Thursday, July 29, 2010

An Eggplant Fairy Tale

Last week, I promised to bring you a fairytale about eggplant. If this narrative is to bear any resemblance to a real fairy tale, I suppose it’s proper to begin with the familiar “once upon a time” device. So here we go. Once upon a time, there was an Italian girl who didn’t like eggplant. Not that she really remembers trying it, although she can recall harboring a vague disinterest in the deep purple vegetable and recollects a penchant for laying low when her mother began slicing, breading, and frying it as a “special treat” for her father.

That girl, of course, is me. But I’m older now, and wiser, and not much prone to low-laying these days. What’s more, I’ve become increasingly cautious of blind acceptance of “the way things are,” a wariness that has led me to question not only the reasons behind my stated tastes, but the status quo that causes most of us not to question what is put before us, say--for the case of this narrative--in the sterile, well-lit aisles of our local grocery chains.

My friend, Lori, recently introduced me to the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver—gave me my own copy, in fact. Within the covers of the book (which we’ll reference henceforth as A,V,M for brevity) I have found many reasons to regard with suspicion a goodly portion of the boxes, cartons, and even produce found at the average grocery store.

There’s been much talk of late about the High Fructose Corn Syrup Scandal—the one wherein the government is subsidizing farmers to grow so much corn that the food industry has volunteered us all to do our part to consume it—to the tune of 700 extra calories per person, per day, quietly folded into our cereals, crackers, condiments, and convenience foods (pg. 24 A,V,M) .

What’s less frequently discussed is the state of the produce on the store’s periphery—you know, the section in which those of us who are already on to the perils of boxed and bagged commodities typically feel pretty good about loading up the cart. Turns out, unless you live in the blessed state of California where I have only found there to be genuine, wholesome, fresh bounty at any time of the year—the fruits and veggies we’re labeling “fresh” simply by virtue of the fact that we’re not spooning them from a can-- are nothing more than shadows of their ideal selves. According to Kingsolver, a large percentage of these beleaguered legumes, berries, melons, and other assorted spheres were bred for qualities rendering them capable of sustaining long stints on the open road—and none of these qualities have anything to do with taste.

Good thing we’re still working within the structure of a fairy tale. The way I figure, that practically guarantees us entrance into an enchanted kingdom of wonder—and, as luck would have, Kingsolver handed over the key. I go there every Saturday, and, if my schedule allows, Wednesday mornings, too. As a result, most of my summer grocery money has been spent in places that look like this:

Where I buy food that looks like this:

And this:

Chances are, this kingdom stretches into your neck of the woods, too. If you don't know the way already, I encourage you to take a moment to see if you have a farmer's market near you.

See, we’ve been hoodwinked, plain and simple. Conditioned to believe that carrots are orange. Tomatoes are red. Cucumbers and long and green. But the truth? That little yellow sphere up there is just as much cucumber as its counterparts who resemble Larry of Veggie Tales fame. And, according to my nephew, it’s much sweeter, too. Who knew that there used to be over 4,000 kinds of potatoes, in a rainbow of colors and a cornucopia of flavors and textures…and now, even in the Potato Powerhouse that is Peru, only a couple dozen are commonly grown. I certainly didn’t, until I hit page 49 of A,V,M.

And let’s pause for a moment on the issue of flavor. My son, who, left to his own devices, would wash down boxes of chips and crackers with a fifth of Mountain Dew and call it a balanced diet—he’s been shoveling in green beans like they’re processed fodder. Just yesterday, he bought his own personal watermelon, and was spotted yesterday afternoon happily chomping on some butternut squash bread—butternut squash!

I also learned that the minerals and properties present in a region’s soil produce flavors distinctive to that locality. Apparently if you have a discriminating palette and spend enough time sampling regional fare it is possible to become familiar undertones of flavor unique to an individual region; to be able to identify what’s known as a local terrior.

So one day while walking through the Enchanted Kingdom, I couldn’t resist a timid foray into culinary bravery by picking up a modest five of these beautiful little eggplants. The dollar or two it cost me would have been well spent on the experience of just looking at them. But the farmer who sold them to me encouraged me to drizzle them in olive oil with a little bit of salt and pepper and throw them on the grill.

So I did. The first bite was sheer bliss. The taste reminded me of baked pasta. I couldn’t believe my palette. Was this what I’d been missing my whole life? I was almost afraid to try the next bite—this was too good to be true. The next bite was better than the first—I imagined an entire casserole slathered in fresh tomatoes and emerging, piping hot from my oven.

I immediately wanted more. I stopped by a small market owned by one of the vendors who frequents the Saturday market, and was told that eggplant matching the description I supplied would be off the vine in a day or two—in fact, that they’d set aside a bag for me, if I’d tell them how many I’d like. I thought 15, but settled on 10 when the farmer seemed alarmed.

For two days, I pined for eggplant like a princess yearns for prince charming. I was so eager to taste that fresh goodness I ordered a dish of eggplant Parmesan at a local eatery, and was horrified to receive a seed-filled plate of mush that became the villain of this fairy tale when it left me with a stomach ache.

So it was with trepidation that I received a bag with ten—count ‘em—ten! eggplants, each about three times the size of the little ones who had left me so enchanted. My Second Son and partner in local, organic eating experiments, disparaged the Mushy-Eggplant-Serving establishment and encouraged a positive outlook. Gamely, we sliced five of the ten fruits and gave them the same olive oil treatment, but were disheartened to watch them wax instantly brown, and note an alarming number of seeds in place of the creamy white flesh of the Prior ‘Plant.

Four of the eight people gathered around the table braved the eggplant that evening, and all sported grim flat lines from ear to ear. What appeared on our plates was an undercooked version of the overcooked mush I’d encountered the week before. And, Post ‘Plant, my stomach didn’t feel so hot, either.

Dreams of baked eggplant bliss dissolved. My sister seemed skeptical that the entire experience ever even transpired. Until she spied the miniature lavender beauties next market day.

“We have to get them,” she said. “We need to lay this all to rest, once and for all.”

“I don’t know…I just don’t think…” my voice trailed.

“Back for more?” the farmer queried. ‘I told you you’d like them, didn’t I?”

“Yes, but,” I stammered, laying out the whole tale.

“Of course you didn’t like the other eggplant!” he laughed heartily. “These eggplant aren’t like other eggplant,” he said.

“Well, what kind are they?”

“These are Fairy Tale eggplant,” he explained.

Of course. Fairy Tale eggplant. It made sense.

Tempering our hope, we tossed five in our reusable mesh produce bags (you DO use mesh produce bags, don’t you? I was fortunate enough to win a set from Erin…and I love them!) and hoped for the best.

Second Son was manning the grill that night. We decided against putting all our eggplant in one basket and grilled up lots of veggies in which we were confident, as well. As fate would have, there was a lot going on, grill wise, that night and the eggplant was a bit…soft.

I reluctantly took a bite…and smiled. “The baked pasta—it’s back!:

My sister’s fork went to her mouth. She paused, and brightened, “I tasted the baked pasta,” she said.

And if this were a proper fairy tale, we’d end right here with a good old happily ever after. But alas, subsequent samples revealed that the texture suffered from the extended cook time. And suddenly we all decided that we’re done with eggplant. For now. When we’re ready, we’ll take my niece’s suggestion and try it as an add-in feature in another dish….but I’m afraid it’s a simple “the end” for this season.

Mid Afternoon Update

I know I know, I promised you a mid-afternoon post...

It's in the works. Really. But we're dealing with a fairy tale about an eggplant, for crying out loud, and these things can't be rushed :)

This Space Reserved for Thursday's Post

There is a post coming today--this just isn't it. With a little luck, I'll have today's real post up and running sometime after lunch. So relax, get a frappe or a green tea, if that's your thing or do some chores or Actual Work, if you're feeling ambitious, and check back with me this afternoon...

See you then!

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Path of My Own

Sometimes, we’re our own worst critics. At least, that’s what my husband tells me whenever I’m convinced that my spare five pounds qualifies me for an appearance on The Biggest Loser, or scant comments on a favorite blog post makes me a lackluster writer. But every so often, a good stiff dose of criticism from the outside world can serve as some pretty good medicine for maladies of which you didn’t even know you were ailing.

Regular Readers know that I recently had the opportunity to swallow a prescription strength dose of denigration when a panel of art gallery critics decided that my portfolio of mosaic pieces—one of which was, at the time, ironically hanging on the walls of that very gallery as part of a juried show, but I digress—was not up to “gallery standards.”

I was unprepared for the negative review, particularly in light of the fact that a member of the board had actually requested that I submit my portfolio, and, as I mentioned, one of the pieces was already on display in their Hallowed Halls.

Family, friends from within and without the art community, and readers were quick to assure me that the gallery was way off the mark. I, however, was discouraged enough to have genuinely been at risk of never cracking tile again, had I not had an order to fill for my friend Gropius.

After a multi-day cooling off period, I took another look at the smaller of the two seahorses I was designing for Gropy. At the time of The Incident, I had been laying blue tiles across the seahorse-shaped board, but had not grouted anything in place. My initial assessment, Post Incident, was that I hated everything I saw. Before clearing the tiles off the board, I tried to put my finger on what was, exactly, wrong.

I glanced down at the sheet of paper on which I’d attempted to take notes on the gallery’s critique. Since I didn’t bother to document their opinion that I quit using wood bases, mixing different sizes of tile, and attempting any design not sanctioned by a beloved tome they referenced as The Book, I was left only with a single word…which I’d circled.

Elements. The elements of art: line, shape, space, color, value, texture…ingredients so key to visual art I have them painted across the walls of my classroom. How could I incorporate more of these foundational concepts in my seahorse design?

I quickly saw how I could use the varied shades of blue tile in a more unified configuration: light ones for highlights, and the dark ones in areas where my little guy would be in shadow, such as the inside curve of his tail. I also admitted to myself that the eye on my first seahorse was never quite the shining jewel I envisioned. So I chose a single glass gem on for the little guy, and a gem flecked by cut mirror, later, on his bigger counterpart.

I also decided to embrace my use of big and small tiles, but arrange them in an ever-narrowing path, from large to small, an idea that I never saw in a book, but made sense to me, design-wise.

My excitement mounted as I made the changes and my new design came to life, but quickly changed to horror when my daughter insisted that I show the new design to the gallery.

I didn’t want to show the new pieces to the gallery—for pride reasons as well as the fact that I’ve decided that I don’t want to work with the gallery. But I wanted to be a good example to my daughter. After all, I’ve always stressed the importance of not quitting, trying again, and other motherly mantras. Plus, she’d already caught on to the pride thing. I was left with little choice than to swallow hard and make arrangements for the board to take a look at my new pieces.

I sent them along with typed up artist statements which my husband and Second Son immediately pegged as “snarky.” I used a lot of art terms, and billed elements such as the disdained plywood backings as features (“the lemon/lime seahorse is designed as an indoor piece, mounted on 1/8 ‘’ plywood for lightweight durability”).

When I picked them up, I had a conversation with the gallery manager that went something like this:

“They’ve improved, but they’re still not gallery quality,” the gallery rep said.

“Oh, I am sorry to hear that you don’t like them.”

“Let me show you some online examples about how they should look.”

“Hmmm…well, I’m pretty happy with this work, and it’s already sold, so I’m not sure that’s necessary.”

“Oh, don’t be upset!”

“I’m not upset. I like my seahorses, and, like I said. They’ve already sold and I don’t have to share a commission with anyone.”

“Well, I still want you to see this,” she said, gesturing to a mosaic sunflower on her computer screen.

“Oh, wow, I’m really surprised that you’d show me this. It has a whole lot of large and small pieces. In fact, these two here look like they were squeezed in as afterthoughts,” I said, parroting the condemnation they rendered upon the small pieces in my prior seahorse.

“Oh, yes, those are terrible,” she said, quickly removing the image from the screen. “That’s a rather elementary work. Let’s find something else.”

She pulled up an image of a seahorse on a bowl. “See, this is more like it.”

“Oh, I’m really surprised you’d show me that,” I said. There’s no pattern here at all,” I said.

“It’s OK to have a crazy path pattern,” she replied.

“Really? Because you didn’t like that at all on the tray from the last portfolio.”

“The tray? Oh, no, we liked the tray!”

“Hmmm…I really didn’t pick up on that. I got the distinct impression that a pattern was better.”

“Patterns are good, but yours just isn’t quite good enough. Look at all the grout between the spaces!” she exclaimed. “It should be no more than 1/8th inch,” she said, her finger swirling around a grouted area of roughly an eighth of an inch.

“I’m really surprised you’d say that,” I said, “considering the only mosaic piece on display in this whole gallery is that mirror over there with several inches of grout separating broken bits of china.”

“Oh, we checked that mirror out today,” she said, obviously prepared for the challenge. “It does have a pattern. But honestly, no one knows why that mirror is here. It’s time for it to go.”

In closing, she showed me some highly valued examples, and I’ve basically determined that although the gallery rep claims at this point to like classical designs with Latin names, if I come in with those next month, she’ll be into large expanses of grout.

I began packing up my seahorse as she explained her hope that I’d make a few seahorses for the holiday show in November. “They would sell like hotcakes,” she explained. “Anyone would be happy to have them on their wall.”

“There’s one other thing,” she said. “I know it’s awkward, but I was wondering if you’d be interested in volunteering as a grant writer here. Wal Mart just rejected our proposal, and, well, we really liked your write-ups.”

You and I both know that it’s entirely possible that their grant wasn’t Wal Mart quality because they reject art that they know would sell. We also know that’s precisely the reason I can’t write grants for them, because I’m snarky enough to call that fact out.

So I continue on a path of my own design—although I may check in with the gallery from time to time for a good dose of motivational criticism to fuel my creative process. Maybe I’ll see what kind of twist I can put on some classical designs….

A note to readers: I love to design mosaics in a wide range of sizes, for all kinds of budgets. If you're interested in some custom mosaic art, please send me an email or post a comment. I'd love to make your ideas come to life!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Hang Ten

Although the Actual Waves I have caught of late are limited to the few swells I rode last week before an attack of jelly fish forced me to flee the sea, my time has, nonetheless, been devoted to surfing.

I’ve been riding a wave comprised of the activity and interaction that rises from a full house and summer fun. The skies are sunny, the climate is fine…and I’m enjoying as much as I can for as long as I can.

Regular posting will resume next week. Want a preview?

We've got a seahorse redux,

a fairy tale about an eggplant,

and a tiny little auction for a great, big cause.

See you then! Hope you’ll find some waves of your own to catch in the meantime.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Stories Shared With Good Company; or, Fleur De Lis for Erin

I’m expecting company today.

Not literal, hide-the–piles-of-junk-mail-and-baskets-of-towels-in-need-of-folding company, but hopefully a steady stream of virtual visitors who won’t really care if ivacuumed the ehouse and just might get comfortable here at my online digs and become Regulars.

If you popped on over from Erin's place today, you already know me as Cynthia, the artist, of fleur de lis fame. But, like any good story, there’s another side.

See, I’m Cynthia @ Running With Letters because that’s what I do—I run around all day, every day with ideas, and stories, and images , some more dangerous than the pair of blades with handles we’re all smart enough to stash while trotting.

For years, I’ve labored under the delusion that my artsy exterior was quite possibly a malevolent entity bent on suffocating my inner writer--the me who thrives on the words that pour from my heart like lifeblood. But I’ve come to realize that art is actually part of my story; that it’s just another facet of the creative process I’m wired to love.

I recently chose to unite these two not-so-divergent aspects of my persona by inventing “ARTicles,” a merger of creative forces which debuted on a business card as a sort of announcement of the handful of things I’m able to do in life. I basically came up with the idea and watched, curiously, to see what would transpire.

One of the first things that happened was that I got an Assignment that reminded me a whole lot of my days writing feature stories for the newspaper, even though it didn’t call on me to type a single word.

When Erin first asked me to design a fleur de lis, I barely knew what one was. From the outset, she told me how much the symbol meant to her—and when she explained its ties to New Orleans, I immediately understood—as a long time follower of Erin’s blog, I know how closely she holds new Orleans to her heart. I knew I had to get her fleur de lis right—and that’s when the reporter kicked in.

I wasn’t content to just learn the lines required to make a template. I wanted to know a little bit about what I was making. I took an online crash course on of the symbol’s rich political and history, and was surprised to discover that the symbol is not singularly French—my own Italian heritage intersects with the fleur de lis through the symbol’s connection to Florence, Venice, and Rome.

I had already discussed colors with Erin, and while her tile was firing in the kiln, I researched the many ways the image has been interpreted and stylized by other artists. I was amazed by the many variations of the fleur de lis and found several to which I was partial—but, like any good reporter, I went straight to my source to learn which incarnation of the symbol best captured the intended spirit and meaning for Erin.

By the time I was actually constructing the piece, I was wrapped in the story in a way not unlike my days as a features writer as I experienced—in a slightly different form—those fleeting moments when someone else’s story temporarily becomes part of my own. When communicating the dreams, ideas, or passions of another person becomes my focus and my challenge. As was so often the case when I told such stories in print, I found myself adopting some of Erin’s enthusiasm—a little jolt of interest every time—and there are now many—that I notice her signature symbol in my personal travels.

By the time I packaged Erin’s finished work, I, too, felt invested in the image, although I still no expert, as I discovered when my son found me wrapping the fleur de lis for shipment.

“Wow, it’s the symbol from the saint’s helmet,” he said.

“Oh. I guess it is, Buddy,” I answered, realizing that, indeed, it is—that, and so much more.

Thanks, Erin, for trusting me to tell your story—first in art, and now in words. I’ve loved doing both.

Thanks also to you, Reader, for sticking with me—because a story, in images or words, only exists when there’s someone with which to share it. If you have a story of your own that you'd like me to interpret on a custom piece of artwork, I'm a comment or email away--let's talk :)

I hope you’ll consider hanging out with me through many more stories—of both the visual and literary kind. If so, I’d love to have you as a follower. That way, I can visit your blog and enjoy your stories, too.

Monday, July 12, 2010

ARTicles, or A Good Scumble

In the midst of a late spring art class, I discovered that there’s a really cool name for a literal and metaphoric technique of which I’ve grown fond: scumbling.

Evidently, every time I’ve blurred lines at points where contrasting colors collide—a shift from shade to sun in a landscape, for instance, or the intersection of highlights and shadows on a canvas depiction of skin—I’ve been executing a fun-on-the-tongue art maneuver: Scumbling! Who knew?

The first time I scumbled in the literal sense was doubtless in the second-floor painting studio where Art Teacher J (not his real name) supervises the acrylic renderings of a resolute cluster of semi-serious artists and an ever-present gaggle of hopefuls. Art Teacher J was not fond of an apparently amateurish habit I picked up at a competing studio wherein I placed, side by side, wildly contrasting hues for emphasis. He found my transitions jarring and harsh, not unlike a compare/contrast essay composed by a struggling Comp 101 student.

Indeed, my experiences in writing should have warned me that transitions on canvas would be no easier than they are in print. Even as a good piece of prose depends on a convincing linking of concepts, a realistic visual representation depends on smooth seams and subtle shifts of shade. Art teacher J was a proponent of gradual mergers of color, of smooth slides from dark to light, soft to firm, one thing to another. A good scumble requires a gentle back and forth, a weaving of divergent colors and they form a unified image.

But just as art imitates life, the possibility exists for life to be informed by art. In the same way proper scumbling can render a more unified likeness, this same little tip, could, theoretically be applied to real life.

I perform instinctive acts of scumbling on a daily basis. Coffee happens to be my medium of choice when it comes to making smooth real life transitions. In the morning, it’s the link between sleep and shower. I bring a full mug of it every time I move from the sunny tones of my home environment to the varied shades of work, invariably dribbling it in artful splotches along my route as I forge a connection between the two arenas. After dinner, it’s the common thread between savory and sweet.

I scumble, too, every time I pack pillows, blankets, or other comfort items for a trip, and, conversely, bring home souvenirs; some—like my Mexican blanket--that eventually become comfort items in their own right.

But not all scumbles are instinctive. Some elements in life seem to defy seamlessness. The sheer number of venues in which we must perform can make our experiences feel disjointed, jarring. We operate in seemingly distinct arenas, often without a unified sense of purpose. I, for instance, have spent innumerous hours wondering if my “artist” persona is trying to kill my identity as a writer.

One day, it occurred to me just how much wisdom there was in the thought that both are creative pursuits—two facets of a single passion. So I scumbled them, in a single word and slapped it on a business card—and, just like that—I’m the sole proprietor of ARTicles; or Me, Incorporated.

Does this insight solve all of my problems? Hardly. But every masterpiece was once a work in progress. This is my work-- I’ll keep you updated on the progress.

What's your work--and does it, well,work with the rest of your life? Am I alone in feeling pulled in divergent directions?

Friday, July 09, 2010

The Path Not Taken

“You’ve got to be kidding!” My husband exclaimed. The entire population of our heaving mini-van—which included my son, daughter, Bonus son, niece, husband and myself—simultaneously contorted our necks in an attempt to follow the upward grade of the rocky ribbon of rough terrain before us.

Pulling out of my sister’s driveway enroute to last week’s camping in cow fields, my husband turned to our trusty GPS for a streamlined travel itinerary. Clearly, he was in the market for an adventure; past trips powered by the GPS have seen us dumped at the doorsteps of homes billed as Dunkin Donuts and abandoned in a series of vacant lots, most notably last year enroute to the same pastoral location when a quest to replace a forgotten tent led us to the stoop of a substandard store in a hick burg and left my son and bonus son with nothing more than a crudely constructed lean-to in which to repose. Typically a sucker for adventure, I was having difficulty throwing caution to the wind in the case at hand, considering this time it was my own accommodations on at stake, as my husband accidently grabbed the wrong air mattress—the perpetually flat one—and I’m in the process of making a clean break from my chiropractor.

Less than a minute removed from my sister’s property, the Tom Tom GPS suggested an unexpected turn off the straight and narrow, and about three minutes after that we found ourselves at the foot of a rugged path flecked with signs contraindicating smooth passage.

“Have you ever seen this place?” I called to my niece in the backseat. She never had.

My husband—who I may have mentioned, was gunning for adventure—actually turned the wheel of our laden vehicle in the direction of the glorified footpath.

The engine whined and the wheels tossed gravel like so many fireworks. The vehicle wobbled precariously. My husband retreated in disappointment.

Undaunted, the GPS recalibrated in response to my husband’s request to “avoid roadblocks” and sent us on a wilderness tour along a creek that was quite possibly named after a Mexican entree. We drove on without incident for several minutes until we happened upon an obstruction that appeared for all the world to be a roadblock.

“Have you ever seen this before?” I again queried my niece, who, I will remind readers, was still mere miles from home. She had not.

My husband—either in blind confidence in Tom Tom or as a slave to adventure—didn’t miss a beat. He skimmed right under the bar—which turned out to be a sort of regulatory yardstick for determining if your car will fit beneath the roof of the covered bridge, which we did—barely. I'm less certain of the function of the stern looking man sandwiched between the horizontal bar and the 6'3 sign.

Coming out on the other side of the bridge, we pressed forward. Eventually we came to a “T” in the road. My niece’s voice pops up from the backseat. “I recognize that house!” she said. “We’d have passed it twenty minutes ago if we hadn’t made that turn off the main road.”

"But where," my husband countered, "would we be if we'd been able to get up that path?"

I'm betting on the back stoop of a poorly stocked store just around the corner from a vacant, coffee-less lot.

Friday, July 02, 2010

Happy Independence Day; or No Wonder I Got a Call From the Civics Teacher

In honor of Independence Day weekend, I'm recycling some leftovers from Memorial Day...2007. No worries, Readers, I'm not referencing edibles--just a post from the early days here at RWL, back when my readership topped out at around three. It's a thematically appropriate read and a metaphoric reminder to reuse the goods in the back of the pantry, the bottom of the closet, and the backlog of under-read writings before burning actual fuels or the midnight oil to get new material.

“Welsh? Who wants to be Welsh?” my 12-year-old son wailed. “I’d rather be a barbarian… or a Viking!”

I’m in the van, with the family on the way back home from the Major Book Tour yesterday when some sort of genealogical controversy broke out in the backseat between the children concerning whether or not they really are Italian—a deep seated illusion of which I am thoroughly responsible.

We eat pasta. We have family stories peopled with characters with names like “Uncle Icy". We recognize Italian phrases uttered by the Sopranos. We even took our daughter on a pilgrimage to the Mother Land when she was 4.

Trouble is, my husband never tasted gnocchi until he met me, and, if you must know, I’m a hybrid myself.

The Italian myth is a great testament to the powers of oral tradition. My full-blooded Italian grandfather filled me up with tales of old country emigration and hints of new world Mafioso in between healthy servings of pasta fagoli and antipasto.

Besides a certain currant-filled fried cookie that makes an annual appearance around the Holidays, nothing from Wales appears in my family lore, dispite the fact that I knew my granmother to be at least partially Welsch.

After a quick question to husband revealed that Welsh blood abounds in his family, too, my son dialed my grandmother from his cell phone.

“She’s half German and half Welsh,” he reported unsteadily.

“Welsh are just as good as the rest of the people, Brother,” my daughter explained in a no-nonsense tone.

The children decided to call my mother for more information. More German roots were unearthed.

“Brother, you have to call Grammie,” my daughter said, realizing the need for data from my mother-in-law to get a full picture. “We might be German.”

“I’ve already told half the world I’m Italian!” my son lamented. “Now I’m going to have to post a pie chart on the Internet!”

“We have to dig for the truth,” my daughter said, calculations flying across a sheet of paper. “So far, we’re an 1/8 Italian and 3/16 Welsh,” she reported, “and we might be a whole lot of German—MAKE THE CALL!”

Today finds the children still missing gaps in their heritage. Calls to Grammie were not immediately returned.

This morning, my son—the native Virginian who’s spent his entire life with Colonial Williamsburg in his front yard and Jamestown out back—proudly strode into the front yard to admire the flag we hung in honor of Memorial Day.

“We’re the most patriotic people on the street, Mom,” he said. “And we’re not even American.”

A note about this week’s programming: I'm away right now, but it’s possible you won’t even miss me! Thanks to the magic of pre-posting, I’ll be here all week. I’m looking forward to coming home to all of your comments, and catching up on all of your blogs, too.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

A Befuddling Bit of Botany

There’s a phenomenon underway in my yard, and I’m at a complete loss.
I’m no expert, but it appears for all the world as though there’s a mutation in progress. I’ve got no credentials, and limited experience on which to draw.
I figure my best bet is to lay the situation out right here in this forum and see what we can deduce.

It all started with some average tiger lilies, culled from a neighbor’s yard. If there’s a bulb or two dug up in an innocent roadside heist a decade back, I certainly can’t remember the details.

Here’s a representative shot of the perp:

There’s your basic profile of the flora which have grown on my property for enough years to have built a resume of consistency and regularity. Note the single tier consisting of six smooth petals.

With no new stimuli intentionally brought into the equation, here is what now grows, interspersed with the Regular Lilies:

What in the world??!! I count four tiers of ruffled, dare I say, iris-like petals? What is going on? Is anyone out there in possession of data by which we can explain and put to rest the confusion of the Mutant Lily?

A note about this week’s programming: I’m away right now, but it’s possible you won’t even miss me! Thanks to the magic of pre-posting, I’ll be here all week. I’m looking forward to coming home to all of your comments, and catching up on all of your blogs, too.


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