C. S. Lewis and Narnia


Welcome to the pond at C. S. Lewis’ place, circa 2009.

It’s not clear or pristine and the banks were weedy, and I think I remember mosquitos, but it was still beautiful. Just look at that reflection in it! I was there today in 2009 so the picture showed up in my photo app to remind me. I toured Lewis’ home, including the inspiring wardrobe and the study where he wrote, so now it’s time to talk about Narnia.

I’m not much of a fan of C. S. Lewis’ Narnia. For starters, I don’t like talking animals (unless they be cats–like the cats of Haruki Murakami’s magical realism novels). 

Reading the books as a child, I was scared of Narnia. It is unfamiliar and often brutal. I can’t remember the series’ details, or even the general matter, but I felt uneasy reading them. What I seem to recall: The ship The Dawn Treader visits some eerie Gulliver’s Travels type places and sees the edge of the world… Susan becomes a non-believer and perishes by the end… The Silver Chair was scary, something about being locked in a chair… and I think I remember a massive crazy storm, basically judgment day, at one of the last books.  The Horse and His Boy was my favorite but even it had a feeling of loneliness to it, countries at odds with each other, perhaps? And Narnia forgot about the Pevensie kids and grew fallow and wild.

When I was in the third grade I watched the 1988 version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and hated each of the four Pevensie kids. Either Edmund or Lucy is the worst. After watching the movie in class, we sampled Turkish delight, which was disgusting, making me dislike Edmund all the more for his incomprehensible betrayal of his siblings for the stuff. That year I attended a play version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, heavy on the allegory and produced along with Everyman, and I was in the second row for Aslan’s horrific murder.

It bothered me that the Pevensie kids grew up and lived their whole lives in Narnia, only to return to the real world and be Benjamin Button’d back to kids. Adults in childrens’ bodies–like vampire literature? No, thank you.

Two things I like about Narnia: the Harry Gregson-Williams soundtrack of the recent The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and the real life basis of the Pevensie kids. As for Lewis, I like his last name’s spelling and the C. S. part–Clive Staple, if I remember correctly. I liked The Screwtape Letters.

And I like his pond.

Alma Mater, Hail


Saturday was graduation day at Harding, and this year was Micaleigh’s turn to graduate. Garrett and I hadn’t made a trip to Searcy for a while, certainly not since having the baby, so I was excited to return to what feels like my hometown, full of familiar faces. Every time I’m in Searcy I happily run into people I hadn’t expected to see, in addition to getting to see my sister and Garrett’s family.

Unfortunately, Garrett had to work a 12 hour shift, so I undertook the trip on my own. I already had established a hatred for the routes between Mountain Home and Searcy, but I hated them even more when I had to drive alone with the baby, especially since said baby had broken her month-long Excellence in Sleeping record to limit me to four broken hours of sleep the night before. It was a difficult 6 hour round trip, but a valuable learning experience, as all things are.

Micaleigh had been asked to sing at the 12 pm graduation ceremony prior to her own 3 pm ceremony. I joined her family in a delighted cheering section that slinked in the back of the auditorium to hear her sing. It meant I got to hear Dr. McLarty make the same speech, and jokes, twice, and I got to hear the seven-fold amen and the alma mater twice.

Despite my years at Harding, I never learned the alma mater. In fact, the idea of an alma mater was a source of amusement to me. It’s kind of silly, see. My first exposure to the concept of a “school song” was in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, wherein “the whole school bellowed” an absurd song about “hoggy, warty Hogwarts,” the tune of which is not specified so everyone sings with a different melody (the Weasley twins sing it as a slow funeral dirge, which Dumbledore conducts to a finish). So, yeah, school songs are silly, or in the least, British, which is nearly the same. As for Harding’s song, the dramatic description of the university’s excellence and romantic renderings of its campus create ungainly sentiment. But perhaps that is the purpose of an alma mater: to wax eloquent like a herald or fawning courtier. It wasn’t until I left Searcy but found myself returning for graduation ceremonies and the like that the melody and lyrics of the alma mater began to stick with me the way catchy songs sometimes do. Strangely, as I enjoy singing to Nenive and she enjoys listening to me (bless her heart*), the alma mater has been one that I’ve treated her to. I really only know a few lines, notably “from the foothills of the Ozarks,” and then, triumphantly, “Harding is her name!” Oh, and I can crow “sing the chorus! Sing it proudly! Echoing through the vale!” like Tolkien’s giddy elves.

This is to say, I enjoyed hearing the alma mater twice, and Nenive enjoyed hearing it sung properly for a change.

The seven-fold amen is a special Harding treat, sung at every opportunity. When George W. Bush spoke at Harding, he was the recipient of a seven-fold amen, as was the Duck Commander. It’s sung to send people, especially graduating seniors, on their way. When I say “seven-fold amen,” of course I refer to the song “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.” It is a beautiful song and fun to sing, particularly for its conclusion: a winding traipse through a field populated with seven strung out “amens.” It’s very affecting when done correctly, but often people get lost in the amens and kind of bumble through the last few. That’s okay; it’s fun no matter how it is sung–just like the Hogwarts anthem.

Nenive enjoyed our silly alma mater (“hail to thee, beloved Hhhhhhar-ding,”), the epic seven-fold amen, and Micaleigh’s song, “This is the Moment” from Jekyll & Hyde. I’ve had the latter stuck in my head since Saturday, so I imagine Nenive will be hearing me sing it soon–too bad, because all I know of it is the title line, including one (1) key change, and a line that goes “all of my dreaming, scheming and [something] has just begun” or something like that. What else rhymes with dreaming and scheming and fits the context? Keening? Preening?

note to self: ask Micaleigh what those lyrics are

During the ceremony, Ecclesiastes 12:13 was a key verse discussed:

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

I love this verse because it offers a simple approach to life, and also because it bears resemblance to one of Benedick’s lines from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing:

Serve God, love me, and mend.

It is delivered to Beatrice, giving her a suggestion for how to move forward after a serious heartbreak.

Between the ceremonies I was able to acquire a few souvenirs: a Harding onesie for the baby, a Bison tee shirt for her cousin Mabel, a HUCOP mug for Garrett and a two-year old catalpa tree. The tree had been grown from seeds from the infamous large tree on Harding’s campus, between the Benson and the art building. It’s a beautiful tree, fifty years old, with large heart-shaped leaves, twisty limbs and clusters of white flowers.

During the 3 pm graduation ceremony, a student was honored for perfect chapel attendance for four years. He had been inspired by a legend on the seat in front of him crediting a student of an earlier graduating class with “perfect chapel attendance, minus one.” The student being honored was given his own seat placard to announce that he had perfect chapel attendance, bar none. The auditorium was crazy with cheering for the guy, and Noah leaned over to inform me that it was his “lord knight.” I neither snorted nor rolled my eyes, because these types of ridiculous phrases are now commonplace from Noah.

I didn’t take many photos because I was typically holding the baby; I had to keep asking people to hold her so I could take a bathroom break. I really missed Garrett. Apart from needing his help, I thought of his ceremony two years previously when I saw this year’s College of Pharmacy graduates crossing the stage. Garrett’s parents, and Cassie, had been attending Noah’s high school graduation that day, but watched Garrett’s ceremony via livestream. They were able to watch Micaleigh sing and graduate the same way, from their computer in American Samoa.

The photos I did take were of a cute moment when Micaleigh’s two baby nieces, Nenive and Ada, gave each other a cursory pat-down; an unfocused shot of Micaleigh a mile away on stage; Noah holding a concerned looking Nenive (the audience’s cheering and applause constantly startled and disturbed her); and Delaney holding Nenive for a stirring rendition of “Doe, a Deer.” All taken during moments when someone else held the baby… and most featuring the baby.

Later, at home, I took pictures of the souvenirs listed above, plus the page of the commencement booklet with Micaleigh’s name and the macarons–oh, the macarons! I never knew I liked them before. In fact, I thought I disliked them. As it turns out, I must not have had any good macarons, because these, made by Micaleigh’s sister Hollie for the dinner party, were exquisite. For the first time in my experience, the French cookie tasted as good as it looked. There were dozens of them in different flavors, and I also learned why pistachio flavored treats is a thing.

It’s a good thing I was limited to four because I could have eaten, um… more than four.

*Note: this is the first time I have used the southern expression “bless her heart.”

“to paint the lily”


As a teenager working at a Winn-Dixie Supermarket, I one day was told a coworker’s sister’s wedding plans. There was some drama with the bride demanding stargazer lilies despite their being, apparently, more expensive and difficult to get than other options. “Stargazer lilies” sounded romantic to me and stuck in my head. One day they crossed my conveyor belt when a customer purchased a bunch from the produce department. It made my day to come face-to-face with a diva flower that had caused so much drama.

With their plentiful pointed leaves stretching along the height of a singular stem generally supporting three or more bright flowers, they’re attention-grabbing stacks of stars, beautiful with an air of exoticism. But they aren’t the divas I thought they were–they are easy to grow and transplant. Garrett and I have had success with lilies in a number of places. We have two clusters of lilies in our yard: several asiatic lilies we transplanted from Harrison, and some red lilies that came with the house and surprised us our first spring.

Recent hard rains had knocked the petals off lilies at a local garden center–no more flowers will bloom until the plants grow anew next year, leaving the lilies weedy and sad looking in the meantime. Subsequently, they were on sale 75% off–$1 a plant, down from $4. We bought twenty and planted them at the foot of our front steps. We won’t have beautiful flowers from them until next year, but that’s okay. The dramatic appearance of these not-so-primadonna flowers next year is heavily anticipated. Meanwhile, our sophomore lilies are just beginning to bloom (banner photo).

Meet the Frogs


These tiny guys are hard to photograph–partly because I just snap pics with my iPhone, which isn’t the best at macro, and partly because the frogs are shy and hide. They are masters of the quick getaway–usually it involves kamikaze leaps off bromeliads when they see me walk by. There’s just a rustle of leaves to show their passage, and they’re gone.

There are four frogs in total. Some days we don’t see any, but once in a blue moon we see all four at the same time. That reassures us they’re all still alive. I’ve seen all four at the same time just three times, and Garrett has a few times–it’s called frogger bingo in our household.

The best place to spot a frog is on the smooth pate of the skull. They also climb leaves and sometimes the glass walls of the vivarium. I love to spy on them. They have striped bodies and spotted booties and legs–it looks like they are wearing leopard print leggings.

Even if I don’t see the frogs for a few days, I know they’re alive and well from their singing. The male frogs have a high pitched trilling chirp similar to a cricket’s but sweet, infrequent and random. During times of rain and storms, like our recent weather has been, the frogs sing with joy for what feels to them like their mating season. Even though they’re in an enclosed vivarium they still sense the pressure changes.

We have at least one female and one male. The males are skinny and sing, and the females are chubby. The females lay eggs in bromeliads, which the males are then responsible for fertilizing and carrying on their backs. We’ve seen eggs, but no tadpoles yet. The frogs are nearly a year and a half old and may live ten to twenty years.

Post-storms Yard Cleanup


I think we missed most of the rain and stormy weather that was predicted for our area (it seems like we always do), yet we’ve had strong winds and a tiny bit of foul weather–enough to knock branches, leaves and pollen out of trees, littering the yard. Garrett and I have raked and swept our driveway three times in the past week just to clear away the nasty oak pollen, along with storm debris. I picked it out of garden beds and from among my planted flowers, and Garrett raked it up from the yard, amounting to half a dozen wheelbarrow loads to cart to the burn pile. I couldn’t resist doing a little weeding as I picked pollen and sticks from the yard–just a few minutes of weeding here and there makes a difference.

We wouldn’t cut the oak tree down over the pollen issue, but we wouldn’t choose to plant a tree like this, knowing the mess it makes! It stands taller than our house and coats everything beneath it, including the roof, gutters and Japanese maple. There is still plenty of pollen waiting to drop, so we will be cleaning for the next few weeks. The stormy weather at least helps to knock it down, but I wish it could do so in one fell storm.

I found several of the paddle-shaped leaf in the above left picture in our yard, but we don’t have a tree with leaves like this on our property. It looks like a variety of oak, but does anyone know what it is?

Also, we found this little guy:

Not sure who he is–just a brown snake? Snake Doe, dead of unknown causes. We also encountered a large (long!) black garden snake the other day while Garrett was mowing. Garrett tried to gather it with a stick to move, but it kept curling tighter and tighter around itself, tucking and retucking its tail to be more compact and snug like a dog circling a bed before lying down, so we left it alone.

Springfield with Nenive


We took a quick trip to Springfield. I promised the princess Dunkin Donuts and shopping, but first she got to sleep in and then enjoyed a long not-that-hot bath followed by fluffy towel swaddling while we watched oldies on tv. We watched the Gracie show (I forget the name but that’s enough to go by–“Say goodnight, Gracie!”) and Father Knows Best.

In the first photo, Nenive is like, “lemme try on my new sunnies,” and then she’s like, “oh, you taking a picture? Pose.

(Since she was just a few weeks old, she stares at my iPhone when I try to capture pictures or videos of her. Catching sight of my phone causes her to go from cute and babbly and funny to suddenly serious and contemplative. So, I don’t take as many pictures of her as I really would like to, and unfortunately the pictures I am able to capture, when not blurry, are not at her best. It’s not bad, it’s just not the fun and engaging baby she often is with me. She talks to me and responds to my singing by making noises at the same time.)

It wasn’t the first time I’ve been shopping and spent more money on someone younger and cuter than I–years of shopping with Cassie had made me accustomed to that particular situation–but it was my first time shopping in stores for baby clothes, and despite my best attempts to be reasonable (the expense of baby clothes is no joke! I seriously appreciate everyone who bought clothes for the baby especially in light of how pricey these tiny duds are) I spent more than I intended.

But look at this adorable pink sweatshirt from Babies R Us!

At Target Nenive was awake for over an hour, beginning with a ten minute wait at Starbucks (worth it). As I shopped, she erupted in hiccups. I continued, nonplussed, but people around us were laughing to hear her hiccuping. They are really cute hiccups. At checkout time, she sputtered a bit, threatening to work up to a cry, and then promptly fell asleep.

Unfortunately, the promised Dunkin Donuts trip did not take place.

Weeding Wonder Woman


My grandfather, a farmer, used to tell my mother that a weed is a rosebush in the rows of potatoes–in other words, a plant, any plant, is a weed when it is not wanted.

We have a lot of weeds in our zoysia grass lawn.  The variety of weeds includes a large amount of clover, violets and dandelions, among others whose names I don’t know. Some weeds are easier to extract than others, and I’m really glad not to have to deal with spiky, prickly weeds.

Garrett and I have been doing yard work in anticipation of a coming week of heavy rain, and I began weeding out of sheer annoyance at a particular weed, a long-limbed offender that had avoided the lawnmower by being slick and insinuating, weaving insidiously among and just barely on the surface of the zoysia. Once I started weeding, I got carried away…

Weeding appeals to my fastidiousness. It is essentially nitpicking, a meticulous activity that has clear boundaries (weed, or not-a-weed) and makes a difference on a large scale. Also, the labor is easy—I mean, it didn’t break my back to scoot around on my knees plucking weeds. In fact, I felt better after I had done it. I had a terrible headache when I began, making everything I did unpleasant–especially if it required much motion, noise or concentration. Weeding was so menial and repetitive that it relaxed me and helped diminish my headache in a way meditation hadn’t been able to do (although my meditation had been interrupted, repeatedly, by both Nenive and Garrett).

The biggest difficulty of weeding was just finding time to do it. I spent about an hour focusing on an area approximately ten square feet in our side yard. Below is a before-and-after photo of the same spot. I might not have lined the frame up perfectly for the after image–kind of hard to find a reference point in the carpet of grass, especially once the big weeds were removed–but it is the same area and does accurately reflect the lawn’s weediness followed by pristine glory after my efforts the other evening.

Garrett was using a fishy fertilizer as he watered plants and ended up using it right next to where I was weeding, and that put the biggest damper on my gung-ho weeding antics. Still, I got a portion almost entirely weed free.

Above, see my display of a typical weed, followed by photos of my pile of pulled weeds. I took a picture for reference of Garrett holding the mound before tossing it on the massive pile of leaves and branches we and our neighbor have collected between our yards.

Teal Pots Project


Garrett and I couldn’t help ourselves at the garden center the other day. We had a few projects in mind as we shopped, but spotting the teal pots that perfectly match our front door color caused a fervor for a new curb appeal project.

By the time we left, we had two carts’ worth of soil, plants and pots, and rain had begun to pour. The rainfall recently has been rather heavy and had knocked off many of the blooms of the garden center plants, so I was concerned for my own new plants being thrashed and beat up on the journey home. We spread plastic sheets over the truck’s interior and set the plants inside. The rain halted when we got home and as we began working on our potted arrangements, but sprinkling occurred regularly the rest of the day.

We planted the small pots with two plants: cordyline australis and portulaca. The portulaca have juicy stems and leaves, a pretty texture next to the dry jutting blades of the cordyline. We chose flowerless portulaca that seemed healthy and large rather than smaller plants that already had the pretty flowers, so we are not sure what color we will have. Their water requirements slightly vary; lava rock rests in the bottom of the pots to aid drainage, and the cordyline’s roots are planted deeper than those of the portulaca, smaller plants. The pots are, obviously, mobile in case we need to move them for failure to thrive. We could also transplant either plant if they don’t seem to get along well.

I hope to see the cordyline’s red color deepen, and I expect the portulaca, which I haven’t planted before, to trail out of the pots. We’ll see how they fare over the next few weeks. There is more rainy weather in the forecast.

Edible Flower Cucumber Sandwich


I had cucumber sandwiches the first time as a little girl, about 8, at a Mother’s Day tea party. They were very good, a somewhat unusual fare to me, leaving an impression–yet for some reason, I failed to eat them again for perhaps almost a decade after, until I had read The Importance of Being Earnest. Earnest is a play by Oscar Wilde and one of the funniest pieces of literature I have ever read. There’s a bit about cucumber sandwiches when the character Algernon manages to eat a platter of cucumber sandwiches prepared for a guest, and then cannot procure any more cucumbers as there are none available, “not even for ready money.”

My mother was recently telling me the ways I could use edible flowers in food preparation and mentioned a friend of hers who liked to put edible flowers on cucumber sandwiches for an added pop of color. I decided to give it a try.

My cucumber sandwich is a departure from the teatime favorite in several obvious ways, including the thickness of bread and crusts left on (I actually do despise bread crusts for being too dry but sandwiches look pathetic without them). I also prefer the skin on the cucumber–that’s where the nutrients are concentrated, and it has a nice crunch. And, since I was adding flower petals anyway, I threw on some spinach leaves as well.

The taste of petals and spinach was negligible in the mild sandwich; the creaminess of the cream cheese and butter and the refreshing melon flavor of the cucumber were chief, followed by the wheat bread taste. I enjoyed the sandwich with a cup of tea (of course!) as I listened to the audiobook The Silkworm.

HBD Photo Void


Hey, happy birthday to me!

Something I learned today is that I do not take photos on my birthday. It’s a historical fact.

Garrett and I met friends at the lake and kayaked. I loaned out my drybox and once again had forgotten the GoPro, so I didn’t take pictures.  For the first time kayaking on the lake, I got soaked as wakes from passing boats slammed into my blue Tupperware kayak and broke against the sides. I didn’t take any pictures on land either, not even of the Hello Kitty cupcakes or the princess in her pink booty-ruffle pants. It was a beautiful day, but you’ll have to take my word for it in lieu of photographic evidence. The rest of the day we saw a movie (the wonderful Lynell watched the baby) and had sushi.

I love looking at the “today last year” pictures. Mine go back to 2008. An average day yields several “today in X year” photo clusters. The days before and after my birthday are represented by five years, but my birth date only has photos from 2010. That day, Garrett had my roommate sneak red roses into my dorm room, and later we had a picnic at the park. He had a curly afro and I had braces.

I expect the missing years of birthdays are documented in my Moleskines in some form (like with the movie tickets), but it’s interesting that I historically do not take photos on my birthday when I take photos all the time otherwise. It wasn’t even aware that I haven’t been taking photos on my birthday. Maybe I was intent on enjoying the day and declined trying to capture it, but it wasn’t intentional.