Christmas at Rosa's was led up to by a frenzy of home-crafting, everything from felted soap to CD mixes & a Christmas poetry anthology. I still can't tell if the soap is crafty & interesting, or crafty and pathetic, the sort of thing you bring home from summer camp, along with the lanyards, God's Eyes, and macrame owls. It was certainly fun to make, if nothing else, although I felt a little bad foisting off my homemade wares on friends and family. I realized this year just how deeply ingrained it is to want to buy something from a store for people I love on Christmas. In the brilliant essay, 'Xmas and Christmas: A Lost Chapter of Herodotus', C.S. Lewis describes the difference between the cultural holiday called 'Christmas' and the holy day celebrated simultaneously of the same name. I recommend this essay; read it here on: 'the weight of glory', an interesting looking blog around which I'll have a poke later...
Keep Christ in Christmas! A.K.A. Keep Saint in Saint Valentine's Day!
This idea of two different holidays happening on the same day is useful to me, especially when I hear people get all up in arms over keeping 'Christ in Christmas', protesting left and right over the expression, 'Happy Holidays' replacing 'Merry Christmas' in the marketplace. I think these people are confusing their holidays. One is the cultural Christmas, which has to do with feasting, family, gift-giving, and loving our fellow man (for this one time a year), aka 'the holiday spirit'. None of these things are bad, in fact, they're good, and they all have an overlap with the other Christmas, the one that is a religious feast day, celebrating the birth of Christ. But there is nothing intrinsically 'holy' about the first holiday, except as far as all acts of goodwill and charity reflect the One in Whom all goodwill and charity have their origin. And you can easily celebrate both, taking the good things from the former and applying them to the latter. But to be railing against those blasphemers at Stuff Mart for saying Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas is just a little misguided. I'd like to see that same energy go towards campaigning against slave trafficking, global poverty and eugenics. I am glad to separate the two holidays, I say let the Saturnalians have their day, and I'll have mine.
(But in case anyone wants to felt their own soap, I've included a link here.)
Blue homespun and the bend of my breast
This story was so gruesome that I hesitated to even retell it here. I guess I'm getting it out of the way. Anyone who knows me will know how hard it is for me to even look at this picture, and I am a little surprised that I could handle posting it. I know I'm being unreasonable, but somehow I just don't look at this and think, "Yum, dinner!" I think, "Ack! Run!" But truly, one of the reasons why I avoid eating shrimp/lobster/crab is because they seem like the insects of the sea. And apparently the crawfish is the missing link between earth and water. I always thought that crawdads live solely in fresh water creeks. At least that's what I blithely imagined when I heard tell of crawfish etoufe, or jambalaya; just one more funky crustacean that somehow passes for human food, never dreaming that they actually come from out of the ground. Apparently they're locally known as 'mudbugs'.
Oh, and then there's this one: "You got to suck de head on dem crawdads!" This was from a keychain B and I found in Opelousas, Louisiana. It featured audio files of various popular Cajun sayings, including this one, instructions on what to do with one of these little critters. (Although I would have said, "You got to t'row dem crawdads back!") It's actually useful information-if I was faced with one of these on my dinner plate I would have no idea how to begin. Apparently, the head also contains the pancreas, which has a lot of fat and somehow makes for a tasty dish. Mmm-Mmm!
When we visited 10 years ago we actually came across a family that was fishing for crawdads using leftover Thanksgiving turkey neck. They were on the little bridge that separates Avery Island, home of tabasco sauce, from the mainland. It was about as iconic as you could get without circling alligators and the soundtrack from 'Deliverance' playing in the background.
I don't know what's creepier about this story, the bottom feeder digging around in someone's grave or the fact that crustaceans can just bubble up from the earth. As a gardener, I was appalled, and newly resolved never to live there. Can you imagine? Merrily mucking about in the garden beds trying to get the spring's seedlings in the ground and who comes up for air? Mister Mudbug! Blech. I was told this story over Thanksgiving dinner, and my skin prickled and crawled for hours after....
(and thanks to jciv for this pic from a flickr photostream; it's the subject matter, not the composition that are hard to stomach!)
My neck was hugged by countless cousins on Thanksgiving Day, a humid day when the tables heaved with food, the turkey was deep-fried and the mosquitoes were sluggish with our blood.
I learned many things, and collected many stories, which I hope eventually to share here.
The whole week was amazing and bizarre and surprisingly full of sweet moments, literally (strawberry-filled beignets covered in mounds of powdered sugar) and figuratively (B's cousin casually tells us after dinner, "Y'all should come outside, there's something very interesting in the front." We dutifully file outside, I'm expecting some sort of critter: gator or swamp rat, but instead from around the side of the house comes a child-size ATV driven by a barefoot 3 year old, G is hanging onto her neck from behind and hollerin' at us, a huge grin on her face. They speed past us, wheels churning in the muddy clay.)
The racism was always there, just under the surface; although it did seem a little deeper under the surface than the last time I was there. Someone brought his black friend to the Thanksgiving celebration, something B said he had never seen before. B's mom drove us through her childhood neighborhood which included what had been the black school in her day. B's ancient and lovely Aunt Bernice taught in rural Louisiana from the 30's until the 70's. I asked her about desegregation and she told me some tales, voice lowered as if we were talking about something not quite nice. And apparently Obama won because, "all those black people voted for him." I'll try to share more stories when I get a chance.
A Family On The Verge
Unfortunately I am on the verge of a cold, as well as being on the verge of an Advent Party this weekend. Not to mention on the verge of a baby, next May. B is on the verge of a play that he is way heavily involved in, it opens next week. I don't know what G is on the verge of, besides literacy and then running for public office (actually, we're holding her back from that until she's at least 5.)
Oh, and visit Susan's Advent Blog! Pictures for Advent
And tell her Rosa sent you.
I have a feeling Louisiana is full of this sort of thing: quirky, semi-brutal stories in which I laugh and then secretly thank God that I am only visiting. I know that sounds awfully cynical, and I really loved the last visit B & I made 10 (!) years ago. All of B's family are sweet Southern folk, very comfortable in their own skins, very welcoming and full of recipes for ice box lemon pie and fresh pork cracklins. Last time we were there I learned to play the Gut Bucket, and met the town's pet alligator, Old Hardhide. He lives in a cement pond, (behind bars) on the main street. From time to time Old Hardhide will die, and the locals parade him up and down the street in what is known as a jazz funeral, and then they get another alligator, and name him Old Hardhide. Sort of like Menudo.
We're spending one night in New Orleans, and I am rubbing my hands in anticipation of our visit to the legendary Cafe Du Monde, where the menu is: 1) chickory coffee 2) beignets (French doughnuts covered with powdered sugar.
The old trolley cars in the Garden District, the muffaleta sandwiches, I'm doing it all. I picked up a copy of Anne Rice's new spiritual biography Out of Darkness to read along the way, she's a New Orleans native. Ummm....anything else? I'm planning on drawing heavily on the pregnancy excuse when it comes to the local food. I don't know why Louisiana is so known for its bottom-feeder cuisine. Shrimp gumbo, seafood jambalaya, crawfish pie, fried catfish, I personally think these people need to eat a little higher on the food chain.....I am really looking forward to the big pile of cousins that G will get to play with as well as the pleasant jumble of folk that gather each Thanksgiving on Larpenter Lane.
I'll try to write some whilst we're there, otherwise I'll see y'all in a week!
The Organic Experience
Earlier that day we had a delicious & distended breakfast with family at the Palo Alto Creamery and then mosied over to the farmer's market. A string trio was playing silly songs for a gaggle of children who were dancing on the sidewalk and giggling. G bashfully joined in, and I stood back, watching and drinking in the moment. The flower stall down the street was brimming with Ammi majus and that lovely orange straw flower that I see this time of year, and can never remember the name of. Maple and liquidambar leaves spun lazy leaf circles on the cracked pavement, and a building across the street was all but engulfed in an elaborate tracery of vines.
The smell of basil and fresh baked bread was at once beguiling and comforting-(although I am still feeling a bit queasy over certain foods-sorry, tomatoes & leafy greens!
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! Praise Him, all creatures here below! Praise Him above, ye heavenly host-Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!*
*Known by G as the Soxdology.
She seems to crave interaction with her peers, and talks endlessly of them: friends from church, preschool, the neighborhood. I don't know if I was like this, it's hard to remember being 3 1/2. But I think it was around this age that I began to notice the children around me. I remember Christopher Caspar, on whom I had a little preschool crush, at Mrs. Jaffee's Scary Preschool on the westside of Santa Cruz. I remember the girl with brown hair and fat pigtail curls who was my friend, and who loved Christopher Caspar as well. Maybe it was the aliteration. I have no idea.
There were some mean kids in our neighborhood, older boys who tricked me into walking on the red & white rock landscaped hell known as our next door neighbor's front yard.
This man was legendary on Getchell St. for being a gruesome old meanie, but the only evidence I remember of this is that he dared not to be at home on Halloween, his porch light off & the windows dark. I think these mean older kids were friends with my older brother and would play his Planet of the Apes game in the back shed, it's brown-grey weathered wood almost completely covered in nasturtiums and glistening snail trails.
This was the house we lived in when I decided to eat a snail. My mom found me with the snail in my mouth (it seemed like a good idea at the time) and quickly fished it out (still alive?). She also quickly washed my mouth out with soap (she told me later she was afraid that I ate some snail poision)- at Mrs. Jaffee's, however, kid's mouths would routinely get washed out for using 'potty language'; consequently I took this mouth washing as a punishment, and was mortally crushed.
Mrs. Jaffee's Terrifying Preschool (the official name, really) also holds the following ignominious distinction.................
Our preschool planned a field trip to near-by Natural Bridges State Park which hosts hundreds of migrating monarch butterflies each year. I was very excited to go; it was most likely my first school outing. I had a special lunch packed, clean clothes, special backpack, everything I needed. The morning of the field trip I woke up with my stomach churning with excitement. By the time I got to preschool, my stomach was in such knots from the excitement and anticipation that I got a horrible stomach ache and had to stay back at the preschool with one of the teachers while the rest of the school went on the field trip. I was the only kid. It was a sad, sad day.
Sorry, Mum, this post isn't meant to engender guilt! But it's still hard to drive down Fair Ave., and my stomach has a momentary little clench whenever I drive by
Mrs. Jaffee's Mean Lil' Preschool...
The other day G was dancing around singing the word butterfly to herself. After a little while, true to family genes, she asked me why it was called butterfly. "What does the butter part mean?" she asked. I hied me hence to Walter Skeat's Concise Dictionary of English Etymology. This is what I found.
butterfly (E.) A.S. buttor-fleorge, lit. butter-fly. So called from its excrement resembling butter, as shewn by the O. Du. boter-schijte, a butterfly, lit. butter-voider.
I was dumbfounded. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that the butterfly was so called because of its scatological contributions. I never conceived that it would be named after anything other than its amazing beauty and lyrical flight. Even a nod to it's transformation from caterpillar to chrysalis to adult would be in order, one would assume.
Wingedfairy, Flower-sipper, Jewelwing, and that's just off the top of my head. Anything, actually, other than The Buttercrapper. How did this happen? Not to malign the Scandinavians, but this scene is all I can picture-done, of course with Basil Fawlty's accent from Fawlty Tower's hilarious episode, 'The Germans'-
"Hans Fritz, did you see zaat insect flying in ze air?"
"You mean ze little red one with ze black spots?"
"No, no-the one whose excrement looks like butter."
"O ya, ya. Now I know who you mean-ze little boter-schijte!"
The Divine "Doah!"
I can almost picture God in heaven doing a Homer Simpson impersonation, smacking His forehead with open Palm. Somehow it seems like we fell just a little short of our Adamic calling as Steward & Official Namer on that one...at least our language did......
So many other Indo-European languages have managed to capture the lilting & fluttering quality of the butterfly without once alluding to the color of its...leavings.
Here are some of my favorites:
papilio/onis (Latin) As in ancient Greek, the soul of a dead person is associated with a butterfly. The word 'pavilion' comes from this word as well, a tent or canopy referring to the spreading out of wings.
petaloudia (modern Greek) relating to the words 'petal', 'leaf', 'spreading out.'
mariposa (Spanish) from the expression 'Mari, alight!' Which apparently is present in children's songs and games. It might be from "Santa Maria, posa" Which translates, "The Virgin Mary alights" I suppose Mary had to sit down sometime, after chasing toddler Jesus around all day.
But see how great etymology is? It's all stories, and sends my narrative-driven mind off on a thousand rabbit-trails. An English etymology dictionary is far more inveigling than any internet search engine; and I don't come away from it stiff-backed & feeling like hours of my life have been irrevocably sapped.
I should add that the more research I did, the more I discovered various sources pooh-poohing (sorry) the butter-excrement theory. I found other explanations like that butterflies and butter-churning are both harbingers of spring, that many butterflies have wings the color of butter, or that the name derives from the old stories about fairies and witches stealing butter or milk at night in the form of butterflies. But I still think all these name definitions are pretty insipid, and miss the point entirely. Where do I write a letter of protest?
(And many thanks to pdphoto.org for the exceptional and-might I add-officially free butterfly photo, and thanks as well to Mr. Matthew Rabuzzi, armchair etymologist from Cupertino, CA for his outstanding article on the butterfly in Indo-European languages. Very comprehensive and well-written, and that's hard to find in internet articles these days.....)
Also, many thanks to Philip Mason, who very nicely wrote in and let me know about the sequels to The Islanders. These books are hard to beat (and find!) I'm still looking for Operation Wild Goose and An Actor's Life for Me. The quest continues....!
Ua mau ke ea o ka aina i ka pono. Which translates: The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness. Isn't that fabulous?
The Blight & The Bay
Phytopthera is a blight, related to the one that caused the potato famine in Ireland, which, coupled with the American Dust Bowl provides the best example of why not to practice mono-cropping. But I digress. So our oak contracted this disease through its proximity to the California Bay tree, which acts as a vector of the phytopthera, spreading to the oak through rain splashing from tree to tree. The sad irony is that when our oak is cut down, the only tree left in that area will be the bay tree and we'll have to keep it, as it will be the only screen we have from our neighbors.
We decided that one of the ways we could enjoy our oak a bit before it goes is to invite friends over and eat out underneath it together. Thus, the first in our series of little dinner parties, commemorating A Good Tree. And we did eat outside, oak-arms enveloping us in the gentle Indian summer night. Joann, The Allens, Jonathan & Jon were all celebrants, presiding over the table filled with leek tarts, roasted veggies & other autumnal offerings. I guess they're all bloggers, but I don't think that's why I invited them. Anyway. A nice night. We'll have more as the months progress.
do you know you are dying
Neil Patrick Harris (Doogie Howser) was in a made-for-TV movie that was filmed in Santa Cruz in the late 80's. He played a teen-ager who got in a car accident and had amnesia, or something. My best friend at the time, Stacy, went with her boyfriend to the open casting audition at the Dream Inn. She wasn't auditioning, just biding time, waiting around, when the director noticed her and had her read for a role. In the end she got the part of Doogie's girlfriend, with a few lines and a couple close-ups. Apparently, he asked her out, off camera. She declined.
I always have a little warm place in my heart for ole' Neil, because of this, him a movie star and still getting turned down by girls. Sort of an under-dog thing. And now he's gay. I'm not quite sure where I'm gong with that. Anyway, in Dr. Horrible, he plays the singing evil villain underdog with such finesse. I loved it. We don't get much in the way of teevee up here in the woods, so this was fine viewing fun.
(Thank you, Heidi, for posting this on a paper elephant. It made my night.)
It turns out I really needed the laying on of hands at the end as well as Pablo Neruda's 'Ode To My Socks'. Which was so funny and wise. But it's not Neruda who makes a guest appearance on rosa-sinensis, it's someone else that Rae brought with her, in a quiet-looking, non-descript little library book. Which leads to some adage or another about books and their covers.....
Last Night As I Was Sleeping
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a spring was breaking
out in my heart.
I said: Along which secret aqueduct,
Oh water, are you coming to me,
water of a new life
that I have never drunk?
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that I had a beehive
here inside my heart.
And the golden bees
were making white combs
and sweet honey
from my old failures.
Last night as I was sleeping,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that a fiery sun was giving
light inside my heart.
It was fiery because I felt
warmth as from a hearth,
and sun because it gave light
and brought tears to my eyes.
Last night as I slept,
I dreamt—marvelous error!—
that it was God I had
here inside my heart.
(and thanks to tintalasia for the lovely bee photo-keep it up!)
"We'll go to heaven to live with Jesus there."
"No, I mean what will happen to our HOUSE when we die?"
"Well, we won't need it anymore, will we? We'll be living in heaven."
"Yeah, heaven! And maybe there will be a dark cave there with no bears
and maybe God will have lots of movies in there!"
I sat awkwardly on top of my luggage. We huddled in the corner, shoved out of the way of the busy foot traffic which clicked and clacked across the wet marble floor. It was a blustery December morning. The Genoa train station, (il stazione principe) was filled with busy Italians who no doubt were all en route to some fabulous holiday destination in the Italian Alps. We were there under orders. We got to the train station a few hours earlier, around 11:00 AM. The Genoa youth hostel (ostello per la gioventu-it's really fun to say) closed that morning, and we were going on something our leader Jody had heard whilst in prayer. "Go to the train station the morning the hostel closes. You will know by 1:00 where to go." We had little else to go on, so we set off for the stazione.
It was an interesting situation to be in, and as I look back, the whole story seems so outlandish that it's hard to believe that it actually happened. I'm trying to remember, to recreate the emotions of that time. Most of all I remember the fear & excitement that coiled in my stomach like a double helix, inexplicably bound up with faith. It was all so surreal, and it probably helped that we were still jet lagged. But the story is true, and happened just like I say.
Prayer in a Circle
We stood in a circle and prayed something like this. "God, here we are. Please show us what to do." We waited, eyes closed, listening. Hearing the voice of God in prayer takes humility, patience, faith, and discernment. You must also be able to risk being wrong, keeping in mind that God's 'spoken' word will never contradict His written word, and He most likely will not be telling you to a) build a multi-million dollar Christian entertainment complex called Heritage USA or that b) He will kill you unless your television audience pledges money. (Hello, Oral!) Anyway, as I said, a modicum of discernment. So, where were we?
We heard nothing initially. We would get together to pray every half hour or so, and the rest of the time, I read, or walked around. I remember an exhibit on creches, in true Italian style-almost all were in caves, with the Virgin Mary prominently displayed, faintly glowing with lasers shooting out of her halo. Well, maybe not that last part.
A Word Unheeded
At last, when we prayed, two or more of us heard inside this phrase, "Come away and spend time with Me." Interesting, we thought. And how nice. But not very practical, it didn't include angelic beings showing up with train tickets. So we pretty much ignored it.
One o'clock came and went and still we waited. For a sign, for a word, something that would show us not only what the next step was, but that we were not completely crazy to believe that God would lead us in such a mysterious fashion.
In the early afternoon a few people heard "Wait for my messenger." Which sounded very James Bond, and got all of us excited. I imagined a tall, distinguished looking man, sort of an Italian Sean Connery approaching us with a discreet envelope full of lire, train tickets and an address for a small but significant church revival meeting where we were slated to speak.
Around 7 PM, something finally happened. We were camped out beside one of those ubiquitous machines one sees in a foreign public place, for phone cards, change, tokens for the WC or to breathe the air about you. Whatever it was, it was broken. In all my free time (ha!) I had taught myself how to say in very poor Italian, "The machine is broken." A man suddenly surfaced, trying to use this machine. "Mi scusi, Signor, la maquina es rotta!" I said, or something like that. He turned to me. Somehow he could tell I was not a native Italian speaker. (I can't imagine how, I had the Godfather accent, the NYC Italian hand gestures and everything.) He began to talk to us in English, asking us what we were doing in his fair country. We explained that we were in his country to do Christian ministry work, and he began to get strangely agitated. He was a small man, and looked sort of like Roberto Begnini from Life is Beautiful. He began to tell us about his son, and how he tried to raise him right, taking him to church so that he would learn good values. His English was much better than my Italian but his wording of different phrases was a little odd. He referred to his son as 'The Son' & himself as 'The Father'. As he spoke of his son he shook his head sadly, hunching his shoulders in that characteristically Italian way, palms skyward, and said, "Because The Son will never love The Father as much as The Father loves The Son." After he left, my teammate Ben looked at us, shaken. He said, "Guys, I think that was our messenger."
We realized, in a rush, that this was the message that God had sent us. When we gathered together again for prayer, the words flew at us, fast and sharp, going straight to the heart. The jist was, "It took Me stranding you in a train station for you to sit still long enough to hear that I love you and that's all that matters. You have fretted and worried about your circumstances and haven't sought Me, your Father who loves you. Don't worry about the rest! Come away and spend time with Me! That's the most important thing right now!"
We all scattered to different parts of the station for an hour or so. I wrote, cried and prayed, feeling at once humbled and lifted up by this incredible lesson. It was interesting to note that even though our circumstances hadn't changed and to the naked eye we still had nowhere to go, we all felt oddly light-hearted when we came back together, like some sort of progress had been made. It was around 8 or 9PM, and the main terminal was beginning to close. We were herded into a smaller waiting room. To wait.
We came together to pray every hour or so, with the preface, "God, we are so glad that we are Your children, and it's enough to know that you love us. If You want us to leave this train station, we'd be fine with that." Or something like that. And the interesting part, is that we meant it.
Finally at 1:00 AM ("...You'll know by 1:00"!) the majority of us heard the word, "Rome." The next (and last) train to Rome left in eleven minutes (that's right, one-one-one) so we hurriedly bought tickets. It was with a light heart and a head full of The Monkees 'Last Train to Clarksville' that I ran, backpack careening wildly on my shoulders, the weight (and the wait) of the last 14 hours slipping off me, to catch the last train to Rome.
Love: a life-lesson
I still have train station moments. When it feels like God has stuck me somewhere so I can learn the lesson again that I am His child first and foremost. That with Him, relationship comes first, not anything that I can 'do' for Him. And shouldn't this be our model with each other?
"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." John 15:12
Next up: our travelogue continues in Rome.
1.) Our oak tree. Its death seems iminent. It has Sudden Oak Death syndrome. A few days ago I noticed large brown clumps in the upper canopy. I hope it lasts into the rainy season, I want to see the viridescent moss glowing just one last time.
2.) Compost. A few people have been asking me composty questions so I thought I'd do one post and just direct them to it.
3.) Last Sunday's talk at church. It brought up so much in me that I didn't know was there. It's interesting what gets dredged up. I guess I have a story that I need to tell, if I can find the words. I predict a circuitous route. Which will be something entirely new for me!
4.) How I finally figured out what all the hoopla concerning Death Cab For Cutie is all about. They're great. I ended up with a copy of Narrow Stairs, and wow, it is good. It reminds me a little bit of The The with a little Sonic Youth sprinkled on top. I don't know why. I don't really have enough here to make a real post. So maybe it doesn't need to be included. Too late.
I decided that before I could in good conscience include it in the library collection I should be a responsible, discerning librarian & take it home and read it, much in the manner of my mother who would always take the first bite of whatever yummy treat she was serving us, "just to make sure it's not poisionous".
So I've been picking it up here and there to read different essays within, and all so far have been worth the read. I suppose I'll have to eventually give it to the library, since I'm sure other people want to read it-although it's been nice to consider the library as part of my personal collection; I always have had a hard time sharing, especially books (sorry B!)
Tonight I was reading an essay written by the inimitable Luci Shaw entitled, "Beauty & the Creative Impulse". Tucked in between the paragraphs I found a great little poem of hers that might have to show it's face at the poetry group one of these Monday nights. The more I read Luci Shaw's work, the more I like her.
And for some reason the picture of the maple achenes (the little brown winged seed things), pine needles and green lichen seemed to match the poem. Taken in Yosemite last weekend.
Diamonds That Leap
When the leaf fell and brushed my hand
I began to reverse the world. I asked:
What if this warped willow leaf, yellow,
scaled with age, could smooth
to a green blade, then flicker into
the knot of a spring twig, like
a grass snake's tail disappearing, slick
and chill, into his home? That one question-
it was a whirlpool, pulling in
others: What about a river?
Might its waters rush up these indigo
hills of Shenandoah and split to a scatter
of diamonds that leap to their rain
clouds, homing? Can a love
shrink back and back to like,
then to the crack of a small, investigative
smile? Could God ever suck away creation
into his mouth, like a word regretted
and start us over?
(-Luci Shaw. From Writing the River, Pinon Press, 1994)
It's an interesting time of year, August in the garden. This year I've really noticed the hand-off from flower to flower: the early spring ephemera blending into the climbing roses, then jasmine, clematis, gladiolas and other corms in June. A few weeks ago, the asteraceae family started to wake up and now they're carrying the whole garden: yarrow, dahlias, daisies, mums, sunflowers and in front of my first attempt at a wattle fence are my nod to the prairie states: black-eyed susan (rudbeckia hirta), echinacea purpurea and goldenrod (solidago canadensis). And those little daisies with their unwieldy Latin names that I can never remember. I think they're commonly called the Santa Barbara daisy; anyone want to help with the Latin?
Since the soaker hoses are finally fixed and I've added compost, things are losing that sickly gasping look. I'm able to be in the garden again, guilt-free, now that I don't imagine the plants looking at me imploringly like Oliver Twist with his headmaster, gruel bowl extended, "Please sir, can I have some more..."
Blooper's Reel...I'm recording some of my biggest garden mistakes of the year, the bloopers reel, to learn from and because it's easy to only list the highlights, and leave out the failures.The hostas....I seriously miscalculated how much shade I have and the hostas all came up and then turned brown and crackly. In gardening parlance that means dead. The western bleeding heart (dicentra formosa) is looking pretty bad too, which I think speaks more to the oak tree above it being pruned last summer than anything else. So that's not my fault. But it still looks grotty.
The peonies.....I never got around to fixing the irrigation system in the garden, and tried to overhead water everything every few days. The peonies were a casualty, I've never grown them before and will probably not try again in this county, not without a really great watering plan, or a neighborhood boy to stand there with a watering can from noon until five.
The vegetable garden.....I've eked out a corner for some veggies, but I'm not really a veggie gardener. I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about this, esp. because I came into gardening from an "edibles" perspective with lots of thoughts about community development, food security and sustainable agriculture. I have a certificate from UCSC's Center for Agro-ecology and Sustainable Food Systems (one of the top programs in the world), but I am a lousy vegetable farmer. I always blame it on my location, but honestly, I have a hard time being motivated. The perennials are way more interesting to me, and I love supporting the local farmers in my area (over a 100 organic farms in SC county alone!) who are much better at producing amazing food than I am in my piddly little 6 ft. of space. So this year, I dried to a crisp a few heads of lettuce and slowly starved some basil and a few tomatoes. One tomato is fighting back, and has valiantly put out some hard green little fruit, but he is no match for me! By the way, I would still love to do some community development work, somehow growing food, (that desire hasn't gone away & it's still a thing I want to do), but not in my own garden.
So over all it's been a good summer in the garden and I've really loved my little space to plant in. It's going to be so strange & sad to see the oak tree go-it's got an advanced case of Sudden Oak Death brought on by phytopthera ramorum. I hate so many things about it, like losing all the lovely dappled shade that my hydrangeas, western bleeding heart, hellebores and wild ginger need. I'm not quite sure where they will get moved to, probably to the no man's land on the side of the house, we'll see....
Lathrop, here we come!.....And now we're off to Yosemite for a couple of days. We're camping tonight in Lathrop, CA. Of course I've never heard of Lathrop (on I5 near Stockton), so when I looked it up online, I was directed to the town's official website, which announced that today they are spraying for the West Nile Virus. Lucky me!
items of note:
- 327 market
- a paper elephant::heidi
- an organic experience::the other
- aunty suzanne brewer
- bbc 4:: gardener's question time
- bricks in the cave::children's adventure story
- dani the poet
- esther in the garden
- esther's boring garden blog
- etsy::all things handmade
- garden rant: garden blog for the courageous and dirty
- i like it::scotland as few have seen it
- let them parachute in
- lizzy cantu
- loose and leafy::lucy
- mayor of dannyland
- neal breakey
- nori::seaweed girl
- o.t. girl::my favourite anonymous o.t.
- pictures just pictures
- polar goldie cats: (secret: i am tam's little sister)
- sarah::appearing as herself
- sir gibby::b'liciousbennet
- the molly
- vintage faith church
- YWAM Seamill, Scotland: dearly missed
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
- 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.