Non-Book Meme

Item 2: Seven is Green, Four is Brown:
I choose my synesthesia
I am blessed/cursed with a case of synesthesia. Apparently my particular strain is known as 'grapheme-color' synesthesia; letters and numbers have colors attached to them. This is partially how I came to be good at spelling. I picture the words in my head as I spell them and they are all different colors. I can tell what letters belong in words and what don't. (There's no "i" in 'presume' because 'presume' is a purple/orange word, and "i" is a dark blue letter.) Even in writing, sentences take on a rainbow quality, every word is a certain hue: 'certain hue' as a phrase is bright yellow (from the "cer" in 'certain') fading into a crisp grey (from the "hu" in 'hue'.) I think I am not alone in this, apparently, this is the most common form of synesthesia. And it's still weird to me that other people have other ideas about the colors of different letters/numbers. In high school, my friend Zach was so convinced that 7 was red, which is just so wrong, it's hard to write it down here. (Everyone knows 7 is green, Zach!) Sample line of arguing: "Isn't it obvious! Seven is green! Seven is a lucky number, four leaf clovers are also lucky, and green, therefore, seven is green too! Duh!"
Also there is something that is harder to describe: different things have personality, and I've always made up little stories about these things. I once learned a waltz for the ukulele because a certain chord progression seemed like 2 chords were fighting over another one, and I made up a story about how they fought, and who won in the end.
Grapheme-color synesthesia has been deeply influential & has colored my world (ha ha) to no end. Everything around me has felt infused with meaning, and story. Cosy 4 and B, playful 5 and J. The darker side to all this is the fact that I always felt like a super crazy person, and didn't want to tell anyone about this, not until I was a teenager, and it was cool.

Non-book Meme

I have been tagged by Camille with a meme:
I now propose a new tag: Things which one has read and has been influenced by which are not confined to those paper-bound vessels of the printed word we refer to as books. Let's call these Non-Books. Or maybe Impossible Books. Or Limen Books? It's up to you. List five.
Item one:
The furrows in a field seen from a moving car.

This image has haunted me, liminally, from an early age. The feeling of being in the backseat, on an interminable car trip, and I have finished reading all my books (usually within the first hour of the journey). I am lulled by the rhythm of the car's jostle and hum, and I look out the window at the fields blurring past; the long brown and green lines whipping past us. If I squint and look sideways, the furrows slow down and seem to lope along beside me as we drive. It was my little secret game, me and the furrows. Squint.....now, wide eyes. Squuuiiiinntt. Wide eyes...... There are certain fields just over the county line in Monterey County, growing cole crops like broccoli, brussel sprouts or sometimes artichokes where I still play this game. There is something so iconic about this view, living on the central coast of California. It's so 'East of Eden' out here. There is also an over-arching feeling of solitude tinged with boredom and a faint melancholy that I have trouble defining.
Non-sequitor: The ancient Scots had a system of furrowing their fields that was called a 'runrig'. They were more like permanent bumps and hollows in the landscape and can still be seen in many old fields. Incidentally, Runrig is also the name of an 80's anthem-rock Scottish band. Sort of Big Country meets Queen at a Glasgow Rangers match.


I Am Surrounded

Maybe it's just because I've picked up Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek again, but everytime I go into the garden I get this feeling that I am not alone. Last night, puttering around in my coldframe brought me nose to nose with a tiny frog, hiding under a flat of zinnia seedlings. Of course, this has been the goal all along, as an organic gardener, to create a space that attracts insects that can predate the pests; I guess we've succeeded- it feels like a raucous party out there. Or a war zone. Hard to tell with the bugs right now-especially the oak moth larvae, that have been dropping out of the skies for a week now.

The air is festooned with their silken strands, and it's hard to tell if they resemble party decorations, or paratroopers storming the front lines. Looking out our front window at their long lines of silk, gliding sleepily throught the air, I drowse and wait for summer.

Everywhere I look, there is somebody crawling, flying, burrowing or buzzing around outside. We live in the woods, so a day spent watching gray squirrels traverse the power lines and oak limbs is not uncommon. But even so, a whole host of new creatures have moved in. The damselflies have returned, from wherever it is that they overwinter, and now they can be found sunning themselves on the railings and on the baby gate at the front stairs. Deep incandescent blue and gunmetal gray. In the dog days of August I anticipate the enormous yellow & black striped dragonfly that guards our front steps like a sentinel.

The stiff stalks of the sweet william are covered with the white gurglings of the spit bug, which I will soon wash off with a spray of water. Spit bugs really are amazing. Apparently there are over 3000 species; and they go through 5 different stages, called "instars" during their lifetime. Ours are in their early nymph instars: soft green bodies, brown eye on either side of it's head, and a little anus going in and out, like a bellows. With this they work feverishly, pumping out secretions that they whip into a frothy mass of bubbles. In this they hide from predators, regulate their body temperature and keep from drying out. They seem like little introverts. I have to remember that they are 'pests': sucking insects. Like aphids, they attach to a plant and suck it's juices. They are also known to disfigure leaves, which is happening to my verbascum, so I guess the spit bugs have to go- although I think they are rather cute. I think if I just spray them with the hose, they will lose their cover and the other predatory insects in the garden will finish them off.........
I am totally smitten with our mulch right now, it looks like chocolate shavings covering the earth. I can almost hear the earthworms tunneling to the cool surface, and my nemophila seeds are sure to germinate beneath such lovely bits of wood.


Things are looking up.


Wild Child a.k.a. The Need for Space

G has gone to grandma's this afternoon. I sit in an empty house, tea at hand, and type. Typety-type. It is so quiet. And I can finish sentences. Like this one. And this one. It is so quiet. I start a task, I finish a task. Amazing. How did I live for 30 years before and not appreciate the beauty of solitude? Easy! I wasn't a parent. Living with a two year old is not for the faint of heart. I need space every now and again to remember who I am, that I am more than mother, that I can do things without having to think about someone else. ("Okay. G is asleep. Now, I can mop, but not vacuum, because that will wake G up. I can read outside, but not garden, because the tools are right outside her window, and it will wake G up.") B and I spend so much time creeping around our house, trying not to wake up the child. G is great, really she is amazing, but when she's up, she's UP- like a crazed party animal. You know, the one at the party who just doesn't know when to take it down, who ignores all the hostess's cues to go home. If anyone else but a two-year old were acting like G, they would either be a social misfit, or the hero of every frat party. (Same thing?) Anyway, I love my wild child (she is actually very well-behaved), and look forward to my introverted afternoon. I think I will tackle my unfinished bentwood gate. Right after I vacuum, run the coffee grinder, the blender, the weed-whacker & bang pots and pans together..........


From Rosa's Poetry Archives: Volume I

Traitor Moon

I will have words with you tonight O Moon!
For I saw you in the sky,
As I stood by here on earth;
Not knowing what to say
Knowing only that finally I was
Alone with him and
You were full.

I will have words with you tonight, O Moon!
You watched, didn't you,
As he turned away-
With your solemn pale face!
Your moonbeams failed to enchant
O Traitor Moon!

How many poets have crooned to you,
Drunk on your lunar pull?
How many poems conceived under your glow?
How long have you been my conspirator,
Faithless friend!

How many nights have your silver beams
Stolen into my room
And heard my whispered prayers:
"God bless Mom, God bless Dad-
And when will he be mine?"
Again and again I let you in,
Now I bar the door and window
Against you and your slippery silvery promises
Of Love and Poetry and Passion

What good are you now, pale orb?
Once inspiring, now mocking-
And don't say to me "Tides or "Light"
Would that we were at the water's edge last night
And the tide carried him off!
And as for your light, it did little good
Except to illuminate his path as he left me.

I will have words with you tonight O Moon,
And you shall shine no more at my window
And hear no more night prayers
Take back your silver beams from across my pillow
And no longer crown me with your pale light
As I sleep


The Sea and Me

I was down at Castle Beach watching the sunset and roasting things on wires. (Take my advice and avoid toasting PEEPS in lieu of marshmallows...It was just wrong.) Happy Birthday, Mr. Eleven.
kama'aina: (Hawaiian, 'lover of the land')
I wandered over to the water to say hello. I saw a sea lion frolicking in the surf, and then fell to slightly melancholy musings about how different I am from the sea lion, how slightly afraid I've always been of the ocean. It could very easily kill me. Images of tsunami-style waves, impossibly huge, have always figured into my nightmares, even from very young. I don't belong in it, I belong on the land, you know, the place with all the oxygen. I've always lived by water, at least, I've blocked out the brief intervals when I've lived inland. I love to sit by it, drive by it, examine the marine life at it's edge. I've even lived on land masses completely surrounded by it, a few different times. (We call these islands.) But I've never really relished swimming in it, or even sailing for long amounts of time on it. I'm just a land-lubber. I admire our friends who live on their boat and plan to sail around the globe soon. They have made friends with the sea in a way in which I feel unable.
So there I was with the sea lion, feeling miles away from it, even though it was only a few yards. We were on opposite sides of this line which was the tide mark. I tried to reason with myself that the sea lion enjoyed the sea because it is in his nature, and that his life sounded lonely and un-cosy to me because his nature and mine were different. I stood there and tried hard to make peace with the sea. In the end, I thanked God for it, because of it's power and wildness, it reminded me that He is the One who makes the waves toss and roar. ("He's not a tame lion, but he's good."-The Last Battle, C.S. Lewis)
the ocean says hello
I turned around and absent-mindedly began to walk back towards the bonfire. I walked about a dozen yards and then something caught my eye. It looked like a little white dog was chasing my heels. I turned and...there was the water. It had come pretty far inland, much farther than any of the sets I had seen, and it was only right where I was. It looked like a long tongue, or a finger, from the ocean that had come up behind me. It was very gentle, and the foam was shining & almost winking at me in the sun's last light. I just stood there for a moment, and said inside, "God? Does this mean anything?" I immediately recalled the Psalmist's words: "The seas have lifted, they have lifted up their voice, O Lord."
Seamill, Scotland
photo credit: Avril Rennie


George MacDonald

"The truth of the flower is, not the facts about it, be they correct as ideal science itself, but the shining, glowing, gladdening, patient thing throned on its stalk-the compeller of smile and tear....The idea of God is the flower. Its botany is but the ways and means-of canvas and colour and brush in relation to the picture in the painter's brain." George MacDonald

"His likeness to Christ is the truth of a man, even as the perfect meaning of a flower is the truth of a flower.... As Christ is the blossom of humanity, so the blossom of every man is the Christ perfected in him." George MacDonald

Mystic equals: ?
George MacDonald (1824-1905) lived in Huntley, Aberdeenshire, Scotland (home of my fathers). He was a writer, poet, Christian preacher & usually termed a mystic, although I'm not sure what this term really means. Usually, it seems to pop up whenever people don't understand what someone is saying, but are sure that it makes sense on some deeper, more spiritual level. A lot of people didn't understand what George was saying at the time, and often, when they did, he lost his job. This was when he was a preacher in Calvinist Scotland and England, and thought that a lot of Calvinism was 'just not on' as the Brits say. In fact, my favorite legend of MacDonald is that when he was first explained the Calvinist doctrine of predestination, he burst into tears (even though assured that he was of the elect.) He also believed lots of controversial things like that if you were in the clergy, you should be a Christian.........
George MacDonald had a farm
I confess, I have made the pilgrimage, along with Izzy & B to Huntley, and the farm where MacDonald grew up. I will boast that we sat in his kitchen and drank tea and walked around his garden. The people who lived in his farmhouse were kind to us besotted Americans and let us moon about. They even showed us a letter that MacDonald had written to his sister. I got the same sort of excitement mixed with melancholy that I felt when B & I walked around the Kilns on our honeymoon. We were looking for Lewis' Narnia, but it existed only in his head. In Huntley, along the Strathbogie river, we looked for the fairies from Carasoyn or Gibbie Galbraith from Sir Gibbie, but they weren't to be found. What we loved about Narnia, and all MacDonald's fantasies were actually the things that pointed to heaven. And we can't grasp heaven. It isn't here, (or there) in that sense; like trying to close your hands around mist. It's that longing for another country, again, Lewisian Joy. *Sigh*

MacDonald Primer

If you haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting Mr. MacDonald, I recommend his children's fairy-stories. The Princess & the Goblin, (B & I saw that one done as a Christmas pantomime in Edinburgh), The Princess & Curdie, At the Back of the North Wind, & his shorter fairy-stories like The Light Princess, The Wise Woman, and my favorite, Photogen & Nycteris. His adult fantasies, Phantastes, & Lilith, are just incredible, and pretty much created a whole new genre of fiction. He wrote piles of 'adult fiction' which have been repugnantly edited and renamed by Michael Phillips. They resemble cheesy period Victorian romance novels, so caveat emptor, and all that. But the way he talks about Jesus is just wonderful, and so joyous. Often when I get bogged down by creepy theology, I return to MacDonald and he returns me to Jesus.

He influenced everyone from C.S. Lewis, JRR Tolkien & Madeleine L'Engle to Lewis Carroll (and me!) I hope you like old George. I wish I were reading him again for the first time.
And official thanks to B, the Elevens & Izzy, for first introducing us.


Compost Tea

I dug to the bottom of the compost heap today just to see what was lurking. The great thing about digging in them is getting an up close view of transience; a compost pile is a sort of microcosm of matter's entropic nature. Everything is in a state of decay. Nothing looks the same from week to week. I've watched whole pumpkins melt down and crumble in there. I have heard of everything from an old pair of jeans to roadkill deer virtually disappearing in a pile. It's a bit mysterious, especially when you can't even see the microbes that are responsible. Composting seems a bit magic. And, of course, there's the legendary steam that rises off the top of a good pile in the winter. It's amazing how hot the center of a well made compost pile can get; temps up to 140 degrees. Busy little microbes. And the heat is just their energy as they eat. The heat is such that, if properly made, it will sterilize diseased plant materials and even kill weed seeds.
Rosa's Secret Recipe
The secret of a good pile is the ratio of ingredients; about 3:1 carbon to nitrogen, with plenty of oxygen and just enough water to keep it moist. The nitrogenous material is usually the easiest to find, this is the kitchen scraps, the grass clippings, young weeds and soft green prunings. It's the 'brown' stuff, the carbon, that is often tougher to track down. Dead leaves, hay, newspaper shreddings (our fave) are all options. Most regular composters have a slight dumpster diver mentality, always on the lookout for a neighbor raking leaves or a coffee shop giving away coffee grounds. (Thank you, Coffee Cat!) There is a horse stable nearby that actually sells buckets of it's manure. Horse manure, by the by, has fairly high nitrogen levels, but should only be used when well-rotted. Fresh manure is notoriously high in salts, so it needs to rot down before it is good for the garden. I remember making piles up at UCSC's Farm & Garden, when I was there for my Apprenticeship. We all lined up on Compost Row, pitchfork in hand and started in. I think the pile we built was all manure and alfalfa hay. That night, taking off my clothes, I spilled manure all over our bedroom floor from my upturned cuffs. B is such a good sport.........
Michael Stipe wants YOU.....to compost!
I used to think that making compost was just throwing some garbage in a hole and covering it with a tarp. I got a lot of stink, but no compost. I still remember my first attempt, in high school, after reading an article in Sassy magazine written, surprisingly enough, by Michael Stipe. There were photos of him looking very pious and crunchy in his green khaki shorts and black Docs, shoveling hay and kitchen scraps into a compost bin. (I think this was the Green era.) At the time I would have cheerfully sawn off my leg for Michael (I was a devout "Di-Stipe-le") so I tromped out into our back garden and started digging. It wasn't as easy as Michael made it seem. The kitchen scraps I used smelled like...well, garbage, there were flies, and besides, I was getting all dirty. Anyway, about all I achieved was finding green khaki shorts like his (I think I pinched them from my brother), and affecting the same pious expression. Which is all that I really wanted, anyway.
"The best place to look for God is in the garden, you can dig for Him there."
-George Bernard Shaw
Today when I turned my compost into my garden soil I uncovered pieces of egg shells, twigs, rubber gasket, pumpkin seeds and apricot pits. They lie there, now, in the moonlight, mingling with the sow bugs and seedlings. I picture them, continuing their decay, sinking deeper, nestled between the roots of the artichoke, the rosa rugosa and salvia elegans. I am amazed again by the complexity of the topsoil, a mere 18 inches of the earth's crust, yet somehow sustaining all the world's food supply. I remember God's edict to Adam "for dust you are, and to dust you will return." I dig my hands into the crumbly black grains, my fingers stretching out like roots. I am a seed sprouting, an earthworm burrowing, I have come home.


lentblog 2007

This is my post on Neal's lentblog. It almost didn't happen, so thanks to Neal for the IT help & to B for the encouragement.)

I discovered the church calendar fairly recently, within the last few years. Every year, I discover a new holiday, and realize that Christendom has gone before me, anticipating a need for a holiday before I even knew I wanted to celebrate. Last year it was Advent. This year, Epiphany. We threw an Epiphany party; we had a King Cake, we made Magi crowns, we wore them out to a nearby field for stargazing. My own mother dressed up like a Wise Man and appeared at my door wearing a bathrobe and false beard. (Sorry mom!) It was great. I got hooked. It was my gateway drug for the church calendar. Now, I want more.
Enter Lent
I have never known what to do with Lent. It has always seemed so Catholic, and fraught with un-Protestant theology. It seemed about 3 steps away from Indulgences and Stigmatas and Jesus in the Tortilla. ( You will understand why I would jump to these crazy conclusions when you know that my church upbringing was so far removed from the 'bells & smells' of high church that hymns other than 'Amazing Grace' & 'Holy, Holy, Holy' were considered faintly.... stuffy, therefore circumspect and therefore of a "dead tradition". Heck, we thought the Baptists were too liturgical!) Now, however, as an adult, I find myself drawn to the vast collection of writings, songs and traditions of those who have gone before me in the faith.
So there I was at the Shrove Tuesday service with Camille & Angel (Lent Eve). I think it was there that I decided to give up caffeine for Lent just to 'try it out.' I was curious to see if Lent, like Advent and Epiphany before it could inspire me in some manner; could help prepare me for Easter. .....
Hippity, Hoppity
Easter, the gladdest and most high Holy Day of our year, looms on the horizon. I usually feel unprepared for the celebration that Easter is supposed to be. It's either all bunnies and chicks and saccharine cuty-wootie or it's this strangely cold, waxy white funeral lily and Easter Bonnet & Baked Ham day. I don't know how to properly prepare my heart for the true meaning of it's coming. Again the church has anticipated me and given me Lent, to help. But it h elps in an odd manner. In preparing for this gladdest of days, we are told to give up, to go without, to fast. We spend 40 days in want, denying ourselves. It seems a funny way to start. And not a holiday I would invent, if I was trying to garner followers. "Woo-hoo! A holiday about fasting that lasts for 40 days! Sign me up!" The church in Rome obviously had few PR people working for them at the time.....
Ashes & Crowns
I think that's why I never really 'got' Lent before. It is counter-intuititive. You have to get sad to get happy. You have to wear the ashes before you get the crown of beauty; you must mourn before you can drip the oil of gladness (Isaiah 61). I have my ashy moments, I am wispy, dried up and long for renewal. I come to Lent, and look to Jesus. I see him praying in the garden, sweating drops like blood, I see him falsely accused, beaten and ridiculed; carrying His cross up to Golgotha, misunderstood until he took his last breath. The ashiest moment in human history. The world waits, shrouded like He is shrouded in the tomb. It is the Sabbath (though God is at work) and the women rest in ashes & mourning, waiting with the perfumes and spices to anoint their Master. What will happen? Here is where the 'turn' occurs, (Tolkien's eucatastrophe*) the part that makes you catch your breath; for very early in the morning, we see the Risen Lord, the firstborn from among the dead.

'Were not our hearts burning within us?'

dicentra formosa Western Bleeding Heart

*eucatastrophe: the 'Consolation', the ultimate Happy Ending, the part in the story that gives you Joy, and speaks of heaven. "The Birth of Christ is the eucatastrophe of Man's history. The Resurrection is the eucatastrophe of the story of the Incarnation.The story starts and ends in joy."- JRR Tolkien (Tree and Leaf)

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.