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  • Writer's pictureDonna Brown

Notes, moths kissing and bucket lists

As a list maker and note taker, I have always had a pile of scraps on my kitchen counter with jotted scribbles. For years when I opened my purse they tumble out and scattered on the grocery store floor or down the aisle at church. I’d scoop them up as gently as if I were saving baby birds or picking nuggets of gold from a stream. Every idea I had conceived or plan I had labored over needed to be at hand.

A few years ago, I began to use the notes app on my phone. This was great to organize thoughts in one place. Not that I hadn’t tried that before. I have spent a fortune on accordion files, manilla envelops and decorative shoe boxes. I even carried around a journal until it seemed too cumbersome for spontaneity. The app was a great relief because I was able to secure my thoughts.

Now you might wonder why I desperately need notes. Well, to remind me to nag my sons, to remember gifts for my grandchildren, ideas for this column, themes for doll articles I research and groceries I need to pick up. A normal list may look like this: Remind son to use the gift card from Christmas, gigantic water guns, beauty parlor for Penny Brite doll, class trips to the Hammonton Lake and coffee filters. It all made sense to me until I got really old.

I now open the app or read the notes on my counter from when my phone is dead, and they make absolutely no sense to me. This is what I found today when looking for ideas for this column: Capella, pick up debris, hot flashes, teeter totter, typing in N.J., canning lids, moths kissing the porch light. As hard as I tried, I could only remember what the last one meant. The others all drew a blank.

So, here are my thoughts on, “moths kissing the porch light.” We have a screen porch on our 130-year-old house. There is some gingerbread that my husband created 40 years ago and two wooden rockers perfect for lazy twilight evenings as we watch the moon come up and the lightning bugs dance under the row of white pines.

The porch had a wooden screen door that needed to be replaced so we ordered it in early May and threw out the old one in anticipation. Little did we know the door would be back ordered until the end of August, but there is always a silver lining. Every night as entertainment, I check out the moths and other flying creatures that circle the front light. Though I wish the door would arrive, our dilemma is a boon to local frogs and toads. Several nights I caught a southern gray treefrog with sticky toes up under the light having a late dinner and below him on the cement floor was the largest toad I have ever seen catching the bugs the frog dropped.

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One list I never have trouble remembering is the list of things I want to learn before I die. Two of the things that I have wanted to learn have to do with wool. Before I retired, I had dreamt about getting a few sheep. I had researched wool and the process of sheering the sheep, dying the wool and spinning it into yarn. It would be the perfect hobby, then I retired, and my husband put a kibosh on my sheep. I told him they’d mow the grass, but he insisted he loved using his John Deere and emphatically did not want any sheep. So, I got three goldfish instead, but that is a tale for another day.

My desire to dye and spin wool never waned and finally last week my cousin, Dorrine Esposito, and I traveled to Frenchtown, N.J. to take classes. Frenchtown is situated by the Delaware River and is filled with quaint shops and restaurants with delicious fare.

The classes were given at the Spinnery, a unique yarn shop which would delight anyone who crochets or knits. The owner, Betty Oldenburg, was charming as she gave us the history of working with wool and dying from nature. Then we were like witches over cauldrons as we steeped marigolds and onion skins to get yarn with various hues of yellows and browns. The next day we spun wool into yarn using drop spindles the likes of which have been used for thousands of years throughout the world. In the fall we plan to return for a class on weaving and perhaps advanced spinning.

I realize I won’t live long enough to learn all the things I want to learn, which reminds me of a quote from Mahatma Gandhi, “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”

Donna Brown is a former Hammonton Middle School librarian and a columnist for The Gazette. To reach Donna Brown, send an email to


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