Archive | November, 2011

B side. Gleaners

28 Nov

I took and empty glass quart beer bottle — Miller screw top, pace Dr. IJ — out to the week’s recycling at the curb.  There was a small woman in a woolen cap and red felt vest taking cans and bottles from the tall bin.  She would have heard me open the garage.

The last thing I wanted was to be hurtful.  “Pardon me,” I recall saying.  “Here is a bottle.”

She turned,  seeming relieved not to be scolded, and took it from me and said, “Thank you.”  She was upstanding.

Funny that my memory of it was only of mental events and very poorly of the actual words spoken.

A side. Chalchiuhtlicue.

26 Nov



It’s the Aztec goddess Chalchiuhtlicue–the water goddess invoked in childbirth that we wrote about in our article about mermaids in Mexican folk art! She’s now presiding in the second room of a fabulous exhibition at LACMA, “Contested Visions in the Spanish Colonial World.”  Such a powerful show!

A side. A very diverse Thanksgiving!

24 Nov

Today we will have Thanksgiving, as we often do, at our friend Eva’s son’s house.  Eva is a Viennese Jew whose family fled the Nazis in 1939. Her son is married to a Laotian woman; their 12-year-old daughter speaks perfect Laotian, too.  Also there will be his daughter from a previous marriage to a Thai woman, and her fiance, an American black man who has lived all over the world.  The other guests include an Algerian-French  Jew and his Chinese wife, and Eva’s doctor, an American who ascribes to Indian spiritual practices and his Irish partner.  Wow!  There’s a lot to be thankful for!  All that diversity of belief and experience in one room!

B side. Blogs — theory and predecessors.

24 Nov

I watch YouTube videos.  It would never occur to me to make one.

Conversely, I rarely read blogs, but I do write one.  Do I need someone to read it?

I know why I write it.  Why should I post it?

Men of quality often keep daily logs.  Jefferson was famous for his record.  Daily logs are unedited.  Blogs are published and at least as edited as the daily log recorded in a letter.


I’ll continue to be too inconsistent.

B side. So fine to read this aloud from Moby Dick

23 Nov

from Moby Dick, Chapter 81. The Pequod Meets the Virgin.

As an overladen Indiaman bearing down the Hindostan coast with a deck load of frightened horses, careens, buries, rolls, and wallows on her way; so did this old whale heave his aged bulk, and now and then partly turning over on his cumbrous rib-ends, expose the cause of his devious wake in the unnatural stump of his starboard fin.  Whether he had lost that fin in battle, or had been born without it, it were hard to say.

B side. Ponds

22 Nov



Here's my modest, little pond

Small, back yard, in-ground garden ponds are great for birds, cats, racoons (it does take some patience to put up with the results of their visits).  The sound of falling water distracts you from traffic noise.

At the moment, I’m setting rocks along barely perceived changes in the back yard’s elevation.  The pond is at the lowest point — maybe 8 inches below the high point, diagonally across the yard.  To a critical eye, it is a fantasy.  At a glance though, the outlined water course above and some ruble below give the pond a context however contrived.

What you absolutely have to have for a pond:  a fence and a gate because ponds are what they call an attractive nuisance and a drowning danger for very little kids, some mosquito fish to eat the mosquito larvae because ponds are perfect breeding grounds for mosquitoes.  You will probably want a small pump too.

How to make a pond:

A backyard pond is a broad, shallow hole ringed by  a 4 to 6 inch wide and 3 inch deep shelf full of gravel.  The hole is lined with heavy plastic.

To make a pond dig a broad hole with a shallow ledge all around.  I like marsh plants, so the other end of my pond is very shallow and full of mud.  Some gravel leads from the mud into the pond proper for the smaller birds to walk onto for bathing.  I’m pretending that a ring of heavy stones kind of keeps the mud in the shallow end.

Buy enough pond liner to fit in the hole and ledge with an inch left over above ground.  It’s tricky to measure because of the shape of the sides.  You need the ledge because the edge of the pond is full of gravel.  Dirt won’t work because the water would wick out of the pond like wax up a candle wick or water up a paper towel.  It’s called capillary action.  The amount of water lost is surprising.  Gravel hides the pond liner well.  Trim the plastic just below the gravel so you can’t see it.

I cut my ledge pretty wide and set bricks in a little concrete as a rim.  You can decide whether to have the gravel inside the rim or, like mine, outside the rim.

The liner is fairly heavy-duty plastic and needed because racoons like to dig.  Unplug your pump at night.  Raccoons love to mess with pumps.  Thread a wire through the pump’s tube and attach it to the pump.  Again, raccoons love to fiddle with the pump.  I’ve found tubes that they’ve taken from the back yard all the way around to the front yard.  I’ve looked out in the middle of the night to find mother raccoon lounging in the pond while her young frolic in the yard.  She looked like she was at a spa.