Nature’s First Green



In the Seventh Grade, we were made to memorize a poem in our English class taught by Tom Horton.

We could pick one of three works by Robert Frost. “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”, “The Road Not Taken”, or “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”

Most chose “Nothing Gold Can Stay” due to its brevity blithely ignorant of its themes of mortality and the early twentieth century update of that ancient of admonitions

Carpe diem

All thirty of us in Mr. Horton’s class stood in front of our classmates and recited from memory over the course of two days

I actually chose “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” as its meter and rhyme were the easiest to commit to memory

Having heard it so many times over two classes, though, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” remains with me some thirty five years later.

It has really remained with me these last two months of quarantine and Rona, bad news on all fronts

From March through May, my beloved Lowcountry has flowered in profusion due to a surfeit of rain followed by weeks of sun

The last of the pink perfection camellias were insanely gorgeous

True perfection

Mathematical in form



Our only native hydrangea, the oak leaf, has blossomed like never before

It has grown tall enough to reach our kitchen windows

It has gone from early green buds to white flowers which will then go pink which will eventually fade to brown during the summer heat




We have been blessed with the most abundant Confederate jasmine blooms in recent memory

It’s my favorite scent of all time





#iykyk as the kids say these days




The wisteria’s mild clean odor wafts through the woodlands and through thickets and borders near our house

We had one growing up in Beaufort

One of my great grandmothers was a serious gardener

She spotted the wisteria in our yard, looked at my father, and remarked, “George, you have a wisteria…mmmm…that’s a mistake”

I never thought it was

That smell reminds me of playing in our yard

Proust had his madeleines

I have my wisteria and Confederate jasmine

From all that woozy goodness, the magnolias have opened to amazing early blooms perfuming all the air around them while continuing to be the messiest trees God ever created



The antiseptic astringency of the ligustrum mixes in nicely

The sultry intoxication of gardenias, named for a South Carolinian, layer on top of all of that

It’s too much sitting outside or walking around Charleston or strolling through Hampton Park where all of these scents mingle

Our foxgloves bloomed early

In our hot summers, they count as early spring annuals as they literally melt in the hot suns of June, July, and August

Sometimes they are biennials if they get a little shade

Mine generally melt



The one hundred White Christmas caladium bulbs I planted are busting through the soil

The Kentucky Colonel mint and chocolate mint are spreading

In spite of all the gloom and bad news, we have never had a more glorious spring


The hydrangeas are budding in profusion, too

The aluminum sulfate that I spread a couple weeks ago is working its acidifying magic on the blooms creating deep blues and purples

The Southern shield ferns have never been bigger unfurling their fiddle heads to fronds all from volunteer spores spread by the wind




The annual pentas  in pinks, whites, lavenders fill beds and pots with Persian shield and gomphrena along with the purple fuzzy Wandering Jew rooted from my in-laws

As I stand in our garden watering, I am overwhelmed by it all

It’s too much

I know it cannot remain

It is destined to succumb eventually

Nothing gold can stay

And, so I give you Mr. Frost’s ode to spring, youth, beauty, Original Sin, death, and life, which I memorized some thirty five years ago and recite to myself every spring with all credit given to that flinty New England sage



Nothing Gold Can Stay

Robert Frost


Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Suffice It

“Some say in ice”  Robert Frost 

“Do we have enough ice?”

That is the question I have been asking over the past two months

Is our ice maker producing enough?

Do we need to make more?

I can bag some

Will we have enough for tonight?

Did you move some out of the way so it makes more?

Will there be enough for the cocktails?

Will there be enough for the Hydroflask refill?

Fixated on it

Like bird-dogging it

One thing I can sort of control

During these grief stricken days

During the paralyzing paroxysms

“Do we have enough ice?”

So stupid, too

While my fellow countrymen are in lines at food banks

While my fellow countrymen are applying for and failing to collect unemployment

While my fellow countrymen espouse conspiracy theories out of desperation to make sense of out of the desperate

While my fellow countrymen cling to memories of a world that made some sense three months ago

While my fellow countrymen rebel against authority and control

While my fellow countrymen do their parts to aid each other

While my fellow countrymen are stuck in quarantines

While my fellow countrymen’s hair wants cutting

While my fellow countrymen wonder from whence cometh their next meal

I stupidly ask that question

“Do we have enough ice? ”

While our collective house is on fire

Fire and Ice

As Mr. Frost once wrote

“….that for destruction ice/Is also great/And would suffice”

Do we have enough ice?

The three ladies with whom I live roll their eyes at me

“Stop, Dad”

“Yes, we do”

“What’s with you and the ice?”

It’s all I can ask

When I hear the familiar hiss of water into the molds in the ice maker, I smile

When I hear the crashing clank of ice landing on ice, I smile

The louder the noise, the less ice we have

I don’t care if it’s clear

I don’t care if it’s cloudy

Do we have enough ice?


We do

Hope you do, too




Now We Are Not Very Young


Our hero pleads his case to the King, Queen, and Prince


Inside my copy of When We Were Very Young by A.A. Milne there is an inscription, “Happy 3rd Birthday, Hamlin! Love, The Barnes”  Obviously, I was given this book by the Barnes when I turned three. 

When I was very young, my parents would read me the poems out of that vaunted collection

Of course, Mr. Milne is best known for Pooh, Piglet, Christopher Robin and all their pals in the Hundred Acre Wood.

I started with When We Were Very Young, moved on to Now We Are Six, then graduated to The World of Pooh

In spite of my zeal for the next volumes, I never really got past my all time favorite of Milne’s work 

A poem of great rebellion


In which our hero, James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree takes great care of his mother, though he is only three.

James James said to his mother, “Mother,” he said, said he, “you must never go down to the end of the town if you don’t go down with me”

There are stanzas

There are admonishments

There are decorations by Ernest H. Shepherd of a Jazz Age London mother striding down the street clad in her tea suit, muff in hand, hat on her head, car waiting to whisk her off to take tea with her smart set somewhere near the end of the town with James James Morrison Morrison, commonly known as Jim, wildly pedaling his tricycle behind her

No gits, wankers, prats, or children allowed

In one image JJ MM  Dubya G DuP leashes his mother to his tricycle as he leads her back home with her fur rakishly tossed over her shoulder 

His head held high

And, yet, there is a child desperate not to be left alone taking full charge of his situation

And, yet, there is a mother flippant and defiant in a post-war London ready to enjoy herself

And, yet, there is no father

And, yet, there is no starched and stiff upper lipped nanny, the most common of British tropes at the time

As my parents would read “Disobedience” to me, we would sing the poem in full meter

It was only much after we were six that I discovered the Chad Mitchell Trio had converted the poem to early 1960’s folk music a la the Kingston Trio’s tale of woe about a man stuck on Boston’s T due to the want of some change

To this day, I view that brilliant piece of writing as the beginning of my own undercurrent of disobedience 

If JJ MM Dubya G DuP could take on his mama as she sauntered into society, then I could take on my parents

If he could bark orders, then so could I

If he could enlist the help of the King and Queen and Prince to locate a renegade refusing to obey, then I could be secure in the knowledge of my own resourcefulness

I attribute my independent streak to this very day to having read “Disobedience” from the time I was three

But, who was being disobedient? JJ MM Dubya G DuP or Mrs. DuP? 

Now that we are not six, or very young, that streak of independence remains

All the while due to a three year old quaking in fear…after a war…with no father…with a prodigal mother…left alone…wondering if he would be safe

And, yet, he flips it

And, yet, he assumes full control

And, yet, he is the chief actor in Milne’s poem

He acts

He shan’t be acted upon by the grown ups…even those who run the Kingdom and the Empire

A three year old giving permission to all three year old’s to know that he and we would one day be in charge

He and we would be giving orders

He and we would buck the system

He and we would not tolerate disobedience, but he and we would be disobedient

He even stakes a forty shilling reward

JJ MM Dubya G DuP basically gives his three year old middle finger to the Establishment

A punk rocker some fifty years early

Never mind the bollocks, here’s James James Morrison Morrison Weatherby George DuPree 






When Life Gives You Lemons…and Limes


…but the fruit of the poor lemon is impossible to eat


In October of last year, The New York Times published an article entitled “The Secret to Poundcake That Really Pops” by Sam Sifton.

What was this amazing poundcake?

7Up Cake

That staple of church cookbooks, Junior League cookbooks, symphony league cookbooks – which is where Sam Sifton claims to have gotten his inspiration

Since everyone is sitting on lbs and lbs of flour these days, this is an easy one to make

The ingredients are usually available at any store

Provided they have flour

This is self comfort and self care at its finest

All that Vitamin C boost to our immunity

(Not an-FDA-approved- statement)

I made the version below during this time of quarantine because it’s an amazing dessert, easier than pie to make, and toasts up beautifully with butter for breakfast the next day

Dad, what’s for dessert?

Well, this cake, dear ones

We use Sprite instead of 7UP because we’re Co-cola people

Either works


All rights reserved by the Coca-Cola Company



Lemon Lime Pound Cake:

1 -2 tbsp. butter to grease the bundt pan – at room temperature

1 tbsp. flour to sprinkle in the bundt pan

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) butter – at room temperature

3 cups of sugar – yes – it’s a lot – but it works

5 eggs

Zest of a lime

Zest of a lemon

Juice of a lime

Juice of a lemon

2 tsp. vanilla extract

3 cups all purpose flour

1 cup Sprite or 7-Up  (we use Sprite)



2 c. powdered sugar

2 tbsp. Sprite or 7 up

Juice of a lime


Grease and double grease and grease some more a bundt pan with that tbsp or so of butter.  Sprinkle with the tbsp. of flour and set aside

Heat oven to 325 degrees

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 mins or so) (or a large bowl using a hand held mixer)

Add eggs one at a time and beat well

Add zests, juices and vanilla and beat until incorporated

Alternating, add flour and Sprite or 7-UP. I add half a cup of flour at a time and a tsp or so of Sprite. I don’t measure.  I finish with the Sprite, though.

You’ll have to scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl a few times to make sure everything is fully incorporated

Pour into bundt pan and bake for 60-70 minutes.

Share the remnants of the batter in the mixing bowl and on the paddle with your significant other, your children, or, better yet, devour it yourself standing over the kitchen sink before you clean up the baking mess you’ve made

The cake is finished when toothpick or knife comes out clean and top is beginning to darken. Let rest in pan for 20 mins. Then invert onto a rack

Let cool completely before glazing

To glaze, mix powdered sugar with juice and Sprite. Drizzle all over the cake with a spoon. I do it in the sink with the cake on a rack.  The glaze will harden and lots of the glaze will run off into the drain….that’s o.k.

People love this cake

They’ve even been known to use that most hated of “m” words to describe it

We’ve all been through enough, so I won’t use that word here


All that’s left on the cake stand the next day



“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread, winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” Isaac Asimov

Dear Lord

We’re all epidemiologists, infectious disease experts, economists, educators, psychiatrists, statisticians these days

But, we’re not

What happened America?

We used to listen to folks with knowledge, experience, education

We used to listen to experts

Now, we listen to Karen who heard from her friend that her cousin had chloroquine and got better

Now, we listen to Doug who did an informal survey on Facebook and has decided there aren’t many cases in his town

Now, we listen to that doctor in India who says herd immunity is already in place

When the suicides start due to the economic devastation of Covid 19, we will say that the experts got it all wrong

When the spousal abuse reaches new levels due to isolation, we will say the experts got it all wrong

When the children lose months of learning and lag woefully behind, we will say the experts got it all wrong

When the summer plans evaporate, we will say the experts got it all wrong

I have no idea when we all became so wary of the smart, the educated, the gifted and talented

Growing up in a family of teachers – mother, grandmother, great-aunts – we always valued education and the educated

During the height of the Great Depression, one of my great grandmothers stood up to her husband and said she would move heaven and earth to have all of her children receive a full education just as she had received in Virginia

People around the world sacrifice everything for education

Here, we disdain the egg-headed, ivory towered, tenured, cloistered

I cannot fathom the cult of ignorance that pervades so much of our discussions these days

The cult of brilliance of the average person


Not facts

I have no expertise in epidemiology, infectious diseases, economics, education, psychiatry, statistics

Being anti-intellectual does not make you a champion of the common man

In fact, it jeopardizes the common man, of whom we all are

Even the experts

Do any of us want to operated upon by someone who did not go to medical school?

The answer is no


During these curious, stressful, grief filled days, it would be appreciated if the non-experts could keep their non-expertise to themselves

No one cares, literally, no one, about your anecdotes

Because, that’s all they are


Not expertise




The Three Dots


“I’ve never been held hostage, but I have been in a group text.” Anon.

That meme-worthy phrase has been around a while

During these viral ridden days when the news cycle gives us newer and fresher hells, I have never been more grateful for the groups of texters with whom I communicate regularly

I call one the Family texts

I call another the Charleston guys

I call another my New Yorkers

I call another Four Guys and a Girl

I call another Travel Buds

I eagerly watch those three pulsating dots when someone types

Then, there are the Facebook groups and Instagram groups

These people are all a life line to me, and, I hope, I to them

A lifeline of like minded souls

A lifeline of friends who are family

A lifeline of humor

So much humor

So much humor


Recounting tales of misbegotten youth

Sharing completely inappropriate items

Shocking each other


But mainly agreeing

Sending articles

Sending memes

Obsessing over the Tiger King

Bringing back phrases long forgotten

Discussing people who died over twenty years ago

Roasting one another

It’s all love writ large on iPhone keyboards

It’s also challenges to name foods named for places

It’s pictures of children

It’s complaints

It’s rants

“I’m minutes away from becoming that lady who yells at strangers!”

“Helluva an anniversary”

“Clear eyes, full heart, can’t lose”

“Where the hell is everyone?”

“Yes! that was fantastic! Next time should we do it Finnish-style?”

“I wasn’t wearing any pants, anyway!”

“The lady at the Sonesta just said, ‘But did they cancel their graduation, too?’ I said, ‘Yes, ma’am’  Her reply ‘Well…shit…oh…sorry’ I told her I understood”

Sometimes I read them and spit out the beverage I am drinking

Sometimes I read them and cry

I just know that out there across the globe there I people whom I love and who love me

In Charleston

In Beaufort

In New York

In Denver

In Malibu

In Charlotte

In Boulder

In Hartsville

In Vermont

In New Hampshire

In Shanghai

In London

Here’s to keeping all the group texts going

Here’s to keeping in touch








Breaking up Housekeeping

As we socially distance and self quarantine and occupy our time in ways productive, I have been pulling every weed in my yard, ironing all those clothes in that pile in the hamper, and polishing all of the silver




Which, for odd reasons, makes me think of all that pre-Covid nonsense about “No One Wants Your Stuff” and “Death Cleanse” and “Grandmillennial”

All of that seems so silly now

Plus, I’ll take all the silver


All of it

I’m sure it has a disinfectant quality (n.b. these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA, EPA, SC DHEC, or your mama)

This spoon belonged to one of my great-grandmothers – notice the shape of the bowl – a little bit melted from use on wood burning stove sometime last century

They say brown furniture is making a come back

Where did it go?

Our decorating style is called Early Dead People as we love to use that which is inherited

I don’t speak Swedish

I don’t do Ikea

I speak Hepplewhite, Sheraton, Chippendale, Regency, the Brothers Adam

Adamsesque is one of best adjectives in the world

Duly noting all of that, and thinking a lot these days, one of the worst weekends of my life involved helping to clear out my maternal grandparents’ house of furniture, all browned and Hepplewhited and patinaed

Marble tops

Turned legs

Pieces from great great grandparents from Virginia





My grandfather had died two years prior

My grandmother decided to break up housekeeping

She would be moving to an assisted living facility close to one of my aunts

Breaking up housekeeping

That may be only a term my family uses

Breaking up housekeeping

Distributing to children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews

My grandparents’ siblings all broke up housekeeping at one point

I remember when my Aunt Virginia broke up housekeeping

I remember when my Aunt Marion broke up housekeeping

Now, it’s called downsizing

But, back in 1998, it was called hell


My grandmother’s breaking up housekeeping remains literally one of the most traumatic experiences of my life

Same with my wife who was then my fiancée who should have broken up housekeeping with me before we even started

What a break up it was

I still process it

My Aunt Em, my cousin Marion (nicknamed Manny), my darling fiancée, and I literally broke up my grandparents’ household

In the summer

In Columbia, South Carolina

If you know anything about South Carolina geography, well, then, you can confirm that during our hot, humid, scorching summers only a broken screen door separates Columbia and the fires of Hades in those months

The summer my soon to be bride and I were studying for the South Carolina Bar Exam

The summer we had the added burden of helping clear out my grandparents’ house

I still don’t know where my mother and my other maternal aunt were during that weekend of blood, sweat, and tears

I actually cut myself on something

Bled like a stuck pig

So much sweat

Tears of sadness for what had been and knowing that it would be no more

I still don’t know where my two brothers and three first cousins were during that time

All I know is that we five intrepid souls were there in the heat of the last weekend in June

making numerous runs to the trash dump

pulling out a drawer stuffed with washed, cleaned, and neatly folded plastic bread bags and twist ties

disposing of so many packets of ketchup, jelly, nondairy creamers all taken from restaurants

emptying the back of the pantry of what had become biological weapons in the form of canned goods hoarded since the Kennedy administration

wondering why there was an entire drawer of rubber bands

discarding so many old Southern Livings and Field and Streams and National Geographics

taking shoes to the Goodwill

rifling through sock drawers stuffed to the gills with pairs of socks many of which were missing a mate

cussing in the heat

going in and out of the house so often that the air conditioning failed

tripping on piles of old tupperware, I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter containers, plastic sherbet bins long cleaned of their lemon, orange, or rainbow contents

asking why letters from people none of us knew where lodged in the drawers of the large butler’s secretary in the living room

“Who the hell is this person?” asked my Aunt Em upon reading one of the letters out loud to us

“Wisconsin? Mama doesn’t know anyone in Wisconsin”

Yet, there was copious correspondence from this lady in Wisconsin

Flipping the back of the envelopes


More names

“Oh, I remember,” my Aunt said with her memory jogged reading one of the letters.  “That was a distant Boerner cousin who married a fellow from Milwaukee. I had no idea Mama kept up with them. Kin to the Huguenins, too. Grandaddy’s people.”

I had no idea of whom she spoke

My cousin Manny snorted, “Em, we don’t have time to read all that. We’re breaking up housekeeping!”

Serious as the heart attacks awaiting us in the heat

That is some serious bidness

Breaking up housekeeping

Manny would throw something in a Hefty trash bag in a New York nanosecond

“Y’all, why in the WOLRD did they keep all this? You know I had to do this for Aunt Jane, too?”

In one bathroom there were at least four cans of partially used AquaNet

In another bathroom there were towels too thin to be used yet too thick to be discarded

How many sets of sheets does one bed need?

Apparently linen closets full

Costume jewelry?

Come and get it

The grenade that Uncle Capers brought back from World War I?

“Don’t worry; it’s a dud”

Jade from someone’s trip to Japan?

Ceramic flowers?

Grape clusters made from marble?

If this sounds like your grandparents’ houses, please raise your hands

Articles state that breaking up housekeeping can be super traumatic

Believe you me

It is

For those doing the heavy lifting

During that weekend, my dear Manny and I were making a run to the dump when she looked at me and said, “Oh, Dear Gawd, I’m going home and throwing away half of what I own”

That statement has stayed with me through the years

My maternal grandparents had lived through the deprivations of the South during the early twentieth century, the Great Depression, and World War II

They saved everything

I do not

If you write me a lovely letter, I will read it, then I will recycle it

If you give me a fabulous gift that I do not love, I will re-gift it or pass it on or donate it

If you pass on to me my third grade report card, I will smile at those memories and recycle it immediately

My grandparents had already given away china, silver, furniture, jewelry

The good stuff

But, oh there was so much else


At my grandparents house, we found all kinds of things no one wanted

We found threadbare throw rugs

We found old curlers

We found boxes of hair pins

We found sweaters with moth holes

We found my grandfather’s ties and suits long out of style

We found old bank statements stuffed in a drawer

We found tubes of lipstick with only remnants in the bottom yet still sitting on a dressing table

We found desiccated perfume bottles

We found random coffee cups given away as promotions at banks

We found old calendars

We found unfilled books of Greenbax stamps

We found cookbooks

We found shoe boxes without shoes

We found faded tintypes of family members that none of us knew and who none could recognize due to sun exposure

We found a photograph in a frame written on the back “Aunt Georgie” who looked like our people but Georgie who?

We found numerous copies of the South Caroliniana Magazine of the South Carolina Historical Society

We tossed it all

Except the tintypes and Aunt Georgie

Mean as hell

No mercy shown

Breaking up housekeeping for my grandparents made me the most cynical of housekeepers

When in doubt, throw it out

When we break up housekeeping for my parents’ and in-laws, I will be the one shaking my head “No” when asked if we should keep something

Adding to the contents of the local dump in what we hope will be the far distant future




I will toss it all

But, I’m keeping the silver