Monday, January 30, 2006

Solar Fountain - We Have Lift Off!

This is an homage to DPR of the New Dharma Bums blog. He documents all of his home and garden projects and shares them with us, his avid readers/fans. The things he accomplishes single-handedly are truly jaw-dropping. For the last several weeks, I've been working on my own little project, putting in a solar fountain in my back garden. It has involved doing research on what systems will work, ordering parts on the internet (from Solar Biz), digging a trench for the wiring between the fountain and the solar panels, and then the installation. DPR would probably have completed this whole deal in hours, not weeks, but that's why he's one of my heroes! Here's a photo of the fountain lying on the ground waiting for assembly.
In this shot, my son Phil and his wife Megan came over to help with the solar panels. Here they are working on installing them on the back fence. Thanks for the helping hand!Next you see the system all set up and ready to go. We are waiting for some sun!Finally, yippee! It works! This made my day and it makes a sparkling color spot in the back yard. Now for some new plants, pathways, etc.!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

My Howell Grandparents

My Grandfather, Thomas A. Howell, died before I was born, so I never knew him. He graduated from Yale in 1900, and his college roommate was Charles Tiffany, brother of the glass maker Louis Tiffany. Grandfather owned sugar plantations in the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Haiti. The company's American name was the West Indies Sugar Company, and it was a huge, multi-million dollar operation during the early part of the 1900's. He also had a large financial company in New York, and worked closely with a number of banks to obtain almost unlimited capital for his sugar operations. When his two sons, Hunt and Tom (my father) graduated from Yale, they took on a much larger role in the business in the late 1920's. Hunt stayed in New York and ran the financial and marketing end of the business. Tom went to the Dominican Republic, where he oversaw the operations on the plantations - planting, harvesting, packing, shipping, and overseeing a large labor force. During these years, Tom and Hunt were in their mid-20's. Our grandfather, TAH, was suffering from illness, and had to withdraw from the business as the illness progressed. In fact he died of tuberculosis after spending the last couple of years of his life in a sanitarium in upstate New York. The sugar business went through great financial stress during the 1920's, the years of the Great Depression. The price of sugar dropped dramatically, just at the time when the company had decided to invest in larger land holdings. Political changes on the islands also forced the nationalization of the land and the family lost ownership. A book called "Sugar" by Edson (?) tells a lot of the story, as do a collection of letters that our family has. I have few photos of TAH, but this one has always been a favorite. It shows my Grandfather at the wheel of his car in October, 1906, just returned from a bird-hunting trip with his dog and some other men. The car has birds hanging all over it and on the back it says "17 partridge, 33 woodcock". A good day for hunters, a bad day for birds!
My grandmother, Helen Akin Howell, stayed behind when her husband was in the Caribbean running the sugar business. The family had homes in Connecticut (Winsted), in Southampton, L.I., and in New York City. The estate in Winsted was specifically intended to be a hunting preserve for the family, and the land went across the Connecticut border, into Massachusetts. Their children went back and forth between the locations, often staying with their father in their home in the Dominican Republic. When the financial hard times came, the Howells were forced to sell off Winsted and Southampton, as well as many of their possessions, to make payments on their huge debt and avoid bankruptcy.

Eventually, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, my grandfather fell in love with his children's Spanish governess, whom he had hired for when he and the children were in the Dominican Republic. Her name was Emelia de Apezteguia, and she was called "Beth". She was the daughter of the late Marquis de Apezteguia of Spain, and the former Helen Vincent, daughter of Dr. Martin R. Vincent of the Union Theological Seminary. She married TAH on April 10, 1918, and was his constant and vibrant companion until his death in 1930.

Meanwhile, back home, my grandmother also fell in love with another man. In fact, she became pregnant by another man before my grandparents eventual divorce became final. In those days (around 1917) this was all a major scandal. My father used to tell me that when the divorce was in process, the children were taken to court and had to choose which parent they would live with. He cried every time he talked about it, even as an old man. I know that it was an emotionally devastating time for him and his siblings.

Both grandparents married their new lovers. Mr. Littell also died before I was born, but my grandmother had two children by him, my father's half-siblings, Elizabeth (Liz) and Emlen Littell. We saw my grandmother occasionally. By then she was living at Quaker Hill, New York, where she had grown up and her Quaker ancestors had founded the community. She was a dignified and somewhat gruff old woman, but beneath her gruffness she was very kind and generous. She was great friends with Edward R. Murrow and his wife Janet, who also lived at Quaker Hill. I remember her taking me to the first movie I ever saw, Peter Pan! Here are two photos, one of Helen, my grandmother, as a young woman, and one when she was older.

Beth (Emelia), my grandfather's Spanish second wife, after my grandfather died, also married again to Charles Tiffany, Grandfather's former college roommate! Charles Tiffany also died before I was born, but Beth Tiffany was very present in our lives growing up. She lived in New York, hobnobbed with the very rich, and made frequent visits to us on the farm in New Jersey. She always seemed to have a drink in one hand and a cigarette in a long holder in the other. She ate burnt toast, drank thick black coffee, and smoked like a chimney. We always thought she must be black inside! She also had a wry and dark sense of humor and a razor-sharp wit. Beth told hilarious and fanstastical stories, many of them made up, I believe, which delighted us children no end. Here are some photos of her, young and old! Her eccentricity and vibrant personality were some of the highlights of my childhood.

Friday, January 27, 2006

We Lost our Sweet Lola

The sad news is that we lost our wonderful dog, Lola. We rushed her up to UC Davis Vet hospital on Tuesday for a possible Pacemaker, her only hope, but she died before the surgery early Wednesday morning. We are, of course, devastated, but also OK. We find it hard to believe that she could go so quickly, but we spent all of her last few days holding her and loving her. She was, as always, so loving, open hearted, and cheery- a real mensch of a dog (if you can say that about a girl). The people at UCD were phenomenally kind and compassionate and tender with her and with us, especially doctor Epstein who was truly the epitome of what one hopes to find in a medical practitioner. We feel like we did all we could to help her, and all we could to show her how much we loved her, but it was time for her to leave us. There will be a huge hole in our lives and in our hearts that she used to fill. Daniella has also written about her in her blog, Encausticopolis. Our tears are flowing this week......

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Off the Track with Lola

The last couple of days we've been dealing with the sudden illness of our beloved dog, Lola. She began to rapidly decline on Saturday. The vet tells us that her heart is not working right, and she needs a pacemaker to survive. But this cannot be done locally, and we are talking with the UC Davis vets to see if she could get an appointment up there. Lola is 13 years old and healthy in every other way, apparently. A rat terrier normally might live for up to 18 years. The pacemaker could give her 3-5 additional good years, and is not as expensive as we had feared. Meanwhile, she is staggering around, not eating much, and seems dazed and confused. Not enought oxygen to the system right now. Needless to say this has upset our lives considerably in the last few days. We have to keep her very quiet and inactive so she doesn't stress her heart. This pretty much requires that one of us stays with her at all times. So much for any other plans we might have had! So please send good thoughts our way for this wonderful dog!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Switching Sides- the Howells, my Father's family

I found this info on the internet. Someone did some good homework here, and I'll add a few of my own notes (in color) and photos.

From England to New York: one line of William Howell of
Westbury Manor, Marsh Gibbon, Bucks, England
WILLIAM HOWELL, (great x 9) of the Manor of Westbury, Marsh Gibbon, Bucks, which he purchased in 1536 from Robert Dormer, b. 149-; m. 1st, Maude, and by her had issue, two children. He m. 2ndly, Anne Hampton and d. 30 Nov. 1557, and was bur. In Wingrave Church, having had issue, by his second wife, ten children, of whom the youngest,
HENRY HOWELL, (great x 8) of Westbury Manor, which he inherited on the death of his elder brother, John, in 1576, b. ca. 1550, and d. 20 July 1625, and was s[ucceeded] by his son,
EDWARD HOWELL,(great x 7) of Westbury Manor, Bucks, which he sold in 1639 to Richard Francis, and emigrated to Lynn, Massachusetts, and led the Colony which founded Southampton, Long Island, in 1640. He was b. 22 July, 1584, and d. 1655, leaving issue, by Francis (d. 1 July, 1630), his first wife, a son,
RICHARD HOWELL, (great x 6) of Southampton, Long Island, bapt. 1629; m. 1st, Elizabeth, dau. of Thomas Halsey, and by her had, with other issue,
CAPT. JOSIAH HOWELL, (great x 5) of Southampton, b. 1675, and d. 1752, leaving issue, by Mary (b. 1681; d. 1766), his second wife, a son,
JOSIAH HOWELL, (great x 4) of Quogue, b. 1738; m. Mary Howell, and d. 1808, leaving a son,
HAMPTON HOWELL, (great x 3) of Bellport, New York, b. 1771; m. Elizabeth (b. 1777; d. 1855), dau. of James Post, and d. at Bellport, New York, 1814, leaving issue,
BENJAMIN HUNTTING HOWELL (great-great grandfather), of New York, b. 7 Feb. 1811; m. 1st, 1837, Mary Andrews, and 2ndly, 21 April, 1851, Elizabeth (b. 28 Nov. 1830; d. 22 Feb, 1902), dau. of Talcott Banks, by Martha Burr, his wife, and d. 16 April, 1900, having had issue, by his second wife, HERE HE IS, as a child and an adult.

HENRY BANKS HOWELL, (great grandfather) of New York, and Quogue, b. 31 Oct. 8154; m. 27 Dec. 1876, Mary Ann (b. 2 Sept. 1858; d. 1 Mar. 1907), dau. of Thomas Lawrence Blackwell, by Mary Ann Bartlett, his wife, and d. 19 Sept. 1898, leaving, with other issue, (Here is Mary Ann Blackwell, his wife. I Have no photo of him, but I have the little chair that was given to Henry on his 2nd birthday in 1856):

THOMAS ANDREWS HOWELL,(grandfather) of New York and Southampton, b. 9 Nov. 1877; m. 8 Feb. 1902, Helen,(grandmother) dau. of Judge Albro Akin, of Quaker Hill, New York, and a descendant of Anne Winthrop (1586-1618), sister of John Winthrop, a founder and first Governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony 1630, and d. 19 April, 1930, leaving issue, HERE THEY ARE:

THOMAS ANDREWS HOWELL II, (father) b. 17 December 1902, died December 13, 1985.

He received a B.A. from Yale in 1925. He (with his father and two brothers, John Akin Howell and William Huntting Howell, and sister Elena Howell Terry) was an owner of Compania Azucarera Boca Chica, of Santo Domingo, engaged in the sugar business. (Hewlett, Long Island, New York; 515, Madison Avenue, New York City). Married Alice Whitfield, June 1943.
Four children: Corinne (Kim), Thomas Andrews Howell III (Tom), Richard Whitfield Howell (Dick), and William Huntting Howell (Hunt).

More about this side of the family in upcoming posts!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

My Mother and her Siblings

Richard and Mercy, as I mentioned earlier, had five children.
•Oldest was John Hallock (we always called him Uncle Whit), on the right. He married Aunt Frances, and they had 4 children (Mary Ellen, John, Linda, Bobby).
•Next in line was Margaret (Aunt Peg), tallest in the back row. She married Walter Tong (Uncle Walter) and they had three children, (Eloise, Curtis, and Annarae).
•My mother, Alice, was the middle child and is in the middle of this photo. She married my father, Thomas A. Howell, and they had four children: Kim (me), Tommy, Hunt, and Dick.
•Dorothy was the fourth child (front right in this photo). She married Eric Johnson (Uncle Eric) and they had three children (Karen, Linn, and Beth).
•The youngest child was Richard (far left). He married Aunt Janet, and they had two children, Richie and Barbara Sue.

So I had 8 aunts and uncles and 12 cousins on this side of the family. Most of those cousins have grown up and had children and grandchildren and even great grandchildren of their own by now. I could not make an accurate count even if I wanted to. But I could write chapters about these families. There would be a chapter about how Peg and Walter and their children were missionaries in the Philippines during WWII, and were held in Japanese internment camps for three years. A chapter would have to be written about Aunt Dot and Uncle Eric's passion for health, exercise, fun, outdoor exploration, and great resourcefulness as parents and providers. I could write about Aunt Frances' and Uncle Whit's artistry and craftsmanship, as painters, chair caners, etc. I could write about Uncle Dick and Aunt Janet's jewelry business in Attleboro, Mass., the laughter and humor in their home, and the subsequent tragic struggle with Aunt Janet's Huntington's disease. But I'll leave those stories to their families for now, and try to put down what I remember about our own family, my parents Tom and Alice, and our lives growing up in New Jersey and beyond. More soon!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Mercy and Richard (Part 2)

The Allamuchy Store was a trading center and post office for two wealthy families in New Jersey, the Rutherfords and the Stuyvesants. Their huge estates (on over 5000 acres) had a bevy of servants - coachmen, stable men, horse and dog caretakers, maids, cooks, livery men, gardeners, etc. The estates were used for farms and "deer parks". Around the periphery, in the famous New Jersey "mucklands" where the dirt is particularly black and rich, lived a number of enterprising Polish families who brought food to the little store to be sold and traded for their own supplies. The village of Allamuchy thus was a hub for much activity. The Whitfields had little money but plenty of energy, especially my grandmother. She wrote "Those were the days when I made seven loaves of bread at a time. It was also before the days of washing machines. I made clothes for the children. Sometimes I was called on to substitute for teachers when they were ill. I went to see neighbors when they were sick. As I look back on those early days, my role was varied to say the least. I was thankful for my college training in Domestic Science which helped me face many of the emergencies. Good health gave me strength for daily tasks. "
This photo shows the five children durng those hard years.
My grandfather, Richard, continued to have poor health (diabetes), however, and Mercy carried the lion's share of the workload, with help from the children as they grew older. By 1923, grandfather was quite ill again, and the family was forced to sell the store. Uncle Nathan bailed them out by buying them a home, and the older children began working to help support the family. When the depression came, my grandparents had their full share of hardships, but over time life got better for them. They continued to live in Hackettstown, New Jersey. When Richard was 75 years old, in 1947, he died quietly in his sleep, "after a normal and happy day working in the garden". Mercy continued to live on until she was 96 years old. Here is a family photo taken in 1947, just before my grandfather's death. It was a gathering of all their children and grandchildren at our home in Califon, New Jersey. I'm the little girl in the front row right, with a knit cap and tweed coat. Our grandfather is standing in center of the back row, wearing a long coat and a hat. An uncharacteristically surprising detail I noticed today is that my mother (left rear) has a white flower tucked behind her ear!
I remember very little about my grandfather Richard. I remember that he was tall, formal, and foreboding, and that I was scared to be around him. As I grew older, I learned that he had been a very strict and punitive parent to my mother and her siblings, a harsh disciplinarian. At the same time, his children obviously loved him, but there were many stories of times when his disapproval and punishment came down especially hard on one of his children. My older cousins remember him warmly and thought he was "mild and congenial".

My grandmother, Mercy, by contrast, was a jolly old pal. I knew her well, and she lived until I was in my early 20's. She came and stayed at our home frequently, and we always celebrated her birthday every year, on December 26th, with a huge family celebration - sandwich loaves, turkey tetrazini, and birthday cake - and all the aunts and uncles and cousins gathered together. It was really special. Here she is about to cut into one of the notorious sandwich loaves. It's a wonder the whole family didn't keel over from heart attacks! Here, again, was the whole family celebrating Grandma's b'day in 1954. She was in the center of the couch. I'm on the left with a dog in my lap and a dutch-boy haircut.

Grandma Mercy was a great knitter, baker, scrabble player, embroiderer, listener. Reliably, she made snickerdoodles or peanut cookies whenever she visited. She lost quite a bit of her hearing as she aged, but continued to play the piano and sing along, even though she was completely off-key. We laughed, but also found it endearing that she was so unselfconsious. She loved all of her grandchildren and great grandchildren and took a great interest in what everyone was doing. In 1952, on her way to her grandson John's college graduation from Davidson in North Carolina, she had a terrible car accident and nearly died, but she pulled through. She and her driver ran off the road near Charlottesville, Va, and she was in the hospital there 6 weeks. Her jugular vein was cut (a policeman held it together until she got to the hospital), her leg was crushed, she had many facial injuries. The side of her neck that was cut and stitched actually took away the "aged neck" look on that side. Her youngest son, my Uncle Dick told her it looked so good it was too bad she did not get both sides cut, which did not amuse her. She had to wear a patch over one eye for the rest of her life, and walk with a cane, but her spirits were never dampened. Thanks to my cousin John Whitfield for providing more details about this part of Grandma's and Grandpa's history. To be continued!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Mercy and Richard

Continuing with the family history on my mother's side of the family, we get to my grandparents, Mercy and Richard. Mercy was the eldest of six children born to John and Sophie Brown, whom I wrote about in my previous post. Of the other five of my grandmother's siblings, I only knew Uncle Arthur (who died when I was quite young) and Aunt Amy, a true eccentric in my childhood. Here is a photo of the two of them, with my grandmother Mercy in the middle:
Aunt Amy never married but she had an elderly male "companion" with whom she traveled all over the world. There was some story about how she was his employee, or was helping him with some project or other .... but family tongues were wagging, albeit quietly because in those days one did not talk about scandal outloud. But it was most unseemly for her to be an unmarried woman traveling alone with a man. Tsk!

Speaking of tongues wagging, Aunt Amy could talk a blue streak. When she was around she dominated the conversation and it was impossible to get a word in edgewise. We would laugh as we watched her race through a long paragraph, gasp for breath, and continue on with the next paragraph as if it were a competition sport and she was going for the gold medal in chatterboxing!

My grandmother, Mercy, was raised mostly around Shawnee, Pennsylvania. She attended the typical country school house, and then eventually went to a variety of colleges. As she explained it, "I finished high school and then my father sent me to Pennsylvania State College in 1889. I fully expected to finish my college work there but a minister's salary was small in those days and with four other children to educate, I did not finish...... We moved to Gettysburg next. While we were there, Addie, Arthur and I all attended the Lutheran College..... We completed that year, then went back to Stroudsburg where our father preached for two years. During that time Addie went to [Mount] Holyoke College, Arthur went to Lafayette and I stayed home..... In 1894 we moved to New Haven, Conn., so that Arthur could go to Yale and later to the Law School. Addie was at Holyoke ...... I entered Boardman to take the manual training courses. It was a new school and I enjoyed the wood-carving, sewing, cooking and all kinds of art work. I graduated from there the same year that Arthur graduated from Yale. In 1899 Addie went to Drexel to study Library Science, and I also went to Drexel to study Domestic Science. Addie graduated in 1900 and I in 1901."

In New Haven, the Browns met the Whitfield family, who had recently moved there from North Carolina. Fannie Whitfield became a good friend of Mercy's, and introduced her to her brother, Richard. They were married in September 1902. It is fascinating to me at this juncture the Whitfield's slave-owning history crossed paths with the Brown's slave-sheltering history, and the two of them somehow found each other and fell in love. I wonder if they talked about this and whether it held any particular resonance for them.

Richard, my grandfather, suffered from poor health. He had typhoid fever and was hospitalized for 7 weeks when their first baby, Hallock, was fairly new. His recuperation was slow and my grandmother supported the family by raising and canning fruits and jams, selling eggs, milk, butter, cottage cheese and cream from the small farm where they lived. In 1909 my mother, Alice, was born (third child of five) and the family bought a small grocery business in Allamuchy, New Jersey. There were living quarters upstairs, which my grandmother said were "far from either ideal or adequate. It took real courage to face the task of making a home with such primitive conditions. Our only light was a couple of kerosene lamps and there was no heat except a coal stove in the kitchen. Our water was pumped in the kitchen sink and heated in a tank on the back of the stove". Here they lived for 14 years, and the last of their five children were born there. Little by little they improved the place. Here's a photo of my grandparents, Mercy Brown and Richard Whitfield. I'll write more about them in the next post.
And here's a photo of them with four of their five children during the early years when they were living above the Allamuchy store. My mother, Alice, was in the center, the blond girl with the big bow in her hair.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Maternal Great Grandparent's Story

My grandmother Mercy's first recorded ancestor (that I'm aware of) was a Judge Jonathan Brown, born May 17, 1746, and buried in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania in 1827. This was my great great great grandfather. His son Daniel Brown married Mercy Hallock - these were my great great grandparents. They were farmers and lived on a beautiful large farm on the Delaware River, near the Delaware Water Gap. Mercy Hallock was a Quaker, and bore seven children. My grandmother described her thus: "I can remember my grandmother Mercy, who wore the plain grey costume and Shaker bonnet."

Finally we get to John Hallock Brown, one of their sons, born in 1843 in Pennsylvania, who married Sophia Price - these were my great grandparents. As a young man, John H. Brown graduated from Princeton University in 1867, and then from Union Theological Seminary in 1869. While he was studying at Union, he met Sophie Price who was studying music. Both of them played the organ and piano, and were drawn together by their love of music. In later years, when they had children, they put together an orchestra in their home and had performances. John became a minister and preached in several small churches in New York and Pennsylvania, and the family moved often.

Sophie was born in 1843 in New York City, and was 20 when the Civil War started. Her family sheltered and aided slaves making their way north on the underground railway. Her father (my great great grandfather) was Cyrus Price, who had a business painting ships in New York harbor. He amassed a considerable fortune and fathered five children, one of whom was Sophie. Here is a photo of John and Sophie Brown when they were much older. Don't they look happy? And check out that woodpile behind them (I think that's what it is!).

A Little Family History

Several family members have expressed an interest in hearing more "family stories". Now that all of our older family members have passed on, it falls to my generation to keep the stories alive for our children and their children. I plan to put a bunch of family stories and family history onto this blog. Hopefully it won't be too boring for non-family members!

I'll start with what I know about my mother's side of the family. I have a pretty good family tree, and some history that my Grandma Mercy wrote down. There's also a web page with some Whitfield family documents, and another with a Whitfield Family History. Let's go for it!

My great great grandfather, Civil War General Nathan Bryan Whitfield (1798-1868)**[NOTE: someone who commented has corrected this - see the comments below] moved his family and slaves from Lenoir County, N.C., to Marengo County, Alabama, in 1835. He took part in expanding the cotton culture into the Old Southwest and built Gaineswood mansion in Demopolis. His son was Bryan Whitfield, and this is a photo of what he looked like, as well as a group portrait of his nine children, including Richard, my grandfather, on the far left. Bryan's wife was Ellen White Whitfield (photo above, center of group, with my mother standing right behind her).
When I was a child, I knew a few of these people, who were my mother's fraternal aunts and uncles. My grandfather, Richard, died when I was about 4 years old, and my memories of him are few. Anna Wray (standing on the left in the second row) was an old woman living in New Haven, Ct. with her sister Fannie (seated on the right side). I believe that both were "old maids". Anna Wray (whom we called "Auntie Wray") was a fun-loving and warm woman, who always welcomed us with huge hugs and much nurturing. She wore cotton house dresses and had silver/grey wavy hair and dimples. She laughed easily, and had a light hearted way about her. I remember the happiness of going to her house, and always begging to stay longer. Such warmth and playfulness was in short supply in my childhood. Here's a photo of her reading with me in our library at home, in 1951.
Uncle Nathan (back row in group photo above, standing at right with bow tie) was also living in New Haven, with his hilarious wife, Aunt Florence. They were a pair of pranksters, and kept up a funny banter of jokes and laughter. Uncle Nathan always had plenty of money, and always drove new cars. I remember them coming to visit us on the farm in New Jersey - in fact there is a photo of him putting us children into the trunk of his latest car for a joke. We thought it was terrific. As you can see from this photo, he was one of the earliest people I knew of who was able to have his initials on "vanity plates" on his car!
I know he helped various family members financially. He bought a beautiful dining table for my parents, which ever after was referred to as Uncle Nathan's table. My grandmother wrote that, when my grandfather had extended illnesses (diabetes, etc) they had a long period of financial hardship. Uncle Nathan came to the rescue then and bought his brother (my grandfather Richard) a house in Hackettstown, N.J., where they lived for the next several years. Here's a photo of my grandparents, Mercy and Richard, in front of that house.
Grandpa Richard's other brothers and sisters (in the group photograph above) must have died before I was born, and I never heard much about any of them. Perhaps some other cousins will chime in, and correct or enhance what I know about our family?!

The Others At the Table

I mentioned that we had a wonderful gathering of young people this weekend, and posted photos of my two sons on my last blog. Here are some of the other people who were with us at the table. At the left is my adorable niece, Amy. You saw her wedding photograph in an earlier blog of mine (Art is Everywhere, posted December 12). She lives in New Hampshire and works at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Fellows Program. This picture of Amy is how I experienced her this weekend - present, loving, practicing deep listening. What a huge treat that she came here for the long MLK holiday weekend! Thanks to Jet Blue's low air fares, we expect to see lots more of her in the weeks ahead. Yippee!!

Megan (below) is my daughter-in-law, Phil's wife. This is an old photo from their wedding in 2003, the best I could come up with today. This woman is on a permanent shining pedestal as far as I am concerned. She is everything anyone could want for a daughter in law - she is loving, smart, resourceful, patient, fun, healthy, generous, level-headed, beautiful inside and out - just the best. She teaches mathematics at Cabrillo Community College.

Cara is Amy's close friend from Santa Cruz. She and her family own and operate the Pacific Cookie Company, makers of the most fabulous cookies in town. Cara and her husband are expecting their first baby in the spring. See her glow??!!

Another niece, Laura, is a talented, gorgeous and brilliant young architect with Fernau Hartman, Berkeley. Big news was hearing about a new guy in her life and watching her sparkle when she talked about him. We always love it when Laura visits us!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

My Sons

I have a daughter and two sons. My daughter lives north of San Francisco, so I don't get to see her very often. My two sons live here in Santa Cruz, and I am lucky that they're nearby. This weekend we've had a big family shindig. Two nieces, one from New Hampshire and one from Berkeley, came to visit, and it has been a great excuse to hang out with family. This afternoon, as we sat around the table chatting and laughing together, I was able to get quick snapshots of my two sons.
This is Tommy. He's about to turn 28 years old in a few days. He's off tomorrow for a ski trip.
This is Phil. He is the older of the 2 boys, is married, and is studying to be an engineer, specializing in sustainable and renewable energy.

I wish I had a recent photo of my daughter, Annie, but that will have to come in a later blog!

Andy Goldsworthy's Walls

I'm a big fan of the artist Andy Goldsworthy. I saw a show of his work in San Jose a few years ago, and have collected several books about him. Last summer I had the great delight of going to the Storm King sculpture garden along the Hudson River in New York State. They have a meandering Andy Goldsworthy wall that I think of often - it was so thrilling to be able to see it up close, be able to walk along beside it, and view it from many perspectives. It runs down a hill and winds through some medium-sized trees, seems to disappear into a lake, and then reappears and continues on the other side.
One of the things I like to think about is how Goldsworthy makes art out of whatever is available. He does not need a studio, a lot of tools or materials, the perfect conditions. He simply uses what is on-hand. He works in rain, snow, or sunshine. He stays close to the earth, which is his source. His eye looks at the same things we all look at when we are out in nature, but it sees possibilities that are unimaginable to the average person. He has the eye of an artist. How did he get that? Was he born with it, did his parents train him to look in a certain way, did some accident set him on his course? I am humbled when I look at his art by my own paucity of imagination. I'm so glad he is in the world, and helping us to see the precious beauty in all that is around us!

Friday, January 13, 2006

What's Blooming in the Neighborhood

A couple of days ago I posted some photos of the flowers blooming in my own garden. I've been roaming around the neighborhood, astounded at how many plants are blooming here in the middle of January. Here are some more photos of what's up in Santa Cruz this January.
Camelia & Lipstick sage
Hydrangea (really!) & Trumpet Vine, great for hummingbirds
Purple sage and Geranium
Yellow daisies and Magnolia trees
Little unknown purple shrub (?) & Rock Rose
Azelea and a purple daisy

Datura (trumpet vine) and some flowering shrub
White daisies (margaritas) and Pink Roses
Bouganvillea and Agapanthus
Primrose and Hibiscus
Blue ground cover and Yellow Day Lily

There are so many more, but this is more than enough for now! This may someday help me when I'm trying to plan a garden and wondering what plants have good color in winter time!