Monday, June 26, 2017

It's A Jungle Out There

The North side of our house gets little attention. "Our" part of the space on that side is only a foot or so from the foundation but early on we started caring for it because it was too narrow for the park's lawnmowers to mow. So we mowed it. The first year here, in addition to the ferns and snow-on-the-mountain I had moved from the farm, I planted some impatiens.
There were three hosta plants already growing. I did not like the one with giant leaves. My niece said she would take it so I dug it out.

When the peonies, roses and clematis all bloom at the same time, it is lovely. Technically none of these plants are ours. The rose and peony were here and the neighbor next door planted the clematis on the trellis over their sidewalk. Which is another reason I rarely go on that side of the house - I feel as though I'm trespassing because I have to walk down 'their' sidewalk.

In addition to the three snow-on-the- mountain plants* and the three ferns** I also brought some columbine*** and lily of the valley****. This is how the north side looks today. The plants have grown out nearly to the sidewalk. It almost does look like a jungle out there.

*Starts brought to Iowa from St. Paul when my daughter lived there.
**Starts from the home of a dear lady in the old farm neighborhood.
***Starts from my sister-in-law, Ruthie and niece, Kristi.
****Starts from both my Grandmothers.

(It has long been a tradition to move starts of plants from one home to another - especially when they were originally starts from loved ones.)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dirt Roads Rock

"Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again..." Actually I dreamed I went rock hunting again because I did.

I went back to the dirt road where we used to take the grandkids in the pickup and come back with a LOAD of rocks.

The rocks are still there, waiting to be picked. Only now I try to limit myself to only a few.

I come home with more pictures than rocks. (Flower of what we called Jimsonweed, though it has many more, interesting, names.)

Where once a farmstead stood.

Lush Iowa countryside, wild oats and tiger lilies on a perfect June day.

Those cows wondered why I was taking a picture of them. "Haven't you ever seen cows before?" They thought I was some city woman. Little did they know!

A spot where the East Nodaway River runs North.

The Swallows did not appreciate me on their bridge. Soon the sky was full of diving, churee whistling birds trying to drive me away. They succeeded!

Home with my treasures washed and arrayed. Hard to choose a favorite.

But I think it has to be this one - a smooth 2-3/4" by 1" greenish-gray stone with a perfect thumb rubbing groove. An elongated worry stone.

Of course what I was really hoping to find was something like this unusual specimen found by a rock hunting friend of ours. I could say he is lucky except it is just as much persistence as he goes hunting several times a month.

I enjoyed yesterday's adventure so much, I may just have to look for some more dirt roads and rocks and perfect Iowa summer days.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

The View From Lynam Hill

Not that anyone calls it that anymore, but when my Great-great grandfather William settled north of Brooks, the steep hill was known as Lynam Hill.

At the bottom a flat old dirt road runs west and crosses Walter's Creek via a very scary bridge. (No guard rails on either end.)

Looking down over the edge you can see by the way the weeds along the bank are flattened that there has been some recent high water going downstream.

A good looking field of corn grows right up to the river's edge.

The blooms on the Chicory are vying with the June sky for title honor of "brightest blue".

And look what else was blooming - ditch daisies! Just what I've been looking for and this time I had my shovel with me!

They're home and planted. If they grow as I hope they do, I will think of them as being from Lynam Hill - well, nearby anyway.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The "Y" of Gore

I've always been grateful that I was born inquisitive. I assume there is a part of my brain which makes me so, but I don't know where it is located.

I get inquisitive when I read about a place. I want to go there; see it for myself. I get inquisitive about words when I don't know their meaning. That happened this morning.

I read a story about a car accident: "The Patrol says they were traveling north on Interstate 29 at around 4-p.m. near the Whiting exit (mile marker 120), when for reasons unknown, the car drove off the road and into a gore, rolling over several times before coming to a rest on its top in the gore."

Gore? What do they mean? Did they mean to say gorge?

To me gore meant something a bull did like during the Running of the Bulls in Pamploma - or the blood and such as a result of being gored.

Or maybe Al Gore or Lesley Gore (It's My Party).

Maybe if I had remembered my sewing lessons I might have figured it out. A gore is "a triangular tract of land, especially one lying between larger divisions."

So if you come to a Y intersection, like the one of my youth South of the river bridge where US Hwy 34 and State Hwy 148 split near Spring Lake, the triangle of land in between was a gore. 

The gore referred to in the news story in the upper left corner - triangle formed by I-29 and K42.

I love learning new words and as perplexed as I was by this gore and its definition, it is one I will probably remember.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Hullo Summer

Another Solstice, another Summer and while this post is about neither, the poem does make me think of the summers of my youth.

Summer was all about freedom and fun.

This is today's poem from The Writer's Almanac. It's another one that speaks to me which I wish to archive here.

The Arrival of the Past
    By Scott Owens

You wake wanting the dream
you left behind in sleep,
water washing through everything,
clearing away sediment
of years, uncovering the lost
and forgotten. You hear the sun
breaking on cold grass,
on eaves, on stone steps,
outside. You see light
igniting sparks of dust
in the air. You feel for the first
time in years the world
electrified with morning.

You know something has changed
in the night, something you thought
gone from the world has come back:
shooting stars in the pasture,
sleeping beneath a field
of daisies, wisteria climbing
over fences, houses, trees.

This is a place that smells
like childhood and old age.
It is a limb you swung from,
a field you go back to.
It is a part of whatever you do.

Summer was a
barefoot adventure.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Early Morning Marauder

I've been casing the place for some time, coveting what's there, justifying the pillaging in my mind, plotting how and when I would act, timing my purloining for the least chance of discovery.
Very early in the morning seemed like the best idea, especially as I am usually awake by five a.m. - light enough to see, dim enough I might not be recognized. Just in case, I'd wear my black hoodie.

Along the south side of our little bungalow on 4th Street in West Des Moines, clear on the back corner, barely visible in this photo, grew some orange and yellow, daisy like flowers with a brown center. My neighbor across the drive way, Bernice, told me they were gaillardias.  I'd never heard of them. I did not care for them at all.

But tastes change over the years. I learned that the more common name for gaillardia was blanket flower. I would see them growing wild when we traveled in the western states. The common name was said to refer to the colorful blankets woven by Native Americans. I began wishing I had some growing in my yard and even tried planting them when we were still on the farm. They didn't grow.

In  the last two or three years there have been many trailers moved out of the leased-land park where I live. Near where those homes were are all kinds of perennials, including, in one spot, some gaillardia. Last year the park owner sprayed to kill weeds growing where some of the trailers had been. I thought for sure he had killed all the blanket flowers. But a couple weeks ago I noticed some still blooming along the sidewalk.

It was then I started thinking about liberating a few plants. Today was the day. I awoke around five and decided I would walk down there with my trowel. All was quiet, no one out and about although there were lights on in the house across the street from my plunder spot. Then I saw that homeowner a ways down the street walking her little puff ball. What should I do? Her back was to me, but she might turn around at any moment. Once I bent down to dig the flowers I would be behind a dumpster. What the heck? I'd go for it. If she saw me, she saw me.

I dug a few plants and left, wondering the whole time if she was watching me walk away. Chances are she didn't even care. I've set them out near the sundial - they are a sun-loving species - and am hoping they will thrive. And if they don't, do I have the nerve to go back for more? The way I look at it, I'm saving them from being sprayed with weed killer again. (Justifying my pilfering.)

The last time I referred to myself as a marauder I was a preteen and my sister and I were the Midnight Marauders sneaking into the cellar for a bottle of grape juice to go with our crackers for a midnight snack. Now I am a septuagenarian Dawn Marauder. They do go easier on old folks in lock up, don't they?

Monday, June 19, 2017

Newbies At The Pond

Yesterday afternoon I was so surprised to look out the window and see this family - another pair of Canadian Geese with two goslings. They hadn't been there the day before, nor the week before, nor the month before.

Here are the babies we've been watching the past six weeks, almost grown and ready to fly away.

Just like last year, the 'resident' family has been joined well into the season by another family. Where does the second family come from? The pond up on the hill above this one?

I watched the new ones this morning. Mom and little ones were eating as Dad kept watch. Then Mom's head came up, too. Suddenly they were all on alert.

I never saw what they saw, or heard, but they went quickly onto the water and swam away. Something spooked them.

Also new this morning, this Asiatic Lily, one of several that came with the house. The Heuchera growing along with it is Mom's Coral Bells I moved here with us.

There is always something new going on in Mother Nature's world. I never tire of discovering "What is it today?"

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Reading Five Star Books

For close on to seventy years I have been a reader. Fairy tales, fables, Mother Goose rhymes, those were some of my earliest favorites. Then mysteries, adventure, historical novels and eventually, romance. I was never too fond of comic books or magazines or even books of short stories, though I did read those, too.
Reading was my escape. I read for pleasure, but from every novel I ever read, I learned something new - a new place, a new word, a new way of seeing something, best of all, a new understanding of my world.
From the time I became proficient in reading, probably aged nine or ten, I was never without a book to read. My diaries from those years records "finished my book", "got books from the library", "took my book back" "really enjoyed the book", etc. But I didn't always record what book I had read or why I liked it.

Looking through the diaries of my senior year a few days ago for mentions of when I worked in the high school library, I did find a reference to a book I had just finished reading and how much I loved it. The title was The Sherwood Ring (published in 1958).
Curious what it was about and why I liked it so much, I searched for it on the internet. Even after reading that it was about "a newly orphaned girl taken in by her uncle, but left to fend for herself in a house full of mysteries and ghosts", I had no recollection of the book.
Apparently the heroine "becomes involved with the spirits of her own Colonial ancestors and witnesses the unfolding of a centuries-old romance against a backdrop of spies and intrigue and of battles plotted and foiled".
Well, I can see why I like it! Historical novel, romance, mystery, paranormal phenomena - all the things I love reading about in one book!
Elizabeth Marie Pope only wrote two books, both for Young Adults. Her other title The Perilous Gard was published in 1974 and was awarded a Newbery Honor in 1975. I doubt if I ever read it, but it sounds good, I'm certain I would have enjoyed it. (And most likely, still would.)

What pleases me is that both of these books garner four to five stars on the reviews currently on Amazon and Goodreads. I was reading good books even as a youngster.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Better With Butter

Opening a new tub of margarine, I admire
the swan-like necks shaped as the fill was
completed; hesitant to spoil the design.

A half-minute, no more, passes before my
thoughts turn to butter. Butter as it was made
by my mother. What she went through...

First, milking the cows, separating the
cream, turning, turning, turning the handle
of the Dazey Churn, looking for the first

Hint the butter was beginning to form.
Butter I grew up on before leaving home
Learning "butter isn't good for you".

Choosing, then preferring margarine
over Mom's home churned butter with
the sometimes off-putting taste

When the cows had eaten some weed
or other and the taste came through in
the butter.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Grandpa, We Hardly Knew Ye

This is how I remember my Grandpa Ridnour, in his signature striped overalls and brown fedora. He died when I was just sixteen. He was sixty-three. He was the Yang to Grandma's Yin. Grandpa was kind to small children; a sounding board for older ones. I wish he had stayed longer. I wish I had known him as an adult.

And I really wish he could tell me just who this mystery woman is having her picture taken with him!
A couple days ago the widow of one of Mom's cousins and I got together to exchange some family history. She brought along the above photo and asked, "Isn't this your Grandpa Joe?" At first I wasn't sure. She said, "Well, isn't that Delphia in the picture with him?" "No. No way is that Grandma."

I still wasn't certain it was Grandpa until I compared that photo with this one, also a picture I hadn't seen before and one she had with her in a book. Joe is between his sisters, Lottie on the left and Florence on the right with parents Katherine (Kate) and Rufus (Rufe), seated.
The photo of mystery woman with Grandpa was among the pictures left by Great Aunt Florence. There are none left who could possibly tell me, or even give me a suggestion about who the young woman is. And there's no name written on the back with which I can begin a search. Nor does she have any 'family features' that would give me a clue.

Perhaps there are some mysteries that are meant to remain just that, but that doesn't mean I won't be trying to figure this one out, speculating here and there about who she is. A girlfriend? I don't think so, unless they were serious, and it was an engagement photo. A hundred years ago, a couple didn't have photos together unless they were "serious". And I have never heard that Grandpa was involved with anyone before marrying Grandma.

But relatives did have photos taken together. I'm thinking the woman is one of Grandpa's cousins, possibly one of the Gray's from Illinois. If I could just find some descendant who might have old photos of them......

Oh, Grandpa, we did hardly know you.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Lily's Lilies

Before she was born, we knew her name would be Lily. At her baby shower, where she was still safely ensconced in my Granddaughter Alyssa's womb, we were all given a small lily plant. I brought mine home and put it in the ground, hoping it would survive. Not only did it survive, it has flourished, each year increasing in the amount of blooms. I count at least fifteen blossoms in this photo with forty or more buds. They seem a bit paler pink this year than last, but maybe that's my imagination.

Lily was my first great-granddaughter. She turns five years old Saturday. Her lilies always bloom just in time for her birthday. The following poem is my favorite about lilies, albeit a different type than Lily's Lilies.

Water Lilies by Sara Teasdale

If you have forgotten water lilies floating
On a dark lake among mountains in the
afternoon shade,
If you have forgotten their wet, sleepy
Then you can return and not be afraid.

But if you remember, then turn away
To the plains and the prairies where pools
are far apart,
There you will not come on dusk at closing
water lilies,
And the shadow of mountains will not fall
on your heart.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Message of Passion Or Just A Message?

As early as the 1600's the language of flowers was developing in the poetry of Persia and in Constantinople.
Charles II introduced the Persian poetry to Europe and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu brought the flower language from Turkey to England in 1716. In France it became the Book Le Language des Fleurs with 800 floral meanings. Lovers began exchanging messages with bouquets or a single stem.
In this version, a yellow iris meant passion. In Vanessa Diffenbaugh's recently read, The Language of Flowers, Iris (no color given) means message.

So my blossoms of yellow Iris could mean "a message of passion". Right?

(The meaning of that lone day lily at the edge of the picture means coquetry. Just what I am being.)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Opening the Gate

Me at the front yard gate, 1957
"Let me arise and open the gate, to breathe
the wild warm air of the heath,

Mom & Dad beneath the Heavenly Blue morning glories at Grandpa & Grandma Ridnour's, late 1940's; early 1950's
And to let in Love, and to let out Hate,
And anger at living and scorn of Fate,

Dad and Mom 1959 Backyard gate to the barnyard open at the right middle of the photo. 
To let in Life, and to let out Death." (Violet Fane)

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The One Fail In My Life

Friday in 'On the Trail of (a) Beauty', I said that I had expected Frances would turn out to be one of Aunt Lulu's daughters, but she wasn't. I mentioned that Lulu & Jack Fail's two daughters were Nellie Ruth and Lucylle Maxine and they were my Grandpa George's first cousins. I don't think I ever met Lucylle, but Ruth (the name she went by) was a part of my life. By the time I knew her she was Ruth Fail Wyatt, the Mrs. Wyatt who was the librarian at Corning High School.

One of my old diaries has helped refresh some of my memories of her. It was my senior year in high school and on the first full day of school during study hall, I went into the library and signed up to work sixth period because I couldn't stand the study hall teacher!
A week later I wrote: "I worked in the library 6th hour. Typed for Mrs. Wyatt today. Really lots of fun. I like it loads." And a week after that I wrote that I had changed my opinion of that study hall teacher and decided I really liked him. I did not go back to study hall however.

Most of the work I did in the library was typing, sometimes cards for new books, etc., but quite a bit for Mrs. Wyatt's sorority work. I wish I knew now which sorority she belonged to.
In fact there's much about her I wish I had paid attention to. I know she talked to me some about how we were related and about other family members, but at that time in my life I wasn't too interested.
Mrs. Wyatt brooked no nonsense in her library. She was strict about following the rules: no gum, no talking, no cutting up, etc. If you were in the library it was to do research or to check out a book. She came across as crabby and some thought she didn't like kids because she had none of her own. But even on days when she wasn't overtly friendly toward me, I knew she liked me. Whether it was because I was family or just because I loved books and reading, I don't know; possibly both.

One hazy memory I had was of her bringing a cake for her young library helpers. But what was the reason? I found it in my diary - the family of the girl standing on the far right in the above photo was moving to Nebraska. Mrs. Wyatt brought the cake as a going away recognition for her. That's me second from right leaning over someone seated in the same pose as Mrs. Wyatt leaning over and pointing to something in the middle of the photo.

On November 21, 1960 I wrote in my diary, "Uncle Bill died." (Dad's uncle, my great-uncle.) On the 23rd I noted "Mrs. Wyatt went to Uncle Bill's funeral". Well of course she did. Even if I didn't grasp the connection at the time, they were first cousins.

On the last day I worked in the library before Christmas break, "Mrs. Wyatt gave me a blue rhinestone necklace". (As you can see, I still have it.) I don't think it was meant as a Christmas present; more likely a 'thank you' for helping in the library. I never mentioned the library in my diary after the holidays, so maybe I only worked for/with her that one semester.

At the Awards Assembly on May 10, two weeks before high school graduation, I received this Library pin. (Also a Quill & Scroll pin for work on the school paper.)

Ruth Fail Wyatt was the only Fail directly in my life as a memorable part of it. My fail was in not paying more attention to her when I could have - how much I would appreciate her stories now!