Headed south today to look for wildflowers and almost fell off the edge of the continent.....
One of my favorite spring rituals involves a phone call to a friend: it begins when the lupines first begin to appear along the side of the roads, and ends in a meadow somewhere, on our bellies with a camera in a flower, and then the frantic Checking For Ticks Dance.
We found the gorgeous and iconic Jolon Road just southwest of King City and took it into Fort Hunter-Liggett, a military base that is on land William Randolph Hearst sold to the government after the second world war.
It's an odd thing to do, looking for wildflowers on a military base, definitely not a place that I'd like to just mosey around, peering at the ground and not watching my back.
I found it faintly reminiscent of the hippie protesters of the 60's, stuffing daisies down the rifles of the crowd control police.Yeah, we stuck it the Man: picnicking without a permit, and picking California poppies: (Fist in the air) Fight the Man! Down with global tyranny!
Golden Hills of....Cheese?
So the thing with Jolon Road and the surrounding landscape in springtime is that it is green, very green, with Spanish moss swinging from the oak trees and giant swathes of brilliant orange California poppies on the high slopes above the road. I wish I could find a more beautiful description, like that the hillsides looked like they had been poured over with molten gold, but honestly, it looked a lot more like Kraft Mac n' Cheese powder. A very unnatural cheesey orange smear on the hills. Today it was coupled with the giant purple bush lupines and white and blue ceanothus shrubs on the hillsides, as well as little dabs of red Indian paintbrush and little white wildflowers that looked like white forget-me-nots, with different foliage. I'm prodigiously proud of our native ceanothus, or California lilac; it's beautiful, especially the deep blue flowered variety, and adjusts well to being cultivated. It's mentioned on BBC Radio 4's Gardener's Question Time this week, and I swelled with pride when I heard it. Though they grow in the wild near our neighborhood, it was great to see them au naturel, especially the white ones, which we don't have around here.
We picnicked at the Hacienda, which is right in the center of the military base. All the surrounding land was once owned by William Randolph Hearst, and he had his old friend Julia Morgan (architect for Hearst Castle) design it in a solidly CA mission/Deco style. Today it's a hotel, officer's club & whatever else people do with old buildings in the military. Apparently, one of the things they do with old buildings, especially if they contain a restaurant, is litter the courtyards with life-size cut-outs of busty scantily-clad hoochie mamas, holding trays of beer up to their chests, slightly panting. I think it's military policy.
The Mission, If You Choose To Accept It
Sort of randomly, just down the road a pace (but still on gov't property) is the Mission San Antonio De Padua, one of the least accessible of the California missions. B & I went to a service there last year and it was a just a mite too syncretistic for us (Okay, it was on All Soul's Day, but still-the prayers to the dead and to the sky made my Protestant soul squirm.) Architecturally, it's quite simple and lovely. Like most CA missions, it is built around an inner courtyard with a garden in the center. We had a great time walking around the garden, with the central fountain and old mission relics (mainly of the pestle variety), and the ubiquitous pepper trees, grapevines, gnarled olive trees, figs, and pomegranates. I so appreciate these humble plantings, which are as much about utility as they are about beauty, and speak of the Creator's good design, which combines both elements with ease.
I Am In Plant Prison: Doing Time With the Roses
Actually this garden had been given over to one of my least favorite styles of gardening: the rose garden. Now, the words 'rose garden' evoke the scent, beauty, and fecund delights of the old roses, the cabbage roses and old fashioned David Austin climbers and shrub roses. But in actuality, the de rigeur for rose gardens is something birthed by a scientist, a corporation or at least an extremely linear thinker. It's all about the hybrid tea roses, the floribundas and grandifloras that are more flower factory than plant; with stiff, thorny, formal growth that has nothing of the wilderness and unfurling greenness that a rose should add to the garden. They are harshly regimented and pruned within an inch of their lives in order to produce the largest blooms possible. They actually depress me. This garden looked like the roses were all in trouble. Each one had it's metal disc around it's base like a prison ID tag, with ugly black irrigation tubing running out to each plant, eking out it's ration of bread and water. They seemed to snap to attention as I passed by, but maybe I was a little hyper-aware of my neighbors down the road. "Atten-shun!.....At ease, Private!"
I Am A Closet Cat Lady
What saved this garden for me was the amount of cats. They were hiding in the rosemary, dusty and indolent, they were stalking birds, they were escorting us through the quiet corridors, and later in the chapel, one was asleep in a basket filled with pamphlets on consecrating your life to Mary. He hopped out and into my lap. Which was hopefully a less heretical place to nap. It happened again-I get all enamored of places like this, because of the beauty and the history of the brothers and sisters in Christ that have gone before me in these churches. And then I look too closely, and end up with this: "the Marian Consecration", which, I am assured, is actually Consecration to Christ, because Mary is consecrated to Christ. Riiiight. It takes me by surprise every time, and each time it's like a little death.
A confession: I discovered my dream job a few years ago. I have no idea how to go about getting this dream job, mainly because it doesn't seem to exist right now. When we were in the UK; I was gardening on 4 acres at a converted Victorian-era convalescent home. Surveying the grounds daily I got really excited and intrigued by historical gardening, and garden archaeology. I loved doing plant ID, and digging around in what appears to be wild: uncovering brick paths, and forgotten areas of previous cultivation. Moving back to SC, I soon realized how difficult it is to find places old enough to restore. Our oldest gardens are the California Missions. So, going with this logic, I think I'd like to act as a consultant for the Diocese and state of California on the mission gardens. It's tricky because the missions are still owned by the Catholic church, so there's no one place to which I can apply (like the State Parks). Also, although this subject (historical gardening) seems to be flourishing (sorry for the garden adjectives) in the UK, it's not so prevalent in the Central Coast of California...so I have no idea how to go about getting the training I'd need. Ideas, anyone? There's a Mission in SC, so I guess I could start there.....
Anyway, to round off this trip, we went west, through the Los Padres National Forest and over the mountains to Big Sur; just barely keeping ourselves from being flung off the mountainside into the Pacific; those are seriously crazy roads.I speak of no particular incident, just that the CCC needs to get busy with some guard rails on the Fergusson-Nacimiento Road.
(Photo credit; the amazing Stepka powers of photography: Susie Stepka, herself. Woo-hoo!)
Last night I found an Army & Navy hymnal on a shelf, and started flipping through it. I don't remember where I got it, though on the inside cover are the following stamps:
FREEMAN & COX-ROACH & LEONARD
2414 GROVE STREET
BERKELEY 4, CALIFORNIA
U.S. COAST GUARD
(I've never been to either of these places, but who knows how I came about it. My hymnal hoarding has become a bit unwieldy, even after off-loading a box onto Camille's Dutch at a White Elephant party last Christmas.)
Anyway, I found this great hymn by John of Damascus
c. 700. (Especially vs. 2-3)
'Tis the spring of souls today;
Christ hath burst his prison,
And from three days asleep in death
As a sun hath risen.
All the winter, long and dark, is flying
From His light, to whom we give
Laud and praise undying.
Now the queen of seasons,
Bright with the day of splendor,
With the royal feast of feasts,
Comes it's joy to render;
Comes to glad Jerusalem,
Who with true affection
Welcomes in unwearied strains
Reminds me of MacDonald's Lilith.......
I've got the week off work so I'm thinking about lots of projects, and one of them will be the coldframe in the garden. It's the dead wrong time to be overhauling it. The coldframe should be in full swing right now, with lots of little seedlings in it that are just about ready for transplanting. Instead it sits forlornly, with one pane missing, empty and petulant, ready for someone to come and put it out of it's misery. I'm replacing all the panels with Visqueen (sp?) and painting it an interesting dark hydrangea blue. It should help to tart up the garden a little bit. But, oh frabjous day, the hostas I planted with G are starting to cooperate and actually pop up above the black earth, and we've been staring fixedly at all the new red and gold shoots of the peony for which we've been most eagerly searching the soil.
Scene: G is dancing around the living room singing the old Sunday School refrain,
'God is so good
God is so good
God is so good
He's so good to me.'
'I am so good
I am so good
I am so good
I'm so good to God.'
This is a reprint of a post I did last year in conjunction with nealb's lentblog 2007.
I discovered the church calendar fairly recently, within the last few years. Every year, I stumble upon 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.
I have never known what to do with Lent. It has always seemed so Catholic, and somehow tinged 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......
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 helps 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)
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules (done!)
3. Share 6 non important habits/quirks about yourself.
4. Tag at least 3 people.
5. Be sure the people you tagged know you tagged them by leaving a comment.
I tag: Camille over at 327 Market, Jessica at red dot/blue dot , and Neal B at limn. I'm sure they can come up with something.
Quirk #1: I Can't......
Dive into a pool, turn a cartwheel, stand on my head, ski, ride a bike in traffic, figure out the allure of American Idol.
Quirk #2 Speed Reading = Re-reading
I read really fast. I always have and I consider this a detriment. When I was little I would buy a book at a bookstore, finish it before you could say 'knife' and then spend the rest of the evening re-reading it. I wish I could savor books and just take my time, but it's hard. I know, this isn't a very quirky quirk, but from it has come an unexpected benefit.....
The way I speed read (and this is not a learned habit, it just happens) is by anticipating in any given sentence, what the 'small' words are going to be-(I suppose those are mainly the pronouns)-and I skip them. I don't know how I anticipate them but I do. So, when I re-read a book, it's often like a whole new book, because I'm reading different words than the last time I read it. I know. It doesn't make much sense. But I'm a big re-reader, and I think this is why.
Quirk# 3 Pathological Spelling
If you're ever talking to me and I look slightly distracted, the odds are good that, though I'm listening, I'm also silently spelling random words in our conversation. I use my fingers to spell them, S-P-E-L-L: S on the thumb; P on the pointer; E on the middle, you get the idea. There's also a complicated system for condensing the word by combining different letters on a finger, depending on the letter. This is determined in a few different ways: sometimes by the letter combinations (CH, TH, BR, DR); or doubles; vowels can be combined, not consonants; sometimes the colour of the letter. (See Quirk #4). I've done this ever since I won the only trophy I own: 2nd Grade Spelling Bee Champion, Soquel Elementary.
I already blogged about this way back when Camille tagged me with her meme, so read that. Basically, I see numbers and letters as specific, fixed colors. A is red, B is brown, C is yellow, and D is a darker brown than B. E is orange, F is a darkish gray, G is yellow (gold?). I could go on, but you get the idea. Whole words are colored variously, depending on their letters, and so this is why I can stand around spelling stuff in my head-each word looks very different to me. Numbers are this way as well: 1 is dark gray, 2 is red, 3 is yellow, 4 is brown, 5 is blue. The difference with numbers is that they get twice as dark as half their number. 3 is yellow, but 6 is REALLY yellow......
Quirk #5: I Don't Eat Bottom Feeders
I hate seafood. Whenever people wax rhapsodic about their crab salad sandwich or jumbo shrimp special or sushi with the girls; I am picturing someone getting attacked by a shark, and the little pieces of human flesh floating down, only to be tidily ingested by the Hoovers of The Sea: the bottom feeders. And then we eat them. Hey, this quirk sounds like good eating sense to me, so maybe it's the rest of the world's quirk, not mine?
Quirk # 6: Aluminum Seals Must GO
When I buy peanut butter, or ketchup, or anything that comes with that little aluminum seal thing over it, you know-right under the cap- I MUST completely peel every little teensy tinsy bit off before I can resume my life. I have my priorities, after all.
For Cliff, on St. Patrick's Day as you leave-
May God be with thee in every pass,
Jesus be with thee on every knoll,
Spirit be with thee by the water's roll,
On headland, on ridge, and on grass;
Each sea and land, each moor and each mead,
Each eve's lying-down, each rising's morn,
In wave-trough, or on foam-crest borne,
Each step which thy journey doth lead.
68 South Uist,
G.R.D McLean's Poems of the Western Highlanders
So far, the bedding material is peat and shredded paper, with a shovelful of soil thrown in, just to make it nice and cosy. I'm just off to feed them now, and to keep up on all the neighborhood gossip.
I joined up with something called Blotanical, which I'm still figuring out. I thought it was just a garden blog reader, but it seems to have a whole other component (accruing points for different things) that I don't think I have time for. So, there's been quite a few garden bloggers visiting Rosa-Sinensis lately, and I just want to say welcome.I don't always talk about gardening here, but it is always something I come back to.
Breakfast with B's family at Sang's Diner, a Salinas institution. (A big sign out front: "JOHN STEINBECK ATE AT SANG'S). Plastered about were ads for the Steinbeck Center's Big Read; (Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451', which I thought would please Jon on a couple of different levels). B grew up here and somehow missed ever eating at this particular culinary hole-in-the-wall. He didn't miss much, even calling it 'culinary' raised the level of it's grub, but it was a great little cultural insight into this town. (Ex: After the waitress delivered all our (breakfast) food, she told us she would be back for the pitchers of white gravy. Finger lickin' good.)
King of the Mountain
We ended up in Monterey at Dennis the Menace Park, which I heartily recommend, on the grounds that the design is mega 60's kitsch, it's on a sweet lil' lagoon with paddle-boats and dive-bombing seagulls, and because everyone should visit the scenes of my childhood. (How's that for megalomania?) And of course it was completely foggy and the wind was bitter. Monterey can be just so dang bleak and melancholy sometimes; B & I both link the sound of driftwood wind chimes (which are horrible anyway), cypress trees wrapped in fog and sixties-era strip malls called 'Town & Country Center' with Monterey......
Toilet Cakes and Rufus Wainwright
Later,we tried to get into the ultra-fabulous Golden State Theater to show off to K & J, but it was closed; apparently Rufus Wainwright needed a sound check for the concert that night. Sheesh! Some people! If anyone is within driving distance to this incredible theatre, hop in the car right now and drive over. Tell Rufus I said hi, and call me later. It's jaw-droppingly beautiful inside, although the lobby can't seem to ditch the fresh toilet-cake smell.....but there are worse smells, right? (Not so-fresh toilet cake, is my first thought.)
A random note on John Steinbeck. When B and I were working with YWAM, in North Ayrshire, Scotland, we frequently were asked where we hailed from. It was amazing how frequently words like 'sunshine', 'paradise', 'Baywatch', & 'Hollywood' would volley forth from the pale, rain-soaked Europeans we worked with, as soon as we said, 'California'. The inevitable picture of Californians as lithe, athletic, blond, tan & wealthy certainly abounded. (And really, our presence only served to re-enforce that stereo-type.........) Actually, quite a lot of people knew us as the Raisin State, which I found highly amusing. I recall Neal saying one day, "I thought all Californians were tan and ate raisins." Which actually startled me into silence.
One day B and I had the task of driving the father of a Danish friend to Preston Airport (near Ayr). It had been a largely silent trip (my Danish is only slightly worse than my Hungarian, and the dad seemed disinclined for conversation). Until he asked, "And vere doo YOO come from?"..... "California?".........("Oh no," I thought, "Here it comes.")......"Isn't that where John Steinbeck is from?"
I felt so enormously gratified, I could have kissed his whiskery Danish cheeks.
We had a great talk about how important Steinbeck's books are to American literature (of which he had read a lot; while I've read very few books by Danish authors -okay, none;
The Danes Are Great
So, thank you, John Steinbeck, for increasing the credibility of my much misrepresented state. And for writing prose that so encapsulates the beauty & humanity of the central coast of California. And thank you, Danish people, for being such paragons of literature and culture. California salutes you, dudes! Rock on!
From the Blue Room
The back half of our house is underground; (we live in a hobbit-hole, really) and as I sit here in our office/catch-all room, I can look up to the casement window at the spring weeds that are growing overhead. One of my favourite little bits of spring ephemera is currently nodding down at me, the Miner's Lettuce, (Montia perfoliata). However, 'Plants of the Coast Redwood Region' gives perhaps too much information about this little plant:
"As the name implies, miner's lettuce can be eaten raw in salads or boiled like spinach. A common practice of the California Indians was to place the plant near red ant hills. As the ants crawled over the leaves, they left behind a vinegary flavor like a salad dressing. "
Blech. I'm going to lie down.
But Before I Do
Has anyone checked out Esther in the Garden, yet? A good read. This is the blog of one Esther Montgomery, recently wed to a Martian. Their intergalactic newly wed life (and all the foreseeable issues: where to hide the spaceship-in the garden shed, disguised as an old suitcase, of course!) are seen through the eyes of the British gardening year. Check it out! And tell her Rosa sent you.
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.