Archive for August, 2012

I am re-posting this, and thinking about how strange life can seem sometimes…….The last time I saw my oncologist she remarked that she no longer believed that my original diagnosis was correct and didn’t believe the cancer had actually metastasized.  I am very grateful for this reprieve, but I know that things change from moment to moment and we must not think we know what lies in the future but  only be grateful for what is right this moment, for the blessings of our lives…….
And thank you, Vee, of A Haven for Vee, for suggesting reposting something while I don’t have my pictures available.


October 19, 2010 by thickethouse | Edit

a folk art bird

Our Ohio State Bird – the Cardinal

There is a poem which has been running through my head a lot lately – one by Emily Dickenson. In my bedroom hangs a small picture with the word “Hope” on it and a lot of folk art drawing around it, with a bird in the center. I think perhaps this alludes back to her famous poem.


Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune–without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

I haven’t written about this in my blog, but some of you know already. In mid-August I was diagnosed with cancer which was called metastatic melanoma. The first book I picked up to read about this called it the Tyrannosaurus Rex of cancers. Not what I wanted to hear, and not perhaps always accurate. In any event, I’ve been undergoing what felt like thousands of tests, but actually were only eight, and two surgeries, and they have not found any more cancer so far. So thus far, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve also had a host of people praying for me! Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Buddhist and even a Muslim who works near Chicago with a friend of my son’s who asked everyone he works with to pray for me.  (They do high level work for a global security firm which I had not imagined to be such a spiritual powerhouse. Who knew? ;-> We live and learn.)

I am grateful to everyone who was praying, sending “maudvibes” (from friends from the Maud Hart Lovelace discussion list) or well wishes. They all made me feel very supported. And perhaps this affects the immune system, too.

At any rate for the moment life goes on, this precious fragile life, this astonishing gift we share and should never ignore. No. We should open our eyes every second to its wonders and blessings. No one lasts forever, and indeed, I might die in a car accident tomorrow. But for the moment, that little bird, Hope, is singing me the sweetest songs you can imagine.  (a postscript – I see my last bird image is the blue jay which has not perhaps the sweetest song of all warblers, not being a warbler at all. Indeed of all the birds I know only the Great Blue Heron and the Peacock have  more raucous unmusical voices. But I will leave this image because the blue jay is part of life, and so am I and all of you. And all our songs are beautiful if we know how to listen deeply and really well.)

Bluejay from Ohio

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For two days I couldn’t use this computer because Andy removed the hard drive to back it up someway, so that my pictures (and other things) would not all be lost. It’s back now, but “my pictures” is not working properly at all. My resident nerd will look at it tomorrow, but he’s getting ready to go to Houston with his team for another week with astronaut clothes training and other adventures, so I still do not know how soon I’ll be able to blog in any sort of normal fashion, or send  pictures to anyone.

But as my mother always said, “That should be the worst thing that ever happens to you.” And she was right.

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Just at the moment I’m having a problem posting the pictures I wanted to share  about Hungarian Scout Camp where my niece Ilona was this summer. I first thought the problem was with wordpress, but now wonder if it is not my “my pictures” file on my own computer.

In the meantime, let me share this link of a very short video on youtube of my son Andy running and describing his boiler and steam engine.

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Italian Moments

A blog I’ve just begun reading, FuoriBorgo, had a happy message this morning about ripening tomatoes, flowering zinnias, and the laughter of children. It took me back to memories of times in Italy, over the years, times that often had to do with food, and always Paul and I were side by side, off on adventures together, on the uphill slope of life.

One of the earliest was in 1974 as we were leaving our nearly two years in Germany to return home. We first visited Paul’s cousin Renyi-Vamos Madi in Budapest and then drove her to Pirto to visit other relatives. This resulted in us leaving the country by a border crossing neither of us had ever seen. It might have been Hercegszanto, but I’m not really sure. This is now Serbia, but was then Yugoslavia. We drove through rather intimidating areas of the country slowly making our way to Dubrovnik which we loved exploring, and then north to the city of Split. These are in Croatia, I believe, on what is called the Dalmatian coast. From Split we put our car on a ferry for Pescara, Italy, and when we arrived there we began to drive toward Rome.

About halfway there, through beautiful country I remember as somewhat hilly, we were overwhelmed with hunger! Stopping in a little village we went to a bakery to buy some bread. (European bread so truly can be called “the staff of life”.)  But at the bakery they told us the baking was not finished and no bread would be available for a half an hour. So for that long, long half hour we walked around the quite small village. We stopped on a small bridge to contemplate the water bouncing over the rocks below. Somewhere a group of young boys on a stone embankment called out to us and we realized they were asking who we were, or where we were from. I called back, “American,” and they all looked baffled. Paul told me that to most European ears the way we say American sounds more like Merkin. He answered the boys with more careful enunciation and they  seemed to understand with smiles and nods. We walked on some more. Finally, after the half hour of walking through a world completely filled with the scent of fragrant delicious bread, we were able to buy some and taste its goodness. You know, hunger really is the best sauce. I could swear that this was the best bread I’d ever eaten.

Another, even simpler memory, concerns a day we bought a watermelon from a little market and drove up into the hills and stopped by a farmer’s field to eat it. So delicious. Sweet, juicy, in a world of sun and blue skies and the hum of bees. A farmer drove by on a tractor and called out, “Buon Appetito!”  How simple, good, and in harmony the world seemed. I’m really lucky to have these memories.

And I remember Paul saying when we were first married that we should make good memories so that they would be stored up to enjoy in our old age.

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Late last night Andy called up and said I should come downstairs. I didn’t really want to, but rather grumpily came down. We had to walk far into the front yard, beyond the branches of the oak tree, to get a glimpse of the night sky to the southwest. I couldn’t photograph what I saw, but have grabbed images from a site called Astrobob. These are not really photos, but are projections, I think.  The one on the left is closer to what I saw, but the triangle of Saturn (upper left), Mars (lower right) and Spica (lower left, and a far, far away star) was a little higher and more to the south as I remember.

A few years ago, and I don’t recall how many, Andy told me that we could sign up to have our names etched on a microchip that would be in the NASA rover Curiosity which was going to Mars. I did this, and last night got to see Mars in the night sky and know that my name was up there with those of thousands of others, on a little chip on Curiosity.

It was worth the walk down to see it!

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Andy put this up on Facebook today and I remember the day. I was there. We were just beginning our steam engine trip from Skagway, Alaska to Bennett Lake  in the summer of 2005. Andy was working in Juneau and Paul and I went to visit him there. Beautiful memories. Andy dressed up for the trip and had people come up to him with bills of lading because they thought he worked for the railroad.

He said that since seeing the video about British locomotive maintenance, he never wants to work on something this big…

And I hope you recognize that the header for my blog is a photo I took that day.

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My container garden on the deck is slowly coming along. Actually it is doing quite a bit better because we have had some rain in the last week, and the heat is a little less……I have cherry tomatoes to pick, but they are not red yet. There are a lot of apples on the tree. Lots of herbs – chives, lavender, basil, sage, oregano, rosemary, parsley and mint as well as a few sorts of baby lettuce…  My overwintered common red variety geranium has one flower and lots of buds and the more interesting leaved one has been blooming for quite a while now….

Inside, I am growing some orchids on the little round table where I had lots of flowering potted plants in the early spring.

On the table where the plants are is a lovely book I recently bought, second-hand. It is Brother Sun, Sister Moon by Katherine Patterson, illustrated by Pamela Dalton, a retelling of St. Francis of Assisi’s beautiful Canticle of the Sun.

This is an English translation on which this much simpler beautiful book is based:

Most high, all powerful, all good Lord!
All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, and all blessing.

To you, alone, Most High, do they belong.
No mortal lips are worthy to pronounce your name.

Be praised, my Lord, through all your creatures,
especially through my lord Brother Sun,
who brings the day; and you give light through him.
And he is beautiful and radiant in all his splendor!
Of you, Most High, he bears the likeness.

Be praised, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars;
in the heavens you have made them bright, precious and beautiful.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
and clouds and storms, and all the weather,
through which you give your creatures sustenance.

Be praised, My Lord, through Sister Water;
she is very useful, and humble, and precious, and pure.

Be praised, my Lord, through Brother Fire,
through whom you brighten the night.
He is beautiful and cheerful, and powerful and strong.

Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth,
who feeds us and rules us,
and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.

Be praised, my Lord, through those who forgive for love of you;
through those who endure sickness and trial.

Happy those who endure in peace,
for by you, Most High, they will be crowned.

Be praised, my Lord, through our Sister Bodily Death,
from whose embrace no living person can escape.
Woe to those who die in mortal sin!
Happy those she finds doing your most holy will.
The second death can do no harm to them.

Praise and bless my Lord, and give thanks,
and serve him with great humility.

The art work in this book is so lovely and so simple that I’m tempted to upload more than I should. It is perfect to look at with a young child, every page has so many gifts to talk about. And I don’t even need the young child to let me sit and enjoy every page!

I just discovered that at his website


you can see a little video of Pamela Dalton doing the paper cutting for this book……Enjoy!

Did I mention that this is a very DESULTORY sort of post, reflecting the way my mind works, I fear.

To turn from my gardening and bookish hobbies, Andy is pursuing his latest hobby (well, returning to one he enjoyed a few years ago with new focus) and a lot of space in the garage and driveway is taken up with boilers, wood, coal, steam engines, etc…….

This engine is the one he call “the little Turner” and wants to hook up to an alternator to produce electricity. But I think he has thoughts of a steam launch to sail on Lake Chautauqua someday! This would be interesting, but there are a lot of complex government regulations involved, and it is not at all easy to find out what they are…..

Along the lines of Andy’s interests we were both up late last night (in our separate computer rooms!) to watch the successful landing of the new Mars Rover, the Curiosity. How exciting that was! Until I had talked more with Andy I didn’t realize how many things could have gone wrong and how much tension there must have been in that JPL command room last night. But none of them went wrong and the wild rejoicing that we saw  from the people who had spent the last ten years of their lives getting to this point was a great satisfaction. I’m so proud of NASA! Despite the alterations in their budget which make long term planning so challenging, they produce such excellent results!

And  now, returning to thoughts more related to interior decoratin than space exploration, I finally succeeded in acquiring a copy of the Hungarian porcelain company Hollohaza’s figurine of a country couple from the late 1600s or early 1700s. It is rather stylized, in blue and white with touches of gold, probably from the 60s or 70s, and it pleases me very much… I have bid on it several times but always it sold for a higher price than I wished to pay, until now.

It is on my small hutch cupboard with some demitasse tea cups but I will enjoy playing around with where to put it.




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Alice and her family and some friends of theirs are out at the cottage this weekend and she sent me some pictures. Here is Nathan, a victim of “too much fun”. This was taken moments after he assured his mother he wasn’t tired at all, and then collapsed. Well, perhaps not “collapsed” but lay down and fell totally asleep in one and a half seconds.

I think they’d done a bike ride and then tubing on the lake and am not sure if he sneaked a little fishing in, too…….

If anyone is interested in knowing more about Point Chautauqua, a dear neighbor of ours, a Professor of Economic Geology at SUNY Buffalo, Ed Conkling, wrote this great little book (and it’s not that little, either) about it. The community was designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, a famous and early American Landscape architect who also designed, for instance, Central Park and the landscape around the U.S. Capitol building.  Our little area was designed as a Baptist rival to the Chautauqua Institution across the lake, but didn’t last too long as a religious camp. In a few years it had become a resort which it’s been ever since.

This spring I was able to buy a piece of art from local photographer Jane Currie. It is a lovely memorial to our status as a National Historical Landmark. I wasn’t sure where to hang it, but Alice rearranged some enlargements I have of old postcards and sent me a picture of what she had done.

The picture is from her cell phone, so I don’t think it will enlarge well. But I like what she did and am eager to see it…..

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