Count no’Count? Hardly!

Since my Dearly Beloved and I happened to be with friends in Oxford, Mississippi the week of William Faulkner’s birthday, we decided to visit St. Peter’s cemetery where he and a number of his family members are buried.  The original Faulkner burial plot was full by the time William died, so another plot was started and he was laid to rest there, as later were his wife and stepson.

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The Faulkners are buried on the side of the marker away from the road and his stepson,  Malcolm Franklin, is on the road side.   I took several photos and although not known for my powers of observation,  I saw nothing in that fourth spot, beside Malcolm’s grave.

BUT, a University of Mississippi map of Faulkner sites of interest mentions that this fourth gravesite, long vacant, is now marked with a smaller stone for an old family friend, E. T., who “came home to rest with us.”  The map points out that the whole thing is a carefully guarded secret and that no one, except for Faulkner’s nephew, Jimmy Faulkner, knows who it is.

If the stone is there, it must be very tiny, indeed.  I don’t remember seeing so much as a pebble, although at the time, I didn’t realize there was supposed to be a fourth grave there.   At the top of the steps leading to the plot, the family name was etched.   Alas, no E. T.

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Perhaps he phoned another home?

Remember the mysterious visitor–or perhaps more than one– who visited Edgar Allen Poe’s grave for over 70 decades on the anniversary of his birth and left behind a partial bottle of cognac and three roses?

It being the anniversary of Faulkner’s birth,  we (empty-handed, I confess) went to see if Oxford folks made a similar gesture at the grave of their famous citizen and left a special memorial of some kind..

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Um. . . not so much, although one person did leave an empty Maker’s Mark bourbon mini-bottle by the  column of the marker.  Faulkner would have preferred moonshine, but if not that, Scotch would do. Still, someone had been there.

Perhaps some Oxford residents are still holding a grudge.   After all, he did say this about the town in an interview with Esquire magazine in 1963:

Some folks wouldn’t even speak when they passed me on the street. Then MGM came to town to film Intruder in the Dust, and that made some difference because I’d brought money into Oxford. But it wasn’t until the Nobel Prize that they really thawed out. They couldn’t understand my books, but they could understand thirty thousand dollars.

To give the man his due, he said enough things–brilliantly–that earned him two Pulitzers and two National Book Awards in addition to the Nobel prize for Literature.   Here are a few quotations from his writings, not among his best known, although I found them interesting.

People … have tried to evoke God or devil to justify them in what their glands insisted upon.  – Absalom, Absalom!

Nothing can destroy the good writer. The only thing that can alter the good writer is death. Good ones don’t have time to bother with success or getting rich.  – The Paris Review, spring 1956

People everywhere are about the same, but … it did seem that in a small town, where evil is harder to accomplish, where opportunities for privacy are scarcer, that people can invent more of it in other people’s names. Because that was all it required: that idea, that single idle word blown from mind to mind. – Light in August

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kudos to the Weather Forecaster

It’s a snow day here and it’s lovely, a fairyland of white.  Our Southern yard is a winter wonderland, except for a little yellow snow-writing compliments of Scout-the-wonder-dog, and even that will be covered soon because the snow is still falling.

Thanks to Accu-weather, we knew it was coming.  Schools were closed, appointments were changed.   Forecasters are saying we could get 6 to 10 inches.  It’s definitely stay-at-home weather.

Like most areas of the South, our city doesn’t have enough snow plows to keep traffic moving.  They salt the bridges and the busiest streets before the snow starts, then the machinery they have is concentrated on the bridges and the main streets.  They won’t get to the residential streets.  Smart people wait it out.

The weather forecasters gave us plenty of notice, so folks were able to head to the supermarkets to strip the shelves of bread and milk.  Our neighborhood hardware store reported that they sold 300 sleds in 45 minutes yesterday morning.

Dearly Beloved and I made our preparations well in advance of the storm.  There was no urgency for bread and milk.  I baked cookies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each of us had our own priorities for survival.

I heeded the call for a Cab and headed to the store:

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Dearly Beloved chose to order his survival gear via Amazon.  The package arrived today, just ahead of the storm:

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No joke.

I should have baked more cookies.

–    –   –   –   –   –   –

“He was in a fairy kingdom where everything was possible.
He looked up at the sky. And the sky was a fairy realm like the earth. It was clearing, and over the tops of the trees clouds were swiftly sailing as if unveiling the stars.”
― Leo Tolstoy

M-I-Crooked Letter. . .

This time last week, Dearly Beloved and I were high-tailing it to Oxford, Mississippi–a nine to ten-hour drive, depending on traffic and my bladder.  We made it a two-day trip and planned to stay at a B&B along the way.

If you’re interested in trying a new career, look into opening a B&B in western Alabama or eastern Mississippi because you certainly won’t find much competition.  The problem is, you won’t find many towns along that route, either.

Charlotte’s ambient lights make this a tough place for stargazing, but let me tell you–nights on rural Alabama secondary roads are DARK!  That night, there was only a sliver of moon and few houses on our route, so we kept an eye out for deer or Bigfoot.   When we reached the small town B&B where I’d made a reservation, I learned that the one I’d chosen was on this bucket list!

IMG_0912I’m not sure I’ll make the other 99, but The B&B, a historic home built in 1870, happened to be serving their signature dish (in the lower left corner of the list)–a strawberry/almond Belgian waffle, not to mention bacon, fruit cup, and a giant chocolate chip/pecan muffin.    IMG_0907

I-85 through the Carolinas and Georgia is not a pretty route.  NC’s billboard lobbyists have won free reign at the expense of the trees and natural beauty.  South Carolina is even worse–it has seedy buildings intermixed with one giant billboard after another; one advertises Jesus and the next one an Adult Toy Store (perhaps an unfortunate order.)   I must say, KUDOS to Alabama and Mississippi for their highways and byways.  Their senators have done them proud securing federal road funds.   We’ve been in that area before, but this was our first time on the Natchez Trace Parkway or crossing the Ten-Tom Waterway.  Lovely!

My cousin had sent excellent directions, so we found the condo in plenty of time to visit before our lunch reservation:  a window table at City Grocery.  Since their food is to die for, it should top any list of 100 Places to Eat in Mississippi Before You Die.   The chocolate bacon bread pudding is certainly list-worthy.

I think I could live in Oxford, Mississippi and love it.  (That sound you heard was my cousin gasping in alarm.)   It is a beautiful old town with wonderful architecture, large trees, nice  restaurants and shopping, the best independent bookstore in the country, and right in the middle of it all is (drumroll, please…) Ole Miss.

(Photos of the campus and Saturday’s game in a later post.  It was quite a spectacle and even though I usually read during football games, I loved every minute of this one.)

Right after our City Grocery lunch on Friday, we headed downtown and our first stop was Square Books.  I could spend days…years… in there.  I’ve never seen so many signed books in my life!  IMG_0976

Next stop was their second store just up the block where I didn’t buy a cookbook because I couldn’t decide between…oh, 50 or so… that looked wonderful.  Garden & Gun magazine was hosting a book launch, so we browsed with their wine and hors d’oeuvres in hand.   A third store, filled with children’s books was in another block.

Square Books was the first bookstore to host a book signing for (then) local resident John Grisham’s books back when he was peddling his book out of the trunk of his car and he still shows his appreciation by signing his books for the store whenever he writes a new one.  Pat Conroy had been recently and signed books, as had authors like Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Donna Tartt (The Goldfinch.)

The bookstore specializes in southern books, especially ones by Mississippi authors.  (Think William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Shelby Foote and a host of newer ones like Kathryn Stockett–The Help)  Even DB commented that there was something about the area that made one want to sit down and write.

That probably makes you wonder why it took me a week to write this post.

Faulkner Alley sign
Faulkner Alley sign
The alley.
The alley.

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Ceiling of an old downtown building.
Ceiling of an old downtown building.

Books were my pass to personal freedom. I learned to read at age three, and soon discovered there was a whole world to conquer that went beyond our farm in mississippi. – Oprah Winfrey

I’m not saying she was stupid, but I asked her how to spell mississippi and she said ‘the river or the state?’ – Unknown

Find Room!

When the New York Times ran its glowing book review of Room, I was unpersuaded.  Even after they selected it as one of their top ten books that year, I dragged my feet. When I heard the author, Emma Donoghue, interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR last December, I became intrigued enough to at least put my name on the library waiting list.  I was still not sure I would read it… even though it had made the Man Booker 2010 shortlist.

When the library e-mailed me that the audio version of the book was waiting for me, I was 200 miles away and tempted to let it go on to the next person on the list, but my blogging friend, Mountain Woman, urged me to try it, adding that she, too, would never have read it had a friend not insisted she do so.  It was the nudge I needed… from someone I’ve never met personally.

I recommended it to KnitWitKim, another blogging friend, and even though we’ve never met either, she downloaded it onto her iPod at my recommendation and has been listening to it, every bit as entranced as I was.  I know that because she e-mails me about it, just as I did to Mountain Woman.

It’s difficult to tell much about the book without making it sound exactly what it isn’t, so I’m using my blogging friends as backup to encourage you to read the book.  Wander around the website and into Room.  Trust me that it is not a violent, sad, or depressing book.  It is an unforgettably sweet and tender one.

The book that stays with you, so you’ll probably want to talk about it with someone else who’s read it.  I’ll be here.

Reading the book will make you want to know more about the author and how the book came to be.  I’ll save you some trouble by giving you some links now.  Save them until your curiosity is piqued once you get into the book.  It will be.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/19/books/review/Bender-t.html

http://www.harpercollins.ca/author/authorExtra.aspx?isbn13=9781554688319&authorID=60063823&displayType=bookessay

I found the audio version to be extraordinary.  The voice on the website link I gave you is the narrator of the story.  That’s Jack… Ma’s JackerJack.

Even though I listened to every word, I still want to buy the book.  In Room, Shelf holds their special books.  I want this one on mine.

Book ’em, Danno

If I am posting too much about the garden show I saw last week, then perhaps it’s just as well that I overlooked a big chunk of it, even though it is one of my favorite parts:  the designer rooms.  You’d think this scene right at the entrance would have served as a trigger.

That thing lying between the two chairs was so ugly that I didn’t pay much attention to the rest of the room.  I was trying to figure out what might have made that shiny salmon pig-looking creature show-worthy.  Regurgitated dog came to mind. With all the cute stuffed animals out there, why in the world would they have picked one that looked like it was stuffed into a hotdog casing?

The books the designers selected for inspiration made me even sorrier that I missed the rooms.  Unusual choices!  Velva Jean Learns to Drive (a kitchen)…  Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (den)… and Judy Blume’s Freckles (dining room) were among them.  

The Time Traveler’s Wife was inspiration for a master bedroom.   Would only one side of the bed be mussed?  A guest room was designed as one for The Great Gatsby’s overnight friends–perhaps this guest:

(I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsby’s house I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited – they went there. -The Great Gatsby, Chapter 3)

The guide description of the last room, even though it doesn’t specify what room it inspired, really perplexed me.  The inspiration book  was The Story of the Trapp Family Singers. Kind of a shocker, huh?  Here’s the description in the guide:

Rhythm can be seen and heard filling friendly faces and quite (sic) spaces.  This room is designed for those times that people share together.

Huh? Try and wrap your brain around what that one might have been.

Click on these next pictures and enlarge them to see the exquisite details.  Don’t forget to turn up the scent sensor.

The Orchid Pavilion

Nero Wolfe - a clever choice for the orchid pavilion.

Nero was bested by this entry:

Best in show orchid winner.
Second place.

Ikebana (Ickybana)

A woman in our neighborhood teaches Ikebana.  She’s notorious for slinking around the neighborhood, stealing branches and blooms for her classes.  Beware the Ikebana neighbor.  Let’s assume that the exhibition plants were not pilfered.

I loved this book when I read it, so I was glad to see it used:

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

The Adventures of Momotaro, the Peach Boy

 

Not on your bedside table?  How about Plum Wine, The Moon Princess, or James Clavell’s Gai-Jin?

Peachy keen?

If the Bonsai section had book titles included with the displays, I must not have been paying attention.  I’ve included only two pictures because I didn’t spend much time there and didn’t make a note the winner.

Although I realize that this skill requires patience, talent, and artistry, bonsai always makes me  feel a bit sad.  (sigh) Do I need therapy?

And we’re walking… and we’re walking….

This section restored my good mood:

The Secret Life of Bees
Shaky shot of Scheherazade. Sorry!
The Secret Garden
Treasure Island
Last Child in the Woods

The Secret Garden and Treasure Island were used in several different display areas.  Easy to understand why.

Enough for today, my artsy-fartsy,  gardening, bibliophile friends.  Keep in mind that I’ve saved you the $10 ticket price and $6 parking fee, not to mention the sore feet.

I’ve saved a few odds and ends for another time.  Come back before the flowers fade.

Seat Yourself

Another section of the Southern Living Show offered groups an opportunity to design garden tablescapes around their favorite books.  Were this a “seat yourself” event,  would you make your seating selection based on the name of the book, the attractiveness of the table, or the people you would envision joining you–the author being one of them?

It might not be a bad idea to also factor in the dishes you think they’d be serving.   I’ll have to think about what that might be.

I’d never heard of the book below.  I Googled it and found one that is about how to have a healthy recovery from divorce.  Look at the glittery red shoes on the table.

Hmm.  I can’t decide. . . can you?  Let’s table it for now.

Garden Reading

Spring has already sprung in our area, although one hard frost could change all that.  I know that some places won’t be seeing spring for a while (sorry about that, Minneapolis) so today I went to the Southern Living Show to take in an extra dose of spring flowers to share with you. Oh, the sacrifices I make!

I’ve been to similar indoor shows in other cities, but this one is the best to me and the one this year may be my all-time favorite because of the extra creativity.  Exhibitors selected books as inspiration for their displays.   The gardens were large and quite popular, so I couldn’t possibly stand back enough to take a photo of the entire scenes.  Here are some snippets.

Water features were popular.

This won an award for best color palette.  (Note to self:  find something to paint RED!)

Any guesses?

The next one is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  A bubble machine added even more magic.

The candytuft patch in the Chocolate garden.
Treasure Island

One of my favorites faithfully recreated a page from a book called The Backroads of North Carolina. This scene used to be a common one in eastern North Carolina–an old tobacco shed and vintage tractor.  The smell of drying tobacco was pleasant… nothing like a lit cigarette.

This old gas pump was part of the same exhibit:

I know I should stop, but there was so much more…!

You’ll recognize this couple. . . Romeo and Juliet. Wait ’til you see the water feature.

"Did my heart love till now? Forswear it, sight! For I ne'er saw true beauty till this night."

It wasn’t hard to figure out how the landscape group made their book selection.  The name of the company?  The Loving Group.

Ya gotta love it  (and you know I had to say so.)

The books which inspired these and the other gardens included: The Secret Garden, The Giving Tree, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Darby O’Gill and the Little People, Avatar, Where the Red Fern Grows, The Last of the Mohicans, The Great Gatsby, The Notebook, and South of Broad, in case you’re trying to guess.

The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County garden had plenty of sassy frogs doing a little celebrating themselves.

There was an outdoor kitchen for Julie and Julia,  The Swiss Family Robinson, Boy Meets Girl, Brazil, and There’ll Always Be an England… is that a book or a song?

Maybe the book was a songbook.

(More?  This link takes you to pictures on the The Charlotte Observer website.)

Bad Case of the Bends

My husband often fixes my collar, tucks in a tag,  or straightens my jacket when I’m going out somewhere.  I’m awful about just yanking on clothes without looking in a mirror.  Mr. Tidy adjusts my most obvious imperfections and shakes his head.

“I just can’t get the eastern NC out of you.”

Oh yes, when one grew up in the big metropolis of Cha-lit,  one gets to say things like that to the small town girl, who pays no attention because she has a personal valet.

Miss Piggy woke me at 5 this morning.  I never ignore her calls.  Even with her meds, she’s a leaker, so when she asks to go outside, we spring into action.   She may not even do anything out there.  It’s probably all a ruse to get an early breakfast, but it works.  With Dearly Beloved being the lighter sleeper, it’s generally his job, but this morning it was up to me.  DB had long since wandered into the guest room during the night.  Somebody must have been snoring.  Hey–it’s not always me;  Miss Piggy’s nocturnal noises can dislodge bathroom grout.

I let her out,  poured food in her bowl, stuck her chewable don’t-pee-on-the-floor pill into the Pill Pocket which she requires, and then opened the back door, and stood back.  It’s worth it to watch her Greyhound dash to the laundry room and the waiting food bowl, the only time she runs all day.  It was still so early,  I went back to bed,  doubting I’d be able to go back to sleep.

I was wrong about that.  I turned on my bedside audio book and lay in that delicious semi-conscious state.  Even a murder mystery becomes a bedtime story when a pleasant voice is reading it in your ear.  When I opened my eyes again, it was almost 9 AM.

Yikes! I’d planned on putting some chicken bones out in the garbage early because it’s pickup day.  Was I too late?  I pulled on some old yellow pajama bottoms under my short gown and matching bathrobe, grabbed the chicken bones from the fridge,  and dashed out the front door.

The street was lively because of the lateness of the hour.  Such a lovely day!  I discarded the bones, not too late after all,  gathered a few dead branches and stacked them by the street,  picked up the newspapers, then watched the smirking squirrel hanging out near the lamp post to make sure the little bastard didn’t dig up the Clematis I planted there last fall.

I was glad I’d pulled on my pajama bottoms.  Otherwise, all my bend-overs would have been X-rated to all those passers-by.

When I back inside and laid the newspapers on the hall table, I caught my reflection in the mirror.  Oh, the horror!  My gown and matching robe were firmly caught in the back waistband of my pajama bottoms.

I am SO hoping that all that traffic wasn’t because aghast drivers had to ride around the block to get another glimpse of that full yellow Carolina moon!

—————–

That was the ugly, here’s the bad and the good:

My computer is needing more diagnostic tests than most hospital patients ever require.  Mostly e-mail issues–my main e-mail address  suddenly disappeared from the planet and no, it wasn’t due to a sunspot on the aforementioned moon!   BUT… if I suddenly disappear for a while,  know that I’m outside, trying to pull e-mails from thin air.

The good news is that I won a most delightful prize from Mille Fiori Favoriti’s  One World, One Heart event on her wonderful New York City blog.   My prize is an illustrated journal and a stationery folio by artist Kelly Rae Roberts.  I’m quite familiar with her work, thanks to my daughter–a big fan.  Pat, your random number generator may have generated a cool factor for me within my family!   Thanks!

The Sheet Hits the Fan

Perhaps it’s because I had a birthday this month, another step toward Old Fartesshood,  (you’ll figure it out; I have confidence)  that I have a few things I want to get off my chest.

Before you ask… no, I am not going to buy an underwire bra.

Sometimes, it’s the little things….

The Scarfette mystery remains unsolved.  Although you were kind enough to check some of the 28,000 scarfette Google links, any use for the ones I have still eludes me.  Without ripping out a seam or sewing them together, there is no way they’ll fit on a head.

Hello, Smithsonian…?

At least I think I could find their phone number!  Our phone company gives us two phone books–The Real Yellow Pages and the real teeny-weeny yellow pages, the latter having no reasonable purpose at all–they can’t even raise grandkids to the proper sitting height at the table.

We no longer receive White Pages with personal names and addresses–just a note that if we want white pages, we must order them.

Why  would they think we wouldn’t want white pages?  Finding personal phone numbers and addresses online is frustrating.  411.com, whitepages.com.  Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.   What do you use?

Besides the real and the teeny-weeny,  we receive a third commercial directory called Yellow Book.  How unoriginal!  What’s needed is an Easier Place to Find People and Businesses book.  And it shouldn’t be yellow.

Now,  onto itchy bitchy printed matters concerning fabrics….

OSHA needs to beef up its regulations and require that clothing tags be made of something besides steel wool.  Those thick, scratchy labels either stick out of my top or curl up on the nape of my neck, looking like a mouse hiding beneath my blouse.

That itches, Ralph.


Also, is it too much to ask that sheet manufacturers print the size of sheets somewhere on the darned things?  I’m certain we’re not the only ones with different-sized beds in our home,  yet none of the sheets have sizes printed on the labels.  I either have to remember what is what (not going to happen) or unfold them.  Am I missing something, or are the sheet manufacturers?

Finally, speaking of the printed word… if Dearly Beloved positions his bifocals like this for reading, isn’t it time for new glasses?

Four eyes.

Did You Hear What I Heard?

Some of the most beloved Christmas tales I read in childhood always made me cry.

The Birds’ Christmas Carol was one of my favorites.  This story by Kate Douglas Smith (Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm) of the frail, sweet child named Carol and her Victorian era parents and rambunctious brothers was so lovely that I never read it without crying, even though I considered them tears well-spent.  That didn’t stop me from writing a happier ending in my head though.

When The Little Match Girl by Hans Christian Andersen was presented as a drama on television in the 50’s,  I sobbed.  I had read the book, but seeing that poor, wretched little girl in the doorway. . . oh, the pain of it!  There are several animated versions online now and even this one from 1954, but I don’t remember it as being the one I saw.

The Gift of the Magi frustrated me.  I understood the beauty of the giving what was dearest, but I couldn’t get past the tragic irony to agree with O. Henry that the two lovers were magi.  She could grow more hair, but he wasn’t going to get his watch back, I thought.

Why the Chimes Rang by Raymond Macdonald Alden, the story of two poor brothers who made the magnificent church chimes ring by their acts of selflessness and generosity was much more satisfying.  It was achingly beautiful and sweet, I thought.

Do children read these tug-at-the-heartstrings stories any more?  Rudolph’s red nose pales in comparison!

So if I knew all these beautiful stories, which did we read aloud to our children each Christmas Eve?  (sigh) None of the above.

The Night Before Christmas and the New Testament story of Christ’s birth were mainstays, but beyond that, I blame my husband for the literary void.  He was, after all,  the one who introduced them to the one they always asked to hear… Ogden Nash’s poem about Jabez Dawes,  The Boy Who Laughed at Santa Claus.

If you missed any of these as a child, or want to share them with your children or grandchildren, consider the links my gift to you.

And Merry, Merry Christmas!

Granddog Ivy as The Little Match Girl.