Just remembering: It was two years ago today that our dad passed on. I’m not sure a day goes by that I don’t have some thought of him (and yes, of our mom, too — she died in August 2003, and it’s hard to believe it’s been that long).

Here’s a reading for them, two lifelong Chicagoans: Carl Sandburg’s “Passers-By,” from “Chicago Poems” (1916):

Out of your many faces
Flash memories to me
Now at the day end
Away from the sidewalks
Where your shoe soles traveled
And your voices rose and blent
To form the city’s afternoon roar
Hindering an old silence.

I remember lean ones among you,
Throats in the clutch of a hope,
Lips written over with strivings,
Mouths that kiss only for love.
Records of great wishes slept with,
Held long
And prayed and toiled for…

Written on
Your mouths
And your throats
I read them
When you passed by.

Dining-Room Visitor


Earlier this month, Kate spotted some wild fennel stuffed into a yard-waste bin here in the neighborhood. Wild fennel, which has become profuse here, is kind of weedy and annoying; once it takes root, it’s very hard to get rid of.

But it’s also a host plant for a butterfly called the anise swallowtail (Papilio zelicaon), whose image has graced this blog before. It’s a largish black-and-yellow beauty, at least in the eye of this beholder.

So, having spotted the fennel in the bin, Kate took a look to see if any anise swallowtail caterpillars might be there, too. To her surprise, she found 10, including a couple that were probably close to going into their chrysalides. So she brought the caterpillar and their host sprigs of fennel back home, where they took up residence in our dining room.

Within just a few days, one of the caterpillars crawled onto the vase that held the fennel and began preparing to go into its chrysalis. We left town for a couple of days, and when we came back, the chrysalis was complete. (See the photos below; click for bigger versions of the images.) That was less than two weeks ago. Since we’ve sometimes watched chrysalides for months and months before a butterfly appears (if one appears at all), I was kind of thinking we’d be into the autumn before anything more happened.

But this morning, Kate got up, walked into the dining room, then called out, “We have a butterfly out here now!”

So now, it’s doing what it needs to do for the next stage in its life cycle. We’ll watch.



No Tools Required

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We have a bathroom sink with a broken stopper — or at least a stopper I’ve been ineffective at fixing. So I followed up on a months-old resolution and bought an old-fashioned rubber stopper. To cover all bets, I got one that fits a range of drain sizes. And it works great. I run water into the sink, and the imperturbable stopper makes sure it just stays there.

I admit I thought the device was self-explanatory. But Kate pointed out after I’d removed the stopper and left the package just lying around on the kitchen counter that it came with installation instructions. Or “installation instructions,” since nothing there really tells you what you need to do with the drain plug to achieve total stopper satisfaction.