Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Birmingham, AL: Mulberries


Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.
Mulberries, George Ward Park, Glen Iris, Birmingham, Alabama. April 2021.

Now that the cold winter has finally slunk away, every day in this springtime gives my soul bounce. 

When I spied the mulberries on the park path yesterday, oh sweetness! 

How they took me back to another welcome spring - in Rustavi, Caucasus Georgia:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Georgia: The Tutebi are Here

Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)

There are black tutas and white tutas. In the plural, they are tutebi.

Mulberries! Beloved here. They do taste good.

The black tutas have peaked, I think, and all that I found at one tree were those which had fallen onto the ground.

Rustavi, Georgia. Black tuta (mulberry)

I had a mulberry tree in Missouri, but never saw any fruit. Evidently, it was a male, therefore fruitless.

Rustavi, Georgia. White tuta (mulberry)



Thursday, April 1, 2021

Word of the Year 2021: Joy 4: Happy, Joyous, and Free


A happy couple in Nazret, Ethiopia. September, 2006.
A happy couple in Nazret, Ethiopia. September, 2006.


We are not a glum lot

I'm not an alcoholic, but I am in a 12-step fellowship that uses the Alcoholic Anonymous Big Book. In that Big Book are some of my favorite phrases: 

But we aren’t a glum lot.  ... We absolutely insist on enjoying life.  We try not to indulge in cynicism over the state of the nations, nor do we carry the world’s troubles on our shoulders. ...  So we think cheerfulness and laughter make for use­fulness.  

We are sure God wants us to be happy, joyous, and free.

This, too, shall pass

In the 12-step universe there is a slogan we lean on when we encounter one of life's storms: This, too, shall pass. 

But the slogan also applies to sunny days, when everything seems to go right. Because they, too, shall pass. 

So I'd better savor the flavor of today's sweet air.



On joy so far



Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Missouri: COVID-19 Unfolding, Part 8888: A Haircut


The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.
The Honey Comb Barber Shop, Opelousas, Louisiana. October 2015.


I got my hair cut the day before my mother's funeral last week.

It was my first haircut since March 2020. Back then, the possibility of a COVID clamp-down in Tucson loomed and I thought I'd better get scissored before that happened. If that happened.

To get my hair cut this month wasn't my Plan A.

My Plan A was to wait until the beginning of May when I would visit my mom for a week. My Plan A was to walk in to my mom's house with my hair at a length it hadn't been in decades. My Plan A was to take pleasure in these three moments with my mom:

  1. Anticipation of the verdict she would render when she saw my hair
  2. The actual verdict
  3. My first flush of response to her verdict

Her judgment could go either way, and I knew it would give her a moment's pleasure, as well, to see something unexpected and to express an opinion about it. 

And then I'd get my hair cut. 

I looked forward to that May haircut - more than a year after the last - because my hair doesn't do well long. I inherited my mom's hair texture. It's fine and on the thin side, so the adjective to describe my hair when it's long is lank and not lush

But Plan A fell by the wayside.

Instead, the day before my mom's funeral I went to a hair salon in my old neighborhood. 

I arrived before the salon opened to avoid any hair cutting rushes later in the morning. There was one man already there with the same idea. 

The three stylists on duty wore masks, as did I. 

It felt safe to be there; I relaxed into the cutting experience. 

It felt good to have a fresh cut the day before I saw my mom, to say good-bye. 

My mom's shining white hair, when I saw it the next day, looked freshly cut, too. Pretty. Except there were two strands slightly askew on her forehead. I tried to guide the strands - lightly, gently - into place, but there was some sort of product on her hair that resisted movement, so I let them be. 


Monday, March 29, 2021

Rootless: The Last Monday Letter


Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.
Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.

Dear Mom, 

I've written you a letter almost every Monday since mid-December 2018. 

In that first weekly letter, I was at the end of an interregnum Missouri visit, about to depart for a Christmas-New Year layover in South Louisiana before heading westward to my next tourist-in-residency --> Tucson.  

When I wrote you that letter, I still had my 1995 Toyota Camry. When I wrote you that letter, I didn't know that, two weeks later, I would say good-bye forever to that sturdy stalwart of my rootless life.

It looks like this will be my last Monday letter to you, and I'm putting it here, seeing as how you don't live at Carol Cottage anymore, seeing as how you've died, of course. You, too, were a sturdy stalwart in my life. I think you'd chuckle at being compared to a car. Or you'd be annoyed. 

Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.
Carol Cottage, Missouri. January 2011.

So let me tell you about your funeral and burial.  It was everything you'd asked for.

You lay in your casket in a long-sleeved, white cotton nightgown. White-thread embroidery just below the neckline, a band of hand-stitched eyelets below the neckline, a pleated bodice. Pretty details, yet still in the range one can call simple. Exactly your style.

The James Lee Burke book, Pegasus Descending, featuring our mutual hero, Dave Robicheaux, rested on your belly, propped against the open half-lid of the casket. You had a perverse fondness for Dave's violent, psychopathic side-kick, Clete Purvis. 

As you'd asked, we ordered your casket from an online supplier and had it shipped to the funeral home to side-step the markup costs assessed by funeral homes for their caskets. We selected a poplar casket in a cherry finish that, like your nightgown, had pleasing details of interest, but overall, evoked the comfortable warmth and intimacy of your living room. And, gosh, did you know you can buy a casket at Costco? We chose yours from a different company, but knowing Costco's got caskets is something to tuck away for future reference.

As for how you looked in the casket, you didn't just "look good" like in the cliche about such things. You were beautiful. Astonishingly so. I'm serious, Mom. Even your nails were manicured and polished (with the barest of pink blush), just as you would like. And you wore the exact right shade of lipstick for your complexion. I'm not saying you looked beautiful "for your age," a woman of 91. No, you were beautiful in that casket irrespective of age. 

You wanted Ave Maria sung at your funeral. The soloist, a young woman, sang it to you, to us, in a clear, warm, mezzo-soprano voice, from the balcony behind us. The notes of that transcendent song washed over me.

Your Ave Maria was gorgeous. But when the young singer began to serenade you with Amazing Grace while your descendants escorted you from the altar to the waiting funeral car, well, that took my breath away.   



The car procession that followed you to the cemetery ... an unremarkable journey. 

No Fellini-esque plot twists on the way, as happened after your brother, Clement's, funeral. Remember? When dozens of us, including you and Dad, idled outside the church, seemingly forever, waiting for the priest to lead the vehicular cavalry? And when you asked the funeral director what was taking so long for us to get started, he conjectured that maybe the priest was eating a sandwich. 

We eventually did get going, one car following another, as they do in a funeral procession. We seemed to drive a long time, first on a congested arterial road, then on the highway, then off the highway onto another arterial road and then, oddly, the funeral car took a right turn onto a small side street. A dead-end, in fact. We followed, of course, only to understand that the funeral car driver had taken a wrong turn somewhere and he'd only entered this street so he could turn around (turn all of us around) and get onto the right path. Remember how we all poked our vehicles' noses into residents' driveways so we could then back up and restore our places in line behind the retreating funeral car?

There had been so much idling in front of the church before getting underway that your youngest child had to pull out of the funeral procession so he could gas up his truck before he ran out of fuel.

Oh, what a dramatic third act that was!

But getting back to your memorial day. It had rained earlier, but the rain abated for the final stop of our long good-bye to you. Chilly, though. If you'd been among us en vivo, at the cemetery, under the final-words canopy, you'd have been rolling your eyes and sighing while the priest used his bully pulpit to convince us of how fun it is to be in heaven. Me, I just shivered in the cold and waited impatiently for him to cut the commercial and get back to the program: you

Daughter Kit had a mission to visit Dad's grave (where you were about to join him) and her paternal grandfather's grave. She'd already obtained their grave 'addresses' and their locations on the cemetery map, and following your closing ceremony under the canopy, she and her family and I drove to Dad's cemetery neighborhood. 

So it was that we came upon the newly dug grave, into which you would be interred. We watched while the cemetery crew brought you to the grave in, let's call it a carriage, albeit a humble, utilitarian one. We watched how the crew pulled your casket from the carriage, centered you into a harness of sorts, and carefully lowered you into your grave with straps and winches, guiding your slow descent by hand. 

You would have been quite interested in watching this process. 

It felt good to be with you in your most final of final moments.

OK, then. This is my last Monday letter, Mom.




Related posts


Post office and cows, Topawa, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. July 2019.
Post office and cows, Topawa, Tohono O'odham Nation, Arizona. July 2019.



Saturday, March 13, 2021

Rootless Relocation: Where Next for 2021-2022?



Paths in Castlewood State Park, Missouri. April 2018.
Paths crossing in Castlewood State Park, Missouri. April 2018.


Where will I land for 2021-2022?

As Bones said long ago: " ignorance, I await my own surprise."

At the top of my short list - today - is New Orleans. It's where I might be right now, if it weren't for COVID's rude trespass onto our planet. 

This winter's cold has me longing for balmy places next year. Consequently, warm whispers from surprising places are in my ear.

  1. Miami
  2. Pascagoula, Mississippi

The borderlands continue to call me. Specifically, the US side of Tijuana. 

Or maybe this will be the year I go international. 

Also a mystery is what I'll do during my annual relocation intermission. 

 In past times: 

Under consideration for this year's intermission, all dependent on COVID, are: 

  • A trip to a Big City with one of my descendants. New York City is our Plan A. Toronto is our Plan B.
  • A month's stay in an international location. China, Vietnam, and South Korea are on my mind, influenced by my English-learner students. From today's perspective, however, none of these destinations appear realistic for at least six months. 
  • New Mexico and El Paso.
  • Wild card - some place or activity that hasn't yet hit my imagination.

A time in Missouri with family and friends is a given, with bases at Chez Katherine and Carol Cottage

Other times when I awaited my own surprise


Monday, March 8, 2021

Alabama: De Soto State Park: Trail Markers for People Like Me


De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.
De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.

COVID and a cold winter has made me sluggish in Alabama. 

Although my departure from Birmingham looms in June, I have visited only two state parks. 

To have any hope of achieving my goal of visiting all of Alabama's state parks, I better get crack-a-lackin'. 


De Soto State Park

I chose De Soto State Park as my third state park destination (after Tannehill Iron Works Historic State Park and Oak Mountain State Park).

I packed my lunch - a spinach/orange/mushroom salad + roast potato + roast chicken breast - and ate it in the parking lot outside the park's country store, before walking the 2.78-mile loop hike to Laurel and Lost Falls, which traversed along sections of the blue and orange trails.


De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.
De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.

It was a battery-charging sort of day to spend in the woods: sunny and brisk.  

Trail markers for people like me

Oh, the glory of the oranges! The blues! The reds!

Not spring colors, but trail markers! 

No befuddlement for this hiker! No getting lost! 

'twas a magnificent thing. 

De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.
De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.

In the photo above, you can see three (three!) orange trail markers! These trail builders and maintainers; they are my people. 

Before the park: my Alabama blue mask mission

Less than two hours away from my Birmingham base, De Soto State Park was so close to the Tennessee and Georgia borders, it meant that ..... yes, there could well be, also nearby, an Alabama Welcome Center with the soft, robin's egg blue masks

Screenshot, De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.
Screenshot, De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.

I decided to shoot up to Georgia before hitting the park, then U back into Alabama to recon the southbound I-59 Welcome Center for blue masks. 

Quarry found! I bagged a blue mask for me and a blue mask for my imaginary, strong-but-silent-type husband, who lovingly awaited me in the car. 

(I'd had a thought that maybe Georgia offered its own state mask, but after driving about 10 miles or so into Georgia, and seeing no evidence of a welcome center, I abandoned that adventure.)

Blue Alabama masks captured and contained, I headed next to the park for my picnic lunch and afternoon hike. 


De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.
De Soto State Park, Alabama. March 2021.

Nearabouts De Soto State Park

Cool nature-y spots abound in Alabama's northeast sector, and Fort Payne is a touristic center of same. De Kalb County, Fort Payne's home, is "Seven Hundred and Eighty-Four Square Miles of Scenic Beauty." 

Hearkening back to my awakening to land acknowledgements, De Kalb County (and Fort Payne) specifically, had/have importance to the Cherokee peoples - their lives there, their internment, and their forced removal. (University of North Alabama in Florence, Alabama, has a land acknowledgement page here.)

But just as we recognize the indigenous people of what is now called De Kalb County, let's recognize other people who were interned as property here. Here are "Ex Slaves Tales" of De Kalb County, collected by members of the WPA Alabama Writers' Project during the Great Depression in the 1930s. At the 1860 census, enslaved women, men, and children comprised 8% of the De Kalb County population according to this map source. 

Related posts



Sunday, March 7, 2021

Alabama: COVID-19 Unfolding: Part 8888: The Alabama Welcome Mask


Alabama mask. March 2021.
Alabama mask. March 2021.



On my way back to Birmingham from a COVID-chaste weekend in New Orleans, I stopped at the Alabama Welcome Center on Interstate 59 northeast of Meridian, Mississippi. 

My mission was to find a map of Birmingham. This was a fail.

But I spied a cozy bed of blue masks enveloped in clear plastic. "Are these free?" I asked the Welcome Center attendant? "Yes!" She replied.

I so wanted to take two because of the masks' cheery blue hue and because the friendly weave of their cotton fabric promised to be as soft as a well-loved t-shirt. 

I only took one of the pretties, which I now regret. Would taking two have been too greedy? I think not. My imaginary passenger, who waited in the car while I sought a map, surely needed one, too.

I wore the Alabama mask for the first time on Friday, my laundry day. 

It was as soft and soothingly snug as it promised it would be.

I want another one. That is my new mission.