Weird photo. If you can’t quite make it out, you’re looking at bugs on prickly pear cactus, in a bucket. The white stuff is the cottony shroud that the bugs–rice-size scale insects called cochineal–produce to hide their babies from predators. Bill, who had gone out armed with his mattock to make war on the invasive prickly pear, brought it to me the other day, from one of our Meadow Knoll fields. The bugs you’re looking at were once more precious than gold, for they were used by Mayans and Aztecs to produce a vibrant crimson dye that was–quite literally–to die for.
You can read the fabled (but true) history of that valuable bug-produced pigment in the Harvard Museums of Science and Culture. There are some quite remarkable photos on that site. Here’s another site, with photos taken on a visit to a modern cochineal farm. If you’re interested in dyeing with cochineal, you can now buy the dried bugs on the internet. (Isn’t technology amazing?)
Looking at bugs isn’t my only pleasure these days, of course. Evenings, I listen to books while I work on my current cross stitch project, from Charles Wysocki’s painting “Quilts for Sale.” You can see what this will look like when it’s finished here.
The publishing schedule for the current novel is now complete. Someone Always Nearby, my biographical novel about the friendship of Georgia O’Keeffe and Maria Chabot, will be published in November, 2023. Coming at the same time, in a separate publication, a Reader’s Companion to the novel. I decided to do this because the novel presents an unfamiliar and perhaps controversial view of O’Keeffe and I want readers to see the many sources from which I drew the story. The novel is finished and I’m working on the Companion now. I’ll be doing a series of blog posts on the subject next spring.
And for those who are waiting for another China Bayles mystery: Forget Me Never is in the works, but shelved for a time while I wrap up the final work on Someone. No publishing date for Forget just yet–maybe late 2023.
Llano County book-banning update. If you’ve been reading this blog over the past year, you may remember my post about the unfortunate book-banning efforts in neighboring Llano County (“Libraries and Politics: A Dangerous Mix”). Leila Green Little is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit that’s been filed. She was recently interviewed by NPR; the interview does a good job of setting out the facts. Kudos to Leila and her brave neighbors for stepping out to protect our libraries and the fundamental right to read–and write–that is guaranteed by the First Amendment of the Constitution. The next hearing in this important case comes at the end of the month. Stay tuned.
Reading note: Ray Bradbury once said, there’s more than one way to burn a book, and the world is full of people running around with matches.–Leila Green Little, in “A group of angry library patrons in Texas has gone to court over book removals,” All Things Considered, National Public Radio, Oct. 3, 2022.
A reminder: I welcome and appreciate all your notes. Uncivil and untruthful comments will be deleted. There’s enough of that on Twitter.