Sunday, May 28, 2006


It's been a busy time for Bill with his "night job," directing Arthur Miller's, All My Sons, at Charlottesville's Live Arts. He is out most nights until 11 pm rehearsing and is usually exhausted on the nights he doesn't have anything scheduled. This week it will be even later as the production opens this coming Friday night. But last night we managed to go out on a "date" ... a luscious dinner at one of our favorite restaurants and a movie.

The movie, Water, directed by Toronto-based Deepa Mehta, is a must see. It is the third in her trilogy that began with Fire, in 1996, followed by Earth, in 1998. I have not seen those films but they will definately go on our Netflix list of things to see.

Water, is one of those films I'd like to have on my "movie shelf." It is an achingly poignant and beautiful film about love, faith and change. Set in India in the 1930s, the story revolves around a group of widows, who in Indian society are forced to live apart from the rest of the world in poverty. Set by ancient interpretations of sacred texts, widows can still be found living in India under these same conditions, as untouchables and "spiritual pollution." Though the film is definately "dark" in nature, it also has a lighter side, with the youngest widow, at age seven, providing moments of humor. The teachings and the rise of Ghandi, bring hope and renewal, in a world gone mad. In the background is always the Ghanges ... the sacred river ... sacred water. This film gives us a glimpse of 1930s India, but there are moments when that world, reminded me of this world ... the one we live in today.

If you haven't seen this one, put it on your list!

Photo by Joan Z. Rough, Water Reflection #1

Friday, May 26, 2006

Gone Kyaking!

Well finally, I'm out on the river!! I don't know what's taken me so long. It could be the every day stuff that seems to fill every minute, the garden, the stack of paper that continues to grow higher and higher on my desk. Or could it be this blog?

I love it out here, especially on mornings like this when there are few people about. This is where I love to come when I'm feeling low and confused. It's very soothing to just drift with the current or to paddle like hell to use up all my negative energy. Right now it is overcast, about 70 degrees and still. A thin layer of pollen coats the surface of the water ... the stuff that can keep me sneezing, sniffling and rubbing my eyes.

The yellow kyak is mine. I call her Scamp. The aqua one belongs to Bill, my husband. I don't think it has a name.

Yup, that's me. And there's Bill looking all too serious! I have my camera to protect so I won't splash him. He'd splash back or tip me over. He is currently directing All My Sons, by Arthur Miller at at the local community theatre. It opens next week and this is that awful time when it doesn't look great and he's getting kinda nervous.

This photo below is a fairly new beaver lodge. I don't remember it from the last time I was out here. We have quite a number of beaver here on the river. We have to build cages around trees that we value or they'll be gone in a heartbeat. They come in the night and chew them down, eat the bark and young shoots. We lost several fruit trees when we first moved here. They were there one evening, poof, down the next morning.

And this is what I came for .... the mountain laurel. This is the best spot for it.

Beautiful things are all around us!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Rainy Day On The River

Rainy Day On The River

No wind the river still
except for rain drops
charging the surface
with endless rings

A gander and his lady
herd four goslings
through grass
graze on greening shoots
the rain has raised
mockingbirds fledge
hissing their location to parents
who encourage their dispersal

Earth drinks the offering
through a parched canopy
of red clay eager roots
thickly woven a rich brocade
softens with moisture
earth tones trill
while seeds of change
grow swollen


It's raining a little bit. We need much, much more but I am grateful for each drop.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Religious Instruction

Prompted by all the hoopla over the movie, The Da Vinci Code, a refreshing dialogue has opened up at, the blog of a friend of mine. Far beyond a discussion about the movie or the book, it's about faith, yours and mine and the current polarization over religion in this country.

I was reminded of the collection of poems that I wrote in an angry moment back in 1990 about my own introduction to religion as a six year old. The bottom line is that we left the Catholic church. My parents were too hurt to trust in any other organized religion and sent my brothers and I off on our own to a variety of Protestant churches every Sunday. My mother turned to the natural world for her faith, believing that a flower or tree are God's creations and need to be treated as sacred. The forest became her cathedral and the sea and mountains a world of miracles. It is mostly through her that I too created my own spiritual path that recently has begun to resemble a Buddhist path more than anything else.

My point is that the foundation of everyone's faith is built upon their experiences throughout their lives. One path is no better or worse than any other if it brings you to a place where you feel compassion for all living beings and treat them all as you would want to be treated yourself.

The following poems are the story of my earliest experiences that I can now look back on and be grateful for. I am very comfortable in my "hybrid" spirituality. Without those early experiences I would not be where I am today, at peace.

Religious Instruction

When I was six I went to church
where a nun prepared children
for their first holy communion
I learned about the body and blood
of Christ a white wafer
to be swallowed whole

She told us that money collected
on Sunday went directly to God
I dreamed of baskets filled with coins
sprouting wings ascending to heaven
where He didn’t allow dead babies
that hadn’t been baptized

The nun wore a long black habit
white gorget pressed around her puffy face
like a rubber band hinding her hair ears
and neck where a heavy black cross
swung on a silver chain bowing her shoulders
she rapped the knuckles dreamers
with a ruler producing red streaks tears

One Sunday after reciting the Act of Contrition
confessing a multitude of sins and pretending
to do penance I walked down the aisle
dressed like a bride in white


Sunlight filters parables of glass
stains the altar the Virgin Mary
above me Jesus hangs
from a wooden cross his face serene
He died for my sins
now I must gather them up
tell the priest hiding in the confessional
the turtles died when I forgot
to feed them how I hate my father
when he hits me all the lies I’ve told
I wait my turn to kneel in the dark
my stomach hurts I have to pee
practice the prayer about being sorry


I kneel at the altar
dressed in white
angels float above my head
the priest approaches
presses the wafer against my tongue
I choke as the body catches
bleeding in my throat scraping
its way to my soul where shut
in the dark it will not grow


Children hang in rows
on gilded crosses
beating their breasts
for priests who smell
like whiskey and stifle
the question
what have we done


They are living in sin
my brothers and I are bastards
the priest said so

They were married
by a justice of the peace
the night before my father
went to war

They are not married
in the eyes of God
my brothers and I do not exist
in the eyes of God
the priest said so

The photo above is from the series, At The Gates. I made it with a plastic toy camera.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cat Bird

This is Lilliput (Lilly for short) drinking from the bird bath. She is the largest cat bird I've ever seen, though she is a diminutive cat. She follows me around while I work in the garden and loves to climb trees, jumping from branch to branch. Yesterday as I was getting out of the shower I saw her climb into a tree and then jump down onto an occupied bluebird box. Alarmed, I quickly threw on some clothes and went out hoping to avert a disaster. By the time I got there she had figured out that she couldn't get inside the box and the bluebird parents were dive bombing her. Off she ran looking for another kind of mischief.

I really do love her, but sometimes I hate her!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Poetry Thursday

This past week I joined Poetry Thursday, a group of people dedicated to publishing poetry on their blogs every Thursday. The idea is to encourage bloggers to read and/or write poetry and to share the wonderful worlds they discover through this practice. One does not need to be a poet to join this group. You can post your favorite poems that others have written. For more information go to

I have been writing poetry on and off for a number of years. Lately it's been mostly off. I'm hoping that Poetry Thursday will be a kick in the butt that will inspire me to start filling blank pages with verse once again. Right now I have several ideas cooking but they aren't ready yet. So in the spirit of just beginning, I decided to share a poem that I wrote quite a while ago and has always been one of my favorites. It was one of those that just arrived almost fully written. I wish they all came that easily but they don't.

Thank you to the co-hosts of Poetry Thursday, Liz Elayne and Lynn, who came up with this idea and went forward with it. I think I'm going to enjoy this!

An Apple A Day

Yesterday I watched an angel
flutter through the supermarket
she lingered over the produce
sampled carrots and grapes
polished apples
until they reflected stars
and a tipsy moon hanging
over tasseled fields of corn
I bought the apples
ate one at lunchtime

I saw her again this morning
standing at the side of the road
tangled wings trailing behind her
I stopped to ask if she needed a lift
she shook her head pointed toward
the light plating the river
red and orange banks of cloud
a dragonfly wrapped in sticky threads
I went home ate another apple

This evening the moon filled
my room with laughter
as I climbed into bed
the angel came to my window
burnished the glass with her feathers
until it melted away


Tuesday, May 16, 2006


Noah, Deen, Lisa and Zoe at our family reunion, April 16, 2006. Photo by Cousin Jane.

Before I became a grandmother, I was pretty ambivalent about the whole idea. First of all I thought I was just too darn young for such a thing. I just wasn't that interested. I had a great life of my own. But underneath, I suspect there was always a little bit of fear that it would never happen anyway. I didn't want to get my hopes up too high. I've always hated being disappointed. And so being too young and uninterested became a handy way to shrug off any thoughts I might find myself entertaining about the possibilities.

My son, Mark, who is married to a great gal who had already done the mother thing, has experienced instant parenthood. Of teenagers no less!! He calls from time to time to say how sorry he is for the problems he might have caused during his own adolescence. So, though I do have step-grandchildren in that family, there isn't a chance of becoming a true grandmother in that case.

So when I found out that my daughter, Lisa, was pregnant after months of trying to conceive through artificial insemination, I found myself very thrilled and excited. Lisa and her partner Deena, were ecstatic. Zoe, pictured below, was born on September 29, 2000. I fell head over heals in love with her and being a grandmother. Especially when she started to talk and for some reason began to call me "Batty." How did she know??

Next to her is the picture she sent to me for Mother's Day. Entitled,"Zoe and the Potty," her drawing speaks of her working through her recent nasty experience with an overflowing toilet. I love that the potty is so colorful, except of course for that deep, dark hole in the center where all kinds of horrible, smelly things are hiding.

When Lisa tried to become pregnant again and miscarried, she and Deena decided to adopt a child from Guatemala. Noah was born on July 10, 2003 in Guatemala City and after what seemed like an eternity, came home to the USA with Lisa, Deena and Zoe just over a year later. There he is below. He is a real charmer ... loves to flirt, dance and play with toy trains. He is also quite an actor. I love his drawing, called "Guy on a Choo Choo."

So there they are! My pride and joy! They live too far away ... about 7 hours by car ... but hey, distance is nothing when you're blessed with such angels!

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mother's Day

That's my mom and me, taken in 1945. We're looking at a photo of my dad who had been awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for "extraordinary heroism in action," in Italy during WWII. She was just a young chick then and I was 3 years old.

This is my mom holding a pan of homemade pierogies which we had just finished making for Christmas dinner this past December. She turned 83 last March.

She lives in an apartment that my husband and I created for her in our home in 2001. She had been living nearby but had become quite ill. We had just moved into this house ourselves in January of the same year. Besides its location on the river, the house also attracted us because it had a small apartment that we could easily make larger, ideal for the situation we were faced with when my mother became sick.

I'm very happy to say that she is still here with us today. She was declared in remission from lung cancer this past December, but suffers from emphysema. She drives her own car, goes to the gym 3 times a week where she walks on a treadmill and is "stretched" by a physical therapist. She is as feisty as ever and though we do make each other crazy from time to time, we have an wonderfully peaceful household.

I 'm extremely grateful for having had the opportunity to be with my mom these past 5 years. We continue to learn and grow together having been given the gift of time. She has always been a wonderful teacher. I credit her not only with my intense love of plants, animals and the natural world, but for the joy I feel in being alive.

Here is a poem I wrote about her just after she moved in with us.

Our Lady Of The River
for my mother

At dawn I open drapes
watch the day take flight
above a bank of leafless trees
steely clouds cloak the light
in a blanket of solace
through eddies of mist
an apparition drifts

Robed in white she clutches
a wooden staff her cap
of silver hair rises and falls
like dew laden webs
that brighten the meadow
she stops to bless the geese
prays for rain and picks
pearly everlasting for her table

I watch as she slowly climbs
back up the hill her staff surrendering
to the weight of her effort
later she’ll tell me how this river
takes her back to another place
where time stretched out
so far ahead of her
she cound not see its end


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This Dog

Molly scratching

This dog

We are fleas upon this dog
hopping about sucking
searching for a vein
persisting in synthetic dreams
vinylblue pools golfcourse green grass
rejuvenated monthly with fertilizers
insecticides fungicides

We sculpt the land
cut trees for paradise
hurry-up highways
lace the air with unseen gases
deadly vapors so thick
we cannot see the views
we cut the trees for

We pump heavy metals
surgical leftovers into the sea
sit in the sun risking
cancerous complexions
on oil slicked beaches
where dolphins lie dead

And this dog keeps spinning
chasing her tail
trying to scratch chew
nibble and shake the pain away


In December, 2004, a 450-foot deep well in Christiansburg, Virginia recorded the magnitutde-9 Sumatran earthquake which resulted in the devastating tsunami which took untold numbers of lives and changed the lay of land in that part of the world. The well first gained attention in 1985 after a magnitude-8 earthquake hit Mexico City. At the time, a 7-foot fluctuation in groundwater levels was recorded.

Just a week or so ago after a 7.9-magnitude quake struck near Tonga, some 34 miles beneath the earth's surface, seismic waves again rolled through the area. At the time of the quake, the waves began traveling about 7,400 mph and in less than an hour had traveled 7,200 miles to be registered here in the Commonwealth of Virginia at the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality monitoring well. Apparently seismic waves "compress and expand fractures" in the well, pulling water in and then forcing it back out. This time, recording devices measured oscillations of less than 6 inches.

The well has also registered quakes in Japan, Chile, Nicaragua, Pakistan and Indonesia. It is monitored every five minutes for seismic activity around the world.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Meet Pallina The Rabbit

Yesterday I met Pallina a Netherlands Dwarf Sable Marten rabbit. She is soooo adorable and huggable.

The first child of my friend Nikki, pictured here with Grandmother Diane, Pallina which means "little bead" in Italian is 4 1/2 months old. Her rabbit dad is a champion Netherlands Dwarf. Pallina weighs 660 grams or 1 lb. 7 oz. at the moment. She will weigh in at about 2 pounds when she is fully grown. She loves her human mom, Nikki, and kisses her on the nose and purrs. She actually grinds her teeth when she is happy which sounds like purring. Pallina goes for walks on a leash and will soon be trained to use a litter box.

Nikki plans on getting a companion for little Pallina and when she goes to pick him or her up I'll go with them just to see all the bunnies that the breeder raises. No, I can't get one. I must love them from afar. My own little animal family just might find a little bunnie sibling a delicious treat.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

It's Raining!!!!!

May Reel

The whistle’s
Tinny throat
The flute

The Green
The Bodhran’s
Supple skin

The ram’s horn
In haste
The air


Friday, May 05, 2006

Waiting For Rain

During the summer of 2002, we experienced severe drought conditions here in Virginia. The river shrank to almost nothing. Water rationing was put into effect, lawns and gardens could not be watered and people who had just installed pools could not fill them. Those were the "little" inconviences that many people suffered through. But many more difficult problems resulted. Wells ran dry, farmers couldn't provide water for their livestock and businesses like car washes had to close. Livelihoods were at stake. Everyone depends on water. We cannot live without it.

Today I sit here watching the water level and pray hard that it will rain soon. We're down over 7 inches of precipitation for the year. We received very little snow this winter, a valuable commodity, since it refills ground water supplies which shrink during the warm months. Between February 26th and April 6th, no moisture collected in my rain gauge. The city got something like 2/10th of an inch during that time. We have had some rain since then, but not enough ... not nearly enough to keep me from wanting to run out into the streets to tell people to fix their leaky faucets, don't flush their toilets (if it's yellow let it mellow, if it's brown flush it down) and to rush out and buy rain barrels. And many other parts of our country and the world are in much worse shape than we are.

Here at my house, we're collecting cold water in buckets from the shower as it warms up and save water from dish washing to keep houseplants and the garden alive. We have 2 rain barrels and a 3500 gallon cistern in which we recover rainwater from our roof. We don't flush unless it's "brown" or gets very smelly. Our well is deep and in good shape, but I'd rather not use it to keep my shrubs and trees alive. That is what the rainwater is for.

I didn't photographed the river in 2002 and now I wish I had. But I did write the following poem:

Waiting for Rain

Mid August
the river shrinks
exposing stumps
rocks relics
from another world
grass burns brown
crunches under foot
yellowed leaves spiral
to the ground
as if it’s September

I sprinkle wilted hydrangeas
a treasured viburnum
with water saved
from washing dishes
delight in
a feather-worn cardinal
a brazen titmouse
preening in the birdbath
I keep refilling
just for them

Mourn as lime
moss and bottle greens
recede into memory
like the clatter of rain
on windows
the way thunder showers
puddle on the street
scattering as I drive through
a favorite place
to sail a tiny ship


Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On The River

On The River

There are no stop signs
reflective water flows
drop by drop
until it reaches the sea
evaporates in chilled night air
forming specters of mist
that sweep the surface
at dawn

Big blue wades
through cattails
stands frozen
eyeing his breakfast
stabs the water
with pointed beak
swallowing before I see
what it is he has caught

Canada geese
announce their arrival
loud squawks proclaiming
this section of river
as their own

I’ve flown in
like the geese
built my nest
on this lofty bluff
where stop and start
days become seamless
slip freely over and around
obstacles man-made
and otherwise even the dam
built to contain the river
is but a stopgap measure
ceaseless currents eroding
concrete earth steel

My words
are breaking free
they flow untended
by reason or guilt
connecting me
like the river
to the sea


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Tuesday Morning .... in Black and White

Tuesday mornings I spend 2 hours at PetSmart taking care of cats that are placed there by the SPCA as part of a joint adoption program. PetSmart gives us (ACSPCA, a no kill shelter) space that can house a number of cats and kittens. Volunteers like myself work in shifts to make sure the cats are well fed, healthy and ready for their new homes. 80 cats have been adopted out of this particular PetSmart since it opened last November and with the coming kitten season I'm sure the numbers will soar.

When I arrived this morning, there were 3 adult cats and 1 kitten meowing as I unlocked their cages in order to let them out to play while I cleaned up their living quarters.

Little Alabama, below, with huge golden eyes and a soft black coat was the first to tug at my heart strings. I always go for the little ones and if they're black that's even better. She spent some 20 minutes in my lap before she'd had enough and went back to nap in her cage.

Ashes peaked out at me, suspiscious at first, but then joined her sister Poochie in welcoming me.

They both love to be brushed and adore each other, wrestling, cuddling and cleaning the other. They are probably a year or two old and I hope will be adopted together so that they can continue to spend the rest of their lives in each other's company.

Thumper, an adult, neutered male wouldn't be photographed but spent almost half an hour just sitting and purring in my lap. He has medium length black fur and is a real sweetheart. I have a feeling he won't be there for long, but I can say that about all of the cats that are there.

We lost our beautiful Hannah, just before Christmas, and I was planning on giving our household a break from cats for a while, but then I decided to get my "kitty time" by doing volunteer work for the local SPCA. I started in January and after 2 weeks, couldn't help myself and brought home 2 cats which I'll tell you about another time.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Speaking of Rivers.....

an evening shot of the South Fork Rivanna River from my deck

I must bring your attention to the May-June issue of Audubon Magazine. A special issue entitled, AMERICA'S RIVER, it is jampacked with articles, photos, bad news and good news about our country's greatest river, the Mississippi. The information covers it all, from what has happened over the years as we have kept growing as a nation, our attempts at trying to tame this magnificent river and what we are left with today. The good news is that there are ways of fixing the many problems but unless we heed this call to action now, things will only get worse.

Below are some qotes from the magazine:

"We write poetry about the Mississippi, paint pictures of it, use it to irrigate our crops and remove our waste. It enabled our manifest destiny, connected us in commerce, seperated us in war. It is America's River, and its condition reflects our own."
Ted Williams

"Last summer few people outside of Louisiana, or even in it, knew that every year the state loses more than 15,000 acres of protective coastal wetlands or that a Dead Zone as big as New Jersey forms in the Gulf of Mexico. Then Katrina and Rita struck, bringing devastation, and a new commitment to tackle the Mississippi River's many problems. Still, any grand fix must take into account the whole river, from top to bottom, while balancing the competing interests pulling it apart."
Christopher Hallowell

"Most of America doesn't get what's happening. After all, how can wetlands that produce about a quarter of the nation's seafood be disappearing? With all the shorebirds one sees, it's hard to imagine that populations of nine Gulf species dropped by half in one decade."
Ted Williams

The magazine also has a information about what you can do to help in the effort. You can visit the Audubon website at www. For simple ways that you can protect birds and waterways in your neighborhood, visit Audubon At Home at