The Suitcase Lady


May 23, 2017, 9:27 pm

We went through 28 oranges last week. My husband and I have not turned orange and we are not loaded with vitamin C. All the oranges were for our guests, more orioles than we have ever seen in our 21 years of country living.

Our brilliant visitors, scientific name Icterus galbula, are falling out of the sky. Emily Dickinson correctly called the male oriole “the meteor of birds”.

Orioles consume orange halves in record time. They also love grape jelly and some even hop into the plastic container we put it in. The hummingbird feeder is also visited. We’ve counted as many as twelve orioles at a time enjoying our offerings. And, like cardinals, they arrive early and stay late.

First documented by Linnaeus in 1758, Baltimore Orioles are found in the eastern and central parts of America in summer. Winters are spent in Florida and points south to northern South America.

The birds’ vibrant orange and black colors caused them to be named for Lord Baltimore whose family crest was orange and black. Appropriately, they are the state bird of Maryland.

Orioles are omnivores and enjoy a good meal of caterpillars as well as soft fruits and nectar. When feasting on fruit, they stab the fruit with  beaks closed. Then they open their mouths, creating a cup for the fruit juices which they drink with their tongues.

Orioles’ nests are intricately woven and hung from branches making the nest less vulnerable to predators. They prefer deciduous to coniferous trees for nesting. (Sadly for us, as we live beside a pine grove.) The female can take up to fifteen days to construct her sock-shaped nest. She lays between four to six eggs and incubates them twelve to fourteen days. Dad helps feed the nestlings. Baltimore orioles lay only one brood per season.

A poignant thought occurred to me as I was watching these beautiful, charismatic birds…..what if orioles lacked their flaming orange color but were identical in every other physical trait and behavior? Would so many of us be providing daily banquets of costly oranges?

We may tell our children that looks don’t matter, it’s what’s inside that counts, but I fear we’re lying. Our species does reward beauty.

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May 16, 2017, 9:47 pm

I would like to speak about the word “bespoke”. Its meaning was unknown to me until last week when I encountered it three times in a few hours of reading. Obviously, it’s a hot word, and I don’t like to be out in the linguistic cold. (To my embarrassment, I speak only one language so try to keep up on its words.)

I consulted my e-dictionary to discover that bespoke is an adjective that means “goods, (especially clothing) made to order.” The word originated in Britain in the mid 18th century. Examples were given of how the word is currently used:

  • A bespoke suit
  • Bespoke kitchens
  • Group tours and bespoke itineraries

I now understand why this word is so popular. In our “it’s all about me and money” society, having all your possessions custom made is the ultimate value.

After reading the definition, I briefly scrolled down the Google references for “bespoke” and found this ad which is a true jaw dropper……and perhaps enough to make one wish to resign from the human race.

“Express yourself with our Bespoke service. Designed to help you create your own unique Rolls-Royce, it’s time to set your own standard of style.

Personalise subtle features such as door handles, driver’s dials and treadplates. Make a bold statement by having a paint colour developed especially for you – or the veneers crafted from a tree on your estate. Dedicated to bringing your vision to life, this is the Bespoke service.”

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May 10, 2017, 12:30 am

I’ve always loved crows. Waking up to the raucous sound of crows organizing their day and the entire rest of the neighborhood doesn’t bother me. I’m pretty organized and chatty myself.

So I was delighted to find this wonderful short introduction in Fannie Flagg’s newest book, The Whole Town’s Talking.

They rise early in the country and in cities, eager to start their serious crow business. They gather in large groups or sometimes just one or two. All day long they soar high or low, calling out to the busy people below. They shout from the trees, rooftops and telephone wires….


Poor old crows. They think they are talking, but the only thing people hear is…


The actual plot of this amazing novel revolves not around crows, but the birth, life and death of a fictitious rural town and its residents. Only a die hard curmudgeon (and  there is one among the townspeople) will not be captivated by this American story about Elmwood Springs, Missouri, a most real, unreal place.

Newspaper book critics have heaped praise on the novel. The Newport Plain News states, “If there’s one thing Fannie Flagg can do better than anybody else, it’s tell a story, and she outdoes herself in The Whole Town’s Talking”. The Richmond Times-Dispatch calls it “a ringing affirmation of love, community and life itself “.

I won’t spoil the book by giving away any of the surprises in the plot. I simply will say that I have never read a book that has had a more satisfying and well knit together ending. It’s the perfect antidote for our current dark American age.

Thank you,Fannie Flagg, and please keep writing.

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May 2, 2017, 9:27 pm

If I had unlimited wealth, flying around to see special exhibits at art museums would be high on my agenda. Right now, I would choose to be on a plane to the Netherlands to visit the Prinsenhof Museum in Delft. Their current exhibit is entitled “Forbidden Porcelain, Exclusively for the Emperor”. It’s a show of smashed up pottery which has been meticulously glued back together.

The cracked up ceramic pieces on display were deliberately destroyed  hundreds of years ago. Made for the Ming rulers from 1366 to 1644, the porcelain objects were judged to be too imperfect for the eyes  of the emperors and their courts.

The pottery was made in Jingdezhen, China, 838 miles from Beijing where the emperors held court. This area had an abundance of kaolin, the clay from which porcelain is produced. Surrounding forests provided wood to fire the kilns. Newly fired pieces taken out of the kilns received scrupulous inspections and the rejects were immediately broken and buried in the lowlands near a river. Frequent flooding covered the shards with layers of silt and soil.

Fast forward to the 1980’s when the ancient kilns at Jingdezhen were discovered when some buildings were being razed. The “seconds” were an archeological treasure trove. The mind numbing task of sorting and reassembling the royal rejects began.

The eyes of royalty have finally viewed the pieces. Queen Maxima of the Netherlands opened the show and adorned a vase with, what else, tulips.

Delft is the perfect venue for this art show. The city’s famous blue and white Delftware pottery was inspired by the blue and white porcelain made in China and brought to the Netherlands in the 17th century by the Dutch East India Company. Globalization is nothing new.

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April 25, 2017, 9:25 pm

My husband and I have been watching a large McMansion being built a few miles down the road from us on the way to the city where we shop. We’ve both enjoyed seeing this large structure rise from the hill it is situated on; framed, roofed, insulated, glazed. It was nearing completion a few weeks ago andi made an imposing new landmark, like a castle situated on a hill.

Imagine my amazement when we sat down to dinner last week and my husband said, “I feel like I’m going crazy, but when I went into the city today, the new house is gone. I drove down the road twice, but it has vanished.”

Since neither of us believe in the paranormal, we both did computer searches to see if any of the local news outlets reported any large fire or unusual demolition. Not a word was found about this enormous, prominent, never-occupied house that went A.W.O.L.

We live in a rural area and my husband is the zoning administrator.  When a contractor came to our house for a building permit yesterday, he was also speculating on why a brand new house in the next township had disappeared. Understandably, this occurrence is being noticed.

We both went into overdrive to solve the mystery. I speculated that the unreported disappearance might have something to do with its location next to Whistling Straits, one of America’s most prestigious golf courses where a round of golf starts at $410. Whistling Straits is a part of The Kohler Co. Hospitality and Real Estate Group. That is the same Kohler name that appears in bathrooms world wide.

We also are starting to hear the rumors flying around our town. None are substantiated, of course. Word is, the elite golfers shouldn’t have their bucolic views of the lakeshore and faux Scottish golf greens marred by someone’s prominent new estate, and the right amount of money was offered to get the view back. Another rumor is that the house had to go as it made a great observation tower of happenings on the links.

If the gossip turns out to be true, I may be inclined to believe that old cliche that the rich really are different from the rest of us.

The little hill that lost its house

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