Wednesday Short: Fall Leavings

girl-in-yellow-sweater-1936.jpg!BlogA few yellow leaves fluttered by as I glanced out the kitchen window. I touched a cool windowpane. Sweater weather—at least for today. Autumn colors bleed in October, then trickle thinly in November. I will buy a rake. . . .

Canada comes,

Cooling the Blue Ridge leaf by leaf,

Bronze, vermilion, copper, and yellow flame

While the morning moon burns white in blue.


Umber splotches rosy dogwood,

And birds snatch at candy-berry clusters.

My face upturns to catch the sun’s glow

Through lidded eyes.

James_Guthrie_-_To_Pastures_New_1883The wind stirs twigs and branches,

Brushing leaves back and forth,

And a dry rain falls,


Early frost pales the trees and

Thins chirping, buzzing, whirring—

Cézanne_Cour_d'une_fermeCall-and-response night song.

I mourn the rasping choir.

I look for the farmer’s geese,

Snowy flecks in a browning field.

But he has sold them,

And the pasture gate swings, half-open.



Girl in Yellow Sweater, Prudence Howard

Lane at Alchamps, Arles, Paul Gaugin

To the Pasture New, James Guthrie

Farmyard, Paul Cézanne


National Calendar Day: Here’s a Bellyful

Even centuries ago, November was a piggish month.

Even in centuries-old calendars, November was a piggish month.

I have an assignment due November 1. I will spare you the details, but it is a component in a semester-end presentation (social media marketing course). As a midlife-challenged learner, I inspected the calendar for a reality check on my schedule. After all, November is a busy month.

For instance, consider November 1. Key decision moment:  Do I throw away the leftover bags of miniature Halloween candy or stash them in a hiding place for future nibbling? I love coffee-choco combos for breakfast. Better yet, do I hit bargain-priced end-units chock-full of candy for further furtive stashing?

Then Thanksgiving looms. Marathon eating consumes families. That includes snacks for the legendary Iron Bowl on November 29. (In case you live on another planet, that marks the heated Auburn-Alabama rivalry.)

Scoreboard in Jordan-Hare Stadium after No. 4 Auburn upset No. 1 Alabama on November 30, 2013

No. 4 Auburn upset No. 1 Alabama in last year’s Iron Bowl.

I sit in the lifelong cheap seat: a couch. chaise longue 800px-Edouard_Manet_032The median price for a secondary ticket sale is $535, according to Forbes senior editor Kurt Badenhausen. He quoted this figure in mid-August. (I must note that he attended non-SEC Colgate University.) Likely, the price has shot up. Even if their teams have taken a beating, Alabama and Auburn fans always ante up.

Fortunate and impassioned ticket-holders will have a field day tailgating.

In addition to these events, I discovered that November is fraught with themes and special dates, according to National Calendar Day. In fact, the list of celebratory occasions quadruples the number of days in the month. (A skim reveals a few worthy causes—I leave that to your perusal.)

If I were an ardent blogger, I could easily post an item three times per day. Not happening.

Memm Club-sandwichWhat struck me was the November food and drink pile:

National Cook for Your Pets Day

National Vinegar Day

National Deep Fried Clams Day

National Deviled Egg Day

Sandwich Day

National Candy Day

National Doughnut Day

Sugar rush! Follow that truck.

Sugar rush! Follow that truck.

National Nachos Day

National Men Make Dinner Day

National Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day

If you remember the 1970s, you know Harvey.

If you remember the 1970s, Harvey may have been your friend.

National Cappuccino Day

National Harvey Wallbanger Day

National Vanilla Cupcake Day

National Sundae Day

National Pizza with the Works except Anchovies Day

National Indian Pudding Day

National Spicy Guacamole Day

National Bundt (Pan) Day

National Spicy Hermit Cookie Day

Raisin Bran Cereal Day

National Fast Food Day (a daily holiday for some Americans)

Go vintage. Grab a burger  at the oldest operating Mcdonalds in Downey, California.

Go vintage on Fast Food Day. Grab a burger at the oldest operating McDonald’s, located in Downey, California.

National Baklava Day

National Pickle Day

National Vichyssoise Day

National Carbonated Beverage with Caffeine Day

National Peanut Butter Fudge Day

National Stuffing Day

National Cranberry Relish Day

National Cashew Day

National Eat a Cranberry Day

National Sardines Day

Dreamy and creamy--the perfect parfait

Dreamy and creamy–the perfect parfait

National Parfait Day

National Cake Day

Tie One on Day

National Bavarian Cake Day

National Bavarian Cream Pie Day

National French-Toast Day

Maize Day

Banana Pudding Lovers Month

National Georgia Pecan Month

Spoon + Jar = All you need

Spoon + Jar = All you need

National Peanut Butter Lovers Month

National Pomegranate Month

Plum and Pomegranate Month

Spinach and Squash Month

Sweet Potato Awareness Month

National Fig Week was hardly a thriller for Adam and Eve.

National Fig Week was hardly a thriller for Adam and Eve.

National Fig Week

No doubt, there is serious corporate PR behind some designations. Even if I abandon the food list, I can imagine a thematic tie-in between certain brands. Consider these two November occasions: Intimate Apparel Week and National Impotency Day. Does this portend of a hookup between Victoria’s Secret, Cialis, and Viagra? That’s quite a threesome.

But I digress.

Is it any wonder that almost 79 million American adults are obese or more than one-third of adolescents and children are overweight or obese ?

I now weigh in differently on the meaning of November. To thwart temptation on All Saints’ Day, I will stay out of the candy aisle on Halloween, turn off the lights, and pretend I am not at home. Even if you are my best friend or relative, walk your children and grandchildren to somebody else’s door.

Scared straight: no more junk food . . . well . . .

Scared straight: no more junk food . . . well . . .

It is possible to become a “glutton” for good sense. For instance, we can take action during American Diabetes Month and National Hunger and Homelessness Awareness Week (November 15–23).

A clean fridge has its own special holiday. Only in America.

A clean fridge has its own special holiday. Only in America.

In addition, I will celebrate National Absurdity Day on the 20th and National Clean out Your Refrigerator Day on the 15th. . . .

So, dear readers, what is your favorite day?


Scoreboard courtesy of Superdupereditor

Club sandwich courtesy of Memm

Krispy Kreme truck courtesy of Bob Palin,

Harvey Wallbanger courtesy of Jay Keaton

Pickle courtesy of Renee Comet

McDonald’s in Downey, California, courtesy of Bryan Hong

Parfait courtesy of Ishikawa Ken (chidorian),

Peanut butter courtesy of Pingouperrios

Jack o’ Lantern courtesy of Toby Ord


Salut PA! Living Large at Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery

After two months in Wilmington, Delaware, I still pinch myself. Within 20 minutes, I can cross three state lines: Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Maryland.

Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery bids a rustic welcome.

Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery bids a rustic welcome.

Last Sunday, we were short on daylight, so we bypassed Longwood Gardens and headed to Galer Estate Vineyard & Winery in Kennett Square and the fabled Brandywine Valley. Owners Brad and Lele Galer settled on the tagline “blending nature, science, and art.” All so true.

If I love the swirl, the nose, and the quaff (pretend connoisseur sans vocabulary), nature and science have taken care of themselves. The art and architectural elements stunned as soon as I stepped on the grounds.

Gated Gallic nuance romances the setting.

Gated Gallic nuance romances the setting.

Aesthetics lead, and visitors follow. In this pastoral setting, French château gates—in sharp iron and shadow—lay down the first of many patterns.

A colorful spin in the wind

A colorful spin in the wind

My eyes swept up the weather-beaten wood steps and across the deck and alighted upon a rainbow whirligig playing in the breeze. Mood set!

Deck views of nature tamed

Deck views of nature tamed

Lele Galer, a fine artist, designed the wine-tasting room and deck with views of the vineyards. It is a statement of hands-on love: latches and knobs, stained glass, paintings, Art Deco doors, and an antique marble-slab wine bar. Lele is also the genius behind the labels.

Sip and savor!

Taste of a golden afternoon

Taste of a golden afternoon

Echoes of art deco, with every leaf and vine shaped and  pressed by co-owner Lele Galer

Echoes of Art Deco, with every leaf, vine, and grape cluster shaped and pressed by co-owner Lele Galer

Patience and anticipation

Patience and anticipation

Feel the inspiration.

Feel the inspiration.

A hint of Arts and Crafts sensibility

A hint of Arts and Crafts sensibility

Seated art

In a warm corner: seated art

Hue changes mood: Lele's Expressionistc brushwork in oils.

Hue changes mood: Lele’s Expressionistic brushwork in oils.

Lele's labels of love

Lele’s labels of love

Mark your calendar. Click on the winery site for news about art and music events.

Mark your calendar! Click on the winery site for news about art and music events.

Lingering for a last minute look-back

Lingering for a last minute look-back

Yes, we came home with a case. Party on.

Yes, we came home with a case!

Fall Foliage! Ride the Rails

400 px-Fall_colors_from_the_Blue_Ridge_Parkway_just_south_of_AshvilleThere is something holy about Appalachia.  On “the third day,” God separated the land from the seas.  I imagine his fist crashing into the ground to create the Grand Canyon. But for our southern mountains, he pressed his thumbprint into hollows to push up the peaks.

In summer, the chain rolls green, purple, and blue, misting mysteriously in the distance. As warm weather gives way to cool days, tree canopies flame crimson, copper, gold, and yellow. Witness the glory by train.

Oil 400 px Fall Foliage Blog  Post_pe

Two scenic routes typically make the top 10. Hop aboard the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway. From its historic depot in Blue Ridge, Georgia, the train winds its way to Copper Hill, Tennessee, and back. Blue Ridge is worth a linger; it’s the “antiques capital” of the Peach State.

warm Oil 400 H2O water tower_pe_peCatch a ride on the Great Smoky Mountains Railroad, which starts in the heart of Bryson City, North Carolina, and cuts its way across the western reaches of the state.

When ice sheeted the continent almost 2 million years ago, animals sought refuge in the Great Smoky Mountains. It also became a haven for plant species. When you gaze upon the mountains, a miracle stretches before you—more native trees than in any region of comparable size in the country.

* * * * *

Map it! The U.S Forest Service tracks fall colors by state and forest. A quick click will take you to the closest color drive-by.


Fall colors courtesy of Fran Trudeau,

Wednesday Short: Summer Farewell

The first day of fall slipped past me a couple of days ago. When does the season truly begin? When I turn on the heat.

Autumn started at 2:06 this morning. Now I bid summer a warm adieu.

Thanks for the memories. In living color.




Credit: Catherine Hamrick, Sarah P. Duke Gardens, Duke University

Treat yourself to a leisurely stroll any day of the year from 8 a.m. to dusk. There is a lot of ground to cover in this 55-acre public botanic garden, so locals can indulge in a trek every season. The same but new!


Out of My Father’s Hands

vignette mask subtle sharpen mom and dad skin tone safe and vibrant_pe_peEarly this morning, 850 miles away in Alabama, my sister told me, “We are with Dad. He is ready to go see Nome [Mom]. He loves you.”

Today we document our lives in hundreds of digital images and store them in a “cloud.”  Like the wonder of the telegraph in the 1800s, we send words, billions every second, via a void called the Internet and instruments cleverly branded Android and iPhone.

Ah, branding. As a savvy New York writer/agent told me at a recent book conference, “You must become a brand, or you won’t make it.” To which I retorted, “I am a person, not a brand.”

Ironic. Perhaps hypocritical: I “storytell” things and people as brands for a buck—in a staccato burst.

Dad never “branded” himself. He was a person in full.vignette border Dr-Hamrick18_pe

The brain is beautiful mystery. Streaming images run in and out of our heads, faster than the race wrought by digital engineers.

For some reason, I have not yet perched pictures on a “cloud.” But I will likely upload in the near future.

Images of Dad flow through my mind. A bevy of pics and the 350-word limit of a blog post cannot keep up. This is my personal expression, for I cannot speak to the recollections of my brother and sisters. One image appears repeatedly in milliseconds: his hands.

They were short, with square palms and thick fingers. Unremarkable. Except for what they did:

Pulling on worn overalls and snapping the suspenders. Milking the cow at sunrise. Hauling sheaves of wheat and husked corn to Jim Dean’s mill, where a paddlewheel steadily lapped up a sliver of creek so ancient stones could grind out flour.

vignette contrast dads-family-children_pe_pe

Preparing cornbread (unsweetened, thank you) and keeping watch over an iron skillet as it browned in a wood-burning stove, committing to memory his mother’s recipe handed down over generations.

vignette cropped Latin_dictionary_pe_peBegging the principal of his country high school for a Latin class so he could qualify for pre-med studies—and then eagerly seizing the book after that dear man said, “Yes.”

Clutching a college catalog and crying to sleep because there was no money to supplement a partial scholarship.

Thumbing from Appalachia down to Atlanta for a job as an office boy and waiting for his 17th birthday so he could enlist.

Pulling the wounded and dead off Utah beach.

vignette cropped dad-in-sailor-suit_pe_pe_peLooking up at the sky as 30-foot waves curled over his LST and dreading the next wave of kamikazes or typhoons.

Mixing chemical recipes in a lab and awakening to the miracle of science.

Painting dorm rooms and supervising a frat house kitchen to bolster his GI bill education.

Exchanging love letters with my next-door college-coed mother—on scraps of paper pinned to a clothesline rigged between their bedroom windows.

vignette cropped detail clothespin Wood_Clothespin_pe_pePutting his head next to Mom’s as they turned the pages of histology textbooks.

Signing into a cheap motel on their first honeymoon night—with telltale wedding rice falling from his thick, black hair as my mother laughed.

subtle sharpen wedding-close-up-of-mom-and-dad_pe

Enduring 100-hour work weeks during his internship and residency—and loving the touch of life-giving moments.

Treating any patient of any color ever since his first days at Atlanta’s Grady Hospital in the early 1950s.

Hitting the backyard brick steps with a “Humph,” signaling his return home to fork down fast bites of supper (“inhaling” his food, as Mom phrased it).

Greeting each of us after work with a lift over his shoulder and a slide down his back as we giggled in delight.

vignette smoot b & w family-1960s_pe_pe

Flash-cleaning and frying just caught fish on camping trips, at the lake, and in the kitchen of a rambling beach house at solitary Four Mile Village in Florida.

Yanking the bow of my straw sunbonnet to rouse me from a sunrise doze just as my fishing pole almost slipped out of my hands (fisher king and failed fisher girl).

Pacing the dock, with five fishing rods lined at the edge, to reel in a catfish feast (he tossed them backwards over his shoulder into a homemade holding tank—a hole sawed into the boards, with an underwater “cage”).vignette lightened-1024px-winslow_homer_-_leaping_trout_1892_pe_pe

Frying cornmeal-battered hush puppies—golden, crisp, and light.

Furtively building my Christmas dollhouse in the basement and carefully measuring the height of the doorways to fit my Barbies (Santa Claus was a genius carpenter).

Lugging home a surprise box of my beloved Oz books “just because.”warming filer vignette The_Wonderful_Wizard_of_Oz,_006_pe

Carting home my first art history books—Raphael, da Vinci, and Michelangelo— “just because.”

Drying sage on the pool table, lending special flavor and aroma to Thanksgiving dinner.

Plowing his suburban “back 40″ so we could savor “real” vegetables year-round.

vignette liz-west-food_basket_pe

Stirring up skillet after skillet of golden-brown peanut brittle and packing it in gaily ribboned split-oak baskets, along with homemade jams and pepper jelly—gifts for neighbors, patients, and preachers.

Making hog’s head cheese in the laundry room while my boy friend stared in shock.

Writing a rare letter, telling me to choose my major and career, indeed life, with no need for his approval.

darkened repaired vignette San Jose 1259px-Europe_topography_map_en_pe

Signing check after check to ease my way through college and sending me to Europe to study long before he set foot on the Continent (excluding a few feet of Normandy).

Grabbing the wheel of a rented Passat, manhandling the Paris Périphérique, and then gunning 145 kilometers on the open road while my mother crawled into the backseat and never crawled out (he hid years of speeding tickets from her).

vignette paris peripherique_pe

Grasping the railing of Monet’s Japanese bridge at Giverny and wistfully reminiscing about the only art history class permitted in his crowded undergraduate schedule (the museum guards finally threw him out at dusk).

vignette Water-Lilies-and-Japanese-Bridge-(1897-1899)-Monet_pe

Stashing my first essays in the top drawer of his office desk and passing them on to anyone patient enough to read (a major morale boost at age 24).

Writing his own eloquent essays and reading them aloud for a test run.

Penning the grueling medical details of the Crucifixion for a Sunday school class.

Hanging a watercolor inscribed with 1 Corinthians 13:1–13 on the wall opposite his desk—a gift from a cancer patient and the theme of his practice.

vignette Anna Frodesiak Gladstone_bag_made_of_ox_leather_peClasping the hands of families and praying before an operation.

Freely treating country folk, with medicines and syringes mixed among the hooks and lures in his tackle box.

Bathing and shaving my mother’s uncle after his stroke.

Loving every relative and in-law, down to every cousin six times removed.

Vacuuming and dusting the night before my mother’s parties and luncheons—without being asked—and creating charming arrangements of zinnias that bordered his garden.

vignette fade edge zinnia_pe

Beating a broom handle into a broken garbage disposer until 2:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (I never could figure out that fix-it trick).

Installing four revolving fans in the bedrooms at 10:00 p.m.—drilling just as everyone was going to bed (they always spun wobbly).

Hauling home a Roto-Rooter to repair a stopped-up toilet at 10:00 p.m. (rousting us out of bed to hold long hoses in a drizzle).

Playing country cool when he listened to Johnny Cash’s beautifully cruel cover of Nine Inch Nails’ “Hurt.”

jpeg papaw and sam_peCrooning to his grandbabies—in deep monotone—the ballads that never left his North Georgia soul and later cherishing the first great-grand.

Keeping close to my mother when Alzheimer’s stole her mind and voice but never her loving spirit.

Holding my sister’s hand when her husband died.

Living in a state of grace for 32,369 days.

vignette and darken mom and dad in garden_peDad's hands_peMy dad’s hands flipped through the Bible many times as he searched for a verse or two to insert into one of his talks about life (he did not call them sermons). However, a seven-book series about the world’s great religions sat on a shelf in his study. His hands held those, too.

Dad was a devoted Methodist and humanitarian. He never judged any righteous soul, whatever his or her faith.

At the end of his life, Christ said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” A poignant sentence, yet I always return to what came out of Christ’s hands during his earthly lifetime. Healing. Encouragement. Strength. Love. And I remember what came out of my father’s hands.


Latin textbook courtesy of Dr. Marcus Gossler

Clothespin courtesy of Alfred Borba

Garden vegetables courtesy of Liz West

Map courtesy of San Jose

Paris Périphérique courtesy of MD01605

Leather bag courtesy of Anna Frodesiak

Zinnias courtesy of Ahura21


Wednesday Short: To an Incense Cedar

improve color 198px-Incense_Cedar_in_Lassen_VNP_pe

The young pyramid towered,

Boughs layered spoke on spoke,

Weave-and-fan foliage cloaked,

Octaves of birdsong showered.

Blacked-Capped Chickadee, Iona Beach Regional Park, Richmond, British Columbia http 640px-Chickadee

Now centuries furrow fibrous bark—

Peeling cinnamon raw and rust,

Knobby elbow branches thrust

Day fading, silhouette stark.


The leaning trunk and swelling base

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADistort ancient geometry,

Brown creepers scale crevice face,

And small branches sporadically

Break and sweep, late summer trace—

Palm-rubbed twigs breathe pungently.

200px Alan Vernon Brown_creeper_(Certhia_americana)



Tall incense cedars courtesy of Daniel Mayer

Black-capped chickadee courtesy of Alan D. Wilson,

Brown creeper courtesy of Alan Vernon

Photos of Coker Arboretum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, by Catherine Hamrick

Wednesday Short: Florida Postcard

croppedyellow-pinkChristopher T Cooper Dubai_Fountain_performing_'Bassbor_Al_Fourgakom'_pe_pe


Fountains spritzed,

Receding then arcing

In pink-and-yellow play.



From city-center splendor

Into hazing noon,

A GTO muscled

A crotch rocket

Until it shot far

Into scorched-tar mirage.


She leaned hard,

Into the wind-rush,

Hair stringing tangled.

375 pxgreen 180 florida postcard butterfly_pe

Her jeans tugged,

Her butterfly peeped

Then spread,

A mosaic

Of purple-green scaling

Her butternut skin.

235 nebulize 1280px-Lightning_strike_jan_2007_peStump pines scraggled

Against a low-rumble sky,

Great with rain.

A burning white light

Split the clouds,

Heaven’s underbelly,

And God’s fingers

Sought Adam

But he was not there.


375 miami vice postcard


Fountain courtesy of Christopher T. Cooper

Highway (white line fever) courtesy of


Bike Week courtesy of BlackBikeWeek,