Poetry & Blooms–Balms for a Reflective Time

L’Shana Tovah! Happy New Year!

It may be 2021 in the secular world, but according to the Jewish calendar it’s 5782. Every year, as the High Holidays approach and summer comes to an end, I look inward, assessing the previous year’s relationships, family, health and work.

Rosh Hashanah (literally “head of the year” or New Year) is the Jewish New Year. Yom Kippur, which comes ten days after Rosh Hashanah, is the Day of Atonement. Together, they are sometimes referred to as the Jewish High Holidays. They mark a period known both as the “Days of Awe” and the “Ten Days of Repentance,” during which Jewish people are supposed to reflect on the sins they have committed during the past year. Rosh Hashanah combines the joy of a New Year celebration and its theme of renewal with the seriousness associated with confronting one’s failings and seeking forgiveness both from God and from those one has wronged. Yom Kippur is considered the holiest day of the Jewish sacred calendar.

adl.org

This year there’s much to be grateful for and look forward to and also so many things to worry about. My husband’s mom’s health is the biggest worry for our family. And days before the holidays started, Hurricane Ida devastated many of my town’s businesses and homes. Sometimes, hon, I can barely take a deep breath.

But vivid colors call to me and I contemplate how a blue sky and white clouds frame bright yellow petals, and I search for words to write and read.

Breathe.

A Boat, Beneath a Sunny Sky

Lewis Carroll – 1832-1898

A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July—

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear—

Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream—
Lingering in the golden gleam—
Life, what is it but a dream?

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets

Bald-Faced Hornet, photo source rescue.com

While walking Lucy one recent morning, I came across a huge wasps’ nest that apparently fell out of a tree and split open. The wasps were busy inside, trying to repair the damage and salvage their nest. They were not at all concerned with me, so much so that I was able sit down on the road to take a closer look.

I’d never seen Bald-Faced Hornets before. Interestingly they are actually wasps, a type of yellowjacket, with patterns of white bands and lines on their abdomens and tips. The inside of the nest was amazing! The cells were perfect hexagons. Outside, the whorls reminded me of seashells.

You know what I had to do, hon? Research! The following are the:

Top Ten Facts About Bald-Faced Hornets:

  1. “Bald-faced hornets are considered a beneficial species because they prey on flies and other yellow jackets (notoriously aggressive).” They also eat other insects and, in late summer, will collect nectar.
  2. In these large social colonies numbering 200-400, all have specific tasks. The queen lays hundreds of eggs and raises sterile daughter offspring. The females enlarge and maintain the nest, forage for food, and raise the offspring. “The male drones function is to be ready to fertilize a receptive queen.”
  3. The queen lays all of the eggs in the colony and fertilizes them using stored sperm from the spermatheca. What is a spermatheca? It’s a structure inside the queen which allows her to control the fertilization of eggs. She can lay eggs that are either unfertilized or fertilized. Unfertilized eggs develop into males or drones. Fertilized eggs develop into females, which may be either workers or virgin queens.
  4. Non-fertilized eggs have only half as many genes as the queen or female workers. The resulting male drones have no sting.
  5. Males have an additional white band on the first abdominal segment and on their tip.
  6. Queens, which measure 18-20mm as compared to workers which measure 12-15mm, are the only members of the colony to survive the winter.
  7. Adults will chew flies into a pulp and feed them to their larvae.
  8. Their large, aerial, gray nests are made from paper like material which is created when chewed wood fibers are mixed with saliva.
  9. Inside the nest, there are 3-4 tiers of combs that resemble honeycombs.
  10. “Nests are built every year. The abandoned nests are often destroyed by birds looking for food.”

Sources: insectidentification.org, naturemapping.org, rescue.com

Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park, Oyster Bay, New York

I like every season for different reasons. One of my favorite things about spring and summer is the abundance of gorgeous gardens. I’ve been stopping to smell the roses…and the lilacs and lilies and hyacinths and hydrangeas. This past Mother’s Day was spent at Planting Fields Arboretum in Oyster Bay, New York which is on Long Island. After that, we stopped at a nursery to buy flowers. Outside on a sunny day absorbing vivid colors and sweet scents? Lovely!

Cliff Dwellings and Petroglyph at Bandelier National Monument, New Mexico

Laura and Cindy cooling off inside a cliff dwelling.

It’s amazing that you can still climb into cliff dwellings and see petroglyphs. In a future post, I’ll share pics of the amazing cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde and Canyon De Chelly and petroglyphs in Monument Valley. Hon, can you tell that I love exploring the Southwest?

Bandelier National Monument, located near Los Alamos, New Mexico, is a 33,677-acre site that preserves the homes and territory of the Ancestral Puebloans, who occupied this area from the 12th to the 16th centuries. The monument’s sheer canyon walls contain numerous cave dwellings as well as petroglyphs and pictographs that date from this period. Surface dwellings include the remains of two large villages, Tyuonyi and Tsankawi.

Today, numerous ruined dwellings of one of the most extensive prehistoric Indian populations of the Southwest can be found in the picturesque canyon and mesa country of the Pajarito Plateau. This area, located west of the Rio Grande from Santa Fe, New Mexico, was thickly settled in prehistoric times. Bandelier National Monument, in the heart of the plateau, includes and protects several of the largest of these ruins, in particular, the unique cave and cliff dwellings in the canyon of the Rito de los Frijoles.

The Ancestral Pueblo people (Anasazi) lived here from approximately 1150 AD to 1550 AD. The upsurge of the population and the main construction activity in Bandelier began after 1300 AD, when large towns grew up and down the Rio Grande drainage, and the people achieved a standard of living.

They built homes from blocks of volcanic tuff, which is soft and relatively easy to break into blocks. There were also sources of hard basalt rock just a short distance down the canyon, from which they made axes and hammers which could be used as tools to form the tuff blocks. Axes were also used to fell large Ponderosa pine trees whose straight, thick trunks made excellent vigas (the beams used to support the roof).

Legends of America

Landscape at Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, New Mexico

Giant cliffs line the path in Bandelier National Monument.

I recently went on a weekend getaway to Albuquerque and Santa Fe, New Mexico where the architecture, landscape, wildlife, and colors are completely different than in New Jersey. My two friends and I took a trip to Bandelier National Monument, a national park where Ancient Puebloans built homes out of rocks and in the cliffs. Stacked stones that were the bottom level of a communal dwelling remain, and you can climb ladders into the actual cliff dwellings!

Hon, have you been there? Didn’t you think it was breathtaking?

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged but beautiful canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence here going back over 11,000 years.  Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the soft rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to the early days of a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The Ancestral Pueblo people lived here from approximately 1150 CE to 1550 CE. They built homes carved from the volcanic tuff and planted crops in mesa top fields. Corn, beans, and squash were central to their diet, supplemented by native plants and meat from deer, rabbit, and squirrel. Domesticated turkeys were used for both their feathers and meat while dogs assisted in hunting and provided companionship.

https://www.nps.gov/band/index.htm

Take Me Home, Country Roads

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Maryland flag.

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Flower Box Flag, Hudson River Park

Happy 4th of July, America.

I wish you good health, happiness, and a way to mend deep divisions. 

Growing up in Baltimore, a day cheering at an Orioles’ baseball game was always a blast. We ate popcorn, peanuts and Cracker Jacks, rooted for our home team, and always belted John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy” during the seventh inning stretch. I found out something interesting about Denver’s patriotic song “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” 

Chris Kaltenbach, writing for The Baltimore Sun, wrote “Mountain mama! John Denver’s ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads’ was inspired by Maryland, not West Virginia. Hon, did you know that? Me either!

His article, published 4/17/19 is excerpted below.

Next time you hear John Denver warbling “Take Me Home, Country Roads”…keep in mind that it wasn’t anywhere in West Virginia that inspired the massive hit, but rather a road in Montgomery County.

Songwriter Bill Danoff, in a 1997 article he wrote for The Washington Post (in tribute to Denver, who’d just died), said he had begun writing the song while driving to a family reunion along Clopper Road, near Gaithersburg. He and his future wife, Taffy Nivert, completed the song in December 1970 with Denver’s help. “Back then,” Danoff wrote, Clopper Road “was still a country road.” (It isn’t anymore, apparently, thanks to development over the past 49 years.)

The three premiered the song the following night at Washington, D.C.’s The Cellar Door, where Denver was headlining (Danoff and Nivert, performing under the name Fat City, were his opening act). “When we first sang the song together,” Danoff wrote, “it seemed as though the audience would never stop applauding. Next show, same thing. We knew we had a hit.”

Wrote Denver, in “Take Me Home,” his 1994 autobiography, “In the wee hours of the morning, sometime between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, in their basement apartment in Washington, D.C., we wrote ‘Take Me Home, Country Roads.’ It became my first Number One record.”

No word on why Maryland lost out to West Virginia in the lyrics. Perhaps “Maryland” just doesn’t sound as pastoral as its western neighbor. More likely, the three syllables that combine for our state’s name just don’t fit the meter the songwriters had worked out.

“Take Me Home, Country Roads”

Almost heaven, West Virginia, Blue Ridge Mountains, Shenandoah River
Life is old there, older than the trees, younger than the mountains, blowing like a breeze

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

All my memories gather round her, miner’s lady, stranger to blue water
Dark and dusty, painted on the sky, misty taste of moonshine, teardrop in my eye

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

I hear her voice in the morning hour, she calls me, the radio reminds me of my home far away
And driving down the road I get a feeling that I should have been home yesterday, yesterday

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Country roads, take me home to the place I belong
West Virginia, mountain mamma, take me home, country roads

Take me home, down country roads
Take me home, down country roads

 

Lucy, the Snow “Bunny,” a Joyful Video

Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.
Lucy looking for her ball in the snow.

Some”bunny” loves the snow!

Whenever it snows, I tell Lucy, “You should live in Alaska!” Though ice crystals form on the tips of her fur, she self-insulates. Her puffed up fur keeps her body warm and making her paws look three times their normal size. She hops in the snow, herds anyone who sleds, and “helps” us shovel.

Want to see pure joy? Click “Snow Puppy” or hit the play button below.

Thanks for watching, hon!

 

Dragonfly or Fairy?

The most unusual thing happened this week.

I was walking Lucy when something on the sidewalk caught my attention. I bent down to find a dragonfly sitting motionless–was it alive? I touched it carefully, but still no movement. I put my finger near its front legs and, guess what, hon? It crawled onto my finger and didn’t fly off! The dragonfly stayed with me, its beautiful, dew-drop, lace wings glittering in the morning light. When I got back to my house, it stayed put, cocking its head as it cleaned its face. Fascinating!

Contemplating my new little friend, I wondered: Was it waiting for me? Was it a sign (from someone)? Was it a fairy?

I tried with all my heart to listen because, surely, the dragonfly was telling me something important. I’m not sure if this was its message, but I thought:

I have a child’s curiosity 
and that is magical.

I told my little friend how grateful I was for its visit and then set it on a purple petunia in a window box. When I checked later, it was gone. I imagine it flew off to deliver a message to another curious soul.

Poetry in Motion

I love these photos of my daughter and her friend, taken right before their recital in June. My daughter loves to dance, practicing ballet, modern, lyrical and jazz. Lucky girls–in March, they’ll be performing on a cruise with their dance company.

Hope is the thing with feathers

that perches in the soul,

and sings in tune without words

and never stops at all.  Emily Dickinson