Monday, May 30, 2011


Lady Liberty in a Red Robe

Did you know that Memorial Day was originally called Decoration Day? It is a day set aside as a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. (It eventually became a day to honor all our dead.)  It was officially proclaimed on May 5, 1868. The true date of Memorial Day is May 30, but it came to be observed on the last Monday of May instead. Memorial Day 2011 is actually being celebrated on the correct date!

The Decoration Day name comes from the habit of decorating graves with flowers, wreaths, crosses and flags. And that is my childhood memory of it - taking artificial flower wreaths to the cemetery for our deceased relatives, and then going to a Memorial Day Parade.

There are many stories as to the day's actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Decoration Day. There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South
were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War.

When the Golden Age of the Penny Postcard began, the cards portrayed Civil War veterans - at least of the blue-clad veterans of the GAR - the Grand Old Republic, or Army of the North. I only found one postcard with a gray-clad Confederate soldier on it, and that was of General Lee surrendering to General Grant.

But by the time the golden age of postcards was over, cards were featuring a different type of soldier - the American dough boy who sacrificed his life fighting against the evil Huns in France.

Some of the cards featured here are from my collection. There are many fewer Memorial/Decoration Day postcards than Christmas, Easter, or even Halloween cards, but they are gorgeous, with many featuring the red, white and blue of the American flag.

Many also feature a Lady Liberty in various styles of dress. Although it was a day of remembering, these vintage postcards show us it was also a day for everyone to dress in their best finery and celebrate our great country with parades and patriotic speeches.

Off to the Cemetery with Flowers

Honoring a Civil War Vet in Her Own Way

A Widow?

Honoring Vets From Two Wars

Raising the Flag

Placing Flowers and Flags

Another Girl Honors a Vet

Lady Liberty in a Green Robe

Another Ellen Clapsaddle Postcard

A World War I Officer

A Girl Guide? (a rare & valuable
R. Tuck & Sons of London card)

A Female Soldier of the GAR!

A Lady Liberty in Red, White and Blue

A rare card celebrating the Navy Veteran

Saturday, May 28, 2011


Is Blogger making your crazy by not allowing you to comment? I discovered the solution (for me, anyway) on another blog - Kath at Hillside Cottage:

"When you want to post your comment and you choose the Blogger option, to identify yourself, you end up going round in a circle between the sign in page and the comment box. Sound familiar?

The suggested solution was to UNCLICK the "Stay signed in" box and the loop is broken. I've managed to comment without further problems. Give it a try?

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Fox Island in South Bismarck,
first area to be flooded

The sky is blue and the sun is shining. The tulips and apple trees are in full bloom and the lilacs will be completely open in just a couple of days. We should be deliriously happy that spring is here at last. But a lot of residents of South Bismarck and Mandan are shocked, sad, worried and angry.

They're shocked that they should be dealing with a flood, in May, long after the snow has melted. They're sad and worried that they may lose their homes. And rather than being angry at Mother Nature, a lot are angry at the U.S. Corps of Engineers. They're directly blaming the Corps for this flood.

Hesko Basket Dike going
up in South Bismarck

Here's the scenario: A huge snow pack in the mountains of Montana is now melting. This, combined with heavy rains in Montana the past week (3 inches in Billings on Tuesday) is putting heavy pressure first on the Yellowstone River in that state and then on the Missouri River as it converges with the Yellowstone in western North Dakota. This leads to extreme pressure on Garrison Dam 75 miles north of Bismarck.

All of a sudden, the citizens of our twin cities are hearing numbers and phrases we were never concerned with before. The abbreviation cfs, one which few of us knew about until now, is now at the forefront of our minds. Currently the dam is releasing water at the rate of 75,000 cfs - cubic feet per second. That's already an astronomical figure for the dam (previous highest level was 64,200 cfs), but it will increase to 80,000 cfs tomorrow and 85,000 cfs on Monday! (It takes about 1 1/2 days for this released water to reach Bismarck-Mandan.)

Another set of numbers people are talking about is flood stage. The current water level is 15.5 feet. Flood stage is 16 feet. At this time, the contingency plan is for an 18-foot flood. But depending on who's talking, the river could crest at 20, even 22 feet.

Water comes thundering out of
Garrison Dam, May 24, 2011

And, the Corp is "not ruling out" larger releases. This has generated a lot of anger. People feel helpless because the Corps has complete power over the river system, and many see it as an unfeeling, uncaring government entity. Lots of people have also expressed the opinion that the Corps has known about this snow pack for a long time and could have alleviated the situation by beginning releases a while ago.

I'm not getting into any political arguments about this. My home won't be affected unless the unthinkable happens and Garrison Dam bursts. That would be catastrophic for everyone in south central North Dakota. However, the Corps reports that "the system of dams (in MT and ND) is operating as designed." And I am going to put my faith in that.

But I do feel so bad for the residents of south Bismarck who are frantically trying to save their homes, including the boss at my new temporary job. He reported this morning that although his home is still dry, he has huge carp swimming in his yard and swans floating through the trees.

The city of Bismarck isn't wasting time assigning blame. It's swung into high gear, aiming its efforts at containing a 100-year flood. To compound matters, this is also an unusual type of flood. The problem is not just overland flooding. The ground water levels in South Bismarck are also extremely high. As astonishing as it may sound, this flood may go on for weeks or months. My boss has already evacuated and plans to be away from home for two months.

Meanwhile, people in the south part of town are frantically trying to figure out what will happen in their neighborhoods. One sees many people with global positioners in hand, taking readings to see if their home elevations are "safe" or not. Outdated maps, too many variables and confusing answers to "how high should I sandbag?" add to the frustration.

The ND National Guard has sent 600 hundred soldiers to help in the sandbagging, traffic control and levee patrol efforts. Individual homeowners are building sandbag ring dikes around their properties or have banded together to enclose entire blocks. The city is building earthen levies and  installing Hesko Basket Dikes. Pre-assembled structures which can be filled with sand on site, these dikes are relatively new in flood fighting. They were used in flood fighting in Fargo but have never been tried here.

Submerged sign near Fox Island

Stores are selling out of GPS devices, sump pumps and related materials. The animals are being evacuated from Dakota Zoo, with zoos from North and South Dakota taking in the creatures. This is by no means easy. As one person put it, you can't just load a zoo animal onto a cattle truck. And of course, it's not just homes but many businesses which will be affected if the entire south side floods. Both cities are sure to see disruptions for months to come.

"This is probably going to go down as the No. 1 flood event for Bismarck," said Todd Sando, the chief engineer for the state Water Commission. A forecast of rain beginning locally tomorrow and lasting all through Memorial Day weekend will only compound the problem. I'll update this situation as it progresses.

Note added at 12:15 pm: I just heard that the Corps of Engineers will be raising the dam release to 105,000 cfs by June 9. This is a crushing blow.

Friday, May 20, 2011


Painting by Jennifer Branch

Have you ever waited for your ship to come in and then actually have it come in? But you discover it wasn't what you expected?

Before I left my six-month long temp job at the Health Department, I bragged to my coffee-break friends that I would be retiring when my assignment was over at the end of April. My husband went ahead and fully retired in the middle of March, in expectation of that ship. This wasn't some unrealistic fantasy, mind you. It wasn't a pipe dream - we had reports that the ship was coming our way, and then that it headed toward the harbor. It had, in fact, arrived two weeks earlier than expected. But when it docked, lo and behold, our long-awaited Ship of Dreams was not an aircraft carrier, not an ocean liner, not a yacht, not even a motorboat. It was a little old dinghy.

The trouble is, I had really counted my chickens. Yes, I know we are told not to do that. But still, it was hard to resist. Retire at 62? Certainly. Combine a mini-vacation with my cousin's wedding in Minneapolis in June? Not a problem. Travel around the country? That would be so great. Help out my sister? She deserves it. A four-wheel drive for Dan? He deserves that too.

Ah well, it was not meant to be. And actually, we may not even be able to do the things that really need doing, like replacing our leaky roof, getting a physical and new glasses and paying the real estate taxes in full.

I don't mean to suggest this little dinghy is unwelcome. It will help us relax and put some sunshine in our days. We can float serenely upon the calm waters and not worry about wolves at our door (to really mix metaphors). And, as WOL so insightfully says in her comment to this post, it's better than being up the creek without a paddle, a situation I have found myself in way too many times in the past.

I must have had a premonition of all this when I left the health department that last Friday. I did not have the feeling that I was leaving work for the last time. There were no thoughts of no more soul-sucking jobs, no more bad bosses, no more nasty co-workers, no more drudgery and boredom.

And sure enough, after a two-week break, I'm back on the job at another temporary assignment. So what comes next? Will I semi-retire when I am eligible to draw Social Security at the end of June? Or will I keep on taking assignments? For sure, there will be no attempt to find a permanent job. The one thing I am sure about is that I am completely through with resumes and interviews.

I dunno. The only thing I have plans to do is hop aboard that sturdy, reliable little dinghy and enjoy my summer to the fullest.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


"HARE'S 1st FULL MOON" by David Kettley

When you look up at the big bright moon tonight, you may think of it only as the May Full Moon. However, this moon has many names. They include Flower Moon (many Native American tribes), Green Leaf Moon (Lakota Sioux), Milk Moon (Colonial America), Bright Moon (Celtic), Dragon Moon (Chinese) Planting Moon (Cherokee and Sioux), Green Grass Moon (neo Pagans) and Hare Moon (Medieval England).

Those who think of the May Moon as the Flower Moon say that the flowers grow at night during this time, and even dance in honor of the moon. That is a wonderful image. However, of all the moon names, my favorite is Hare Moon, because of its association with the moon-gazing hare, of which there are a number of delightful paintings on the web.

Notice I said moon-gazing hare. Hares should never be confused with rabbits. They are entirely different species and are, except in physical resemblance, quite unalike. Baby rabbits (kittens) are born hairless, blind and helpless. Baby hares (leverets) are born fully-furred, can see and have independent movement. Hares are generally larger and have longer hind legs and longer ears with characteristic black markings. Only hares change color in the winter. Hares and rabbits have different diets. Rabbits are social creatures, while hares are mostly solitary creatures. Rabbits generally live underground in tunnels and burrows, but hares are always on the surface.

"MOON GAZING HARE" by Joanna May

The symbol of the moon-gazing hare is almost universal and dates back to ancient times. It symbolizes fertility. Pagans believed moon-gazing hares would bring growth, re-birth, abundance, new beginnings and fortune. To others, the hare symbolized purity, and a single hare was often used to signify the Virgin Mary's purity. This image of the hare, of course, is in sharp contrast to that of the fertile common rabbit.

In ancient Egyptian belief, hares were intrinsically linked to the moon's cyclical movement - being at once masculine when waxing and feminine when waning. Hares would thus be depicted as alchemists making the elixir of immortality or as messengers of the female moon deity.

I especially love the images directly above and below, because they shows a moon-gazy hare looking at an image of a hare on the moon! Since ancient times people have claimed to see the image of a rabbit or hare on the face of the moon. In East Asian culture, the Moon Rabbit or Jade Rabbit lives on the moon and is seen pounding a mortar and pestle. In Chinese folklore, the image is that of a companion to the Goddess Chang'e, who is pounding the elixir of life for her.

In Buddhist lore, a monkey, an otter, a jackal, and a rabbit resolved to practice charity on the day of the full moon, believing a demonstration of great virtue would earn a great reward. When an old man begged for food, the monkey gathered fruits from the trees and the otter collected fish, while the jackal wrongfully pilfered a lizard and a pot of milk-curd.

The rabbit, who knew only how to gather grass, instead offered its own body, throwing itself into a fire the man had built. The rabbit, however, was not burned. The old man revealed himself to be Ĺšakra, a Buddhist deity, and, touched by the rabbit's virtue, drew the likeness of the rabbit on the moon for all to see. It is said the lunar image is still draped in the smoke that rose when the rabbit cast itself into the fire. (In another version, the rabbit's companions are a fox and a monkey.)

"LUNA HARE" by Nicola Slattery

Similar hare/rabbit-on-the-moon legends occur in Mexican folklore. According to an Aztec legend, the god Quetzalcoatl, then living on Earth as a man, started on a journey and, after walking for a long time, became hungry and tired. With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then a rabbit grazing nearby offered himself as food to save his life. Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated him to the moon, then lowered him back to Earth and told him, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all men and for all times."

Another legend from the New World tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun, but the wealthy god Tecciztecatl hesitated four times before he finally set himself alight to become the moon. Due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the gods felt that the moon should not be as bright as the sun, so one of the gods threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light. It is also said that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself to become the moon, casting his shadow there.

"GLASTONBURY HARE" by Christopher Fry
(If you look closely at the lower left side of
the painting, you will see Glastonbury Tor.)

A Native American (Cree) legend tells a different variation, about a young rabbit who wished to ride the moon. Only the crane was willing to take him. The trip stretched Crane's legs as the heavy rabbit held them tightly, leaving them as elongated as crane's legs are now. When they reached the moon Rabbit touched Crane's head with a bleeding paw, leaving the red mark cranes wear to this day. According to the legend, Rabbit still rides the moon.

As the moon waxes and wanes, the common view of the hare has also waxed and waned. Revered in ancient times, the hare was later regarded with contempt and suspicion in early Christianity. It was considered to be a shape-shifting creature serving the interests of witches, ready to tempt man into perdition.

"THREE HARES"© Sue Wookey

A very intriguing aspect of hare legend and lore is the ancient symbol of The Three Hares. In her blog, artist Sue Wookey writes that "No one knows the real origin or meaning of this strange symbol, but it is found all along the Silk Road from China to South West England where it can be seen on church roof bosses and in stained glass.

"The Three Hares chase each other around and share three ears (not six) so it's a bit of an optical illusion. It's one of the many symbols that contain a trinity, like the triskelion (the Isle of Man symbol) and the Celtic symbol of three interlocking spirals. The symbol could be connected to the lunar cycle. Or perhaps not. No one knows. I've put moons in the painting anyway because - to me - it represents the cyclical passing of time which both races by faster than we can catch it and repeats at one and the same time."

The quotes around the outside of the painting are: "In time take time while time doth last, for time is no time when time is past." (anonymous) and "The passing minute is every man's equal possession, but what has once gone by is not ours." (Marcus Aurelius).

According to The Three Hares project, which investigated the origin of this symbol, the image is "an extraordinary and ancient archetype, stretching across diverse religions, cultures, many centuries and many thousands of miles. It is part of the shared medieval heritage of Europe and Asia - of Buddhism, Islam and Judaism."

Wendy Andrew wrote and illustrated
this delightful book (print also available)

~ by Judith Wright

There's a hare in the moon tonight
Crouching alone in the bright
buttercup field of the moon
and all the dogs in the world
howl at the hare in the moon.
"I chased that hare to the sky"
the hungry dogs cry.
"The hare jumped to the moon
and left me here in the cold.
I chased that hare to the moon.
Come down again, wild hare,
we can see you there"
The dogs all howl to the moon.
"Come down again to the world,
you mad black hare in the moon
Or we will grow wings and fly
up to the star-grassed sky
to hunt you out of the moon"
The hungry dogs of the world
howl at the hare in the moon.



The fantastic Stonewylde series of books, which I promote on  my sidebar, features moon-gazing rabbits and also a moon-gazy girl, the heroine Sylvie. When the moon is full, Sylvie finds herself powerlessly drawn to follow the hares and dance herself into a trance beneath the shining orb.

I, myself, have never seen a hare on the moon. Every time I look at the full moon, I see the same old thing: The enigmatically smiling face of the Man in the Moon. If you wish to see some widely varying interpretations, just Google the words "hare" (or rabbit) on the moon". Maybe you'll find the hare you always see when you gaze up at the moon.

Friday, May 6, 2011


"NIGHT" by Edward Robert Hughes

"She walks in beauty like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
which heaven to gaudy day denies"

First verse of "She Walks in Beauty"
~ by George Gordon, Lord Byron

A new book of poetry compiled and introduced by Caroline Kennedy takes its title from the first line of Byron's famous poem. "She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems" was recently released, and I think it would make an excellent Mother's Day gift. (I treated myself, ha!)

I almost didn't find it at the bookstore the other day. I was looking for an oversized, coffee table type book with lots of lush photographs and a few of the world's best-loved poems. I was surprised to discover it is a "regular"- (novel)-sized book.And instead of large color photos, the pages feature black and white photos of peonies from leaf to bud to bloom. Very  understated and tasteful - I approve!

And the book is chock full of poems. The best-loved poems are there, and they include poems we've all read in high school or beginning college classes: "There's my last duchess hanging on the wall" (Robert Browning), "How do I love thee, let me count the ways" (Elizabeth Barrett Browning), and Emily Dickinson's tale of heartbreak:

"My life closed twice before its close --
It yet remains to see
If immortality unveil
A third event to me,

So huge, so hopeless to conceive
As these that twice befell.
Parting is all we know of Heaven
And all we need of hell."

"My Life Closed Twice Before its Close"

But then, a pleasant surprise: the deeper, more profound and less accessible - but still remarkable poems, written by the poets I read in advanced poetry classes, like Theodore Roethke, Gregory Corso, Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwartz and Rainer Maria Rilke.

There are poems of astonishing beauty, like Christina Rossetti's "A Birthday": "My heart like a singing bird/whose nest is in a watered shoot;/My heart is like an appletree/Whose boughs are bent with thickset fruit".

But then there are the surprising poems - new to me, daring and sophisticated, some dangerous, others revealing beauty in in the very depths of ugliness:

" I want a red dress.
I want it flimsy and cheap.
I want it too tight, I want  to wear it
until someone tears it off me."

First lines from "What Do Women Want?"
~ by Kim Addonizio


"I want you women up north to know
how those dainty children's dresses you buy
at macy's, wanamakers, gimbels, marshall fields,
are dyed in blood, are stitched in wasting flesh,
down in San Antonio, "where sunshine spends the winter".

First stanza from "I Want You Women Up North to Know"
~by Tillie Olson.

I mentioned earlier that I thought this would be a wonderful Mother's Day gift, as the second part of the title would indicate: "A Woman's Journey Through Poems". Kennedy has divided the poems into several different categories, including "Falling In Love"; "Breaking Up"; "Marriage"; "Work"; "Beauty, Clothes and Things of this World"; "Motherhood"; "Friendship"; "Growing Up and Growing Old"; and "Death and Grief".

As we all know, Kennedy has encountered much grief in her lifetime, having lost all of her original family; three uncles on her father's side; and many other uncles, aunts and cousins. She relates in one chapter how she turns to poetry for solace in times of grief.

I think this anthology will help women everywhere work through all the phases of their lives. The only best-loved poems of mine that I wish Kennedy would have included - nature poems - did not fit her theme, but I have other anthologies that fit the bill. All in all, I am happy to add this anthology to my small poetry collection.

This book has inspired me to re-open my Art and Poetry blog and add my favorite poems there (both from this book and elsewhere). I will be adding several these next few hours.

Here is the link to my Art and Poetry Fest blog:

Wednesday, May 4, 2011



Remember me calling Spring capricious a couple of weeks ago? Now I'm thinking that I am going to have to call myself capricious as well, in the sense that I haven't been able to make up my mind.

At the April full moon, I started a new blog called "A Hopeless Romantic". I did this because Celtic Lady had gotten too .... well, too CELTIC. I started to feel that in researching my Celtic roots and publishing the results online, I had lost "me"; the self, the personality that was originally a part of Celtic Lady.

As a result, I alienated a lot of readers and lost touch with many good blogging friends. I wrote that since I am hoping to retire within a few months, I would have time to re-connect with those dear friends and re-establish the joyful camaraderie I had with them - and to once again exchange comments, e-mails, snail mail, small gifts, etc.

I titled that new blog A Hopeless Romantic, which I have been all of my life and remain so in face of all of life's realities. When a girlfriend from a journalism class stopped by my dorm room, she saw a 4 x 4 hot pink felt "bulletin board" I had hung right above my top bunk. I had cut out beautiful images from magazines and artfully arranged them. There were no sloppy notes, lists, random jottings, etc. No, everything on that board had its own place and was "just for pretty", as the Amish say. (All these many years later, I am still doing that in collage form.)

"Wow, you are really A HOPELESS ROMANTIC," she exclaimed in all caps. I could not demur. "Another born romantic, that's me", as John Mellencamp would say.

I intended the new blog to cover the many, many things I love: music and architecture and history; great classical and traditional art, Art Nouveau, the Arts and Crafts movement and the Pre-Raphaelite painters; reading and libraries and poetry; birds and animals, especially dogs; the prairie of my home, but also woods, lakes and rivers; flowers, especially prairie roses, irises and lilacs; the seasons and the sun, the moon and the sky; so many people, both the near and dear and the faraway but kindred spirits; road trips and fireplaces and warm bread; freshly-mown grass and freshly-powdered babies; newly-cut lumber and pine trees; my heritage and where I'm from; food and cooking; fine old things; order, cleanliness, serenity, grace, peace and beauty.

A long time ago a good blogging friend told me that new projects are best started at the dark of the moon rather at the full moon. I think I finally understand that I should not have started the new blog - at the full moon or ever. I ultimately decided I could combine the best of both blogs - no way was I going to give up the the gorgeous J. W. Waterhouse background created by Itkupilli, a Finnish artist who lives in L.A! (Just click on the link on the upper left of this blog to find her free backgrounds.)

I realized I can write about all the aforementioned topics, plus add to all the myriad and various subjects I've ever written about in the four-plus years since I started "Celtic Lady". As for those who follow me just for the Celtic posts, they will just have to be patient with me. I will continue to post about all the Celtic holidays and "All Things Celtic" in March. I did not start this blog to be wholly a Celtic blog. The title Celtic Lady was meant to be an expression of who and what I feel myself to be at the very deepest level of my soul. Therefore, I will not be guilted into being a Celtic-only blog, even though I have been (very happily and thankfully) named to a couple of Best Celtic Blogs lists.

I feel like saying sorry about this capriciousness, although I don't quite know why, except in the case of my dear old blogging friend Annie who was so excited to be the first one to comment on the new blog! Annie, you'll always be first in my book!!

Manga tak (many thanks), as we Norwegians say, to those other old blogging friends who came by the new blog added their comments on the first post. Your URLs hold a place of pride on my Friends and Kindred Spirits list on THIS blog.