La Tigresse…


… as she leaves the
house just now, for a
Halloween party.

Snapshots from Home


La Kid shows off the
blue sweater that her mother
found for her last weekend
at the Rehoboth Beach
J Crew outlet.

Snapshots from Home

After a pleasant metro ride this morning with La Kid – she got out at Dupont Circle – I transferred at Metro Center, and then boarded a train to my stop, Foggy Bottom. On the Foggy Bottom train, across from me, sat Kathleen Kennedy Townsend (slender, dressed in elegant black, her hair white/blond like Camilla Parker-Bowles’) and her daughter. Just like us, they chatted about her daughter’s Halloween party plans for this weekend, and just like us they exchanged a kiss as one of them (the mother in this case) got off at her stop.

La Kid…


… Halloween.

As always, UD’s monthly report on the Garrett Park, Maryland…

… town council meeting. Title: On a Foggy Night.

Margaret’s Nature Journal

Two dead thrushes in two days on UD‘s deck! Both flew into our sliding glass doors. I think both were young… There’s always a bit of bird carnage out there – maybe four birds a year? – but I’ve never seen two of the same species on two consecutive days. And thrushes, with their famous song.

UD gets more interested in mushrooms each autumn. Her back woods, as you know, are all about dead trees, and she’s been delighted with her giant puffball crop and various less flashy fungi. Today she pulled from a tree what turned out to be a full shelf of oyster mushrooms which yes yes I know you can eat but UD is afraid to eat any mushroom she forages. She doesn’t trust her ability to identify them.

Mushrooms are very in lately.

A haughty orange cat has taken over UD‘s property. It always makes sure to be tramping around when UD‘s outside, and it stares insolently at UD, but refuses to approach. It has the look of a real predator, and UD‘s garden and wood, with its birds and rabbits galore, is just the thing. Today, as UD leaned on her rake (taking a break from dragging leaves curbside), she watched as the orange cat made sure UD was watching, and then shat in a stand of azaleas.

On the plus side, the cat took a long careful time covering up – with soil, leaves, and twigs – what it had done.

Another regular in UD‘s woods is the deer with one antler. I’ve watched this character year after year. Its dead antler never fell off; it hangs, a blackened fragment, off the side of its head. UD usually shoos away deer who get close to her house, but she has a soft spot for One Antler.


UPDATE: Yikes. Were those birds gifts to me from the cat?

Lots and lots of leaves like…

this and like this on UD‘s woodland path this morning. She raked most of them away, but brought some inside for Mr UD to look at while reading the New York Times. She spread four of them out in front of him on the black table and he mustered a bit of enthusiasm.

Last night, we heard owls for hours. “Is that the kind that says What’s-On-For-Lunch?” asked Mr UD.

“No,” said UD: “Who-Cooks-For-You.


Plus I just discovered a shroomfield of collybia asema.

Snapshots from Home

La Kid, in Chicago, hung out last night
with one of the famous Lucas Brothers.


They’re identical twins.
I have no idea which one she’s with.


She just called. It’s Keith.

UD asked La Kid what they talked about at the crowded chic Chicago bar pictured.

“Law school,” she said. “He attended law school.”

Here’s what UD found out about that.

Both [brothers] attended top-ten law schools, Keith at Duke and Kenny NYU. It was the only substantial period of time that they’ve spent away from each other, but they didn’t grasp the difficulty of being apart until, after both dropped out, they reunited and began their standup careers in New York. Keith stays in touch with a few friends but Kenny none, citing the indisputable fact that, “law students are just miserable, boring people. And they stress out over shit they imposed on themselves.” Although their mother supported their decision to pursue the dream, their friends were dumbfounded. They were only a semester away from obtaining their J.D.s. “The dean actually called me and tried to talk me into finishing,” Keith recalls, “but we wanted to remove the safety net when we cut the cord.” It was a crazy move but also indisputably awesome and bold, creating a piece of trivia that will surely follow them around for the rest of their careers.

“We may notice, and feel aggrieved about, college kids driving luxury cars; but we don’t see private equity managers commuting by helicopter to their immense mansions in the Hamptons.”

Paul Krugman’s right: There’s too much to see around here.

I mean, for sure UD sees the luxury cars.

But she’ll have to get on the Acela to Manhattan to see the copters. One thing at a time!

UD, Girl Reporter

Every month, UD links you to her reporting (“A Town’s Work is Never Done”) on the town of Garrett Park’s town council meeting for the Garrett Park Bugle. Here tis.

UDs old friends, the Oppenheimers, came to her library talk on Charles Wright…

… and then gave her a lift home, during which we talked about Joe’s famous son Joshua, director of The Act of Killing. We touched on his latest film, but it was mainly a domestic chat, about a trip the Oppenheimers took a few weeks ago with Josh and his boyfriend to Iceland (Josh lives in Denmark). They traveled rough, sleeping in wilderness huts…

Josh has now won a MacArthur.

Snapshots from Home

On my walk to my Intro English Lit class on a spectacular early autumn afternoon, I saw, on our greenest quad, two couples lying on the grass. They made a kind of a square, with the men’s heads in the women’s laps, everyone blissful and calm with their eyes shut under the sun.

This was pretty to see, as were all the happy upright people taking in a highly lit day.

Now on the metro, going home from campus, I see across the aisle from me two young men, sweaty from I guess construction work, sprawled asleep on their seats. Their feet are wedged up against the sides of the car, their heads (under baseball caps) hanging off the seat edges.


Neighbors of UD are retiring to a house they’re building in the very north of the Adirondacks (Les UDs, you recall, have a house near Cooperstown), and Mr UD and I wondered about this, about making it virtually impossible for yourself to take what Saul Bellow called a “humanity bath.” Their house, like ours in upstate, has no visible neighbors, and though the sense this gives you of owning the earth is wonderful for a week or two (we’ve never stayed upstate longer than that) I wonder about it as a way to live every day of your life.


“Well,” their neighbors’ daughter told us when we chatted with her last night, “the house is one hour from Montreal.”

A French-speaking humanity bath! Sounds refreshing. But how often, really, would you go there?


UD’s talk about Charles Wright (current poet laureate) at the Georgetown Library was a pleasure. Good turnout – the day was rainy – and people laughed at my jokes. Very satisfying to peer out at the group and see old friends, new students…

UD’s chats with people after, at the reception, were equally gratifying. One guy in particular:

“I don’t read poetry. I don’t get poetry. I go to these things to accompany my wife, who loves poetry. Yours was the first talk to actually help me understand poetry.”


If you look out the library’s back windows on the second floor, you get a spectacular view all the way down Georgetown to the Potomac River.


UD‘s stroll to the library from Dupont Circle took her along Q Street Georgetown, one of Washington’s most beautiful residential walks. And since it was a dark, wet Saturday morning, she had the place pretty much to herself. Yum.

UD is partial to small, somewhat over-planted city gardens – the sort you see spilling onto the sidewalk with herbs and hibiscus. These are everywhere on Q. Again, yum.

So, if you scroll about halfway down this Washington Post page…

… you get to the announcement of UD‘s talk on Charles Wright at the Georgetown branch of the DC Public Library this afternoon (1 PM, 3260 R St. NW).

Here’s how I suggest you do it on this beautiful Saturday:

The library is just down the street from the famous Dumbarton Oaks gardens, which open today at 2:00. So take in my talk, and then stroll over to the gardens.

Then I’ll let you have a late lunch of your choosing among the many cafes of Georgetown.

What’s It Like Here?

Hot. There’s a small breeze, but it’s Washington and it’s September and that means muggy. The early evening sky is beautiful. A mix of blue and gray with white clouds – it’s been a day unable to decide whether to rain, and the sky remains mixed.

UD is sitting on the edge of the Pentagon Memorial, from which there’s a large view of the gravel, the grasses, the white-flower crepe myrtles, and the winged benches jutting out of the gravel. Constant low-flying jets out of Reagan buzz the plaza. One of them was crashed just here.

I sat for ten minutes on Leslie Whittington’s bench – Whittington, her husband, and her two children, all killed. All of their names engraved on the bench.


Tears? Oh yes. Didn’t know her, but feel a kinship. My age, also a professor in Washington. I feel compelled, on these anniversaries, to imagine her last minutes.


Enormous American flags hang off the sides of the Pentagon and nearby office buildings. The evening sun lights everything up with great clarity and drama. People set flowers down on each bench. A simple gesture which feels immensely loving.

Of course I’m never adequate to these moments. People go to a lot of trouble to design and build memorials, but when you get there it’s hard to know what to do, where to walk. There are quite a few people here with me, and we drift from winged bench to winged bench, reading names, photographing bouquets…

I’m now in a corner crouching over my laptop…

I find myself thinking not of the dead but of the living… Specifically, of two students I chatted with today after class. One after my English literature seminar and the other after The Postmodern Novel. One is a sophomore, one a senior.

The sophomore is talented in many directions and loves the study of many things, and this enviable condition was lately causing him anxiety. As in: What precisely to do? His parents were artsy sorts who did poorly in life and regret their artsiness; their son has inherited both a love and a suspicion of art. He figures he should probably be a music major (piano, other instruments, theory) but what can he do with that?

I tell him that a lot of people with those degrees teach. He listens. “What if I trap myself? Here I’m told to take advantage of all my skills and interests, but what if that’s actually a dumb thing to do?” I laugh and tell him that the impulse to map out your life, a preoccupation with not making mistakes, is understandable but to my mind a mistake in itself. “Life is messy, unpredictable. Probably the best thing to do is relax and pursue what you love. GW gave you some major, whopping, scholarships: Enjoy the gift.”

The senior amused me with a description of her honors seminar on the subject of love. “By the end of the semester, I’ll have learned never to get near it.”

Have I said often enough on this blog how much UD adores many of her students? Their charm, their energy, their considered and considerable puzzlement. It maketh my heart go pit-a-pat.

UD’s just like Leopold Bloom leaving the cemetery after Paddy Dignam’s burial. Throughout the funeral and burial his mind circles all the morbid themes; exiting the gates of the cemetery he’s right back onto Molly and Milly and all.

I can’t be very much with the memorialized; I grant them parts of my mind and soul on anniversaries, but even there the business of being busily alive intrudes.

I saw the motorcycles lined up in front of the cafe…

… at 1776 G Street where I grab a salad before meeting my English lit class. The bikes were part of today’s 9/11 Ride.

After classes, UD plans to visit the Pentagon Memorial, a good place for reflection despite the big urban setting. It’s been a couple of years since she visited the Memorial; she will blog about how it looks now.

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