The tomatoes are really starting to take off just before we do. Blossoms everywhere. Pin-size to golf-ball-size green tomatoes here and there. This year, I’m doing the opposite of last year when I simply let them be. This year, I’m pruning, pruning, pruning. The manager of a local university’s sustainable organic gardening program told me I could do two things to get bigger, juicer tomatoes: snip the suckers mercilessly (which I’ve not been as successful with as I would like), and snip the stems so that they only have the first to leaves remaining. The former I’d heard of; the latter was new to me. He explained it this way: “Either you can have your vine spending substantial energy and nutrition growing stems and leaves, or you can have the putting that into the fruit.” He assured me that each stem only needs two, maybe three leaves. And so our vines look a little different this year.

Especially when the late sun hits them just right. (And of course Lightroom hits them just right.)

Lucanus elaphus

I found it floating in a bucket out back that had a couple of inches of water from the last storm. It was still squirming, trying to escape, doomed to drown. I pulled it out and took it to the Boy to show him. He put on gloves and was eager to hold it.

Lucanus elaphus

Fear of such animals I supposed is learned, or more importantly taught. Tell a kid constantly that such creatures are out to get him, and he’ll likely believe it. Tell a girl that the only good snake is a dead snake, and she’s likely to hold that opinion for decades. But kids are naturally curious — it’s what gets the hurt. With the Boy and the Girl, we’ve tried to strike a happy medium: such insects might, like roaches, carry certain bacteria on their bodies that are not particularly helpful, but in and of themselves, they’re harmless. Certain snakes are deadly, so we should never approach a snake and try to make a plaything out of it, but an enormous black snake slithering through the grass (as happened here five years ago) does much more good than harm.

Atypical Saturday (Lent 2012: Day 32)

With people, there’s the whole additional possibility of deceptiveness. If only it were so simple with humans.

Two Concerts

The Girl sang in her school’s talent show this morning. She sang “Dziś idę walczyć, Mamo!” which is a song about the Warsaw Uprising. She’s been practicing it for weeks. I’ve found myself humming it as I walk down the corridor at school. E sings snippets of it every now and then. K sings it as she’s working around the house. It’s infected our whole family, but what a wonderful infection.

After dinner, we got another concert, a performance of a music that’s thousands and thousands of years old, a music that both calms and excites.

The owls have nested in our neighbors’ backyard, and they came down for a visit today. The would sing and hoot, caterwaul and even almost purr. It was hypnotic.


First Communion

L’s First Communion was two years ago. So quickly have those two years melted away than I still find it somewhat surprising when I see L lining up for communion. It’s one of those milestones in life — your own and your children’s — that we all remember it.

The Boy still has three years to go. When he first lines up in the communion line, L will be at the tail end of her seventh-grade year.

Roses for the mothers

And at that point, I’ll likely be writing about how it’s incredible that it’s been five years since L’s First Communion.

Saturday of Work

In a lot of ways, today seemed like a typical May Saturday. Coffee, eggs, a chat with Babcia. The morning sun made the backyard glow. It all appeared typical.

But the weather — it’s Polish summer here. Today I don’t know that we ever broke into the sixties, and if we did, it was just barely. Add to it the chance of afternoon rain, and given one of my major chores of the day, the day scheduled itself. Morning work had to be the mowing.


As I was cutting the edges before transitioning to the long, almost hypnotic straight lines, a bit of motion in the deep grass caught my eye: a fledgling was hunkered down in a patch of tall grass. I cycled back and forth, nearing the bird, and I noticed that mother was near, flying in when I was away, taking off again as I approached. I knew I’d have to move the bird, and I worried a bit about how that might impact the situation. Since I always wear gloves when mowing, thanks to eczema, I didn’t fear the old thought of transferring my scent to the bird and somehow making its mother reject it. I’m not even sure if that happens. I was just wondering whether the mother would find it if I moved it too far.

First I it near one of the round planters in the yard, but I knew I’d have to move it again when I neared the end of mowing. The second time, I moved it over to the corner of the house, to a patch of grass that I never manage to cut because I don’t have a working weed wacker. Each time, mother bird had no problem finding the baby.

Yet I knew it was doomed. The second time I relocated the baby, it fluttered out of my glove and plopped straight down: no chance of it flying back to its nest. And with two cats in the yard, I knew it was only a matter of time before one of them made a natural discovery. “Wouldn’t it just be better to put it out of it’s future misery?” I wondered. Yet how could I do it? I could think of no quick and painless, and besides, who was I to say that it didn’t stand a chance of survival.

Thankfully, the Girl was away at an amusement park with her school chorus. Had she been there, I would have had to fend her off and deal with her eventual frustrated sadness when I would have tried to convince her that, no, we couldn’t take it into the house and try to raise it ourselves. That would be a sure death sentence.

When I walked back to empty the grass catcher, though, I saw that the chick had disappeared. Where it had gone remained a mystery for the rest of the day. Mother bird still fluttered around here and there, but I couldn’t figure out where the bird was.

And as I type this, I find myself wondering if mother bird has nestled up to the chick for the night to protect it and comfort it. And I’m glad I’m not a bird parent facing that impossible situation.

Still More Playing

So I’ve gone all in — Lightroom all the way. I’ve been importing photos all evening, and in the process, I’ve learned a thing or two.

First, the number of photos was actually a little surprising. When it was all said and done, over seventy thousand photos over a span of eighteen years, with most of them being over the last thirteen years or so.

Second, the spread: most years, I was taking around three to four thousand pictures. In 2013, the number jumped up six thousand pictures. In 2014, it was just under ten thousand. And in 2015, I topped ten thousand pictures. Not sure why that change happened, but it’s stayed roughly in that range since then. In 2017, I’ve taken almost three and a half thousand pictures, so it seems to be down this year. Of course, we’re going to Poland this summer, so it will likely shoot back up.

Of course Lightroom is not just a photo organization tool, and so I’ve spent the evening playing with some of the old photos I imported.

Sometimes, I do very little, like al ittle darkening of spots.



Sometimes, I like to try to give it an edgy feel.



And every now and then, it’s been fun just to push everything to its limits: pump up the colors, the contrast, the clarity — everything.