Front yard, back yard

We've been in our apartment for three years, but we've never seen the apricot tree out front bear fruit. Today, I plucked one off the branch and took a bite. Very sour, but fresh-picked apricots in Astoria? Magical.

In our little backyard garden, the hydrangeas are beginning to bloom. The overbearing heat will set in soon, so we're enjoying it while we can!

Mystery spot

This picture, taken August 1969, is presumably somewhere out West. I don't know where it is or the story behind the picture (family road trip?), but maybe I'll do a little painting or a pastel of the landscape. My obsession of the moment, the West or Wests or what have you, is manifesting itself in my reading habits: I reread Wallace Stegner's Angle of Repose, then devoured Marking the Sparrow's Fall (a collection of his essays), and now I'm wading into J. S. Holliday's The World Rushed In: The California Gold Rush Experiment. So very much to read, and only finite hours in which one's eyes can stay fixed on the page!

At ease

For the past week, I've been with family in the Sierra Nevada. I've been completely off the grid -- with limited phone and Internet access -- but will return to New York imminently. Until then, staring at some lovely detailed shots I took, like this closeup of a knob on the easel my great-grandfather used and passed on to my grandmother.

The Hare with Amber Eyes

I'm terribly behind the curve on this, but I'm loving Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss. I'd probably progress more quickly through it if I wasn't turning to the Internet at the end of every chapter, seeking out images of the paintings he describes or looking at netsuke on de Waal's Web site and on Google Images to get a feel for the lovely little objects that are the center of the story. 

What's it about? Well, says the jacket cover:

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who "burned like a comet" in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

I'm still looking for a facsimile of the portrait of Louise Cahen d'Anvers by Paul Borget, but the Internet doesn't have all the answers. Still, there is something thrilling about being able to see Monet's La Japonaise (Camille Monet in Japanese Costume), below left, and James Tissot's La Japonaise au bain, below right, alongside de Waal's discussion of the Japonisme that took hold in the latter half of the 19th century.

In the prologue, de Waal describes spending time with his great-uncle Iggie, the keeper of the netsuke for a time: "I liked the way that repetition wore things smooth, and there was something of the river stone to [his] stories." Repetitive the text is not, but there is solace in the easy progression of the prose; I can't help but think of one of my favorite David Berkeley songs, and though it has little bearing on the text, it's nice to take a listen, glory in the way these vastly different places and times end up with similar themes.


Winning

For the second year in a row, I "won" Nanowrimo (read: excreted 50,000 words in book-ish form in the month of November).

It's not much to read, but it's something -- something tangible that I can hold in my hand, in fact, as I've already converted this roughest of drafts into a perfect-bound trade-paper tome using a print-on-demand service. And that feels, well, pretty good.

In the mist

Another photo from Niagara. It was pretty chilly out, and the general grayness, combined with the mist from the falls, was incredibly cool. Sometimes, when you can't see much, your world and the good things in it seem all the more clear.

Given that it's November, and thus time, once again, for National Novel Writing Month, I may not update much for awhile. Head down, fingers poised over the keyboard, emerging only for intermittent jogs and the odd cup of spicy, milky chai.

 

Happy Halloween!

Have a spooktacular night! I am, as I do every year, hoping trick-or-treaters will stop by. Two years ago, three kids rang our doorbell; last year it was only one. It's already pretty dark out, and no one's come, so I suppose I'll be eating "fun size" Kit Kats and 100 Grands for the next month or so. I am tempted, very tempted, to offer a 2.2-pound brick of white Valhrona chocolate to the first costumed person who crosses our path. But I suppose it is not to be. (By the way, does anyone have a recipe that calls for a kilogram of white chocolate? I'm stumped. My only idea is an awful lot of scones with cranberries and white chocolate chunks.)

Curtain up

Some might call this print garish, but I love the vibrant color (and the parrots that I keep imagining I see hidden in the pattern). I bought a few filmy panels at Pearl River Mart, then pulled out my old Kenmore sewing machine. To my surprise, I got it working, and now our abode is just a little bit brighter.

Today curtains, tomorrow festive patchwork pants? Ever since I saw Nina Paley's intricate quilts at the Maker Faire (see, for instance, her piece featuring Bruno the cat), I can't help but think that it might be time to throw myself back into the fiber arts.

Sheltering in place

It seems that a hurricane may hit New York in the next few days. I'm trying to remain calm, but a buzz is in the air, so I went out in search of reinforcements: water, canned food, flashlights, and so on. I also bought a variety of candles, as I think a power outage is the most likely outcome. My proudest purchase was this 8-inch column candle from a 99-cent store down the street: "Lucky lottery," it reads. "Alleged money drawing candle. Crystal ball. Write your numbers in the squares!"

Light and shadow

In Oregon for the week; last night, we had a big barbecue.

My parents installed a shade sail to protect us from the sun, but at some point in the afternoon it came unhooked and hung like a curtain across the deck.

As the sun sunk in the sky, the nieces and nephews got hip to the idea of making shadow puppets, which quickly evolved into an elaborate staging of the debut production of a five-act play with robots, ballerinas, and lots of shrieking. I believe the above is taken from the act entitled, "When Things Got Weird."