Thursday, July 31, 2008

Saturday memory

Monday, July 28, 2008



As of this moment, that is how many responses have piled up, unanswered, on Isis, to various posts since this blog began.

A great blog is all about conversation and so I have attempted to dig back tonight and post some answers. I've worked out a little system that should help me to do that more efficiently.

Of course, the problem is that when I answer your responses, as good blog buddies, some of you will whack the ball back into my court again -- which, don't get me wrong, is wonderful.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Happy greenery

From Lefebure, commentary on the (Egyptian) Book of the Dead:

"The Field of Rest ... is not only a paradise of plants, but a paradise for plants, without whose exuberance and joy no paradise could be complete."

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


We got rain tonight, thank God.

Not much, not long but RAIN!

By the weak light of the quarter moon, I see droplets on the leaves of the baby pecan trees. The withered sycamore sapling put out fresh leaves this week in response to my patient watering-by-bucket -- and those leaves are now damp and glistening, a reward for that expenditure of precious energy.

Perhaps the rain will save the struggling pumpkin vine whose leaves were limp and feeble today, and encourage the hard, green tomatoes to finally blush red.

Life goes on here in wet years or dry years, life will go on, the creatures and the plants that have lived here for millions of years.

Another old friend

If you visit Ildiko's blog today,you don't need to read the Hungarian captions to appreciate Her mastery of the camera!

Tell Her that Her work is "gyonyoru." She'll like that!

Notice of a return!

All of us bloggers have our periods of not writing. And when a dear blog friend finally comes back online, it is a happy moment for those who cherish them! So it was recently with my friend, Jeane, who has been through a rough stretch. And today, I joyfully announce the return of Amarpreet, The Empress. A gorgeous picture awaits any of you who visit Her blog today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

A new friend added

It has been many moons since I added anyone to my blogroll, because I am painfully aware that I don't pay enough attention to all the wonderful people who are already on the list.

But I had a thought today: A blogroll is not just a to-do list for me, a reminder of people whom I need to visit. It is also a way for me to share with visitors to Isis these great bloggers, so that they can step through the doorway into those blogs and perhaps make a new friend.

So I will begin to add some more names to the list, starting with a New York beauty who has intelligence, attitude and a constantly lit cigarette to keep jerks at bay.

Nicotine Queen ( is the Yankee, big-city version of beautiful Southern Kat (, one of my earliest and best blog friends, who has a long-standing and permanent link on my blogroll and in my heart.

You both light up my world!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Interesting Blog Discussion

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tiny toothache

Little Niece will not be going to the pool with me today, our summertime Friday ritual which I so greatly enjoy. She has a cavity that needs to be filled today, Her very first.

Poor little thing -- I wish it could be me, not Her. Guess we all feel that way about the ones we love. It would have been so nice if at the marriage altar I could have signed a contract with the universe that henceforth every ache and pain destined for my Sweetie should be inflicted upon me instead.

Wish I could move back the calendar and shrink down to germ size and hop into Niece's chomper zone and punch the lights out of every one of those damned caries germs.

I pray the dentist will be gentle with Her today. The whole extended family is chipping in to pay for Her to have a ceramic filling instead of a metal one.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

New story is percolating through the mud in my brain

I amused myself during a boring meeting last night by working out the details of a new short story -- possibly even a series.

Nobody smokes and no Damsels will be in distress. But you all might like it anyway.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Loan Man -- a story I wrote a while ago

I’m just about ready to call it quits for the day, to close the little loan office and go home. Then the door rattles. My irritation at this last minute, would-be customer melts as I glimpse beautiful blonde hair and pleading blue eyes.

I open the door and she practically tumbles in.

I can see right away that she is nervous. I also note that her outfit, though dignified and pretty, dates from about 20 years ago and has the faint – not necessarily unpleasant --fragrance of having been in her closet a long time.

Being experienced in this line of work, I know the story right away. She’s left or been fired from her job, she’s got no money, she’s gambling on some great idea she hopes we’ll help her with and she obviously can’t afford the newest threads even for such an important interview.

Oh, but she is pretty – reminds me of Melanie Griffith from a long time ago.

She sits primly across from me, crossing her legs demurely and trying to keep her nerves under control.

She explains why she needs the loan. I listen politely. There is no way in hell any company like mine would take on such a risk. A thousand small businesses like hers are born and die every day.

But in those blue eyes, I don’t just see pleading. I also see intelligence. And fire. Determination.

Five minutes have passed and I haven’t given my consent yet. It’s not that I am cruel. If I was going to say no, I would have sent her on her way at the get-go. But we have to do our interviews, cover all our bases.

She is still nervous. She has let it slip that she’s been turned down elsewhere. Unsaid is the obvious implication: after this, she has nowhere to go except maybe some awful job that won’t pay the big bills she’s accrued. Disaster, absolute disaster.

Suddenly, she looks at me and says:

“Do you mind if I smoke?”

Ah, how long has it been since I heard such a question! I do miss those old days. I used to smoke myself, long ago and far away, and many were the cigarettes I lit for ladies in my life.

I should tell her no, of course. It’s forbidden here, like just about everywhere.

“I don’t mind at all,” I say, and hand her an empty Altoids tin for an ashtray.

She bursts out laughing. “I meant, do you mind if I go outside for a cigarette? It’s a bad habit, I know, I’ll be right back.”

I glance at the darkening sky, that threatens rain, and the wind blowing litter across our parking lot.

“Sure, but you don’t have to go out there.”

So she doesn’t and appears relieved at my generosity.

.She fumbles with her pack, so nervous that she drops her cigarette on the table between us. I pick it up and smile softly as I angle it towards her lips, which she parts into an adorable little O to receive it. I feel her lips grab hold of it and I let go and she holds a flame to the tip and hungrily inhales. In the stillness, I can hear as well as see her beautiful exhale.

And the fragrance – like the perfume of an old friend, a lover from long ago – how long has it been since the aroma of a Virginia Slims crossed my path? Sweet as tea on a Southern porch in summer, as feminine as silk and flowers.

Now I am the one struggling to concentrate, shuffling papers and trying to maintain my official demeanor as that lovely cigarette rises again and again to pretty lips and creamy smoke spills forth in perfect cones, wisps and curls. She angles the first puff or two away from me but then apparently forgets after that and I am trying to talk balances and credit history through a sweet fog of smoke from lips not six inches from my own. I breathe in the smoky air, feeling my head beginning to spin like a kid falling in love.

Suddenly she stabs it out in the Altoids can.

“Is it a deal then?”

“Absolutely, I say, giving her a grin. “Congratulations and good luck.” I do not mention the various fees I am supposed to have charged her for the paperwork and my time. Not gonna happen.

She stands up, and I see that all her nerves have calmed now. She is as dignified as a school principal, but as pretty as a dancer.

I watch her sashay out the door, a beautiful woman with a new lease on life. I feel like a million bucks, too. I have the distinct impression that against all odds, her business dream will actually succeed. If not, I’ll get fired. What the hell.

Her cigarette lies on a bed of ash in the Altoids can, darkly imprinted with her lipstick I sit for a few minutes watching the last wisp of smoke rise from its crushed-out end and savoring the rich tobacco fragrance in the still air.

Ah, when did the world get so hard and cold as to forget just how beautiful a woman looks with a long cigarette in her hand and a dream in her eyes?

Of sailors and pens

So I’m sitting here, looking at the inscriptions on the little plastic pen I will use for my writing chores today, and I wonder why a pen company would be called Sailor.

Google tells me: A British sailor filled the head of a young Japanese entrepreneur with the miracle of a fountain pen. In honor of that anonymous sea-farer, the Sailor Pen company was named, way back in 1911. It’s based in Hiroshima, so it survived the nuclear bombing of that city in World War II.

I love to let my mind linger on such moments in time. Instead of spending his shore leave getting soused in a bar or darkening the door of a brothel, the mariner sat down with a local and the conversation turned, somehow, to pens. I picture the limey sitting down with the curious young man, perhaps in a coffeehouse or a drowsy shop on a sunlit Japanese afternoon, and the two scribbling on a scrap of paper.

Did the sailor ever learn, when he boarded his boat again and sailed away, what he had left behind – not a lost love, not change on a bar top, not the conception of a child – but an innovation upon which his young Japanese friend would build a corporation?

Did they correspond over the years?

A Goddess thwarted

Jazmin Dammak, Miss Hungary, should have won Miss Universe this week. The Woman is utterly beautiful. And She wears curls! I don't think any of the other contestants did. I love curls.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

To be this intelligent!

"It is hard to estimate the gulf which lies between an inflected, mosaic language such as Latin, and an uninflected language like English, with its plethora of controlling particles. Furthermore, the vowel-lengths in Latin are fixed quantities, whereas those in English are variable according to stress and context: we may say, broadly speaking, that whereas Latin verse is ruled by metre, English verse adapts itself elastically to rhythm." -- Dr. Peter Green, Satires of Juvenal, Introduction.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Juvenal, translation and education

Tonight I began to read Juvenal -- Decimus Junius Juvenal -- one of the last of the classical Romans to write before the Christian Age triumphed in Europe.

He lived from about 55 A.D. to about 140 A.D.

As I have read the great books of antiquity, translations of course, I have become interested in the men and women who performed this service, who did the translating.

Thus, of course, with Juvenal, who didn't speak English, since the Angles were still in Germany in his day, still basically being Germans, and therefore the words in which I think and speak did not yet exist.

My edition of Juvenal's works was translated by one Dr. Peter Green, born the same year as my own grandfather. Dr. Green was -- or is, if he still lives -- an Englishman, London-born. He may have walked on some of the same stones that Juvenal did nearly 2000 years before, if the tradition can be trusted that Juvenal performed military service in then-Roman Britain. Ironically, after spending some years in Greece, Dr. Green settled in Austin, Texas, where he taught at the University of Texas. Texas, Cowboy Country USA, land of lariats and barbecue, dust devils and hellish humidity -- I can't imagine a place less like England.

And yet, that is ever the glory and the folly of an Englishman -- fervently loyal to Albion and the Crown, yet born to wander the world and to seek to change it along the way. The Union Jack once waved from Hong Kong to Tasmania, Virginia to India -- and it still flies over Gibraltar, the Falkland Islands and other places hundreds, even thousands of miles from the homeland.

In his youth, good professor Green received the type of education one just does not hear about anymore -- the sort that was scathingly deplored by Joyce in "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man," alternately praised and pilloried by the late C.S. Lewis and soundly mocked by Pink Floyd: "When we were young and went to school ..."

Writes Green: "I first became acquainted with Juvenal through the good offices of Mr. A.L. Irvine, my late sixth-form master, who -- with what I took at the time, wrongly, to be pure sadistic relish -- set us to translate [Juvenal's] Satire X aloud, unseen, and afterwards made us learn long stretches of it by heart, together with parallel passages from Dr. Johnson's 'The Vanity of Human Wishes.'

"But in fact, of course, this was by far the best introduction to a notoriously difficult poet that one could hope for."

That sort of scholastic torture/discipline enabled Lewis to enjoy the classics in their original tongues all his life, and, obviously, served Dr. Green as well. But for better or for worse, that method of education has vanished from the Western world.

I do not yearn for a stiff old schoolmaster to bruise my knuckles, for bad meals of thin broth and dry meat -- but oh, to have had the classic languages drilled into me as a youth, instead of being forced to rely on the translations of others!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Inside a bug's brain

The bug pictured below, I learned today, is a net-winged beetle, family Lycidae, Calopteron speciosa. First described and named in 1830. Native to the eastern U.S. and Canada.

I sit here engaging in my human activities and somewhere out there, in the darkness of the night, that bug is engaged in net-winged beetle nocturnal activities -- living out its life as I am living out my life.

To this little creature, its small self is as worthy of preservation as I feel I am, and it will hunt relentlessly for its food and fight for its life.

What goes on in a bug's brain? Speaking scientifically, I wonder exactly what transpires when the time comes for the little being to lift off from its leaf and zip away. Could a scientist track the synapses as they fire up, that stimulate the creature to vibrate its wings and achieve flight?

Is instinct all reflex, like pulling one's hand away from a flame, or is there some conscious thought and choice involved, even for a bug?

July meanderings

I began my walk on Saturday out in the garden, where the fig tree is entertaining many insect visitors, perhaps in part because of its rank odor -- I never knew these beloved trees STINK in the summer sun.

Speaking of stench, the transplanted Jack in the Pulpit is thriving in the fetid, mosquito-infested woodland seep that continues to dribble in spite of our drought. This is its seed cluster.

Little further on grows "lizards tail," which also likes ooey-gooey damp places, but at least has the decency to produce a surprisingly fragrant scent, if you can stop smacking mosquitoes long enough to appreciate it.

I like this old sycamore tree, which has survived a hurricane and several massive floods, and that's just in the few short years that I have known it. It grasps the sandy creek edge with the determination of a steely soldier fighting for his foxhole -- its gnarled roots have character!

Here is the creek, almost dried up now -- but just a few years ago, in a great storm, coursing with such fury as to tear out a bridge and drown a Woman trapped in Her car.

Again, in spite of our drought I was surprised to find a flow of water coursing through the green blanket of poison ivy in the power-line cut -- and some friendlier ferns. I don't know what type. I'm not a fern expert.

This smoke tree, mimosa something-or-other, is invasive but hard to hate, with its soft, pink blossom like the tutu of some little wood nymph.

Trumpet vine! First time I have seen it in these woods.

Here is a mystery. I vaguely remember finding a catalpa tree near this spot last year, as witnessed by the long "beans" that hung down from it at the time. Catalpas have huge leaves as this tree does. Are these sticky green fruits going to lengthen into pods during the summer, meaning that I have rediscovered the catalpa? Or is this a different tree?

Friday, July 4, 2008

A mystery

I kept my promise to myself today. I grabbed my camera and the sturdy walking stick that my dad made for me about five or six years ago and despite the heat, I went walking.

I did not expect to find much worth photographing, not as long as this furnace heat and deadly dessication persists. But there was still much to see, and I will share it with you all on Monday -- I can't download pictures from that camera onto my home computer.

Far from my home, past the power line cut where poison ivy grows thick and green like the devil's garden, out of the groves of beeches and holly and in the bright light of an old industrial area where young pines now grow, filling the air with their unmistakable sun-warmed fragrance, I found a strange tree.

It has huge, ovate, untoothed, pubescent leaves. I forget to check whether they were opposite or alternate. And it bears a fruit, an odd, green (at least for now)fruit as big (at least for now) as a small plum but more oblong in shape, smooth and rather sticky.

It is a complete mystery to me. It's not a pawpaw or anything in the rose family, like a crabapple. It's not a pod, so couldn't be a catalpa or anything in the acacia family, like a locust bean. It's not a nut, not prickly like a chestnut or a chinqapin. It's not a cluster or a drupe, like mountain ash or sumac.

I am a tree lover

Call me a tree-hugger and I will not feel insulted.

Trees are mysterious beings upon our Earth, resilient and ancient. Redwoods loom in the California mist, massive and magnificent. Palms wave in the tropical breeze, with their feet planted in the sand. In the northern forests, spruces survive the worst of winter and upon the spine of the western mountains, the bristlecone pines are the oldest living things on earth.

From trees come chocolate and cherries, cinnamon and cloves, lacquer and chicle, taxol to fight cancer and quinine to fend off malaria.

I am a tree lover and I am not ashamed.

Please visit this blog:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What is missing

I have not walked in a long time. There was that rather hurried excursion down to see a boggy boardwalk with my Niece two weeks ago, true. She got very hot and thirsty and we came back quickly. It was a disappointment.

No, I have not wandered off on my own of late in woodlands, lingering beneath shade, stopping to turn over stones and squint at small flowers.

I have been to visit some blogfriends tonight, admiring their photography, and realizing that not only have I not walked in a long time, I have not recorded it in pictures.

Saturday, if Sweetie does not need me for something, I will walk.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Random thoughts

Blogging is a choice, is a gift to the world. (I don’t mean to imply that every blog is a quality gift. Some are the Internet equivalent of that plaster ostrich lamp that Aunt Gladys sent you for Christmas – well-intentioned but otherwise worthless.)
I fear that because of time limitations previously mentioned, I have been slipping out of the blogging habit. I resolve to amend that. For those of you that consider Isis to be a plaster ostrich, too bad!

Random thoughts:
Watching a chipmunk cavorting in the back yard made me a little late for work today. So be it.

I’m worried that my Niece’s Mother, having gotten back an ADHD diagnosis on Her, now intends to put the child on Ritalin. I have ADHD and I have learned to live with it, without doping myself up with drugs. I need to sit down with Her and try the art of gentle persuasion.

I spent a couple hours last weekend sorting through about 50 pounds of old newspaper clippings and it feels so good to see that pile GONE! They filled up an entire garbage bag when I was done.

It rained on Sunday. We needed it so badly. I hope that my sycamore sapling will survive. Of all the wilting, suffering plants in my yard, it seemed to fare the worst. The mayapple, trillium and bloodroot inside the woods have also withered but they are ephemereals anyway, so I’m not too worried. At least I had the brains to plant Mr. Jack in the Pulpit on the edge of a seep in the forest that didn’t go completely dry in spite of lack of rain, so it is doing fine.

I was told in a local online forum today that the person wished that “I was a teacher rather than a PR man, speaking as a taxpayer.” I laughed for a few minutes, trying to decide whether this was meant as a gentle insult or a compliment.

What do teeth reveal about evolution? Mammalian canines betray a carnivorous past = they are stabbing teeth. They have a sharp, pointed edge and are used with the incisors to bite into food and or to kill prey. The tusks of many animals such as elephants are modified canines. They are missing in rodents and most large herbivores (Perissodactyls and Artiodactyls). The gap where the canines would have been is often enlarged and is called a 'diastema'. That last sentence seems to indicate that mammalian herbivores evolved from carnivorous ancestors.