Soy. Just Soy.

Ho much do you know about growing soybeans? If you are me, not much.

I got curious about it as I’ve been noting the fields at the Norristown Farm Park, where we run or walk among acres of corn and soy. This park is still a working farm; its past is that of a farm attached to the Norristown State Hospital, where patients worked the fields as part of their treatment years ago. In the past, it was thought healthful for mental patients to have occupation, and this land grew all kinds of crops plus housing a dairy herd and trout farm.

These fields were green earlier this year and have turned golden and now faded to this tan color.

Details of the plants, photos taken last weekend:

I took a small stalk home, as I wondered when the harvest would occur and I wanted to inspect the plant more closely.

I learned through some internet research that the plants must be thoroughly brown and dried before they will be harvested. You can see the stalk of this plant is still a little green.

I took some photos for details.

Now I understand what will happen next. One day a harvester will come through the fields and the soybeans taken away, the fields shorn down.

I like being informed about what I see going on around me. Even if it is just – soybeans.

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In Which We Visit Norris City Cemetery

On Sunday, September 10, my husband and I ran/walked at Norristown Farm Park. In our continuing exploration of the park and its environs, after we finished we drove over to the Norris City Cemetery, adjacent to the park.

I’ll mention that it is so adjacent that in an earlier run, I got lost (as I do so often and so easily and with so little ability to stop myself) and did a loop through the cemetery while I got myself back on track.

I’ll also say that once I run a route, I don’t get lost again. I did like the detour through this peaceful spot and I’ll do it again, on purpose.


All right, back to the topic. The cemetery is located on a hill next to an East Norriton township park. The township now owns the cemetery and maintains it (beautifully, I might add). We parked at the back of the cemetery next to the bocce courts and went in the rear entrance.

The cemetery was founded about 160 years ago. It was non-sectarian and seems to have been most used during the period 1880’s to about 1920.  It’s not filled up and I gather you could still be buried here, if you wanted.

(For all information on the history of the site I refer you to the cemetery’s really thorough website, which is where I got my information, Norris City Cemetery . There are also some great then-and-now photos of the cemetery. Thank you to the creators of this site.)

It’s a simple, open site. It flows down a hill, with plenty of room between the rows. We wandered down the hill.

There are not a lot of elaborate monuments here; this was the biggest one we saw.

Most of the monuments are marble or granite. As I’ve seen in other cemeteries, time has not been kind to the marble ones in particular. This stone was representative. To figure out the inscription you might be better with a rubbing rather than trying to decipher it.

But there is plenty to see, all the same. I’ll show you a few things that caught our eyes.

We noticed a bluish monument and took a closer look. I thought it might have been painted. But no; when I tapped it, it rang metal.

We didn’t know what to make of it at the time. We could tell it was hollow. Did that mean it was a container as well as a marker? My husband did some research when we got home and we learned that this monument was an example of a white bronze marker. (All information I mention on this subject is from A Grave Interest, “White Bronze – A Monument of Quality” – take a look, it’s fascinating.)

Long and short of it, the monument is hollow, does not contain anything, and is actually zinc. These markers were manufactured for only a short time around the turn of the last century and were a cheaper alternative to stone markers. Each one was custom made and therefore quite personal. Here is more of the Steiner monument:

Once we knew what to look for, we saw some more. This one:

This one, with a detail of the kind of information you could have included on your monument – the plates you chose were screwed into the structure:

And this one, which is big and elaborate:

All of these markers were in great shape. Apparently the manufacturer claimed these monuments would stand the test of time better than stone. From what I saw here, I would agree.


 

We saw some examples of cemetery symbolism: Lilies, for the resurrection of the soul:

And what looked like a dollar sign with too many vertical lines. (A dollar sign? A dollar sign? I thought.) Later research revealed it to be the IHS monogram (first three letters in Jesus’ name, in Greek.)

I’m glad this was cleared up, but not before I had some thoughts on “you can’t take it with you but maybe I’ll try…” I’m sorry, those thoughts just came into my mind and I couldn’t help it.

I had this thought about the life of Emma Louse Supplee – she lived one-half of her life on one side of 1900 and the other half on the other side. I liked that symmetry. I will need to live until 2042 to achieve the same.

We made our way down the hill. As we did, we noticed something I really liked: the view of the cornfield along one side of the cemetery. It’s part of the Farm Park.

We also saw remnants of stone piled along a section of the perimeter, in the brush. We knew that the cemetery had been derelict before the township took it over about 30 years ago. We figured these were broken/destroyed stones of various purposes and beyond saving. I say this because it is obvious that a lot of care was taken to rehabilitate all that could be, given the present look of the site.

Everything is transient, it says to me.

Here is a view from the bottom of the hill, near the front entrance of the cemetery.

I am glad we stopped and took the time to look around. There is a nice feeling to this location. The township park next door, with all the people and activity of today. The fields with their yearly cycle of growth and death and rebirth. The sky and the trees. The little American flags set on veterans’ graves. The care that today’s living are still taking for those gone long ago and to whom they have no connection other than living in the same city, decades and centuries apart.

Being remembered. It’s nice to think about.

 

I Continue to Practice Handwriting

You may remember my no-longer-secret ambition to improve my handwriting.

Here are a few recent samples – these from June:

and August:

I’ve got some thoughts on handwriting and what this quest has meant to me. But first, I’ll show you some of my tools.

I have learned a bit about pens and inks, enough to realize there is a whole world of handwriting that has been hidden from me until now. I now peruse pen and ink sites and read books on handwriting, not just how to do it, but also on the history of it. My tiny ambition has opened a whole new subject to me.

In my corner of the handwriting world, I have settled on medium nib fountain pens and rollerball pens as my favorites. Fine nibs and points scratch and drag at the paper for me. I like a nice thick flow of ink. Here is my current set of friends.

Top to bottom: Pilot V-ball 7 rollerball; Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen, medium; 2 different Lamy Safari fountain pens, both medium nib; a new pen I haven’t tried yet as I just received it in the mail today, the Pilot MultiBall rollerball medium; and the Platinum Preppy fountain pen medium.

I also am very fond of one of the cheapest pens around, too – Bic Cristal is my everyday go-to pen.

You may wonder about those pages of handwriting. I have developed a habit of practicing handwriting while watching television at night – I take notes on the show I am “watching” (when I’m not working a crossword puzzle or reading. You can see why I say “watching”.)

Anyway, I started the practice for…practice. But I have found handwriting to be a soothing meditative activity. I take my time and work to form the letters in a nice manner rather than in my hasty scrawl of the past. Writing has become a pleasant activity in of itself, not just something I have to do to get my thoughts on paper. I love seeing lines of nicely formed letters and words emerge and I love using a good pen full of quality ink.

Here is my ink filling station. I keep my inks on a shelf in the cabinet in the dining room.

And here are the ones I am using now. I can recommend all three of these inks. Beautiful colors and thick, intense color. That is what I like.

I am glad that at this later stage of life (I learned cursive handwriting in 1966) I can learn something new, I can improve a habit I was not happy with, and I can still stumble into an unknown world and find excitement in exploring it.

Handwriting is art to me now. I use it in my art, literally; I find inspirations in my handwriting practice for my poetry-writing; I enjoy the look of a nicely-written grocery list. I’m glad I took the step to try this handwriting thing out again.

the insubstantial

It is what holds the pieces of your life together.

Walking in Circles

Today is the last day of the Montgomery County (Pennsylvania) Senior Games, and that means it is time to walk.

This year, my plan was to accompany my husband on the course and go at his speed. We are celebrating his continuing recovery from his accident and knee surgery.

We arrived at Montgomery County Community College nice and early, about 8:15 AM. The day was cool but sunny, with clouds coming in for the rain tomorrow, but no precipitation today at all.

Montco, as it is nicknamed, is maybe 20 minutes from home and set on a spacious campus. I remember when the school was way out in the middle of nowhere, but 35+ years since I first saw it, it is now surrounded by houses and apartments. The event was taking place at the health sciences building, AKA the gym/fitness center. It’s recently been updated and it is beautiful.

We went inside for a few minutes, where the vendors for the expo were setting up.

Then we went back outside and got our names in for the event. The way things work, a group of contestants assembles at the start.

You take off down the walk, go out a bit (past the guy in the blue jacket to that lady in the green shirt, you’ll see her, just keep going), turn at the orange cone, come back, pass the start, go some more, follow that loop in the back of the building, and come back. Do that three times and the race is done. You went 1.5 miles. Oh, and to get your time, listen as you pass the finish line – the timer will call out the time. Remember that number and tell the scorer.

It’s all pretty casual, but it works. Here is my husband (left) waiting to start as a volunteer explains the deal to a latecomer.

Well, we got started on our way. I took this picture pretty near the beginning.

I am so happy and proud of my husband. All the hard work he has been putting in in therapy and in exercising on his own really shows. He was able to walk at a 17 or 18-minute mile pace, which I think is great. It is hard for me to believe that less than five months ago he was getting around with crutches and a brace, if he was able to move at all. Determination pays off.

Well, we finished. And then…you knew this story did not end here, didn’t you?

I had no intention of doing this, but I got to Montco and my competitive instincts kicked in. I can’t pass up a race. So before we went out on our joint tour of the course, I asked the officials if I could go around with my husband and then do one on my own. Sure, they said.

All right. My husband took these pictures. Here’s a quick commentary.

I went out with Group #2. Right from the start I identified my competition. And I don’t mean, for medals – there is no telling if these ladies are even in my age group. I just mean, right here, on this course. Let’s go. Here at the start it’s Pink Shirt, Blue Shorts, and me, in the black, behind them.

We zipped around the course. In Lap 2 Pink Shirt and I lost Blue Shorts. Here we are in Lap 3.

Well, I felt I could take this race and I planned my strategy. Soon as we came out of the loop, I put on some speed.

The drama builds. I’m ahead, but can I hold on? So much is at stake! The crowd is on its feet (there are only a few benches and they are filled up) and paying rapt attention (to the football throw going on in the next field, to the registration table, to the free shopping bags they picked up at the expo…you get the atmosphere). All right, my husband was paying rapt attention, and really, that’s all I needed.

At the finish, I prevailed. I have to tell you, I felt happy about it out of all proportion to the importance of the event.

Now, last year I practiced for this race. I had done none of that this year. Well, so what? It’s just walking. Now think about that and what a different context “just walking” is for me and for my husband. I have a lot of gratitude for what each of us can do in our individual ways.

Well, that’s the end of this year’s games. I have a lot of enthusiasm for next year, already!

(Take a look here for my other event in 2017, orienteering.)

 

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 29, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

Well, I’ve been working on my penmanship for several weeks now and I think I am making progress. My handwriting is legible and it is becoming more natural to me to write in this way. I can see my old handwriting in the new – I like this idea, that I am combining my lifetime habits with new ones and coming up with something that is neither one.

I’ve invested in another color of ink – blue, such a blue! Sapphire is its color and sapphire is its name. It even has a little picture of the gem on the label.

I am childishly excited about the exotic international nature of my penmanship project. The pens and inks come from everywhere. This ink is from Paris. The bottle tells me itself, on its bottom.

I don’t usually want to talk about a site where I have shopped, but I will tell you that I have bought my supplies at Jet Pens. I mention them because I have learned everything I know about pens and ink from their thorough and extensive entries on every product they sell. Thank you, I say to them.

All right. I continue my practice. Sometimes I sit at the table and work in the correct handwriting posture as my book has taught me. I have written a letter to a friend in my new handwriting; sitting and writing in this manner really focused me on what I was doing and what I was saying as well.

I also continue my exercise of taking down dialogue (and if there is no dialogue to keep me writing steadily, I describe the action. I favor Star Trek, all series, and I can mention Leverage, White Collar, and Travelers for right now). I have pages and pages of words now. Here are some examples.

I’ve used these pages of writing for something else – if you follow me as a poetry writer, I have used printed matter to create poems – snippets. Now I’ve tried the same thing, with some variation, with these phrases and words I’ve written out. If you are interested, take a look here.

I am learning to use the fountain pens with more ease. They handle so differently from the ballpoints and rollerballs I have always used. I like having some versatility not only in how I write but what I write with. Somehow that seems exciting to me!

Sometimes I stop writing and I draw. Both on the same page. Here is a picture of my husband sitting in his chair watching TV. You may notice he no longer has the brace on his leg – the hurt leg is gaining strength every day.

On that note, I’ll end. My goal is to achieve consistency now with my penmanship. Happy writing, everyone.

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – April 2, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

I’ve been working on my penmanship for two weeks now. I’ve finished the exercises in the workbook – now I know all the print and cursive letters. It’s up to me to practice the new skills. I spend some time sitting at the table, writing, using good posture and so on. And I also have been putting in time while watching TV with exercises of my own devising. I have a pad of paper, a pen, and I watch (or mostly listen) to the TV show while jotting down bits of dialogue. I end up with pages that look like this:

You can actually read this text, even though it doesn’t make any sense.

I lose some in perfect letter formation but it fits my routine, and I’m ending up with a lot of interesting pages of surreal conversation. Could be some poetry inspiration there, I think…? Seriously, I figure I will be using my handwriting in all sorts of situations, not just ones where I can get set up in the proper writing mode. And, I just can’t sit and watch TV…

 

*************************************************************

I’ve gotten myself some fountain pens as a treat, and I’ve learned a few things.

1. I bought these two very nice pens, Pilot Metropolitans, they are, and well-recommended. They cost about $15 each and can use an ink cartridge or an ink  converter, which comes with each pen. The latter means I can use bottled inks.

I have one with a fine nib and the other one is a medium nib. I liked the way these pens wrote very much – the ink flow is reliable and not a blob or missed section of lettering. In the end, though, these pens don’t totally suit me. I find them top-heavy, even writing with the cap off, and the thicker shape is hard for me to grip. I also learned that Japanese-made pens feature smaller nibs (for instance, a medium in this pen is like a fine in other brands). The small nibs made for scratchy, less flowing writing, I thought.

But, I liked drawing with these pens a lot and I think they can be very good for when I might need small precise lettering.

2.
I then tried these other two pens. The first, the Platinum Preppy, costs $3, uses cartridges (you can also buy a converter), and comes in a lot of colors. I tried a medium nib. Loved it. The pen glides over the paper very easily. Plus, it’s light, and it is weighted more like the ballpoints I am used to, toward the tip. Easier for my hands to manage.

3.
I also bought a Lamy Safari, medium nib, plus its converter (separate) – the pen also uses cartridges. It cost about $35 altogether. Loved this pen, too. It zipped across the paper, no scratching, no skipping. A very soft feel, if I can describe it.

The Preppy is the clear one and the Lamy Safari is the black one.

 

4. Ink. Each pen came with a cartridge of ink, and I could use that, and replace it when I ran out with another cartridge. But…those inks in bottles! Now, I have learned that I could buy a lot of inks. So many colors!

But changing inks is not that easy – you need to clean your pen if you want to switch from black to blue, for instance. I contented myself for now with one bottle of black ink.

 

This is where the converter comes in. There are different types, and you have to make sure your converter matches your pen. And they do not always come with the pen – it’s a separate purchase. None of this is difficult, including using the converter instead of a cartridge. It is money-saving in the long run, and you get to have these beautiful bottles around, too. I have noticed that many inks come in lovely containers, which is not the point of improving penmanship, but is a nice little side benefit, right?

OK, I’m continuing to learn and practice. I have to say that I love doing this handwriting thing.  Who would have thought I would say that?

More later!

Secret Ambition Handwriting Update – March 25, 2017

I’m working toward realizing a secret ambition: to have better handwriting. Read about the plan here to get some background…

All right, a week has passed, and I’ve been working away in my handwriting workbook. I have progressed through the print alphabet and learned cursive letters; now I’m working on letter combinations and practicing writing sentences and paragraphs full of…words!

For this endeavor, my idea was to come up with handwriting that was legible and attractive-looking. I was tired of people asking me to decipher the very notes I was hoping to convey information through – meaning that I had to read to them what I had written. Could have just said it and saved time – right? I knew legibility would really mean something to me.

I also wanted my handwriting to portray the person I try to be, communications-wise and in life – organized, ordered, and in control of her thoughts.

I think I am making progress. My revised handwriting meets these goals so far. Looking very school-girlish and uncertain at times, yes – but I am a student again, so I welcome that. Let me show you a couple of samples.

Learning this new skill, I’ve realized some things I hadn’t expected. Here are a couple that strike me right now:

1. As I have been practicing, I’ve focused on each letter of the alphabet, how it’s shaped, how the sequence of curves and lines goes, in a way I never have done before. When I learned to write as a child, I was trying to learn what the alphabet meant as well as to write, and my attention was divided. Now, I pay attention to what I am doing with the benefit of just one focus. I KNOW these letters now and I am interested in taking the effort to make each one look well.

2. I have spent 50 years scrawling out words and letters and it never occurred to me to pay attention to the act of writing, just what I wanted to say. I sped along as fast as I could. Now I have to write slowly, thinking hard about each stroke. It is relaxing and satisfying to do this.

3. Each word is a challenge – the letters arrive in their order and I have to figure out how to manage them. There is more than one way to write each word. I am thinking hard about that as I write. Total focus.

OK, that brings you up to date. Maybe more later on. Thanks for reading.

My Secret Ambition

Time passes. And sometimes little dreams get lost in the shuffle of everyday living. For me, I’m going to reveal something I’ve felt for the last 50 years: I wish I had better handwriting.

Yes. That’s it. My secret ambition is to have nice handwriting.

I’ve always struggled with neatness, uniformity, and envy (of others’ ability to write a nice-looking set of words). In the 3rd grade (approximately 1967) I worked hard to learn cursive writing and ended up with C’s. This mark got me into trouble at home, and it bothered me, because I was working as hard as I could.

Well, decades passed and my handwriting has now come to look like this:

Notes I took about my husband’s care in preparation for his surgery after his accident, January, 2017.

Many times I have written out a check, scribbled a note, filled out a form – and thought how scrawly and awkward my words looked. I also had trouble writing something others could reliably read.

Not only did I want to write a nicer hand in everyday life – I also wanted to be able to handwrite the text for artist books I make and to put handwritten words into other artwork I do. Right now I type out words and glue them in, each time feeling it’s a second-best solution.

It hit me that I could do something about it. Plenty of people want better handwriting, I thought, and maybe the internet could help me out. After some research, I settled on the Getty-Dubay method, the brainchild of two teachers. I bought their book, Write Now. I printed out paper with the correct line spacing. I got a fountain pen to reward myself for taking on this challenge and to use when I had nicer letters for it to write.

I now can write, in printing, the lower-case letters.

I have just started. And I am quite excited. You know, this dream is not a big one, but a small one can be powerful nevertheless. I love the idea of being a person with nice handwriting.

I will keep you up to date!

noticed it

noticed it

noticed it

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