Thursday, August 27, 2009


After my rant about my book club in the previous post, reader Odette suggested that I share the books I've read with readers of this blog. I think that's a great idea. I'm going to delete my book blog, which I had not updated for a long time anyway.
I think my book blog failed because I felt compelled to give long, in-depth book reviews. I kept putting off posting and then my memories about the books were not as sharp. It will be easier to give short "reviews" - actually just observations - about the books right after I've read them.
I'll start with the three books I read most recently.
Was it an eerie precognition that caused my book club to read "America, America" by Ethan Canin this month? It tells the story of charismatic Senator Henry Bonwiller from New York, who is making a bid for the presidency, and the members of the rich Metarey family, who are his staunchest supporters. In the course of events, the senator kills a young woman in a car accident and, with the help of Liam Metarey, covers it up (a definite reference to the Teddy Kennedy/Chappaquiddick affair).
The story is told from the point of view of Corey Sifter, the young man who is employed by the Metarey family, and who unwittingly (at the time), is involved in the cover up. This story of a politician with an admirable record and a social conscience - who at the same time has a less than stellar moral personal life - and the repercussions for everyone of hiding such a deadly secret, certainly made for intense discussion.
Today, the country is mourning "the Lion of the Senate" but there are people like me around who still remember Chappaquiddick, the incident that forever sealed Ted Kennedy's fate regarding his becoming president. (Not to mention the Michael Smith rape trial.)
Just like with the death of Michael Jackson, in the depths of mourning we are forgetting the bad and eulogizing only the good.
"The Book of Unholy Secrets", by Elle Newmark, is as sensuous as a fig. Set in the Venice of 500 years ago, it tells the story of a street urchin who becomes a cook's helper in the palace of the Doge, the chief magistrate and leader of Venice.
The book is full of intrigue about another book - a book of secrets - which everyone from the Pope and the Doge on down wants to get their hands on, for it may contain the secret of eternal life. Or does it contain love potions, or the formula for alchemy? Or maybe it's the gnostic gospels.
Everyone has a different idea, but each is willing to pay a lot of money, steal or kill to get their hands on the book.
Venice, that beautiful, opulent, ugly, decadent city, is a character in the book as well, as is food. When I read it, I knew the author must be a foodie for the loving descriptions she gives of the recipes concocted in the Doge's kitchen. They are enough to make a reader salivate. I found out I was right, for Newmark is the daughter of a chef.

I had known about the Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill for a long time. I first read about them in Armistad Maupin's "Tales of the City". That book, plus a non-fiction book on the cottages of San Francisco (many of which are located just off the hundreds of steep steps that go up Telegraph and other hills), made me fall in love with San Francisco before I ever went there.
Now, I am in love with The City By The Bay all over again, and I'm in love with parrots, namely, red-headed conures (and a few blue-headed conures).
"Wild Parrots", by Mark Bittner, tells the story of how Bittner came to love these birds. The theories of their origins in the city are not proven, but they were probably "caught in the wild" parrots who escaped their keepers.
Bittner was a self-described "dharma bum", a semi-homeless person who did only odd jobs. Instead, he depended on "Spirit" to lead him on his path and show him what to do with his life. At first he lived on the street, then was able to stay rent free as a caretaker at a cottage on Telegraph Hill. There, he first began to observe the birds, then feed them and study them, and finally make friends with a select few. His tender feelings for those birds, especially Conor, Dogen and Tupelo, shines through. I read the book yesterday, and today I'm still thinking of those precious little beings.
Although Bittner's personal philosophy irritated me somewhat (especially the remark that he needed to find a woman to support him), he is a wonderful writer who really brings the city, the birds and his own situation to life. I only wish he had realized earlier what a good writer he is.
He questions whether he is guilty of anthropomorphism, but in the end insists that each bird does have a distinct personality. He proposes a wonderful thesis on the subject of human vs. animal consciousness. His conclusion: that humans, birds, and all creatures are all part of a universal consciousness.
His book, "The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill" was the basis of a documentary by the same name. It was made by Judy Irving, who later became Bittner's wife. He lives a more stable life now, and is no longer actively involved with the parrots. However, he says, "I still watch over them, make sure no one exploits them, and I always will." Through the book and the film, the citizens of San Francisco became advocates for the birds' protection, and the flock is now thriving. From just four birds when Bittner first sighted them, to 26 when he began feeding them and the 57 he could later call by name, the conures now number over 200.
In the end, Spirit did give Bittner everything he had yearned for: a job, a woman who loves him and a close friendship with a wild animal. I doubt that Spirit is that generous to everyone.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


This is an open letter to the members of my book club and to others who belong to book clubs but do not read the book:

After our latest book club meeting on Thursday evening, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts on what it means to be a member of a book club.

In my opinion, a person who joins a book club has contracted to an unsigned but tacit agreement that he/she is willing to read and discuss one book a month.

While our club is a greatly enjoyed social club, it is primarily a book club.

There are certifiable excuses for not reading the book. However, most excuses are flimsy at best and get really old after a time. They are merely indicative of the low priority you give to book club. Your incredibly busy social life is not an excuse and frankly does not impress me. I may not have a life that is as busy, splendid or essential to the community as you think yours is, but I still have one and my time is just as precious and valuable to me as yours is to you.

Telling us you played video games instead of reading the book is an insult. Telling us that you always fall asleep after reading a few pages in bed reflects poor planning on your part. Telling us that you read another book instead of the book club book is a slap in the face. If you are only capable of reading one book a month, read the frickin' book club book first.

I repeat, there are valid excuses for not reading the book. However, M., while your life has been really difficult in the past couple of years, and it is understandable that you may not have the time, spirit or energy to read the book these days, you've always had some kind of excuse in the 17 years I've known you. In those same years, I was raising a child and had a full-time job.

You didn't even bother to buy the book? You didn't get it from the library quickly enough? You couldn't find anyone to borrow it from? You don't trust/know how to order from used (but you use a computer at work all day long, V.)? Get real - all of you have more money than I do.

When you do not read the book, you may think it only impacts yourself, but this is not true. We dutiful readers are always left to carry the discussion. We are made to feel bad that we may reveal a plot twist or - heavens - the ending. In a book club as small as ours (because we are "too old and set in our ways" to invite new members), having members who aren't that faithful about attending either, we have had as few as two people who've actually read the book. Is this really the way to operate?

I was terribly hurt by the people who threw me under the bus on Thursday evening. J., we've been talking for months that something had to be done. To quote you, "It is disrespectful to other members to not read the book." You promised time after time that you were going to bring up the matter, and that B. N. was in agreement with us.

But on Thursday night you both left me twisting in the wind. Instead of the three of us providing a united front, you let the others think the idea for the discussion was all MINE. You let me take the heat, absorb the snotty remarks (K.: "I don't have to read the book if I don't want to!") and receive the silly rejoinders. (B.W., just because there was not much discussion about a particular book is no reason not to read the next book.)

Do you know the definition of being "thrown under the bus", also known as hypovehicularization? It means betraying a friend, sacrificing her, making her a scapegoat or a fall guy, letting her take the entire blame. Don't argue with me that I wasn't thrown under any bus. I felt the push on my back, have the broken bones and squashed organs, and still have the tire marks on me.

Regarding the phrase "to throw someone under the bus, The Word Detective says in his blog that the key to the phrase "really lies in the element of utter betrayal, the sudden, brutal sacrifice of a stalwart and loyal teammate for a temporary and often minor advantage."

I'm tired of being known as the Book Nazi just because I ask members to read the book. I'm taking your advice and finding a book club in which the members do just that.

Since I will be absent henceforth, you will now have two people who always read the book, and four who habitually don't. I understand that some members have now said they will "try harder" to read the book. Fat chance. That won't last long. You still refuse to take new members? The club - as a book club - is doomed.

Enjoy your social club, CRS, I'm all over it.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009



Summer's here at long last! Wait a second, this post should have been written around June 12, not August 12. But we've hardly had summer here at all. Yesterday was only the second day of the entire summer that it has reached 90 degrees or more. Not that I like really blistering temps, but we could have used quite a lot more sun, a bit less rain and fewer cool temps and clouds.

But finally, the weatherman is predicting a spate of warm - no, hot - days for us. Hopefully, the sunflower farmers can stop worrying about when their crops will flower. It is extremely unusual to see these fields still mostly green when they should be covered with thousands of yellow and brown faces turned east toward the sun in the morning then swiveling toward the west in the afternoon.

Finally, I can trot out the paintings I've saved - the ones that are titled "Summer Afternoon" or include that phrase in the title. I published a "Summer Afternoon" post last year or the year before, but still found plenty of images for this one. Obviously, artists and viewers alike are enamored by summer afternoons.

Both posts were inspired by the Henry James quote "Summer Afternoon - Summer Afternoon . . . the most beautiful words in the English language." And they were also inspired by the wonderful Peter Skager painting "Summer Afternoon on Skagen Beach."

"SUMMER AFTERNOON TEA" by Thomas Barrett
As you will see by these paintings, the phrase means many things to many people. It means many different things to me. But for us all, it evokes a languorous, somnolent, indolent, quiescent time. When I see the picture above, it brings to mind yet another era. I imagine an English country manor during the 1930s, with afternoon tea on the lawn delivered by servants and children playing croquet in the distance. I suppose I connect those two images in my mind because they both invoke the upper crust - silver services, dressing for tea, dashing motor cars, immaculately groomed grounds, servants dressed to kill, polite conversation and manners.
"SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Carolyn E. Lewis

Of all the paintings posted here, this one is probably closest to my personal experience - summer on a more rural, much less showy scale. We weren't upper crust, far from it. We were middle class in Grandma's family, lower middle class in Mom's. Whether living in my grandma's house, my parents' house or now, my own home, I've always inhabited small houses with big back yards. At first long expanses of green, the sprinkler-less lawns of my childhood would be burned to a crisp by August. But we still horsed around with the dogs, made hobo burgers over a fire pit, set off fireworks (after the Fourth, too), squirted squirt guns, watched for shooting stars at night, caught grasshoppers, picked wildflowers, played "Starlight Moonlight", walked the creosote-soaked tracks, rode our bikes to the store for pop (one for Mom too).

This painting reminds me of a photo of my Grandmother Julia, my Great Uncle Olaf and my Great Aunt Jennie reclining on the grass after a picnic not long after the turn of the 20th Century. From the photo, I know it is Sunday, for what other day would these young Norwegian immigrants have had free from their nursemaid, kitchen help and laborer jobs? Even the lowest worker was entitled to his or her Sunday rest. How long after they arrived in Canada were they able to purchase their "Sunday Best" clothing?

"A SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Herman Wessel
Like this girl from the 1920s, in her cool lavender and white dress, I whiled away many a summer afternoon reading outdoors, whether on our potato pit roof, on our concrete stoop, under the caragana bushes or perched in an elm tree. My branch was even higher than hers, and another branch served as a convenient book and arm rest. I certainly wasn't wearing dresses. More likely, my outfit was a t-shirt, shorts and "tennies" or "thongs" (what we called flip flops).
"ONE SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Dhanashiri Athavale
Everyone, rich or poor, can find a spot for alfresco dining, whether it be a picnic table, a blanket on the grass, or a dining table brought outdoors. And everyone can afford hot dogs, chips and chilled glasses of lemonade or Kool-Aid. Once in a blue moon, the Munros and the Johnsons would pile into two or three cars and travel 100 miles to a lake for a joint picnic.
Or, I would be forced to attend the Johnson Family Picnic at Long Creek Dam, where I hid in a book and tried to be invisible (the only ones I could stand from this step family were Aunt Emma and Uncle Edwin). After we ate, the men would bring out the horseshoes, the women would gossip and we kids were finally released to go swimming ("Wait an hour for your food to digest, or you'll drown!! Do NOT go near the spillway!!)
by Theresa Troise Heidel
Every group of "Summer Afternoon" pictures must include a cool blue lake. It's 98 degrees as I type this; right about now I'd love to immerse myself in its shocking cold waters. Lakes are few and far between where I grew up, but our family had a hand-built houseboat on Boundary Dam in Saskatchewan. We could jump right off the sides of the boat into the algae green but still refreshing water. For a rare treat, we were allowed to walk up to the highway to take the Columbus Recreation bus to the Crosby swimming pool. Ah, I can still smell the Coppertone, that powerful summer sense memory!

What would a summer afternoon be without a couple of children finding some water to dip their feet in, be it a babbling brook, off the end of the dock or a shallow cement pond. In dry, alkaline northwestern North Dakota, we had no such things. Instead, we would hike out to the roadside slough, where the muskrats lived, the blackbirds trilled and the cattails grew.

And then there are the "Summer Afternoon" days at a public beach - whether lakeside or seaside. The grainy white sand, the colorful umbrellas, the band shell in the distance, the flags snapping in the breeze, the hot dog and pop stands, changing rooms and paddleboat rentals. The entire scene screams "Holiday" - release from school, work and everyday cares.
"SUMMER AFTERNOON" by Allan R. Banks
Summer afternoon, summer afternoon: sinking your toes into cool green grass, shirtless kids, melting ice cream cones, row boats, summer Bible or 4-H camp, fishing for perch, Popsicles, peaches, sitting on the front porch, letting watermelon juice drip down your chin, straw hats, canvas deck chairs, warm strawberries, napping in hammocks, the Tastee-Freez, making hollyhock dolls, rubber swim caps, mom and pop resorts, hamburgers at a drive-in, the delightful boating smells of motorboat exhaust and beached fish.
Most of our summer days are not that way. Few of us have servants; most of us have jobs. Lots of you fight freeway traffic and other big city woes. Instead of Adirondack chairs we have plastic deck chairs. Instead of an outdoor lunch with spotless white linen and glassware, we have barbecues with plastic plates and cups and paper tablecloths. Now we live in air conditioning or at best venture out to the deck. Gas prices are high; vacations become less and less affordable. But for a few hours, at least, one can imagine the way it used to be: Summer afternoon, ahh, summer afternoon.
Place a raw hamburger patty on a square of aluminum foil (shiny side in).
Add sliced or diced onions.
Cover with raw sliced potatoes (skin on or off, your preference).
Slather all with canned cream corn.
Salt and pepper - lots.
Wrap all in the foil.
Cook on a grate over a rock-rimmed fire pit.

Saturday, August 8, 2009


Not long after this picture was taken, a fierce
hailstorm permanently destroyed these gorgeous hostas.
(And my roof too! But I was more upset about the hostas.)
If you were to visit my backyard today, the only spots of garden color you would see would be a few of those common orange daylilies and a hanging fuchsia basket (the traditional Mother's Day gift from my husband).
Where the perennial border was, the ground is almost bare. Half of the once lush lawn is now dirt, the other half includes lots of weeds. The little herb garden is overrun with ladybells.
The front garden isn't much better. My half dozen hardy Canadian shrub roses still survive, as well as my sturdy lavender irises, a couple of hollyhocks, a few Stargazer lilies and the ubiquitous ladybells.
I used to be a gardener - a good gardener. I studied for and earned a Master Gardener certificate. I gardened (with work in between) from 6 in the morning until the street lights came on at night. When I finally came indoors, I had a tower of gardening books to read at my bedside.
I wrote a garden column for the Bismarck Tribune. I did the Bismarck-Mandan Garden Club's newsletter. Dan and I hosted a garden party every August. I was a test gardener for Jackson and Perkins.
So what happened? Age, time and circumstances, I suppose. Our old American elm tree (which I do love) was huge when we moved here 27 years ago; now it is ginormous and kills every plant that tries to grow under its canopy, including the grass. Although its absence would totally change the micro climate of my backyard, I do not wish it gone, especially since Dutch elm disease has claimed so many beautiful old e;m trees in North Dakota. (And our tree must be one of the largest in Bismarck.)
About eight years ago, I was anemic for an entire summer, and therefore was so weak I did not lift a finger in the garden. I think that was the beginning of the decline. Job losses meant no more money for gardening. Perennials I had planted did not last as long as I thought they would. Finally, I developed carpal tunnel syndrome and my knees have gone wonky on me. This year, I didn't even buy annuals for the pots on my decks.
I am writing this blog so that these posted pictures can remind me of what I once had. They're a testament to what I have accomplished. And, doing this gives me closure. I have finally accepted that the gardening phase of my life is over.
I had lots of pleasure and lots of agony too. I have read so many times about gardeners who love to get their hands in the soil. That was never me. I don't like to get dirt under my fingernails (probably as a result of my enforced potato picking days). I did not enjoy planting, or weeding. I nearly "died" the day I planted 100 tulip bulbs. No, I only enjoyed the results.
For a while, until I went organic, I fought insects with a vengeance. I drowned slugs in beer by the thousands. And I lost so many plants to hail, that staple of a North Dakota summer. (This year, when I have exactly one plant, we have not had hail once.)
But one evening, when I was gardening in the front yard, a passerby told me that she thought that my house and garden came straight out of a fairy tale. That one comment made all the blood, sweat and tears worth it. (Blood from rose thorns, sweat - obviously, and tears after the hail storms.)
So I present these pictures for your enjoyment - and mine.

This is the arbor over the sidewalk leading to the house. The rose you see climbing the arbor is William Baffin, a sturdy, extremely robust Canadian shrub. On the other side of the arbor, not shown, there is a Henry Kelsey climber, also a Canadian shrub. There are also cosmos, daisies and I don't know what all.

The corner by the driveway, featuring a Morden rose ("Morden Pink", I think - yet another Canadian shrub). There are also some snapdragons, coral bells and zinnias.

This is the area to the left of my front steps. I've tried a lot of plant combinations in this space, but nothing I ever planted has seemed quite right. In this incarnation there are hollyhocks, ostrich ferns, some taller pink flowers, impatiens, perhaps an edging of white alyssum. (I never had any luck with it.) And a self-sown Queen Anne's lace (out of place, but nice~).

The lower deck behind the garage. Dan, who is definitely not a carpenter, did a good job with building it, on one of the hottest days of 1988. I also had him put up that lattice to give us a little privacy from the neighbors' driveway.

Another view of the lower deck. My nephew Nick made the folding table in shop class, and I painted it and the bench to match our house trim. I had my herbs here, close to the kitchen, as well as flowering plants.

Part of my perennial garden, with its lovely thatched bird feeder. I recognize delphiniums, artemesia, lilies, purple prairie coneflowers and physostegia (I think?).

The grapevine on the fence does a wonderful job of hiding the driveway. As you can see there is a gap in the rear where I had not yet been able to find a good tall plant. My aim for this perennial border was to have tall plants in the rear, medium-size plants in the middle and short plants in front.

Our upper and lower decks are separated by a walkway which continues out toward the lawn. Even then, only shade plants grew here. I later replaced the flimsy metal arbor with a nice sturdy arched one.

This is the back left corner of our yard. We put up another lattice panel to hide the compost bin. Kari, the daughter of my good friend Judy, painted the morning glories on the side of the garage. Which happens to be our neighbor's garage. How could I be so dense as to not think that he might object to having nails pounded into his garage wall and flowers painted on it. He later painted the garage - bye bye, morning glories. (But as long as we live in our house I will always have the great pleasure of viewing the ivy vines Kari painted above the arch in our dining room.)

My dear little faun, nearly hidden by the perennials. I can't believe I'm not remembering what the purple flowers are. I used to know the names of almost all garden flowers, and certainly the ones I grew. I'm thinking they might be a type of campanula.

My 50 bulbs for $10.00 mail order lilies! By the way, these photos were taken by Mike McCleary, a Tribune photographer.

Is there anything as fresh as a Shasta daisy? Especially when photographed in front of a blue-painted birdbath.

A sweet, shady spot for relaxing. This old apple tree produced tons of wonderful baking apples, but it had many blights and age-related problems. It just fell over one day after a particularly heavy rainstorm. Its prone branches reached across the lawn, nearly as far as our house. You'll note those orange daylilies in the background. They were there when we bought the house, and I let them be.

My little herb garden in the back right corner of the yard. I meant the bird house to be decorative, but a wren couple moved in. The mama would scold me so when I worked here (afraid for her babies, I'm sure).

Another view of my herb garden, just watered. In front, one of my most favorite plants, lady's mantle.

Help me out here. Victoria Blue salvia and candy tuft??

Another bird bath, surrounded by geraniums and petunias. (I had the strange quirk of never planting these two plants in the ground, but I did love them in pots.)
Hope you enjoyed the tour.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009


Today is my husband Dan's 61st birthday. Happy Birthday, Dan! I thought I'd show Dan's evolution in facial and head hair over the years. The photo above was taken when he was a physician's assistant in Langdon, ND. He had no mustache when I met him and his hair was fairly long, at least for the job he had. (I'm wearing a haircut I should never have gotten, with that cowlick of mine!) Oh, those 70s.
He's sporting nice short hair and trim mustache for his new job as a pharmaceutical sales rep. He was so good with Baby Kristen. When he wasn't on the road he would be the one to get up with her at night. He'd feed her and rock her while watching old war movies and - as he joked - "discussing tin futures in Bolivia". He never shirked at changing diapers, either.

Now he's back to no mustache, and going a bit grey at the temples - very distinguished. He is what we call a "black Norwegian" in these parts. Although he is mostly Danish and Norwegian, he tans deeply in the summer. After the group portrait of all the Fredericksens, spouses and offspring was taken, each of the four sons got a nice family portrait out of the deal. I think we clean up pretty good!

Thank goodness this beard phase was a short one. As I recall, he had the beard for one hunting season, September through December. Note the sweater - I knew I was always safe gifting him with a shirt or sweater with some sort of hunting theme on it. Dan is an avid hunter - of grouse, pheasants, deer, antelope and elk. He also loves to fish for big ol' walleyes.
When we were dating he took me duck and goose hunting. (For goose hunting, I had to crawl across a stubble field.) After that, I declined to go hunting, except for pheasant hunts during beautiful October days.

I could never go wrong with a plaid Pendleton shirt as a gift, either. Or a book - he is an inveterate reader. I'm sure that I got him both gifts the Christmas this photo was taken (1987?). Dan is a man of few wants, always pleased with the gifts he gets. He's even tempered, almost always in a good mood, very generous and giving, not spoiled or fussy. But please don't try to serve him a casserole - he had enough of those in the Navy.


To the young Kristen, Dan was very often "Silly Daddy!" For many years, Dan babysat her on Saturdays so I could go out and do "my thing". When she was a teen, he taught her to drive, as I was too nervous to try. He found her good safe cars for her first car, at 15, and again in her 20s when she needed transportation out East.


This photo was taken in Washington, DC, when we drove Kristen out to attend college at Georgetown University. I bawled when we left, but he can't claim his eyes weren't wet as well. And he isn't ashamed to cry during movies either. He really is sentimental - I love that in him.
Gracie doesn't mind if his hair's gone all white (above)! Neither did Penny (below).

Now this was about the best Christmas gift I ever got Dan - a UND Sioux hockey jersey. Dan has been an ardent fan since our college days.

This is a picture of Dan with his flaming peppercorn steaks. The photo was actually taken in the dark, with the steaks aflame, but the flash ruined the effect.
Dan is a wonderful cook. We have our special "gourmet" dinners on weekends, but he also cooks almost every weeknight, even if it's just soup and sandwiches. He's also not afraid of washing dishes or clothes, sweeping or vacuuming floors. (He has never once cleaned the toilet, but I'll give him a pass on that.)


Hey, it's usually very hot here on August 5 (not today though). Here he is one scorching birthday evening with the traditional family cake - angel food with butter cream frosting.

He wouldn't appreciate that I posted a photo of him with no shirt, but then again he'll never see it as he doesn't read my blog, much less ever go on the computer. (Don't tell, Kristen!)

Dan has to work until 9 p.m. tonight so there'll be no special dinner, or even a cake. But I'll raise a glass of wine to his rum and Coke after he gets home, and wish a "Very Happy Birthday" to this funny, loving, gentle, kind, good man.

Dark hair or grey, long hair or short, mustache or no mustache, I love you!

Saturday, August 1, 2009


LUGHNASADH by Nadi Spencer
(See more information on this painting below)
I almost forgot that today, August 1, is the Feast of Lammas/Lughnasadh, the old British/Irish/Celtic festival of the first fruits of the harvest. I only remembered because I was looking at my Feedjit feed today and saw how many people were searching the words Lammas, Lammas Poem and Lughnasadh. There were a lot!
Being too darn lazy this Saturday morning to write a new post about Lammastide, I instead found some new images, and am giving links to the posts I wrote the last couple of years. (I thought they were pretty good posts, and I've written about all I can on the subject, so why re-invent the wheel, LOL?). Here they are:
3. Lammas Poem:
It was fun to see the artwork I've previously used, and to note how "oppresively hot and humid" it was in 2007. Not so this year!)

Looking at this Lughnasadh Blessings banner above makes me think of fall. Certainly we are seeing these first fruits of the harvest at the Farmers Markets all over town. And this morning I saw my first yellow leaf.
My blogging friend Leanne in England is predicting an early fall there, and I am wondering if we might be having one too. It has been an unusually cool and wet summer here. Yesterday and the day before, the last two days of July, mind you, it has only gotten into the 60s F. That's chilly for us - it should be in the 90s!
LUGHNASAD by Sharon McLeod


Our local weather forecaster says it's because the jet stream is dipping below us instead of rising up into Canada. He says there are hot days ahead. But I repeat, it has been an unusual summer, one that has seen:
1. Snow in June in Dickinson, ND.
2. The prairie, usually dry yellows and browns by now, still emerald green into August.
3. No lawn sprinklers going.
4. Lawn mowers going all the time.
5. No air conditioners going.
6. Bismarck already reaching the average precipitation for the year, with FIVE months to go.

I mentioned before that I only remembered that it was Lammas/Lughnasadh today because of my Feedjit widget. It's a fun (and free) thing to have. At first I was just thrilled at how many people were coming to my site, from every country imaginable. Wow, that's heady. And then I realized that most people weren't coming to visit me, they had just Googled images or words and phrases. Oh, well, it's still fun. It's interesting to see what people are Googling. For me, these are the most-searched topics:
1. Pixies, fairies, moon fairies, brownies, elves, sprites, selkies and the like (also fairy painters like Arthur Rackham and Cicely Mary Barker).
2. "The most beautiful words in the English language."
3. "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams" (lines from a Yeats poem).
4. "Count your blessings" Celtic poem.
5. Hollyhock dolls.
6. "Oh, to be in England now that spring is here". (Which is incorrect. I can't believe how many searchers get this wrong! This Robert Browning poem begins, "Oh to be in England now that April's there").

Take a look at that list for a moment. Am I really that airy fairy? And are there so many people in the world like me? I suppose there are as many people searching for websites on serial killers, alien abductions, global warming, the tanking of the economy, genocide, war, human trafficking, etc. etc. They just aren't finding them on my blog. And I hope that the people who innocently land on this blog like this airy fairy place of beautiful words, art and pictures, lines from poems, memories of childhood and the realm of imagination.
Oops, I wandered off the subject a bit. Back to Lammas/Lughnasadh:

The painting shown at the top of this blog is digital art by Nadi Spencer. To see how she created it, visit her website at Nadi used the painting for her line of recipe greeting cards that she sells in her Etsy shop at (scroll down to Nadi's Table).

Does anyone live near Three Rivers, CA? Nadi's having an open house at her studio today, with a real Lammas "first fruits" luncheon of potato soup, blueberry scones with Irish whisky spread and blueberry ice tea. Can't go? Too bad, I can't go either. But, if you go to yet another of her sites, Nadi's Table (her cooking blog) you can find the recipe for her blueberry scones and spread: for Thursday, July 23.

Happy Lammas/Lughnasadh to you!