I stumbled across a short article about artist Polly Morgan in a travel magazine, chatting about London, and had to learn more. What a fascinating person, and taxidermy, what an unexpected art form. Not only that, but she loves cheese, citing Neal’s Yard Dairy as a favorite spot in my favorite city in the world.

One’s Spiritual Buffalo

“There is a scene in the movie Dances with Wolves where the Sioux are on a much anticipated buffalo hunt. As they come up over a hill, they are shocked to see a field full of buffalo carcasses. The tragedy of that moment is that where the Sioux use every piece of the buffalo — the bladder holds water, the bone makes a tool, the skin is a covering for a tent — whoever has done this has taken the best part of the buffalo for himself and has left everything else to waste. There is no way to make good use of all that is lying in this field.

“I was so convicted when I went to Africa that I am not using all of my spiritual buffalo. I have developed this one side of my personal relationship with God. I go to church, I have incredible worship, and I listen to incredible speakers. I have money to buy devotionals, and leisure time to do those devotionals. I have spent a lifetime grooming a personal faith in Christ, but have I been taking the best piece of the buffalo for myself?

“There has been a joy in discovering the good use of my life. There is a reciprocal redemption that happens when we enter into stories of helping our neighbor — not just around the world, but in our own communities. When I came home from Africa, instead of feeling guilty for my life, I began to hear God in a very clear way say, ‘that thing carries water, that thing makes a tool, that is covering for a tent.’ There is a beauty to the good use of a life, and to the acknowledgment that everything you have and do has a Kingdom purpose.”

Sara Groves

Thank You, Joy

I mourn today the passing of Joy Page, who was 17 when chosen to play Annina Brandel in Casablanca (1942). In the film, Page’s character is torn between being faithful to her young husband and remaining stranded in Casablanca, or sleeping with Capt. Renault (Claude Rains) in order to gain exit visas. Rick (Humphrey Bogart) does not like the choice she faces, and has a word with his man spinning the roulette wheel, letting her husband win so they can buy the visas and go to America. It’s a lovely moment in a film filled with them, and Joy’s moment with Bogart is one of my favorites.

Manic Star

“Sometimes when I drive my car, I feel trapped like a bee inside a jar. Grains of sand is all we are, crawling on our manic star, one tiny person in one shiny car.”

— “Manic Star,” Conjure One & Marie-Claire D’Ubaldo

On Waiting

“I can be reduced to tears by bureaucracy. Time-wasting is my greatest phobia and being in a queue to speak to someone about a mobile phone or something is my idea of hell. There is too much else I could be doing. Very often in those situations I will burst into tears. What makes it even worse is when the person on the other end of the line says, ‘It’s no good getting upset, Madam.’ ”

— Harriet Walter, actress, quoted in The Telegraph, March 2007

Patron of the Arts

Before leaving office under a cloud of scandal and corruption, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Alphonso Jackson solicited an emergency bid to obtain an oil portrait of himself.

The HUD website notes, “In nominating Jackson, President George W. Bush chose a leader with a strong background in housing and community development, expertise in finance and management, and a deep commitment to improving the lives of all Americans. Alphonso Jackson first joined the Bush Administration in June of 2001 as HUD’s Deputy Secretary and Chief Operating Officer. As Deputy Secretary, Jackson managed the day-to-day operations of the $32 billion agency and instilled a new commitment to ethics and accountability…”

And the raising of portrait art to the level of a national emergency.


“It’s very difficult now to write a satirical piece of fiction that isn’t eclipsed by real-life events and real-life absurdity. One of the great challenges of doing what I do in the year 2008 is figuring out how to stay ahead of the great curve of absurdity of real life. You read the strangest stories and you get sad because someone actually did that stupid thing for real before you could make it up and use it in your novel. After they’ve done it, you can’t really use it anymore. Once upon a time, if you thought of something strange enough, you had gold. But today, reality is more bizarre than the imagination. Even mine. I don’t know how I’m going to stay funnier than real life.”

— Carl Hiaasen, in an interview by J. Rentilly, April 2008

In a Churchyard

“It was a very quiet place, as such a place should be, save for the cawing of the rooks who had built their nests among the branches of some tall old trees, and were calling to one another, high up in the air. First one sleek bird, hovering near his ragged house as it swung and dangled in the wind, uttered his hoarse cry, quite by chance as it would seem, and in a sober tone as though he were but talking to himself. Another answered, and he called again, but louder than before; then another spoke and then another; and each time the first, aggravated by contradiction, insisted on his case more strongly. Other voices, silent till now, struck in from boughs lower down and higher up and midway, and to the right and left, and from the tree-tops; and others, arriving hastily from the grey church turrets and old belfry window, joined the clamour which rose and fell, and swelled and dropped again, and still went on; and all this noisy contention amidst a skimming to and fro, and lighting on fresh branches, and frequent change of place, which satirized the old restlessness of those who lay so still beneath the moss and turf below, and the useless strife in which they had worn away their lives.”

— Charles Dickens, The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), Chapter the Seventeenth

Miss Robinson (1965)

The room is gray.
The day is gray.
She sits that way.
The Bible, you say?

— Written during an upstate New York winter, in the old Hall of Languages at Syracuse University, during Bob Hastings’ English class and a lecture on the Old Testament, as my mind wandered to a classmate.