“Everything’s fine here! How are you?”

“Well,” replied La Kid, “everything’s fine but I’m running around getting ready to go to the Galway Races. Can you call back tomorrow?”

La Kid‘s outing gives UD an excuse to feature this poem about the event, by Yeats.


Here where the course is,
Delight makes all of the one mind,
The riders upon the galloping horses,
The crowd that closes in behind:
We, too, had good attendance once,
Hearers and hearteners of the work;
Aye, horsemen for companions,
Before the merchant and the clerk
Breathed on the world with timid breath.
Sing on: somewhere at some new moon,
We’ll learn that sleeping is not death,
Hearing the whole earth change its tune,
Its flesh being wild, and it again
Crying aloud as the racecourse is,
And we find hearteners among men
That ride upon horses.

So of course it’s really a complaint; and not too far off from what ol’ UD‘s always on about – it’s easier to excite people with sports events than with poetry (or, to go to the subject of universities, with the thrill of thought about poetry, or thought about anything else worth thinking about). Commercialism and bureaucracy rule now, and you can’t expect timid clerks and merchants to get a charge out of being confronted with challenging aesthetics and metaphysics… But take heart! Although we live in an unpoetic world now, sleeping isn’t death – it’s a kind of preparation, a hibernation… Because the basic truths about human beings never change – our earthy flesh is wild, and ultimately in search of the unfettered “delight” of art as much as the delight of the races.


And here’s La Kid herself,


with her man Ed Fitzgerald,
at the races. It looks sunny!

Beautiful No Humidity July Afternoon in ‘thesda Instablogging…

… starts here, on the second floor cafe of the Barnes and Noble. UD‘s outrageously high-functioning world whisked her here in a quiet elegant metro car, past Medical Center (the National Institutes of Health, where UD‘s father, an immunologist, spent his career) and then to Bethesda, in two minutes.

‘thesda’s churning with construction zones, most of which seem to be luxury condos. The twin buildings in progress directly facing her are The Darcy (named after Fitzwilliam?); the one she passed on her way to the bookstore is The Lauren (named after the designer?). Whether you choose Darcy or Lauren, you’ll get the same outrageous delights in exchange for your million dollars – servile waitstaff, excessively equipped gyms and pools with personal trainers available, spa beyond belief, etc. etc. It’s ‘thesda.

Now UDUD goes way back (to 1962, to be precise), when ‘thesda was the Baronet movie theater and the Hot Shoppes restaurant. Maybe a few doctors’ offices.

It’s a city now, a rich city, streets jammed with happy people and fragrant tearooms.

I wanna tell you it’s a mitzvah. I wanna tell you I’ll remember you from heaven if I go up there.

An old guy at the next table speaks.

UD drinks overpriced sparkling mineral water and thinks about the remarkable wealth of this country, and the smooth lovely technology all around her. Even the construction sites seem smooth, the teeth of their cranes silently, healthily, munching down on the old townhouses (probably built five years ago) they’re collapsing.

Now she sees the white Maplewood bus. Rita Kosofsky, mother of Eve Sedgwick and David Kosofsky, lives in one of Maplewood’s upscale retirement condos. I guess every day Maplewood residents can go to ‘thesda on the bus.

It’s a peaceful postmodern life replete with pleasures.


UPDATE, Instablogging: After the cafe, UD walked the Capital Crescent Trail from downtown ‘thesda to McArthur Boulevard, and then she had Mr UD rescue her because she couldn’t make it all the way back to downtown ‘thesda. With her usual absurdity, she took the trail never having looked at a map of it, so when she saw a large building in the distance she figured it must be Friendship Heights, where she could hop on the Metro. She was nowhere near Friendship Heights, but she kept walking the trail in search of it…

Margaret’s Nature Journal

Summer in UD‘s Garrett Park woods features hummingbirds all over the butterfly bush – a bush UD cleverly placed in front of her office window, so that she can type this while watching hummingbirds (and of course butterflies).

Out back, a flicker slammed into my windows yesterday and died.

The barred owl is back in the evenings.

Goldfinches drink at my birdbaths. My neighbor claims he’s seen orioles. Maybe what I think is a finch is a yellow oriole.

Last week I encountered a box turtle alongside a path I was clearing.

I’m proud of the system of paths I’ve created through the woods around my house. The quiet, private green space (the quiet is occasionally interrupted by a train whistle) is very zen. I’ve begun experimenting a bit, this summer, with meditation, and UD‘s house, garden, and larger outdoor setting has an embarrassment of riches along those lines. All of Garrett Park is an arboretum; UD is surrounded in every direction by huge trees and overflowing gardens. Her vinca-lined paths allow her to walk in an endless loop around her own acre; for a sitting meditation, there are Adirondacks under arching honeysuckles.


Update: Forgot to mention: There’s at least one bear wandering around less than a mile from my house.

“We’re not really concerned about someone getting eaten by this bear,” [Paul Peditto from the Department of Natural Resources] said. “He’s probably traveled hundreds of miles past thousands of humans and hasn’t eaten any of them.”

Mauling, anyone?

UD discovers, in her basement, a trove of Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick letters…

… addressed to Sedgwick’s brother, David, and running from the ‘seventies through the early ‘nineties. UD has sent them off to UD‘s friend Hal Sedgwick, who maintains a memorial blog about his wife.

Long-term readers know that Eve’s brother, David, was UD‘s first boyfriend. (Details here.)

Here’s David as I knew him when

daviddiscovered 001

we were young, a fine observing
presence in the swirl of the world.

Several years ago he left some boxes in my basement; he and his wife and son were on their way to a new life in Louisiana, but they hadn’t settled on a place to live. He wanted me to hold on to what I thought were books and clothes.

At David’s memorial service, his wife told me to keep the boxes. I told myself I’d donate the clothes somewhere. The books would stay boxed until our shelves cleared enough to hold them.

Two nights ago I was in the basement, checking for water damage after the storms, and, expecting to see a pile of sweaters, I idly opened one of the boxes. Two black trash bags, tightly tied at the top, enclosed what felt like neither books nor clothes.

Upstairs, on the kitchen table, I cut through the bags and found – in this and three other identically packed boxes – stacks of photographs and letters. Also cassettes he’d made of his thoughts from places like Calcutta and Malacca.

David traveled and lived all over Asia for decades; he had a multinational love life; and he was, like his sister, a gifted writer who corresponded with other gifted writers. The boxes burst with passionate love letters to him (UD‘s high school love notes to David were mere foothills on the way to a vast groaning recriminating range); and they included files filled with correspondence from David’s sister, to whom he was very close.

Those three boxes, and a fourth box of objects (a luopan; a tallis bag), engrossed me for hours yesterday. I couldn’t bear to read my own stuff, which, like his exchanges with Eve, ran through the pre-email years and then vanished into online; and it felt wrong to read the other stuff. So I emailed Hal and packed off all the Eve letters and postcards I could find. I made a separate file of the many letters (manual typewriter, single-spaced, onionskin paper) from David’s parents, who – I saw as I scanned a few of them – elegantly combined descriptions of their cultural outings in ‘thesda with anxious inquiries as to his health and whereabouts. These I will give to David’s mother.

UD is gratified by Hal’s enthusiasm at the prospect of these new letters; she is gratified to think that some of the letters might be of interest to scholars. It is strange for her to think of having harbored unknowingly for so long David’s almost over-rich record (certainly much too rich for her to handle) of his short life. A life lived to the hilt.

July Fourth Instablogging.

I do this every year.

I am instablogging the Garrett Park Maryland July Fourth parade, which goes right by my house, and how could it not, given the Lake Wobegone size of Garrett Park. It is now ten in the morning; the parade leaves the Garrett Park Elementary School grounds at 10:30. Wee UD graduated from the school, but back then GPES was a dull low-ceilinged brick dealie with cinderblock rooms… Two years ago they tore it down (the population in madly sought-after ‘thesda has grown insanely) and an actual architect vastly enlarged and rebuilt it, so now it’s all way-high skylights and winsome curving hallways and rainscaped gardens.

I have swept my storm-tossed front steps and driveway, I have swept even the street in front of my house (don’t want the floats wobbling on the branches that came down last night), and I have placed one of my deck chairs at the end of my driveway. From this very chair I will blog the event (assuming internet connection’s okay – after the storm we lost it for a few hours).

After a typically grim July morning, things have picked up out there sun-wise, and it’s not even stifling. There’s even a breeze.

UD is hoping her elderly Latvian neighbors will also be out watching the parade, because Les UDs recently got a rather elaborate letter from, er, Latgales Regionala Nodala (stick a bunch of diacritical marks on some of those letters) about their Latvian snail farm. (Longtime readers know that Les UDs own a Latvian snail farm. Another way of looking at it is that Mr UD inherited property, post-communism, from Latvia, because it had been owned by his family. And it isn’t an active snail farm; it is simply full of snails that someone imported onto the property long ago in the thought that the family might want to farm snails. Something like that.) Said letter includes photographs of their property plus official-looking language and stampings… Is the paltry tax they pay on the thing about to climb to fifty million dollars a year? UD is hoping her neighbors are willing to translate this document for her.

Okay, I’m moving my operations to my driveway.


Internet connection so far fantastic. Cannot believe this is July and I am not sweating my guts out. A cool, breezy, sunny, morning.

Distant patriotic music!

And now, to my left, my down the street neighbor Peggy (I’ve known her for fifty years) puts out white folding chairs; and to my right – a big crowd of neighbors comes barreling down Rokeby Avenue… Looking for a prime viewing spot? Plenty of those, plenty of those… Like Lake Wobegone, we’re so small most of the townspeople are in the parade.

Hi Jack, says UD to her neighbor Jack.

I like the way you’re… [Jack mimics typing]

Someone’s got to blog the parade, says UD.


Sounds of sirens!

Many dogs, mainly poodles.

Wind instrument: bugle?

Very loud siren – must be coming from the fire engine that heads the parade.

Bigger crowd than usual this year – good weather?

Flashing lights stage right. Here comes the fire engine.

Way loud sirens as the fire engine comes down Rokeby Avenue.


Hokay. Much later. I managed to miss a good deal of the parade because a bunch of neighbors gathered around my chair and we all got to talking. So no real instablogging possible as UD learned of her neighbors’ new jobs, visits to Mexico, etc. UD also learned that the song she wrote for Garrett Park’s spring concert (a fund-raiser for a music scholarship) was – or so the event’s organizer claims – “a hit.” The musicale’s theme was Recycling, and UD put Garrett Park-related lyrics to Second Hand Rose. But she was at the beach when the concert took place. She had wondered how the lyrics went over…

Anyway. A good year for my town’s parade. Lots of kids, lots of clever takes on the parade’s theme: Garrett Park Through the Ages. UD‘s favorite thing: A bright red VW beetle convertible full of hippies. On the sides of the car were big white flowing letters that read LOVE PEACE HAPPINESS LOVE PEACE etc.


Here’s what it’s like at 9:30 on the evening of the Fourth.

UD is lying down on the grassy hill halfway up her half acre. She is gazing high into the branches of her high old trees at three thrushes who are all very loudly singing their eerie thrush song.

Imagine the sharp harsh sound of the first high notes; imagine the strange low-throttle trill after that; and, after that, the famous ee-oh-lay. You lie there listening to them cycle through the three parts again and again, with variations…

The air is thick with fireflies.

From every direction, little local fireworks displays are popping and booming in your ears.

Mr UD is somewhere in this…

… crowd.

He’s having a busy day. Picked up his renewed passport (which now says on its cover European Union/Poland), at the Polish embassy; is now wading through the soccer crowd; will in an hour or so meet an old friend for coffee on upper Connecticut Avenue…

Back from the Beach…

… where we – along with family and friends – floated along in the strange trance that close proximity to beach, water, wave, and firmament generates.

The silent-Prius trip back to ‘thesda, through Delaware’s immense, flat cornfields over which child’s-picture-book white clouds hovered, kept the trance going.

I’m beginning to shake out of it now; blogging resumes when I am fully functional.

‘[O]ne of my most favorite childhood books was and remains “The Story of Ferdinand” the bull.’

UD, as longtime readers know, lives in Munro Leaf’s house in Garrett Park, Maryland. She is honored to do so, and has two bull topiaries in the front yard, a little engraved sign near the front door that says FERDINAND HOUSE, and images of bulls inside her house.

A Jessye Norman fan, UD was delighted to read that she loves Ferdinand.

Les UDs load up their little Prius and leave in a couple of hours…

… for Rehoboth Beach, where they will spend the next two weeks in an apartment so close to the Atlantic that you can hear the waves.

This constant wave sound is very lulling, but UD can blog through it.

Which she will do with the same compulsive regularity as… the tides. Ne quittez pas.

Snapshots from Home

So here’s what it’s like right now, three twittering chicks with their necks outstretched and mouths hysterically open, gulping the worms galore their parents are finding all over UD‘s half acre. This nature story is taking place midway up a honeysuckle bush a few yards to my left as I sit in our office with one of the windows open. There’s also a hummingbird nest in the front azaleas, but I’m not observing that one. It’s so small – they’re so fragile – let them be.

Plus there’s a culture story taking place a few yards away and directly in front of me in our driveway: The installation of a new water heater for Les Soltans. Their old one stopped working after almost twenty years, a lifespan unheard of dans le monde chauffe-eau. (Les Soltans specialize in superannuated appliances – their washer/dryer was also Margaret and Munro Leaf’s washer/dryer, and Margaret died in 1988.)

Yikes. Even as I type this, one of the guys – Kevin? – is right behind me in my bathroom using the sink to make strange hissing sounds. I’m staying here! I don’t want to know! Just let me know when you want me to pull out the checkbook!

I’m truly looking forward to washing my hair.

Selfies from Home

La Kid and Ed Fitzgerald
(Irish boyfriend; La Kid
moves to Galway soon)


exhausted and sunburnt on the
New York City subway after a
long day showing Ed NYC.

Ooh baby baby it’s a wild world…

… when you live, as UD does, in the heavily wooded Washington suburbs, hard by Rock Creek. UD’s town, as longtime readers know, is Garrett Park, an arboretum, so all the birds hounded out of high trees by Bethesda development flock to our prolific, carefully tended, big old forest. Predators like owls love the birds, not to mention the rabbits and voles and snakes etc. The orange cat who shows up every afternoon and stands very still on a log alongside one of our woodland paths loves the birds too.

Spring means that all of this and much more (I just had to interrupt my writing to shoo a raccoon away from the trash container – I’m outside) is bursting. It’s Grand Central Nature on the acre around our little brown house, and I’ve spent today observing it.

At five AM we woke to the creaky song of the catbirds. They seem to have reproduced recently, and they and their offspring are buzzing the house big time. They were soon joined in song by the thrushes, whose voice is lovely and famous (one is supposed to feel privileged to have thrushes in the garden) but, as I’ve mentioned in seasons past on this blog, never-ending. Thrushes are loud and they don’t quit.

To my immediate right, in the upper branches of a honeysuckle, is a very active thrush nest, so we will be getting yet more thrush song.

All day rabbits have strewn the lawns front and back. I seldom see solitary rabbits anymore; it’s all coalitions.

Midday I was clearing one of the paths, and I heard a close-by and unfamiliar bird call. Suddenly a few feet away from me was a pileated woodpecker tapping a poplar.

Pleased to see a vine twining along one of our fences, I snipped a group of three leaflets to take them inside for identification. Good thing I was wearing gloves. Poison ivy.

Rotund bees press into the white azalea blossoms.

As I was cutting back the front yard azaleas this morning, one of my neighbors walked by. “Happy Mother’s Day, Margaret!” he called.

“Thanks, and the same to you!” trilled idiot UD. “I mean the same to your wife.”

UD finds deer radius and metacarpal in her woods.

Thanks to a Scottish kid named Jake, she has been able to identify these bones. (Read more Jake here.)

UD was just now clearing the winding paths she’s created through her woods, and from her first glance at the bones she thought deer (given that vast herds of them live atop her back hill), but she also ghoulishly played with the idea of human child for a moment.

This is exactly what the lower bone looks like. And who knew you needed it for – uh – boning your boots?

So where’s the rest of it? Jake always seems to score the whole skeleton. UD poked around, but has found nothing. She thinks maybe these bones washed forward in the recent very big rains.

Our last stop before we return to ‘thesda…

… is Havre de Grace. (It’s Number 12 on Smithsonian Magazine‘s list of best small towns.) UD remembers Sadie Rapoport telling her that she left Port Deposit for – she pronounced it Have Er Dee Grayce – on the occasional Saturday to play Bingo.

Today’s the Decoy Festival at Havre De Grace, so Les UDs are expecting some excitement.

Seven AM, Elk Forge Bed and …

… Breakfast. Elk Forge is one of those names that tells you in a small way about how the mind works. From the moment we reserved the Baltimore Suite here, I’ve had trouble remembering the name Elk Forge, while Longwood Gardens or Red Fox Inn or Seven Gables or Green Gables are all easy, though they’re a bit more complicated. Elk Forge’s two simple monosyllabic words have tended to elude me, and I think it’s because my mind fails to find a connection between an elk and a forge. Foxes come in red, and gardens may feature long woods, but what an elk and a forge are doing together I have no idea.

Plus I think I’m registering my uncertainty about the nature of those words as they’re put together. Two nouns (though forge also can be a verb). Is elk an adjective of some sort here? Are they two self-standing nouns? Nor have I ever before encountered those words together. So novelty, muddy usage, and lack of relationship, UD figures, are all scheming here to throw her off…

There’s a mild chill in the air, and a certain drippiness left over from last night’s storm, but the Elk Forge balcony is a pleasant place to watch the sun come up. There’s good tea in the “too Victorian” (Mr UD’s description) tearoom behind me (white woods and rattans, with ferny potted plants and – UD will agree – tchotchkes a mile a minute), but no one’s refilled the hot water canister yet, so UD will be patient… There’s a none too healthy oak center stage here. At its feet pond water purls over goldfish, and beside it three sort of pointless trellis arches lean toward the creek walk.


Sun went in and it got a bit too cold out there, so I’m now in the tearoom, where naturally Pachelbel’s Canon in D is being piped in… It’s version 12,491, with recurrent piano “in imbecile symbiosis” with a violin. Water falls from an interior lovebird fountain directly to UD’s left and… You get the picture… Calming to the point of valium… And who’s complaining? Not I.

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