Umbrellas and breakers

watercolor beach umbrellasIts beaches are among New York City’s finest assets in the summer season, and the past weekend included two days delightfully spent where the Atlantic meets the sand at Jacob Riis Park. I spied a couple of cormorants drifting on the water out beyond the crashing waves. They’re more commonly spotted lounging in the sun on the jetties of Coney, drying their wings or just sitting; black silhouettes on the black rocks.
drawing of cormorants against blue sky
In between was a day and evening of cycling around Brooklyn— to and around Bushwick, then to Williamsburg for dinner and finally a last stop in Prospect Heights before heading home. Not a fanatical number of miles but it was hot out, so it felt like a lot.

The mystery of the shallow bowls

silver plate objects
New acquisitions

Sunday afternoon was rainy, so our usual outdoor flea market was out of the question. We drove instead, a few miles farther to an indoor one, new on our radar.

On the whole, it was a bust. Few, if any, actual antiques, or even vintage items— unless you count things like toys and VHS tapes from the 1990s as such (which I do not; at best they are kitsch). Even the stall with loads of books comprised primarily the sort of titles not up my alley.

One of the outbuildings, though, had a single shelf of silver-plate; mostly tea items. The menagerie included the rather lovely late Art Nouveau butter dish and small bowl (above), for which I negotiated the price of a single tenner, inclusive of both. They were desperately tarnished, nearly solid black.

I recently learned that a similar vessel (of pewter, which I’ve used for some years as an ashtray) is an 18th century bleeding bowl, used in misguided attempts at relieving fever via bloodletting. A friend suggested, alternately, that it may be a porringer, or porridge bowl, When I googled, the same sort of images came up for both.

bleeding bowl, pewter
The pewter bowl

After a bit of research I’ve divined that a porringer is a sort of small, elaborate pot with handles on either side, very different to what we have here, although the word porringer is used interchangeably with ‘bleeding bowl’. The same interchange is not used, however, in reverse. Ergo, I’ve just acquired a second bleeding bowl— a silver-plate Queen Anne to be precise. Hurrah!

Saturday’s literary treasures

A pile of books

This afternoon after brunch Jon and I did some cycling around Rochester to some vintage and antique shops and secondhand book shops.

Most of this haul was found at Small World Books, a shambling old house on North Street in which every room is walled with books, and several cats reside. We were in there no longer than 25 minutes and barely even started exploring. A dangerous, delightful place (but not too dangerous— this haul was only $16)!

I’ve read none of these save the Salinger and one of the Hemingway shorts. I’m in the middle of a biography of Mary Tudor, but I’ll not wait to start one of these. (I’ve become one of those multiple-books-at-once readers, ah well.)

(From the opening page of the Chabon book)


Franny and Zooey
, J D Salinger
The Good Soldier, Ford Madox Ford
The Snows of Kilimanjaro (short stories), Ernest Hemingway
The House in Paris, Elizabeth Bowen
Me Talk Pretty One Day, David Sedaris
The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon

Lengthening shadows of late summer

Photos from my excursion to Rehoboth Beach, DE, last month

Each successive month of summer leaves us in its wake faster than the previous— longing for 9:30 sunsets, never quite knowing what time it is for the wanton excess of sunlight.

This summer has held some challenges and sad moments, a couple more of which I learned about on Sunday. 2016 has been an unstable year, and  persistently so.

Last week my horoscope ended with this:

Expect a breakthrough that initially resembles a breakdown.

To which my internal response is “expect nothing,” and then I’m reminded of this perennial bit of wisdom from Oil Notes, by Rick Bass:

Luck is a residual of preparation.

002 004

Post Script— In hindsight this post reads a little sad, but it’s not sad, it’s only honest. This year has certainly held more than just challenges and sad bits— but all the bits are necessary.

Cardinal directions

2016-04-16 17.51.46Sometimes I feel as though I’m steering a ship with no map, no stars to navigate by, and the most frustrating thing is that there’s no way to even ask for a map, for stars. You’re just there, adrift in the darkness, hoping that the next piece of intel will crack some code, provide you with a Rosetta stone.

More likely, though, you will only feel more lost. Sometimes your internal compass is all you’ve got.