Delights: October 21 to October 27

Sunset reflections over Assateague Island and Sinepuxent Bay marsh. Photo by Kevin Ogle.

October 21: Women of eclectic tastes, my book club last night discussed not only Hamnet but also our television favorites. One woman described a new series based on Lucrezia de’ Medici, who she said was the subject of Robert Browning’s poem “My Last Duchess.” 

I put down my wine glass; I know only a handful of poems intimately, and this is one. In describing it to my friends — the poem is a monologue by a duke as he displays his art collection to a visitor — I appeared considerably more erudite than I am.

I did not explain: When we were little, my sister and I would tuck ourselves behind a comfy red chair angled in the corner of our living room. The chair hid the lower shelves of a bookcase where my Dad had placed his very old school books. One of these books was a child-size collection of poems by Robert Browning. I memorized a few tiny ones (“…God’s in his heaven/All’s right with the world.”) But I kept coming back to a very sinister one: “My Last Duchess.”

In part, the poem reads:
. . .
She had 
A heart — how shall I say? — too soon made glad, 
Too easily impressed; she liked whate’er 
She looked on, and her looks went everywhere. 
Sir, ‘t was all one! My favour at her breast, 
The dropping of the daylight in the West, 
The bough of cherries some officious fool 
Broke in the orchard for her, the white mule 
She rode with round the terrace — all and each 
Would draw from her alike the approving speech,
Or blush, at least.
. . .
I gave commands; 
Then all smiles stopped together. There she stands 
As if alive.

. . .
I was ten or eleven. Subtlety was not my specialty. (The Nancy Drew books were quite direct.) Therefore, I still recall my shock when I understood what was happening. I felt like a door to the adult reading world had been kicked wide open. 

My heart — how shall I say? — continues to be made glad.

Bonus: Here is Browning’s “My Last Duchess.” I also listened to a handful of recitations (scary). I like this version best, read by Alfred Molina.

October 22: I waited to buy wildflower honey at our farmers market while the beekeeper served another customer. “You’re in luck,” she told him. “Those are the last three.” With enthusiasm he bagged three cup-sized containers of what looked like toasted golden couscous. The label read “100% Bee Pollen.”

I asked him how he used bee pollen. For allergies, he replied. “One spoonful a day. It’s made from all the tree and flower pollen that I’m allergic to. It absolutely stopped my symptoms,” he said. But you need to buy local, he insisted. “Buy where you breathe.”

I kind of hoped he would offer to sell me one of his containers. The beekeeper read my mind. Don’t worry, she assured me. Your wildflower honey does the same thing.

The honey also soothes my teachers voice after a long day with the fourth graders.

More Halloween window art in Falls Church, Virginia.

Bonus: Leaving the farmers market, I saw a piece of litter on the sidewalk. Then I saw orange-vested Girls Scouts with their litter grabbers and bags. I’d already tidied the sidewalk behind them. So I left this prize for them.

October 23: Our town has a small art gallery that invites submissions for juried shows. I volunteer as a docent at least once for each exhibition, which allows me to immerse myself in local artists’ work without having to do my usual last-minute scamper to see a show before it closes. Today an artist stopped by. We chatted about her recent work, in which she arrays primary-color puzzle pieces in chunky stripes. She showed me a photo. Oh! I said, this reminds me of Alma Thomas.

She enthusiastically agreed, and we spent the next few moments showing each other photos of all the Thomas paintings that we carry on our phones. The artist’s puzzle piece idea is pretty cool, because it creates patterns of white space around splashes of color, as Thomas does. “But, oh my,” the artist confessed, “capturing Thomas’ ideas was impossible.” We agreed: Alma Thomas makes complexity so simple and beautiful.

Grassy Melodic Chant, 1976, Smithsonian American Art Museum. This piece was inspired by the circular path in Thomas’ garden.

Bonus: Surrendering to the inevitable, I’ve created an “Alma Thomas” tag for this blog. I encourage you to click on the tag below if you are unfamiliar with her work or want to read my posts celebrating her (and her effect on me).

Double Bonus: Today would have been my Mom’s 96th birthday. She was smart, creative, generous and very hard working. She was a New York fashion designer, Brooklyn Dodgers fan, our county’s first Director of Consumer Affairs, and, after retirement, mayor of my hometown (which, Mr. P., we pronounce Shrew-sbury). She and my Dad were married 49 years. I was so lucky she moved near me for her last years. You can read a story of my Mom in Depression-era Brooklyn. I still love her so much.

My Mom enjoying the Bolivian dancers on Memorial Day 2014.

October 24: I saw one of my “hugging” fourth graders in the grocery store yesterday. She was riding in her father’s shopping cart, so I didn’t get to test my new no-hugging resolve, but I gave her my most cheerful “Hi, Ginny!” salute. I also saw a third grader in another store. Cocking his head, he looked at me in slight confusion. I played it cool, smiled and kept going. But in the lunchroom today, I approached him: “Did I see you in the store yesterday?” Yes! He practically shouted. Then he  turned excitedly to his lunch buddy as I walked away. I could hear his loud whisper: “I saw her in the STORE!” 

Ah, yes, I remember my surprise when I learned that teachers — even substitute teachers — don’t live at school.

Happy Diwali! Kevin smiles in front of a local tribute.

Bonus: The daily witticism in our neighborhood spoke thus: “My teacher always said not to worry about spelling because we have autocorrect. For that I’m infernally grapefruit.”

October 25: A third-grade girl climbed on top of a playground table. Holding a mint-green journal bristling with post-it notes, she invited her friends to join her. The girl opened her journal, and I saw lines of pencilled notes. To their audience (me), she declaimed her line, pointed in turn to the girls around her, and finally swept her arm to signify saying the line in unison. 

“We’re practicing,” she explained. She ran her troupe through their lines again: “Here comes the General!” And, later, “Thomas Jefferson is coming home.” And still later, “I’m not throwing away my shot!” It’s Hamilton, she said, but nobody dies.

October 26: While enjoying my daily 7:15 am date with Spelling Bee, my phone rang. The high school needed an emergency substitute teacher. Could I come? Sure. The best part was telling the high schoolers about seeing the third grade boy at Staples and his reaction the following day. 

I promised the teenagers: if I see you at Staples, I’ll totally play it cool. However, I make no promises if I see you in school the following day. 

In my high school class, one student said a nearby college campus “looks like Europe” to her. I encouraged her to visit the Library of Congress, which brings a little bit of Italy to Washington, DC.

October 27: I hadn’t used our outdoor shower in a while, but with the sun so bright and the temperature nibbling 60 degrees I decided to treat myself. I donned my robe, slipped into my sandals and dashed for the shower where I’d find soap, shampoo and lots of sunshine above the shower walls.

In the shower, fallen oak leaves crunched under foot, a sunflower showerhead seeded me with hot water, and the sky — so blue! — wound like a river around trees in autumn color. Perfect. Everything was perfect. I turned off the water and reached for my —

Whoops. No towel. Everything was still perfect.

Readers, to receive notifications by email each time I make a post, just scroll all the way down this page (next to the “word cloud”), look to the left and click on the black button that says “Join Me!” And if you think a friend might enjoy these, please share the Delight!

If you’d like to browse my past delights, please consult the “word cloud” featured at the very bottom of this post. Find a theme or two that interests you and sift through the sands. Or learn a bit more about my Blog by visiting my Welcome page. You’ll also see links to four essays that were published in print magazines. I’m glad you’re here!

17 thoughts on “Delights: October 21 to October 27

  1. I just finished reading “the marriage portrait ” the latest book from the author of “hamnet” in which your Robert Browning poem is featured. I reccomend it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for mentioning O’Farrell’s newest book. I’ve seen it at the bookstore. I’ll definitely check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a delight reading this. I’m sure your students are “infernally grapefruit” for a teacher like you. 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh, that’s lovely (and funny). Thank you so much for your encouragement in both my teaching and my blogging!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a wonderful week, filled with so many delights. I’m so glad you introduced me to Alma Thomas – maybe one day I will see her works for real. I love your school stories – always fun. And your mother sounds quite a magnificent woman – what a lot she achieved.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Barbara, for sharing my delight this week. And it’s funny to think that a year ago I didn’t know Alma Thomas either. I’m glad she’s in my world now — and yours! Yes, my Mom was a magnificent woman. I very much appreciate your words.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Your ability to recite The Last Dutchess is very impressive. Your Book Club members were likely in awe.
    Your mother sounds like such a remarkable women — so much strength and diversity.
    Oh, and being a former teacher/principal, I totally get the students’ reaction to seeing you IN THE STORE! What???!!! Teachers don’t eat and sleep at their desks??!! Who knew??

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, Donna, for your rich comment. Full disclosure: I couldn’t recite My Last Duchess, but I knew enough of the story to fake it. My Mom was indeed a remarkable woman and a good example for me!

      And I knew you would appreciate my teaching stories, especially that one: a teacher on the loose!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hi, Carole Ann – Even your ability to fake a recital of My Last Duchess is very impressive! I would have no idea where to begin!


  5. Yes, when we were young, our teachers appeared to us as exotic beings, so remote from our own mundane, humdrum existence. Recognising that teachers are people too, with their own strengths, weaknesses and funny little foibles is one of the milestones on the route to adulthood.

    An outdoor shower in a temperature of barely 60 degrees? Really? I’m shivering on your behalf as I write this…the phrase “cruel and unusual punishment” springs effortlessly to mind!

    I loved the joke about autocorrect and recognise the kernel of truth that lies within it. As for the correct way to pronounce “Shrewsbury”, I fear we must politely and respectfully agree to differ!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mr. P., as always for your thoughtful musings. The shower was delightful; running back to the house dripping in my robe, not so much!

      I think you’re right about that threshold we cross when we realize teachers are people too. I still recall exactly the moment I saw my second grade teacher outside a store at a local sidewalk sale. I was excited and shocked at the same time!

      And, yes, we will politely and respectfully disagree about Shrewsbury’s pronunciation. It’s a flexible word and we’re obliging people!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. And on similar subject, I recall the shock I felt when I realised that doctors get ill. How dare they, I thought, they’re job is to make me better and not to get ill themselves. Ah, the innocence of youth!

        Liked by 1 person

  6. I laughed out loud at the boy who was so astonished you saw him at the STORE. I enjoyed the Diwali photo with Kevin and the one with the ceiling in the Jefferson building at LOC. That building is one of our treasures in the DC area. Love 😄 oops no towel.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for stopping by, Jini, and for sharing my affection for the Library of Congress. Sometimes I go in just to gape at the architecture! And I’m glad the other funny (and beautiful) parts resonated too. Someday, I’ll hear your story of first seeing “a teacher in the wild.”


  7. I, too, had a giggle about the boy’s reaction to seeing you away from school. The shower sounds heavenly. At least you had your robe. 😉 The Browning poem gave me the shivers. Finally, thanks to you, I am now a huge fan of Alma Thomas. Wowsah!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Laurie, for your full-throated happy comment! I was definitely thinking of you when I created the Alma Thomas tag. Now we can both pop back in to visit her whenever we wish!

      Liked by 1 person

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