Saturday, October 29, 2011



The human heart is a place of wonder. It has room for mineral vegetable and animal life. There is ample evidence of that on the Facebook wall of writer Joseph Finder, just below the photo of a  golden  Labrador retriever. Finders caption for the photo was,
"Unconditional live is so rare. "
Judging from the responses he got, the consensus is that dogs can be relied upon to love unconditionally. I know from experience that such is not always the case and I have the scars to prove it. Nevertheless,healthy dogs--the Chowchow that bit me was truly dysfunctional-- people are equally of living  love that " is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."
Another writer, Louanne Rice, posted about her love of cloud watching, something many of us share I proposed that we form a club. Ideally, we would  fluffy lamb, that fierce dragon, that length of unravelling silk will travel. Ideally, painter Alfred Sisley would be part of that club. Many of his landscapes include fleecy clouds perhaps for that simple reason that that clouds were often present  present in French skies beneath which he worked.  Then again, it may be that clouds are an integral part of work of painters he  admired, such as Turner and Constable . The latter, in turn, was influenced by  cloud-loving Claude Lorrain.No matter. Sisley's death in 1899 might make it difficult to include him in the cloud watching club. The best I can do is look at his painting when the weather is inclement.

Sunday, August 21, 2011


 I am very concerned about the mangling of Cullinson Park, in Shepherdstown, West Virginia while local  Sewer and Water Services install pipes in that area. Apparently no environmental agencies are supervising this project. There seems to be  Audubon, Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation presence. I am inclined to think that the town has made no effort to minimise damage to wildlife habitat and that there were no environmental impact studies done. Way to go, EPA.
There are nests of copperhead snakes in the park. What will the destruction of their habitat mean to households adjacent  to the park? Will householders welcome the displaced reptiles or will they kill them forthwith? What about the turtles--boxies and snappers. How ill they respond to their loss of habitat? As for the dozen plus types of songbirds that nest in the park, how will they be affected? It is supremely ironic that while trying to clean up the Cheasapeake Bay, the EPA facilitates the impairment of one of the last green spaces left in the Corporation  of Shepherdstown.

Friday, August 19, 2011


"Machiavelli recommends his Prince to make use of every

moment that his neighbour is weak, in order to attack him; as

otherwise his neighbour may do the same. If honour and fidelity

prevailed in the world, it would be a different matter; but as these

are qualities not to be expected, a man must not practise them

himself, because he will meet with a bad return." Schopenhauer
Schopenhauer and Macchiavelli's view of the world suits a great many people. Mine, is a different set of values based on the concept of Tikkun Olam.

My next garden. I'd like to see the uglies try to lay claim to it. More info at Materialicious, Bacsac can be suspended from my front windows on the upper floor to keep deer and other predators at bay.

Another example of municipality-proof garden. It does not do much for the wildlife, but hey, it is green.

Monday, August 15, 2011


 "If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death Perhaps the world can teach us as when everything seems dead but later proves to be alive" — Pablo Neruda

Sometimes there must be a pause from worries, from wishing, from wanting. In the space created by that pause one becomes simply quiescent. That is where I am right now, in a space that has no room for  worrying where and how to grow new trees, for the wish to rush towards great struggles, quick solutions, urgent decisions.  I tried to explain this process to my nephew, whose colloquial English is not yet perfect, and he asked,
"What does it mean, 'survival mode?'"
 I rell him  that it means to push everything aside and concentrate on being. I am not sure that is a good explanation. The expression is so fluid I can infuse it with my own meaning and so can he. Language is imprecise and filled with ambiguity. One rarely sets everything aside for longer than a few hours. Modern life does not permit such luxuries. Obligations one takes on without any thought of future interruptions tug at one's mind--the cat must be fed, meals must be cooked, plants must be watered, messages must be answered at some point. One must sort  essential matters from the non-essential. One must make minor decisions--review copies of books can e read later,  the lawn will keep on being ragged for another day, the ambitious writing project can be shelved for the moment.
There are things one can do while the pause button is on--one can talk to family and friends. I speak on the phone with my daughter every day and I devote at least two hours in the evening to IM distant relatives.In between I exchange e-mail messages with neighbour and friends. Such, such is the tenor of modern  times that I do see someone close to me regularly while others become electronic presences on my computer screen.  It is all contact that does not disturb the stillness, rather it nourishes and protects it. Besides that, there is always  music. My choice is a  treasure trove of Brazilian songs that ranges from recordings of indigenous Kaapor flute players, to Afro-Brazilian ritual chants, to brand new compositions by young Brazilian musicians from various ethnicities. I find audio books  good choices, as well. The website houses, among other data,  a great collection of works that have entered the public domain. For now, since the survival mode resists intellectual demands,  I choose THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, by Baroness Orczy over A DIALOGUE CONCERNING , ORATORY, by Tacitus and I choose   Trollope over  Vitruvius.  Ther is no stridency, no ponderous thought in thes echoic. I can just be.

Brazilians have a different way of expressing  this pause button stage. They call "to lie like milk (in a vessel.)"
Americans say, to be  "like honey in a jar." I find it singularly appropriate that both cultures express calm, peace, quiescence in terms of  food and drink. I think they humans in most  parts of the globe recognise that stress and strife are depleting while peace is nourishing. Change comes whether we wear ourselves out with fretting  or whether we choose to be still and grow stronger. There is nothing new in gathering one's power quietly and carefully. Strangely, it never ceases to a be a process of discovery.

A fading August rose.

Sunday, August 14, 2011


"’s also dangerous to catch a cold, to sleep, to drink. But I tell you, my lord fool, we shall pluck a flower of safety from this thorn of danger." William Shakespeare's Hotspur in HENRY IV

Dealing with trauma is an interesting process. In my case, the trauma was not physical. I have no bruises to display.  Nevertheless, having one's home invaded and one's property destroyed can cause a number physical reactions. Disorientation, trembling, high pulse rate, chest pains are among other symptoms of distress. Exhaustion follows.  It helps enormously that there are good people in the world and that they take the time to give generously of their time and to perform acts of extraordinary kindness.
Life goes on regardless of one's travails. Within one's circle of friends far and near, there are joys events. For example, Jerusalem welcomes  a brand  new beautiful girl, Mari Carys Rees sister of Cai and daughter of author Matt Beynon Rees and his wife Devorah Blachor. My friend Alex Shoumatoff gets well-deserved praise for his article on the decimation of African elephants, "Agony and Ivory" in the August 2011 issue of Vanity Fair Magazine. Elsewhere, a couple goes to lunch at a new restaurant, another spends a day at the beach, yet another  rejoices in the presence of a young grandchild.  Along with the sweetness of ordinary life, the world goes through convulsions-, economic quakes, grievous examples of social injustice.In Brazil drug dealers shoot unarmed Native Brazilians, in Saudi Arabia the government sanctions the beheading of an Indonesian guest worker who dared fight her abusive employers back, Syria's ratchets up the violence against protesters, there are more killings in Afghanistan and on,  and on, and on.
"Hold fast," says one of the women who is helping find out how to navigate the troubled  legal waters of my community. That, is the least I can do. I am deeply grateful for her  kindness.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Click on this link to see My Lost Garden This is the garden I made. This is the place the hirelings of the municipality of Shepherdstown, West Virginia, sanctioned by the mayor and town council, invaded, on 11 August 2011 to cut my trees.  They took more that twenty-five year trees. They also took away my sense of being secure in my own property. May it never happen to you.I have been working in this garden since 1989. I started planting flowers and trees before my house was built. Now it is all tainted by this act of violence and thuggery.

Friday, August 12, 2011


                                                                       11August 2011

11August 2011

Winter 2011.

Winter 2011

Winter 2011.

Winter 2011

Yesterday, men  with a jones for dead wood came into my property and cut eight  pine trees that I had planted twenty-five years ago. Each tree had grown to a height of thirty-five feet. I had planted them as wind break for the birds that make my neighborhood one of the few places in town  legitimizes its claim of being  bird sanctuary. Other animals enjoyed their shelter. Mine is a neighbourhood where the beleaguered wildlife still finds refuge.  I have no physical need of live trees, but I love them nevertheless. I loved these pine trees particularly after a heavy snow fall. A couple of winters ago, I was inordinately proud that a photograph I took of them appeared on The Washington Post"s online edition. So proud was I that I had the photo  made into a holiday card. That was a good thing. Besides the photo,  all that remains of them is stumps and broken branches.

I would not call the people who cut my trees redneck barbarians. I would not say that they are rapists of the local ecology or eco-terrorists. I would not even say that they uneducated, money-grubbing little people. I can  say that they are workers in the pay of the municipality. They were hired to cut trees and cut trees  and they did it with a vengeance. They took ten minutes to do away with trees that took a quarter of a century to mature. No, I would not call them stupid people with no sense of history and no conscience.   When confronted, they tried to justify themselves with the age-old excuse  of those who commit destructive acts,
"We did what we were told."
You see, I believe that people of no conscience would not have offered any justification at all.

The town officials who authorized the killing of my trees also had a great many justifications. They claimed that  needed to place a sewer and water pipe on my property. The town has an easement there, they said, though when asked to prove when and how this easement came about they remained mute. I have a copy of the e-mail I sent the mayor, Jim Auxer, in May, asking him those very questions. Jim Auxer may not live up to the promises he made for  the local fauna and flora. Instead, he and the Town council he was elected to lead, authorized noisy concerts and said nothing against the sale of alcoholic beverages during these concerts. But Jim Auxer is man of conscience.
True, he and town council have suspended the town's noise ordinance when it suited them, but that is something the dozen or so merchants in the commercial area of town wanted. It is no news that  the needs and wishes of merchants supersede those of ordinary citizen. Never mind birds and turtles. They do not shop.
That loud noise plays havoc with people and  fauna is no news either, but do not let me let go there. It is too late in the day for me to contact the Cornell University scientist  who took the time to help me come up with  plan to protect the fauna of the park. She could talk about the tolerable number of decibels and that sort of thing.

Let me concentrate on trees Let me talk in terms of money, since when you boil down all the issues, the only thing that makes sense to some people is the formerly almighty dollar. The estate of West Virginia, in its infinite wisdom, makes it illegal for folks to go around chopping down trees in other folks property. Having lawyered up, I can probably get the municipality to pay three times the cost of the trees I lost. Trouble is, I do not see how I can be compensated for them. I am sixty-four. I will be eighty-nine before five-year-old seedlings, identical to those I planted attain their mature height. That is a moot point if the town condemns my property, as one of its hirelings told me it would happen if I interfered with its depredations. Most likely, the town will try to soothe my feelings first. It will delegate some bureaucrat to put on his folksy, good-old boy act together and get the little woman to shut up. My lawyer will talk to the town  lawyer and some compromise will be reached.

Whatever happens, the trees are gone. Much as it hurts me  to see the place where they stood for so long, it hurts me more to think that I was wrong to care for things such as fauna and flora in a community whose record on environmental issues is so poor. It helps to  repeat a little mantra much in vogue in Brazil, my country of origin,
Sou brasileira e nao desisto--I am Brazilian and I do not give up.I can get through this.

What I cannot do is trust the leaders of my community to leave behind a living legacy of quiet  green spaces and  clean water for future generations.

Monday, May 2, 2011


      Bulgarian tomato seedlings in a recycled milk carton.

Basil seedling in a recycled food container.

Some bloggers  write to keep a record, hoping that future generations will look up their posts and say,
 "Ah, that is how people lived in Tater Hollow, a century ago. "
Unlike those bloggers I have no wish to document the doings of my  little community. That was once my intention, but not everything that happens in Tater Hollow  is filled with sweetness and light. There is much discord and all I got for my effort was a more and more jaundiced eye.  To be in Tater Hollow, but not of Tater Hollow is my present ambition.

Living apart from one's fellow villagers is not the most satisfying condition. It can be lonely and occasionally frightening. Surprisingly more and more Americans choose to live apart from their communities. preferring to make friends in cyberspace. Is this social evolution? How did its happen? Do we fail when we reject the hurly-burly of face-to-face interchanges or do we grow wiser, calmer and more balanced when we decline to enter the fray? Fray there is, in a world that is changing so rapidly it is difficult to know what, if anything is permanent. Many of us face violence, hunger,  war, terrorism, economic crises, political upheaval, natural disasters, and  a diminishing supply of essentials such as food,  water and fuel. Does it not make sense to grow closer to one's fellow villagers?

       Ultimately,  the answer must be yes. Meantime, one must cultivate one's garden and hope for the best. My garden, weedy and unruly as it is, gives me great pleasure. In a few weeks i will be planting out the seedling I started earlier this month. With luck, tomatoes, pepper, several types of basil will provide me and mine with a feast that will extend beyond the growing season.  Outside, in my little vegetable garden,  asparagus, garlic, onions, strawberries, juice cherries and salad greens thrive as do the perennials in the flower garden.  Maybe before the year is out my neighbors and I will gather around a big pot of Soupe au Pistou  and relearn the old ways of Tater Hollow when folks still remembered that no one is an island.


There are few  perennials as  forgiving than hellebores. Fewer yet are as welcome a sight when cold  and windy  April  make one wonder if spring will ever come. Mine are a little miracle. They nestle against a rocky outcrop and under a huge Cecille Brunner rosebush where they thrive through no effort of my own. deer leave them alone and so do insects. What is not to like?

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Wisteria covered arbour.


Bleeding heart.
                                                                                Money plant.
Purple trillium.

                                                             Daffodil and rose leaf.

                                                                   Quince Toyo Nishiki
Alyssum saxatile.
Quince buds.

                                                              Dutchman's breeches.
                                                                   White violets.

                                                                 Nanking cherry in bloom.
Onions in a half whiskey barrel.

  Garlic grows in an old wheelbarrow.
Oriental poppy bud.
                                                                 Persian lilac.
                                                                            Yellow pansy.
                                                                         Grape hyacinths and violets.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Ar the Wren's Nest, lilac season begins with the Persian variety. In our area, it blooms along with dogwood, redbud, white violet, daffodils and ornamental quince. This rainy spring, a French lilac joined the Persian--a first since it was planted five years ago. Soon the Japanese, Russian and Canadian tree varieties will follow suit. Their ephemeral beauty makes the fragrant  blossoms even more precious.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Thalia daffodil and variegated vinca  in a liqueur glass.

Alchemilla mollis. 

Brunnera macrophilla Emerald Mist. Photo by Willoway Nursery.

It pours and pours. Planting is out of the question, but  as soon as it clears, I must considers plants that look their best after it rains. Alchemilla mollis is one of them. So is Brunera macrophilla, which has the added attraction of lovely vhina blue flowers reminiscent of forget-mets. A propos which, water loving forget-me-nots is another good choice for rain garden. It can be started easily from seeds.  I have had good results with the 20 cent packages of seeds one finds at discount stores. 

Bergenia cordifolia Bressingham Ruby.

It pours and pours. Planting is out of the question, but  as soon as it clears, I must consider plants that look their best after it rains. Alchemilla mollis is one of them. So is Brunera macrophilla, which has the added attraction of lovely vhina blue flowers reminiscent of forget-mets. A propos which, water loving forget-me-nots is another good choice for rain garden. It can be started easily from seeds.  I have had good results with the 20 cent packages of seeds one finds at discount stores. Bergenias, heucheras and hostas and bluebells round out my list. The catch is that all these are fodder for deer.
Myosotis palustris, forget-me-not. 

 Daffodils are not particularly good for rain gardens. The larger varieties flop to the ground after a downpour. However, the smaller Thalia and  Tete-a-Tete withstand a battering from the elements. I could plant acres of green eyed Thalia should a fairy godparent send me bafs of money. Look at the above photo and you will understand why.