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In the Jungle

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After the misty morning fogs, the recent rains, and the August heat, the weeds have been advancing aggressively  into the flower beds, chasing me around the garden like a snake slinking in search of supper.  My nails are split and my ankles are ringed in mosquito bites. A sense of accomplishment reigns, however, each time I bring order to the jungle of overgrowth here.

I found refuge in the tall  grasses, camouflaged.  Can you find me hiding? I top 5’3″. These tall grasses, divisions from my friend Jan, are twice as tall as me – and they have not as yet showed their plumes!

It has been a most pleasant summer here on the  Cutoff.  We have had more nights than not with the windows opened., breezes wafting in; the tree toads and crickets crooning and strumming in late night chorus along with it.  The daisies have been resplendent, showing off from before the Fourth of DSCN5409July, just now starting to fade. The Echinacea and Rudbeckia have been proudly wearing their seasonal crowns of glory and the finch are finding their seeds; a sign of summer’s long farewell at hand.

Just a few feet away from the grasses, Joe Pye Weed,  divisions from the Wilder herb garden last year, have been prolific, with a host of flitting and buzzing visitors enjoying their sweet, sweet nectar.

I am encouraged by the emergence of more bees this summer, and the return of monarchs. While their numbers are low, there is marked resurgence in our winged friends, and I choose to take hope from their presence, especially since I only saw one Monarch on our property last summer.  I was not quick enough, nor was my camera, at capturing the Monarchs on the Joe Pye Weed, but, did catch in the lens a few other butterflies, just before I posed again for Sports Illustrated. DSCN5484

 

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Rose of Sharon

For my dear friend, Sharon, who is celebrating a special day.

Happy Birthday, Sharon – and many happy returns!

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Sparkle

DSCN4838As soon as I squirted the glass with the contents of the bottle, out, like a genie, came thoughts of my Aunt Christina.

It was the fragrance of Sparkle. It doesn’t cure mosquito bites, like Windex in “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, but, it does evoke fond memories of my Greek family, especially my Aunt Christina.

It was my Aunt Christina who took me each summer, mid-August, Downtown, to the Loop. In the heart of Loop was that emporium of magnificent merchandise, Marshall Field’s. My aunt knew every floor, every department, every corner of Field’s. Off we charged to the children’s department, then the young girls, eventually juniors, where I would try on dresses, picking out one to buy for the start of school. I loved every minute of our yearly adventure. I cherish those memories now.

Aunt Christina bought be my first pair of nylons, to the horror of my mother, and showed me how to use a garter belt. Do you remember those? She bought me my first princess heals, and I’m sure laughed, robustly, as I attempted to walk in them.  My love affair with Elvis was her doing, for a record player with “Return to Sender” was a birthday present, my dad’s turn at horror.

My aunt loved Erma Bombeck. We would phone each other, trying to read a particularly humorous column out loud; failing miserably because neither of us could stop laughing enough to finish a sentence.

Tom always, ALWAYS knew when I was on the phone with my aunt; unless, of course, she got Himself on the phone, for she appreciated his Irish wit.

When I was about 12, I slipped next door to her kitchen, $6 in hand, and asked her if she could buy my parents an anniversary gift with it.  The next day she called me over and opened two boxes of glass plates and cups; the little lunch sets of the 50’s and 60’s that ladies would use for parties. Did your mom have them? They were more than $6, though she never said so, only that she put in the money for the tax. My parents were thrilled that I thought of them – but, it was my aunt who made it possible.

So, here I was yesterday, a cloudy day, spiffing up windows and glass tabletops, thinking of Aunt Christina, and the Club girls. When it was my aunt’s turn to host these card sharks, there was a housecleaning flurry. She would call me to come over and sit in her kitchen next door and then start her sales pitch. “Penny,” she would say, “the club girls are coming tonight and I need your help. No one cleans the tiles in the bathroom as good as you do. Will you help me?”  Of course, I would. I was the best, after all, at spraying and sparkling those mid-century tiles. Off came my shoes and my socks. Out came the paper towels and a big bottle of Sparkle. Oh, I was good. I was very good, squirting each and every square of her gray tiled bathroom walls, especially those around the tub. Aunt Christina would pop her head in and say how great they looked.  Eventually I would stagger out, high as a kite on self-esteem and Sparkle fumes, a few shiny quarters in my palm – and a life-long affinity for Sparkle Glass Cleaner.

I thought of my aunt as I erased fingers smudges on glass – and she sparkled like a star in my heart and mind.

 

Morning

Glory

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Perfectly Sweet

Some nights are so perfectly sweet that the only music one needs is the melodious flow of a meandering creek and a simple supper at waters’ edge.

DSCN5469So it was on Friday night. We were perched on director’s chairs at a coveted outcropping of rock near the old gristmill at Fullersburg Woods.  We dined al fresco on a simple dinner of turkey, brie and apple sandwiches, rounded out with a fresh fruit salad.

Two children frolicked around us, under the watchful eyes of their grandparents, as they climbed the rocks and fallen logs.

A wedding party was gathered behind us, the bride in a sari and crown of the most brilliant of colors, mimicking the seasonal jewelweed that bloomed along the forest path, her attendant standing nearby in a striking red gown.

As we ate, under the canopy of ancient maples and oaks, a Black Crowned Night Heron emerged from the stream below. He posed for a time on a branch at the waterfall, perhaps DSCN5463looking for a meal of his own before swooping majestically across the creek to a podium he claimed his own.

A simple supper.

The setting sun.

A perfectly sweet night all our own.

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Little Free Library

DSCN5440These cute little boxes on posts seem to be sprouting up around here like daisies in sunshine. In the past week or so, I have noticed four. I finally just had to park my car, get out, and see what they were all about.

Sure glad I did!

I turned off the car, crossed the street, and peeked into the box; a box of books!  There was a little hook to lift and a door opened, with an invitation inside  to take a book, return it with another. Adult books and children’s  books, there for the taking. I was as giddy as Charlie Bucket holding his golden ticket.

Leapt. I leapt across the street and opened my trunk, where a bag sat, bursting, with books I was planning to donate to Goodwill. I rummaged around and took out a Miss Dimple I was going to pass on, deciding, on the spot to donate it instead to this Little Free Library. I leapt back across the street, where I perused the selection. A few cars passed, unfettered by my leaping on this bookish corner as I once again opened the door, took out my selection, an as yet unread Maisie Dobbs, and replacing it with Miss Dimple. DSCN5441

Home again, I did some online investigating, finding the Little Free Library website, which you can visit here.

What a fabulous idea and a way to not only enjoy books, but, to foster literacy. There is a quaintness about this idea of sharing books in a clever and attractive way with your neighbors and passers-by. Of course, you can buy plans and kits to make your own little library, and you can officially register it and get one of these very nice markers – or, you can make one on your own.  The Little Free Library is an interesting enterprise that seems to be growing.

I wonder if Tom can build one to look like the arbor. Have you seen one?

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DT4972One of my summertime reads has been “Clara and Mr. Tiffany” by Susan Vreeland.  It is our book discussion group’s choice for the September meeting and has been a pleasant diversion for me on these August afternoons as I follow Clara Driscoll, recently  acknowledged as one of the designers for Louis Comfort Tiffany. While this is a fictional account, the reader meets historical figures as well as a colorful array of imagined characters along with amazing details surrounding the inception of Tiffany stained glass, and the process of working with stained glass; from the male glass blowers to the cadre of single women, many immigrant daughters of New York City at the turn of the century, who artfully assemble the glass.

In a delightful passage,  Clara describes a scene beginning at the beach while on a brief holiday with friends in Point Pleasant, New Jersey. The women “put on our scanty bathing costumes” with “nothing around our calves but air!” as they wade in the ocean then take a walk, discovering Queen Anne’s lace.  Clara describes the flowers as “Cluster of tiny white flowers grew out from a single point on the stalk like a burst of fireworks”. The wild carrots remind one woman of lace, another of dandelions, and seeds of ideas sprout in Clara’s mind for Tiffany candlesticks.

I read a bit more, then put down the book, life calling me to some household chore. The scene, however, lingered in my thoughts as my day wore on. Later, I employed Mr. Google and found, in the verdant pasture of the internet, this most extraordinary piece of jewelry pictured here – Queen Anne’s Lace by Tiffany. It is a “hair ornament”, a fitting accessory for the start of a century that would prove to be as turbulent at it was innovative and exciting.

The source of this image can be found here, with some written detail as to the gems used. You MUST click on the cluster of gems for a closer look at not only the jewels, but the enameling as well, and to see the little flowers and the garnets of bursting “fireworks” in the center.

At 3 1/2 inches, I cannot imagine wearing this as a hair ornament, but, as a lover of brooches and pins, I am sure I could find the perfect place to adorn a jacket or dress with this plucking of Queen Anne’s Lace.

Isn’t it amazing how these small pleasures in life often emerge via literature  – Call on a summer’s day?

 

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