Tuesday, March 31, 2009


These beautiful camellias are blooming on a very tall bush in my mother's yard. Aside from daffodils, I think camellias are my next favorite flower even though I never uttered those words before now so I might be making it up. Third would probably come wisteria, which is the vine with purple flowers. Around here wisteria often grows high and thick over old abandoned farm houses providing a shock of purple on an otherwise dead, lifeless backdrop.

Driving to work each morning I travel down Route 17 in Gloucester, which is arguably one of the ugliest stretches of unplanned over development around here. (...With all due respect to Gloucester and to Route 17--Hello, Guinea! We love ya! I'm not talking about your neck o' the woods.) This morning, though, as I was glancing from one tired, run-down strip mall to the next roadside-house-turned-small-business, I passed an old, abandoned home that looked like it could fall at any moment--which of course means that I can't help but want to photograph it.

(I can't, though, without turning into a human pancake served up by the heavy traffic.)

But even better than the house was the blooming, bright pink camellias on a remarkably healthy and beautiful bush right outside the dilapidated front porch. The contrast between the old, rickety, worn down house and the bright, new flowers bursting with life was striking.

I think the reason I especially like camellias and wisteria is that even with no effort, with no maintenance, with no care shown to them, they thrive and bloom just as brightly and beautifully as if they'd been manicured, mulched and tended to all their lives. Their vivid, effortless color is made even more beautiful by the old, abandoned homes they stand beside and are loyal to even though there's no more life inside.

So, let me go to sleep now attempt to summarize, if I can may:

1. Beauty does not require maintenance.
2. Beauty does not require attention.
3. One person's abandoned house is another person's work of art.
4. Route 17 is really a nightmare. (But Achilles Road is beautiful and Guinea is great!)
5. Chesapeake Bay Woman needs a life a nap.
6. Chesapeake Bay Woman's hormones mood is rather hostile reflective today.

These rambling thoughts are provided courtesy of my Monday, which involved an insolent alarm clock first thing in the middle of the night this morning and an overabundance of stale tasks sprinkled generously throughout my workday. Toss in some trying personalities and serve with a side order of a 100-mile-round-trip commute, and Voila! (Or viola, as some people insist prefer.)

You have yourself a rambling post.

For additional servings or to double this recipe, simply add a Tuesday and sit back as the flavor intensifies. Stir continuously and if at all possible lower the heat if a Wednesday is added, otherwise the end result is a burned product and a scorched pan.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Picking Daffodils

Today, after 400 days straight of rain, the sun decided to make an appearance, so the Chesapeake Bay Children and I went out to the daffodil field to inspect the progress of the flowers.

We brought a few baskets with us and commenced to picking since all the ones we'd picked last week were crispy and ready to be sent to the Flower Funeral Home.

At one point it occurred to me that although they outnumbered me they were not picking nearly as many flowers as I was. It then occurred to me that they'd never been told exactly how to pick a daffodil nor had they ever been in a situation where time is money--in other words, the more you picked the more you were paid. Growing up around here, that was the deal. You could stand in the fields all day long and take your sweet time picking, and maybe you'd earn a nickel.

Or you could pick like there was no tomorrow and earn real money. Real money amounted to about five bucks that you'd then squander at Drug Fair or Murphy's Mart on albums, for example.

(For anyone who is unfamiliar with what an album is, and the Chesapeake Bay Children might be among those who aren't, let me get back to you on that after I pause to reflect upon this question: If only yesterday I was playing 8-track cassettes, and then the day after that I had albums, and then just one week later I had regular cassettes, and then just an hour or so later there were CD's, well exactly how many more days is it until I can expect to be fed pureed broccoli through a straw while wondering exactly which one of my caretakers is stealing my knee socks from me? Can that day really be far off given the rate at which time is flying by?)

Here is how you pick a daffodil:

1. Bend over. Pray that neither your back nor your hamstrings snap.

2. Place your right hand at the top of one flower stem, and your left hand on another. (You are picking two flowers at once, it's all about the speed.) Trace your way down each stem until you come within very close proximity of the leaves which sprout from the bottom.

3. Pinch the flower stem. Do not tug or pull, which merely pulls it up from too far below the ground. Just pinch it. Quickly. Hurry up! Time is money.

4. Stand up straight for just a moment because if any more blood rushes to your head as you're stooped over, the children just might panic when you pass out. When you stand up hoping for relief and feel a fainting spell coming on from standing up too quickly, close your eyes, breathe deeply and try to unravel the mystery of how you are destined to pass out whether you're bending over or standing up. Realize there are no favorable answers and resume picking.

5. Rinse and repeat steps 2 and 3. Except pick up the pace!

6. When you're bending over praying that the only snap you hear comes from a daffodil stem, pretend that you're in a race and that you have to pick way more than anybody else including your own children.

7. Move faster! You're not picking fast enough. Good glory you're moving slower than molasses in January.

8. Consider for a moment the possibility that you have one or two issues with being competitive and stifle any desire to say in a sing-songy tone, "I picked more than you did," to your own children.

9. Instead, merely point out that their procedure for picking might be deterring them from picking faster and more efficiently.

10. Watch their faces screw up in incredulity at your instructions because really we're just out in a field picking flowers and nobody is in a race and nobody's getting paid for picking the flowers, we're just there to enjoy each other's company in the beauty and serenity of nature.

10. Consider that perhaps you need a vacation because you appear to be a bit, shall we say, wrung up?

11. Place the flowers in a vase and forget about them until next week. Also try and forget about the army of ants you saw marching up the side of your porch as you were bringing the flowers inside from the field.

12. Cry at the realization that you do indeed have an ant infestation and the ants are going to win this year.

13. Straighten up and go to work on Monday in full, utter and complete denial that you have an ant or any other problem. Keep denying until you convince yourself completely.

14. Good job.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Silent Sunday: The Bald Eagle Edition

This ridiculously blurred picture is of our Queens Creek bald eagle who likes to land in my parents' pine tree down by the water. When I saw him the other day as the sun was setting, I raced to get my camera and frantically took pictures in hopes that he'd linger long enough for me to get a good one.

Thanks to the words "raced" and "frantically" in that last sentence, all of the pictures came out blurry. Taking pictures under pressure just doesn't seem to work at all for me.

There are hardly any a few things I do well under pressure. I tend to perform better at work if I am not there overly busy as opposed to having nothing to do. On the other hand, when there's little to do but there's an entire week to accomplish it, I tend to read magazines procrastinate, dawdle and stretch things out. In college, waiting until the very last minute to study for exams or write a term paper tended to revive a previously dead, unused or unknown portion of my cerebral cortex--which produced satisfactory results.

But taking pictures is different. I need my own space, my own time and permission to trespass no interruptions. If there is someone with me I can't concentrate or focus; it completely disrupts my process. The other day my mother was following me around the yard talking and asking questions when I was trying to shoot some sunset shots. It was all I could do to keep from screaming and then crying being rude, because my whole routine was interrupted.

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is this:

- We have an eagle, pictured blurrily (it's a word, look it up, but don't expect to find it right away) above, on our creek who often spends time in our trees.

- Maybe one day I will capture him in a shot that isn't blurry.

- Chesapeake Bay Woman often shifts from first person to third person for no apparent reason other than adult-onset ADD cannot take pictures under pressure.

- Chesapeake Bay Woman is a recluse who prefers the life of a hermit does not like anyone around her when she's taking her pictures.

- I thought she said this was Silent Sunday? Why so many words? And I also thought she said she was done with all this strike through business? Last but not least is it possible that she has now referred to herself in both the first, second and third person in the same breath?

Sorry for falling off the Strike-Through Wagon, I promise to try harder tomorrow.


Me/Her/Chesapeake Bay Woman

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Rooster

These Canada geese live near us and are frequent pests visitors to my parents' back yard, where my mother has set up a 24/7 Goose Buffet feeding and watering station for them. The story below is not about geese but about another bird, the chicken, or more specifically a rooster.

My mother has written another story from her childhood in Gloucester, where her parents ran a country store in what is now the music room and main office of Ware Academy (formerly the Day School) in Gloucester.


A Personal Rooster
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

Male chickens, if numerous, are unwelcome in a flock for the following reasons:

1. Only one rooster is needed per chicken yard to keep the girls egg-motivated.
2. They usually aren't good eating...too tough and stringy.
3. They don't lay eggs.

One is tempted to see a barnyard parable coming.

They do strut around and announce the sunrise, with a wide margin of error. Saturated in hostility and suspicion, they are armed with ankle harpoons called spurs, which are capable of gashing rawhide. Once I saw a rooster open up a woman's wrist in a way befitting a highly motivated suicide attempt; and she was trying to feed him. Needless to say, they don't attract friends. They do inspire fear, perspiration, palpitations and personal bests in sprints.

My pet rooster, "Alawishus," may have been something of an anomaly. A gift from my best friend in sixth grade, he was kindly trained in his first moments of life to provide a people-friendly foundation. That training seemed to tone down his natural inclinations. Or perhaps I flatter myself and should credit his congenital limp for his congeniality. At any rate, he was beautifully colored, if somewhat awkward in a chase, giving advantage to fleeing humans.

He had no fan in my father. Especially when he would station himself under our house and practice his scales for the following morning's cantata. My father never cursed, but you could tell by the way he bit his lip that he really wanted to lay down some four-letter words. I feared for old Alawishus.

The trick in dealing with Alawishus was to make offense your defense. When I saw him getting in character for the role God had made his burden, I would rush up and grab him before he worked up too much macho, and place him in my lap stroking his face just under the eye. (You know, this might have worked on Husband.) This action promptly made him doze off, losing his page in the book of Fowl Assault. When finished stroking, I would put him down and he'd just walk off like some disoriented, feathered amnesiac.

The Browns, our neighbors across Indian Road, had a flock of chickens in a pen. One morning I noticed a small chicken-shaped dust cloud moving across the field that separated us. He had evidently used his mystic mind control to lure one of their laying hens to wrench herself free from captivity and join him in a poultry rendezvous. I felt guilty about such an ill-gotten chicken gain, but after all she had come of her own volition and seemed content.

So it was that they lived happily ever after, roosting in the Canadian Hemlock in our front yard, until each died from natural causes, hopefully. At least that is the story I was told.

To be safe, I gave up eating chicken for a while.

Friday, March 27, 2009


This is a shot of the silo in back of my parents' barn. That's the creek in the background, and that's a whole lot of dead grass in the foreground. Now that we've discussed all that, let's move on to the next topic, which is herons, which of course has nothing to do with silos. ADD anyone?

Here's the state of the union in Mathews County as far as Chesapeake Bay Woman can tell:

1. It rained again yesterday. Rain. Again.

2. It's still cold. Cold. Still.

3. For the first time ever in the history of my eyeballs I saw four herons at once, together.

4. That's almost like saying I saw four clowns, all at once, frolicking in my back yard. Sure, it could happen, but is it likely? Yes, around here it is. Not at all.

Herons, you see, tend to be lone rangers. They are introverted, solitary creatures who just want to stand in some shallow water and fish all day long. They don't socialize, they don't flock together, they don't have BFF's, they don't go to parties, they're loners.

Well, imagine my surprise when yesterday after work I opened the back door to let a cat out and from the pine tree springs not just one, not even two, no not three but four herons. They all took off at the same time and flew off in the same direction.

I wish I knew where they went, because the time when I can photograph four herons together will be the time I can quit the paying job for good.

Disclaimer: If anyone from my paying job ever reads this, I have no intentions of quitting, and let me take this opportunity to thank you for being such a huge pain in my great place to work.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wood Burning Furnace

This is the much anticipated picture of my father's latest Man Toy, the wood burning furnace. Notice the similarities between it and a nightmare portajohn, known locally as a Trudy's Toilet. For this and plenty other reasons, my mother got all swelled up made him place this monstrosity far away from the house, although it's still in a rather prominent place in the yard right by the barn. It's even visible from the creek, so anyone out in the boat can get a good laugh look-see.

That smokestack is quiet in this picture because it was a warm day (the only one we've had here lately). Usually, there is smoke billowing out just like the Great Chicago Fire the West Point paper mill.

Can you tell I'm still obsessed enchanted with the strike through feature? I promise I'll stop, but not until pigs fly right away.

In case you've not read my mother's stories about Chesapeake Bay Father's wood burning furnace acquisition, please consider yourself lucky click on the links below.

Wood Burning Furnace Chapter One

WBF Chapter Two

WBF Chapter Three

When all was said and done my mother finally admitted that my father was right she and the furnace could co-exist peacefully.

OK, I know the strike through is irritating, even more irritating than my normal hot air, just indulge me today and I'll put myself on probation tomorrow. I'm not sure if it will work though I seem to have a problem.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Daffodils Part VII

More daffodils. Just wait until they start blooming ferociously. I'll drive y'all away from here for good, you'll be so bored. (In this case, "y'all" refers to my three readers, and actually I'm surprised you've lasted this long since I'm already up to my 7th post on the topic of my favorite flower, the daffodil.)

My grandmother's speech on daffodils to a state gardening club convention in Richmond in the 1970's continues ......

"...There must always be room to see each flower, and eleven or less should be adequate for most arrangements. They look best when associated with spear-shaped leaves very much like their own and with some simple branches--perhaps maple, larch, beech, or japonica for height and gentle contrast. Some purists in the flower arranging field believe that daffodils should be given the opportunity of looking at themselves in water. Remember the tale of Narcissus who fell in love with his own image?

Small rectangular bowls with the flowers at one side or at the end, somewhat in the Oriental style of flower arranging, seem to be the best solution....."

Chesapeake Bay Woman's Mindless Additional Commentary :

My grandmother probably would not care for my flower arranging technique. As we speak, there are 5 vases stuffed to the gills filled with daffodils in my kitchen. There might be as many as 50 shoved carelessly in one particular vase alone. I do not possess the slightest desire patience or talent to arrange a flower in a vase just so. No, it's all I can do to force way too many place them in a vase with water and toss display them up on the counter.

Last but dear heavens when is she going to shut up and put us out of our misery? not least, can you tell I finally learned how to use the strike through feature that I've been trying to figure out for over two a year now?

Watch out, dear reader. This is way too much really fun.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Ben Franklin

This isn't the greatest picture in the world, but just take a look at the mist in the upper portion. I love that, it was the reason I broke my neck to get the camera the other morning at the crack o' dawn even though the lighting was all wrong. The goose was gravy, an added bonus. Mmmm. Gravy. On a bird. With a side of mashed potatoes.....

For reasons that cannot be explained today I thought of the old five and dime store in our court house (aka village), the Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin was in the building in between Cecil Sibley's General Store and the Farmer's Bank of Mathews, which is now the public library; the public library was where the sheriff's office now is. And so on and so on. While my mother would trot to Sibley's for some vegetable seeds or some horse feed, I always raced to the Ben Franklin to check out the toy aisle.

The store was tiny by today's standards. I've seen bread boxes bigger, but as a kid all I needed to see was the one aisle straight ahead loaded with toys. We never bought anything, we just looked. The joy was in the looking and the wondering.

It really wasn't a toy store, that's just all we really focused on as kids. The rest was stuff like knitting needles, yarn, thread, sewing patterns, cosmetics, Rose Milk hand lotion, shampoo, creme rinse, plastic flowers, spiral notebooks, pencils, costume jewelry and glass candy dishes.

In other words, your bare necessities.

The reason I remember the glass candy dishes is one Christmas I bought one for my grandmother. She lived in a house the size of a matchbox and could have used additional clutter like a hole in the head. Yet she proudly displayed that one dollar candy dish that was shaped like a chicken just as if it were a work of art worthy of the Smithsonian.

Baby Sister once purchased a ring for our mother for Christmas. The "stone" was a brilliant bright blue, and I remember Mamma fawning all over it as if it were a diamond.

The Ben Franklin. A treasure trove of priceless commodities.

All for five or ten cents. A dollar at the most.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Daffodils Part VI

Y'all are probably tired of hearing about daffodils. I understand and apologize; but I can't help it.

They're only here for a short time, and they were such an important part of my life growing up, plus I don't really have much else to talk about. This coming weekend is the Daffodil Festival in Gloucester, so I'll probably be writing a couple more daffodil-related posts in the near future.

Yesterday, Chesapeake Bay Daughter and I went out to the fields to check the progress of the daffodils. The particular field shown above is always the first to bloom but still has a ways to go. The main field we used to pick is not nearly this close to ready and needs about another week or two to mature. I wish I could mature in a week or two. I've been trying for 44 years, and it just hasn't happened.

One thing I noticed yesterday is the blooms are turning downward. As usual, I will wager a guess as to why this is, and as usual I am sure someone out there will realize I really don't know what in the world I'm talking about and that sometimes I confuse facts and figures, details and particulars. But I am going to say these droopy blooms are due to the cold weather. I've never seen them sag like this, but I think once it turns warmer they'll return to their normal state.

(By the way, is that day coming soon? The day when it is warmer? I want to return to my normal state. I'm tired of having to use the windshield de-icer I bought on clearance at Wal-Mutant. Evidently it was on clearance because the spray pump on the bottle does not work. When you're already running late for work--which is 48 miles away--and you discover at the last second there's an inch of ice on the windshield, and then you get all excited because you're actually prepared for once with brand new de-icer, but then that spray pump doesn't work? Well I'm just here to tell ya the only thing left to do that makes any amount of sense is to beat it repeatedly on the windshield almost to the point of cracking the glass.

When you do succeed in cracking a small slit in the top of the bottle, just turn it upside down and watch one drop come out. Wait a bit, during which you will break into a sweat, and then another drop will come out. Fling the bottle in the yard, get in the car and high tail it out of there on two wheels. Don't worry, eventually you'll be able to see. But this really is not germane to the topic of daffodils.)


My grandfather, the commercial daffodil grower, kept detailed crop records. Thanks to the extended Chesapeake Bay Family's inability to throw one shred of paper away, ever, I can quote you these records verbatim. I'll share that data this week but in the interim here's a little known fact:

In 1967, Mathews County had 280 acres of daffodils, with 17 commercial growers.

Here's another little known fact: My blood pressure is about 150 over 100 right now because I'm still thinking about that daggone de-icer that I bought on clearance but can't use thanks to the broken spray pump.

Pardon me while I go mop my brow, I seem to have broken into a sweat.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Silent Sunday: The Bushel Basket Edition

On Friday I grabbed my camera and walked next door to my parents' house to take some pictures as the sun was going down. There's so much over there to photograph: the barn, the pump house, the wood burning furnace, the graveyard of Volkswagens, the silo, the stray bowling ball outside the pump house, the windmill, the dead air boat, etc.

This is the doorway to the pump house. Those bushel baskets are ancient and were once used by my grandfather to transport daffodils from the field to the barn. We the pickers would take our bunches of flowers and put them in these baskets. A bunch consisted of a certain number--12? 15? I can't remember - of flowers bound by a rubber band. A tractor pulling a wagon would come along and pick up all the baskets. At the barn those baskets would be submerged in buckets of water while they waited to be packed in cardboard boxes for destinations unknown.

These very same baskets are also used for crabs. Speaking of which, crab pot season started this past Tuesday. What this means is that the guy down the creek from us who sets pots will go out every single morning and every single evening, no matter what, to set and check his pots. He's as reliable as the sun rising in the morning and setting in the evening.

I could write quite a bit about crab pots, but seeing as this is supposed to be a Silent Sunday, I ought to stop talking right about now.

If not sooner.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


This is Bethel Beach on a winter day, a cold, dreary winter day. Even in its brown state, I find it beautiful. Soon all that brown will be green again.

Speaking of turning green, here we are in spring. Yesterday I learned that technically spring is here. Mr. Air Temperature evidently forgot to check his day timer, because he still thinks it's winter. His friend Mr. Wind Chill Temperature is even worse because he hasn't looked at the calendar in months and thinks winter is supposed to last forever.

My kids have been on spring break since Wednesday afternoon.

Chesapeake Bay Son invited not one but two friends over night before last to jump start the celebratory events. These events left me feeling like a short order cook trying to win an endurance marathon while trapped in a place called Bedlam, where you can only sleep two consecutive hours at night, where night is defined as "after 3:00 a.m." (Somebody call Guinness because I may have set a world's record for the longest sentence.)

Chesapeake Bay Son is fortunate enough to have friends who actually go places on spring break. As we speak, he's on his way to Hilton Head, SC, for a week. To a condo with a heated pool. Oceanfront. Free of charge.

March 21, 2009

Note to self

Dear Self

In your next life, please be sure to befriend folks who invite you to Hilton Head when you're only 13 years old. Oh, also, Self? See if you can't find somebody who'll invite you to Hilton Head free of charge even--and especially--when you're 44 years old. One last thing. Self? What are the numbers to the next winning lottery ticket? I hope this isn't too much to ask.


Signed, Self.

CB Daughter is stuck with her working mother yet insists we will be doing X Y Z one day over her break even though I don't recall agreeing to--or even discussing--X Y Z at any point heretofore.

All this makes me daydream about going on a vacation whether it ever happens or not.

Commenter Not Moved Mom yesterday asked for opinions on places in the Caribbean to take kids of varying ages. If you have answers or suggestions, please leave them in the comment section.

I have a similar question.

So that I can live vicariously through you all (also known as y'all), where will you spend your next vacation? Spring break? Summer vacation? Long weekend? Even one night away from home? If you have no plans, where would you most like to go if you could?

Tell me where you'll be and what you'll be doing.

Tell me so I can daydream about being able to get away to a place far, far away. Away from work. Away from responsibilities. Away from the incessant assault of To Dos that exist in daily life.

Life is good, but sometimes Life needs a break.

Where are you going for a break?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Falling Down Part 2

This is not my house after a major weather event in spite of the many, many parallels which can be drawn between the two with or without the weather event.

This is from the Ware River public landing at the end of the road between Hodges & Bryant and Long Bridge Ordinary in neighboring Gloucester County. My mother used to live nearby and told me about this place once, but I forgot what she said.

Just like I forgot to post the rest of her story a while back on Falling Down. At the time, I thought the story ended rather abruptly, but not so much that I considered looking for the rest of what she wrote.

Tonight I was climbing Mount Paperwork and Peak de Procrastination on my desk and I unearthed the second page, the rest of the story.

So now we pick up where that story left off, which was where she was talking about her tendency to fall a lot and the dangerous staircases in the old farmhouse she lives in.

The Rest of the Story
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

(This title brought to you by Chesapeake Bay Woman's impeccable organizational skills and her attention to detail.)

"...The third story of the house contains a huge walk-in attic with a full stair; again, as in the cellar, there are no handrails, so feet have to get it right. Carrying items for storage up and bringing them down involves many steps. The tricky part is the last few steps going down. If you forget a couple of steps, as I did, you take an inadvertent giant step, propelling you and whatever you're toting at a 45-degree angle into a wall. If you manage to land standing--you're good. I didn't. No broken bones, no lacerations, just bruising and cussing and possible whiplash.

The main staircase has a handrail, which is no help when you're going for a light switch in the middle of the night and lose your way at the head of the stairs. That one hurt. The list included: one concussion, two fractured fingers, several fractured bones in the right foot, right jaw trauma (preventing opening the mouth), right temple trauma, and bruising all over.

I stood up and walked next door to Chesapeake Bay Daughter's and we went to the nearest hospital, where Husband was sleeping like a baby as a patient. No lack of irony for us. After rigorous examination, I was sent home to visit a specialist the next day for an apparatus to wear for three months to help heal fractures.

Once home, Husband marveled at the list of physical damages; he said his favorite one was the frozen jaw...as if he ever listened to a word I say."


From Chesapeake Bay Woman:

THE END really this time. I promise.

I think.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Wish

I took this from my back yard one evening. Here lately the moon has been spectacular and seems larger than I ever remember seeing it. I am sure those who keep up with current events (including lunar phenomena) will know why this is. Due to my blogging addiction, my news source is limited to eavesdropping on conversations in the grocery store checkout. I just don't have time for TV, newspapers or radio.

Seeing the moon in the evening before it gets dark reminds me of looking for the first star when I was a kid. Scouring the skies, I'd find it and say the old "Star light, star bright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might, have the wish I wish tonight."

Then, of course I'd silently make my wish and hoped it would come true.

Well, imagine my shock and surprise when my wish really did come true. If it weren't such a bizarre and completely obscure wish, I'd have said it was a coincidence. But if I gave you 100 guesses you'd never guess what I wished for when I was about 10 years old.

I can't believe you said a grass skirt.

Yes indeedee, a tomboy of a girl who'd rather run barefoot and swing from trees like Tarzan--and who had never left Mathews County-- for some strange reason wanted a grass skirt so badly she took to wishing on stars. Repeatedly. Until it finally appeared. Mind you, I'd have rather worn a clown outfit to school or church than put on a dress or skirt, but oddly enough I just had to have a grass skirt.

My paternal grandmother took a trip to Hawaii. I had never ever uttered my wish to anyone other than the star, so nobody else knew I wanted one. She came home with one for me and Chesapeake Bay Middle Sister. I about fell out.

To take it a step further, not only did I get a grass skirt, but one time much later in life the Chesapeake Bay Family went to the Blue Hawaiian for my birthday. The Blue Hawaiian was a restaurant in the old Coliseum Mall where you sat down, ordered your pu-pu platter, swirled your virgin daiquiri and then kicked back to watch what they called a show. At some point they would invite members of the audience up on stage for hula lessons.

Guess who was called up there? I'll tell you. The last person in the world who would dance in public, much less on stage in front of people, that's who.

So you see the star not only granted my secret wish for a grass skirt but made sure I knew how to use it. Now that is one lucky star.

I would write more now, but I need to race outside to find the first star. There's a bunch of things we need to discuss, at least one of which pertains to the lottery.

And now, some questions for you so I can stop thinking and be entertained when I get home from work today, assuming my lucky star doesn't grant my wish in the next 24 hours:

1. What did you wish for as a kid?

2. If you're from around here, tell me about any experiences at that Blue Hawaiian at Coliseum Mall. To me it was a whole different world. Strangely amusing, but still strange. So different from what we were used to (Paynes and Emorys).

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


This is down Bethel Beach, and I chose it for today because it is the only picture I can find that has green in it. Rather, I could very easily post something from last summer that would have been loaded with green, but in the doldrums of winter where Cold is still gasping her last breaths there's very little green other than pine and cedar trees. Here, however, we see some green slimy stuff on the water's edge. Green slimy stuff is a technical term I learned back in Miss Gibbs' Earth Science class. Or maybe it's seaweed or kelp or some strange bay grass. Or maybe--just maybe--I don't have any idea what I'm talking about.

Hey, I never claimed to work for VIMS

Evidently today is St. Patrick's Day. I say "evidently" because if a woman I work with hadn't greeted me yesterday with shamrocks that she wanted me to tape all over my office door, I would have been none the wiser. May I also mention that I would never decorate my office door with anything other than the scorch marks from the flames that are at my heels every day at 4:00 p.m. when I knock people over to get out of there? But I do give her an "A" for effort. She means well.

St. Patricks Day was good for pinching, but not much else until I moved away from Mathews. In college, beverages enhanced with food coloring superseded pinching in importance. Then in Northern Virginia and DC the whole day became a cult-like experience shared by hundreds of random strangers packed tight as sardines in a matchbox listening to what might have been a band but which couldn't be heard over the din of a crowd which exceeded the population of Dublin.

In any case, Happy St. Patricks Day. And thanks, Lady at Work, for reminding me.

Now let me take down the shamrocks from my office door and put the scorch marks back up.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Daffodils: Part V

These are the very same daffodils I photographed about a week ago. They're some early bloomers in my front yard. Once they've pushed through the ground, it doesn't take long for them to blossom. As pretty as these flowers are, when I look at this picture, all I can see is the green grass sprouting. That means that in a week or two--three at most--, it will be grass cutting season again. That means that Chesapeake Bay Woman can kiss whatever spare time she has goodbye. She will go to work at the paying job, race home and spend hours on the tractor so that her yard does not end up a destination for those wanting a jungle safari without the fuss of traveling to Africa.

Below is a continuation of my paternal grandmother's speech about daffodils to a convention in Richmond in the 1970's.

"...A word or two about arranging daffodils. Since you are members of a garden club, no doubt most of you joined because of an overwhelming desire to beautify your homes. The "bouquet" of yesterday has become the "arrangement" or today. It is an inspiring art that fascinates everyone to some extent--and from this interest often comes concern for flowers and how to better use and grow them.

Every arrangement should, it seems to me, come from within and seek to express some feeling, some need, some objective which springs from the heart rather than the mind. Arrangements should also seek to glorify the flowers and not the artist. They should be made to fit the flower and not some preconceived mechanical pattern. This means, with regard to daffodils, that the arrangement should be adapted to its nature."


My grandmother was talking about daffodils here, or was she?

I am able to draw parallels between her description of daffodil arrangements in that second paragraph and of us as human beings. We should not allow someone to arrange us in unnatural or unflattering ways. Our lives should fit us and not some "preconceived mechanical pattern," or someone else's notion of how we should be.

The philosophical portion of this post is now over.

Actually, the entire shebang is now over, thanks to I Hate Mondays, which is a chronic ailment I contracted as a teenager and never quite seemed to shake. It's a debilitating disease that renders one completely helpless from about 3:00 p.m. on Sundays through Tuesday night. The only known long-term cure for it is independent wealth, however it's been observed that those who are independently wealthy do not know how to appreciate the absence of this particular affliction. Sort of like "youth is wasted on the young."

The only other source of relief, temporary though it may be, is a rare gem called Saturday, but it's fleeting and cannot be relied upon to provide sustained overall improvement.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Silent Sunday: The Islander Edition

Of course you know by now I can't help myself and have to say something even on what is supposed to be a Silent Sunday. The funny thing is, in person you have to beat and pry the words out of me. On paper, or computer screen as it were, I don't know when to stop.

This is a picture of some of the "wild" Canada geese leaving my mother's yard going down to the creek. (They're no longer wild if a certain mother--who is not a goose but plays one in real life-- feeds and waters them, then trains the babies to eat from her hand such that they no longer migrate. But I digress.) Beyond the geese is Queens Creek, and all the way in the background with the sun's last rays bouncing off it is the Islander motel, marina and restaurant, which served as my "no adult supervision or any other responsible oversight required" babysitter during the summers of my youth.

OK, so it's no longer a restaurant; I don't think the motel is open to the general public, and the marina just barely survived Hurricane Isabel, but it used to be spectacular. The Chesapeake Bay Sisters spent many, many days here frolicking in the pool, combing the beach, and starving to death while our parents did who knows what but were nowhere to be found. But let me stop beating that dead horse which keeps rearing its ugly head. (Mixed metaphor, anyone?) Nobody was seriously injured except me, when I busted my head wide open running away from the Principal's son, yet we all turned out just fine. (Let's just go with that, for now.)

The Islander is not as close to our house as it appears in this picture; that's the result of a super duper zoom lens, so this is misleading. In reality the creek is a pretty good length. It's a darn sight too long when you're going against the wind and current in a row boat, let me tell you.

There are many, many stories that can be told about this stretch of creek and about the Islander, but since this is Silent Sunday I'll spare you the details.

For now.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Drinking Water

This is Bethel Beach and a sky which jump starts the imagination. (We'd be here all day long if I told you what I saw in that sky.) Usually when I'm down there I am facing the bay trying to figure out what little section of nothingness to photograph next. Rarely do I look behind me, but I'm starting to learn that the more I do the more I'm pleasantly surprised. This was one such occasion. Now, speaking of water, surprises and looking back, let's talk once again about the drinking water here in Mathews.

Today we continue with the topic of Mathews' lethal drinking water. As I've mentioned on numerous occasions, most (if not all?) people are on wells. The quality of the water ranges from skanky to raunchy, with very little in between.

I jokingly call the water lethal, but not without some degree of concern that it may be true. Back in the 1970's, long before heavily processed foods and other present-day dietary nightmares wreaked havoc on our health, almost every house on our lane had a history of cancer (the people living there, not the houses per se) . Although I was a teenager, I didn't think it took a nuclear physicist to figure out there was a trend, and I made up my mind it was the drinking water.

Whether it is or isn't is immaterial, because the stuff stinks, it tastes horrible, and it's ruthless to hair and clothes.

By now, those of you who are scientific, factual sorts are all, "Here she goes again. Another of CBW's cockamamie statements with absolutely nothing but the cobwebs of her failing mind to substantiate her claims."

Perhaps that's true, but I offer this from my handy dandy government publication known as the Mathews County Soil Survey from 1962, which really is a Must Read:

"At Port Haywood, a driven well, of a depth of 70 feet, entered blue mud* at about 20 feet and soft rocks at 40 feet; the yield of water was not satisfactory.** Another driven well at Fitchetts produced water that was too salty for use. An 817-foot drilled well at Mathews contained 167 parts per million of chloride, and it was abandoned. At North, a drilled well, 460 feet deep, yielded 12 gallons of water a minute and contained 550 parts per million of chloride."

Folks? The government covered all the bases geographically. And nary a clean drop of water was found. (BTW, "nary" is pronounced "nare," rhymes with "mare," in Mathews.)

Hello, welcome to Mathews. My name is Chesapeake Bay Woman, and I'm so glad you're visiting. Go ahead and take off your coat, stay a while, make yourself comfortable.

You must be parched. May I bring you a glass of chloride?


Two additional comments from the peanut gallery:

*How about some blue mud? Do you think maybe there's something swirling around in that mud? Well, it's called iron bacteria, which has been described as follows:

"Clues which indicate that iron bacteria may be present in well water are:
unpleasant tastes and odors commonly reported as: "swampy," "oily or petroleum," "cucumber," "sewage," "rotten vegetation," or "musty." The fact that these same words can be used to describe the smell of my house is really not germane. The point is, our water smells like rotten vegetation at best; sewage at worst.

**"Not satisfactory" may well be the understatement of the century. Similar to "Chesapeake Bay Woman doesn't enjoy housework."

Friday, March 13, 2009

One Year, or The Longest Post Ever

This is perhaps my favorite picture of all I've taken since I first began this whole blogging gig. The Mathews tourism people like it too, because they are using it in some of their promotional material, free of charge. It's a weird feeling when you pick up a brochure (in this case FYI Mathews - the Fall and Winter 2008 edition) and see your picture in it. But that's just one side benefit of starting this blog.

One year has passed since I started this blog, and one year is how long it will take you to read this post of mine. I figure since I'm celebrating Life in Mathews' birthday, I'm entitled to go on and on even more so than usual.

For the abbreviated version, here are the three main points: Sometimes the darkest times of life open doors to unexpectedly wonderful and rewarding experiences. Laughter is really, really an essential ingredient in this recipe called Life. And ants have no business having a life inside my house. (I don't really talk about this below, but still.)

For the sleep-inducing version which stretches from here to Annie in Australia, keep reading.

A little over a year ago, I didn't know what a blog was and had to look the word up on Wikipedia. Then, I did a search on "the best chocolate cake recipe ever" for my daughter's birthday and stumbled upon the Pioneer Woman's blog. I was instantly hooked and spent hours in front of the computer reading about her life. So really it's her fault that I am addicted to blogging.

Eventually I found Bossy's blog and discovered a world that was guaranteed to make me laugh, no two ways about it. I started making comments on both of these sites and came to know another blogger/commenter, tj, one of the dearest, kindest people I've never met. She convinced me to start a blog, and with the help (or was it coercion?) of my friend Kathy, a blog was born.

About the same time, my entire life changed drastically and unexpectedly. The world that I knew, one that I thought was reasonably stable and secure, was turned upside down, chewed up, spit out and left for dead. Although I've endured many difficult periods in my life, this one was the worst. Indeed another whole blog could be filled with that true story, but I do not allow that part of my life any room here on this one.

This blog was created as a diversion from the horrendous life events I was going through. I decided I could either let what was happening do me in--and it very well could have--or I would channel all my emotions elsewhere. Thankfully, all of my energy was tossed in this bucket.

I'd never used a digital camera before, never taken any pictures other than snapshots of my kids. All of a sudden I discovered the ability to look at things most people would find ordinary, boring even, and frame it in a way that made it different.

And that pretty much sums up the undercurrent of this blog: ordinary life stories put under a microscope and examined a bit further or looked at a little differently, as in through a slightly-off-balance woman's eyes. Well, some days that's the undercurrent. Other days, some might argue that it's too many days, it's just a current of hot air.

My original goal was to share some of Mathews and our life here with _______ --fill in the blank. (That blank would likely be my children; my family; maybe a few friends, that's about it). Little did I know there'd be people from other states--never mind other CONTINENTS--reading about our little community and our rather lackluster lives.

Over this year or so, I have met some pretty incredible bloggers--in person. Bossy made a cross-country road trip last spring and stopped in Richmond. I drove 150 miles round trip to meet her and am still unable to believe I spent several hours talking to this incredibly ingenious writer. Bossy makes me laugh like there is no tomorrow, and she's a beautiful person inside and out.

During my summer vacation last August, I was honored to meet Meg who got to see first hand just how technically inept I am. In spite of the fact that she erroneously thinks she's Harry Connick Jr.'s girlfriend (because he's all mine), we had a lot in common both coming from small towns. When we figured out we were going on vacation the same place, the same week, we met. She let this internet-deprived person use her mouseless laptop, and I was so thrown off by the lack of mouse I couldn't operate it. My 9 year old daughter had to help me....but my point is she was as delightful as I imagined.

Foolery. Heavens. Her comments on Bossy cracked me up, and we went from complete strangers to her calling to wish me a Merry Christmas. (My own family doesn't even do that, btw.) She sent me the most delectable almonds I've ever tasted, and I'm hoping she brings a boatload of those to Blog Fest. She's another comic genius, brilliant like Bossy.

Big Hair Envy. She lives a hop, skip and a jump from here and is as wonderful in person as she comes across on her blog. I've enjoyed getting to know her while planning for our little blog fest this summer. It's so nice having a fellow blogger so close by.

Mental Mamma and Grandma J.? I feel like I've known them my entire life and we've never met. (That will change come July.)

All of these wonderful people share a few key interests, not the least of which is humor. They make me laugh after the longest, dreariest days.

Last but certainly not least are the people who live (or have lived) in Mathews. Their contributions in the comments section make this whole thing enormously rewarding. Some of my guest contributors, such as Anonymous Mathews Native and Mathews Mountain Man, for example, really help convey what it is like living in the last frontier, one of the few places with no Wal-Mart, no McDonalds, no traffic, no Hectic. (I just made "hectic" a noun, a proper noun even.)

So, we go from "What is a blog?" to a whole new world which will crescendo this July, when bloggers from all over the country descend on little old Mathews. People from Canada, California, Washington, Connecticut, New York, Texas, Maryland, Maine--from all over--are traveling hundreds and in some cases thousands of miles just to meet their fellow bloggers. It's really incredible.

As far as the future of this blog, I cannot say. It's very rewarding in every way except financially, so I can't see stopping it, but I can see slowing down some. The pace I've set for myself is strenuous and time-consuming for a person who is already stretched thin. I don't see my readership growing any more, which is fine with me really, but I do hope to keep the two or three that I have. I truly thank you for reading.

Well, that's enough hot air for today. I've learned there are many good, brilliant people in the blogosphere, and I've learned that love and laughter is what this crazy life is all about. Stuff happens, and you either let it win or you laugh at it, it's your choice. (Choose laughter, you won't be sorry.)

One year of blogging has been incredibly good to me, and hopefully it has been for you, my one dear reader, the only one able to survive the length of this post.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for a great, immensely rewarding year.

Love and laughter,
Chesapeake Bay Woman

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Waterman

Once upon a time, a long time ago,
A Chesapeake Bay girl had a beau.

He earned his keep
Mining treasures from the deep.

A boat made of wood,
Oh God it smelled good.

She oft went along,
To hear the waterman's song.

An early morning ritual,
To him is habitual.

Early to bed means early to rise,
Rising in darkness he comes to despise.

Day in and day out all that stops him from going
The harshest of weather or to know that it's blowing.

Oh the dark and the cold
Do make his soul old.

Lots of work, little pay
Can turn a heart gray.

Early to bed, early to rise.
A weary man with red eyes.

But now he must leave it, it no longer pays,
He just can't believe it, he misses those days.

Once upon a time, a long time ago,
A man worked the water, it's all that he knows.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I Spy

I spy a heron.

I spy a heron across our creek that required me to slither out my back door, hunch down and duck walk while my hands tightly clutched my camera so I could get close enough to capture him on film yet not scare him away.

I spy a heron who did not want to be photographed, and as soon as he spotted a most ridiculous human--doing the duck walk while cussing and mumbling, all the while trying to focus the camera--he took off, squawking his discontent all over the neighborhood.

I spy tall, tall grass in the foreground of this picture, never mind the heron.

I spy grass that belongs to an overgrown shoreline due to a certain duck-walking human's inability--or unwillingness--to push mow it all of last year.

I spy a situation that needs to be addressed quickly, before the jungle-like weeds, grasses and vegetation of spring and summer make this an impossible task; most certainly before July's Blog Fest.

I spy myself tying a string around my finger as a reminder to take the push mower and the riding mower to Chimney Corner Lawn Mower Service for much needed maintenance, since last summer I ground up stumps, walnuts, patio furniture, tennis balls and battle axes as part of my ruthless assault on the lawn that grows only slightly faster than the baby pine trees sprouting from my gutters.

I spy a hefty maintenance bill due to the need for new blades, belts and a few vital engine parts that may have dropped off during last season's assault.

I spy a hissy fit occuring somewhere between receipt of said maintenance bill and the actual mowing of the grass around the shoreline.

I spy a headache.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bethel Beach

This weekend, Chesapeake Bay Daughter and I went to Bethel Beach because the weather was spectacular. This picture is rather dreary and does a good job of concealing the warmth of the day, but it was in the 80's. At one end of the beach a family was enjoying a picnic; at the other someone was flying a kite. In the middle of these two was Chesapeake Bay Woman, rolling around in the sand, trying to take decent pictures without someone calling the law to report an escapee from an institution. This time she was successful, although Chesapeake Bay Daughter made herself scarce during the whole wallowing episode and did a wonderful job of pretending like she didn't know who I was. I'm starting to get used to this sort of treatment.

A week ago, we had our first (and likely only) major snowstorm. For the past three days, it's been in the 70's and 80's.

A week ago, there was no sign of life other than a few spindly daffodils trying to push through the ground. Today there are daffodils in bloom along the roadside, and some of the trees are blossoming.

A week ago, I would arrive home from work in the dark. Today I still had an hour or more of daylight.

A week ago, I was buying windshield de-icer from Wal-Mart. Today I bought cat food and some light bulbs, which has nothing to do with spring and warm weather but I am not known for making much sense.

Spring is announcing her arrival, and I'm rolling out the red carpet and a welcome mat.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Ralph the Goose

This beast, which belongs to my mother, is named Beelzebub. Well, if he had a name that's what it would be. The evil goose and his twin Ralph have tortured this family for years on end. Ralph, alas, has passed away, but this devilish relative still hisses and spits next door.

I'm still not feeling right after being sick for over a week but it's back to work today so I am even less motivated to write anything. Thankfully Chesapeake Bay Mother has written about one of the hundreds of animals next door in her nature preserve, a killer goose.

Ralph the Goose
An Introduction
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

Sometimes well-meaning people give little children Easter gifts of baby animals, instead of candy likenesses, which are more practical. Usually the baby ducks, geese, rabbits, etc., grow to become problems with feathers or fur. I fell heir to some ducks and geese who failed to fit in well with the first owners; my thought was that I could manage to give them a pretty good life and, for the most part, that was the case.

Everyone settled in: fences were erected, plastic pools were provided* and those who got along stayed together. As every poultry person will attest, male birds just don't know how to get along with anything but an ear of corn; something to draw parallels from in that. Therefore, the two male geese were separated from each other and all else.

Occasionally the largest goose, already named "Ralph" by his former owners,was allowed the run of our 4-acre yard. Ralph was pure white and truly enormous and when his wings were spread they looked like those of an angel pictured in my Bible story book. The comparison ends there, however, though he was the most people friendly goose I have ever known. We never weighed him, but 25 pounds would not surprise me.

Although affectionate, a goose is a goose, is a goose; and a goose by any other name will still pinch hard enough to stop your heart! He had his uses and we were always grateful when he prevented the well-meaning but always intrusive Jehovah's Witnesses from paying a call. They took one look at Ralph, wings spread, coming at them with head in battle station mode and drove on.

Each of us has his own special Ralph story, including the grandchildren who learned to run very fast with Ralph as a personal trainer. Granddaughter owes her basketball defensive prowess to her constant "one-on-ones" with Ralph, offense being his only game. He gave new meaning to the term "pick and roll."

I think he liked me best, but I too wore the scars of his somewhat indecisive devotion. Bending over to fill his food container one day, he struck like lightening at the bull's eye of my most private place.** Illegal, immoral and unconstitutional, it taught me never to turn my back on anyone with my bottom in the air--altogether a good policy.

Whenever there were bruises--and there were some--we got huffy for a while, but always came around when he endeared himself by announcing the arrival of anyone who dared to set foot on our property. As everyone assured us, we would never be victims of a sneak attack by anyone but Ralph. True and true.


Chesapeake Bay Woman's Three Cents:

* The water fowl section of my mother's nature preserve includes 2 plastic swimming pools (made for small children but used recreationally by geese and ducks even though there is the entire Queens Creek right in our back yard); an enclosure made of chicken wire inside a wooden fence (two layers of entrapment); and a nylon tent, which is where the ducks sleep zipped up "for their own protection" each night. Lucky ducks.

** This happened to me once when I was in my own yard (where Ralph seldom ventured) bending over to reach a french fry from off the floor of my car. As soon as my hands touched that french fry, he zapped me right where it counted. My vocal chords suffered permanent damage from the ensuing scream, and I'm not sure which one of us was hissin' and spittin' the most. I do know I've had an aversion for cleaning out my car ever since, and I recoil at the sight of a dried up french fry. It could be argued successfully that I never cleaned out my car anyway, but this is neither here nor there. It's the goose's fault.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Silent Sunday

This is a close-up of a charming old structure just below the courthouse. I think it's at the end of the Woman's Club Road, but I can't remember. Anyway, the building is so full of character I could post a different picture of it every day here. But I figure I bore you enough with my simple sentence structure, run-on sentences, dangling participles and redundancy, so there's certainly no need to imitate that in the photography.

Yesterday I took on the mammoth job of attempting to clean my garage. I'll wait while you stop laughing so you can hear the rest.

Because this is supposed to be Silent Sunday, I will refrain from going on at length about this ordeal and instead will concisely say this:

1. In order to get rid of the tangled tumbleweeds of dog hair, leaves and layers of decades old dirt, I had to use the leaf blower. I am not making this up.

2. No fewer than 3 screams escaped my lips, one for approximately each hour I was down there.

3. One time I screamed because I was using the leaf blower, and a dead bird carcass flew up and almost hit me square in the face.

4. The End.

5. That's not really the end, but see above about Silent Sunday.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Falling Down

This was the view from my back yard at sunset after our recent snow storm. I was standing out on my deck trying to focus on taking this picture while balancing myself in the snow and ice, because I have a proclivity for falling down. It's genetic, I can't help it. Speaking of falling down, here's a story about just that.

Chesapeake Bay Mother shares a story on the topic of our gracefulness.

On Falling Down Stairs
by Chesapeake Bay Mother

"Having physically plumbed more stories than all the fire poles in three counties, I fear I have lost my amateur standing as a stair tumbler. While I don't hire myself out for pay, perhaps I should at least consider that option.

I began these feats when my parents moved into our first two-story house. Mother believed in floor wax and about once a month the whole house smelled of "Bowling Alley" floor wax, a thick, translucent paste of amber hue and strong odor--best described as a marriage of petroleum base with a whiff of equine liniment. It lubricated the old wood and when dry, buffed to a handsome shine. Along with the shine came the slip-and-slide feature, which was deadly to those in sock or stocking feet. Since I was young, agile, and wearing socks, my virgin tumble was just bruises and a learning experience. It only happened once because after that I clung to the banister like a cat on a tree limb.

Years later, we moved again, this time to an apartment with treacherous steep steps. Going to work early one morning, my high heel betrayed me on the top of the landing and I wound up going to work in hose with runs spreading over goose eggs on my shins.

Fast forward to 2001. Husband and I fall heir to his parents' three-story farmhouse. Opportunity to try all three! And I do!

The first occasion was the cellar stairs. The old house had a cellar built with the original house circa 1910. Obviously constructed for a family of midgets, the stairs required the average person to bend forward preventing head bumping while stepping down an incline of short steps ending about three feet from a concrete wall. One could hear sirens just contemplating the scene.

When the cellar light burned out, I grabbed a new bulb in one hand and held a lit candle in the other; then I set out to put in the bulb, thereby preventing anyone from falling down the darkened stair, lying helpless, bleeding, and undiscovered for hours after being thrown against the concrete dead end by force of gravity plus added momentum. Since the light was well into the center of the cellar, the candle was my only light.

There's something awkward about having both hands occupied, your feet exploring unfamiliar landscape, and your head bent forward against your chest. Suddenly it becomes evident that someone neglected to give me the tightrope walking training required and crash went the bulb, out went the candle and down went the bulb changer ending up nose to the concrete wall.

I got up, went upstairs on hands and knees and repeated the process. Finally I got it done and there were no bad juries, and even better...no witnesses."


Chesapeake Bay Woman's Addition to the Topic at Hand:

Once upon a time in a county called Mathews, a daughter lived next door to her parents. One day, the father had to be admitted to the hospital for intestinal problems. Around 2:00 a.m. that same night, while fumbling for the light switch on the way to the bathroom, the mother fell down a huge flight of steps and crawled over to the daughter's house wearing very little, if not less. The daughter awoke to what sounded like a bull thrashing around her living room, and went out to discover her mother babbling incoherently with a big knot coming out the side of her head. The daughter rushed the mother to the emergency room and waited for medical professionals to diagnose a broken finger, a concussion, a fractured ankle, several abrasions and a host of incidental injuries.

The daughter, satisfied that her mother was going to be OK, strolled down the hall to the opposite end of the hospital where her father was recovering from the intestinal problems.

So, once upon a time--on her wedding anniversary no less--a mother fell down the steps and nearly did herself in. She was rushed to the same hospital where her husband had been admitted earlier. In case you're not familiar with this mother, it's the very same one who was run over by the Cub Cadet lawn mower about a year later.

And the daughter just shook her head and said, "How is this possible?"

The End.

Friday, March 6, 2009


This is a glimpse of the creek through my back door on the day that it snowed here. The snowstorm was brief but beautiful. Our bleak and dreary landscape was carpeted in soft white cotton that made everything look like new. As quickly as the snow came, it left us thanks to high temperatures.

Our little community of Mathews and a very dear family suffered a tremendous loss today. Without going into details, a young mother lost a fight with cancer.

One of her family members reads this blog, so if you feel inclined, please leave some words of encouragement.

Like our snowstorm, her life was brief yet beautiful.

Life is eternal, and love is immortal; and death is
only a horizon; and a horizon is nothing save the limit
of our sight.
-- Anonymous

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Daffodils: Part IV

These daffodils sprouting in my front yard are early ones. They start poking their tips through the cold, hard soil in January and early February, whereas the fields once farmed by my grandfather don't usually start sprouting until mid to late March. Do you see that pine branch on the ground just to the left? That was from my homemade Christmas wreath fiasco. If you know what I'm talking about, let's move on. If you don't, let's move on even faster and pretend it was never mentioned--just know that poor pine branch was once distorted in ways unmentionable in my failed attempt to be cutesy. I don't do cutesy and don't know why I try, especially given the severe domestic disability that I've had since birth.

Below is a continuation of a speech on daffodils my paternal grandmother gave to a garden club convention in Richmond back in the 1970's. The previous 3 chapters are in the archives; I'd link them except I'm too tired to.


"...Probably every normal human being looks forward to Spring, when Mother Nature slowly turns up the wick and the world gives promise of awakening. Daffodils love that early period when spring is more promise than fact and returns color and growth to our gardens a whole month earlier than would otherwise be possible over most of the so-called temperate zone. The earliness of daffodils--before the onslaught of any heat - or bugs - constitutes the first major reason for growing them--they require minimum effort and serve almost every purpose.

There are over five thousand named varieties appearing in the catalogues of the world today, and this assures the widest source for individual tastes and needs. Every color except blue is included, with countless combinations and variations in form. They range in height from 2" to 30" and their bloom period extends from six to eight weeks, from the last trace of winter to the advent of tulips and the processions of other flowers that follow.

Daffodils can be colorfully casual by the kitchen doorstep, or properly formal in borders. They dominate the early shows because of their exquisite form, balance and texture and bring home coveted blue ribbons. They are lovely indoors-whether carefully arranged or in a casual bouquet--and they are good companions to most of the other flowers and greenery which is available in the spring. Indeed the daffodil is the all purpose family plant for every spring garden." To be continued....


CBW Again Because She Always Has to Have the Last Word

No, I don't have to have the last word, really. One might argue that successfully, but I would proffer (proffer? where did I pull that one from?) that I am really trying to provide additional perspective on what is being said.

In this case, that isn't it.

No, I just came back here to say that by this weekend I will be writing about a birthday: This blog baby of a site turned one last Sunday, but I was too busy writing my own obituary (due to the flu) to take notice. I'm ordering up clowns, face painters, a magician, pony rides, fiddler crab exhibits, fireworks, gill net games, pin the tail on the flounder, musicians, a three-layer cake, a three-ring circus and food to beat the band.

In case I don't get around to doing all that (three-ring circus notwithstanding since that's already woven into the fabric of daily life around here), just remind me to tell you about how this blog came to be.

Then, maybe you can remind me why it is still around.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009


This gorgeous old house is located on a bluff overlooking the Piankatank River. If you're on Route 3 heading towards Middlesex, it's on the left just before you go over the bridge. These are the houses that beckon me to enter, but the thought of being internet-less while sitting in Saluda jail keeps me firmly in check.

Today for a change of pace we're going to read a story that jumped out at me as I was perusing the book, "Gwynn's Island Times," which contains news bits from the Mathews Journal, 1905-1937, and the Gloucester Gazette, 1937-1950. The book was compiled by Elsa Cooke Verbyla.
October 10, 1930:

From Gwynn's Island comes the prize snake story. Mrs. Frank A. saw the monster reptile near an old well on the untenanted place of Mrs. Luther J. "Sixteen feet long and as big around as a half-gallon fruit jar," is her description. The snake was lying near the well when Mrs. A. first saw it. It was stretched straight out and Mrs. A. watched it for some time until it moved--then she went away from there.

The next day Mr. A. went to the old well and drew some water with which he filled a fish keg. Leaving the keg by the well he went elsewhere to attend to other duties and when he returned some time later the huge snake was drinking water from the keg, had almost emptied it in fact. While Mr. A. was looking for something with which to kill the reptile, it slipped away.

It is reported that a posse will be organized to beat the bushes in an effort to locate the snake and kill it. Residents in the neighborhood say they believe the snake has been in the vicinity for several years. Last summer a little boy is said to have told of being chased by a snake of unbelievable proportions."


Many people have a crazy fear of snakes, but I'm not one of them.


Unless you want to count the time I was down on the shoreline sending bottle notes and nearly stepped on a poisonous water moccasin, but that's a story for another day. By the way, that story requires earplugs and includes the shrillest scream ever to be heard in Mathews County as well as the fastest 200 yard dash ever clocked in human history. Seriously.

But while snakes and I are generally simpatico, happening upon a sixteen foot viper whose girth exceeded that of a Shetland pony just might be enough to send me high-stepping, or as stated in the story above "...and then she went away from there."


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Muscadine Grapes

Like much of the Eastern U.S., we received a bit of snow Sunday and Monday. Naturally I was too sick to get out and take advantage of all the wonderful photo opportunities, however I did muster enough energy to drag myself onto the front porch to take this picture. This is a tiny cove which is nothing but mud during low tide. Those dead vines in the lower right hand corner used to be muscadine grape vines. Well, they still are muscadine grape vines, but they no longer produce, much to my chagrin. If, like me, your screen wasn't manufactured in this century, double click on the photo to enlarge for a better view of the vines.

Muscadine grapes are quite possibly the sweetest, most delectable grapes ever produced by Mother Nature. Growing up, the Chesapeake Bay Sisters had muscadines growing right in their yard, just steps from their garage. These vines were very prolific, although they were confined to one particular section of our shoreline (shown above).

I remember waiting most impatiently for those big green globes to turn a deep purple, almost black, meaning they were ready to be savored. Their one big seed (or pit, as they say up North) was a very small price to pay for the explosion of sweetness and flavor these grapes provided. The best part of all was the skin and the tiny bit of flesh right beneath it. Sheer perfection.

I don't see muscadines anymore. The vines we used to scour in our youth are now dead. (By the way, we used to call them muscaDIMES sometimes because it just came more naturally...some people still call them that; these are the very same people I keep referring to who say chimbley instead of chimney. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Arguably.)

For more background on the very best grape ever, Wikipedia provides the following.
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Muscadines (Vitis rotundifolia) are a grapevine species native to the present-day southeastern United States that has been extensively cultivated since the 16th Century. Its recognized range in the United States extends from New York south to Florida, and west to Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas. They are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate; they need fewer chilling hours than better known varieties and they thrive on summer heat.

The muscadine berries range from bronze to dark purple to black in color when ripe. They have skin sufficiently tough that eating the raw fruit often involves biting a small hole in the skin to suck out the pulp inside. Muscadines are not only eaten fresh, but also are used in making wine, juice, and jelly.

Muscadine grapes are rich sources of polyphenols and other nutrients studied for their potential health benefits. Reports have indicated that muscadine grapes may contain high concentrations of resveratrol — a polyphenol with reported beneficial health effects — and that wines produced from these grapes, both red and white, may contain more than 40 mg/L of resveratrol. However, subsequent studies have found no or little resveratrol in different varieties of muscadine grapes

Chesapeake Bay Woman (Womanus Sickus) again.

Have y'all heard of persimmons? We had 3 persimmon trees near the house growing up, one of which was right next to the grape vines in the photo above. Between the muscadines and the blackberries in the summer, then the persimmons in the fall, the Chesapeake Bay children could pretty much frolic from bush to bush, tree to tree, vine to vine nibbling all day long. (Although with the persimmons you would never pluck one from the tree unless you wanted your mouth to turn inside out. Rather you'd wait for the soft, perfectly sweet ones to drop onto the ground.)

We didn't know what a fruit roll-up was, and I'd lay money that even if we'd had them we'd have preferred what was growing in our own back yard.

I miss those muscadines.

I also miss the lining of my upper respiratory tract.

CBW (Congested, Broken-Down, Weak)