Friday, January 31, 2014

In the introduction to Maddie on Things, author and photographer Theron Humphrey (Maddie's owner) says he woke up one morning with this idea: "I would go into the world, traverse all 50 states in 365 days, and meet one person a day, every day."

But the best part of the story, Humphrey says, "is about the dog that came along for the ride." After quitting his corporate job, Humphrey adopted Maddie from a local animal shelter. She jumped in the front seat of his truck, and that was that. "One morning I figured I needed a photograph to remember how we traveled together," he writes. "So I picked up Maddie and put her on the roof. She just stood there and smiled at me. Good things seem to start that way. You know, small."

I bought Maddie on Things at the same time as Mary Oliver's Dog Songs. Clearly, I was in a dog mood. I love Oliver's poems about the many canine companions she's had over the years, and I love Humphrey's photographs of his patient, athletic, very sweet Coonhound. You can see more of Maddie on Humphrey's blog

Percy, Waiting for Ricky
by Mary Oliver

Your friend is coming, I say
to Percy and name a name

and he runs to the door, his
wide mouth in its laugh-shape

and waves, since he has one, his tail.
Emerson, I am trying to live,

as you said we must, the examined life.
But there are days I wish

there was less in my head to examine,
not to speak of the busy heart. How

would it be to be Percy, no
thinking, not weighing anything, just running forward.

(All photographs from


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

When Kate, who is now 14, was about two, I sent a picture of her to my cousin, an artist. I hadn't asked him to draw a picture of her from that photograph, but that's what he did, such nice cousin that he is.

I love that portrait of little Kate, but in terms of framing and hanging, I waited long enough that there was then the issue of Holt and Livvy. It didn't feel right to have Kate up on the wall and not her siblings. So for now, the drawing remains in a box, and I take it out about once a year to admire it and think about whether there's something I could ever do for my cousin in return for drawings of the other two.

In the meantime, I went into a Land of Nod pop-up store after the holidays. It was full of good toys at greatly reduced prices, and I bought a mosaic art kit, thinking it was something Livvy might like. It included paper boards, sheets of stickers, and instructions on how to make - of all things - people portraits.

Livvy started by making a portrait of a boy, who just happened to look an awful lot like her brother. So of course we decided there should be a Kate and Livvy - finally a complete set! - and I'm hoping I'll be more on top of the framing and hanging this time around. I'll always love the first Kate portrait and won't give up the dream of someday having two more, but these will tide us over nicely for now.

How do you say... ?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Y'all vs. you guys. Highway vs. freeway. Rotary vs. traffic circus. Sneakers vs. runners. How do you pronounce caramel? What do you call a large motor vehicle used to carry freight?

I rarely think about the fact that I call a water fountain a water fountain rather than a bubbler; or that a long sandwich made up of cold cuts and lettuce is a sub, not a poor boy or a bomber. But according to this quiz from The New York Times, most people who live where I live talk like I talk, and those from other states say it very differently. I don't have a word for the night before Halloween, for instance, but some people call it goosy night, cabbage night, or devil's eye, depending on where they live. Who knew?

I love this one: How do you pronounce the words Mary, merry, and marry? My answer is "all three are pronounced the same," yet others say "merry and marry are pronounced the same, but Mary is different." Or, "Mary and merry are pronounced the same, but marry is different." Wow.

I've always been quite certain no one would guess I'm from the Boston area from the way I speak. But it turns out that "parking the car in Harvard yard" is not the only clue.

(By Josh Katz and Wilson Andrews for The New York Times.)

Must eat

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Yesterday after school, my older daughter Kate ate an avocado for a snack. She cut the avocado in half, sprinkled on a little salt, and ate the whole thing with a spoon.

I'm telling you this only because an avocado is not Kate's usual snack of choice. It's not her brother Holt's, either, but he thought it sounded good and had one as well. Watching them with their avocados reminded me of this article from the Huffington Post about the 25 foods we all must eat in our lifetimes. Usually articles about things I should do or places I should go serve only to make me feel bad, knowing it's unlikely I will do or see many of them.

But I was intrigued by the foods someone thought I should eat, including lobster rolls (most definitely), freshly made whipped cream (yes), and lardo, an Italian cured back fat (probably not). Number 22 on the list is avocado sprinkled with salt (and a bit of lime juice), eaten with a spoon. So we're on our way, or at least two of us are.

New year

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

"For what it's worth ... it's never too late ... to be whoever you want to be. There's no time limit. Start whenever you want. You can change or stay the same. There are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people who have a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again." ~ Eric Roth, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"

Wishing you the happiest 2014, filled with startling sights and people with different points of view.

(Photo from

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