My Mother, a Stranger, and a Tree

Today is Easter, and many memories are in the air I breathe. One wafts over me: I am attending an Easter Parade with my mother. It is the late fifties. I am seven or eight and wearing a light-weight lavender spring coat (who has one any more?) and a white bonnet with frothy purple flowers above the brim. My mother’s attire has escaped my memory, but I know she has on something equally dressy and very unlike what she or I will be wearing come the sixties, seventies, and decades beyond.

It is too windy and cold to be wearing these scanty items but it is a girl-woman thing, and we feel the need to dress this way for the occasion. I  hold on to my delightful hat to keep it from blowing away. When this memory itself blows away, I long not for that particular time and place but to have my mother by my side again.

And, in a sense, she does become a presence today as I stroll with Oliver down to the United Nations and Dag Hammarskjold plazas. When I first moved into the Turtle Bay section of Manhattan, in 1976, my mother often took the Broadway bus, the 104, down to meet me here for an brisk, inexpensive lunch at the small coffee shop on the lower level of the main building. Then we would check out the not-very-pricey jewelry in the the gift shop. I still have some fragile, dangling garnet earrings my mother purchased for me there. Afterwards, we’d walk out together, and if it was spring, stroll up and down the pathways between rows and rows of cherry blossom trees.

My mother was a lover of trees and these were among her favorites. Later she would do Chinese brush paintings of them under the tutelage of an artist from Shanghai, Lydia Chang. She told me the trees were like fresh laundry on a line. We relished that freshness together.

Those trees were on my mind as Oliver and I walked down 47th Street toward home. Because of a crazy man on a skate board who yelled at Ollie, “I’m going to get your ball,” we stepped into the hidden garden kept by Holy Family Church, which neighbors The Japan Society. I was a bit scared that the man yelling at us would follow us in and actually try to grab my dog’s well-worn tennis ball out of his mouth, but we were safe in this sanctuary.

Oliver likes the secretiveness of the place and the small goldfish pond there. I, too, like to watch the fish swish about, and I also like the sweet sculpture of a young Mary, looking a bit ecstatic, toward the back of the garden.

When we turned back toward the garden’s gate, I saw a tree I’d never seen (or noticed) before, budding and flowering all over with coral-pink buds and fully open blossoms. What kind of tree was it? Should I google it on my PlantSnap app? No, that would alter the mood, and anyway, the answer was immediately forthcoming.

img_3649A woman I figured to be about ten years older than I came into the small garden and stood nearby. She held an iPad awkwardly in her hands and was intent on photographing the tree. “Is it some sort of rose,” I asked her, knowing my ignorance. “No, No,” she said, “It’s a camellia.”

She needed to talk and  proceeded to explain that she had been waiting for the buds to open fully, and that this year, because of the cold, they were late. We began to talk about the City’s hidden gardens and about the splendors of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

I was a little surprised when she blurted out, “That stupid UN.” Then something about how that stupid place had eliminated those marvelous cherry blossom trees.

img_3648This talkative stranger with a heavy Asian accent that was at times hard to follow, did ease my mind, however, when she told me that the trees hadn’t been thrown out. Someone had taken them and replanted them in another garden.


Longing for Spring

Black Dog at Cabin Window. Oil on Canvas.

The first thing I looked for this morning was the 6 to 8 inches of snow that wasn’t there. I was almost disappointed that the storm hadn’t materialized, though I would have had to coax Oliver’s paws into those silly cerulean rubber booties, which is a pain. Is this nor’easter going to be the last threat of big snow? Is warm sun around the bend? How are the hundred or so tulip, jonquil, yarrow, and iris bulbs I planted last October doing in the frozen earth up in the Northern Catskills? I hope no critters ate them as treats.

Slush, rain pattering—
We walk out, cerulean
booties on dog feet

The painting above is courtesy of my favorite artist, Pierre Bonnard.

A Woman and Three Big Dogs in a Convertible



Yesterday, Ollie and I encountered a most spectacular woman in an iridescent frog-green convertible who shared the small, lowdown seats with three enormous, friendly, lounging dogs. We were transfixed. I petted the pup between the front and back seats. When the woman slowly pulled away, I saw that her California plates read Be ♥ Fine. What an uplift! I wanted to jump in with Ollie, and drive away with her.

Easter Dog Walk

Oliver and I both welcomed the sun on our walk down Second Avenue today. The Bradford Pear trees were just beginning to blossom and I asked Oliver to sit while I photographed him by the daffodils outside a high-rise office building near Dag Hamarskjoldt Plaza. He didn’t exactly stay seated but I took a few photos of him with the daffodils and of me with the Bradford Pear tree blossoms in the background.

I am making a simple Pot au Feu, or boiled beef, for our dinner, so I decided to pick up a strong red wine to accompany the dish. Oliver loves the wine store because the staff keep a full bowl of Mother Hubbard dog biscuits near the checkout counter. He ended up getting two treats before we left, and I bought three bottles of red wine–two from Spain and one from the Languedoc region of France, a place John and I traveled through  in the late 1990s. We will have the Languedoc wine for our Easter dinner.IMG_5546


JP & O

JP & O

With the dirty snow walls still there in White Plains and some parts of Manhattan (and I’m sure Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens, too), I’ve got my heart set on spring.

I am looking forward to longs walks with Oliver outside and returning to the cabin in the Catskills.

The city has the dazed looked of someone after a rough surgery. Glad to still be here but not sure what to do.

I just spent 30 minutes combing Oliver’s tangled soft hair. It soothed him (even though he squirmed at points), and it soothed me.

Dog love is as deep as human love, I’m finding out.