August 2021  Vol. 1, No.1

A Wadge of Worries

The Hammond Museum has now reopened. The year and a half after the assault on our well being imposed by a tiny virus so apparently insignificant that many laughed at warnings that could unnerve us but unnerve us it did. Who thought museums would padlock their doors, concert halls and opera houses turn out the lights, air travel shut down, suppers at local cafes cease? But a year and a half has changed us, upheaval marks us. Isolation replaces togetherness. Confinement supplants openness, powerlessness overwhelms strength. Illness mocks health. 900,000 are no more and that does not count those beyond our borders. The deniers die as easily as those supporting healthcare mandates. But all is not lost. We have learned about ACE II receptors and how Coronavirus infection occurs. We understand the consequences of cytokine storm and are grateful for Herculean efforts that have produced a new vaccine technology that saves millions. The human spirit of inquiry, ingenuity, and cooperation has succeeded. Zoom replaces gloom. We enjoy enough private time to rethink what promotes social harmony and personal growth. Sophistry, credulity, and ignorance have been doused by a healthy poultice of reason. The purveyor of duplicity and narcissism retreated to his sand traps and double bogies while cronies scramble for cover. Kindness and generosity now rise to their rightful roles.

Invitation to a Journey 

Bucephalus is the name given to a small French car, a Deux Chevaux (two horses), designed by Andre Boulanger in 1937 and manufactured by the Citroen company in the millions. By the way, Bucephalus is also the name of Alexander the Great’s horse. They traveled together conquering continents, deserts, and mountains. The commonality of both Bucephaluses is that they provide companionship plus conveyance. Alexander’s Bucephalus was hard to tame, had a big head and powerful haunches. My Bucephalus is delicate, sips daintily of nectar of gasoline, and proceeds cautiously, seldom exceeding 40 on the speedometer dial. Whether kilometers or miles I have yet to discover, but with windows folded up and top rolled down it seems like 400. Lest you fear for our safety, I have been assured it is the safest car on the road. We drive so slowly we get to an accident 10 minutes after it happens. Bucephalus is the essence of minimalism possessing nothing unessential, no distributor, radiator, heater, radio, etc., etc. There is climate control. Doors may be unhinged for improved ventilation, and one is assured of plenty of heat in summer and cold in winter. The windshield wiper has variable speeds depending upon how quickly I turn the crank. If you want 4-wheel drive, a second engine can be mounted in the trunk.

Palouse 89

In the coming months, this forum will be used to extoll the beauty and comfort of gardens and the importance of museums. The format, in part, will be presented as a series of travels taken to the byways in search of that which is often overlooked. Sometimes a short story may be interposed to create variety. Our course is yet to be charted, but the intent is to take you on adventures of discovery, each certified to be true or just as good as true. We shall travel slowly seeking the subtle, the mysterious, the ironic. No epiphanies are sought. Some ignored corner in the big city or a water prairie in a great cypress swamp, or a hundred other places shall be our goal. Let us now begin Canters with Bucephalus.

Bucephalus is the name given to a small French car, a Deux Chevaux (two horses), designed by Andre Boulanger in 1937 and manufactured by the Citroen company in the millions. By the way, Bucephalus is also the name of Alexander the Great’s horse. They traveled together conquering continents, deserts, and mountains. The commonality of both Bucephaluses is that they provide companionship plus conveyance. Alexander’s Bucephalus was hard to tame, had a big head and powerful haunches. My Bucephalus is delicate, sips daintily of nectar of gasoline, and proceeds cautiously, seldom exceeding 40 on the speedometer dial. Whether kilometers or miles I have yet to discover, but with windows folded up and top rolled down it seems like 400. Lest you fear for our safety, I have been assured it is the 

safest car on the road. We drive so slowly we get to an accident 10 minutes after it happens. Bucephalus is the essence of minimalism possessing nothing unessential, no distributor, radiator, heater, radio, etc., etc. There is climate control. Doors may be unhinged for improved ventilation, and one is assured of plenty of heat in summer and cold in winter. The windshield wiper has variable speeds depending upon how quickly I turn the crank. If you want 4-wheel drive, a second engine can be mounted in the trunk. 

Garden In Alabama
 

We departed Chehalis in late April, headed in the general direction of Sleepy Hollow. Chinook Pass had 90 feet of snow, but prospects seemed good for a late June opening. Overwhelmed by impetuosity, we chose a southern route but made a wrong turn at Tuscaloosa and soon passed through South Peach Tree. We stopped at a goat farm, but only the goats were home. Nevertheless, good fortune attended us. We were invited to stay at a nearby farm. An allee of sweeping live oak with plenty of Spanish moss led to commodious accommodations.

Bucephalus was accorded protected space between silo and barn while I was shown across a peanut field to a dog trot cabin, named for the flyway between its two rooms, passage for ducks heading down to the delta region near Mobile.

I retreated across the freshly plowed field to my cabin and collapsed into a rush-bottomed rocker on the veranda just as the first peel of thunder announced an approaching storm, an assault on my little creation. Why was Frost correct, “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall…”? What is it that wants it down? My garden means harm to no one. A blast of wind heightened anxiety. The breaking storm, wild, fierce with hail, the devil’s timpani playing out on the veranda’s metal roof and sheets of water drove me indoors. Cyclonic gusts from the west swung around to the east, raising the roof and pounding it back upon rafters. Would it carry away the porch? Then, quickly as it came, the tempest subsided. The field was too sodden to venture out, so with heavy eyelids, Morpheus won out over curiosity. I dropped into bed and somnolence.

After feasting on collard greens and gumbo, Ms. Anne, 91-year young matriarch of the place gave me a tour of rose beds and sprouting vegetables, two months ahead of Chehalis. She showed me an out-of-the-way area near the potting shed thought to be a good place for tea. I agreed and asked whether I might give a hand at creating a garden retreat. She consented and left me to my devices.

A broken-down stone wall with jasmine covering a window space and doorway of a long-collapsed greenhouse were what remained. A spreading pecan tree gave dappled shade to a protected space, a sanctuary from the day’s hubbub. In no more time than an hour, rubble and leaves were cleared. A few cracked terra cotta pots pressed into service, held Mandevilla and other climbers. A couple of garden ornaments and putti were surreptitiously purloined from the undergrowth surrounding the big house. A wrought iron table and a brace of chairs completed the ensemble.

By day’s end, home was found for a couple of dozen plants. Surveying the effort, I was ready to refresh wit and soul. Unfortunately, muscles ached too much to enjoy the solitude, so I hobbled off with the last of dusk, hoping for tea there on the morrow.

Roses on Fence

I retreated across the freshly plowed field to my cabin and collapsed into a rush-bottomed rocker on the veranda just as the first peel of thunder announced an approaching storm, an assault on my little creation. 

Why was Frost correct, “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall…”? What is it that wants it down? My garden means harm to no one. A blast of wind heightened anxiety. The breaking storm, wild, fierce with hail, the devil’s timpani playing out on the veranda’s metal roof and sheets of water drove me indoors. Cyclonic gusts from the west swung around to the east, raising the roof and pounding it back upon rafters. Would it carry away the porch? Then, quickly as it came, the tempest subsided. The field was too sodden to venture out, so with heavy eyelids, Morpheus won out over curiosity. I dropped into bed and somnolence.

With the dawn, clouds had departed and a low moon, orange above the live oak, showed through my bedroom window. Refreshed and not wanting to miss the moment, I bounded back across the field, past several fallen trees to the garden, humble and welcoming. The stone wall had protected the plantings. In the cool of morning, I wrapped a sweater around my neck, wiped table and chair dry, settled in, relieved that all remained in order. The sun’s first rays cast long shadows, a gracious welcome to this magic space. Pots and plants were surveyed. With closed eyes I could see more. A riot of birds’ songs, the jasmine scent and the sun’s warmth lulled me into a delicious peace. Buzzing insects awakened me to contentedness. With a light step, sweetpeas and nasturtiums were arranged in a corner with consideration to shadows and the roughness of a stone wall backdrop. Mopping my brow, I now survey the efforts to create an inviting and compact display. How could the clock strike one?

Garden Table and Chairs

I take a break for tea, Sencha, in a broken handled, cracked, wedgewood cup. Pleasure is found in the exuberance of spring. Rising over the wall are the old tea roses, planted a century ago. The west end is jasmine covered. Blossoms arch over the doorway and adjacent window opening. The header is so low, like a Japanese teahouse, one must bow to enter. Humility is preserved. Butterchurn sized pots arranged along the north wall host various climbers. A rusted caldron, once used to boil sorghum, contains a spiky aloe. The pecan tree, nearly big as the live oak, anchors the far end. A giant amphora, surely rescued from a sunken Roman galleon, guards a brick walkway, and gives formal notice of the boundary.

Statue

A final hour is given to paring back to give an inviting prospect for shadows and color. With that, garden tools are put away, a few flowers arranged on the table, and a jigger of vermouth sipped to consecrate the project.

In the soft light of dusk, I photograph the efforts. Did I arrange for mystery and tranquility? How will the garden stand the test of time? Will others enjoy moments here? It all seems small, delicate, and vulnerable. With pen and ink, I record my thoughts. The nib is chased by the dappled light with the shadows of pecan leaves dancing over the paper, somehow guiding both pen and thought. A barely noticeable breeze, the fragrances and sense of peace leave me at ease. For the moment, I dwell here with the illusion that the external world is excluded. Were I to return tomorrow, would I feel the same? Might some favorite book or old friend share the space? I cannot answer. Yet, I get to take with me a memory of this time and space. For this, I ask no more.

With goodbyes said, Bucephalus and I canter away.

I take a break for tea, Sencha, in a broken handled, cracked, Wedgewood cup. Pleasure is found in the exuberance of spring. Rising over the wall are the old tea roses, planted a century ago. The west end is jasmine covered. Blossoms arch over the doorway and adjacent window opening. The header is so low, like a Japanese teahouse, one must bow to enter. Humility is

preserved. Butterchurn sized pots arranged along the north wall host various climbers. A rusted caldron, once used to boil sorghum, contains a spiky aloe. The pecan tree, nearly big as the live oak, anchors the far end. A giant amphora, surely rescued from a sunken Roman galleon, guards a brick walkway, and gives formal notice of the boundary.

I take a break for tea, Sencha, in a broken handled, cracked, Wedgewood cup. Pleasure is found in the exuberance of spring. Rising over the wall are the old tea roses, planted a century ago. The west end is jasmine covered. Blossoms arch over the doorway and adjacent window opening. The header is so low, like a Japanese teahouse, one must bow to enter. Humility is

Garden Wall and Gate 2

Dreams of Youth

After crossing Choctaw Creek, we head in the general direction of Burgundy Street in the Vieux Carre. But misgivings haunt me. It may be doubly dangerous to seek out that from years ago. What you knew could very well be displaced by something alien. What was part of you then may be no more, and what is there now is not part of you. In spite of these concerns, curiosity cannot be slaked. Bucephalus consents. Our canter, faster than a trot but slower than a gallop propells us at a pace that encourages dreaming of youth…

You see, after the war, chrome glitz and speed made the automobile an extension of one’s personality, that is for those with good credit down at the First National Bank. For the rest of us, whatever got you behind the wheel for the fewest dollars made life worthwhile. Before Bucephalus, it was a ’55 Chevrolet convertible, yellow and white, a hundred bucks. Moon hubcaps added another twenty-five.

As years passed, cars got more cylinders, more horsepower, more chrome. We went faster and I saw less. I missed much. Why? Doesn’t an education require time for contemplation? The answer was long in coming. But enlightenment demands its own hour. That hour arrived while strolling along the Quai Voltaire near Point Carrousel with its three long arches over the Seine. I spotted Bucephalus, a burgundy and black Citroen, toute petite voiture, with just enough to claim attachment to the concept of automobile. Two cylinders, just enough. Bucephalus was the go anywhere essence of conveyance advertised as the “intelligent application of minimalism with remorseless rationality.” And with that, he became arbiter of travel decisions, an ever-ready adventurer.

This was opportunity. This was freedom. With a full tank and the spare tire tied to a door handle, I was off across New Mexico’s high plains and the Texas panhandle, headed to a college education. With the top down and the engine purring at 65, to explore was in my veins. Dalhart and Dumas were in the rearview mirror.

The Chevy was headed towards Buffalo Springs and Rising Star. But those settlements of the American West would have to await a future day. And await they remain. I couldn’t slow down. Tomorrow beckoned. Whatever was over the next rise called out. There was no time for that which was close at hand.

Watercolor of Paris

As years passed, cars got more cylinders, more horsepower, more chrome. We went faster and I saw less. I missed much. Why? Doesn’t an education require time for contemplation? The answer was long in coming. But enlightenment demands its own hour. That

hour arrived while strolling along the Quai Voltaire near Point Carrousel with its three long arches over the Seine. I spotted Bucephalus, a burgundy and black Citroen, toute petite voiture, with just enough to claim attachment to the concept of automobile. Two cylinders, just enough. Bucephalus was the go anywhere essence of conveyance advertised as the “intelligent application of minimalism with remorseless rationality.” And with that, he became arbiter of travel decisions, an ever-ready adventurer.

Return to Vieux Carre

New Orleans 99

I look over to the jetty with the ferry just pulling out to Algiers and recall the black smoke of the old sternwheeler, Natchez, heading upriver. Now, with nearly empty streets, Bucephalus turns on to St. Peter. I know the cross streets well: Royal, Bourbon, Dauphine, Burgundy, Rampart, and Basin. We glide into a parking spot across from Preservation Hall, windows shuttered and silent. Killing the engine, Bucephalus is quiet. In vain, I listen for favorite tunes that waft from the old hall: George Lewis playing his Burgundy Street Blues; Big Bill Robinson adding the trombone bars to West End Blues; and one toothed Sweet Emma banging out on the piano and keeping time with bells on her garter and in her distinctive dialect, “you can’t have any of my jelly roll.” Sliding out of the car, I walk up towards Burgundy and humm the words “you stayed away too long, come back to me where you belong and walk Burgundy Street with a blues.” A battered gas streetlight greets me and I am at home amongst old familiars. This visit has been good. My thirst is slaked and I need not pine for what is no more. The old songs and yesterdays have been served. Today is a better day. We follow the St. Charles Street trolley then shift into high gear as we turn north onto the road for Baton Rouge.

Roused from my daydreams, Bucephalus puttered across Pontchartrain, then along Tchoupitoulas and into the Quarter. Visitors are few. The gates of Jackson Square are locked. I recall Janis Joplin and the flower children there in the 60s, dancing, singing, and oblivious to the euphoric blindfullness of LSD. Up the street, the revellers at Pat O’Briens competed with the trumpet of Al Hirt and the trills from Pete Fountain’s clarinet. The realities of war, segregation, and intolerance were drowned by the draft beer and hurricanes of cheap rum and passion syrup. Hoards of the pulchritude seemed endless. But where have they gone? Gazing past Café Du Monde to the market, I no longer see the welcoming sign of Morning Call Café, now displaced to the suburbs.

I remember those long-spouted copper coffee pots and matching urns of steaming milk pouring out hot mugs of chicory coffee. That tradition is now replaced by styrofoam. Midnight meals at Chez Helene are but memories as is Uglesich’s on Baronne Street when you want the “briniest and sweetest oysters,” crawfish etouffee and remoulade. All was gone with Katrina.

New Orleans 83

I look over to the jetty with the ferry just pulling out to Algiers and recall the black smoke of the old sternwheeler, Natchez, heading upriver. Now, with nearly empty streets, Bucephalus turns on to St. Peter. I know the cross streets well: Royal, Bourbon, Dauphine, Burgundy, Rampart, and 

Basin. We glide into a parking spot across from Preservation Hall, windows shuttered and silent. Preservation Hall, windows shuttered and silent. Killing the engine, Bucephalus is quiet. In vain, I listen for favorite tunes that waft from the old hall: George Lewis playing his Burgundy Street Blues; Big Bill Robinson adding the trombone bars to West End Blues; and one toothed Sweet Emma banging out on the piano and keeping time with bells on her garter and in her distinctive dialect, “you can’t have any of my jelly roll.” Sliding out of the car, I walk up towards Burgundy and humm the words “you stayed away too long, come back to me where you belong and walk Burgundy Street with a blues.” A battered gas streetlight greets me and I am at home amongst old familiars. This visit has been good. My thirst is slaked and I need not pine for what is no more. The old songs and yesterdays have been served. Today is a better day. We follow the St. Charles Street trolley then shift into high gear as we turn north onto the road for Baton Rouge.

I recall Sam Cooke’s anthem to freedom: “I was born by the river in a little tent. Oh, and just like the river, I’ve been running ever since. It’s been a long time coming, but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will.”

Bucephalus and I are headed to tomorrow and will let the past remain but in memories.

Dustan Osborn


Dustan Osborn, member of the Board of Trustees of the Hammond Museum and Japanese Stroll Garden, is a practicing medical oncologist in Washington state. After earning a PhD in Biophysics, he attended medical school, then completed an oncology fellowship at Harvard’s Dana Farber Cancer Center. His avocational interests include photography, old books, and the history of scholarship. He is on the prowl for hole-in-the-wall eateries and interesting places where the crowds don’t go.