Thursday, August 28, 2008

THE LILIES HAVE finished blooming. Such a short time ago this was them in all their glory. Today I pulled out the dried-up stems. When I took my evening walk, I saw a neighbor man loading up his van with boxes and suitcases. He's sending his youngest off to college. The cicadas are singing more desperately every evening. What?! Is summer almost over already?!

Friday, August 22, 2008

I DO HAVE SOME other beds of flowers in which I take delight, so I might as well show you those, too. See that watermelon-colored crepe myrtle to the right in the lower photo? For years I assumed that south-central PA was too far north to grow these lovely shrubs that grace the roadways and lawns of southern Virginia. And then one day I chanced to see a tree-sized crepe myrtle growing in someone's yard! I high-tailed it to a nursery and have relished the sight of my blooming crepe myrtle bushes (soon to be tree-sized) ever since.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

OKAY, IT'S TRUE. I took a lengthy hiatus because I just didn't feel like posting and it was more fun to watch the Olympics. But now I feel compelled to come back so that I can show you my most satisfying flowerbed.
If I got plopped into existence on a day like today and had no calendar to consult, I would swear we were in the month of October. Of course, how would I know enough to guess that, with no history...hmm...this is getting sticky. Anyway, the point is...the weather has not been sticky. Nor has it been exceedingly hot. It's been pleasantly cool, with sky-blue sky and big puffy white clouds if there are any at all. All to explain why I've been enjoying the work (yes, it is work. I don't love it that much) of maintaining my flower beds.

And , suspecting that it'll never look nicer than it does right now, I share with you ...(drum roll here) "birdbath garden".


Sunday, August 10, 2008

SINCE AT THIS POINT I have a readership of exactly ONE, I will make this post in honor of dear Shishe. Her actual given name is Shirley and you may be able to guess her approximate age just by knowing her name... a liability for those whose names are not classic and timeless, such as (just for example, of course) Kathryn.

I am the middle child of five, earning that distinction by virtue of arriving in the family line-up six minutes ahead of my twin. Shishe was the first in that same line-up, and she was excited by the two live "dolls" that her mama brought home from the hospital just in time for her seventh birthday. (My older brother was a little ants-in-his-pants five-year-old at the time). Poor little Shishe did not know how two newborns arriving at once would change her world. She was in for some serious work! But of course I don't remember all that. I only remember her reading to me on the roof, along about the time I was three or four. You see, we shared a bedroom on the second floor and we had a handy window opening out onto the garage roof. When Shishe and I climbed out there with an umbrella (the sun was hot) and a Childcraft book, I felt like I was on top of the world.

The two little neighborhood friends I played with in those days had no older siblings, let alone a sister. I was the lucky one! Shishe was full of creativity...and I was the beneficiary. We made buildings from plumbing fixture boxes (our dad, the master plumber). Alas, few photos were taken in those days or surely there'd be one of the two-story house and the store, each furnished to the last detail (the house with it's curtained windows, the store with its empty tins of pepper and spices, its empty mustard jars painted yellow inside and the ketchup jars painted red, its egg cartons filled with imaginary eggs.)

In the double bed we shared at night, Shishe would produce a little flashlight and shine it on the ceiling as she told me tales of creatures called amoebas. She spent hours with me cutting out paper families from the J.C. Penney catalog (all those women in their shirt-waist dresses and high heels) and painting seasonal decorations on the front windows of the house with tempera paints (We had a mother who let us do such things). My dolls were clad in little dresses hand-sewn by Shishe, and slept in cradles she helped me to fashion from empty Quaker oatmeal boxes. When I begged to be rid of my long ponytail, she took scissors in hand and chopped off my hair. (Nevermind she gave me no help in handling the scraggly shoulder-length remains, a fact she finds hilarious when I mention it today.) She was, and remains to this day, ever willing to oblige and always generous.

By the time I gained another sister six years into my life, Shishe was a teenager and the boys were after her like...hmm...well, like teenage boys after a smart, pretty, fun-to-be-with and voluptuous young woman (you know, sexy, except we never used that word in our house). She got married so young that by the time I was into adolescence, she was taking care of a baby of her own. From then on, both of our childhoods were a matter of history, but she will always figure large and beloved in the memories of mine.


Friday, August 8, 2008


tiring of hearing about "the river" Reader Dear, so I will make this the final episode, for now, in this little saga of the Warwick. This photo shows the most familiar view of the river throughout my growing-up years. It was what the family saw as we looked from the living room windows, and very similar to the view from my bedroom window. The house sits on a hill, so the yard spreads out and downward to the marshy area, just beyond that low row of trees. Our access to the river was via the pier, but this was the view that we "lived by".

If clouds threatened precipitation, we would keep an eye on the river. One could easily see evidence of the rain advancing over the water. "Here comes the rain!" Whoever spotted it first would shout the warning, and there would be a mad dash for the clothesline to retrieve any laundry hanging there to dry.

When I was a child, the oyster boats still came to the Warwick, and the men working on the boats would use long tongs to gather the oysters from the riverbed. Sounds were very easily carried uphill from the river, and many mornings I woke to the voices of the oystermen talking to one another. Their words, which were not quite intelligible from that distance, were interspersed by the low put-put-put of the boat motors as they moved from one location to another. I recall it as a familiar and comforting sound.  It was definitely one of the "top ten" sounds of my childhood, along with the whistling and singing of my dear dad, and the laughter of Betsy, my friend next door.


Wednesday, August 6, 2008

OKAY, HERE IT IS...the photo of the pier. Its history goes back many years to when Daddy first built it circa 1956. Back in those days, there was a ladder up to the top of the boathouse (that taller portion on the right). So that's where my teenage friends and I spent many an afternoon, slathered with suntan lotion, soaking up the rays that would eventually give us skin cancer and wrinkles. Our agenda of the day was getting a tan, and waving to the boys who would speed by in boats and on water skies. Weekend afternoons were the prime time for this activity. Oh, how our adolescent hearts pined for some real excitement with the boys, and we discussed the possibilities endlessly as we turned from stomach to back on our beach towels and listened to our transistor radio pouring forth songs about little surfer girls, and boys who wanted to hold our hand.

That portion at the end of the pier doesn't look very large, but more than once I hosted a slumber party there with my girlfriends. We threw our sleeping bags down and crawled in. Then we laughed and talked and ate and laughed, and of course we did no sleeping. There used to be a house on the neighboring property, a rented-out house down there by the river. Once we woke the man who lived there with our noisy fun. How were we to know it was this man, however, when we saw a bobbing light appear and move steadily in our direction. It was a hatchet murderer! Oh, yes...we were quite convinced. And we were trapped! Sylvia, Sharon, Malinda and I, we hastily devised our plan. Couldn't four thirteen-year-olds overpower one man with a weapon? We'd push him in the river, hatchet and all! We'd fight for our lives, yes we would! Our hearts were beating fast with the adrenaline rush.

And then, he was hollering, "Hey, quiet down out there! I live in that house by the river; you're keeping me awake!"

So, we survived. And the river kept flowing to the sea. And the tide went on rising and falling. And many, many summers have now passed. But I can still smell the Coppertone and hear the Beach Boys and the Beatles singing on the boathouse roof.


Monday, August 4, 2008

YESTERDAY I TOLD YOU about this river. You can only get a glimpse of it from this shot, but don't you agree that it's lovely? The waves come in many different sizes, sometimes gentle ripples and at other times whitecaps. In this shot you can also see some of the several acres of marshland that border the river here. This area shown is a view from the pier, (I'll show you in another photo). Looking far out beyond that most distant point of land, one can see the James River Bridge with the naked eye if it is a clear day. Tune in tomorrow for more photos and some memories of the river that have been enhanced by time (the memories have been enhanced, the river flows on unchanged).

Sunday, August 3, 2008

THERE ARE A FEW THINGS from my growing-up years that I will always miss, and one of them is the river. The Warwick River flows by the house in which I lived, and another five miles away it empties into the James. From my bedroom window at night, I could see the lights of the James River Bridge, which, when it was built in 1927, was the longest bridge over water in the world. It's four and a half miles long. Here's the view from an old postcard.

I loved seeing the twinkling lights of the bridge in the distance, but what I miss the most is the ebb and flow and beauty of the Warwick River as it flowed past my childhood home. Today being the most perfect of summertime sky, white puffy clouds, clear sun and balmy breeze...I had to think of the river, because it always reflects the elements of sun and sky. The many photos I have of the river are exceeded only by my many memories, which will have to wait for a later post.


Saturday, August 2, 2008


AS I WRITE THIS, I am hearing the crack and pop and boom of fireworks. They are from a nearby neighbor's party. Just a short time ago, on the way home from a movie (Mama Mia, if you must know...and it was terrific! The whole movie was like fireworks---the color, the music, the dancing, the grand finale--happy ending--but of course!) I saw two kinds of fireworks in the sky. There was the man-made kind from the local ballpark, and then little bursts of lightening between the towering thunderclouds. The thunderstorm moved on with little ado and no rain (on my corner of the world, anyway), and now the neighbors can carry on with their party and their festive entertainment. I suppose that fireworks are called for...because it was another lazy and hazy day of summer... and it's a Saturday night...and who doesn't want a little excitement--a little crazy added in.


Friday, August 1, 2008


HERE IT IS, THE FIRST DAY of August, and you don't see anyone dancing around a pole. I'm not trying to make a fool of you, either. The only person I know of who is having a big celebration today is my friend Judy who was born on this day. If none of this makes any sense to you, consider that January 1 and April 1 and May 1 all have something in common. They are all first days of the month that have something extra to give them distinction.

I think it would be nice for every "first day" to hold title to some odd or pleasant or celebratory past-time. I'm giving some thought to what it might be. Perhaps August 1 could be Dress Like the Opposite Gender Day. Whoops, an out-dated idea! Or Walk Backwards Day. How about Talk Pig Latin Day. President Bush could stand to address the nation and say "ee-say? I an-kay eak-spay an oreign-fay anguage-lay!"

Those suggestions might all come under the category of "odd," but there would be a plethora of pleasant or celebratory things that could be assigned as well. Give it some thought, Dear Reader.


DIDN'T I TELL YOU we shared, my twin and I?

Rain or shine.

Actually, this umbrella was meant to protect us from flying debris. Someone in our community was demolishing a house with dynamite. (Yes, this was truly the olden days). As this was quite an "event", it attracted a crowd from the neighborhood. Some memories linger long. I can still see the earth and remnants of the building blasting skyward.

Fortunately for us, the umbrella wasn't put to the test.