Leaving On A Jet Plane

Cue the Peter, Paul & Mary. Or better yet John Denver. He wrote the song, you know, even though we often associate it with the former.

This hilariously dated hippie-dippie video is completely redeemed once John and Cass Elliot start singing. What glorious harmony.

Real life has a way of intruding into our blogging, doesn’t it? And my blogging is coming to a screeching halt for a while. BH and I are getting on that jet plane tomorrow for a long-anticipated trip to Taiwan and….be still my heart….Japan! I’ve been yearning to see Japan my entire life – or at least since reading “Shogun” back in the seventies. To say I am excited would be an understatement.

I promise to bore you all thoroughly with tales of my adventures when I get home. And maybe I’ll even have some cool new airport carpets to show you.

I leave you with my most recent favorite shot of Max, apropos of nothing in this post but too cute not to share. Oh yes, Max will be staying with friends while we’re gone who will take him boating and spoil him rotten. As it should be.


Zai Jian and Sayonara!


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Defending the Chamois

The extraterrestrial has moved from the gardener to the blogger. If the gardener baffled, the blogger bewilders. Once again the Human Ambassador is summoned.

ET: Why is the blogger frustrated and unhappy?

HA: She feels pressure to remove some favorite things from her writing.

ET: What things?

HA: Words. Rich and lovely words. Words full of texture and life which she has been collecting since childhood. You see, she has been advised that her writing is inaccessible.

ET: Inaccessible? Explain, please.

HA: Not everybody will enjoy or understand her if she uses the words she yearns to. She finds herself therefore practicing a form of literary self-mutilation which is intensely painful.

ET: But this is illogical. What if the intelligence levels vary in the human? They do, don’t they?

HA: Rumor has it.  But no blogger wishes to post into a vacuum.

ET: Ah yes, the black hole. I’m familiar with it, you know. But tell me, if a reader encounters a word with which he is not familiar, are there not ways to define it?

HA: Of course. In a matter of seconds, actually, the word can be defined and pronounced. In all of our languages.

ET: Why you have so many languages and a metric system are still beyond my understanding, but I digress. So let me get this straight. The writer, in order to attain a wider readership, feels it necessary to strip the work of linguistic power and beauty by reducing it to a more facile and spineless version of its former self?

HA: Yup.

ET: And do you not see the parallels in this type of thinking with the decline of the Mediocrian people in the neighboring galaxy?

HA: Excuse me?

ET: Oh, never mind.  A sudden surge of melancholy has me in its grip.

HA: You mean you feel bad?

ET: Look it up, will you?

It’s obvious where I fall in the discussions swirling about the blogosphere lately on using “big” words in our writing. I first read of it on Carrie Rubin’s blog.  She’d been urged to remove the dastardly “fugue” from a novel she’s writing as it slows the reader down too much, evidently, to be confronted with an unconventional word. Sigh.

There’s plenty of room for all of us and our writing styles on the blogosphere. From poetry to pâte à choux, blogs vary as widely as we do ourselves. Some of us are just looking to have a good time posting our daily doings in a casual and loose format. Groovy.

But some of us are in danger of hiding our light under a bushel.

There’s a term in real estate development: highest and best use. The writer who deliberately guts his work in hopes of attracting more readers is like the developer who builds a faceless storage unit on a prime piece of waterfront acreage. The highest and best use potential is forever vanished.

Worse, if our writing becomes flat and tame, we will lose the lovely “self-annihilation” which author Ian McEwan described as the sensation of sinking into words and leaving oneself behind, wallowing blissfully in it all.

I’d miss that terribly, wouldn’t you?

My writing hero, Mr. P.G. Wodehouse, presumed his reader was equal to his own mental agility. I can picture his arched brow and icy gaze at the very idea of making Blandings blander. What ho! Rubbish.


Were old Plum to have tried, unfathomably, to make his writing more universal, we would be left with this atrocity:

Like most American rich guys, he married a lot, going from one girl to another like a mountain goat jumping from rock to rock.

Compare that to this sublime version which cannot be read without the highest admiration for the magic seeping from his pen:

Like so many substantial citizens of America, he had married young and kept on marrying, springing from blonde to blonde like the chamois of the Alps leaping from crag to crag.

Mountain goat? Accessible and painfully mediocre. Chamois? Deliciously and perfectly inaccessible.

Thank you for reading,


Posted in Humor, Random Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , | 153 Comments

Just Say Yes

Five Photos, Five Stories #5

Saying “yes” is easy, I suppose, to the extrovert. Not so much for those of us of a more introverted nature. It’s not that we’re anti-social….exactly….but it takes more of an effort to mentally gear up for events than the extrovert might ever imagine. And certainly for me to tiptoe into the blogosphere was stepping way out of my comfort zone.

Ever cautious of wearing out my welcome, it was a leap of faith for me to accept a “Five Photos, Five Stories” challenge. When I received the invitation, the introvert within stirred and quickly laid out all the reasons why I should say no. But I reminded her of our list of Personal Principles in which resides “Just Say Yes.” I guess it’s more of a resolution than a PP, because it’s not a fixed part of my daily behavior yet. But I’m working on it.

Turns out this challenge was a blast. I was introduced to a new (to me) Traveling Wilburys song. I met Linda Richman again (still laughing at that one – thank you, Linda P.) The Full Monty made an appearance as did Springsteen and The Beatles – among others. I learned various regional names for the Virginia Stickseed. And a book recommendation or two.

Speaking of books, I’m about to delve into “All The Light We Cannot See.” I hear it’s fabulous and can’t wait to get going.


Thanks a bunch, everyone, for coming along on this “Five Day” challenge. For those of you celebrating it, wishing you a Happy Memorial Day weekend.

Heading into the garden and the book pile,


Posted in Books, Challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 106 Comments

Turtle Update: Free At Last!

Five Photos, Five Stories #4 (only one more to go!)

Challenge Rules: I am to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem, or a short paragraph.

Some of you may remember the story of the cold-stunned sea turtles stranded on Cape Cod’s shores last winter. And the huge effort by General Aviation pilots to carry the turtles down to warmer waters throughout the Southeast. My BH did his small part carrying fourteen critically endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles and two loggerheads in his small Cessna from Massachusetts to Virginia last winter.

As luck would have it, the release of the precious Kemp’s Ridley turtles back into the ocean happened just last Saturday. We were invited to attend the ceremony which the ecstatic Georgia Island Sea Turtle people described as “epic” and “momentous.” But we had a schedule conflict with the Westie Rescue benefit in Northern VA and couldn’t make it work.


You know it killed us not to be there.

We’ll console ourselves with memories of these more snuggly little beasts:


And these:


And even these standoff-ish Scottish Terriers. They are ornery. And aloof. They clearly find themselves superior to any other breed. I really want one.


As Max would say: “A-rooo-oooo!” Thanks for reading!


Posted in Challenges, Random Ruminations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 82 Comments

Snail Mail Silver

Five Photos, Five Stories #3

Challenge Rules: I am to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem, or a short paragraph.

When you have a friend who deals in antique silver and a first name that’s become somewhat vintage, nice surprises might just arrive in the mail.


My first name is as dated as a poodle skirt along with many others that were so popular in the 1950s and ’60s.  Is your first name one that immediately plops you down into the decade of your birth or is it more timeless? Would you ever expect to see it engraved on a piece of old silver?

I’m supposed to invite another blogger to join in on this challenge. If you want to, please do. 

Posted in Challenges | Tagged , , , | 163 Comments

Literary Kindred Spirits

Five Photos, Five Stories #2

Challenge Rules: I am to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem, or a short paragraph.

I am relentless when I desperately want a friend to read something terrific. Such was the case with my friend, Louise, and Margery Sharp’s  “The Innocents.” It’s a quiet little book which in its slow build-up to a most shocking (and satisfying) conclusion brilliantly exposes the human condition, for better and worse.

Margery Sharp, Nancy Mitford and many of the other great British authors one never finds in the Costco bins were quite the topic of animated conversation around the dinner table that evening. Sharp and Mitford have nothing in common, really, other than they share a confidence that their reader is at least as bright as they are. This is an irresistibly rare trait and one sorely lacking in much of what I read today. I despise being bludgeoned with the symbolism cudgel while reading. I get it already!, I want to shout.


Eventually Louise found the Margery Sharp novel in a second-hand bookstore in Texas. And when she brought it home, to her immense surprise, out fell the obituary for the other author under discussion that bookish evening, Miss Nancy Mitford. Of course Louise sent her serendipitous find to me immediately. These moments when the universe whispers must be shared at once.

It warms my heart to imagine an unknown literary kindred spirit clipping the obituary of one favorite author and tucking it safely into the pages of another.

Tell me. What treasures might you have come across in the pages of a book?

I’m supposed to invite another blogger to join in on this challenge. If you want to, please do. 

Posted in Books, Challenges | Tagged , , , , , | 77 Comments

Five Photos, Five Stories #1

A fellow Virginia blogger, Suzi, has invited me to participate in the Five Photos, Five Stories challenge described thusly:  I am to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph and each day nominate another blogger for the challenge.

Five consecutive days of my blatherings. I apologize in advance. Here goes:

In preparation for yesterday’s big Westie Rescue fundraiser held in northern Virginia, I got my good ol’ country boy, Max, neatly groomed so he could hold his own next to all those canine Beau Brummells in their little plaid outfits.

Just as we were ready to leave, he made a final swirl around the yard and reappeared like this:


Those little green thingies? We call them “hitchhikers.” Never let it be said, however, that regional terms are dead and gone. Here are the names I’ve heard for them since posting this on Facebook for the amusement of friends and family:

Jan calls them “beggar’s lice.” Sue says “tag-alongs.” David in Kansas calls them “stick-tights.” My uncle in Minnesota says they don’t have those there. Ha!

Turns out the actual name for these little green devils is Virginia Stickseed. Sounds rather like an Edwardian author, doesn’t it? “The Adventures of Max the Westie” by Virginia Stickseed. 

I’m supposed to invite another blogger to participate in this challenge. How about you, charming Woodland Gnome? Are you game?

Thanks for reading,


Posted in Challenges, The Boys | Tagged , , , , | 108 Comments