Friday, December 7, 2007


While putting out my December things I sat down and read this 1896,
children's book. I normally just put it up on a stand with an old oil lamp.
I had never actually read it. I liked the cover when I bought it.
I thought it would be nice for decorating.
This little collection of stories has stayed in my mind all week.
It seems to me I have a cluster of stories. I relate these stories when I talk to friends and family. They are about what I did, who I saw and what they did. Sometimes I even have a story about how I felt about what I did and who I saw.
I even tell myself stories. My inner dialogue entertains me. I have an inner cluster of stories. Private stories I seldom share.

Every December I read A Christmas Carol.
I know many lines by heart.
Lately I have been thinking about the Spirit of Christmas Past, Present and Future.
What do my Spirits look like?

I cannot imagine a life without poetry.
I often have little ones hanging around in the corners of my mind. Little snippets and lines of mismatched words. If I do not write them down they begin to be my inner story. Characters will grow and soon I am in a fantasy land of silks and birds.

December seems to be the magical month. I create special foods and listen to special music. I want to spend time with those I love. I want to create a magical time so my memories of Christmas are sweet and joyful. I make lists of things to do. I make lists of
ideas for next year.

I find that I am similar to Sei Shonagon. We both have lists. I have a list of lists.

Do you take a break from the December frenzy and read? I need at least five minutes every day of the written word. I need about five minutes everyday to update my lists.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Pillow Book

I began reading "The Pillow Book"
not knowing what to expect.

I immediately was impressed.
This translation by Meredith McKinney gives a nice short background into the Heian period of Japanese history. She also gives us a short history of Sei Shonagon.

I am using the journal my daughter gave me as a place to begin my lists, my insights, my opinions and my anecdotes.
Reading Sei Shonagon has opened my eyes even wider to the natural world.

I also love the descriptions of the clothing.
She talks of silks and brocades.
She tells about the different colored inner layers.
Now that I am in winter clothes I have begun to layer.
I am thinking about bringing color to these layers.
I ordered silk long underwear.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

October 6 through 10

wild geese come as guests

I am waiting for "Pillow Book" to arrive.
I went back to "East Wind Melts The Ice".

When I reread this week's entry I was moved.
Liza Dalby does not use emotionally charged language, yet her experience with a Monarch butterfly moved me to tears.
I had considered bringing in a Tiger Swallowtail for the winter. I thought it would be nice to have a butterfly in my house when the snow was falling outside. I had rationalized how I would be extending the butterfly's life.
Bringing a butterfly into the house was all about me and not about the butterfly.

I have been watching the Monarchs. In my gardens many are just emerging from their cocoons. They are deeply colored and appear to be made of velvet. They are hungry too and will feed in the zinnias for hours. After a couple of days of feeding they take off.
I have watched the Monarchs fly over parking lots and highways as I go about on errands. Once in awhile a faded traveler will be in the zinnias. These Monarchs are faded and pale in color and some what tattered. I wonder how far the Monarch has come and far will he be able to go. The Autumn migration of the Monarch butterfly is amazing.

I have decided not to bring butterflies into the house. If I want to see butterflies in January I can travel to where they are.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Walled up and closed

I am almost finished reading
East Wind Melts The Ice.
I have enjoyed each essay and the way this almanac has changed me.
This essay is for December 1 through 5. It would winter.

The full force of summer is at my house. The temperatures are flirting with triple digits. The humidity is high. The night time lows are in the 8o's. It is hot.

Liza Dalby writes about citrus in this essay. I happen to have a Kumquat tree. It grows in a large pot on the deck until the danger of frost. My husband will then carry it into the living room for winter. It is an old tree, a large tree. It blooms and sets fruit and come January the fruit will be ripe inside the house. Last summer we had 6 inches of rain in two days. The Kumquat tree drowned. It lost half of its leaves. Yet still the fruit set and ripened. I let some of the fruit rot and go to seed. I planted the seeds in the pot and they sprouted. This summer the seedlings have grown tall and they bloomed. The little trees are producing tiny green fruit. They are blooming again
in the heat. I had thought I would let the Kumquat go. The living room is small and taking care of the tree all winter is time consuming. After reading her essay I decided the Kumquat can come in again this year. I will move out a chair. I will transplant the seedlings and have many Kumquat trees. I will have a grove some day in the living room in the winter.

I am saving the last few essays for September.
I will be on holiday until than.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Surprise Lilies

August 6 through 10

In my gardens I call the passionate pink lilies that seemingly shoot up and bloom over night, "Surprise Lilies". Liza Dalby knows them as Naked Ladies. Also called "Belladonna lilies, Resurrection lilies, Joker lilies" and I am sure if I sought out all the regional names there would be many.
Lycoris squamigera is their botanical name.

I have always thought of the Surprise Lily as an August flower. They shoot up when it is hot and dry in my gardens. I was very surprised this year to see them in bloom the second week of July.
Dalby writes of the equinox flower.
I do not know anything about this cousin of the Surprise Lily.

So often when I read an essay I am inspired to learn more. I do research.
Thank goodness for the internet.

I keep a little note pad near by when I am reading this book. I write myself little reminders and write down the inspirations that come while reading.

I have noticed Dalby mentions "Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon" often. I looked in the index and counted eight times she has referred to this classic.
I have never read it.

I did a bit of research and found a new translation is being published by Penguin Classics. It's release date is October, 2007. I want to read this book.
My daughter told me it is often used as a jumping off point for writing exercises.
That sounds fun.

I would like to begin this "Pillow Book" in November. Our book two. I think it also will be a book that inspires. It inspired Liza Dalby.

What do think?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Rotted weeds turn into fireflies

July 21 through 25
I have read this essay many times.
Lightning bugs do seem to appear from decomposing grasses.

I did not know fireflies are not west of the Rocky Mountains.
It surprised me.
I would have thought at least a pair would have traveled over in a covered wagon.
Vacationers could easily have a few in their picnic basket.

I watch the fireflies every evening. Often I walk at dusk and watch the fireflies light up through out the neighborhood. I remember when I was a child the neighborhood boys would catch them and put them in jars. Some would wear the lights as rings.

I keep going back to this essay because I feel so connected to the Japanese and Liza Dalby. Something so simple as a firefly can bring that oneness.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Crickets come into the walls

July 11 through 15
I have a set of brass crickets that come out in July.
They sit on the hearth with the drying camomile.
I have crickets in the gardens.
The boot cricket is old.
It sits by the front porch.

I found a reader's Journal.
It has a place to write about the books I read.
I wrote a bit about East Wind Melts the Ice.
I have been inspired by this book.
Each essay has me thinking about my natural surroundings.

It seems to me the creatures in the natural world have a purpose.
Each leaf, each bug has a purpose.
They already are masters of themselves.
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Thursday, June 21, 2007

June 21 through 25

"The rituals surrounding the summer solstice,
however, are somewhat ambivalent."
I have none.
It was after I became a gardener that I became aware of length of day.
I have begun to make up my own.
"Now it is summer at its most robust."
"Now the garden needs my intervention again because it is choking on its own abundance."

I looked about my gardens.
The bamboo is robust.
Both stands broke through the barriers we installed.
We will need a bamboo harvest soon.
Perhaps it could be solstice ritual.

I wonder if in the Chinese almanac they have a time of Ripening Bamboo.
I wonder when the Bamboo harvest is.
It best be soon here or we will have
"Bamboo sacrifices Forsythia"

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Sunday, June 10, 2007

the mockingbird loses its song

June 16 through 20
Liza Dalby's essay 27 brought an awareness to me.
A pair of Mockingbirds live in our backyard. They have two youngsters that are always wanting food. The parents are constantly feeding these two hungry mouths.
Mockingbird has lost his song.

Other birds also seem to be singing less. As we move closer to solstice I am wondering if the birds are molting. Perhaps nesting and feeding the young has exhausted them. Maybe as the summer heat comes on they are just wanting a cool bath.
The fireflies are out at dusk and the insects have begun to sing. Maybe that is enough singing.

In my gardens the tomatoes are blooming.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Grain Ripens

June 1 through 5
I have read this essay many times. I am fascinated at how the Chinese ritual year was divided. I am thinking about my personal rituals. I do have seasonal rituals. There is celebration at my house when we pick the first tomato.

I grow a small stand of wheat every year. I grow it with the idea that someday I will learn how to do wheat weaving. I grow an old variety, Turkey Red, a winter wheat that I sow in September. It will be ripe soon. I will harvest before the temperatures reach 90 degrees F. I will dry my wheat and store my wheat. If I do not weave the wheat this year I will once again lay it out in the winter for the sparrows.

This year I sowed oats. I have never seen them grow. I do not know anything about growing oats. So far they have not even sprouted.
The birds planted millet. I guess I will let it grow. At least it has sprouted.
I like the idea of growing grains.

I made a few notes in my garden journal. After reading about Liza Dalby's Himalayan Poppy blooming I want to try to grow them. I too would like a flower in my garden the color of the sky.

I have never grown blue flowers.

Friday, May 18, 2007

bitter herb grows tall

May 22 through 26

Liza Dalby touched on how misunderstandings so easily occurs when one language is translated into another.
The iris, ayame in Japanese, is the plant and flower the Japanese think of when they think of the flower that once decorated the Heian era palaces. Actually the plant was Acorus calamus, sweet flag or also known as blue flag.

This essay stopped me in my tracts. I began thinking about all the different ways miscommunication happens, inaccurate translations and limited listening to name just two. I began seeing how much miscommunication was happening in my life.
This essay once again prompted me to do some research.

I also enjoyed reading how she wrote her first and last waka.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Worms come forth

After all of our rains the worms are coming forth.
I see them on the sidewalks when I walk.

After reading this essay I began singing the childhood rhyme, "When ever you see a hearse go by you will be the next to die. The worms go in the worms go out, the worms play pinochle up your snout". I live across from a cemetery. Hearses go by daily. This little verse transported me back to being six years old and playing jacks on the front porch. I easily can see how Liza Dalby also was transported and how the simple phrase "worms come forth" can lead one on a meandering path.

Friday, May 4, 2007

May 2 through 6

"the hoopoe alights in the mulberry"
I was intrigued by this essay. I like birds and this one is exotic!
I did a bit of research.

I enjoy learning about Dalby's geisha days too.
I find every essay so interesting.

Some nights I am too tired to read.
I am never too tired to imagine what my almanac will say.
I find I am thinking about that as I fall asleep at night.
How I will organize it; how I will name my days.
I will write one.
I want photos to part of it.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Week 17

This entry reminded me of how the wild birds in the back yard know me. They know when the seed lady "should" be bringing out breakfast. Mocking Bird wants his raisins, if I have failure to bring them out in a timely fashion he will knock on the window!
I often wonder who is in control?

I feel so responsible for the birds that when I was on vacation this past December I hired a young woman to come to my house every day to feed the birds..

With Spring in full swing I now have front yard birds and back yard birds. They need seperate feeding stations and water for drinking and bathing.
The feeders need to be cleaned and refilled; the water kept fresh.

Now the Baltimore Orioles have returned.
I am mesmerized by their bright orange and black feathers.
They have nectar and fresh orange slices and grape jelly.

I saw a Hummingbird this morning!
Those feeders need fresh nectar every other day.

So far no bird has told me by their peeps if it will rain soon.
They do let me know if they want more seed or peanuts or grape jelly.

Do you feed the birds?

Friday, April 20, 2007

My Almanac

I have been reading a few essays every night in
"East Wind Melts the Ice".

I enjoy the way Liza Dalby dove-tails all of her interests.
I keep all sorts of journals.
I document butterfly and bird sightings, flower bloom times and when I planted seeds or plants.
I keep a monthly journal of comings and goings.
I think I will follow Lisa Dalby's lead.
I want to dove-tail my interests.
I am thinking a weekly almanac with photos and poems and musings would be fun to do.
I could gather my thoughts once a week and write my own almanac.
Is this book affecting you?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Book as Object

When my book arrived I was very excited. Carefully I unwrapped it and held it.
Even before I opend the cover I was pleased. The dust jacket alone was inspiring.
The size and weight seemed perfect for reading in bed.
Once inside I found eloquent publishing touches.
I want to savor each word.
It is a beautiful book.
The images Liza Dalby discribes float in my mind as I drift off to sleep.
Tonight I will read , "8-golden orioles sing".
The Gold Finches in my garden have been singing to me.
Housefrau and I talked about "Book as object." Her phrase!
She sent a link.
Thank you Housefrau!

Friday, April 6, 2007

For Easter weekend I am reading "The Velveteen Rabbit".

The Tales of Beatrix Potter are also a favorite of mine.
Every now and again I need a children's story.
What is your favorite childrens story?

Friday, March 30, 2007

East Wind Melts the Ice

Our first book will be East Wind Melts the Ice, by Liza Darby. We will begin discussing it as soon as everyone has received their books and started reading!

I thought we could get to know each other a little bit.
What books are on your night table?
Right now I have "Wildlife Friendly Plants" by Rosemary Creeser and "The Naming of Names The Search For Order In The World Of Plants" by Anna Pavord.

Since April is National Poetry Month I thought we might enjoy a few poems.
I receive a poem a day in April from Boazoi Reader.