Woebegone, Wet, and Wah-lliterative

Late February is such a tricky time in the garden. Our climate is mild enough so that I can (in theory) get out there and garden, get started with all the things that I have been chomping at the bit to do over the long winter months. And then, it starts pouring. I know this is a classic spring garden rant, and my mama didn't raise no whiner, so I'll try not to disgrace her with too much blubbing. But it's just so wet, and the soil is so cold and I can't tell from one day to the next what will happen. Wah Wah Wah!

Bentwood Gate Saga Part I

One of my projects, besides the hillside, is a bentwood gate, made from elder. It is precisely half done. It is right now under the eaves, with all the pieces measured and cut, standing dutifully by like wooden soldiers encamped behind my house, awaiting orders. And I am awaiting a dry day or two so I can finish it. It has been bucketing for the past week! I hope the wood is all right. The book I have been reading as a reference for this project 'Making Bentwood Trellises' by the knowledgable Jim Long, warns that the wood can lose it's flexibility in just 24 hours. I cut these branches over a week ago, and am not sure where to find more elder branches that are as straight and as thick. I am fretting over it like a hen over her chicks, and I am wishing I picked a different hobby, like Gussie Finknottle's: newts. So harmless, and they love the wet weather. I could take my newt sailing on rhododendron leaves, or on elder branches lashed together, down the rainwater stream in the gutter across the street. I would name him Huck, and we could have adventures.


Church Library and Why I Have Mixed Feelings about Michael Phillips

I was struck again at church today by how odd it is that no one seems to know of the library's existence. I was drawn to its forgotten shelves instantly, before we were even officially going to Vintage. I loved it's pokiness, the clunky wood shelves, tartan couches & picture of John Knox on the wall-it really reminded us both of St. Andrew's kirk in West Kilbride, Scotland. Some of the books are hopelessly outdated and the whole room had an air of disuse. Whatever it is that makes me like jumble sales and coffee mornings at Anglican churches drew me in-the expectation of crocheted doilies and old church ladies writing labels with shaky handwriting. Maybe it is being a child of the Jesus People movement. My childhood church was all jeans and folding chairs, and guitars around a campfire. Nice, but lacking in little old church ladies. As we started to regularly show up for church I kept coming back to the library, just checking in, like visiting an old relative at a nursing home (actually, like visiting my Scottish great-gran at the Eastern Star nursing home in Los Gatos.) I wandered over to the fiction section and discovered that this library had an awful lot of my favourite writers, namely Lewis and MacDonald. The amazing thing was that they had 'Til We Have Faces', which is Lewis' least accesible book for the evangelical world that claims him as their prophet. That and his space trilogy. George MacDonald's 'Curdie' books, and his novels. Of course, these novels are the ones that have been shanghai-ed by Michael Phillips, not only translated from the Scots dialect (for which I begrudgingly thank him) but also edited, renamed and packaged to look like a flipping historical Christian romance novel! Grrrr! I feel like I should be carrying them in a paper bag. The editing and renaming is so hard to forgive. And most if not all of these books were out of print when Michael got his romancey mitts on them, so this is the only choice I have if I want to read them at all. I did find an old original copy of Robert Falconer at an Oxfam in Glasgow, in the cool Hillhead district. This is now renamed The Musician's Quest, or something similarly insipid. My favourite of his Victorian novels, Sir Gibbie, is now called The Baronet's Song, which is just so sacharine and irritating. Granted, I like his fantasy novels and fairy stories best of all, but his novels should have been treated with a little more respect. I will say that it does make me prove my love for MacDonald's writings, if I'll be caught in public with one of his (edited & renamed) novels like The Curate's Awakening. Geesh! Mr. Phillips, himself a historical romance writer, must think of this tarting-up of MacDonald's books an improvement. I think he lives in Eureka. I want to meet him and parley.



'O World, I cannot hold thee close enough! Thy winds, thy wide grey skies! Thy mists that roll and rise! ......' Well, I missed Edna St. Vincent Millay's birthday, it was on the 22nd. I forget how much her poetry resounds with me, especially her nature writing. I have a lovely tattered copy of her sonnets that I bought for $1 from the fabulous Bell's Books in Palo Alto, and a hard-copy of her 'Poems Selected for Young People' that I got from the Elevens for Christmas a number of years ago. Like many favorite things, Edna was introduced to me by the Elevens and Sushi...... I think I spent too many years with my nose buried in the Beat poets, & didn't learn until much later in life the poems of Millay & many others like T.S. Eliot and all my 17 century Christian mystics. I love learning new poets to devour.... In honour of her birthday I here record one of my favorites:
I had forgotten how the frog must sound
After a year of silence, else I think
I should not so have ventured forth alone
At dusk upon this unfrequented road.

I am waylaid by Beauty. Who will walk
Between me and the crying of the frogs?
Oh, savage Beauty, suffer me to pass,
That am a timid woman, on her way
From one house to another!

p.s. Thanks Mum for reminding me about Edna's birthday-you're always keeping me nice.
I can hardly remember my own family's birthdays, let alone literary heroes'......


U2charist, de-mystified

Well, I'm back with a report on the U2charist, for all you couch-communicants out there. (And thank you Camille & Angel for showing up and singing along....) I showed up at 6:50 for the 7:00pm service & was surprised to find the front doors of the church locked. Now, call me a product of the seeker-friendly church generation, but having the doors unlocked 10 minutes before the service begins seems the very first rule in Church Service 101. After some time on the cold front steps, we had a flurry of older people all trying to get someone there with a key, and when this person materialized and we stood in the dark narthex, the patting- the- walls- and- looking-for-a-light-switch began. It was hopeless! I couldn't tell if it was a part of extreme disorganization, or extremely low-expectations. There was a fairly rollicking pancake supper happening next door in the church hall (think: Shrove Tuesday a.k.a. Mardi Gras, use up your ingredients to get ready for Lent, if I have the story straight.) So, maybe the church just expected people to come over from the hall when the supper was finished. However, if they were going to go through all the trouble to print up flyers and invite the general public, they could at least expect that maybe ONE person from the outside would show up, and then have the doors open and lights on for her when she came. Really, I'm not ranting, I thought it was all very endearing, and I must admit that I liked the sort of absent-minded clergy aura that the priest was giving off much better than most of the mega-church pastors I have seen. And the church itself is lovely, with it's Elvish gas lamps, very light, lilting, & decorous up the aisles, and the narrow stained glass windows and vaulted ceiling. And the people were very nice.
I Will Sing, Sing A New Song

Low lights, video screen showing the words of various U2 songs, acompanied by words and text that highlighted statistics and verses that dealt with global poverty and other issues. There was a band that played along with the U2 recordings. They were not bad. It was a little odd to be rocking out in that context, although I am much used to the drums-as-part-of-worship idea. Maybe it was the incongruity of the accompanying liturgy and 'bells and smells' of a high church setting. I don't know. Anyway, I discovered something during this experience, quite apart from the conviction that I am a materialistic git and hopelessly unused to thanking God for all my good gifts (eucharisti: good gift).
I Believe in the Kingdom Come
When all the colors will bleed into one
The soundtrack to my high school years was largely peppered with U2. I was an avowed REM freak-o, so I wasn't into U2 as much as some, but I did stand in line for the opening of Rattle and Hum, I loved Joshua Tree, and even would play the second side to fall asleep most nights. It is an intensely familiar album, which I didn't realize it until we were singing I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For, and it hit me. All through high school, I was pretty much a closet Christian. Every now and again, I would stick my head outside the closet door, but generally, I kept a spiritually low profile. I was much afraid of the general consensus of my anarchist, black-wearing, Smiths/Pogues/Jane's Addiction/Fugazi-listening friends . Their approval was critical to my survival on Teen Planet. Thank God I got away from all that after high school, and my need for approval is a distant memory..... (ha!). Anyway, I kept my Christianity to Sundays. I believed it all, and really wished I could be more open about my faith to my friends, but I was a chicken. So there I was, walking around Harbor High, feeling alone deep down where it matters, and all along, there was this band that was Christian, and I had no idea. I really didn't have a clue that U2's lyrics spoke of Christ & of belief in Him. I had no Christian peers to clue me in. And more importantly, I wasn't looking for God; my eyes weren't open to finding Him in the world around me. I think I believed that He wouldn't want to be in my culture during the week, and that if He liked music at all, it was probably Amy Grant. (No, really, I actually thought stuff like that, this isn't a cheap shot at ole Amy. Easy target.) I try now to find God all over the place, because I figure that He got His hands dirty coming down here to be human, and so He probably doesn't have a lot of qualms about what sort of things He uses to get my attention. The world feels bigger now, and more free, and it all reminds me of something my Irish friend Ivan told me as we were walking along Fall Creek. "Christianity," he said, "Is not about what you can't do, it's about what you can do." Amen, brother.

Gloria in te domine

Gloria exultate

Gloria gloria
O Lord, loosen my lips


Pride (In the Name of Love)

This Tuesday is Shrove Tuesday, and is being celebrated at a local church by an interesting event.........the U2charist. It is a service involving the Eucharist (communion) and the music of U2, and all of the offering for the evening is given to the UN's Millenium Development Goals, which focuses on global poverty, HIV/AIDS prevention & treatment, and women's health issues. It sounds pretty great, and I hope to be there. For all you Santa Cruzans......this Tuesday, Feb. 20th @ Calvary Episcopal (red church downtown, next to the Nick), 7:00pm.

"Low-Church" or How I Survived a Happy-Clappy Sunday School
I took a quick trip around the Googlesphere, and this U2charist thing seems to be all the rage in Episcopalian circles. I am not an Episcopalian. Though I grew up going to church, I don't think I even heard the word 'Episcopalian' until I was an adult. We were very low church. I am drawn to the beauty often found in the music, liturgy of these churches. My earliest church memories are at Beulah Park, a run down old church camp in the Santa Cruz Mountains. I think I was 5. It was always very cold, and our church met there for cheap. My Sunday school class met in one of the outbuildings and I distinctly remember singing the Father Abraham song really loud, but with some confusion. (Father Abraham had many sons. Many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you! So let's all praise the Lord! Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot, turn around, sit down !) Who is this Father Abraham guy? Is he my father? If so, why do we only talk about God and Jesus? Is this church thing really about Father Abraham? I think around this time I heard the song 'Rock-a my soul in the bosom of Abraham' and that really creeped me out. Am I in some sort of Father Abraham cult? (I don't know how I even knew about cults, at age 5, but there you go. Growing up in Santa Cruz in the late 70's.) And the 'You can't get to heaven on roller skates' song I think I took literally for a little while, too. How did we survive the theology of our Sunday School songs? 'Jesus wants me for a Sunbeam'? Or the 'I'm in-right out-right up-right down-right happy all the time' song, now there's some classic denial for you. I think the songs we teach our kids could stand some updating, like the end of 'Jesus Loves the Little Children'"....all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight." I cringe a little bit with that one. I'm so glad Jesus is real and all the nonsense sounding songs actually pointed to something true. Someone true. He was worth the slog through all the confusion, insipidity and happy-clappy-ness that often characterized my early church life. I didn't know He was with me then, sitting next to me, and helping me not to feel so alone, so confused, so self-conscious. I hope G. can feel Him with her, too.

photo by my personal friend, Tim Swanson, taken off the Ayrshire Coast.


Gardener's World

Okay, it finally happened. Last night's dream was my garden on BBC's Gardener's World. Monty Don was climbing all over our hillside, listening gravely while I told him about our oak, and it's dry shade issues (see previous post: Quirky Quercus). Chris Beardshaw tried to fix my coldframe's broken window, and the cameras and lights trampled my beds and got tangled up in my drip hoses. Is this symbolic of self-importance? Nothing like a blog to give you an inflated feeling of significance. Fame is so fleeting, though. I bet Monty won't return my calls.


Batter My Heart

I want to tell you about the ants that have underground fungal farms, mulched with chewed up leaves, and the radio waves from the 40's that are still bouncing around the solar system. John Donne's 'Batter my heart, three-personed God' and Sufjan Steven's 'Tranfiguration' keep swirling around in my head. The magnolias are starting to bloom, and yesterday our first primrose raised its cyclops eye to the heavens. The race is on to find the bloom of the fetid adder's tongue (Scoliopus bigelovii), they are hard to catch. I started running (not away, but as a hobby.) I pruned an august and noble pear tree, and dug out suckers from beneath 2 apple trees in John Steinbeck's hometown. These are all the little things in my head now, these and a hundred others that I don't quite know how to write down. New babies, beds, books, haircuts, jobs, friends, loves and losses, and dinner parties.
I want to lay them all carefully out here, on display for you like some sort of grade school science fair or a roadside rock & gem show. Perhaps not as crowd-pleasing as the baking soda volcano (is that how it erupts? Someone fill me in, please...). But here I am, holding these things up to the light, watching the colored facets, & enjoying the weight in my hand.

Sonnet XIV
Batter my heart, three-person'd God; for, you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn and make me new.
I, like a usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end,
Reason your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captiv'd, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd to your enemy:
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I
Except you enthral me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Read Your Way Through the Garden: Choice Tomes From Garden Literature

  • A Book of Salvias by Betsy Clebsch
  • Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
  • Making Bentwood Trellises by Jim Long
  • RHS Encyclopedia of Plants & Flowers
  • Rose Primer: An Organic Approach to Rose Selection & Care by Orin Martin
  • Start With the Soil by Grace Gershuny
  • Sunset Western Garden Book
  • Sunset Western Landscaping Book
  • The Book of Garden Secrets by Patent & Bilderback
  • The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Botany
  • the Gardener's Table: A Guide to Natural Vegetable Growing and Cooking by Richard Merrill & Joe Ortiz
  • The Gardener's Year by Karel Capek
  • The Hutchinson Dictionary of Plant Names: Common & Botanical
  • We Made A Garden by Margaret Fish

lotsa latin: rosa's botanical & etymological ruminations

  • vespertinus: flowers in the evening
  • vernalis:spring
  • veni vidi nates calcalvi: we came, we saw, we kicked butt. This was printed on a T shirt I bought at Abbot's Thrift many years ago. It encircled the NEA symbol. I wish I knew why.
  • superciliaris: shaped like an eyebrow ex: sturnella superciliaris, the White-browed Blackbird
  • rosa-sinensis: species of Hibiscus: Hibiscus rosa-sinensis. Lit. Rosa of China, so named by British plant hunters.
  • placentiformis: shaped like a cake ex: discocactus placentiformis
  • nudiflorus: flowers before leaves show ex: flowering quince, magnolia
  • nivalis: growing in or near snow ex: galanthus nivalis (common snowdrop)
  • muralis: growing on walls
  • mirabilis: marvellous, wonderful
  • formosa: beautiful ex: dicentra formosa, a.k.a.western bleeding heart/dutchman's breeches/lady in a bath
  • carpe vitam: get a life
  • Carolus Linnaeus: Latinized name of Carl von Linne (1707-1778), Swedish naturalist considered the father of plant taxonomy. Whatta guy.