Marti has been a guest columnist for the Aiken Standard
, her hometown newspaper, since her arrival in 2004 from Indiana. She never fails to find delight and often a poignant life lesson in her experiences and surroundings, and gently shares her feelings with her readers.
You may scroll through a selection of these columns below. They are listed by title, the date they first appeared in the paper, and the opening few lines. If any of them catch your fancy, just click on the title, and you will be able to read the entire column.
This collection is updated periodically.
Please note that all of Marti’s columns are copyrighted by her. Please request permission before reprinting or using any portion of them. Thank you.
In Memory of Maggie
March 16, 2005
Five weeks and three days ago, two little “road puppies” came into my life. Today, one of them left it. Maggie died this morning. A piece of my heart went with her. I didn’t expect to love something so small so much in such a short time.
The Fairies of the Carolina Bay
May 25, 2005
There are Fairies living in Aiken’s Carolina Bay. Sophie and I have seen them. Well, almost. They manage to slip out of sight as quickly as we look. But we are both quite convinced they are there. And I don’t believe dogs can be fooled about this sort of thing.
Fingerprints on a Wall
June 9, 2005
On the far right-hand corner of my desk sits a small, round, glass paperweight. Occasionally, it fulfills its purpose of holding down wayward papers. But most of the time it sits alone. A silent memento. Often forgotten, I’m afraid. Yet it has a singular history.
A Carolina “Good Night” with Sophie
June 2, 2005
Sophie, my 8-month-old puppy, loves the water. I suspect that one of the many breeds in her vast genetic makeup may have been a fish. She has a child’s wading pool that a neighbor friend gave her after discovering Sophie’s obvious delight with all things wet and wonderful, and she spends hours reveling in it.
The Kindness of Strangers
July 20, 2005
It was a drenching rain. With a great crack of thunder and lightning that flashed the air white, I saw the frail, thin dog creep slowly around the corner of the building. He was soaked through, but didn’t seem to notice. He didn’t seem to notice much of anything. He was the most dejected, dismal creature I think I have ever seen.
A Dog with Laughing Eyes
August 17, 2005
This is Teddy’s story. I have been asked by many regular readers to tell you more about Teddy, the stray German shepherd mix I found a month ago wandering dazed in a thunder storm. A few columns back, I related the story of finding him. But for awhile, I was afraid I might have no more to tell.
A Rather Nice Dream in Aiken
September 14, 2005
Last night, I dreamed I died. It was a rather nice dream, actually.
God Bless You
October 12, 2005
For about eight hours, I had been having one of the worst days ever.
Christmas Arrived in Aiken
December 7, 2005
Christmas arrived in Aiken last Sunday. It came in with a parade.
The Christmas Stocking
December 21, 2005
It was at the bottom of the box. Carefully folded. Tucked in among the packages that were wrapped in colorful reds and greens and patterns of snowmen and Santas. It was my childhood Christmas stocking.
The Fences of Aiken
March 1, 2006
My friend Jeannie is building a fence for me around my front yard. She is an artist as well as a craftsman. And it is truly a family affair.
April 12, 2006
Her name is Sophie. She’s about 17 months old. She’s the mixed-breed puppy I found and brought home to live with me a little over a year ago. Sophie is a gorgeous redhead, with goofy ears that flop on the top of her head, big fat feet, a long flowing tail, a heart the size of Canada, and a vast appreciation for silliness.
A Porch Light for Strangers and Friends
May 10, 2006
I must have been very young. Maybe five or six years old. I could barely see out the back seat window of the family car. But whenever we happened to be traveling at night, I used to watch very carefully just to see all the houses with their front porch lights on. There, in the deep purple night, or the soft gray dusk, was a glow of yellow warmth. A beacon. A light put on just for friends or strangers.
How Teddy Got His Hope Back
May 24, 1006
Teddy won a prize at puppy school. My four-year-old German shepherd mix – that I found trembling and abandoned in a thunderstorm less than a year ago – just received a special recognition award from Powderhouse Kennels’ Obedience School.
Peace, Protection, and Other Values of Horse Training in Aiken
June 7, 2006
The early morning sky was the color of stainless steel with a thin veneer of clouds stretched across it. It had rained all night. The ground was puddled and mud-slicked. The air was damp, almost chill.
“Yes, Barbara, There Is An Aiken”
June 21, 2006
Over a hundred years ago, Francis P. Church, the editor of the New York newspaper the Sun, penned the words: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” to reassure an eight-year-old girl about the existence of this symbol of Christmas joy and love and goodness. It became a beloved work – and a classic phrase defending an ideal in the midst of a skeptical, imperfect world. Recently, I had occasion to recall it.
“She Looked After The Losers”
July 5, 2006
It was a small plaque, only about three inches high by five inches long. It was attached to the back of a simple wood and wrought iron park bench, standing alone along the path at the far east side of Hopelands Gardens. I don’t know why it caught my eye. But there it was. Perhaps the sun dappled across it just right … “She Looked After The Losers.”
The Power of Imagination
August 2, 2006
It’s a low, throaty, sort of yowl. It repeats over and over, as many as 10 or 12 times in a row. It can sound rather haunting when it comes in the dead of the night – which it frequently does. It can wake me from a sound sleep, even from the other end of the house. It stirs the dogs, who lift their heads to listen, grumble a bit or sigh deeply, and then curl into a new position at the foot of the bed.
Katie Sits by the Door
August 16, 2006
Katie sits by the door. She watches intently. The dogs go in and out, in and out, through the clear plastic flap, on this bright and pleasant day. Katie sits and watches.
An Afternoon with Miss Ola
August 30, 2006
The bells of St. John’s Methodist Church were chiming the hour, two o’clock, as my friend and I walked up the wooden porch steps to the one remaining private residence along that entire block of Chesterfield Street.
The Little Boy, 1855
September 13, 2006
“The Little Boy, 1855.” That’s all the lovingly carved gravestone says. There is no first name, no family name, no birth date, no age. Achingly simple and small and sad.
Perhaps Katie Has Just Come Home
October 11, 2006
I was backing the car out of my driveway on my way to church. I looked up and saw Katie, my beloved 18-year-old cat companion. She was safely on the other side of the tall protective fence, at the far end of the drive. But she was bent low, almost “huddled” against the ground, drinking from a puddle of rainwater. My heart wrenched.
Everyone Who Loves an Old House, Raise Your Plumbing Bill
November 8, 2006
I’m painting my dining room. It’s going to be a soft, dove grey with white trim. It seems to be taking forever, because my dining room also serves as my “library,” and I had wall-to-wall bookshelves built into it soon after I moved in. So painting around and over and under them all takes some time. I’m also re-staining the bookcases a deeper mahogany as I go. With drying time and all, I’ve calculated I’ll be finished in about 37 weeks. Seriously. And it’s only about a 10-foot by 10-foot room.
Letting Go of the Fear of Falling
January 13, 2007
New Year’s Eve, 2006. Somewhere, a long time ago, I remember reading that the only fear we humans are born with is the fear of falling. I always found that interesting – the idea that we apparently have to be taught all of our other fears.
A Tapestry of Roots
March 28, 2007
The trench had to be dug. It was the plumbing. The entire system – from house to cottage to street – self-destructed (in the middle of the night, of course). So the trench had to be dug. Across the driveway (twice), through well-established bushes, past one ancient oak, one magnificent magnolia, and under the lovely herringbone pattern of a vintage brick patio.
The Many Sides of an Easter Parade
April 1, 2007
It was, indeed, a proper Easter parade. There were fancy bonnets and flowers, streamers and floats. Antique carriages and carts. A grand procession of finery and fun. But last Saturday afternoon’s parade in downtown Aiken featured primarily a host of decked-out doggies. There were horses as well (this being Aiken) – some of them tiny miniatures. And a couple of extremely opinionated cats. But the day belonged to the dogs. An SPCA special.
Old Bricks and Memories
April 25, 2007
Two hundred and twenty-seven of them have already been replaced. Another stack of 41 awaits. They are the bricks I am re-laying to replace the ravages of a plumbing disaster that I had to have remedied a couple of weeks ago.
God Is In The Details
May 23, 2007
“God is in the details” has long been one of my favorite sayings. It was first coined by French architect Le Corbusier and is actually a variation on an old proverb. One of Le Corbusier’s contemporaries was world-famous architect Frank Lloyd Wright. Personally, I think the quote fits Wright even better. He probably thought so too. Humility was not a large part of this man’s character. But his creations require no such humbleness. They are nothing short of amazing.
Katie Through the Looking-Glass
June 6, 2007
Katie spent most of last night trying to step through the large dressing-table mirror in my bedroom. Apparently, the room on the other side looked terribly inviting – even though it was simply a backhand version of the room just behind her.
Four-Legged Lessons in Freedom
July 4, 2007
Sly laid his big, sleek black lab head in Barb’s lap and looked up at her adoringly with his deep brown eyes. Barb’s hands stroked Sly’s ears and fur with soft tenderness. She was “looking” just as lovingly back at him with her fingers. Barb’s own big blues eyes are almost completely sightless.
Good Shoes and Southerners Come to Fox Shoe Repair
July 18, 2007
“You’ve seen these shoes before,” she said with a smile. Mark Fox at Fox Shoe Repair nodded and picked up one of the shoes, turning it over slowly in his hand. It was a delicate dance shoe, champagne colored, an intricate pattern of glass beads covering the toe. It looked incongruous in the man’s hand, which was large and muscular and browned like the leather he works with on a daily basis.
Tennis, Polo, Kings and Presidents
September 26, 2007
“1066,” he said, as we leaned back in our chairs in his comfortable living room. “William the Conquerer. South of England.” And then we both had to laugh.
The Children of Aiken
November 7, 2007
Her tiny hand was plump and warm and slightly sticky as she reached out and put it into mine. We were both sitting on the edge of the Newberry Street fountain, watching dogs in fancy costumes as they paraded across a makeshift stage.
The Wisdom of Walking Home Revisited
January 30, 2008
It was a rather uneven bench. But I thanked God for it. It was part of a small, covered shelter on the 6th tee of the Aiken Golf course. I blessed the shelter for being there, too. You can see the nails as they protrude inward from the roof, I noted from my prone perspective as I listened to the rain patting above me. My breathing had regained normalcy. The ache in my back had eased a bit due to the boards now pressed against it. My feet throbbed. My legs were numb. The umbrella dripped. The phone in my left coat pocket was ringing.
Teddy Got His Butt Blessed
March 26, 2008
Teddy got his butt blessed on Palm Sunday afternoon. It was a lovely ceremony. Not the blessing of Teddy’s hindquarters, per se. But the entire Blessing of the Animals that was hosted by First Presbyterian Church in downtown Aiken.
Monday Morning Coffee in the Company of Men
April 10, 2008
I’ve always enjoyed being in the company of men. Both singly and collectively. Men have a distinct way of thinking and feeling and looking at the world, it seems to me. They have a unique process of relating to each other as well as to women in general and to individual women in particular. I sincerely appreciate the gender as a whole and, as stated earlier, being in their company.
Miss Brodie’s Tea Party
May 21, 2008
“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” (From “The Wonder Years.”) It began as an ordinary walk. Down quiet dirt roads and heavily shaded side streets, wandering in the general direction of town. But my mind was traveling down its own scruffy paths.
A Tribute to Great Southern Families
July 16, 2008
To the casual passerby, it would be easy to miss the tiny road that angles almost imperceptibly off from the main highway. Even with proper directions, we went right past it the first time.
Embracing Change, As Well As Dogs
July 30, 2008
Sometimes change creeps in on four, soft, black paws. A wagging tail sweeps across routine, stirring it into something unfamiliar, almost chaos. A wet black nose prods existing habits into new odd shapes. Relationships are out of balance. Reality as we know it shifts. His name is Sly. He is an exuberant black lab mix. He is living in my house.
The Music Still Echoes in Sly’s Wake
August 13, 2008
There are four paws fewer at the dance now. One less dish to fill. One less leash to hold. One less heartbeat in the house. One less tail to step over in the night. Sly is alive and well and living in Detroit. Sly, the black lab leader dog, who was on sabbatical at my house for almost 7 weeks, has reported back for duty.
A Pumpkin of Possibilities
September 10, 2008
He was a solid little puff-ball with legs. A well-fed, well-confident, little dog. Friendly. Curious. He looked at us squarely and said “hey” in his doggy language sort of way. He stood four-square on his sturdy trunk legs, his chin up and forward, his eyes sparkling.
What Annie Really Needs
September 26, 2006
For years we’ve walked past her house. She was tall and elegant. Snow-white hair peeked out from beneath a yellow straw hat and wisped gently down her back. She was always sweeping or raking the immaculate lawn and drive in front of her house. Slowly, deliberately, always in solitude.
Laughter In The Labyrinth
October 22, 2008
Sophie heard it first: lilting laughter floating on the soft morning air. She raised her head expectantly. Her ears were pricked on top of her glossy red head. Sophie and Teddy – my faithful canine walking companions – and I were in one of our favorite spaces for our daily routine: the paths that weave and bob and crisscross through Hopelands Gardens.
Teddy Gets Busted
January 7, 2009
Teddy, my soft-spoken, timid, rule-following, sweetheart of a mixed-breed German shepherd dog, best pal to Sophie (my other canine companion), the dog who wouldn’t hurt another living creature and brings solace to the sick and tired in life, the dog who rates significantly higher on the personality scale than the one measuring pure mental abilities, that quiet, loving guy ... has been caught DUI. Well, more specifically, he was WUI (walking under the influence). Stoned. High. Whatever you want to call it, Teddy was seeing rainbows off the ends of his toes. He even had the munchies.
How I Spent My Second Coin
January 21, 2009
“When you have only two coins left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a rose with the other.” The old proverb repeated through my mind as I walked slowly around the sculpture for sale. Somehow, my brain kept replacing the word “rose” with the broader category of “beauty.” My rationalization was already convinced: “...buy a loaf of bread with one, and a thing of beauty with the other.” Like a piece of art, perhaps.
February 4, 2009
Laura gently tilted the beam of light until it was aimed just right. She carefully directed it through the small “f” shaped opening in the wood on the face of the violin. The light reflected off of the inside back of the instrument. There it was -- the paper label she had been looking for.
February 18, 2009
I wasn’t there when the piano was moved from its longtime place of honor against the south wall of the living room. Only the deep impressions on the old blue sculptured carpeting attested to the years it had stood there. I wondered if the piano bench had still contained the sheet music that spoke of her tastes – from classical to Christmas favorites.
The Day Robbie Fell
March 11, 2009
Robbie knew she was falling. It was too late to catch herself. Her footing was still unsteady from her recent knee surgery, and the steps were ancient and awkward. She went down fast and hard.
Aiken In Summer
May 20, 2009
There’s something about Aiken in summer. Perhaps it’s because that’s when we get it back all to ourselves.
The Duck with White Feathers
February 13, 2011
She’s still there -- the
duck with white feathers that graces the Carolina Bay near my house and haunts
my imagination. She’s still there,
floating with pristine loneliness across the murky surface of the water. Each season, I hold my breath a bit
until I spot her -- surviving, searching, alive, alone -- still there.