Bluejays, etc.

Many of my long-time Dear Readers know that I consider the magnificent Eastern Blue Jay …


…to be the Top DoG in the bird world.  Lucky for me, these little miracles of evolution are native to my home state of New York and are frequent visitors to my backyard, and during their Summer molt they usually drop a feather or two my way. Since 2004 I have been collecting these tiny gifts to put on display in my Museum of Blue :P1040939

However, as far as collecting Blue Jay feathers in the past few years, my heart hasn’t been in it. Three years ago my mind became preoccupied with a very ambitious project — writing and illustrating a book about a world tour of gardens. I know it doesn’t sound all that perplexing a job: You go visit a garden, you paint some pictures of it, you write about how nice it is, and you’re done.

But I wanted to avoid the usual dreadful garden vocabulary and I wanted to up-end the cliche garden philosophies and I wanted to make illustrations that were not botanical in nature — I wanted to make pictures that portrayed the soul of the place. On top of all that, I am not all that smart. So I had to think hard. It took up a lot of my brain power. And so it came to pass that, in the Summer of 2012, I was so busy pondering hard on garden things that I only picked up four feathers:


The way that I figured out how to avoid using  the usual vocabulary of garden writing was that I made a list of dreadful words that are so often used by garden writers that they stab me in my mind’s eyeball every time I read them. The list includes the words:

Sacred space, Communion, Magical, Jewel or jewel-like or gemNurturing, Benevolent, Abode, Haven,  or Glade.  All those bad-poet words that make you go yeeeeech.

I also banned the word “Nature” from my book, but then I put in a quote from Dorothy Wordsworth that contained the “N” word…and I kind of regret that now. How awesome would it have been to have written an entire book about gardens and not mention nature once???

In 2013 I was still cogitating on putting together nine garden stores that were completely cliche-free, void of any reference to renewal, or solace, or seeds. My garden philosophy is very rigorous in that I believe that gardens mean something that is specific and individual to every garden. My brain was sorely over-taxed by the task, so I’m amazed that in 2013 I still had the sightfulness to spy  these dainty gifts in my backyard:


Last Summer, 2014, this is what I gathered, Blue Jay feather-wise:


In 2014 I had not only a garden book to bring into being, but I was caring for a very, very old and completely time-consuming cocker spaniel called Boogie Girl (her story is here in a blog post called Happiness is a Warm Puppy):


This brings me to last Summer, the Summer of 2015.


My garden book, rife with digressions on dive bars, 1970s haute couture, rainy days, English tea, and not living in Cleveland (sorry, Cleveland), is done!

Just this past Thursday, the industry Torah, Publisher’s Weekly, has read it and reviewed it:

Vivian Swift (Le Road Trip), inspired by the ineffable beauty of a poinsettia tree she encountered in Brazil, tours nine gardens from around the world in this seductive illustrated travelogue. She starts in Paris at the Square du Vert-Galant, meanders to Marrakech, lingers in London’s Physic Garden, and roams through Rio de Janeiro’s Midnight Garden. In Key West, Fla., she pens a polemic about pines; visiting poet William Cullen Bryant’s Cedermere, she sings a paean to his pears. As Swift sees it, gardens pay “homage to this wondrous Earth.” Each chapter includes maps, inspirational quotations (as well as an “ancient Celtic prayer” she “just made up”), and a benedictory essay. Throughout, there is loveliness and wit through whimsical words (such as doodad and dithers) and pictures. Her splashy watercolors, washing joyfully throughout, include a lesson on how to paint fall leaves. Color illus. (Mar.)

So I guess I pulled off what I had set out to do — and made it look easy!

And so, in 2015, I put down my paint brushes and pushed myself away from my computer and I became, once again, a Blue Jay Feather Collector. Starting in June, I gave myself the goal of collecting five — 5 — Blue Jay feathers.

The way you collect Blue Jay feathers is, first of all, make your back yard a good space for Blue Jays. I do this by putting out bowls of dry cat — which they LOVE — in high places, out of the stalking range of any resident cat.

It also helps if you have a nice assortment of tall trees in your back yard, which I do, because Blue Jays love to look down on plotting cats and screech at them. They also like to perch high on a branch and send out a flute-like flows of rapturous calls, which are the songs that they only sing to one another.

Then, each morning, preferably shortly after dawn but definitely in the hour of your first cup of tea of the day, you have to walk out in the dewy grass of your backyard and send a request, very politely worded, to the Blue Jays and the Universe that goes like this:

Please let me see, today, the gifts that are everywhere in front of me.

It helps if, while you are requesting this mindfulness, if you can hold in your mind the image of a Blue Jay feather.

I was surprised at how surprised I was at how, almost immediately, it became very easy to find Blue Jay feathers!


I knew that 2015 was going to be a very, very good year for collecting Blue Jay feathers when, in late June, I found FIVE in one day.

Somewhere deep in the back of my brain I know there is the belief that life is good. I believe that in spite of the randomness of evil and the prevalence of human stupidity and the misery of history-in-the-making, that life can still be wondrous. That belief gets re-awakened and strengthened every time I find a Blue Jay feather just for the asking…and I hope you know that you, Dear Reader, are free to replace Blue Jay Feather with any other totem of your heart’s desire, which you will indeed find, too, simply by asking for the eyes and spirit to see that it is always there in front of you. And, naturally, by doing the work it takes to make your little acre of earth a good ground for those things to drop into.

So how good was the 2015 Summer of collecting Blue Jay feathers?

It was this good:


Yeah, it was 40-Feathers good.

But I was not ready to let things be. I guess I got a little greedy. Maybe a bit cocky. Maybe, even, a bit entitled. On the first day of Fall this year, I put it out to the spirits in my backyard that I wanted proof-beyond-doubt that I was the Universe’s favorite child. I wanted to find ONE MORE Blue Jay feather.

It was while I was pacing the backyard for the third time, with nary a Blue Jay feather in sight, that I thought about the moral of this tale (because I knew I was going to have to blog about my 40-Feather Summer). And I concluded that not finding that one last Blue Jay feather was even better than finding that one last Blue Jay feather because it would show that the Universe wanted me to learn something fine and elegant about the search itself…how it’s the quest for the Blue Jay feather that connects us to the profound mysteries of consciousness on this little speck of blue in the cosmos.

Which is how I wanted to end this story, all philosophical and Zen-ish.

And then I saw this:


Which turned out to be this:


Which is a “flight” feather from the wing of a Blue Jay (I hope you can see the ridge of blue on its outer edge):


I can’t tell you how astonished I was when I picked this one last Blue Jay feather up off the ground. It was completely unexpected, and ridiculously gracious of the Universe, and hugely annoying. I already had it all planned out, about how I was a better person for not finding that one last Blue Jay feather and all.

There goes my  grand finale, my message that it’s the search for the Blue Jay Feather of the Soul that gets us out of bed in the morning after yet another atrocity of hate, or apathy, or stupidity (check the latest news cycle). And what about my uplifting morale about how being a Being of the Search is a fine, fine way to live, in that it gives you a reason for living and does wonders for your personality and keeps you too busy to conform to what society wants you to do, which is to stop thinking and go shopping? That’s gone, too. And now, all I have to show for all that hard thinking is a crappy little Blue Jay feather. I mean, WTF?

Well, at this point, all I can do is feel amazed and overwhelmed by love and gratitude. Thank you, Universe, for the abundance of your gifts, thank you for letting me see that your gifts are everywhere, thank you for the mysteries and the meanings of your vast and life-giving (and, sometimes, even loving) presence, and thank you thank you thank you for always being open to interpretation.

Happy Thanks Giving, everyone.

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When I start a blog post, I usually put a “place-holder” title on it because great titles don’t just pop into my head (I still have no title for The Damn Garden Book) so I have to wait until the end of the writing to squeeze something appropriate out of my brain. But today I’m leaving my place-holder title in place. Another Winter storm is heading our way. And it’s the first day of Spring.

And cardinals really are quite stupid.

The predicted snow fall will not make life hard for small woodland creatures. However, the predicted 4 inches will make me, a lesser form of squirrely, really pouty.


These pictures are from the last blizzard of (technically) Winter, on March 4, 2015.


I did not care for that blizzard. But at least Winter has a personality — with all the depths and beauty of a fully-formed season: wordlessly wonderful snowscapes, tingly cold, demon slush, etc. Same with Summer: she keeps you enthralled, from the first firefly, to the scent of the shade of an elm tree, to the last thunderstorm. And Fall! Fall is bursting with personality! Color! Mood! Harvest!

But Spring? Spring starts as a wimpy-ass end of Winter, continues as a sloppy mud fest of thaw, drags its feet getting to warm weather, and flounces around with a few weeks of buds that die and become botanical litter. The best you can say about Spring are those days when you think it looks the most like Summer. It has no real personality of its own, it’s all for show, and it’s mucky.

Spring. The Kim Kardashian of seasons.


So on March 4, I surveyed the situation, which was not to my liking, and predicted that there was no way all that snow could melt by the first day of Spring.


This is my patio on the afternoon of March 5:


The wooden box was one of our birdseed-putting stations.

This is what my patio looked like on March 18:


Some birds dislike on-the-brick feeding.

This is what that trash can looked like on the morning of March 5:


So big deal. For the first half of the first day of Spring, our patio was snow free. By tomorrow it will be covered with 4 inches of snow.

This is our cardinal, three days ago, hopping amidst the left-over birdseed from the dearly departed snow on the patio:


He’s thinking, Didn’t there used to be food here? Where did it go??? I’m looking everywhere, and it’s gone! Where????


He never did find that tray of fresh birdseed that I had cleverly hidden from him in plain sight.


True story. I watched that cardinal search the whole patio.

This is the back fence stick pile o/a February 20:


This was it on the last Wednesday of Winter:


Yesterday I took this picture of the new hot spot on our patio:


It doesn’t look like much, for now. But wait for it:






This is one happy, Spring-flinging kitty cat.

I don’t have the heart to tell him it’s going to snow today.


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A weather update from the frozen and pissed-off with everything about Winter shores of the Long Island Sound.


It snowed on Sunday.


And then it snowed on Tuesday. It’s a wonder that I still have all my, uh, what do you call ’em, those round thingies that roll smoothly from one synapse to the other in a sequential and thought-provoking manner.


And then it snowed all the live long day Thursday. Marbles.


I measure bird feed by the pitcher.


I throw out three to four pitchers of bird feed a day. The kind you make iced tea in.


Broadcasting the bird feed o’er the land gives our birdies wing-space.


The blue jays are a bit wary of the squirrels but the cardinals are downright cowards.


Mrs. Cardinal has a tad more chutzpah than the old spherical object tied around the tarsus. ( That’s him, peering over the shoulder of an about-to-pounce-on-a-sunflower seed blue jay.)


And this is him, opting for the better part of valor.


This is from the back patio feeding ground.


Awww, squirrels are so cute.


Come on! That’s cute!

But maybe not as cute as this:


Dear Readers, I am in a mood today. Not the kind of mood that makes you want to take a twirl in the twilight or whip up a batch of champagne marmalade. The other kind of mood. The one that makes you feel as if  fate has thrown a meat cleaver directly into the heart of your peace of mind.

On Monday I amazed myself by hitting FINAL on the last re-write of the next-to-last chapter of the Damn Garden Book. The End was Sooooooooooo Near. Sooooooo near. The nearest it has ever been in the three years I’ve been writing this Damn Book. The weight of deadlines and trial and errors and writing the wrong Damn Book over and over again was almost off my shoulders. I had at last got it right! I wrote good stuff! Any day now I could open the special Prosecco that has been on my dining room shelf waiting to celebrate  The End of the Damn Garden Book!

All I had to do was write the London chapter, a chapter that I have put off writing for two years because I knew it would be “easy” to write. I did piles of research, read a whole book about the history of apothecary gardens, written pages and pages of notes, gone over the notes and pulled out whatever seemed  too digressive, shaped up 14 pages of narrative — all so the writing would be a breeze. A breeze.

This is how organized I am: this is what the data base for the DGB looks like:


See? Everything in place, at my fingertips.

To refresh your memory, this is what the London Chapter look like:




The only thing between me and the end of 3 years of 7-day work weeks is the London chapter. And I can’t find it.

It’s not lost in the black hole of the internet, or in the one-way labyrinth of my hard drive. It’s lost in my house.

I have lost the hard copy of all my notes-taken and outlines plotted and fun fact shoehorned. I can’t find my London pile of notes.

My editor at Bloomsbury is OK with getting 8 our of 9 chapters from me on Friday (the wished-for deadline was last Monday). She will look over the flow and the sentences and the potholes of the text while I start assembling the layouts for 208 pages of book. After the text has been content edited, line edited, and proofread, I will drop the perfection of prose that will forever be Vivian Swift’s Last Damn Book into the blank spots between illustrations.

And then I can life like a normal person.

But I can’t do that until I find the London chapter. After a few days of moping, I started a down-to-the-floorboards search starting i my workroom. If you are reading this as a normally scheduled post, then I haven’t found it yet.

If I had found the damn London chapter, I would have posted this:




This is a picture of the neighborhood walled gardens of London (Knightsbridge  — you watched me paint it in the post called It’s True. I Paint Like a Writer under the category London Gardens).

Shortly after I painted this, I ruined it. I added questionable line enhancements and I cropped off the sidewalk. I am a few illustrations short in the London chapter, so I recently took another gander at this and realized that I still like the idea of the pic so much that I want to rescue it. I want to correct my mistakes and turn it into the full-page (8 inch by 9 inch) title page for the London chapter.

I am very sorry for not replying to all of your Comments last week. I just haven’t had the heart. But I will — I hope you keep checking.

I hope by next week I will have found the London chapter along with all those tiny globular containers of mindfulness that fire the concept of a person I call “Me”.


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You might remember my friend Robert from pages 190 and 191 of my book When Wanderers Cease to Roam, where I talk about how Robert operates the drawbridge over the Eastchester Barge Canal off U.S.Route 1.

He spent 30 years there, planting trees and creating art from the debris that floated his way, hanging hundreds of his “collages” (they looked like wind chimes to me) from the branches of his trees because, as Robert said, ” God put me here to straighten out this part of Earth.”

Robert retired last year and yesterday I went to visit him at his home in Westchester County, on the shore of the Long Island Sound.

No, this isn’t Robert’s yard. This is Robert’s neighbor’s yard. I’m just showing you this for a sense of contrast because Robert’s been as busy in his own acre of Earth as he was at the drawbridge — Robert’s yard looks like this:

Robert’s made his yard into a wonderland garden, sculpted the landscape by installing a staircase, railings, statues, more “collages” set into the ground, etc.

These photos make the place look a little more chaotic than it is — I just love the way Robert adds all these different shapes (like the fans) into the scenery.

And the sinks.

You can get lost in the scale of the surrounding installations here —

—and I didn’t bring a tea bag so I’m pointing to this particularly lovely little vignette to show you that some of Robert’s work is quite diminutive.

This is one of the more elaborate “collages’/wind chimes hanging in Robert’s home garden.

Robert surprised me with a very special gift — a wind chime of my very own!

These keys used to hang at the Eastchester Barge Canal and when a county supervisor made Robert get rid of “all that trash in the trees” Robert saved this one and gave it to me!

Oh! I almost forgot to tell you about the most fantastic part of Robert’s garden! I saw something that I’ve never seen and never could have hoped or dared to see with my own eyes right there, in Robert’s garden. I saw this:

This is a mother blue jay sitting in her nest in Robert’s garden (giving me the hairy eyeball).

As for Le Road Trip, I must give thanks to the kind reviews that have appeared this past week in the Sunday Mail in Brisbane, Australia ;and the Oklahoman of Oklahoma City; and the Roanoke Times of Roanoke, VA.

Thanks also to all my dear readers, who are reading both Le Road Trip and When Wanderers Cease to Roam in original hard copy (since neither book can be Kindled), putting up with my old-fashioned idea that a reading experience must include a real book-shaped object.

P.S. I’m looking for good garden books — ones that have great illustrations and stories about gardens and their gardeners. I’ve already ordered , sight unseen but just because I like the title, an out-of-print book called Remembered Gardens…does anyone know of any other good books that get to the heart of the garden experience? Or will I have to write that one myself?

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The snow started after dark, in the wee hours of Saturday morning. So by the time we woke up we had FINALLY a blanket of Winter White to celebrate.

Our bird feeder has small perches and low feeding windows, so it’s best suited for small birds like these.

FINALLY one smart Jay figured out how to FINALLY swing it so that he could fit his huge butt onto this itty bitty feeder for small birdies:

I LOVE this guy, hanging from his toes to dip into the feed bag here. I was laughing as I took these pictures from the other side of the picture window in the den, and I’m sure that the Jay heard me. Because he gave me the hairy eyeball:

Well, he must have taken offense because he then turned his back on me.

Heart.      Be.      Still.

This is usually called The Money Shot.

I call the Blue Jay Map, because here are all the feathers that I lust after. Here, on the bird, are the heart-breakingly gorgeous tail feathers and the stunningly beautiful flight feathers that I collect and treasure.

Here is your own Blue Jay Map:

But this delicious Winter Day wasn’t all about birds.  We had plenty of other critters hanging out in the backyard on this fine snowy day.

Miss Candy was out and about, pawing her delicate way around the new fallen snow.

While her boy, Taffy, was leaping and hopping, frisking after snowflakes and jumping into small drifts.

He tried to get Dudley to share in the fun, but Duds wasn’t having it.

Although it looked to me that Duds was certainly enjoying the snowfall in his own contemplative, birdie-wishing way.

But enough with the birds and the felines!

I know what you’re all really interested in on this first and perhaps only Snow Day of Winter 2012.

You want to get to the Champagne-O-Meter.

It looked like this  at 8 o’clock in the AM.

By 10 o’clock another half inch of snow had fallen, but the weather was just about to change to wind-driven sleet.

Conditions remained cold, but wet, throughout the rest of the day.

Shortly before dusk, I took one last measurement and determinded that the snow had ended and the Champagne-O-Meter could be put to better  use.

And then it was time to add the last ingredient to my recipe for a perfect Winter day:

Take your Champagne-O-Meter, add one Top Cat (or the True Love of your choice).

Add roaring fire and a Frank Sinatra CD playing in the background.

Perfect end to a perfect Winter day.

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The proofs of Le Road Trip came today!


These pages are all set to go into production: if I have any objections I have to make then now, or forever hold my peace.

The proofs are on the same quality of paper that will be used for the book itself, so I can get a good look at how the art work will print.

Suddenly, all those homely hand-made pasted-up sheets of paper look dignified, presented in (almost) end product form.

Each sheet of proof paper holds two pages of text in numerical order. This happens to be pages six and  seven. I’m supposed to look each page over and let my production editor know if the color saturation and contrast in up to snuff.

I looked, I judged it perfect, I sent in my OK.

As far as my part in the creation of this book, my work is done.

To celebrate, Top Cat said “Let’s pack a picnic dinner and a bottle of Bordeaux and go to Morgan Park and watch the sun set tonight.”

And as we are hauling ourselves and our buffet from the parking lot to the lush lawns of Morgan Park, I say to Top Cat, “I’m putting out a request to the Universe for a Blue Jay feather tonight, so keep a look out.”

And, not a half minute later, Top Cat says to me, “Oh, here it is.”

That’s the Blue Jay feather that Top Cat almost stepped on, on our way to our picnic dinner. (That’s my dear sweet Top Cat in the background, with the picnic hamper.)

I was ecstatic, of course. And I said something like, “More! More! I want more Blue Jay feathers! This is a Blue Jay feather goldmine!!”

Top Cat tried to calm me down by saying, “Sweetie, come on, what are the chances that lightning will strike twice?”

And then he said, “Oh. Never mind.”

That’s one of the best things about my Top Cat. His magic is strong.

And as the last SkiDooer motored in to port in the last light of day, me and Top Cat were grateful that most of the 20 million people who live within a 20-mile radius of our picnic paradise decided to stay home and watch Entertainment Tonight than come out and watch the sunset.

Even though this looks fake as can be, this is for real. I took this picture with my own camera and, of  course, with my own eyes.

Life is good.

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Another week of sad, heartbreaking, awful, terrible news.

I was sitting on my patio.  It was 86 degrees at 7:30 am. The air was  numbingly still, suffocatingly hot (week long heat wave: not good) . I was already exhausted by the weather, the news, and the future.

My head drooped, my eyes barely focused on the bricks on our patio.

That’s where I found my sanity.

Do you see it?

That’s because it’s a tiny bit camouflaged, lying in wait (being aerodynamically designed to land up-side down). Raisons d’etre tend to fall into your life that way.

Let me turn it over for you:

It’s a Blue Jay tail feather, the center tail feather — the one around which the bird’s symmetry is arrayed.


No scientist would have the nerve to invent such a thing, the way its form and pattern meshes so effortlessly.

No artist would dare invent such a color, a cool steel-blue that shimmers hot turquoise like a flash of lightning.

This is the kind of miracle that you only get in nature, as a gift, just for paying attention,on this planet that seems determined to kill itself with sorrow.

In the quantity of joy this Blue Jay feather brought me on the morning that I found it under the rhododendron tree, this little little occasion of beauty and surprise, the world was redeemed. At least for the day.

Well, at least for the rest of the morning.


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I was in the dumps yesterday.

I had made the mistake of watching the morning news before I’d had my first cup of tea. I should have known better.

Still, I went through my morning routine. It was while I was feeding the backyard cats their breakfast when I remembered to make my usual request of the Great Spirit, even thought it seemed especially futile today:

Please Great Spirit, let me see what you are trying to show me today.

Oh lordy, I know the world is a tragic place . Some many sorrowful stores about the hate, violence, and injustice that takes place every single day. This world can break your heart six times before breakfast. Really, it’s a wonder that the weight of all the misery on this planet doesn’t do us in.

Sometimes, I wonder why we go on, writing books and painting pictures and talking to cats, when it’s all going to end in either a mushroom cloud or a super nova. That is what was on my mind early this morning.

All I hope for, when I talk to the Great Spirit, is to be able to see past the obvious. In this world, in all its pointlessness, all I want to see is a little sign of life.

A little sign that joy is still possible, that happiness matters, that beauty dignifies the cost of having a heart and a soul. Is that too much to ask?

Well, no sooner had my request been sent up to the universe, when I got my answer.

I saw this.

Do you see it?

It’s not far from the paws of my helper/hindrance Lickety, the Fierce Feral Cat (who was hoping we’d see something that would be Friskie’s Ocean Fish flavored.) It was right there, what the Great Spirit wanted to show me today.

Do you see it?

It sparkled!

Now, you, dear readers, know that I collect blue jay feathers like they were sapphires or lapis lazuli because, mineral or vegetable, blue is the rarest color found in nature and so, in my opinion, every shade of blue is holy.  But I’ve never had a shade of blue sparkle at me before.

But, now that I think about it some more, it didn’t so much sparkle as glow.

I didn’t even know they made blue jay feathers this small. It’s the very tiniest blue jay feather I’ve ever seen! Are there hummingbird-sized blue jays that I don’t know about?

Well, I picked this itty-bitty feather up out of the grass and I felt such a rush of appreciation for this teeny tiny answer to my Request of the Great Spirit that for a moment I forgot that I was in a bad, entropy-filled mood.

For a moment I forgot to be afraid of where this nasty, brutal, libertarian-jihad-filled world was headed. OK, it’s not a cure for cancer or a Middle East Peace Treaty; but for one little moment in one little life, things were OK.

This just goes to show you: Nothing is too small to be holy. In fact, in a world such as this, maybe the only things that redeem it day by day are the small shining (or glowing) little bits and pieces of a bigger miracle.

The Great Spirit is very nice about reminding you of this. All you have to do is ask.

And don’t forget to say “Thank You” when She answers.

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The book is better than the movie (isn’t that always true?) but the movie is pretty good. I’m talking of course about Eat, Pray, Love starring Julia Roberts. The only way that the movie beats the book is that the movie has Javier Bardem in it. And the movie made me hungry in a way that the book never did: as soon as I got home I ordered a pizza, opened a bottle of wine, and listened to Neil Young’s Harvest Moon over and over.

And it got me thinking about eating, praying, and loving in August.

Eat:  My favorite tea time treat is…a home made angel food cake, all to myself.

Love:  I love my August garden:

I don’t want you to miss the BIRD in this picture. I think it’s a Black-eyed Susan Bird.

Pray:  I don’t pray…but I do give thanks for  the Great Spirit :

Today I sent my message to the Great Spirit: Please let me see what you are showing me.

(I say “Please” because when one is talking to the Great Spirit, I believe in being very polite.)  And BINGO, I found a fabulous Blue Jay feather in my yard. What I think The Great Spirit is saying, I’m showing you that you live in a wondrous world, yo.

It works every time. Asking for awareness works every time.

For instance, last evening I went for a walk to the local library . But,before I set out, I asked the Great Spirit : Please let me see something I haven’t seen before on this walk to the library which I’ve done about 500 times already.

This is what I saw, that I’d ever seen before:

Wouldn’t this look ADORABLE if there was a tiny mail box on the left?

So this is what the last hydrangea of 1020 looks like!


A family of cats, from the Other Side of Town.


Yep. A Bunny. Leading the Way.

Of course, there are many other ways to bring your measly little, sniveling busy busy whiner self closer to the Great Spirit than by taking a walk to the library. You can take a drive to the grocery store, or do a load of laundry.

I asked for names for my own tea, and the Great Spirit lent itself to all you clever people and gave me conniptions when it came time to pick a winner. So many great teas: Vanilla Purr (no, nothing is too twee for me) and Pathways Tea, Wanderer’s Reward(apostrophes don’t bother me at all!), Madagascar Sun Set Tea(surprisingly butterfly-like), Wander The World Tea, Done Roaming Tea, Zanzibar Fantasy (me, the sunrise, and Javier Bardem holding a tray of croissants), That Damn Tea, Oolong Island Iced Tea (which, by the way, I like so much I’d drink it hot, too), Bonnes Temps Tea…I want them all. But, there has to be only one winner…

…and the winner is :

Shelley. And her two teas: Restful Roamer and Tranquil Traveler.

Shelly, you are a visionary. I thank the Great Spirit that has brought you to my blog and given me these delightful teas.

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My friend Melinda came to visit the Long Island Sound this week, an escapee to our northern climate from the swelter of the Carolinas.  “Is August really your favorite month?” she asked me, and I could detect a tone of skepticism in her voice.

“Yeah,” I said. “I really like August.” this was while we were walking along the shore of the Long Island Sound, and as soon as the words were out of my mouth I spied a treasure on the ground, right there at my feet.

Good timing, August. It was a bright yellow flight feather (see above) : My trophy of the day. (This is me, from the future, in 2012: The feather is from a bird called a Flicker — which I only found out two years later.)

Yes, I really, really like August.

When I found that yellow feather I already had my hands full with my other treasures (see above): an owl’s feather and a bird’s nest — all from simply keeping August on my mind, and eyes on the ground.

Yes, it was the strangest thing, finding that bird’s nest upside down on the grass. I guessed it had fallen out of the plane tree above, which gave me the idea to start hunting underneath any one of the hundreds of ancient hard wood trees on this property. I only had to search one other tree to find my feathers — now I ask you: What else do you need to make you love August?

(Besides not living in Texas or North Carolina, or Georgia, or any of those places you tell me about where August bores into your skull like a thousand hot pokers and wears you down like a thousand wrap-around wool blankets infested with chiggers and bad news, that is.)

Not to brag or anything, but today it’s 74 degrees, cloudy, with signs of rain. This, even on the Long Island Sound, is a gift in August: a day when I just might have to put on a sweater. It’s as good a tea day as it gets (in August): and that’s what I’ll be doing today.

I’ve picked out two kinds of tea (Brodie’s Edinburgh Blend and Tealuxe Copely Place Vanilla) for my long afternoon of lounging and extended mental waywardness. I will be in the exact right frame of mind to consider each and every delicious kind of tea you all  have invented this past week, and doing my best to pick a winner. It won’t be easy, but I can always resort to numerology, spells, a throw of the  I Ching, or reading tea leaves if I have to.


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