Her wealthy father established the famed Knickerbocker Club. At her family's winter home in Cannes, Medora met a dashing French cavalry officer. I'm going to print his full name here because I love rolling it off my tongue: Antoine Amedee-Marie-Vincent Manca de Vallombrosa, the Marquis de Mores et de Montemaggiore! However, he was usually called the Marquis de Mores (MORE-ess). The couple married and had three children.

The Marquis had big dreams. He planned to revolutionize the meat industry by establishing a beef-packing plant in the Badlands of southwestern North Dakota. He planned to process the meat there, and ship it to Chicago via refrigerated railroad cars. He named the town after Medora.

The Marquis and Marquise built the house shown in the picture (all you can see of the first story is the porch). Although they called it the ranch, the locals were so impressed by the 26-room house that they called it The Chateau, and that is what it is called to this day. I think Medora really captured the beauty of the Badlands in her painting.

The couple brought their family out to North Dakota for a number of summers. Medora was an excellent horsewoman and sharpshooter, and she accompanied all the hunting and riding parties. She is reputed to have shot three bears on one expedition (not in North Dakota, I think.)

She was also famous for her soirees at the chateau. The parties always spilled out onto the full wrap-around porch, so guests could take advantage of the cool evening breezes and the spectacular view. Medora packed trunks and trunks full of clothes to take with her from New York, and many more boxes of housewares and sundry items had to be shipped too.

The Marquis was a dashing cowboy and gunslinger. He was arrested for murder several times during that rough and rowdy period, but he was always acquitted. He is famous for having challenged Teddy Roosevelt to a duel. Roosevelt, with his nearby Elkhorn Ranch, was also a fixture of the area.

The Marquis' dream went bust, his meat-packing business having lost a war with the beef trust. The Marquis and Medora eventually moved back to France. He worked for the French government in Vietnam and Algeria, and was murdered by Tourag tribesmen in Algeria. Medora died in Cannes in 1921.

The chateau is open for tours today. The male visitors are always impressed by the huge collection of guns, saddles and other accouterments of the hunt. Medora's beautiful blue and white china is still laid out on the dining room table, and there are still hundred and hundreds of bottles of expensive French wine in the pantry. The bedrooms have short beds, as people at that time (at least the wealthy) slept propped up. Medora had her own boudoir and the Marquis shared a room with his (male) secretary. The downstairs bedrooms opened onto the porch. The children and maids, of course, slept upstairs.

I never get tired of touring the chateau, and afterward I always sit on the porch and try to imagine the life of a maverick Frenchman and his socialite wife on the frontier.

If anyone would like a card showing this bit of North Dakota history, email me your address and I will send you one.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


I am overwhelmed and honored to have been given the Blogger Reflection Award from Carmen at "Strawberries and Champagne". After she was chosen by Pea at "Pea's Corner", Carmen's challenge was to name five bloggers "who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way and have been a Godly example to you. Five bloggers who, when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy - of knowing them and being blessed by them. This award is for the best of the best so consider who you pick carefully. This award should be not be given to just anyone."
Now you can see why I am overwhelmed and honored. In nominating me and her other selections, Carmen wrote that she wanted to share her award "with the following ladies who inspire my soul so deeply every day. All of them beautiful, strong and wise women from all around the world, every one of them in their own unique way documenting their journey and enjoying every moment of it. They have showed me in their blogs and emails how to step forward. They share with no fears their secrets of being joyous and glorious women, their path to rediscover their sacred feminine and how they have become a Goddess. I am so glad to call them my friends, my kindred spirits."
How can I top that? I feel exactly the same way about the women I am about to nominate, so each of you, think "Ditto" about yourselves. Instead of repeating Carmen, I will try to share a little bit about why I am so happy to have "met" each of you. And by the way, I would have also nominated Pea, and Carmen, and three of the people Carmen nominated: Lila from "Indigo Pears", AnnieElf from "Scenes From a Slow Moving Train" and "Bimbimbie" (another Annie). (I don't know the others she nominated but plan to get to know them.)
ROBYN from "Tales of Inglewood." Robyn has taught me so much about the wheel of the year, the moon's cycles, the lore of plants; about crystals, about our shared Celtic heritage (she Cornish, me Scottish/Irish.) As she approaches her croning year, she has become our learned teacher. I cannot wait to see what she has to offer us in the coming year. Robyn, through you, I have become wiser.
ROWAN from "Circle of the Year", my strongest link to England. Through her I have taken trips to Beatrix Potter's home, to Avebury, to the village of "Lark Rise to Candleford" fame. She has taught me about "Dressing the Wells" and "The Tudor Stillroom." With her lovely writing and pictures, she makes it seem as if I am there as well. Rowan, through you I have broadened my horizons.
LISA from "Lisaoceandreamer." Lisa, I'll never forget the wonderful essay you sent me on the empowerment of women. Through you, I have become more empowered. I love your zest for life and your powerful passion for your art. I even love how you keep changing your banner all the time! I love how passionately you care about others, and am so thankful for the encouraging emails you sent me.
KELLI from "There's No Place Like Home." You could not have picked a better name for your blog. You honor the hearth with your holiday decorations, your cooking and baking, the vignettes you set up around your home. I don't know what religion you are, but you show your Godly ways by caring for your family, your home, your plants, and the least of God's creatures. Kelli, from you I learn awareness and centeredness.
GEMMA from "Gemma": I love your creativity, your spiritual questing, your introspective moments, your avid study of Leonardo da Vinci. I love your lexicon! From you I learned that no matter what age we are, we are still becoming. You mentioned writing about dreams, legends, sacred traditions and archetypes. If you're still thinking about this direction for your blog, I'm ready to take the ride with you!
This cannot begin to describe my gratitude that you fine ladies have found something in my blog as well, and the wonderful comments you have made. Please nominate five others, and show the icon proudly in your blogs.
(Everyone mentioned here has a link on my sidebar at right under Blogging Kindred Spirits.)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


I have been on a vacation of sorts for the past few days, even though I haven't set foot outside of Bismarck. I've been devouring Susan Vreeland's "Luncheon of the Boating Party" after Pierre-Auguste Renoir's painting of the same name. I have been walking the streets of Monmartre or dining on exquisite dishes on the upper terrace of a restaurant overlooking the Seine near Paris.
Of course, I have seen this painting before, but I will never look at it the same way again. Vreeland's book tells how Renoir came to gather these 14 people together for a series of eight sittings en plein air at La Maison Fournaise on the Isle de Chatou near Paris.
Renoir brings these wonderful people and their setting to vibrant life. In the front with her little dog is Alene, the seamstress from the country who falls in love with Renoir. Also in love with Auguste, as they call him, is Alphonsine Fournaise, the restaurant owners' daughter, leaning on the railing. In the rear, holding her hands to her ears, is Jeanne, whom Renoir is in love with. All are based on real people, Vreeland's notes tell us. The only mystery figure is the man watching the woman drink wine. Is he Renoir, or is he the famous writer Guy de Maupassant? Renoir frantically searched to find a 14th person to pose. Thirteen would have been very bad juju, and would have insulted the Catholic hierarchy of France, with its reference to "The Last Supper."
You have two men in their singlets and boaters, obviously just finished rowing. But who is the dapper man in the top hat, looking so out of place? Vreeland has rounded out their personalities so well. There is Helen, the actress at the Folies Bergere, who hopes some day to be more than just a mime. We have Auguste's very good friend, Gustave, himself an artist who is trying desperately to hold the French Impressionist movement together. Meanwhile, Auguste is trying desperately to hold his group together and finish the enormous canvas before he loses the light of summer.
I nearly salivated on my book as I read about the fabulous meals they ate and the wines they drank before they got down to posing each Sunday afternoon. (Boeuf Richileau in Madeira sauce, anyone?) Even the Seine, so pastoral in its rural incarnation, is a living, breathing character. Just the description of someone peeling a peach made me want to throw down the book and run to buy one.
Back in the city, Monmartre is cheerful and gay, with its dance halls, restaurants, musicians and pleasure gardens. But there is a hidden dark side as well. There are the demimondaines and their lovers; the pickpockets and thugs who beat up Renoir. He has many struggles to face before he can complete the painting: He's always scrambling to beg or borrow money to buy paint and canvas and pay models. Somewhat hapless, he has one arm in a cast and then falls off his steam-powered bicycle and scrapes up his face. He has to fire one model and others don't show up. He is rejected by Jeanne and can't make up his mind between Aline and Alphonsine. He has to decide whether to stay with the Impressionists or break away from his dear friends. He rearranges poses, scrapes faces off the canvas, is despondent and hopeless, then finds solutions and is rejuvenated and indeed falls in love with painting again.
It all culminates gloriously in one of the most beautiful paintings in the world. Vreeland describes how Renoir daubs peach on a face here, highlights a white ruffle there, brings in shades of lavender on a white tablecloth to create his masterpiece. But she herself painted a glorious portrait of the bohemian life of Paris in 1881 as she layered on detail after detail. I have read other books by Vreeland in which she imagines the lives of other famous painters. I would say this is HER masterpiece.
Sunday night I told my daughter about this book. She tells me she has seen this painting in person, as it resides in Washington, DC. So now, if and when I ever get back to Washington to visit my daughter, you can be sure I will visit the 14 people who became such dear friends to each other and to me.

Monday, July 9, 2007


My beautiful, bright daughter, Kristen Anne, is 25 years old today! The picture above was taken, I think, during the last birthday she celebrated at home. (21?) For once, she actually liked the shirt I gave her! That didn't happen very often!

It's not every day that your only child turns 25, so forgive me if I brag a bit. Kristen is extremely smart, and was named to the "Talented and Gifted Program" when she was in grade school. She read "Gone With the Wind" while still in grade school.

She has an exceptional gift for languages. In high school, she won the gold medal in the National Latin Exam and won first place in the state in the National French Exam and the National German Exam. She was a graduate of Highest Distinction at Bismarck High School.

She won a scholarship to Georgetown University, studying German and French, and earning a B. A. degree in French. Right now, she is pursuing her first love, reading, by attending grad school in library science.

She loved She-Ra and My Little Ponies, Strawberry Shortcake and her Pie Patch (Cabbage Patch.) And, obviously, she loved to read. A petite little thing, she was still "the social director" when it came to playing with other kids.

She was a great kid, very loving and good. But that didn't mean she didn't have her moments. Our biggest battles were over clothes, even in grade school. She insisted on rolling her jeans or pants way up, and her socks way down. She had one outfit I thought looked so cute - a periwinkle blue turtleneck and pink and periwinkle blue overalls. Turns out she HATED that outfit, and tried to sneak another outfit to school in her backpack.

During high school she wasn't rebellious or wayward, but it was during her sophomore year that we discovered that she was suffering from depression, which explained a lot of her moods.

Kristen's path hasn't been smooth and easy. In college, she had a serious physical illness and nearly died. She also had a major depressive episode. She had to drop out of school for a semester and really fight her way back. And she did. On her My Space site, she has a quote from Shakespeare: "She is little, but she be fierce."

Yes, she is fierce, and strong. When she was so ill, there was one doctor who was not preaching doom and gloom. He told me, "She's young and she's strong." That became a mantra for her dad and me. She has learned so much, and she is so wise. She now is often the one counseling me when I have troubles.

In college, she became fascinated with the "Lord of the Rings" books and movies. If you ever want to know the answers to any LOTR trivia, she's the one to go to. She has a deep love for animals. She always cried for the horses who died in movies, not the people. When "Clyde the Bear" at the Dakota Zoo died, she cried buckets. But her greatest love in the animal kingdom is for dogs:



In addition to going to grad school, Kristen also holds down a full-time job. She has a steady, loving boyfriend. She takes care of her body (unlike her mom), her soul, her mind and her spirit. She is responsible, dedicated, funny and cool. As you can tell, her Dad and I are extremely proud of her. So, Kristen:



Friday, July 6, 2007


As hot as it is here it makes me yearn for a body of water in which to immerse myself, or at least wade in or dip my toes into. It makes me yearn, in fact, for the years when my stepfather and his brother kept a pontoon houseboat at Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan every summer for a number of years.
Dad and Harold built the boat themselves, quite an accomplishment. As Harold's wife wasn't much for boating, our family was able to use the houseboat a lot. Almost every Sunday morning the six of us would pile into the station wagon and head for the border. The dam was just a mile or two into Canada, but hey, we were in another country. That was exotic. Of course, by the end of the summer, the customs inspectors came to know us so well they just waved us through.
The boat was always docked in a quiet little bay at the bottom of a steep cliff. (About three times as high as the cliff in the picture above.) Everything for a day on the water had to be hauled down the cliff - and back up at the end of the day. Usually we kids barreled down the sloped path, oblivious to Mom's shouts to come back up and help her.
The smell at the water's edge was part dead fish, part algae, part motor boat gas, and I was absolutely intoxicated by it. Eventually we got everything on board - lawn chairs, life jackets, groceries, fishing poles and tackle boxes - and got underway. Sometimes Dad would troll while fishing, other times he cranked up the engine and let 'er rip (as much as you can with a houseboat). I loved to sit on the front end of the boat and put my feet on one of the cone-shaped metal prows, letting the waters part over my feet, along with occasional ropes of algae. Once in a while Dad would dock the boat and my brothers would dive off the side of the boat while I explored the beaches.
My Mom seemed to love those days, and was disappointed when the weather so inclement we couldn't go, but looking back on it now I'm amazed. It must have been a lot of work to prepare all the food and pack the other paraphernalia. She always seemed to be having a nervous breakdown, trying to keep an eye on four kids at once, sure they would fall off the boat. My brothers, especially John, were extremely adventurous and she was wise not to trust them.
On a few precious evenings, we spent the night on the boat. We would delight to see fireflies, which we did not have at home, though we couldn't have been more than 15 miles away.
To this day when I smell Coppertone, feel a sunburn tightening my skin, smell that water's edge scent or see the title of one of the books I always had along - Daphne DuMaurier's "Frenchman's Creek" and "A High Wind In Jamaica" come to mind - I am transported back to those carefree days.

Thursday, July 5, 2007



I could not resist printing this photo of my friend Jude's four-legged boys. Angus, on the left, is a Scottie, or Scottish terrier, and McDuff is a Westie, or West Highland terrier.

I know my two four-legged girls would have ripped their scarves off in a moment, so it's nice to see such well behaved gentlemen.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


"The Journey of Crazy Horse", by Joseph Marshall III, was not the book I wanted to read about the famed Lakota warrior, but of course that is my fault. I wanted to learn more about Crazy Horse as a visionary and mystic. According to Marshall, Crazy Horse had just the one great vision as a young man (which did come true and which was a prophecy of his death).
It was a poorly written book, leaping back and forth from one time period to another and bogged down with descriptions of many battles, not only with the white man but with the Lakotas' enemies like the Crow. I had gotten to the part of the book where Crazy Horse finally goes to the agency and I realized I hadn't yet read about the Battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, along with their warriors, defeat and kill George Armstrong Custer (Yellow Hair.) I flipped back some pages only to discover that this famous battle was described in the book, only it was called Greasy Grass, and there was no mention at all of Custer.
However, it was a good book if one wants to learn about the period that changed the life of the Plains Indian forever. When Crazy Horse was a young man, he seldom saw a white person. And by the end of his life at age 33, as we sadly know, the white people had come in numbers "like the stars."
When I was a child, I always wanted to be a cowboy in games of cowboys and Indians. Now, I am all on the side of the Indian. Crazy Horse, who was the last holdout of the Lakota chiefs when it came to giving up their way of life, saw his people sell their land, not for beads, but for blankets and beef.
I learned that Crazy Horse often spared the lives of his Indian enemies because to the Lakota, battles were about courage, not about killing. It was only when Crazy Horse realized that the whites fought to kill that he had to respond in kind.
Crazy Horse was indeed the stuff of legends, a courageous warrior and brilliant military strategist. He had one great love whom he had to give up twice because of tribal politics. He was a good man and good husband to his second wife, and greatly loved the daughter who died at a young age.
He cared deeply about the welfare of his people, which is what, in the end, brought him to the agency and his death. A Lakota warrior not only fought battles, he also had to hunt to feed his people, unlike the white soldiers who could devote all their time to Indian fighting. If you want to read a book about the heyday and the death of a culture of people, then read Marshall's book.
Okay, off my soapbox and on to the other books:
"Blessings," by Anna Quindlen, is about a ne'er do well young man who learns to take care of and love an infant he finds abandoned at his employer's estate. Never judge a book by its cover, Quindlen gently reminds us - neither that of the young man, or that of the crotchety old woman he works for. Like all of Anna Quindlen's books, I highly recommend it.


"The Virgin Suicides," by Jeffrey Eugenides. I recently saw the movie on TV with Kirsten Dunst and Josh Hartnett, and while it was okay, I had the nagging thought that something was missing. Sophia Coppola is trying to convey something here, I thought, but it's not quite all there. So, I ordered the book and indeed found there was much more depth to the story of a group of neighborhood boys who are in love with five sisters who all eventually commit suicide. On the strength of this book, and on the recommendation of Carmen from Strawberries and Champagne, I bought Eugenides' newest book, "Middlesex" with my Barnes & Noble birthday gift certificate from my husband.


"Mockingbird", by Charles J. Shields, is a biography of Harper Lee, or as she was known by everyone, Nelle Lee. (She didn't want Nelle Lee listed as the author of "To Kill A Mockingbird", because she didn't want people to call her "Nellie.") So, Nelle she is (I have to keep reminding myself that she is still alive), a Southern woman to the core, feisty, wry, witty, grounded in her community, and of course, the author of my favorite book of all time. I learned much about Harper Lee, including the knowledge that she should have been given co-authorship of Truman Capote's "In Cold Blood." But Capote, a childhood friend (and Dill in "To Kill A Mockingbird,"), betrayed his friend with a kiss - a limp little dedication in the book that made him famous. This book, I think, satisfyingly answers the question on every one's lips: "Why did Harper Lee never write another book?" I, however, do not care that she did not publish again, because to me, "To Kill A Mockingbird" is utterly perfect and forever enough.


I cannot proclaim the excellence of "The Girls" enough. I picked it up at a good price at Wal Mart, not knowing much about this book by Lori Lansens except that it was about girl twins conjoined at the head. Because I want you to discover this truly great book by yourselves, I am not going to say much about it except that I loved the "The Girls" and the girls themselves: Ruby and Rose. Oh, especially Rose.


Because my sister has to work today (she's an RN), we drove over to Mandan last evening for Art in the Park - art, crafts and FOOD! Just by chance, we happened on the Dolls and Pets Parade. Mandan has a gigantic parade on the Fourth, but I am so glad we happened on this instead.
Tons of kids marched in the parade, headed by an impromptu band of four preteen boys with their trumpets and drums. The little girls carried their dollies or pulled them in wagons, while the little boys rode their trikes, one resembling a John Deere Green tractor. They were all so proud, and such little troupers, as it was a hot evening.
The best part of the show for me was the pets. Either people are really tending toward owning smaller dogs, or they just don't think big dogs and parades mix well. I have never seen so many dachshunds in one place in my life. I wanted to scoop them and other precious little puppies up and take them home with me.
Several little girls had rabbits, and one had a little chicken. It was bigger than a baby yellow chick, but not fully grown. And it escaped, right at the corner where we were standing. Several people, including me, scurried around to cry to catch the chick, which was finally corralled and put back in its carrier.
What I liked most is that the parade featured the youngest children. I am sure the older children and teens will be riding on floats or marching in today's parade, but yesterday's parade was just for the little 'uns. And thanks to their moms, a lot of the kids - and the dogs - were dressed in variations of red, white and blue.
Art in the Park, they say, is for "eating and meeting", and it is so true. My sister kept running into people she works with. While we were eating - having finally made the decision of what to eat from among the myriad food booths - I mentioned that I hadn't seen anyone I knew. That comment opened up the door, as from then on we kept running into my friends or mutual friends of ours, and we chatted so much we didn't leave the park until 9:00 p.m. And yes, both of us found a couple of treasures to take home.

Monday, July 2, 2007


On July 2, 1964, when I was 15 years old, I and my family were in Crosby helping my Grandma Julia celebrate her birthday. In the midst of the celebration, the phone rang. It was my Uncle Don in Valley City, announcing that Grandma had a new granddaughter, born on her birthday. What could be more special than that? Little Anita Dawn soon made the trip to Crosby to visit her Grandma in person.
That was 1964 so that makes my little cousin Anita Dawn Munro Haug....43??? Yes, 43 today. Happy Birthday, Anita. My Grandma died in 1980, but I can wish her a Happy Birthday in Heaven. Happy Birthday, Grammie.



Many, many things saddened me about Daisy's death, just one being that she will not be conducting the July and August portions of her Summer Poetry Fest. I am going to continue on in my small way by posting a couple of my favorite poems I loved as a teenager, because that was Daisy's theme for July.

I discovered Edna St. Vincent Millay in my late teens, when I was ready for more sophisticated verse, poetry that was more bittersweet. I consider Millay to be the best American woman poet. I treasure the two volumes of her verse which I own: "Collected Sonnets" and "Collected Lyrics." I have printed my two favorite sonnets below. But before you read them, did you know that Millay is the author of these famous lines?:

"My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But, ah, my foes, and oh my friends -
It gives a lovely light."

Sonnet XXIX
Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man's desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.
This I have known always: Love is no more
Than the wide blossom which the wind assails,
Than the great tide that treads the shifting shore,
Strewing fresh wreckage gathered in the gales:
Pity me that the heart is slow to learn
What the swift mind beholds at every turn.
Sonnet XLII
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me,
A little while, that in me sings no more.