22 July 2012

Sappho's Broom

  Goldfinches in winter.

Surprised by Time began four years ago today.  This is the 250th post -- at least 398,000 words -- and I am more surprised. I've loved this work these four years.  Surprised is linked to by nearly 150 other blogs, websites, and university research sites, and has had, as of writing this sentence, 140,135 readers page loads.  The past week has averaged 140 page loads a day. (Other than the total number of readers page loads. I only know the statistics for the most recent 500.)  I don't really know what 140 a day means in the blog world, but it seems generous when you consider that Wikipedia reports 156,000,000 blogs in existence a year ago. 

A strong number of readers look in regularly, and have for most of the four years.  Usually the largest percentage of readers is from Greece.  But readers baffle me.  Someone from Paris loads the same page 38 times, then comes back and looks at the same page a dozen times more.  Someone from Athens loads up 78 pages about Cleofe. (Everything I do here can be Copied and Pasted into your own document.) Someone from Bulgaria or Greece or North Carolina or Algeria finds the blog, makes 40 -120 page loads in a single day -- do these people have no diapers to change? no kitchens to clean? no gardens to weed? -- and disappears.  I have been awed to find readers from St. Helena and Reunion Islands.

Many readers arrive, clearly looking for something else -- "second-hand hats," "sophie's corner painting" -- and apparently a great many restaurants in US cities have names I thought were stratioti names. It was a mistake to have titled one post "Dating."  Many people have ended up there looking for women, and I hope they have been crushingly disappointed.  I remind readers again that my software tracks readers of the site, where they have come from, what they do on my site, and in most cases identifies their specific organization or university.

Most of the entries in this blog are work-in-progress, background notes for my book. I write as part of trying to solve problems I encounter.  Opinions have shifted.  More sources have been found. Corrections are needed.  Fine-tuning.  Readers should be wary of what they collect.  I do try to go back and correct facts as I identify them, but interpretations are more difficult.  Do not assume that I still hold a conclusion from a year or three years ago -- but I might.  Should you want to make use of material here, my work is available under a Creative Commons Copyright which you should read.

 Stellar's Jay

The garden is fine, thanks to all the time Alexandra spent getting it into something we can just about maintain. The five species of red poppies suppressed the pink, white, yellow, and orange poppies, and a good feed of horse manure pushed the Greek poppies 4 feet tall.  We added a new rose. a second Just Joey, a Christmas present from Rosalind bought from a local garden shop, but otherwise the roses were very slow, held back by exceptionally cool weather.  Rose buds prevented from blooming when they should will open out deformed -- this is important to remember whether you raise children or roses. 

Previously questionable, and cheap, no-name roses have done well, while half the catalog roses have done abysmally. Three name David Austin roses -- a  Winchester (stunning the first year, and never again), an Abraham Darby, and a Just Joey - - died off, and their root stock produced shoots with quite different roses.  Two of them are beautiful, but not what I had paid for.  David Austin's Pat Austin (no petals ever had a lovelier curve, but its stems were too weak for the blooms) died.  Or so we thought, but two shoots appeared overnight last week, so we are waiting. Altissimo has been spectacular. A friend's gift of  Rosa Mullaganii (from the UW Horticulture Center) has become huge, striking out in different directions and pushing a white tunnel through the pink cascades beside it.  It must have had several hundred blooms scenting the whole front yard on the one day of sun when the lavender beneath began to bloom.  (The lavender harvest will be this afternoon.)

Our aged broom with the sculptural twisting wood died, but the new broom plants I abducted from Sappho last November have flourished. (We had our Thanksgiving Day picnic there last year.) Sappho is a  three-way intersection in the north-west corner of the state, with a filling station, a bus stop, and a road sign that says "Entering Sappho".  You never know at which point you have left Sappho in three directions.

There is a place near Sappho called Pysht.  It is generally believed that Pysht is an attempt at Psyche, but for me that explanation does not carry the ring of conviction.

The pictures here are my attempts to record our birds.  We have six bird feeders now, plus the squirrel feeder, plus the upstairs balcony for the crows, plus salvia, penstemon, and Hot Lips sage for the hummingbirds and butterflies.  All June we had baby birds around the feeders, fluffy untidy things with blurry markings -- from the chickadee nest in the bathroom window frame, from the nuthatch nest in the lilacs, from the wren nest in the hawthorn, and chestnut-sided chickadees from the far side of the yard. A baby would land -- on the suet or sunflower seed feeder -- and then look around, not knowing what to do until a parent arrived and demonstrated.  The little nuthatches took turns handing each other the seeds they pecked out of the suet, clearly aware that a beak should have food put into it. The baby house finches arrived in early May and caused great anguish by their tendency to take food to the ground to eat.  The cat was severely reproached.

One squirrel has learned to come around the house to the power line in the hawthorn tree 20 feet from the window where I work.  He looks at me with an air of quiet desperation until I bring him a walnut. The crows get up before I do, and fly over the skylight over the bed cawing if they see no food. There is always one on watch for me to come onto the balcony who announces when I appear with food.  Another flies back and forth in front of the study window cawing when more food is required. There is always a crow watching us . . .

Crows have strong food choices.  Walnuts and meat are preferred.  Beef cat treats are good, but chicken cat treats are rejected.  Pizza crusts, but not toast crusts.  Occasional suet, but not daily. My hairdresser said her neighbor fed his crows corn meal.  My crows spilt out the corn meal and shrieked criticism until they had adolescents to feed, and then it was acceptable.  They have learned to eat dry cat food, as have the jays.  From the kitchen, we hear the steady thumps of crows landing above, the rattle of beaks in the metal food pan.

Female Anna's Hummingbird.

The crows used to cluster above  the yard and caw at the black cat.  After four years of that, they seemed to have accepted that he was part of the yard, and left off.  Yesterday I heard a mob of crows shrieking danger, swirling up and down the street in their carmagnole. It turned out that they had spotted Pierre a block away, wearing his big floppy black sun hat, and had been diving into his head.  Did they think him a stranger wearing a dead crow on his head?

One crow has started dropping pine cones in the yard. Gifts in exchange for food? 

Early in the spring, I started another blog -- Firesteel.  I did not know the word until I was looking for an explanation of the Palaiologos flag with a B in each quarter and read that the emblem was derived from firesteels.  I became obsessed with the word, have identified a blacksmith who can make me one, and finally reserved a blog address for the name -- firesteel was taken for all the servers I tried, but not pyrekbolo, the Greek version.  The word linked in my mind with the translucent grey sphere that covers The Garden of Earthly Delights when the side panels of the triptych are closed, a grey world humming with the first evidence of the creation of light.  Today's poem is "The Creation" by James Weldon Johnson, and I have never lost the thrill of hearing it on a 78 rpm recording when I was nine years old.

Firesteel is a blog for poetry and the occasional prose that thrills, that make chills run along my neck, or sparks shimmer inside my head -- a blog for words that strike fire.  It appears on Sundays, and has a modest core of faithful readers. 

Thank you.

Townsend's Warbler


  1. You have such a gift with words! (And I just quoted you on FB.)

  2. A minor geographical quibble. Sapho, Washington, is spelled with one P. For me, that makes it even better. Any longer-term residents I have talked with about Pysht (and it is not a statistically significant sample) have insisted that Pysht is absolutely the better half of Cupid and Pysht.

  3. I love the name firesteel. As a reenactor, i use one all the time--every use of it a little adventure.

    As usual, thanks. i continue to enjoy your work.

  4. Thank you for taking the trouble to write.

  5. If I may, I'd like to add my own "thank you" here as well.
    May you continue to amaze us with your wonderful writings.
    The new blog looks great, very close to my own heart actually.

  6. How lovely to hear from you again! Thank you.


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