Friday, July 17, 2015

My Garden and More Research

Oh my garden
How do I love thee? 
Let me count the ways...

So this is interesting - a flower column.
This is the squirrel-poop sunflower  - meaning - I did not plant this seed here. The only logical explanation is that a squirrel pooped a sunflower seed and it landed here - all nice and fertilized. Then the morning glories grew right up the stalk and attached themselves to the wire above. Now I have a beautiful flower column. It's funny how I took so many morning glory seeds and threw them into the abandoned house and a few into my garden. The only ones that grew are the ones in my garden.  ???
The ones on the side, between me and the Els are doing beautifully. It is such a joy to look out the second floor window in the morning and see the little pink and purple buds. 
I have more than ever this year so I think I need to start gathering them and reigning them in. They are growing were I don't exactly want them - in the middle of my lawn and in my brick walkway. Actions must be taken. 
This morning I went out to survey the garden and picked a bounty of cherry tomatoes. I just went out because I had a hankerin' for a green tomato frittata. 
There were so many very ripe little cherry tomatoes, I took them too! Plus garlic chives, echinacea flowers, cosmos and the one marigold. What a nice harvest. The frittata didn't turn out the way I wanted but that's okay. I have puh-LENTY of green cherry tomatoes to experiment with. When I nail the recipe - I promise to post.  
All of this at 6am after returning from Washington DC at 12:30am! 
Yes.yesterday, I woke up at 5:30am and rushed to get to the Amtrak train by 6:55. Which I am proud to say I made it. But without the regular ration of caffeine. I only had about half and I think it did affect my day! I was barely dragging by the time I made it home. ugh. It was all worth it though. Success in research and success in meeting up with old friends. 

I arrived in Washington DC early and then made my way to Dumbarton Oaks to see copy #2 of "my book" - the sundial book. This involved a security clearance, white gloves (huh?), a lovely rare-books librarian who was willing to bend the rules, an hour and a half lunch break (ie - kicked out of the rare-books room) and back again to look at some other volumes Salomon de Caus or his brother Isaac wrote. What a luxury.  
Its a good thing I went,  too - I missed something really important at Harvard:
This little note? would have been incredibly helpful the Sunday I spent (all day) figuring this pop up out.  But somehow I overlooked it. (Its the pop up in my previous post.)
I did catch this beautiful little watermark though. 
I have to say, again, what a luxury it is to be able to look at copies of this almost 400-year-old volume. sigh. Seriously. This version was in better shape than the version at Harvard as it was most likely in its original binding (unlike the Harvard volume). None of the graphics were cropped. All of the same volvelles were in tact and were as good as or better functioning than the copy at Harvard.
I'm learning that the more research you do the more questions you have. Once you are finished with all of your research you almost have to start back at the beginning in order to answer your questions. I only noticed this watermark on the fly-leaves. Even though I looked throughout the text block, I didn't find this mark again until the back flyleaf. Is this another thing I missed at Harvard?

My visit was complimented with a wonderful visit with a former intern and now good friend and colleague. Amanda was one of the first interns I had and we've stayed in touch ever since. She went on to study conservation in the UK, hold a position at the North East Document Conservation Center, and is currently concluding a fellowship at the Freer and Sackler museums in DC, (part of the Smithsonian Museums network).  
Amanda has a fellowship devoted exclusively to the Islamic arts. Here she is in front of her microscope where she is consolidating the most gorgeous manuscript. 
It is a composite of  a mogul painting with (most likely) Russian embellishments. The thing was absolutely BEAUTIFUL! If you are interested, it will be on view when the Freer re-opens in 2017 after major renovations.
Here is a preview: 
want to see what's on the other side?  Yeah, just as gorgeous...
While she was showing me around, her supervisor had a tour of conservation students in the lab so Amanda had to repeat the spiel she had just given me. It was just as interesting the second time around. 
I don't have children, so when I get to see the progress of someone I've known for so long, and first met in a teaching capacity, I can't help but get a little proud and parentally-bustley (do you know what I mean?) I'm so excited to see what Amanda has accomplished - it's great stuff. And now she is making plans to start her own business! Brave woman!
After the tour, Amanda had to still do some work so I had an hour and half to wander in the Freer and the Sackler. Now - if you don't know this - the Freer has Whistler's Peacock Room.
I studied this in History of Western Art 2 almost 20 years ago. To walk into this piece was amazing. It is gorgeous. The room in entirely a deep turquoise and gold and showcases an amazing collection of ceramic pieces.
Adjacent to the Freer, the Sackler museum is hosting a contemporary artist's response to the Peacock Room. Darren Waterston has created an incredible piece based on the original room.
It was a fantastic day, but exhausting. We had dinner in Old Town Alexandria - which was very fun and Amanda chose an excellent restaurant. Fantastic Food. We talked and talked and left with plenty of time to get to my train - but not for construction. So I missed my train and had to take one an hour later. Thus my arrival to my bed at 12:30. I am not used to the 18-hour day! But it was totally worth the tired, sore bones, and muscles to have such a great day in the Capitol.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

My Garden

" is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
   - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

  My garden is beautiful. 
I love spending time here. 
In light of my last post I thought I would elaborate.  I am in my garden, enjoying a pleasant summer evening. There was a brief rain storm right before I was supposed to leave work, and now, while the air is humid, there is a wonderful breeze and it feels very comfortable. 

In my garden, I have sunflowers. Lots of them.
Last summer I discovered I was allergic to them. If I brought them in to my kitchen table and sat there eating or working, very quickly I would start sneezing - violently.  This was a very sad realization. I love having cut flowers on the table and the sunflowers especially.
This year I vowed to only plant the sunflowers without pollen, the teddy bear sunflowers. I saved the biggest and most beautiful, planted the seeds, and let nature take its course. 

Now I am confused. I do not have teddy bear sunflowers. I have quite a variety:
These are too tall. 
And I have these:   
 and of course, there are the sunflowers in the first image. I planted all of these seeds from the same flower - what gives? Are they like apples? Where every seed is it's own variety? I guess it would make sense.  

I also have hollyhocks:
These are a favorite of the big bumble bees.

New for me, I have marigolds from seed.
These are so much bigger than what I've purchased at the gardener. This is the first bloom.  

I have cosmos - all orange:

The indoor plants outside are thriving: 
From left to right - violets that didn't bloom, parsly, thyme, and a big rosemary in one planter, patchouli, a funny catcus, and petunias. 

The Morning Glories have begun their performance:
There are unwanted, but adorable, guests:
My tomatoes are fruiting:  
 cherry tomatoes

and Cherokee purples. 

But all is not perfect. 
When I returned home from Melanie's a few weeks ago I noticed that something was missing. An entire bush was missing from the front of my yard. It didn't take much to put two and two together to equal Mr. El. Yup, Mr. El decided that the forsythia I had planted in the front had penetrated the foundations of his cellar and had to go. Interesting that the ugly hedge that has been there for years didn't merit the same ruthless hacking. Just the forsythia. He claims it is the reason his basement is so wet. Ahem, well. no. The forsythia has only been there for two years, and his basement has been wet every summer since I moved here 7 years ago. And it's always a different reason. First I watered my lawn there and that's what made it wet, now suddenly its a forsythia. sigh. So I confronted him and the bottom line told him, I didn't mind that a plant might need to go - it's that he just came into my yard and cut it down without talking with me about it first. ! Seriously! He felt honestly guilty. Even Miss Mary said he felt guilty. But I wasn't really too upset. First of all it's a forsythia and they are darn hard to kill. Its already coming back (the bright green little bush right in the middle). Quite frankly, in the big picture, I actually think its funny that he did this.  Snort - for one thing, if he was trying to get rid of the roots in his foundation - he didn't. 
For another  -  allowing Mr. El to hold on to the notion that this is his yard, has it's perks too. 
About a week after I discovered the vanished bush, Miss Mary told me that she and Mr. El chased some guy out of my the back yard around 4:30 in the afternoon. This guy sauntered in, alerted the dogs who barked, parked his bicycle on the cellar door and started to do - goodness knows what - when they both started yelling at him.  Mr. El kept yelling until he left and then ran down to the side walk and told him not to go into "his" yard again. The following weekend Mr El, his daughter and I were talking over the garden gate, and the same guy walked by.  Boy if Mr. El didn't make a stink about it in front of everybody. "That's the guy! That's the guy that was in your yard Miss Terra! That's the guy - see him with the bike - that's the guy!!!!" 
I'd be surprised if this guy ever walks up this street again. Fine by me.  
Because... I don't think this was the first time he was in there. 
The same week, my blueberry bush up and died. Just the blueberry bush, nothing else.
The other one didn't. Just this one, all fruited and everything. Just like my azalea bush last year. I think someone peed on it. Just like I thought last year. I don't get it. There is an entire empty lot right up the street. If they have to go that bad - just go in there! But in my yard? Where I work so hard to make it beautiful?... why?

" is a bundle of relations, a knot of roots,
whose flower and fruitage is the world..."
   - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

Monday, July 6, 2015

My Independence

Happy Independence Day weekend everyone. The first two of my sunflowers bloomed and I just couldn't resist cutting them for a bouquet. I will probably have some allergies but oh well. Right now it is so nice to have these sunny faces on my kitchen table. The reddish one is the result of a squirrel poop and the other one is supposed to be a teddy bear sunflower, but isn't. Hmm, not sure what happened there. Only time will tell.

I hope you've had a lovely holiday.  As the holiday fell on a Saturday this year, almost all of Philadelphia had Friday off.  It was a pleasantly calm and peaceful Friday. Less traffic, less people moving around. Just a calm quiet summer day. And so we've had three lovely days. It didn't even rain as much as it was supposed to. Such a nice surprise. 

I spent the weekend taking care of business. The tenants needed a new contraption to keep the shower curtain rod up.  They have a claw-foot tub and so the shower curtain is oval shaped and suspended from the ceiling. One of the rods to hold the thing up broke and needed to be replaced. I spent a nice afternoon in Chestnut Hill at what must be America's greatest hardware store, Killian's Hardware (their website is old-fashioned too). This was the second hardware store I went to looking for this particular piece and the guy said, "I don't think you'll be able to find anything like this but - I can fabricate something for you." Ha! So he took a piece of metal, cut it the correct length, threaded it, and only charged me $1.99! Hot dog! All three of us (me and 2 tenants) installed it on Friday afternoon. So far - So good! 

I also gardened.
The Aloe Vera has bloomed and I'm not sure what that means. Does this mean this plant will now die? I hope not. It has been such a wonderful friend for 12 years. 

The cosmos have exploded:
I only have orange cosmos because I save the seeds from year to year. 

I gave up on weeding the walkway along the porch and am putting my theory from last summer back into play:  if I cover the walk way for two weeks that should just about kill everything and I won't have to weed constantly.   
 I have two - seemingly infinite - rolls of old buckram I acquired from a conservation-lab-closing-situation. It was plenty long enough to roll out a ribbon and cover it. I plan on using this year after year. Let's hope it works. 

Then of course there are bugs:
There is this one, which looks really pretty but is eating a lot of holes into my sunflower leaves. I'm not sure how I feel about that and so we may have to have some discussions about this.
The mantises will be back. I have seen so many. Here's is a little guy about an inch long. Ain't 'e cute?!
He's twice the size of the first few I saw who were smaller than my thumb nail. I even rescued one the other day from the inside. It hitched a ride on the raspberries so I had to take him back outside.  
There are also the usual mosquitoes ( I do have a few bites to prove it), billions of spiders spinning webs every evening, lovely fireflies... and (gasp) bees!
 Yes bees! Now I'm not sure if this is good or an accident. But they are there...
Here's the story. The other night, Miss Mary and I grilled and split a bottle of wine between us. We had a great time. At one point she asked me about the hive. What was in there? I had taken a peek about a week ago because I was curious myself. There were no bees, but a beautiful mountain of beeswax comb. It was free-form and I wish I had taken a picture of it because now I can't.  But I could still show her two days ago.  I took the lid off the hive and she was amazed, then she said, but what's in the rest of it, and I knew how Matt had it organized, so I thought I'd show her the frames underneath. Well. The frames underneath were chockerbock full of honey. Miss Mary is from Jamaica, and has told me about when she was a little girl raiding the bee hives there (I love her stories). Fresh local honey for her - what a treat! So we got a plate and cut some honey comb for her. Yay! (I just got the scoop - she ended up with about two cups of honey).
Then I woke up the next morning and thought - oh boy. Now what did I do? I went and looked at the hive, sure enough, there were ants and wasps and flies really curious about the big box where there had been none before. I'm sure they smelled the sweet mess we had made inside. Oh I felt guilty. So I waited to see what would happen. Then this afternoon I went for a bike ride and found the hive swarming with bees - honey bees! I'm not sure what they are doing. Are they stealing the honey? or just cleaning up my mess? or maybe moving in!? That would be terrific if they moved in. Neither Matt ( the Bee man) nor I had the $100 to spare for a bee hive this year. I know, pathetic right? Well, that's the working poor for you... At any rate, I've emailed him and am anxiously awaiting his reply. Will keep you posted. 

Keeping watch on the hive is a new feral kitty. sigh. They just keep coming. This one is another really sweet one. And no - this is not Swee'pea.  
This is feral kitty number umpteenth million. If he's still around in a week or two it will be time to round him up, get him fixed, and go from there. He really wants human company. He comes up to me when I'm on the porch. He even hung out with Miss Mary and me during our escapades. Jacques of course is NOT happy about this. 
Ugh. Sometimes it's terrible being a cat-lady.  

Most of today was spent working out how to set up a digital copy of the complicated sundial popup (scroll down). In the end I got it! 
I pretty much had to redraw each piece so that I could get it to line up. But it works and it fits. Yay! Such a gratifying feeling.  

But with all of this good positive stuff for me, I have not forgotten about my last post. After reading it, my sister sent me a link to this article in the Los Angeles Times. Erin P.  and I spent some time last Wednesday looking through articles on this topic and so I was aware that the KKK had stepped up their recruitment. You'll have to google more of this yourself because I really don't want to right now. It makes me so upset. It's just more hatred and in the end I didn't want to blog about it. But I was shocked that it had happened in my Southern California home town. I went to high school with people who lived on this street.  
The thing that really gets me about these guys is that they know they are spreading hate. Why else would they put propaganda in a ziplock bag, with a rock and a lolly-pop, and toss it onto front lawns in the middle of the night? I am assuming the rock is to help toss the bag onto the lawn and the lolly-pop is to ??? cancel out the rock? Or the hateful message?  I mean, look, normal campaigns do the research, find out which households are sympathetic to their cause and then send people door to door. This is how it works when I've stumped for the Democratic Party. You get a stack of papers with addresses on it. Then you go door to door with big Obama buttons pinned to your fronts and talk to people - face to face. It was all very positive.  
Can you imagine the KKK going door to door for recruitment? Seriously? Never mind the fact that no one would even open their door for a couple of skin-heads - once they did - how would that conversation go? I wish I were a brilliant comedian who could come up with the perfect skit of this. I really miss Robin Williams. Because let's compare it to other organizations that we all loath to be caught by - maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses, or the Mormons?  It gives a different perspective on things doesn't it? They might be annoying, but they really believe they are doing good for all people. They are, in their own way, preaching love for all. This is why, when I am caught by Jehovah's Witnesses at my front door, and they invite me to celebrate the DEATH of the lord Jesus Christ every Easter-time, I swallow my shock at the verbiage and thank them for their kind invitation with a smile and say that I don't think I will be able to make it. They are so earnest in their invitation and it in no way discriminates against me (not counting that they believe I will go to hell because of - blah blah blah... but I don't believe that so there) so why can't I be kind about my thanks and refusal? They mean well. But opening the door to two skin heads? Really? I'd be stupid to do that and they know it. So they resort to these bull-shit tactics. 
But that doesn't mean WE can't say anything. WE can. The same amendment - the first one - gives us the same protections they have to pass that filth out - to say - no thanks. We don't want this in our neighborhoods. It doesn't have to be loud or raucous or seeking fame or anything - it just needs to be as adamant as the opposing side's convictions. NO. This is not welcome in my world, in my country, in my neighborhood, on my lawn, in my home. 

Given the weekend, I've been thinking a lot about the Declaration of Independence because of some research I did at the beginning of the year for work. I put together a display on Penmanship. I know, sounds deadly boring, but bear with me. There was this guy, Timothy Matlack, who ended up playing a major role in our nation's history. You have heard of him before. He's in a recent popular movie - National Treasure. I love this movie. Its ridiculous, especially the parts that take place in Philadelphia, but I love it anyway. I have even given a few tours of Philadelphia through the National Treasure lens.  But I digress...
Remember the part (at the beginning) where they find the meerschaum pipe on the boat in the arctic? Remember the text that is revealed after Benjamin Franklin Gates (played by Nicholas Cage) cuts his thumb and rubs the blood on the pipe and rolls it onto his notebook? Well in case you don't:  

"The legend writ."
"The stain effected."
"The key in Silence undetected."
"Fifty-five in iron pen."
"Mr Matlack can't offend."

That Mr. Matlack? 
Yeah, that wasn't a made up character. He was a real person. There is a pretty good book written about him too. According to eye-witness accounts, he was the first person to read the Declaration of Independence aloud on the State House steps to an audience. He wasn't supposed to. John Nixon officially read it on July 8th. But who can blame Matlack for wanting to read it first though? He's the guy who "engrossed" it (a fancy term for writing it up on parchment - the supposed piece of American History flying around in the movie) and then probably spent all night at John Dunlap's print shop helping proof the type set version. And I totally get it! When I've finally completed something I think is absolutely amazing, I can't wait to tell people about it.  So there you are... the first wiki-leaks-Julian-Assange of American History was Timothy Matlack in 1776.
Incidentally, the reason I became interested in him for the Penmanship display is because most of the lessons for penmanship in the 19th Century were based on his script.    
Just in case you aren't used to reading that old-timey script it says:
Passed in General Assembly
the 5th day of 
February 1777  - 
T Matlack clerk of 
the General Assembly

He's using the written form of that long "s" we don't see very often anymore. 

What is my point in bringing him up? I'm not sure. I think that in researching him, I realized, these guys - the FOUNDING FATHERS, they were just guys. They were just guys who felt entitled to better treatment. They believed they had a better way of doing things. Were they perfect? Oh heck no. Timothy Matlack was a beer bottler and, among other things, a cock fighter! yeah! But they did something amazing. They put together one of the longest running governments in history. Things have changed. What is right -  has changed. What should be right  - has changed. And while it is easy for those of us who accept these changes with ease to take them for granted - don't. They are not. They are like a garden that needs continuous care. Only with much nurturing can we have something beautiful. 

When I think of all of this an how it applies to me it gives me pause:  I am a free single woman who owns her own house. This would have been something incredible in 1776. But it is normal now. In 1776, it was normal for land owners to own slaves. That is not normal now. I was raised in a world where bombings and lynchings of black Americans was History. I want that to continue to be History. I do not want that to be normal now. Maybe that is my point. Happy Independence Day to all Americans. May we continue to tend the gift our Founding Fathers gave us.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

My Country

I am sad.
I have been down since the murders of nine church members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina on June 17th, 2015.
This was a hate crime.
This is domestic terrorism.
This was a horrific attack on people, who I can imagine, opening their arms, minds, and hearts to a young white man who walked into their sanctuary. The following weekend I was in Massachusetts with a very good friend not paying any attention to the news. I was happy to see her and spend time with her. She is recovering well from surgery. It was a wonderful weekend.

But since returning home to regular life, the murdered people of this community have been on my mind. And today, the news has reported that since the Emmanuel AME murders, six black churches have burned down. The latest incident happened last night. A church burned by the KKK 20 years ago was once again ablaze. They are saying it was hit by lightning.

I am sad.
I am scared.
I am afraid for what is to come.

President Obama's response to the Emmanuel AME murders was barely masked anger:

Jon Stewart's response was outright anger:

Mine is a deep sadness for the loss of the incredible member's of our American community. It is a detrimental loss to us all. The victims: (copied from

  • Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd (54) – Bible study member and manager for the Charleston County Public Library system;
  • Susie Jackson (87) – a Bible study and church choir member
  • Ethel Lee Lance (70) – the church sexton
  • Depayne Middleton-Doctor (49) – a pastor who was also employed as a school administrator and admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University
  • Clementa C. Pinckney (41) – the church 
  • pastor and a South Carolina state senator
  • Tywanza Sanders (26) – a Bible study member; nephew of Susie Jackson
  • Daniel Simmons (74) – a pastor who also served at Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw
  • Sharonda Coleman-Singleton (45) – a pastor; also a speech therapist and track coach at Goose Creek High School
  • Myra Thompson (59) – a Bible study teacher.

Rev. Pinckney was the same age that I am. 


Out of sadness, frustration, and respect, I watched President Obama's eulogy for Rev. Pinckney:

"Reverend Pinckney once said, 'Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history -- we haven't always had a deep appreciation of each other's history.' What is true in the South is true for America. Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other. That my liberty depends on you being free, too. That history can't be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past -- how to break the cycle. A roadway toward a better world. He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind -- but, more importantly, an open heart."

Before I watched the eulogy I was composing an angry post in my head: why are we still fighting a war that was supposed to have ended 150 years ago? But now, I want put more effort into living with an open mind - and an open heart.

Yesterday I walked by a church and saw this Eugene O'Neill quote:

Be the change that you wish to see in the world. - Mahatma Ghandi.