August 2010

This is a photo of my first gray hair, taken in 1990. (It’s in my bangs, front and center.)  I was 34. I was untroubled by a gray hair. I actually thought it was kind of neat.

This is a photo of me in 2005 with the late, great, Winston . My gray roots are just starting to peep out of the hair dye that I decided to stop using. Yes, I am 49 years old. Notice how Winston totally rocks the gray fur. I hoped that I would look half as awesome in my true color!

This (below) is a photo taken of me in my backyard earlier this month, with Lickety, one of my feral cats. He showed up in the backyard in the Summer of 2008 and as you can see, he is completely fierce and wild. Savage. Like a miniature tiger. We are all very afraid of him and his ferociousness.

I took a look at this photo and I got a mild case of Capgras syndrome. That’s what happens when people become convinced that someone close to them has been replaced with an identical-looking imposter. I saw a Vivian-looking person in the photo but what was with all that gray hair?

I’m not vain, really I’m not. But this is why my Author Photos are all in black and white.

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It’s that time of year again.

It’s time for us to all wonder, where did August go?

How did Summer go so fast?

Why can’t there be just a little more time?

I’m never ready to say good-bye.

I want things to stay the same, everyday, without complications or challenges or thickening plots.  I want to go back to those happier times before Twitter, e-books, sexting, and Sarah Palin. And as long as I’m at it, I’d like to stay 26 and I want my old cat Winston back.


Coming up is the last weekend of my favorite month of the year. Top Cat and I are going to the shore of the Long Island Sound tomorrow with a picnic dinner and a bottle of champagne and we’re going to watch the sun set and toast our good luck that we’ve made it this far, to Old Fartism, where we complain about everything that’s new, “improved”, loud, or anything that the kids like these days.

And that’s how we’ll say good-bye August.

Can’t wait to see you again next year.

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Big score at the thrift shop this week:

A matching set of vintage paint-by-number landscapes! They are beautifully done — each and every cell is painted with love, I can tell. Each is signed “Palme” in the lower right hand corner and they are so perfectly (professionally) framed that I haven’t had the heart to pull them out to check to see if there’s a full name and/or date on the back of the picture.

These paintings are meticulously done, with nice wooden frames to show how (justifiably) proud the painter was with his/her finished work, and they are big: each one is 16″ x 20″. And the scene is gorgeous — Fall in New England. In a word, or several, this is the gold standard, the jackpot, the n’est plus ultra of paint-by-number paintings.

They didn’t have a price on them so I had to take show them to the manager to get her expert opinion. She frowned, tapped one with her fingernail, determined that it was cardboard (not canvas), and told me “$9.99. each.”

Bargain. Which, again, is hard to find in a thrift shop these days. The Antiques Road Show and eBay have seriously lessened the quality and raised the prices of thrift shop goods these days, and a real bargain is hard to find. I would have paid twice the price for these paintings and thrown in the title to my SUV to sweeten the deal, so when the manager said $9.99 I couldnt get to the cash register fast enough. We’ve been thinking about getting rid of the SUV any way.

So here they are:

These two Fall paintings have filled in a sad and painful gap in my collection of thrift shop paintings of the four seasons. I had Winter already:

(44″‘ x 32″, canvas, signed “Kate Q.” on the back; it’s hanging over the fireplace in my livingroom.)

And I already had Spring:

(16″ x 20″, canvas, signed “JK ’67” in lower right corner; I’ve almost cleaned all the decades-worth of filthy cigarette-smoke-tar off it.)

Now all I need is Summer. If you see a good Summer thrift shop painting, let me know.


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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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This is how we do it:



Thank you!

You’ve been such a great audience!

Ooops. I think I woke up Coco and Belle — the cats who live in my workroom (because they are too ornery to let out with the other house cats).

I’m going all art journalistic on you because I’m stalling. I can’t choose my new tea! I want every tea you suggested — I even like the puns! I love Oolong Island — ha ha. I love all those Wanderers brews! I love them all! I know it was my idea, but I wish I didn’t have to choose!


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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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This is the morning light on a dewy a spider web in my front yard.

August: I wish we could borrow a few days from July, a few from September, and make August 40 days long. That would give me 40 of the best early mornings of the year.

Every morning, for 40 days, I’d wake  up before sunrise, and lie in bed listening to the birds try to out-sing the cicadas (a warning that the coming day will be hot, very very hot).

I’d remember to do that quantum-field morning meditation where I create my day by telling myself that I’m going to live today in peace, productivity, and perseverance.

Then I’d get out of bed, put on a  Summer dress, step into my sneakers, go downstairs and put the tea kettle on the stove. then I’d feed the cats, while the water  boils.

I’d put a drop of vanilla extract into my tea, with a big dollop of honey, and I’d head out doors to breathe the freshest air of the day . I’d  watch the sun rise, lighting up a flower bed here and there, illuminating the woods behind my house. I’d  put off thinking about my To Do List until all the night shadows still hanging around the corners of the yard had vanishished into thin air.

Your Comments last week were fantastic! Thank you for so many great tea names! All of them sound exactly like the kind of tea I would be glad to take with me in a Go Cup on every August morning.

I love the suggestion of having a Four Season choice of tea — after all, does anyone in her right mind drink a big duskyLapsang Suchong in the Summer? A dainty little Earl Grey in February?

So many good tea ideas to consider! Thank you so much for giving me so much to ponder (I need a cup of tea).

P. S. And yes, Barbara, I did sew that embroidered picture of me and my cats: the original is hanging in my downstairs powder room:

You know, in Winter, this powder room gets the most beautiful afternoon light. A flood of sunshine comes in through the window just out of view (to the side of the sink) like it’s the portal to some kind Bathroom Henge. And, as I live in a drafty, 100-year old house, this specially solar-powered powder room becomes the most snug room in the house around 3 o’clock every Winter afternoon. There are times when I’ve sat in here, with my afternoon cup of tea and a good book, soaking up some rare sun beams on a cold Winter day.

Good thing I haven’t asked you to come up with names for Drinking in the Downstairs Bathroom Tea. I’d hate to think what you’d come up with.

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I don’t mind that Elizabeth Gilbert is a better writer than I am. I don’t mind that’s she’s blonder, cuter, smarter, and has Julia Roberts playing her in the movie that has been made from her mega-bestseller memoir. Really, I don’t.

But when  The Republic of Tea came out with an Eat, Pray, Love tea, that’s when I said to myself, Now wait just a damn minute.

If you’ve read my book, then  you might have noticed that

1. There’s a lot of cats in it.

2. There’s also a lot of tea in it.

3. There’s even cats and tea in it.

4. See: August chapter, page 126:

I love tea. I love its place in my life, the thoughtful, calm, creative, alone, place where I sit with myself and a good book, a fat cat, a comfy chair, and my favorite cup. I love its place in all other tea drinkers’ lives, which is also its place in literature, culture, and friendship. And I want my own brand of tea, damn it.

And I really really really want to design the box that it will come in. Six sides, all illustrated with a scene of tea heaven — that  clean, well-lit place that soothes the soul. I have it all planned out in my head, and it’s gorgeous: it will be the best box of tea the Earth has ever seen.

But, if any writer had to beat me at my own tea dreams, I’m glad it’s Elizabeth Gilbert, so I got on line and ordered two tins of Eat, Pray, Love tea (available only on line for a limited time, at

I got my tins yesterday and I had a cup: it’s a Blood Orange Cinnamon Black Tea, very aromatic and spicy, full of familiar and foreign flavors that are elusive yet comforting. It’s a perfect tea for an afternoon voyage to a new mental landscape. And I want to offer my lovely readers the chance to win a tin!

But there’s a catch: I need your help. I don’t have a name for my tea. And I know that a lot of you are pretty spiffy tea drinkers yourselves and much more clever than I am, so here’s the deal: send me your dream tea name, in the Comments section below, and the winning name’s author will receive a tin of Eat,Pray,Love tea (50 tea bags) from me, with a specially-hand made card of thanks (and your name on my tea box). Because mark my words, if the universe works the way Oprah says it does, then I will get my own tea one day.

(My souvenir Buckingham Palace 1994 tea mug not included in contest prize)

Keep in mind that my tea will be:

Black. That means Indian and/or African tea. I do not care for green tea, not that I judge people who like green tea or that I’m judging green tea (which I really am) but I prefer the color, body, taste, and ooomph of black tea.

I want some Madagascar vanilla flavor in my tea. Vanilla is my favorite flavor in the world, and Madagascar is my favorite country name in the world. And I’m very fond of the Madagascar Sun Set Moth.

I am against putting milk in tea.

I like the way tea tastes in a paper cup.

NO PUNS. God, I hate puns.

Deadline for your tea suggestions will be next Friday, August 13, when coincidently, the movie Eat, Pray, Love opens.

Drink. Think. Write to me.

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August is my favorite month of the year: lush, steamy, poignant. It’s also my favorite chapter — because it’s the chapter where I let my Cat Lady self  have free range. In Pawsylvania, as it turns out.

(For those of you reading along , turn to page 124 in When Wanderers Cease to Roam; but if you’re like me and can’t be bothered to put down your cup of tea to go dig up some book you forgot about a long time ago, don’t worry. There won’t be a quiz at the end of this post.)

When people say that my book has a lot of cats in it I have to laugh. Believe me, I held back on the cats big time; in my opinion, I show great restraint in the cat department: I went through every chapter and edited out pages of cat stuff. What’s left is the bare bones of my cat-centric pea brain…except for the August chapter. In August, I decided to fess up about the micro-nation that I inhabited, in the alley behind my apartment house, with my cats Woody and Louie.



Micro-nations  are actual political units, inventions (usually crack pot in nature) of sovereignty defined by the United Nations as:

small, self-declared state-like entities existing in real or imagined space which do not meet any international criteria for statehood.

I fell in love with the idea of micro-nations because I believe that we all, each of us, live in micro-nations of our own creating, whether it’s made from a family, a church group, a cause, a secret longing, an especially intense inner life, a sport, a hobby, a crush, a  joyous desire to carve a personal niche in the vast indifference of time. My particular micro-nation happens to have existed one memorable Summer, and then it was gone.

It was August 1995, and me and my 15-year old cat Woody had been joined the previous Fall and Winter by a stray cat I called Louie. Of course I’d had him neutered and vaccinated, but I could not turn Louie into a house cat: I had to let him out every night and dayor else he’d tear up my apartment and howl as if I were skinning him alive. That’s how I got into the habit of taking my first cup of tea of the day outside into the back alley — I was out there to check up on Louie. And then Woody started coming along to keep me company.

So we’d by out there, in the alley, every morning at dawn (my favorite time of the August day), in the dim light and shadows and bright freshness, before the village woke up and before the heat of the day. It was tranquil, noiseless, cool, private, and safe. I was reading MFK Fisher for the first  time, so as I’d sit in the alley sipping my tea (sweet, black, with a drop of vanilla extract) I’d also be lost in Ms. Fisher’s world (France, between the wars; tangerines and doomed love). No wonder I can never re-read her books with anything close to the same sensory thrill; I miss the scent of asphalt and dew, the landscape of silence and mystery from being in the alley at sunrise with my cats.

That was my Pawsylvania, that back alley. Or, more exactly, Pawsylvania was a time  (not a place) when there was no one else in my world except me and two doofus cats (each nosing around on their own adventures  — usually in the inexplicable patch of corn that someone grew at the end of the alley that one Summer — but never straying too far from my company) and my own thoughts (some borrowed from MFK Fisher, some made up of my own dread and hopes. Nothing I dreaded was as bad as I thought it would be, and everything I hoped for turned out much better than I’d imagined. The usual story, in other words.).

For fun, and page count, I elaborated (in my book) on my idea of Pawslyvania; made a passport, issued stamps and visas like any other self-respecting micro-nation. But I hope that didn’t obscure my point. That there’s a Pawsylvania in everyone’s back alley, a realm of time to which only you hold the citizenship, passport, and reality.

For comparison, here’s Pawsylvania in Winter (that’s Woody in the lower left corner):

August: it’s its own micro-nation. Catch it while you can.

(This post is dedicated to August. You know who you are.)

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