I’ll start with Roz Chast’s cover art for the May 15th New Yorker, “Motherboard”, a droll celebration of Mothers Day in embroidery. With notes on uses of mother. From there to a sepia-toned mother and baby photo (more baby than mother) from 1965: mother Ann Daingerfield Zwicky, baby Elizabeth Daingerfield Zwicky. On the occasion of Ann’s birthday, today, May 9th; Ann would have been 80 today (but she died at 57). And then something celebratory: a lot of gorgeous foxgloves, a plant that Ann much liked; locally, they’re at their peak around the time of Ann’s birthday (and Mothers Day, which she detested; and Derby Day, which she loved).

On with the Chast:


From the magazine’s cover story:

“Happy people don’t do this,” Roz Chast says, about her interest in embroidery. Her tapestry of a motherboard serves as the cover of this week’s Innovators Issue—just in time for Mother’s Day. “I like taking on complicated, detailed projects, especially if I’m not a hundred-per-cent sure how they’re going to turn out. With this embroidery on muslin, there was always a possibility that the result would be horrible and hundreds of hours would go down the drain,” she said, laughing.

Also on the site: other pieces of Chast embroidery. An playful alphabet, a display of horses going NEIGH, one of Chast’s pet parrots depicted as a complacent homebody, the (decidedly messy) back of the “Motherboard” embroidery, and this assemblage of Chast embroiderbots:


about which she says: “There’s something endearing about robots. They try so hard to be human. Sad!”

On motherboard, from NOAD2:

noun motherboard: Computing a printed circuit board containing the principal components of a computer or other device, with connectors into which other circuit boards can be slotted.

The mother of motherboard is related to senses 1e and 1f of mother in the NOAD2 entry:

noun mother: [1e] [as modifier] denoting an institution or organization from which more recently founded institutions of the same type derive: the mother church. [1f] informal an extreme example or very large specimen of something: I got stuck in the mother of all traffic jams. 2 North American vulgar slang short for motherfucker.

One mother over them all, or something like that. In a similar vein, there’s the mother recipe. From my 4/1/16 posting “Italian wedding soup”:

[Cooking Without Recipes] provides you with “mother recipes” and “master techniques” (lacking in detailed measurements and with what amount to variables in them, which can be filled in any of a number of ways); a mother recipe or master technique then defines what I’ve called a “food family” — like Italian wedding soup — a loose category of food, not actually a specific dish.

Ann, Mothers Day (and Derby Day). From my 5/9/11 posting “Remembering Ann”:

Ann just detested Mother’s Day… She hated the whole idea of the holiday, and especially the fact that it regularly intruded on her birthday. On the other hand, both days would always come close to Derby Day (Ann was born on Derby Day)

and she was born into a thoroughbred-horseracing family.

This year, Derby Day was last Saturday, and Mothers Day is this coming Sunday.

The combination of Mothers Day and Ann’s birthday leads us directly to Ann as a mother. In my 1/5/12 posting “Mother and child” there are three photos of Ann with baby Elizabeth. To which I now add this sepia-toned portrait of Elizabeth attended by her mother:


Foxgloves (and red valerian). We were a garden-oriented household. Jacques and I did most of the garden work, but Ann had her decided favorites, many of them — foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) and red valerian (Centranthus ruber) among them. These I mention because here in northern California they are both at the height of their bloom at this time of the year, right around Ann’s birthday And on Sunday, Kim Darnell and I went for an afternoon visit to the Gamble Garden in Palo Alto, where these two flowers were on wonderful display (and Kim took pictures).

Earlier on this blog:

on 4/28/13,  “digitalis / foxglove”, mostly about the name foxglove, but with one arresting photo of a spread of tall spires of foxgloves, in many colors

on 8/22/15, “Seedy invasives”, with a nice photo of red valerian in #8, and its white variant in #9

A spread of foxgloves at Gamble Garden:


Three color variants close up:




Digitalis flowers are notably vaginal, and they have markings on their lips that help guide pollinators into the tube.

(The plants are biennial. The leaves of the plant in the second year’s growth are the source of several substances that are used as cardiac drugs — but are poisonous in high concentrations.)

On to the valerians, seen here at Gamble Garden:


The flowers range in color from light pink to deep red, as in this photo from the net:


The plant is a perennial, and it also freely self-seeds; it’s a “seedy invasive”. In Columbus, we mostly grew the white variant. (Yes, a white variant of Centranthus ruber: C. ruber Albus, vs. the red C. ruber Coccineus.)

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: