A sure sign of spring is the blooms of Mountain Laurel on the scrappy little tree in my front yard. After a month or so of grey, drizzzly days this morning the sun rose in a cloudless sky. What a welcome relief just to have a sunny day. The temperature rose up into the 60’s and everyone was outside like it was summer time! To be truthful, we probably aren’t done with winter but we are keeping an outlook for what passes to be spring deep in the heart of Texas.
Time is funny, isn’t it. Seems like I just put the pumpkin on the porch and now here I am cleaning out the herb bed and gathering the pesky oak leaves.
After a long absence I’ve returned to blogging and I’m excited about the many things I’ve collected to write about during the past few months! My first post is about a building that has been a familiar landmark on the San Antonio, Texas cityscape since 1965.
For several years I worked in an adjacent building (I parked near the carports in the lower left of the picture) and got to know one of the property managers via telephone. They had several exotic birds that lived in the property’s garden area and one of them was an escape artist extraordinare. I would arrive at work and find him wandering in our parking lot enjoying a leisurely morning! I would give her a call and tell her that “so-and-so” (I don’t remember his name) was out. She would sigh and then we would share a laugh to start our day!
There wasn’t anything else to do about it except to fill the sink with hot soapy water and start washing the accumulated dishes. After several days of sporatic starts the control panel on the relatively young dishwaster was dark and no amount of trickery from me would coax the start button to initate a wash cycle.
I wasn’t too unhappy about the prospect of washing the dishes, in fact I almost looked forward to the chore. I learned to wash dishes while standing on a low stool next to my maternal grandmother. She taught me the methodology of preparing and washing dishes; she washed dishes three times a day for everyday of her adult life. There was no machine to load and walk away from and return to later to retrieve sparkling dishes. She had two enamel washpans, a farm house sink, a dish drainer, and cup towel. And in the summer time, me.
After the table was cleared and the plates scraped (if needed) into the trash she would fill one pan with hot, soapy water and the other pan would be placed in the sink to be filled with cool water. First in the water were the drinking glasses and maybe the tea pitcher. She would wash and I would rinse and under her careful eye put the glassses in the drainer. Next would be the plates with silverware on top with our final round being the serving dishes and pots and pans. There was no other order and she taught me well. After we finished the rinse water was released into the sink and I dried the pan. She would carefully carry the wash pan out to a place away from the house and empty it to avoid any tiny pieces of food from going down the drain of the farm house with sensitive plumbing.
But there was more to this ritual that just washing dishes. There was talk. What did we talk about? I don’t remember, but I know that we discussed many things. Stories of her girlhood and of my grandfather building their house around a small existing house on their property. Stories of her family and our family tree. Talk of the weather and getting the clothes in from the clothesline before it rained. Talk of the watermelon chilling in the refrigerator. Talk of the flowers I was going to clip that afternoon for a bouquet to go in her large vase. Talk.
When my mother was there the routine changed just a bit. My grandmother still washed, my mother rinsed and I dried as the dishes were put in the drainer. Again, under the careful supervision of both women. And, there was talk. This time it was adult talk and I remember discussions of my mother’s friends and where they were at that time. How certain people were related to other people and the news from town that my grandfather had brought home at lunch (he worked in the Post Office and knew every tid bit of gossip and community knews).
As I stare at the soapy water I remember those treasured moments vividly and with contentment. I also remember washing dishes at another sink with the woman who would be my mother-in-law for many years. The routine was the same, she washed and I rinsed and dried. We stared out the window at the field of oats visible across the yard while we washed and talked. She shared stories of her girlhood there on that same property, stories of her children, and much practical advice that she had garnered from her years of life. We talked about my children and their cousins, remembering the past gatherings and planning for future ones. Sewing projects and recipes were also part of our conversations. We talked. I enjoyed those times while the menfolk were elsewhere and we worked together washing dishes.
I dip my hands into the water and start the methodical process of washing while the memories of other sinks full of dirty dishes and hot, soapy water surround me. The continuity of life and the importance of talk.
Since Labor Day the San Antonio area has had almost 17 inches of rain; we’ve set a record for September rainfall and with more rain in the forecast this may be the wettest month ever for us. Everything is green and blooming profusely! While the rain is an inconvenience no one complains, ever. We take it thankfully when it falls.
An added benefit is that the Edwards Underground Aquifer has risen over 30 feet at the test well and the local springs are flowing again.
Yesterday evening I checked on the Blue Hole (the original headwaters of the San Antonio River) and yes, there’s water flowing from the spring! However, it wasn’t its usual blue color possibly from mud that had collected in the basin prior to the spring’s activity. Still, it is fun to watch this crystal clear water flowing downstream to join the current SA River.
Spanish explorers and priests reported this area as being sprinkled with many springs, some of which rose up many feet into the area before releasing their water to flow downstream. They described the area as being an oasis and very beautiful with all the vegetation and trees.
The San Pedro Springs are also flowing very nicely and the water is very clear. I noticed water in one of the lesser springs in the park, too. The springs in this area attracted the Native Americans before the Spanish explorers came to the area. Somewhere around the San Pedro Springs the city of San Antonio was established in 1718 – 300 years ago.
I’m sure that it was the colors and patterns in stained-glass that first attracted me to them as a child. I enjoyed those hours in church when there was stained-glass to study. Pictures of the disciples, of Jesus carrying a lamb, and Paul’s conversion gave life to my Sunday School lessons. My grandmother’s quilts with their colors and patterns also kept me focused as I memorized their lines and etched their names on my memory.
This trio of stained glass panels are owned by the Museum of Fine Art in Houston, Texas and are displayed in their American Art exhibit. They were crafted in the Tiffany Studios in 1905. Per the display description,
At the turn of the 20th century, Tiffany Studios became renown for pioneering the use of opalescent glass in a range of luminous colors, patterns and textures that revolutionized the medium of stained-glass windows…This window was likely a specialy commission for a residence, where it would have been installed on a stair landing to let in changing color and light as the sun moved throughout the day.
The details are exquisite and reflect the craftmanship associated with the Tiffany Studios. I wondered if this commission was for installation in a new home or perhaps a gift from a husband to his wife and would love to know more of the story and see a picture of it in that house. I can just imagine an elegant woman with upswept hair in a soft Edwardian dress pausing with her hand on the newel post and admiring the light illuminating these delicate iris as she climbed the stairs.
This hat is absolutely stunning, the pictures just don’t do it justice! The first time I saw it I marveled at the color and this beautiful bow/flower/feather arrangement on the back and the delicate beaded trim. But it was the underneath that really caught me by surprise.
The pleats on the under side of the brim are the finishing touch of a custom made hat. The workmanship is incredible on the entire hat. Sadly, it does appear to have some slight signs of wear. Although that is what intrigues me – why would a hat this well made and incredibly stunning have been worn so much?
My thoughts are that it was custom made to match an outfit. Can’t you just see it paired with a matching outfit and dyed to match shoes? Which makes me think it was for a wedding, but would it have been for a bride, mother-of-the-bride, or an attendant? And, the myster of the gentle wear of it leaves me clueless. For now I have to wonder and day dream a little about the woman who wore this elegant hat. Perhaps some day a short story will come to me about her.
An early morning walk at a nearby park reminded me of two things. First, that it is August and everything is pretty much dry and brown as it usually is by this time of summer. The scenery along the trails is rather blah except for the occasional color of prickly pear fruit.
These colorful bulbs gave me my second reminder: the usefulness of the prickly pear cactus. Long before the Europeans came to the Americas Native Americans were well accquainted with the many varieties of prickly pear and the usefulness of the fruit and the paddle like leaves known as nopales.
The paddles and fruit are edible and are commonly used to make a variety of dishes as well as soups, beverages, jelly, and candy. Obviously, the small spines must be removed first (which is not easy!). The small, tender paddles are known as nopalitos and are enjoyed locally with scrambled eggs, although personally I don’t care for them! In extreme drought when grazing grass is not available ranchers will use a torch to burn off the stickers and spines so cattle can eat the cactus.
The pulp and juice are believed to have medicinal qualities and are used in Mexico for treatment of wounds and ailments of the digestive and urinary tracts. A type of scale insect that lives on the paddles is harvested to make the cochineal (red) dye that is commonly used to manufacture makeup and as a natural red food coloring. Check the ingredients label the next time you eat something red and you may see “carmine” listed! At one time cochineal was so highly prized that its price was quoted on the London and Amsterdam Commodity Exchanges (per Wikipedia).
There are way too many varieties to even count, much less discuss here. But do remember that they all have stickers of some type which makes them very formidable. I prefer to stay well away from them!
This 1920’s theater is still serving the community today as a live performance theater. It’s also listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a part of the Caldwell Courthouse Historic District. Click here to read more about it’s long history.
Everytime I see these water troughs planted with flowers I enjoy the creative use of an item for a different purpose with stunning results. I think I need to visit a feed store and pick up one – at least a little one.
I suspect that these periwinkles may not look as perky after sitting in the 100+ degree heat we are having. But they were eye catching when I saw them a few weeks ago.