UD’s latest dispatch from Garrett Park …

… is titled Splashdown at Penn Place.

A snapshot of life in the town in which UD grew up. The town where, after college, grad school, and ten years on Capitol Hill, she bought a house.

(The zzz is a typo.)

There’s a man dressed like George Washington…

… striding the campus. A camera crew trails him. He’s got the whole get-up, including the funny white ponytail. Like this.

I’m pretty sure this is related to the fact that prospective students are here this weekend (what luck for the school – it’s one of the most beautiful spring seasons I’ve seen in DC) to decide whether, having been admitted, they’d like to attend GW.

I just got out of a lunch for students admitted to the university honors program (UD teaches university honors courses). Families were there too, asking questions about the program, some of which UD tried to answer. We were in the City View Room in one of the newer buildings on campus, and after the lunch UD went out to its balcony to see about that city view.

Quite wonderful – the shining river, monuments galore, the grasses and trees of a heavily gardened city. Less thrilling were the squat brown buildings (State Department, etc.) that huddle everywhere and make up most of official Washington. I watched some planes land at National and then went downstairs and walked around.


Yesterday was mild and sunny – a quintessentially April day in Garrett Park, with the white blossoms popping out on UD‘s dogwood and the hydrangea budding like mad.

For a dead end street in a rather obscure town, the setting was noisy: Our neighbors across the street are selling their house (yours for a million dollars), and they had a large crew duding up the garden; other neighbors were leaf blowing and lawn mowing and playing basketball. Trains occasionally steamed through along the nearby CSX tracks, and large groups of cyclists bombed by.

A cardinal kept shrieking at me. It has built its nest in one of our front bushes, and it wants me to get the hell out of my garden.

UD herself was noiseless: She just stood in her front yard like a dummy, staring up at the clear blue sky and marveling.

UD’s friends Sarah and Peter are just back from…

… a trip to Italy that featured a visit to La Rondinaia, Gore Vidal’s famous house above the Amalfi Coast. The library, they said (scroll down to the second picture), is dominated by books by Vidal’s favorite author.

They posed the question to UD: Who do you think that was?

When UD instantly answered Gore Vidal, they were impressed.

A Spring Ephemeral On The Forest Path

Trout lilies? Never heard of them. Had to Google various descriptions for quite some time before they popped up. When I typed brown and green leaves I kept getting plant diseases, things that put brown splotches on leaves.

But I knew this was wrong. These were elegant splotchy leaves, a hardy ground cover scattered among my masses of vinca. Some of them had delicate yellow flowers dangling above the leaves.


So this was UD‘s own Trout Lily Discovery Walk – she happened on the things on one of her many walks along the paths she’s created through her back woods.

And how did they get there? I’ve lived here almost twenty years and I’ve never seen them before.

Margaret and Munro Leaf must have planted them, and it took all this time for them to flower.

I found the image here.

“Could be a step in the right direction.”

UD‘s poetry MOOC (current number of students: 9,821) gets a nice write-up. (Got a nice write-up. It was written in 2013. She just discovered it.)

Snapshots from Home

This summer, Mr UD will co-direct the Summer Institute of Civic Studies and Civic Education in Chernivtsi, Ukraine.

It’s an offshoot of his and Peter Levine’s Summer Institute of Civic Studies at Tufts University.

This is the beautiful building in which


meetings will take place.

La Kid, Today…


… Tidal Basin.

Snapshots from Home

UD‘s first cousin once removed, Shenandoah University student Joshua Fleming, interviews himself about his participation in the upcoming 88th Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Grand Feature Parade.

UD thanks her sister for the link.

Snapshots En Route.

Want to know what crushing guilt looks like à la UD? Guilt that she can’t lift the morning, afternoon, and late afternoon after?

It’s last night. We’re at Boston Logan Airport, and our Southwest flight to Baltimore is delayed an hour. Posted departure time, 10:50 PM. We’re sitting alongside one another – UD, Mr UD, La Kid – in those hard black chairs all in a row at our gate, and we’re tired and grumpy and overheated.

Suddenly a skinny young man dressed all in black bounds up before us and excitedly says Are you going to Baltimore too? Guess where I’ve been? He’s euphoric, in a state of bliss he has to share. His skinny black t-shirt says something that seems to be a pun on the word censorship.

I was just at the anime convention and guess what happened to me?


Now understand. UD flies. She flies on planes. UD‘s a reasonably functional postmodern humanoid. But she is a bad flyer, and among the things she worries about when boarding is the possibility that her flight will include a disturbed person. A disturbed person who in a state of euphoria or rage or something will act in frightening ways…


So who knows what she might have done if they’d been at an outdoor cafe or something but UD simply put her head down (she had her laptop out) and did not respond. Mr UD got up and went to get some food for the flight. La Kid, bless her, said What? What happened to you? He paused a bit, daunted by our unfriendliness. I… I got interviewed twice… His voice trailed off and then he trailed off. He took a seat by some enormous windows and was very quiet.

UD took a deep breath and felt terrible. She looked over at him and noticed that outside his window an amazing huge golden-red moon (a blood moon?) was rising, so she went over to where he was sitting and said to no one in particular Look at the moon! and the guy looked and smiled a little.

But this didn’t make UD feel any better.

She had taken the wind out of the guy’s sails, and you should never take the wind out of someone’s sails.

This guy, I realized, as I looked around, was one of many funny-looking anime convention people on this flight and I love their bizarrerie, I want to reward their bizarrerie. I want them to know I love their blue beanies that go round and round and make little whining noises (a woman on board the flight had one of these) and I love their socks that are designed to look like shoes. The weirder the better for the love of god!

Had UD‘s (fear-induced) coldness taken this young man, at the height of his bizarrerie self-confidence, to the I guess I’ll go crawl off and be a conformist for the rest of my life depths?


UD Among the Cemetery Turkeys.

UD first heard about Mount Auburn Cemetery from her mother, a gardener who loved to visit its famous arboretum. UD‘s sister-in-law recently attended Stanislaw Baranczak’s burial there.

This afternoon, she and others visited a Soltan grave on a Mount Auburn hillside overlooking a pond. A rafter of wild turkeys paraded by as they neared the hill, and they stopped their car and gawked. The tom displayed his brilliant various featherings.

Mary McGrory, how right you…

were. So what if UD has lived here most of her life. Walking to her first class yesterday (Modern British Poetry), skirting the Mall and the cherry blossoms, she was amazed at the spring, and she couldn’t imagine any students would show up to her class.

As she said to them a moment later (they all showed up):

Are you kidding me? [Looks out the windows.] No contest!

Let’s have class outside, one of them said, and others took up the cry.

I have, UD explained, an extremely long list of reasons why I don’t teach outside.

Such as? They wanted to know.

Such as even if this is in absolute urban terms a small well-mannered city it is still loud. There will be incessant airplanes taking off and landing. There will be sirens galore. Traffic will consist of groaning FedEx trucks and honking limos. If we go to the outdoor classroom (GW has an outdoor classroom, complete with podium and seating) we will almost certainly displace many innocents who have just set up their laptops in the sun. Groups of students and groups of kiddies from the childcare centers all around will drift noisily about. There are simply too many distractions.


So we went.


My students crowded into elevators, then followed, sheeplike, UD the shepherdess, past twelve or thirteen Starbucks. We tried our luck with the designated outdoor classroom, and there it was, glistening in the mild spring sun and – as anticipated – populated by various students. I felt guilty – but then I noticed a sign just under the podium asking students to please give way if a class wants the space, so okay.

UD made her voice louder than usual (UD has a very loud voice already – something about which Mr UD often has occasion to complain – but UD just as often explains that she grew up in a large loud Jewish family and then became a singer so what do you expect) as she talked about “Notes from Dialysis,” one of the many wonderful dreary British poems we’re studying. I thought of Hugo Williams inside inside inside, hour after hour after hour, so many days of the week, and sometimes gazing past the clinic’s windows at a world like this one – full sun, the flowers already coming up, and everyone milling about amazed… And within UD‘s view there were few people older than twenty-two…


On her way to this poetry class (before she allowed herself to be persuaded to go outside), UD overheard the following conversation between two guys, two GW students, who were walking close behind her.

You know there’s not enough food here for the birds, right?


You know that the bird we just heard singing in that bush is a robot planted by the NSA, yes?

Yes, and I know it’s there to distract us from the nuclear negotiations with Iran.

Yes. But is it working.

Well, we’re talking about the negotiations.

La Kid Returns from Ireland



The void, ‘thesda-style.

Wow. Killing Fields City.

Sitting at my desk writing a lecture about Blood Meridian, I just watched, from my front windows, an enormous hawk stand on my post and rail fence and look for a few minutes at the half-eaten body of a rabbit that I earlier this morning watched a crow pick at.

That was certainly a long sentence.

Let’s rewrite it McCarthy-style (the hawk has since descended, picked up the body in its claws, and taken it halfway up an adjacent tree).

She wrote the lecture and looked out of the window and a hawk was there and it watched the body of the crow-picked rabbit and looked around itself and then it floated down and lifted the dead rabbit in its talons and took it up to a tree and began to eat.


(Looked like this. Without the snow. Plus maybe that’s a squirrel.)

Hawk in the Rain

A red tailed hawk waits. It waits and waits. It sits high up in one of our big old trees, staring down at a tree stump under which a rabbit sits frozen. Ten minutes ago, while Les UDs ate lunch, they were startled by the hawk rushing out of nowhere onto a crazily running around rabbit.

Wait. Hello. There are two hawks up there, roosting in slightly separated trees, staring at the stump.

For the last few weeks I’ve seen hawks flying overhead in our backwoods. I think they may have eaten the squirrel that for hours was madly circling in our driveway yesterday. Animal Control said it had probably been hit by a car and its brains were fried. (Hm. It occurs to me that the squirrel might have been beaned by one of the hawks… My manners are tearing off heads… ) Eventually it circled into the street and died along a curb – these hawks must have dined on that and decided more than ever that chez Soltans was the place to be. Mice, rabbits, and squirrels galore, some of them just lying there dead for the taking.

Its thrilling to see the hawks – they’re massive, beautifully feathered. The current setting – light snow along the trees, broody skies – is positively mythic. But now UD gets to worry about their hitting her upside the head while she’s walking her small (but not too small – I think she’s safe) dog on her property.

Next Page »

Latest UD posts at IHE