Showing posts with label Magpie Tales. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Magpie Tales. Show all posts

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Magpie 49 Ladies in the Snow Click Here to find the Magpie Site

Photographer:  Smile ladies, years along from now,
some may wonder what you're about on this icy wintry midday.
 Truth be told, I'm wonderin' myself. Smile now, there you are!

A trio of ladies from town decided one day to go down,
To get a fresh meal of ice fished for the creel.
They walked to the river with arrows in quiver
To spear  fish, come what may on the cold wintry day.  

While two had pulled arrows so sharp from the quiver
The third stood aside and remarked with a shiver
"I warn you, don't go past the crustiest snow
Lest you slip through the ice to the river."

The two left her stand apart on  the snow, and both walked most carefully so.
Then the ice gave a crack with a start they jumped back
And ran fast up the bank onto land past the flow.


Off the water so icy, they sped  one, two, thricey
As they climbed up the land, they all laughed "oh how grand
For tonight we'll eat  just 'taters a dicey!"


The moral is clear, when cold winter is here
Leave the ice fishing to ones who know better.
Keep  some  taters on hand for a hot meal so grand
That you'll not wish for fish in ice water.   

Ah well, my kind of limerick is  in response this week's Magpie prompt, something fitting for Sepia as well...Click on the title to this post to go to the Magpie site where you can link and read what others have done with the photo...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Unplayed Notes, Unsung Songs Magpie Tales 48

The tattered, burned sheet music
Reflects notes never played,
Songs never sung,
Music unheard...
A symbol of  trips never taken,
People never met,
Experiences not encountered
Promises unkept
A silence of wasted notes.

Alongside the other sheet creased and torn
Where notes of  harmony and melody collided
Music over played, off key
Sharps played as flats,
Minor chords  played in major
Discordance in place of an etude, no silence in the clamor
Reflecting life out of  balance, overwhelmed, out of tune
Unmindful of the Great Conductor.

The Grand Maestro nodding gently tips the baton directing the musicians
Players who recognize the lead blending into a chorus
Of music made to dance, skip and hum.
Live life to the tunes and notes of each day
Strum the heartbeats in perfect meter
Keep the rhythm and balance among harmonies
Leave no unplayed symphony behind.


This is my contribution to Magpie this week. While posts are not too late until Tuesday, I had to cease tinkering with this one.  So many songs to sing! To read more from a multitude of different writers, poets, click on the title to this post to browse  from the Magpie site.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Magpie Tales 47 Sidewinder

She: "What the hell do you suppose it is? Nothing collectible in here for me."    

He:  "Well it's but a part of or a piece of something that combines with something else in this box of parts."

She:  "Brilliant! But then what is it?"

He:  "If you say so.....remember I am not the one who paid  $20 for this trunk of junk!  Buying a pig in a poke and look what it got! Maybe all the pieces scattered through come together to make one something..old or rare or even useful.."

Another younger She voice:  "Dad, Mom, where are you?"

He:  "Out in the shed,  Lizzie...."

Lizzie:  "Oh, guess what happened today at school?  Never mind, I'll tell you, I won the story poetry contest for the third week in  a row now!  That puts me at the top of the chart for the class; I'm 60 points ahead of the rest...they won't catch me now! And that means I am going to go on to the District finals in Philly, I just know it. And that means I have to start thinking right now what I'll write on for....whoa, What's that?"

He:  "Where have I heard that question before?"

She:  "Exactly what I asked before Mr. Puzzle Piecer commented on scattered pieces making a whole or something wise  like that...."

Lizzie:  "That's it Mom, I'm going to my room to  work on my poem for Philly!  It'll be 'Scattered Pieces!'  Thanks for the idea..nobody's gonna believe this my Mom had an idea that I could write about....later....."

He:  "Well, damn, there is more......."

She:  "It looks like a pipe..and wire and......"

He:  "It's a roller spool and wire and here is the other side of the one sided winder you were pondering......"

She: "Put it all together and still what is it?"

He:  "Well it's heavy cast iron and shiny as glass....there's a cog on the inside here to thread the wire; and a clamp.   Looks like it fastened to a work bench by  the vise clamp...this small pin moves the cogs...wait a minute...I'm  getting my Kovel's Guide to Old Tools.....it looks like, really a sidewinder....the Union Army used them in the Civil War to tighten the  wire bales on the....."

She:  "Umm hmm, right, a sidewinder...next?  I'll go mix up the martinis and start dinner..."

Later that evening, Lizzie shares her rough draft of her 'Scattered Pieces' poem.."Dad I need a punch line....".

Mom loves estate sales, auctions and junk
Dad loves the tools all metals and hunks.
Mom bought a trunk full of metal scattered  pieces
Dad put it together with screw drivers and greases.
Dad laughed at the pieces, scattered all through the trunk
But it kept him quite  busy those nuts, bolts and funk.
His work really paid off in value today
It entertained him for hours, will he sell it for pay?

Scattered pieces put together one piece made from many
With imagination and thought it grows into  plenty
Plenty of tools and gadgets and such useful stuff
But even Mom never dreamed  of a sidewinder in the rough.
Scattered pieces of such like the folks we all know
Brought together into one, our friendships may grow
At school, stores and churches wherever we wend
We can bring them together as  family and friend.

Mom laughed out loud for she'd only paid twenty
Not one dollar more, for those pieces aplenty .
But Dad had the last laugh,  a side winder tattered
The price in Kovels  became  all that  now mattered
It's worth is hundreds of dollars his old tool book said
Such worth from scattered pieces grew inside our old shed.

Try taking scattered pieces today wherever you go
Keep them close together, it works, now you know...

Lizzie:  "Dad, help me here, we need catch words to rhyme and a good finale!"

He: " Keep on thinking, girlie, you're  onto something there....."

Mom: "All thanks to my scattered trunk pieces for the inspiration.."

This has been my feeble attempt using the prompt posed for this week's Magpie Tales.  To read what others have written on the same prompt, click on the title to this post.  A sidewinder is my purely fictional way of portraying this whatever it is along with its fictional  use. It all makes a story.  If someone knows of such a contraption...please let me know...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Loving Cup Magpie Tales 42 (Click Here for Magpie host site)

Sophie shoved with the wind at her back, opening the tavern door, lured  by the promise of warmth from a coffee heavily  laced with brandy and Kahlua, banter with colleagues  and refuge from the bitter icy wind that froze noses and eyelashes on the short two block walk from the office.  It had been a gruesome day that could not end soon enough, evidenced by the slight pounding at her right  temple, the hours consumed yet again reviewing ceaseless digitized pages of legal  briefs, convincing her secretary to reschedule court dates, coaching the tireless associate attorneys, and the worst experience of the day, interviewing her newest aspiring divorcee client.    Ahh, to be off to Bermuda, sitting in the sun on the sand, instead of here in Pittsburgh in the ice.

Once inside the buzz echoed from regulars, occasionals and all  happy hour congregants, lively talk against the background of the Stones, the  unmistakable rattle of Jagger's voice from the CD player controlled by the bartender, Billie, the 20 something college boy bartender who had recently discovered the Stones and punished them all to continuous doses of his "vintage musical " discoveries.   Sophie recognized the lyrics, to "The Loving Cup"  ....."I'm the man on the mountain, come on up. I'm the plowman in the valley with a face full of mud. Yes, I'm fumbling and I know my car don't start. Yes, I'm stumbling and I know I play a bad guitar. Give me little drink from your loving cup.  Just one drink and I'll fall down drunk."

 "Billie, a coffee kahluokie, hot no whipped..." she called across the din. 

"Sure thing, Sophie!"

Amidst the waves and nods of colleagues she made her way down the bar towards Jake, Jeannie and Larry where an empty bar stool awaited her.  Billie bustled along and in no timethe warmth from the steaming drink welcomed her.  "Sophie, want this on a tab tonite?  Recognize this one?" Billie bantered.

"Loving Cup, Billie, just what I did not need to hear. How about something melodic?" 

 Jeannie, as always distracted the conversation to what was on her mind, their upcoming benefit for the Boys and Girls Club. Jeannie had agreed to chair the annual event and it was certain to be a success.  "Hey, Mrs. Godfrey donated a silver trophy today; says it has been in her husband's family through the ages.and she is tired of it and none of their family want it.  I figure we can raffle it, or maybe display it, award it to the team that raises the most money this time and keep it as a revolving trophy for fund raising.....whatcha' think..?"

"Jeannie, that is the most  preposterous idea you have had yet, a fund raising contest.  You have always been the most  competitive but does everything have to be a race to the finish, a winner, a loser?"

"Nahh,,  really, Look at it, I am taking it home to polish up, then  we can decide, look at it.   I think it's silver."

"Wow, what's that?"  Billie questioned while reaching for another CD to appease Sophie who seemed grumpier than normal today. "Some kind of trophy?"

"See even Billie thinks it's a trophy!  Don't you think we could start something new?  The competition to raise funds would benefit the kids, after all."

Larry, usually the quiet one,  determined to set all things into proper perspective, began to explain that it was indeed a Loving cup and lectured about the Gaelic history of loving cups, wedding ceremonies where both the bride and groom drank wine from the same cup, vowing their readiness to share the triumphs and bitters of life ahead.

"Wow, that sounds vintage!  I don't know how that goes with the Stones song,"  Billie grinned while refilling Larry's glass.  Larry drank only beer summer, winter and Sophie shivered watching him.

"Billie, indeed vintage, that's the business of loving cups."  Larry concluded his lecture and went back to downing his beer. 

"Billie, Loving Cups were also toasting cups in the 1800's, or so" Jake offered attempting to dilute the lecture with his  humor.  "The toastmaster would raise the cup filled with ale or whiskey, to be shared among the fellows  and say something like this,  ...Here's  to the men who eat and drink,
          Here's to the men who sit and think,
          The tippler and the teetotaler rare.
           For some are good who answer 'nay' 
          And some are good who drink all day,
          And all are good sometime, somewhere.."

"Jake, that is great, know anymore?" Jeannie chirped.

"Stop do not give him the audience, " Sophie cautioned.

"Well then whatcha' think, here another idea sponsor a toast that has to be submitted with the money raised, the winner gets to keep and display the Loving Cup till next year...." Jeannie tagged back, enthusiasm brimming over. 

"Jeannie, that is why you are the perpetual committee gal.  You're on,  use that Loving Cup as a revolving trophy.  Shine it up.  I can  hear the irony now, in the press release,  "Sophie Brunner, well known local spinster and divorce attorney wins Loving Cup trophy by raising funds for Boys and Girls Club !  Sophie grinned.  "Another challenge courtesy of Jeannie.  Why did I think I'd get some quiet in here?"

**The toast is "To the Boys" written by Joe Cone and included in the book, "The Loving Cup:Original Toasts by Original Folks"  by Wilbur Dick Nesbit, Published in 1909  Click here to see other toasts in this 64 page book.
  http://books.google.com/books?id=sZ0aAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=loving+cup&source

This has been a Magpie Tale Post, my take on  the prompt from Willow.  Click on the title to this tale to go to the Magpie host site and link to read words by so many others on this same prompt.  You are certain to  be surprised and astounded by some. 

Friday, November 19, 2010

Magpie 41 Grandpap's Pick Axe http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2010/11/mag-41.html

I cannot explain why this came into my head and to the keyboard with this week's Magpie Prompt, but we all can look at the same object and see different things in our imaginations; maybe you cannot see this in the picture but I did and do....so here is my vignette for Magpie

In a far corner of the basement, deep into what was once the coal cellar, barely visible from the dim light that reflected in through the block glass window, I found Grandpap's miner's  pick axe, hobbled by spider webs, speckled with rust on the barren head and long forgotten.  Behind it on the wall  an old tin mirror  reflected the worn handle and  the somewhat  splintered metal of the axe head, aong with another odd  piece of iron pipe .  How many whacks had this axe taken at walls  freeing how many  pounds or  lumps of coal buried deep in the earth?  How many miles had Grandpap trudged axe over his shoulder, metal lunch pail in the other hand, dirty boots laced tightly on his feet to another  day down the dirt or muddy road in the mining camp from the shack that was their home, on toward the mine, the hole in the ground.  

He told me tales when I was  growing up about their life in the mines unless Grandma overheard and chastened him. "Pap, don't you talk about that with her!" I loved the stories, they were our secret.   I remember the pride still in his face when he told me that he'd  bought his own axe, purchased with scrip at the company store, the only store in  the coal town; let those other miners  use the poor tools the company furnished, not my Grandpap!  He wanted his very own axe, a solid one, one that would do a good days work, one that he knew was safe and  well cared for, not a cheap one where the  head could fly off and  take vengeance on the unsuspecting miner's skull.  No, my Grandpap knew about tools and  caring for them and valued ownership. 

He'd talk of how the coal dust covered the miners so that he emerged from working, his face like a "czardnja" the Polish word for  black person, black surrounding those bright blue  eyes.  As he got older, nary a grey or silver hair lightened  his full head of coal black hair and he would laugh that the coal dust had so stayed in his  blood that it darkened  his blonde hair black transforming him  from a blonde boy to a  czardnja ( black) head.  Strangely this reflects in me  today as I age and my hair gets darker, stumping my hair dresser; most  people get grey with age not darker.  I who have never been in a mine or around coal dust wonder about genes, could the coal dust  have stayed in the blood stream of descendants?

He told me tales of being on strike and of fighting off the scabs who'd try to break the picket lines, boasting how he a loyal union member would bust them a good one if they got near his part of the line.   He  told me how happy he was when he got the job in the factory, never more to have to go down the mine shaft, pick axe no more to strike the dark walls; but he'd kept the axe.  Strange to find the axe here, a dim reflection in  the  tin mirror. Grandpap's been gone since 1961. 

Grandpap was never one to squander or waste anything, there would always be another   use for it someday so here it was.  I have just the spot at home in my rose garden for this, new  art decor, I'll  hang a bird feeder from the splintered long handle; Grandpap's  axe will see the light of day and recover from all that time spent in the dark.  A tool, still useful today, that someday for something else.  Grandpap would smile; he'd be  proud.  


As always click on the title to get to the Magpie host blog where you can browse thorugh ever so many more Magpie contributors..... or click here..
http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2010/11/mag-41.html

Monday, November 15, 2010

MAGPIE returns Broken necklace, broken promise (click here to Magpie blog)

This week I will try my spin to the Magpie prompt; fall has arrived  heavily here in MN and this photo made me think of a couple things because it reminds me of.......well read along to learn what fell into my head and  then to the keyboard.  Magpie offers a weekly prompt that bloggers use in their poem, story, vignette.....


We were done clearing out her home before turning it over to the estate sale professionals, I had chosen carefully among  the overflow of treasures limiting my compulsion to continue accumulating, because there is only so much I can continue to squeeze into our own home. I took one last quick  browse, despite Jerry's impatient plea,  "Come on now, how much stuff can you take!  Enough already, leave something for the sale."

I opened the carved oriental  box again but now  the bangle and beads popped out, contrasted against the black taffeta fabric.  I'd  passed over the silver pearls and burnished brass talisman before, forsaking it for my grandmother's wrist watch instead.  All trinkets  that Aunt Czoche had held onto over the many years.  But now at the last minute there it was, the bronze talisman with the demon dancing among the loose pearls.

Suddenly the childhood rhyme echoed back from years long  gone  through my mind,  pushing forward, to the front, like the  pearls in front of me now, the words  I'd made up while  helping Grandma scoop up the pearls that scattered across the carpet, when the string to her necklace  broke so very long ago.  Spontaneous poems were  frequent with us often with some help from Grandma and I saw us again picking up each loose  pearl  and placing them into Grandma's hanky, for safe keeping, someday to be restrung, that someday never came. She  couldn't afford to do that and I remember so distinctly telling her, "someday I'll get them restrung for you, Grandma..."  Long time ago, had not thought of if and yet now, the rhyme taunted me till I spoke it out loud:

"Pearls of silver,
Pearls of grey,
Dance with the demon
But only today.

Gems for the lady
Brass for the man
Dance of the demon
Watch while you can.

Pearls so silver
Pearls so grey
Dance of the demon
Chase him away..

Pearls all scattered
Pick them up now
Demons might dance
But we'll show you how!

One, two, three.......

Resurrection of the rhyme, one of the many we made up while we slapped jump ropes against the sidewalks, childhood refrains. We girls  challenged each other on who'd make  up the jump rope jingles  the fastest.  The broken strand of pearls were fresh in my mind that day so I shouted out the demon dance jump. Hadn't I been ahead of the curve even then, if only I'd put it to music, my jingle similar to "Devil went down to Georgia" by the  Charlie Daniels band the ring tone on my Blackberry today.

What else lurks behind the memory wall of my  mind to be retrieved by the sight of a long ago  familiar object?  Why think of it now, except that there were the pearls, still waiting to be restrung more than 60 years later.  I picked up the pearls and folded them into a handkerchief, stuffed them into my jacket pocket,  to be restrung someday very soon, along with the brass demon medallion.  I'd promised my grandmother I'd do that.  These could not be sold, they brought back memories and the reminder of the promise. Doesn't it all?


This is but one of the Magpie posts.  To see how others use the prompt click here and browse the Magpie site, which  has grown so much since my last  visit..... http://magpietales.blogspot.com/2010/11/mag-40.html#comment-form

Monday, April 19, 2010

Magpie Tales Week 10 (Click here to link to others posts)

Tonette parked her car and raced up the walkway to the big house, hair flying behind her, heels clicking on the concrete, steeling herself for the comments that would spew toward her as soon as she opened the door, comments peppered with the sarcasm that came so naturally to her mother. Time’s tenacious tentacles had her in their grasp again. Oh someone would say, “So glad you could join us” and the tempo of pleasantries would arise, settling down the torrent of accusations that were bound to come later… another commentary about being on time.

Tonette tried, she really did, but tempus fugit was not her friend, tempus FU was more like it.  She was absolutely inept at being on time. Inept, there was one of those words that came at her out of her mind, remnants from years of Mom’s commentary. Despite all the self help books she had studied, despite all the positive vibes she sent herself, Tonette still was plagued by nagging critical diatribe that fell like rain every time she visited Mom, the caustic words burrowing deep into her. Time would diminish the sting but the sarcastic seeds entered her mind and soul and spread their roots, thriving like unwatered cacti, waiting to prick at her heart in unexpected moments.

Tonight she was already 30 minutes late for the gala that Mom and Floyd, her fourth husband, were hosting to introduce the newly elected Congressman to family and friends. For Tonette, a mandatory appearance at one of Mom’s events always conflicted with a late meeting at the office or with a new client who had to take just one more moment; why did she schedule so tightly sabotaging her own efforts. Time waits for no one, certainly not for Tonette.

The jazz quartet was playing “Time After Time” and Mom was dressed in glorious attire for the evening, gorgeous as always, gilded and sparkling, Congressman on one arm, crystal flute filled with champagne in her other hand, swishing through the crowd and raising one eyebrow toward Tonette. “Oh here she is my never timely daughter; let me introduce you…Tonette, Dear, so glad you made it! Where ever have you been this time? Don’t say, we can chat later!” Mom steered toward her. Tonette winced but just as quickly plastered a grin across her lips and tried to project a sparkle with her eyes. Time again, as though she enjoyed this.

The angry exchange would come four days later when she returned to the house to visit with Mom. Why did she do this to herself? This time the piercing of Mom’s shrill words was expected but still hurtful, “who do you think you are, you are impossible, can’t you be on time for once in your life, can’t you think of anyone else, can’t you plan? Buy a watch for God’s sake! Buy an alarm! With your entire staff of secretaries can’t one remind you to keep time…. Why is it asking so much ……” Tonette could not take it anymore and simply picked herself up, saying “Bye Mom, see you later I’m late for a client…”

Three days later, Tonette was moving along in quitting time traffic, as rapidly as she could, down the freeway to the hospital. The call came, as she was just about to leave for the day, “Tonette, your Mom’s been taken to St. Francis…. “Reeling into the lot as the clock on the dashboard ticked off minutes, and turning off the key, Tonette raced out the door and up the walkway to the entrance. Why do they build parking lots so far from the entrances of hospitals? Stopping ever so quickly at the directory Tonette saw ICU 4th floor and sped toward the bank of elevators where several people were waiting. As the elevator doors opened, and people exited, she entered with the others and pushed button 4. At the ICU desk, Tonette gave her name and the nurse directed her to the room, cautioning, “Only the briefest moment, now you don’t have much time to be with her, “As Tonette dashed for the room, she thought, this time I am not late…….”She entered the room and saw her mother, hooked to the respirator and IV tubes, but in her hands, a pocket watch……’ Floyd sat in the corner, head down, “Tonette, she doesn’t have much time……but she has been waiting for you…”

And this friends, has been my almost untimely whack at the prompt for the week....time and clocks and watches....how did we already come to week 10....Clocks and watches remind me of Aunt Jinx who wanted to be absolutely sure that when she  left this life, Jerry, not me, would take all the collection of grnad clocks...he did and has..I have a life long unmechanical ability that plagued me with timepieces  all my life.  I could make a watch stop just by putting it on my wrist.  It was not until the quartz watches hit the market that I could wear a wrist watch.  And so Aunt Jinx never wanted me to touch the antique clocks,  "stay away from them before you mess them up, you know how it is with you.....Too much magnetism" 

Monday, April 12, 2010

Magpie Tales Week 9 (Click here to visit others through the portal)

The women said, “Slap on a little lipstick and you’ll feel better!” All the movie stars had red lips. All the beautiful women in the movies and in those magazines we looked at over the counter at the Sun Drug or at JCMurphy Five and Dime.  Betty Ann was a lucky one; her older sisters, Arlene and  Delores bought those magazines and she could see them at home.  Never mind TV it was black and white back in those days, lips didn't matter.

I could not wait to get my first lipstick; I remember it today so many years ago, fifty or so. It was Tangee Natural and gave a slight tint to the lips. Not so much as a real color to say, “Read my lips.” Tangee was our initial step to the world of makeup and glamour that surely awaited us beyond our early teen years. It was the only selection all our mothers allowed, the tube of preference. Did every mother own stock in that company? Tangee was not much more than a slightly tinted Chapstick, but we wore it with pride.

The Ridge Avenue drugstore up the hill from our junior high school displayed delicious devilish Revlon lipsticks. We girls of the 50’s looked longingly at the tubes on display. We busied ourselves and saved our dollars from babysitting until we could buy our first very own tube of something scrumptious, a vibrant red “Cherries in the Snow.” We stashed those cherished tubes in our lockers at school, slathering our lips as soon as we arrived at school. Blowing kisses to each other and to the occasional boy with our garnished lips. By the time we headed home our lips were back to Tangee Natural and all was well. Ahh we were on our road to glamour.

Until, the parent teacher conference when Mrs. Terwilligear said, “Why does Patty slather her lips with that atrocious red paint? Why don’t you get her a tube of Tangee Natural? It would be so much more becoming than that painted mouth”

None of us, least of all yours truly ever imagined we’d be outed by our Eighth Grade English teacher. We lived in our fantasy world of “what happens at school stays at school", years before Las Vegas adopted the phrase as its motto. My mother was shocked or maybe not; but she was never one to beat around the bush, she confronted me as soon as she returned home “So where were you getting that red lipstick you’ve been wearing at school?” Busted and too sheepish to deny it. Denial would have meant a story and I never could react fast enough to Mom to make something up. End of my ruby reds; didn’t matter that it was my own babysitting money earned for such a purchase as this; down with the tube! Afraid to test my independence further, I surrendered my tube of Cherries in the Snow to Mom the next day after school as ordered. My friends and I were up the same creek in the same boat and so we regressed to Tangee and secretly savored that day when we might be able to have those red lips again! That walk home from school the next day was a sad one for all three of us, “What do you think your mom will do with the lipstick?” " I don't know and I'm not going to ask, the sooner she gets over it the better for me." 

Today I smile recalling my early episode of the lips. I have an array of lipsticks, few of which I ever remember to smooth on. When I do treat my lips to something like this, my new favorite Black Honey, which is lighter, more neutral on my lips than in the tube, the lipstick is soon gone with the first cup of coffee or bite of toast. I seldom keep lipstick on. Actually I use a gloss or a lip balm for the moisture; where is that Tangee natural when I would like to use it! We have come so far that the circle is complete and I would be willing to close the loop back at the beginning.

This has been my girly tale  based on actual life events; I was there and lived to tell about  it!  This is week 9 of our Magpie  endeavor,  created by Willow and enjoyed by many of us out here in the blogosphere.  To see how others used this week's photo prompt, click above on the title and  then click on any of the other Magpie participants.     I', loving this new Magpie Stamp...though it  looks more like a crow or raven to me :)

Monday, March 29, 2010

Magpie 7 Click here to go to Magpie Post site for other writers' offerings

I could not resist a touch of memoir for this week’s Magpie. When we lived in Northern California the winters were predominantly grey fog and rain with some scattered sunshine. It was quite different from my childhood of four seasons in PA, or here in MN. We became accustomed to having two seasons, hot and foggy but spring was always a welcome green time of the year which vanished all too soon into the CA hillsides brown from heat and drought.

Across the American River Canyon, from us in Amador County outside of Sutter Creek was the charming Daffodil Hill. Many of these towns which were founded by the miners and followers during the 1840’s California Gold Rush were tiny places, almost vanishing but then revived into tourist attractions with shops and eateries. But Daffodil Hill had its own special gold attraction, the bloom of over 300,000 daffodil bulbs which had been planted over the acreage beginning in 1887 when Arthur and Lizzie McLaughlin arrived from New York. To merely say the hills were covered with the majesty of the golden blooms does not fully portray the glory of the golden glow of those acres of yellow, sunshine in bloom.

I had acquaintances whose parents lived in Sutter Creek and who introduced me to Daffodil Hill. This was before it became a tourist attraction, when it was a tranquil spot in the hills, a serene sight of golden flowers. Later as would happen all too frequently in CA , the thundering throngs of people in cars and motor cycles invaded the area by the thousands each weekend beginning in late March to view this phenomena. Trouble was this populace invasion, destroyed the ambience and disturbed the peace with traffic galore. So we no longer visited Daffodil Hill, avoiding the congestion of the crowds. Sitting in a car along a two lane meandering back hills road which has been transformed into a miles long parking lot going nowhere has never been my idea of a good time!

Believing that as one door closes another window opens, I decided that I would create my own private daffodil hill on our seven acres. That started my 20+ year tradition of planting daffodil bulbs each November around my birthday. First I planted an assortment of various bulbs, favoring exotic tulips. But come spring I was disappointed with sparse results. Here and there I had scattered ranunculus, Dutch iris and daffodils but zero tulips. When I took shovel in hand and dug up the area to inspect and determine the cause, I found not a trace of any tulip bulb, where I’d so carefully laid those months back. After more study and questioning lifelong foothill gardeners, I learned that the tulips were prime eating for the voracious gophers that ravaged our lawn and cultivated areas. I had provided them a wintry gourmet feast which they totally devoured. I was advised to dig deeper the next year and install a layer of wire mesh, aka chicken wire, and then add soil and amendments and then the bulbs. Then our elderly friend and previous owner of the hillside advised me that she had given up on tulips 40 years prior for this same reason and because they needed to be dug out and replanted each year.

With that lesson learned, but resolute to having my personal spring bulb bloom, that November I passed on tulips and planted more Dutch iris and daffodils. That Monday when I returned home from a routine long work day in the bureaucracy, Jerry remarked that I probably had not noticed excavation along my mini bulb hill along the front bank. No indeed I had not noticed that, because at that time of year I left in the dark and returned in the dark, but I went outside, turned on the garage lights, armed with flashlight to inspect. What a sorry sight awaited me with daffodil bulbs and iris tubers scattered over the ground and excavations all over that slope. Jerry had followed me outside and was standing aside as I gasped, “What the hell!” and other expletive deleted words that every gardener invokes from time to time! This time there was another predator, which happened to be hunkering sheepishly behind Jerry eyeing me. That August we had acquired our Great Dane, Ace, who became the dog of my life. But this evening, there he was in his blackness looking at me and leaning against Jerry’s legs. Evidently that morning Jerry, who left for his business in the daylight and checked the area before departing had found the evidence with dirt and mud all over Ace’s mug and paws. It seems, Ace smelled the bone and blood meal that I’d used while burying each bulb and while he did not eat bulbs, the pup had enjoyed digging in the dirt. Was I amused, hardly, but there was still time the next weekend to replant the bulbs. The next Saturday, I did so but also used another old gardener’s trick, moth balls planted along with the bulbs to keep the dog away. It worked because Ace did not excavate.

The next spring the bulbs bloomed and all was well. Well as well as it could be until the mischievous Ace and our other dog decided to race through the bulb beds or lay down amid the flowers. I have mentioned that we lived on a country hillside so we did not do flower boxes nor fence off my plantings. Besides Ace was perfectly capable of stepping over any small flower fence and our other dog was a jumper. My outbursts of displeasure taught them to keep away, mostly.

As I learned more about bulb gardening, I became even fonder of the daffodils which were known to naturalize and divide and take over an area. Furthermore, the daffodil stems and leaves as such were deer repellent another important feature in our country hillside. Thereafter, I continued to plant daffodils each November along with a few hyacinths and the Dutch iris. I had more than 20 hybrids of daffodils some in multi color, some with a greenish tinge but my favorites remained the King Alfred, golden yellows. I had a nice view of the bank from our kitchen table window, a few steps off the garage and enjoyed many bouquets from the beds of yellow.

Today in MN, November is too cold and the ground too hard for bulb gardening, I have decided after repeated failures. In 2005, our first fall and winter here, I purchased bags full of bulbs and buried them around the planters and even potted several. All this to Jerry’s protests that I not scatter them in the lawns where he rides his mower! Not a single daffodil bloomed. When I dug those bulbs I saw they had rotted in the ground, perhaps I did not plant them deep enough, and perhaps the bulbs were defective. The next year, I tried a couple more types without any success. So I have given up, for now and often we are off in the RV when it's optimal time to plant.  My focus has shifted.  No more golden blooms greeting the spring time. Of course, maybe there is a certain daffodil that is better suited to MN over winter---hmmm, more to learn.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Magpie tales Week 6 (Click here to read others' posts)

This week almost stumped me fully until I tried something very different.  Likely my  utter lack of handy ability frustrated my inspiration and almost blocked my weekly writing.  I can't wait to read  how others used it.   

Box of tacks awaiting a hammer

To anchor them, with a useful knock.

Left in the box, tacks jangle together

Sharp, pointy, spilling out without form or purpose.


But the tack taken from that box,

Attacked by a hammer’s quick smack

Can fasten, repair, reinforce and support.



Life’s sorrows are like tacks in the box.

Kept jangling together deep in the box of the heart

Sorrows' sharp pointed ends slowly siege the soul.

But sorrows shared with others who care

Are struck by the force of the hammer of prayer

Prayer and concern are the useful knocks

That fasten, repair, reinforce and support the fragmented soul.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Magpie Tales 4 Elephant click to link to others

Mai Li straightened the desks and chair and smiling anticipating another good day with the third grade. She loved teaching and she loved this class. From their first day, she had connected with them and especially with Katey, the sassiest little girl Mai had ever known. Well Mai had only been teaching for three years, but she sensed something different about Katey, a little girl with skin as black as ebony, with a smile that lit up the room, and yet with toughness fed by a spark. Katey was the most attentive child she had encountered. When any of the class got a bit rowdy Katey would stand up, shout loudly “Yo! Sshhh” stare and indignantly announce “better be shut up right now! I be my Daddy’s eyes and ears and need to hear everything!” This child had a presence and something driving her.

But Mai Li had noticed that beneath Katey’s big black eyes a shadow of sadness floated near the surface. In this first month of the school year, Mai had begun to notice more about Katey and to wonder about her home life. Parent Teacher conferences were set for next week, maybe she would learn more. Yet, the trouble was few parents came to the conferences. Really few children had both parents, most were lucky to have one or a grandparent or any relative. Their lives were tragic. She knew the admonition the principle recited at the beginning of the school year to the teachers, “Do not become engaged with the children. This is Chicago, this is inner city! You will hear stories that you will not believe, many of these are true, stories of families of children that will break your heart, make you angry, make you sick and evoke emotions you cannot spare as a teacher! Be dedicated but have some distance. Else the inner city sanctum will suck you in and drain you. “And that was followed by the caution to be alert for signs of abuse and to report these promptly. Mai believed though that children of poverty still deserved to learn, deserved teachers who wanted to be with them. She was honored to be a part of their lives, and strived to be someone who brought sunshine inside the classroom.

Mai thought about how she had hesitated to accept this job because her parents dreaded her coming here, to Chicago, alone,so far away from her home in Texas. Mai sometimes wondered if it had been a wise choice going against the wishes of her American family who had urged her to stay in Texas. But she wanted to be out on her own. Mai wanted to repay the country that became hers and she had chosen to teach in the inner city of Chicago. Mai was an idealist! She missed her parents and Texas, but here in Chicago she had connected with others and was on her own path. She had grown used to the windy city and it cold snowy winters. Think of it a baby conceived in Vietnam, born in the Philippines and raised in Texas, now in Chicago! A twisted path in a small world.

Her Mom and Dad had adopted Mai Li as an infant and raised her as an American, but told her all they could about her Vietnamese heritage. There was little to tell. She knew the North Vietnamese Communists had killed her father for working with the Americans. For Mai Li the Vietnam War never ended; she lived her life in gratitude to the American soldiers. Her mother was rescued by an American soldier as the bombs dropped, but died giving birth to Mai in the refugee camp. She was a blessed baby, adopted and raised in America with all the opportunities this country had to offer. The only physical piece of Vietnam she had was the carved ivory elephant that her mother had with her in the refugee camp. When her Mom and Dad traveled to the Philippines to take her home the Nun had given them the elephant and told them that that it had been made by the dead woman’s husband. It was one of a pair; her mother had given the matching one to the American soldier who had rescued her as the mortar shells exploded around the village. Mai Li always thought that perhaps one day she would meet that soldier with the matching elephant and thank him for his bravery. Mom and Dad did not discourage her dream, only warned, it’s a very big country and who knows how you would ever find that soldier. We have no name and no way to begin to find him. Don’t set your heart on it.”

The school bus pulled into the school yard and the children poured out loudly shouting, shoving while moving into the school. Right in the middle was Katey whose corn rows with sparkling beads on the ends caught the bright sunlight that followed her across the yard.

Yes, Mai knew today would be a good day, but risky; other teachers had warned her,” You never know what those kids will bring into the room!” “Good morning Joe, Skip, Hialeah, Shawna,……” Mai Li greeted each child by name. She prided herself on quickly learning each name so she could speak to each child as an individual, a way to show respect to the children. “Good morning Miss Mai” echoed back. The principle walked by the class room and waved, “Good morning boys and girls!” ”Morning, Mr. Snoots.” The cheerfulness of Mai's classes amazed him and made him wish he could bottle her secret, spread it among the faculty. That young lady had an extra special quality of devotion to her students. He stepped inside the door way for just a minute to catch more of that good feeling.

“Mr. Snoots, could you please spare a moment or two to sit with us, we have a wonderful day planned!” Mai invited.

“Well perhaps just for a little bit, I’d like that” he replied ambling to the side of the classroom to allow Mai to begin.

“Mr. Snoots, Mr. Snoots,,, guess what?” This shout was from Katey, the little girl who was new to the school this year. The family had just moved from Gary; he understood that her father was disabled but attending college on the GI bill and the mother worked as a nurse’s aid. Katey was their only child and they seemed to have it better together than some of the school’s families but then he didn’t know all about them. There was likely some dark spot too, just like the other families.

“Miss Mai, can I please tell him?” Katey asked with that eager smiling voice.

“Tell whom what, Katey?” Mai inquired?

“Can I tell Mr. Snoots what we are doing today and can I be first! Please and thank you Miss Mai” from Katey who seemed so wound up this morning.

“Umm, well, Katey, go ahead, but perhaps Mr. Snoots doesn’t have a lot of time to hear many stories.” Mai smiled. Mai did not want to stifle any of Katey’s extra exuberance this morning.

“Well Mr. Snoots, today is show and tell! My Daddy has this special pet that he let me bring to show.” Katey said, running to the front of the classroom. “He got it when he was a soldier in Viet Nam; it was with him in the hospital where he went to get better after the explosions. They fixed him up as good as they could. When I told him Miss Mai was Vietnamese he let me bring this to show.” Katey pulled a carved ivory elephant from her backpack! Mai gasped but quickly straightened up. Mr. Snoots had noticed her reaction though and raised his eyebrows…. Obviously he would have to warn Mai again about engaging. Too much emotion was not good!

The next week Mai paced awaiting Katey’s parent’s arrival for their conference. The mother had sent a note that they both would attend. Mai wondered how and when she would explain her matching elephant. Maybe she would not say anything. She recalled Mr. Snoots’ admonition against engaging. And what would this family say? What would they think? Despite Mai’s dream and rehearsed words, this meeting was not going to be as easy as thanking the soldier. It was like life, nothing went exactly as planned. “Don’t set your heart on it” she remembered her Mom’s cautious words. As Katey led the couple into the room, Mai Li looked into the unseeing eyes of the man with the white cane. It must be him, the American soldier who had rescued her mother from the mortar fire in Vietnam. “Miss Mai this is my Daddy and Mommy, “Katey chirped, “And this is Miss Mai, my teacher!”


Readers I leave it to you  to determine what Mai did hereafter, or it may appear in a subsequent Magpie post.  These are  brought ot you by Willow's prompts.  To see what other wonderful writiers are contributing about the same photo click on the  heading and then click on any of the  other names on Magpie....