Friday, July 28, 2006

New quilt layout

So I decided to piece a new quilt this week--not too large, something roughly 36 x 36 or so. I'm posting these photos in reverse order so you can see the pattern develop from the initial block, which is called a "broken dishes" pattern. Scroll down for the rest of the photos. This evening I will "square up" all the blocks (trim them to a uniform size and squared-off shape) and piece them together; tomorrow I will add borders to complete the top. Randy is planning to start quilting on it before the weekend is out, while I put the binding on the small quilt he is just finishing up.

New quilt layout (2)

Here, then, are the initial blocks, arranged on my flannel wall as they will appear in the quilt.

(A flannel wall, by the way, is simply a large sheet of flannel that's tacked to a wall: when you place and lightly press fabric pieces against it, they stay in place. This is great for figuring out block arrangements.)

New quilt layout (3)

Continuing in reverse order, here is the second block pattern--a simple four-patch--arranged on the flannel wall.

New quilt layout (4)

And here is photo #4, which shows what happens when you merge the two separate block patterns. It may be immediately apparent to some of you that there would have been an easier way to create this quilt pattern, but since I didn't know where I wanted to go with the broken dishes blocks at the start, I am happy to have arrived by this route.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Fly united

A few years ago, the Monarch butterfly population was devastated by a killing frost in Mexico; researchers waded through the bodies like dead leaves. In the summers since, I noticed very few local Monarchs, though last year there were a few. This summer, hardly a day goes by that I don't see one. On our drives up into the mountains last weekend, Monarchs were everywhere (and, given the choice, who wouldn't prefer the spectacular views, rather than risk a windshield-squashing?), although according to experts their numbers are still in a precipitous decline.

This past fall, I meant to gather some milkweed seeds: we have a small sunny area that could be set aside to grow them. I like the pinkish flowers anyway--similar in color to Joe-Pye weed, which is starting to bloom everywhere in the roadside ditches and fields, though its relatively immense height (5 to 6 feet or more) makes it an unsuitable candidate for our small back yard.

So I was delighted to capture this photo last Saturday, on an overlook of the North White Deer Ridge of Bald Eagle Mountain. Three or four Monarchs were feeding on a stand of milkweed--which also drew a hummingbird--and then we spied these two. When they eventually lifted off they were still conjoined.

[photo: mating Monarchs, 7/22/06]

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Hammock time

Reading, writing and quilting. My e-mail is set to vacation mode (sort of like screening my calls--I still check messages but only answer the most interesting ones).

Stopped by the office to water plants--my Tom-Toms have 4 tomatoes!--and there was a little ant trap thingy in the hall outside my door, completely swarmed by teeny black ants. Are these sugar ants? As kids, we always called them piss ants.

* * * * *
Great visit with my sis Sandy, who had business in Hershey & came on up afterward for the weekend. Bearing a box of Busken butter cookies. They're already gone. I'm still moaning. Busken's is one of the five things I miss about Cincinnati (1-4: my parents & siblings). Oh yeah, #6:Half Price Books. How I miss Half Price Books.

* * * * *
Congratulations to Paul Guest: his manuscript, Notes for My Body Double, has won the Prairie Schooner Book Prize! And congrats to runner-up Stacey Waite: a thousand bucks makes second place look pretty sweet.

[photo: heirloom morning glory on our cucumber trellis]

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Home stretch

Three days left of the summer semester--it's going fast--and then a weekend of somewhat mad grading, dovetailed by a visit from my sister Sandy, who'll be in Hershey for business at the end of the week. We're thinking about a jaunt up to World's End on Monday--as soon as I turn in my grades--if the weather has cooled as predicted. I just want to unwind.

* * * * *
Tinkered on a little poem this morning, "The River Path": something quiet and meditative that ends with a vibrating apple. I may read it in September at the Upper Susquehanna River Basin Conference here at Bucknell. There's a poetry reading scheduled for 5:30 after a full day of topics. The conference is on Saturday, 9/23; you can get more information by emailing
Hannah Holm.

* * * * *
Thinking about some poems-in-progress that I'm collaborating on with my friend Darcy. I want to start a new series with him, based on lines by Cavafy.

* * * * *
Eeek: need to eat some lunch and rush off to class--

[photo: canna leaf, July]

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Blue gift

The neighbors went away on vacation last week. So did their neighbors, and the neighbors in the corner house. We sat in our garden and marveled at the silence, broken only by the frequent blurring of wings as numerous sparrows, house finches, cardinals, robins, one dull yellow-and-brown striped mystery bird (possibly a warbler?) and a trio of sleek gray compatriots busied themselves at the thistle feeder and birdbath. I thought the gray ones were catbirds but they lack the dark Mohawk-style cap. I don't know what they are.

The Kellys left a red vase of flowers on our patio table. I couldn't stop photographing the delphiniums. So blue.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

First rain lilies of the summer

Glanced out the back door this morning and noticed that the rain lilies (zephyranthes) have send up two buds. They will prolly be open by the time I get home this afternoon, but I culdn't resist dashing out in the rain to snap a photo.

I first remember seeing zephyranthes in flower in Indiana, at my aunt's house. My family had driven out for a typical weekend visit, and as we were walking up the front steps, my mom asked what those pretty pink flowers were. "Oh I don't know the name," my aunt replied, "I just call them rain lilies." Because I have always had a naturalistic temperament (and yes, because I was a little gay boy drawn to "pretty pink flowers") I always remembered rain lilies, though I didn't see them again until my twenties when my friend Eddie Woods grew them in Lexington.

In Houston, I would stop the car to jump out and examine the smaller white-flowered zephyranthes (z. alba) and a sweet little lemon-yellow one (z. citriodora?) that grew right through the lawns of dense St. Augustine grass. And I bought pink zephyranthes bulbs at the local nursery to plant in my garden, where they multiplied like crazy.

Here in the north, the bulbs have to be protected from freezing (and, I've found, from squirrels). Two winters ago, I had them in a hanging pot that I hung in the laundry room; half of them rotted from getting too cold. So last winter I hung the pot in the basement stairwell (we have a dirt-foor basement, very spooky and totally useless except for maybe burying a body). So these flowers are a long-awaited treat.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Not so fast

Recent developments over the weekend have thrown my fall plans into a tizzy, but now that the dust has settled (and official confirmation has been sent down from the deans), I can share that I won't be editing West Branch this fall.

Instead, I'll be interim editor in the spring. All is well, all is well: instead of three courses this fall, I'll have two; instead of one in spring, two. So if you were planning to send me work after August 15, please go right ahead and do it. We always contract on an either/or basis (your poem, "Child Drowned in Breast Milk" [thank you Meg; I have never forgotten that] will appear in either 60 or 61--that sort of thing). I'm editing #61. For #60, I'm fiction ed, as usual (but still read about 20% of the poems that come in).

* * * * *
We have a car. With air conditioning. For two weeks. I arose at 5 AM yesterday to accompany Betsy to the Harrisburg airport and bring her car back to Lewisburg. She's in Minnesoh-ta. I'll pick her up the day after I turn in summer grades. She says we can go anywhere we like in the car. Baltimore? I asked. Uh-huh, she said. (I'm taking Randy out for a memorable meal as soon as my summer pay hits the checking account; he so deserves it.)

* * * * *
Our campus e-mail system (Eudora) filters spam in a fairly efficient manner. Stock picks slip through, as well as the occasional line of gibberish: it looks like text lifted from several sources and spliced together. Something like, well, actually, here's one from the other day:

remember. When the panic began he and all his neighbors ran to the bridge in
search back to Alice's tea party to find a scene as mad as the chamber of
without question. If someone starts fumbling or asking questions I'll hit

details were blurred - something about fighting for food, and being

This got me to noticing the subject lines in the filtered spam (one has the option to check over the list of nabbed messages, in case a "real" person is trying to get through), and I found some quirky, energetic language that seems accidental or perhaps the result of mistranslation, but nevertheless got me copying a few into my notebook. Nothing yet has come of this, but I feel something beginning to gel. All you hip language poets out there are prolly way ahead of me on this; for the rest of us I say check it out.

Here are three examples of intriguing (to me) spam subject lines: internal tiebreaker, mope-eyed, and (my favorite) mutual wow.

I love that one. I think it's going to replace "happy ending" in my sexual vocabulary.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

What is it?

Last weekend while the Kellys were away, I poked around in their garden and took a few photos. Here's one I especially like. I will send a signed copy of my newest chapbook (a $10 value) to the first person who can correctly identify this plant.

[Contest limited to U.S.-dwellers only; those outside the U.S. are welcome to request a PDF file of the chapbook.]

Saturday, July 08, 2006

If a tree falls on your parents' carport and you're too far away to hear it, say oh, 500 miles, how long will it take for someone to let you know?

Well it was Mom herself who finally phoned. They are fine. Could have been worse. Dad's van is totaled; they're not sure yet about Mom's car--can't go near the carport because it could fall down the rest of the way. Insurance said they'd pay to have the tree removed from the roof but not from the property. Lots of photos taken. Impressive crane and other machinery enlisted by the tree crew. Insurance companies can go suck toad urine.


Delightful painting on the wall of the student lounge, 3rd floor of the chemistry building. Large skylight overhead, huge windows, nice sofas and tables. I had glanced out the window of my building the other day while at the soda machine and noticed some folks in various lounging poses, so decided to investigate.

Even nicer, in terms of the view anyway, is the faculty lounge on the opposite side of the hall (front of building): the tall windows provide a great panoramic view of the surrounding hills, and of the area's other major employer: the penitentiary.

Couldn't find information on the artist. Will ask.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Decisions, decisions

So yesterday, on my way to class, I was waylaid on the stairs. I was buttonholed (nicely). Gently detained. Made an offer which, though it may cost me my sanity, I do not think I can refuse:

"Ron, would you consider teaching a course overload?"

"For spring?" I warbled.

"For fall."

But I already have an overload for fall, I thought. (But it's only 15 more students, I reasoned.) But it's an extra course prep, and my summer will be nearly over when I finish teaching composition, I thought.) But I could use the same texts in the extra intro section, so in some ways it's still only three preps, I argued.) But I'm editing West Branch this fall and we have one less editor on staff already, I thought, and I have no idea if that work is equivalent to one course or--more-likely--two. (Come on, people do this all the time, look at the 4/4 loads that some of your friends are handling, I bullied.) But I won't get any writing done, I mewled. (But it's more money, I goaded.)

"We would truly appreciate your stepping up for the department in this situation." (Oh. He's still standing here. Shit.)

I blinked. How much more money? Should I ask him? Would that give the wrong impression? Wait, I'm a visiting assistant professor this year, it has to be more money than if I were adjuncting. But what if I crash and end up with horrible evaluations? Will "stepping up" offset the downtick on my student evals? Wait, wait, I can *do* this. I just won't be able to do anything else, or go anywhere, or write anything. What would Randy say?

"Thank you for asking me. I need a little time to ponder this and to talk with Randy about it."

"Of course."

And off to class I wobbled.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Beetle orgy

This photo is for Ben Grossberg, after his poem of the same title [see his chapbook, The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel, just out from Kent State].

The roses in the Lewisburg Cemetery have been chewed to lace.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

4th and long(ing)

Worked at the office today. My students had yesterday & today off--that is, we arranged to put in extra time last week so they could take the holiday--so I didn't teach. Amazing, the amount of work one can accomplish in a straight sitting. I got all caught up on their homework papers, read all my e-mail, typed up their midterm grade reports, and chatted online with a new buddy (hey, JP).

So no right to kvetch at all, but yesterday my mom phoned and we talked for a good hour, making me miss my parents acutely. I wish there were a way to pursue my career and still find time to be with them.

Good news from Pebble Lake Review: they are taking two poems. For the record, I am swearing right here, right now that the Rope Lady is fictional. Wild horses couldn't drag the rest of the story out of me. Only a book contract could do that.

Ehh, bedtime. Past bedtime. Happy 4th and all that.