Tag Archives: words

Strolling Kate’s neighborhood.

gle-row-housesThough Kate has lived in Washington, DC for almost eleven years, I’d never spent a night in any of her dwellings before. This time, I stayed five nights with Tom and Kate in their apartment that I was seeing for the first time.

I am a country girl who lives in the suburbs – I’ve never in my life been a city-dweller. When I get the chance to take any kind of walking tour of a city with this much history, I find myself stopping and staring a lot. Just the brick row houses could keep me occupied for hours, if I had hours to spare.

131 neighborhoods are unofficially recognized in our nation’s capital. One of them in the “Old City” is Dupont Circle, arranged around streets that extend like spokes from the traffic circle that was part of the original plan for the city, designed for President George Washington in the 1790’s. This is Tom and Kate’s neighborhood for a few more months; you can see it just west of the center of this map:

dc_neighborhoods_map-lg

Pierre Charles L’Enfant was the architect who laid out the streets of what is now called the “Old City.” Much of the area was not developed until after the Civil War; in 1871 the Army Corps of Engineers began construction of the traffic circle that was then called Pacific Circle. About ten years later Congress renamed it Dupont Circle after Samuel Francis Du Pont, to honor his service in the Civil War. He was the grandson of another Du Pont I heard about a few days later. Here is one of his original drawings:

dc-1280px-lenfant_plan_original-lg-ca-1794

I arrived in D.C. the day after the presidential election. The next morning Kate and I walked through her neighborhood….

gle-dupont-circle

…and on to the White House, where the President-Elect Donald Trump was meeting with President Obama. Some quiet demonstrators were there, too. Lots of construction was going on and we couldn’t get as close as usual.gle-demonstrators

gle-talking-at-the-white-house

This young woman was talking for as long as I would watch, to the boy in the Trump t-shirt. He was listening meekly. I wondered if he ever got a chance to talk, or had anything to say. There at the White House, I didn’t see anything hateful, and I don’t believe in speculating about the thoughts of other people’s hearts.

We spent quite a while touring the Renwick Gallery – so much beautiful artwork, which my pictures don’t do justice to, so I’ll just share one bit of Jennifer Trask’s art; she creates her designs with the antlers, teeth, and bones of many different animals including snakes, water buffalo and camels.

gle-bone-art

My daughter and her husband have been living the best kind of city life, the kind where you sleep, work and worship all in the same neighborhood. On Sunday we walked a couple of blocks to their church, the Cathedral of St. Mathew the Apostle, where I also had not been before. I was sorry to leave after the service, there were so many beautiful mosaics to gaze upon, and quotes from St. Francis in the side chapel dedicated to him.

img_3728

gle-st-mark-and-dome

 

 

 

Because that first photo blocks the face of St. Mark, I will share another, which shows a part of the beautiful dome, and all of St. Mark.

 

 

 

 

gle-st-francis-water

This quote from the prayers of St. Francis took my thoughts back home, where we really appreciate every drop of moisture that falls on our farms and gardens. Speaking of farms, Kate’s neighborhood boasts a farmer’s market, which we walked through after church, to sample fruit and salsa and pickled jalapeño okra. We bought apples and a jar of the okra.

gle-kate-apples

gle-columbian-embassy

Right next to that market is the Colombian Embassy, and in front of it a fiddler was busking.

A bookstore-café, Kramerbooks & Afterwords, is a popular spot in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. It was the first of this kind of duo to open in the capital. We browsed in there, too, and I even took pictures of books 🙂

gle-voting-dangerously

gle-speaking-american

Tom bought a different book that afternoon, Speaking American by Josh Katz, which kept us busy for hours afterward — and afterwords in this case — because it is full of statistics on regional differences in word usage: Do you say sneakers or tennis shoes, sub or hoagie? Maps show where you likely live, if you prefer one word or the other. Tom seemed to be “from” all over the place.

This example from the book shows something I already knew from living in that neighborhood for a few days, that in D.C. they say “traffic circle,” not “roundabout.” But all in all, it’s a pretty inexact science.gle-speaking-american-exampleBeing in the nation’s capital during this particular week meant that I engaged in more political thinking and talk than is usual for me, but as a group we weren’t entirely consumed by the kind of emotions that the media stories seem determined to rouse. We were too busy exploring all the rich cultural, natural and even culinary riches to be had close at hand. Oh, yes, if you don’t mind I will indulge in just one food photo, of some coconut milk panna cotta I had for dessert at a restaurant that actually wasn’t in their neighborhood. We got there via Uber!

gle-panna-cotta

Another reason for our relative calm may be that we have been influenced throughout our lives by the truths and reality exemplified in another quote that I found in the neighborhood, right in Tom and Kate’s living room. The words from the Bible were part of a gift that Kate’s brother made for them the first year they were married, and they do help keep things in perspective.

gle-trip7

In my next post there will be more books, buildings and quotes.
Come back again if you also like this sort of thing!

Insect friends on the soft breeze.

gl9 P1050458

I am sitting in the garden, in the corner where the unbelievable salvias and the olive trees have grown up to make a sort of alcove. The three salvias are each six to nine feet in diameter and four feet high; they amazed me by taking a big leap in July and August of their first year. The umbrella is shielding me from the sun, and I am enjoying the insects that make the air alive with their darting and swooping from one flower to another above and all around me.

gl9 P1050197crp

The only reason I thought to move out here with my bowl of plums is that my house is so cold. I brought the laptop so I could continue reading Fr. Stephen’s article while I ate, but the fruit drew all of my attention to my mouth, and to the juicy plumminess too intense to consume mindlessly while reading. Now I remember why I planted two Elephant Heart Plum trees last fall — which, by the way, didn’t produce any fruit from their pretty green and white blossoms this season. Pearl brought me some of her plums yesterday; a year ago the mature trees at her new house had been the inspiration for my decision to grow some of my own.

gl9 P1050466
portulaca
gl9 P1050452 wasp on salvia 9-4-16
Hoverflies are pollinators, too.

 

If I could just sit out here in the soft air, I would most certainly eat less; shivering in the house makes me distracted and uneasy without knowing why, and I unconsciously start stoking the furnace of my body with whatever fuel I can find in the cupboards.

gl9 P1050426

 

 

 

 

And being in the garden makes me want to share the experience in words, so I looked to see if I have a good summer poem from a previous year. I’m sure it must be here somewhere, if I only had the patience. While looking I found a verse that is new to me, from Walter de la Mare, about one of the winged creatures flitting about.

After pasting it in (and thereby shaping this article into another Pollinator post) I thought perhaps I shouldn’t be so hasty, and I began to look online for a different poem, maybe about a dragonfly or a butterfly ? which, after all are more to my liking. I also hunted around for a clue to the meaning of “specks of sale” in the poem. Does anyone know? I wonder if sale is a word for salt? [Duh. It was a typo, as commenter shoreacres pointed out below. But from now on I think I will always think of it as a synonym 🙂 ]

gl9 P1050444

 

But before any more pages had time to load – I must be too far from the house for the wifi – a common housefly dropped in on me, on my arm, on my keyboard, my shoulder, and he would not be shooed away for anything. I think he sensed what was going on, and wanted me to tell his story, and not another’s. Maybe as soon as I hit “Publish” he will go back to playing.

 

THE FLY

How large unto the tiny fly
Must little things appear!-
A rosebud like a feather bed,
Its prickle like a spear;

A dewdrop like a looking-glass,
A hair like golden wire;
The smallest grain of mustard-seed
As fierce as coals of fire;

A loaf of bread, a lofty hill;
A wasp, a cruel leopard;
And specks of salt as bright to see
As lambkins to a shepherd.

-Walter de la Mare

gl9 P1050431 fly on yarrow crp
some kind of fly on the yarrow

Looking at stars, snow, and a challenge.

I’ve been out aa crown for our heads - stars RtoPnd about in spite of the weather and my cold – that is, via my computer. Here are some things I’ve found. The last one may be the most interesting, so don’t miss it.

**I learned something about stars and their colors when they are out of focus.

**On the topic of the skies and the weather, I have only this week noticed a way of talking about weather systems as “pieces of energy.” It’s probably not new; do TV weather forecasters use this phrase? This from a recent email:

RAIN WILL SWITCH OVER TO SHOWERS BY LATE IN THE MORNING OR EARLY IN THE AFTERNOON ON FRIDAY. A SECOND PIECE OF ENERGY WILL QUICKLY MOVE TO OUR REGION WITH ANOTHER ROUND OF RAIN FORECAST FOR FRIDAY EVENING INTO SATURDAY.

**Bonnie posted a short and sweet exhortation in the form of a poem by Wendell Berry.ee9f1-cbywindowwsnow

**Last year I was very interested when Podso listed some things she has learned about life, that is, how to have good days. I wonder what my list would look like, if I could ever get past my usual endless analysis to come up with one?

**DeAnn has a good collection of thought-provoking quotes on her blog, which is where I read one taken from a book I read last summer. I don’t even remember reading this paragraph then, and that makes me think I should go back and read the whole thing over again.

“It is by loving, and not by being loved, that one can come nearest the soul of another; yea, that, where two love, it is the loving of each other, that originates and perfects and assures their blessedness. I knew that love gives to him that loveth, power over any soul he loved, even if that soul know him not, bringing him inwardly close to that spirit; a power that cannot be but for good; for in proportion as selfishness intrudes, the love ceases, and the power which springs therefrom dies. Yet all love will, one day, meet with its return.”

~ George MacDonald, Phantastes

**Owen White has a faith-literary-art challenge going on at his blog The Ochlophobist. Entries must be titled in this form: Why I am a ________________.” And in that blank spot you are to place your faith designation, to the degree of precision you prefer.”

Some of the resulting titles in the entries that have been posted so far: “Why I am a slightly miserable but motivated methodist,” “Why I Am Still an (Orthodox) Christian Who Mans His Post” and “Why I am a non-believer who still goes to church.” The content of the entries includes many poems, music on YouTube, works of visual art, and prose.

After you read the rules and see what other people have done (entries have been posted for several days now) to meet the challenge, maybe you also would like to engage with this exercise. I had to push myself to not be too perfectionistic about it, and managed to put together my own entry. I hope you will, too!

blessing of waters through ice

We’re looking and making words.

This poem reminds me of the effect Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood had on me the first time I read it. Her noticing of so many details in the history and geography and biographies of her life made me realize that I’d had just as fascinating a childhood. From then on I began to look around with a new eye.

Looking Around, Believing

How strange that we can begin at any time.
With two feet we get down the street.
With a hand we undo the rose.
With an eye we lift up the peach tree
And hold it up to the wind — white blossoms
At our feet. Like today. I started
In the yard with my daughter,
With my wife poking at a potted geranium,
And now I am walking down the street,
Amazed that the sun is only so high,
Just over the roof, and a child
Is singing through a rolled newspaper
And a terrier is leaping like a flea
And at the bakery I pass, a palm,
Like a suctioning starfish, is pressed
To the window. We’re keeping busy —
This way, that way, we’re making shadows
Where sunlight was, making words
Where there was only noise in the trees.

by Gary Soto