Poetry from the porch #3

Sunset’s sorrow


 I cannot reconcile myself to the death
of this timid goldfinch. Nature’s senseless killing.
No more sunflower yellow against the
coneflower’s faded blush of late summer;
No more sweet song fills the picking garden
laden with heavy blooms. Sunset sweeps in.
What will its mate do now? Will she linger
perched here in her muted greys tinged
with dull shades of gold, waiting? 
Will she sing,
And sing,
And sing,
waiting for bursts of staccato counter-song?


My body is weighed down with sorrow.
And yes, with anger, too,
both in equal measures.
Tina Hudak, poem and image © 2019

Dedicated to the families, friends, and especially victims of mass shootings in the United States too numerous to list.


Sent as a prayer to lawmakers, organizations, and individuals to act with common sense and compassion, not from a sense of power and with Closed Minds.

Rhode Island Road Trip

Historic places and other stops

In past summers, as a school librarian, it was rare for the hub and I to take a vacation. He always had his cars and mopeds to work on, and I was desperate for time to decompress from the school year. From mid-June to mid-July I slept a great deal; mid-July I perked up for a few weeks spending time with friends and family I had passively ignored for nine months, and in early August I geared up for the upcoming school year that began later that month.

During my first summer of retirement, this schedule became obsolete.  A road trip was planned – “The Rhode Island Loop Road Trip.” Along our travels to see family, friends, family of friends, we traveled to Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York– Long Island specifically–New Jersey , before heading back home. Rarely did a prospective lesson plan or book talk even begin to evolve. Reclaiming one’s life after teaching takes time, setting boundaries, and the ability to be in the moment. I am learning this as I go.

Along the ways and stays, there were many wonderful people we met, conversed with, and befriended. Moreover, there were many unassuming places we visited for the first time. Here, I share a few places:

Rhode Island

Newport Art Museum (The John N. Griswold House)  The house, designed by the Olmsted brothers, is worth the price of admission. The exhibits are a bonus for those who love a variety of artistic styles. It is not overwhelming, as many small museums are, but rather invites you to pace yourself at your leisure.

Audrain’s Newport Concours The hub spent an hour viewing cars and talking with the guides. Newport claims to be the “birthplace” of luxury sport motoring. Who am I to argue? All I know is this: the hub thoroughly enjoyed THIS type of art!

Thames Glass Gallery @688 Thames Street (Pronounced with the “th” not the hard “t” sound) Despite the small size, this studio is open wide & invites you to observe this art form. Located in a very unassuming area of Newport, it is easy to access. We watched students practicing their art and vowed to take a class the next time!

Rose Island Lighthouse In addition to visiting friends, our overnight stay was the highlight for me. On this little island (arriving by boat) the four couples, including us, we able to completely decompress. The guides gave a brief historic overview, introduced us to simply gaze at the horizon with the setting sun.  Sublime.


Mark Twain House  Hartford was our intended destination specifically to see this landmark. While the neighborhood area surrounding it is less than inviting, the interior of the house is a delight, and the museum attached well designed with light and space to complement this turn-of-the century style architecture. Unfortunately, one cannot take photos indoors as the items are on loan and copyright is paramount. Worth seeing is wall paper, of all things!

& of course,

  • Clemens’ third floor study, the Billiard Room, where he wrote most, if not all, of his famous books

Taking the New London to Orient Point Ferry, we arrived early on Long Island, N.Y. and drove down to the south. Stopping at Shelter Island and East Hampton along the way offered some insights into different lifestyles. Truly. Different.

New York

The Pollock Krasner House & Study Center visit was one aligned with serendipity! At this point, the hub who preferred to do all the driving, remained in the car reading the The East Hampton Press free newspaper.

Walking through Pollock’s studio, which after his death became Krasner’s, was wondrous. While the house is modest, it tells so much about these two artists in understated an intuitive ways. Our tour guide was outstanding in the depth and breadth of her knowledge about the art and their lives.

New Jersey

By now we were entering the East Coast corridor of heavy traffic with one last stop: Lambertville/New Hope border. Walking among the N.J./Pa. streets of quaint shops, we came across two places of note:

A Stage In Time: Contemporary Art & Vintage Furnishings run by Peter Prorok and Ramon Robledo, us both a gallery and an antique store. Peter gave us voluminous information on Mission furniture of which there were many fine pieces in his store.

AG Artists’ Gallery is a cooperative space for artists to show and sell their works. Art media varies, as do styles, and all are very reasonably priced. It was delightful to view “Breathing In”- artists’ pieces by Beatrice Bork and Laura Rutherford Renner.

By now, we were ready to head home. The hub drove. I slept. A good time was had by all.

Young gull on historic Rose Island, a protected nesting site.

This post is a tribute to the following families and friends who made this travel so enjoyable & without worries – The Hudak Sisters, E. Curren, The Maresca-Rieger Family, S. Rieger, C. Ruf, W. Mettger, B. Griffiths & The Takoma Park Police Department.
Vielen Dank to Britta, for her outstanding photographs (her image of the lighthouse graces this post; she is on Facebook!), & Oliver, for keeping her company, as they travel the U.S.

A Comedy of Murders.Mystery

Leonardo da Vinci & then some

Full disclosure: When my frugal self downloads a free e-book, I am always skeptical that it will deliver (no pun intended!). Yet who am I to have these qualms?

Prior to vacationing in Firenze, in the year of da Vinci, I was struggling find a story – not a biography – that would be entertaining and free of cost. A Comedy of Murders (Leonardo da Vinci Adventure Mystery) by George Herman appeared digitally before my eyes. Due to circumstances, it took longer than usual for me to “feel captivated” by the writing.

But, captivated I was. Now, the more I ruminate the author’s writing style, the more I appreciate his wit, outright humor, and inventiveness. I am not a scholar of Italian history, Renaissance or otherwise, so the beginning felt rather heavy with intrigue one might expect of medieval Milan; I almost gave up. Yet with da Vinci as a character and his foil Niccolo the dwarf, my persistence ensued.

The more I read, the more I read. Each night the bedside light burned longer as I swiped page after page. With twenty-seven murders (in one story) and a traveling comedy troupe, you know that you are being set up. Go willingly. Even the Duke of Milan acquiesces to the dark humor and he comes out with some zingers. While Leonardo plays at the background of this story as the wise, old (or odd) man, the plethora of other characters in the foreground add rapid pacing to events as they tumble along one after the other.

A rhythm with the novel’s reading begins to emerge. Soon, you realize that it is a play about a group of players and you are part of it. Delightful!

Herman does his research, too, not only on daVinci, but on the politics of the time. At times, it even feels contemporary:

War, which the maestro described to Niccolo as a ‘bestial madness,’ was always preceded, he said, by ‘a kind of general insanity’…the fiery oratory, the calls to nationalistic defense for the protection of one’s home and family…

p 173


Excellency, he lied. I practice a form of Jesuit diplomacy called ‘broad mental reservation,’ and I merely say what I believe to be true. Fortunately, I am gullible…

p 175

I will PURCHASE his next title in the series, Tears of the Madonna; that says it all.

Herman, George. A Comedy of Murders (Leonardo da Vinci Adventure Mystery series). Commedia Publishing, 2016. Digital.
_________. Tears of the Madonna: An Italian Renaissance Mystery (The second Adventure of Leonardo da Vinci and Niccolo da Pavia). Commedia Publishing, 2016. Digital.

Poetry from the porch #2

Kay’s Trees

There is no fairness with life and death,
       only its impersonal surges and slumps.
Sometimes, no oftentimes, middle ground swells.
The majestic trees know nothing of this. Upwards
     they climb.
They know nothing of justice. They seek this alone -
     to kiss the
Written for K.T., a friend; given other circumstances, I like to think that we could have been Dear friends.

Hoeft, B. TreeS. Meares Island, in Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island, Personal email, 2019.

Collage: expressing love from sadness

Sammy, the well-loved dog

This art piece is made from love and to honor his beautiful canine being.

Step 1 Starting

  • Staring with the original photograph, the image was printed out on an old HP colour printer using my handmade-paper of linen & cotton blend. This gave it texture for reworking with other materials.

Step 2 The Assemblage

image of collage with photography, calligraphy and gold work.

Within 2-3/8″ square, the following pieces were designed:

  • Photo resized & reworked with chalk pastel for high/low lights;
  • Glue background piece onto an acid-free, heavy stock
  • Calligraphy, hand-coloured with pencil;
  • Hand-decorated pieces for emphasis with added, and
  • Lastly, shell gold was painted on and buffed to signify lasting love.

Step 3 The Final Gluing

  • Assemble pieces into places for the last view
  • Add or move pieces now
  • Glue smaller pieces together to form larger ones before final gluing to the background piece
  • Place in book press for 30 minutes with wax paper covering image

Step 4 Frame

A memento of someone loved, to someone you love.

About Sammy
Sammy the Dog came into our lives through our son -his very first dog as an adult. This pup was a rescue dog who had suffered much prior to his adoption. He lived a good life : well-loved, well-fed, well-cared for every day.  He took up little space but filled all of my son's with a devotion, pure and simple, as only a dog can do for us.

The Overdue Life of Amy Byler

A librarian, New York City, & my “book” thoughts

Last week, I checked out this “new” title while visiting the Takoma Park Maryland Library. I needed a break from my usual mystery fare; I wanted something contemporary and upbeat, and yet, relevant. Lo and behold, it features the main character, a SCHOOL LIBRARIAN living in Berks County, Pennsylvania (the area my hub is from and where his family has an ancestor named Sylvania. I am not kidding you!)

I had to take it home… The Overdue Life of Amy Byler.

Author, Kelly Harms has two previous titles with which I am unfamiliar. Within a few pages of this one, I thought, “Oh no. Not another book about a middle age woman where the husband leaves her, and she has to struggle!” I put it down. In the interim, after finishing a re-read of Shakespeare’s The Tempest I was ready for some straightforward, 21st century vocabulary, a New York City setting, and clever dialogue that I could follow without thinking so hard! And, I am glad I did.

Harms knows of libraries, patrons, the sometimes adolescent competitiveness in the field, especially the conferences with PowerPoint presentations ad nausea, the best-selling children’s authors whose writing is less than stellar. She also understand the specific struggles of school librarians: conversations with those English teachers, those Reading Specialists; mandatory lists; leveled readers, and the “reluctant reader.” Add to this mix, the mix of intertwining stories, and I tell you reading this title is a breath of fresh air.

I encourage you to give this a go. I guarantee that if you are a parent of teens (or ever have been!), any type of librarian, or just a regular, middle-aged woman, you will laugh out loud. Moreover, you will wonder, “Will I ever meet that ‘hot librarian’?

Some Favorite Bits from the book

  • Speaking of the conference: “It attracts everyone from young MLS candidates to grizzled vets who are already collecting their pensions but just can’t quit the lifestyle” (70).
  • Speaking of reluctant readers and the profession: “And generally speaking, English teachers and librarians have no personal experience with reluctance toward reading. If we weren’t voracious readers, we would be teaching social studies or even, you know, doing a job that pays well” (89).
  • Speaking of a teen to parent from her perspective: “Next, according to you, I’m supposed to read The Book Thief. I read the first chapter, and let me tell you, it sounds GRIM. Pro tip, Mom: It’s not summer reading if the narrator is actual Death Incarnate” (55).

Note, Young Adult (the label for this book) is for “(often abbreviated as YA) is fiction written for, published for, or marketed to adolescents and young adults, roughly ages 13 to 18” (Goodreads, online) is listed as an ALA Best Book for Young Adults.

Harms, Kelly. The Overdue Life of Amy Byler: a Novel. Lake Union Publishing, 2019. Print
Zusak, Marcus. The Book Thief. Picador, 2005. Print.

The Shell Collector

Small book of short stories† & my observations

Pulitzer Prize book
My first reading of author Anthony Doerr was an early publication of All the Light We Cannot See before all the brouhaha surrounding a Pulitzer Prize. Needless to say, I was astounded; so much so, that I added to my eighth-grade students’ summer reading list. If you knew me and my students, this is saying something.

Walking among neighborhood streets dotted with “Little Free Libraries” [yes, again!] one within blocks of each other, I hit pay dirt-The Shell Collector by Anthony Doerr. Yes, THAT author.

Published in 2002, long before All the Light and subsequent accolades, this title is a collection of short stories. There are many well-crafted reviews of this book from Goodreads to Kirkus. These stories are intimate masterpieces regardless of time and place; in every one the writing is sublime.

Living in the Washington, D.C. environs, one story among them stands out on this 4th of July in 2019 and ironically, it is titled “July Fourth.” The historical time period differs from the present, but the message is spot-on for our sociopolitical times. Imagine this:

…Manhattan, in leather armchairs of an uptight anglers’ club with mounted marlin, brass urns and hushed speaking. The Americans, retired industrialists, angling members all, sat in a row at the bar…There were standard provocations…it mounted to a challenge, as these things do, and a contest was born…”(p 116).

You cannot imagine the following story he writes. Believe me. The last sentence [no spoiler here] of it grabs you in the gut, political leanings aside . Read it. Ponder it. Hard.

Doerr, Anthony. The Shell Collector. Scribner, 2002. Print.