Eat Your Peas


Today is the birthday of Gregor Mendel (1822-1884), whose study of the humble pea led him to deduce the existence of what he called dominant and recessive traits, thereby perplexing and confusing his fellow scientists with a concept we all take for granted today. For his story, and pictures, please see Peas of Mind.


Dogwood Season


The cherry blossoms are succeeded now by the dogwood—not a very poetic name for so lovely and graceful a tree. Around here we see a lot of the native Cornus Florida, the state tree of Virginia. (This sketch is from our apparently never-ending homeschooling Botany block. And a marvelous excuse it is for going outside on a spring day to draw instead of practicing decimal fractions…)

For guidance in planting native trees, plus the encouraging possibility of coupons and rebates, don’t forget to check out Casey Trees and, if you are a Maryland resident, the Leaves for Neighborhoods program.

Today is also the anniversary of Maryland’s ratification of the Constitution. For a mini-history with sketches, please see Maryland, My Maryland.


This image is available as a high-resolution print on 8.5″ x 11″ archival paper.

Neighborhood in Bloom


To give the dog his four daily walks is no fun for anybody, including the dog, when it’s under the blazing August sun or an icy November rain. But what a pleasure it is in spring, when each walk brings a surprise, and the buds of a morning walk have unfolded into pale pink blossom by afternoon.

This is a sketch of a neighborhood tree from our homeschooling Botany block.

If you want to plant a tree in your DC garden this spring, Casey Trees, which was founded in 2002 to protect the city’s tree canopy, is offering a rebate of up to $50 per tree (three trees maximum). Now is the time to ensure the cool, leafy green shade of summer.

Today is the birthday of Washington, DC carpenter and builder Harry Wardman (1872-1938), who is responsible for many of our neighborhood’s houses (although once he achieved success he no longer wielded the hammer personally). For a picture and bio, please see Wild About Harry.


Glimpse of Spring


A few weeks ago a fierce thunderstorm blasted our area. The following morning the neighborhood was strewn with dozens of enormous broken branches—all in bud. A little sadly, we brought home a few sprays and put them in water, the vases of bare twigs giving our table a poignant wintery appearance.

The buds, unaware of their fallen state, are now confidently unfolding and bringing forth their hidden treasures, but in miniature. This one is from a pink dogwood tree. The four bracts that usually unfold to a 2″ or 3″ diameter are here only about 5/8” across. But still beautiful.

Today is the birthday of Shakespeare and Company founder Sylvia Beach. For a sketch and a mini-bio, please see Paris Memory.


In Bloom


Here is our Christmas cactus, budding and blooming in the midst of winter, a cheerful and optimistic omen for new beginnings.

Thank you for a wonderful year, faithful and enthusiastic blog readers! I have lots of ideas and plans for 2011, although after 365 days of posting I may take a break occasionally and not post EVERY day. But I won’t miss any birthdays. And, if there are people and events that you would like to call to my attention, please feel free to speak up.

Happy New Year to everyone, and may it be a year of budding and blooming for you all.

Throw Yourself Like Seed

A poem, and a watercolor, for late autumn.


Shake off this sadness, and recover your spirit
sluggish you will never see the wheel of fate
that brushes your heel as it turns going by,
the man who wants to live is the man in whom life is abundant.
Now you are only giving food to that final pain
which is slowly winding you in the nets of death,
but to live is to work, and the only thing which lasts
is the work; start then, turn to the work.
Throw yourself like seed as you walk, and into your own field,
don’t turn your face for that would be to turn it to death,
and do not let the past weigh down your motion.
Leave what’s alive in the furrow, what’s dead in yourself,
for life does not move in the same way as a group of clouds;
from your work you will be able one day to gather yourself.

—Miguel de Unamuno