Tuesday, October 18, 2005


"I'll catch up with you," Mary said. Then she hurried down the supermarket aisle and disappeared around the bend. She returned clutching a small plastic bag, double-checked to make sure she had the receipt....

We finished our grocery run. At the checkout counter she helped unload the cart of a small, wizened woman, $352 worth of groceries. The woman wore a coat, heavy gray tweed on a day with temperatures in the 80s. Thin dark hair, white at the roots, floated about her face.

"Are you with her?" the clerk asked. No, Mary said -- just helping.

The clerk knows the woman, said afterwards that she is almost 100 years old. The woman comes in once a month to get her groceries, pays in cash from a white envelope. The clerk counts the cash in front of her, twice, three times, then escorts the woman outside to where her ride is waiting. Gives her a tender kiss on the cheek before leading her out the door.

The elderly woman had thanked Mary profusely, blessed her.

"I'll bet you've helped a lot of people," Mary said. "I'd like to look as good as you when I'm your age." An age probably twice mine, twice Mary's.

I grinned as I watched and listened, tending to our own cart. It was a great birthday present, along with the mystery items in Mary's small plastic bag. At home she told me to close my eyes. She led me by the hand, carefully past the cats, and sat me down on the couch -- where on her command I opened my eyes and gazed at the candle and number array she'd set up in otherwise non-committed plant pots.

I'd never seen a number-programmable candle holder before. Cool.

"If I were thinking I would have gotten two," Mary mused, adding, "If they had two." She'd found the one in what up north we had called "the bent vegetable bin" -- clearance items, dinged cans.

No, I told her. This is perfect.

I don't always stay up for my birth minute, at 2:23 in the morning; last night I did. I had set up our telescope on the back porch, screwed in the lunar filter, and gazed at the moon, could see mountain peaks interrupting the smoothness of the limb. Mars gleamed bright red not far off. My attempts at crude astrophotography -- easing my camera lens up against the eyepiece -- yielded only shots of strange "planets" suitable for Star Trek.

The camera had been an early birthday present to myself. Yesterday I finally photographed an agave americana cactus, whose beauty had struck me when I first saw one. Down here they adorn numerous yards. They are "century plants," generally waiting one to six decades before blooming depending on the climate. After blooming they die, but not before creating offshoots, or "pups", to continue the line.

En route to the post office we passed an old milk pail put out for trash, and were momentarily tempted to rescue it and bring it home. I settled for taking a photo.

I think these are purple-spored puffballs. The top breaks apart and falls off to release the spores. We passed them on our walk home.

Mary had pointed out the mushrooms. At home I noticed an egg case floating in the web beneath our outdoor faucet. We'd been told that the nubbly balls, as this one is, belong to black widow spiders. Another egg case can be seen just peeking out from the threads. Today, though, we saw what looked like a beige-bellied spider there, so perhaps the nubbly egg cases are not confined to widows. We don't plan on disturbing the mass to find out.

Today's walk yielded a swamp lily. We'd lunched at 2 Bakers and I'd deposited my poetry winnings at the bank. The lily, which belongs to the amaryllis family and blooms year-round, had greeted us between the bank and the supermarket.

To answer Colleen's question about state poetry societies: Dozens exist and belong to the National Federation of State Poetry Societies. You don't generally need to belong to one in order to enter the contests (there may be a difference in the fees, and sometimes there's a "members only" category in the NFSPS competitions). You don't need to live in the state to be a member or submit to contests -- I've won awards in the Minnesota and Indiana state contests, though have submitted only to the Florida contests the past couple of years. Each society uses judges from out of state.

Each state competition includes multiple contests. This year Florida had 20 categories; next year it will have 25, ranging in form and subject matter. In addition to the annual state contests, the NFSPS has its own annual national contests. In almost all cases, poems submitted must be unpublished (posting on a website is considered publication). The NFSPS's chapbook competition is the exception.

Since moving down here I've learned poetic forms I hadn't known existed: the Dorsimbra, Minute, Fielke Sonnet, Pirouette, and others.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sort of like the humanclock.com. Do you know about that? Happy Birthday!

11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, e_j. I just turned 34 on the sixth.

And you thought I didn't come around...

Who's in "hurricane country" now? ME, baby!

10:40 PM  
Blogger Yankee, Transferred said...

Beautiful in every way.

3:19 PM  

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