Currently Browsing: Things that remain mysterious

A beautiful woman

It was hard to find what Sei Shonagon would say about a woman living on a dairy farm in Dutchess County, New York in the 1970’s.


Elizabeth Titcomb Blow
October 4, 1917 – November 7, 2013

This photograph of my mother was taken at Hardstone Farm, where we lived for over twenty years. It was a working dairy farm outside of Rhinebeck, NY. Here she’s in the lower field which flooded every spring. My sister and I love this picture because it shows her vibrantly alive, running in the muck of the fields and she is happy. Just out of sight her dog is chasing after her.

She didn’t shy away from adventure. When I lived in Colorado in the early 70’s (and she must have been in her 50’s), she drove her VW convertible Beetle across the country to visit. It was a long, hard drive and she camped out along the way with three fellow travelers who pitched in for the ride. You could do that in those days. She and I then drove her car down to Santa Fe through the four corners of Monument Valley to New Mexico because I wanted to share this amazing place with her.

She loved it. One night we were on the road to somewhere outside of Santa Fe and got lost. We were way out in the desert. It was summer. The convertible was down. The sky was a black bowl of stars twinkling endlessly. The road stretched straight ahead for miles and miles illuminated brightly by starlight and nothing else. There wasn’t a sign, a gas station, a motel, a city lit up in the distance. Nothing as far we could see.

We  were hopelessly lost, but so completely enveloped by the perfect endless universe –  that all of a sudden it seemed absurd to think we could be anywhere else but at home. We started to laugh and laugh. It was a kind of epiphany. We laughed so hard she couldn’t hold onto the steering wheel and had to stop the car. We didn’t even pull over because as far as we could see the road stretched before us and behind us with nothing in sight.

We were at home in the beautiful, vast universe that seemed to just swallow us up in it’s perfection.

French Parrot tulips for her Memorial

French parrot tulips for her Memorial





Digging into the past

family tree_sm

I was fascinated with the picture of this tree when I was a little girl. It hung in the stairway of my grandparent’s Boston home and shows all the different branches of my family since 1620.

The tree looks like it could be an American Chestnut. A  native of the north eastern United States, it was able to grow 98 feet high, 9 feet in diameter and was one of North America’s most important forest trees until it suffered a terrible blight in 1904. It has almost become extinct.

Most of my ancestors would have known this tree. Resistant hybrids are making a comeback, so maybe in a few hundred years my family will again know and love this great tree.

My fascination as a kid was following the branches; seeing where they went and where they ended, kind of like a maze. I wanted to find the people I heard stories about, like the one about the soldier who stood up to look around in a corn field and was shot by Indians.

But now when I look at this tree I see my roots, not only the people but the culture and influences that made them who they were, and me who I am. I see names I’ve never heard of that come directly from the Old Testament – something I’ve never read and confess am quite ignorant about. Who were Benaiah, Penuel, Zebulon, Tirzah and Jedediah? My ancestors actually had these names!

I looked them up in the Old Testament and, of course, Google. To me, the Old Testament is like a census, or an old fashioned, which yes – I did sign up for and have successfully traced hundreds of people though time. It’s another tree; following branches, searching for beginnings.





Things That are Near Though Distant

Across the street

Sei Shonagon is very brief in her list of ‘Things That are Near Though Distant’. She lists:

  • Paradise
  • The course of a boat
  • Relations between a man and a woman

I’m sure she’d agree with my addition of Rainbows

Across the street to the right – same rainbow

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