Fido and me

Fido and me
Fido and me

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Birds of a Feather

It's raining this morning and watching the birds has taken up a chunk of my time - but well worth it. This year, for the first time since I moved here 10 years ago, I have seen both cardinals and chickadees. The more the trees around us grow back after the home development that started about twelve years ago, the more new birds we see.

At first there were mostly water birds because of our conservancy pond. Watching the geese fly into the sunset was magnificent. Later, though, when there were geese wandering all over the lawns, that thrill began to wane.

The first time I saw a heron land in "the pond", I was awe struck. By now, he or she is a regular fixture and sits on a birdhouse that one of the neighbors installed in the pond. I don't know why he thought birds would like that location, but it makes a great landing pad for Harry Heron, aka Claude by other residents of our street.

In the early spring, little merganser diving ducks and buffle heads were a revelation to me. Their black and white feathers and unusually shaped heads attracted my attention. I grabbed my binoculars and most of them were gone. But then they popped up in an entirely new location of the water. It became a game. When a merganser dived, where would he come up. I was usually wrong and spent a lot of time at the window trying again.

A little later in the spring, we had robins and red-wing blackbirds. For awhile I had a singing sparrow who sat on one of my miniature flowerbox trellises and sang his heart out. Watching his throat throb as he warbled, I called him my little Caruso. I wasn't so pleased when he tried to attack his reflection in my patio door and got muddy footprints all over the door and the two windows along side. The yellow finches delicately perched on flowers. What a variety of positions they can take! The purple finches, sometimes as many as seven at a time, crowded together on one deck trellis. Since there are three other trellises just like it, I can only assume togetherness or competitiveness is their motivation.

This early summer has brought a cardinal who, this morning, sat on my shepherd's hook in the flower bed and pecked at the fake leaves before flying off to look for something a little more tasty. Yesterday, a chick-a-dee perched on my little deck trellis and checked out this neighborhood that is still new to him.

Now I have it all - every bird I thought I'd lost when I moved from my last location and all the new ones I've learned to watch for.

What a lucky duck I am!  Or maybe a lucky dove.

Monday, July 19, 2010


At Sunday morning Mass this morning, a hymn that has always tempted me to laugh was sung by the congregation during the communion service.  It is a fine spiritual and is meant to be reverential.  The chorus, which is also the title of the song, is as follows:

Let us break bread together on our knees,
Let us break bread together on our knees,
When I fall on my knees with my face to the rising sun,
Oh Lord, have mercy on me.

But from the moment I heard it for the first time, the wrong picture came to mind, and I can't get rid of it.  For I don't see a kneeling group of people, sharing consecrated bread; I see a large gathering of people, sitting on straight-back chairs, every one of them breaking a loaf of bread on their knees, crumbs flying.  I try to focus on the proper picture, but the other scene presented itself again this morning.

Loaf of farmer's bread purchased at the Golden October celebration
 in Saarburg Germany in 2004

The bread above would certainly take powerful knees to break it.  But I think it's the kind of bread that the song's lyricist had in mind for the sacred repast.

And anyone who wants to know a lot about bread as well as reverential song, don't miss the book, "52 Loaves; One Man's Relentless Pursuit of Truth, Meaning, and a Perfect Crust," by William Alexander.  It's great, even for non-bread bakers such as I.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Joys of early morning

Ask anyone who knows me.  I am not a morning person.  But the weather is hot this week and getting out for a walk is only possible, for a cool weather lover like me, in the early morning or after sunset.  This morning I awoke at 7 a.m. which is almost like the middle of the night for me.  I was fuzzy-minded but not sleepy (these are two different things, as night persons know).  I went for a walk while there was still shade and the temperature was pleasant.

Even in the sun, I was mostly comfortable; and the mosquitos were not as thick as they have been at night.  I finished some deadheading of my flowers; the ones that I missed yesterday evening as the mosquitos mounted their attacks.  

As I walked toward my coneflowers, I was gifted with the sight of a monarch butterfly having his breakfast.  Oh for a camera!  I went inside to get one and lovely butterfly cooperated.  He heard more camera snaps than George Clooney!  And in my opinion he was just as photogenic.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dove Candy Wrapper

Before I went to bed last night, I gave into temptation and ate two pieces of Dove dark chocolate. Each wrapper had a written thought inside. I gobbled the candy and went off to bed, leaving the wrappers crushed on my cupboard top. This morning I read them with appreciation - each thought was well worth saving:

"Dance to music, even if it is only in your head." What a happy idea!

"All things work together in the tapestry of life." And where better than in a flower bed!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rainy Days Can Be Very Special - If We Make the Effort

It was raining hard this morning and the temperature at 8 a.m. was 40 degrees.  Even though I was glad of the rain, my spirits weren't very high.  I had an appointment for acupuncture and massage.  High time because my back had hurt on and off during the night.  But it was so wet - ugh!

I was eating my usual waffle with peanut butter when the phone rang.  Karissa, the massage therapist, sounded so sick that I knew she would have to cancel that part of my appointment.  John, the acupuncturist, was not his usual exuberant self either.  I left the office with a still aching back and a full bladder.

Next was grocery shopping, diving from my car through the rain and into Sentry, my mind mostly on making a pit stop in the rest rooms at the back of the store before commencing the trip down the store aisles.  As I was drying my hands, feeling relieved, two tykes, a boy and a girl,  pushed through the door, just missing me.  Their mother came after them, trying to get them to calm down, but not too successfully.

That's when it hit me (not the door - the idea).  How long has it been since I took such joy in the everyday things of life - like  a restroom with its multiple doors and the toilet flush handles that make water rush much faster than at home.  Simple happiness.  Wouldn't it be great to see the world again through those young eyes, when everything is an adventure.

I figured it was a message from the Holy Spirit who I was focusing on this week in my prayers.  I started trying to look with wonder at all the good things that were there lining the shelves.   I smiled at people and most smiled back.  I sincerely thanked the man ahead of me in the checkout line when he put a divider down so I could take my grocery choices from the shopping cart.  When the checker forgot to deduct the 5 cents for bringing my cloth bag, I told her not to worry.  I bring a cloth bag because I think its a good idea, not because I want a discount.  That brought a smile to her face even as she apologized.  At one time she had been a flight attendant on international flights, and she was remembering carrying items home in a pouch formed by the bottom of her T-shirt because she couldn't "beg, borrow, or steal a bag" in most foreign countries.  I had the same memories.  "Been there, done that," We both laughed.

On the way home I noticed how green everything was and that my lilac bush is almost ready to burst into copious bloom.  I smelled the rain-clean air and didn't even grumble because my newspaper was sticking out of the box and was wet.  I wish I had remembered to splash in a puddle on the way to get it.

How grateful I am for all the gifts I saw today because of two little kids who were bursting with new life, just like everything around me.  May showers bring June flowers and how necessary they are!  

Life is an adventure - when we take notice!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Kabop (Kebab) Adventures in Metz


In September of 2004, a friend and I took trains from Paris to Metz, France, and then on to Saarburg Germany.  We spent two nights in Metz in the French province of Lorraine.

When it was under German rule, Lorraine was called Lothringen.  But it had been a French city for a long time by the time Laurie and I arrived and it is likely to stay so.   That made it more difficult for Laurie and me.  We both speak a little German but only a French phrase or two.

The first morning in the city, I went out to explore a little while Laurie, who woke up feeling under the weather,  stayed at the hotel to sleep.   My sister had told me that there was a lovely pedestrian area in Metz - with shops and eating places.  I had a map from the hotel which I followed until it showed a street that didn't exist and I was stymied in my search.

I tried asking people who looked friendly for directions, but most spoke neither English or German.  One nice lady called back a friend from whom she had just parted.  The second woman did speak some German; but I think I misunderstood her, because I walked quite awhile before I concluded this was the wrong direction.  Unfortunately, by that time, most of the shops had closed for their two-hour lunch break - no help there.

Walking by a shop offering Kabops, I decided to try one.  Marilyn, my sister, and I had often seen "Kabop Shops" (as we called them) in Germany and promised ourselves to try one sometime.  We hadn't done so - now here was my chance.

The young man behind the counter looked as if he might be from the Middle East, and he greeted me in a flow of French.  I was unsure if he was asking me what I wanted or telling me that the shop was about to close.  I asked him if he spoke English.  He shook his head. On the off chance that he might know a little German, I tried that language.  His face broke into a huge smile.  He was a new resident of France.  He had worked in Germany during the prior two years and was so happy to have someone with whom to review his German language skills.  The shop was quite empty and so he told me the story of his life, some of which I understood, while he prepared my kabop.  It was more on the order of an exotic wrap than the shish kabob I had expected.  

We said a German "Wiedersehen" and I left, munching.

Views from Metz exploration:


Later Laurie felt better, but not good enough for a kabop.  Eventually we found our way to the center of Metz and a cafe where she could have a late lunch.  Then we explored more of the city, including the Cathedral and a shopping mall.  We had made so many twists and turns that as we toured that we had an almost impossible time finding the way back to our hotel.  Our mileage probably topped five miles.   Metz has a more difficult street configuration than Waukesha, my home city, even though I'm not sure anyone who has spent a couple of hours lost in Waukesha would agree.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tulips and imitation

This is one of my tulips.  It has decided to imitate both a yellow tulip with red streaks and a white tulip with red streaks.

It is a bit like me - it is unable to resist taking on a bit of other's coloration.Whenever I hear someone with a charming accent that varies from my Wisconsin-style American way of speaking, I start to imitate.

An example:On Saturday I woke to humorist Michael Feldman's Show, "Whad 'Ya Know." on Wisconsin public radio.  He was talking to a witty, down-to-earth woman author with a wonderful North Carolina  accent.  Lee Smith, the author in question, is a born story teller.  In talking about her latest book, "Mrs. Darcy and the Blue-eyed Stranger," she charmed me both with her humor and her accent.

I told a good friend about the book and the radio program and automatically began to imitate the accent.  I know that if I listened to Ms Smith for a few days, I would be talking with her lilting cadence and adding extra syllables to my words - in southern fashion.  It isn't unique to me - this need for exactitude in repeating a story.  After my sister Marilyn, age 8 or 9, spent a few days visiting her cousin Georgene, she sounded just like her.  Our mother wasn't amused, "Talk like yourself, not like Georgene," she said.  She wanted her regular daughter back, not a recording of her sister Laura's child.

Where does this need to imitate originate?  Our maternal grandmother, Mary Boehm Probst, "listened-in" on the multifamily telephone line that was the typical mode of country phone service of the 1920s and 30s.  It was her entertainment before the time of multichannel television.  After a call, she would repeat what she had heard, accurately imitating the voices of any two speakers.  Mom said she was a natural mimic.

Yes, it's genetic for our Boehm clan line to imitate - just as it is for my cross-colored tulip.

Yellow tulip

White tulip

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Columbine memories

The picture of a columbine from my garden has a memory connection.

When I was a little girl, there was a place where our parents would take us on Sunday. There was an amusement park with a carousel (my favorite thing). The place we went was called High Cliff because that is exactly what it was. We didn't know it, but we were standing on a ridge of rock formation that goes from the state of New York to Ontario in Canada, then on to the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. It takes its name from the most famous part which is the edge of the famous Niagara Falls in New York.

There was a place at High Cliff where we could walk down rough-hewn rock steps to a lower path. Here we could see the geological formation of the rock and run along the path discovering whatever there was to find. And the little wild columbine, red and yellow in color, grew out of cracks between the rocks. Even as a child, I thought that amazing and also very decorative - as if God had found the dull browns and grays of the rocks too severe and found a way to make them brighter with this little flower.