The Buzzards are Coming! The Buzzards are Coming!

Ready for Buzzard Day? Got your pile of varmint innards ready to welcome the return of the buzzards? Well, no, me neither. In our area, the “buzzards,” aka turkey vultures, stay year-round. However, they do leave Ohio’s colder winters and travel to warmer climes. Hinckley, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, celebrates the vultures’ return with an annual festival on the Sunday closest to March 15, the traditional return date.IMG_1630

In 1989, Lou and I drove to Hinckley and participated in the Buzzard Festival. Lou called it “the biggest bird-walk in the country.” We scanned the state park system’s sandstone ledges, favored by the vultures as breeding sites. We rejoiced to see a few vultures gliding in teetering dihedrals across the spring sky. We enjoyed the pancake breakfast at the local elementary school, bought buzzard memorabilia, and laughed at kids’ drawings of traveling birds (one buzzard had a little suitcase labeled “Hinckley or Bust”). A special treat was meeting Geek, a turkey vulture from the Cleveland Zoo. He stretched his big black wings and allowed us a close-up look at his wrinkled and featherless red head. I wrote a travel article, “Buzzard Daze,” that was published in The Washington Post.

After that article was published, Lou and I enjoyed a short period of being considered vulture experts. We were delighted, as we do appreciate what vultures, nature’s clean-up crew, do for all of us. Shortly after that, on my fiftieth birthday, our friend Mary gave me a stuffed buzzard as a sign I’d become an S.O.B. (Sweet Old Buzzard). I named him Geek in honor of the real Geek. My Geek, a replica of an African vulture, is a charmer who lives on one of our bookcases.

IMG_1631I sold quite a few travel articles to The Post, and often was able to resell a published piece to another newspaper. The “Buzzard Daze” piece was a hard sell, though. No one wanted to reprint it. The editor at the Chicago Tribune even sent me a hand-written rejection. It said, “The Washington Post?? You’re putting me on, surely. Oh well. I’m not one for bird stories whether in San Juan Capistrano or Hinckley, Ohio. When do the bats return to Dracula’s cave?”

Undaunted by snickers or sarcasm, the Hinckley Buzzard Festival continues. This year, it’s on Sunday, March 15. The Hinckley Chamber of Commerce features the festival on their website, If you decide to go check it out, give the buzzards a special welcome for Lou and me.

A Perfect Pearl

photo 3At the beach, sunrise rewards early risers with a glorious panorama of mother-of-pearl sky and water. Mother-of-pearl: the nacreous pastel shimmer in shells, replicated in gleaming water and glowing sky.

Every sunrise shows us that the sun is the father of us all, the giver of energy. Then isn’t the sun the father-of-pearl?photo 2(1)

But then what is the pearl? The round orb of Earth? No, that’s too simple for something as complex and interconnected as our planet is known to be. Animal, vegetable, and mineral—we are all of the above. If the pearl is our living earth, Gaia, then we are all part of that pearl.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe true pearl, hidden until sought for, is the gem of our consciousness. That consciousness, that intelligent understanding, is, as Carl Sagan said, “a way for the universe to know itself.” We know we evolved here on Earth and could have evolved only here, on this planet in this universe. However, like the tiny piece of grit at the heart of a pearl, the knowledge that we are also Earth’s users and abusers must prod our consciousness.

May we continue to expand our conscious efforts to love and respect the importance of every element of our planet and our part in the universe. When we focus on being Earth’s restorers and guardians, our consciousness will be a true gem. A perfect pearl.

Beware the Scammers

Our friend was badly scammed the other night. She’s been super-busy recently and therefore felt overwhelmed and exhausted. At a vulnerable time, she was attacked. writing at computerAn extremely plausible scammer called her in the evening, purporting to be from Microsoft. He told her she’d been hacked and said he was trying to “protect” her. After she turned on the computer and did what he told her to do, he took control of the computer and protected her right out of access to it. As a computer, it was now a great doorstop. Then he wanted to charge her hundreds of dollars to give control of her computer back to her. She told him she wouldn’t pay him, because he killed her computer, and he said, “No, ma’am, you killed it.”

Nothing too bad can happen to people like that. Boiling in oil? An eighth circle in hell?MC900444671[2]One of the worst aspects is that he made her feel so stupid. None of can know everything and most of us use computers without being tech-savvy. A scammer’s playground.

The story ends fairly well. It was time for a new computer anyway (hers was 8 years old). Another friend who is very knowledgeable about computers went shopping with her, helped her choose a new desktop computer, and got it set up and working. The other good news is her major files were backed-up on thumb drives. Later, a technician can help her recover her remaining pic

It’s a sad commentary that we can never rely on the good will of people who cold-call and want to “help” us. Microsoft does not call; it sends Windows updates. Though a sucker may be born every minute, apparently a scammer is born every 30 seconds.


Grief and Graduations

Recently, the grief and loss connected with two heart-felt deaths counter-weighted the joy in proud achievement as two grandchildren graduated. Two down, two up. It’s been an emotional roller-coaster time.

The only child of good friends died in an auto accident at 27; his parents were devastated. We went to Delaware to witness the celebration of Scott’s life. Family and friends met at their church, told stories about Scotty, wept with his parents.

Zack and folks (1)

Zack and proud Mom and Dad

Shortly after that funeral, my grandson Zachary graduated from high school. “Pomp and Circumstances” ushered in a teary-eyed proud day, celebrating an important milestone on the road to maturity and independence.Zack a new Grad



Two weeks later, Lou’s older brother Ed died of congestive heart failure. Amid protestations that he and Ed were never close, being nine years apart in age, Lou remembered so many stories and incidents involving his brother that even he was surprised. Talking with family and friends at the funeral and interment, we heard more stories. Ed was still living in many minds and hearts and would go on being so.


Lou and Ed

“Ed stories” included the time he loaned a teenaged Lou and his friend Jeff his brand-new Chevy convertible for a double-date (incredible!). Even Ed’s thoughts about space travel resonated with a newspaper article about current NASA plans concerned with Mars. Lou’s first reaction was, “Ed used to tell our mother he firmly believed we would land someone on Mars in his, Ed’s, lifetime.” “When did he say that?” I asked. “I think when Ed was in ROTC in college and I was in middle school.” So maybe 60 years ago, Ed had faith that he’d live to see people traversing space. And now he’s died at 81. And we’re not near Mars yet and won’t get there in Lou’s lifetime, either. Another reason to mourn.


Annika and Grandma

Annika and proud Grandma

Three days after Ed’s funeral in Virginia, I flew to California to watch my granddaughter Annika graduate from UC-San Diego. That was another proud day, full of photo ops and friends. That afternoon, we went sailing, with Annika still in the lacy dress she’d worn under her black gown.

Annika steers


I’m grateful that our two graduations helped leaven the funerals’ grief and encouraged thinking of all four events as thresholds. For Zachary entering college and Annika entering graduate school, the promise of a new and enlarged life is easy to see. In death, it’s not so obvious, despite religion’s tenets. Many faiths see death as promotion, but I don’t believe in life after death. After death, we exist in the acts and attitudes we’ve left as memories in the minds of others. Like the Scotty stories his photos and friends and parents told. Like the Ed stories we’ve been telling.

There’s a promise inherent in endings that result in new beginnings—if not for the lost one, at least for those left behind.

Our Exotic Visitor

Image This morning we had an exotic guest on our patio. A beautiful peacock (who roamed the neighborhood last year) paid his first visit since our long cold winter. He was an eye-catching sight amid the spring greenery and blooming narcissus. ImageA barrel on our patio holds a bird feeder. The peacock stepped about the barrel, gleaning dropped seeds, trailing his long train behind him. Hunting for breakfast, he even investigated in the barrel itself. The little backyard birds fed at the feeder above him or flew past to other feeders. I wondered whether they felt any kinship with this super-sized intruder.ImageThe peacock had an aristocratic profile, with his large dark eye highlighted by a creamy stripe and a crescent-shaped patch of bare skin. His crest feathers had lost some of their tips but even so, they looked like a regal crown. The base of his glorious blue neck was bright green, the intricate designs of his wing coverts formed a black-and-white tapestry over his back, and when he stretched out his wing, we saw rich chestnut primary feathers.

Image Peacock Train (1)

The eye-spots on the feathers of his train surrounded each dark “pupil” with those colors and more. I wished for a peahen whose presence would cause him to truly strut his stuff on those large scaly feet, raising his train into a stiff and dazzling fan. But alas, his audience consisted only of two humans and three cats.




We were all crowded around the sliding glass door in the kitchen; the cats were half-scared and growling but as wholly fascinated as Lou and I.Image Lou stepped outside to scatter more seed. The peacock retreated through the patio garden to the lawn, but soon came back. By the time he finally wandered away, his crop was so full I wondered how he could turn his head.

Some mornings have a bit of magic about them….

Diana’s Gripes and Kudos: Victoria’s Secret

Diana’s gripes are always funny and have a good foundation (pun intended!)


Last time I griped about Burger King. Today Victoria’s Secret is up on the block.

Just going into Victoria’s Secret is difficult. Entering that world of underwear and lingerie is like setting foot on an alien planet. I tend to be a bit of a girly girl, but for some reason the vast array of underwear has me feeling cast adrift and on unsure footing. In the back of my head, I hear my grandmother’s voice telling me I don’t belong in that ultra-sexy, possibly sinful place.

Even when I get my prudish side in check, there are just too many choices, many of them seeming vaguely uncomfortable or designed solely for nonfunctional use.  Let’s face it, whoever came up with the idea of a thong had to be a serious misogynist.

That being said, Victoria’s Secret has absolutely evolved. When they redesigned my favorite bra — frankly the only…

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“Loveliest of Trees”


A local cherry tree in lovely full bloom.

Living as Lou and I do near Our Nation’s Capital, we’ve experienced first-hand one of the joys of spring: the famous cherry blossoms downtown. Many times I’ve walked along the Tidal Basin under the trees’ lacy canopy and marveled at the intensity of their beauty.

Cherry trees also grace many suburban neighborhoods, including ours. As we’re a little north of D.C. and higher in altitude, our local trees extend the flowering season.

What reader, turned on to poetry as a romantic teenager, can forget the beauty of A. E. Housman’s ode that celebrates the wild cherry? This picture shows my beloved boxed copy of Housman’s A Shropshire Lad, bought so many years ago. The second poem in the collection rejoices in spring’s blooming cherry trees.  Here’s the first stanza:


My copy of Housman’s poetry.


    Loveliest of trees, the cherry now

    Is hung with bloom along the bough,

    And stands about the woodland ride

    Wearing white for Eastertide.




Housman was writing about wild cherries, like the little black cherry in our own woods and the trees along our local “woodland ride,” the Matthew Henson Trail. The beautiful downtown or neighborhood cultivars have many more flowers per bough, of course, but I love the wild ones that decorate our springtime woodlands. I’m happy to say with the poet,


A blooming black cherry in our woods.


    About the woodlands I will go,

    To see the cherry hung with snow.

Book Report

My book about books and life that took me almost 25 years to write is about to take its first steps out the door. A quarter-century! How can anyone write that slowly? Well, okay, I wasn’t working on it the whole time. There was a 22-year lapse in the middle.

The working title: A Reader’s Journey – and What Happened Next. It’s about turning fifty (which I did in 1990) and using books as signposts to relive and even reinvent my life. And it’s about meddling with the manuscript more than twenty years later, in a two-person book club with my younger self.

Our books are organized because I like being able to find a particular book fast, either for my own pleasure or to lend to a person who deserves to read it. Children’s books plus books about writing are in my study, in orange bookcases that used to belong to my son.

Books about birds are in the foyer and the kitchen by the window, near the binoculars.
Books study
Fiction and natural history are also in my study, in these white bookcases. I bought them with money from an article I sold to The Washington Post, the one about the annual return of the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio. Our Maryland friends snickered when we made that pilgrimage to Hinckley. However, the buzzards bought bookcases.

Mysteries are in our bedroom, travel and humor in the guest room, science fiction and philosophy in the family room. There’s even a stack of books in the hall bathroom. I feel vaguely guilty about the house resembling a used book store, but the good news is that there’s brilliant writing wherever I look.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I’ve written a book about reading books….

You’ll find an overview, the book’s introduction, and part of Section 1 here on my website. Check it out!

The Pen-Name Game

Ever thought of using a pen name? I saw a suggestion that if a writer needed a nom de plume, she could take the name of the pet she had as a kid for a first name, and the name of the street she lived on as a last name. I’ve always published under my real name, but what if I wrote something so different I wanted to use another one? (Think J. K. Rowling and Robert Galbraith.) Maybe I should have another name ready, just in case.

The first pet I remember was a sweet gray cat named Mitzi. I don’t remember the street we lived on then, but when I was seven, we moved to 20 Hanover Road, in Mountain Lakes, N.J. Putting those together, my nom de plume could be Mitzi Hanover. I like it!

What sort of books would Mitzi Hanover write? I’m thinking superior romance novels, playful and sexy but with an undercurrent of serious plot. A sassy nurse-and-doctor romance in a teaching hospital, or a romantic suspense story of art-fraud or espionage.

Here’s another possibility. When I was a teenager, my parents briefly fostered a German shepherd that my young brother, going with the obvious like most little kids, named Shep. What would Shep Hanover write? Perhaps heart-warming animal stories, or he-man Westerns, with a main character who could be played by John Wayne or Gary Cooper.


The inspiration for Max Wild.

I brought Lou into the pen-name game.  He grew up in the District on Patterson Street and his first pet was a kitten named Timmy. Timmy Patterson might be a friendly name for a children’s writer or a cartoonist. Much classier, though, would be a name borrowed from the tuxedo cat Lou brought home when he was older. He named the cat Osiris. Osiris Patterson — what about historical novels about Egypt, or startling stories of the occult? Cool!

Not all pet-name + street-name combinations work. Editing might be needed. When my sons were young, we had a dachshund named Max. That would be a fine manly first name for an author. Unfortunately, we lived on the somewhat pretentiously titled Wild Olive Drive. But the guys could blue-pencil it into a good pen-name: Max Wild. Perfect for articles on conservation or mountain-climbing, or thrillers about conspiracies, car-chases, and cops.

This is fun!  What would be your nom de plume?

The Geometry of Space … and People

Diana always talks to interesting people. Take a look (and listen!)



Vincent Pirruccio has worked for most of his life as an artist.  His sculptures are magnificent and important.  Books have been written about him, though I’d never seen any of his pieces up close.  I was lucky to be in Taormina where his exhibition, The Geometry of Space, took place last fall.

Pirruccio’s work juxtaposes the massive weight and size of his pieces, against a feeling of lightness and air.  He marks his space, in an overpowering masculine way, while framing it and inviting people in.  He dominates in what looks like solid iron, but creates transparent intimacy.  The heavy metal structures seem totally immovable, requiring cranes to set them in place.  Yet the small ball in each of the works wreaks havoc, sending each piece off balance, skittering into uncertainty.


In Italy, I became acquainted, not only with his work, but with the sculptor himself.  He’s warm and…

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