Socrates & Plato

This happens every once in a while; G goes off to grandma's and I'm left in a quiet house with only the distant sound of chainsaws (?!) to keep me company. It's great. (Not the chainsaws- they'd better stop soon.) I am an introvert by nature, and it's at times difficult to spend day after day in the company of a chatty little unreasonable extrovert.
I say 'unreasonable' because she is only three. She is developing her sense of reasoning, and while it is coming along nicely, she is often relentless in her use of the Socratic Method, asking question after question, (usually beginning with 'why...?'); all in pursuit of her metaphysical inqury into the nature of the world. To which I reply, in the manner of Socrates to his pupil Plato, "Because I said so!"
Today is looking pretty quiet and hopefully my feeble wits can recover. The summer can be hard work for the stay at home mommy!


Rosa's Poetry Archives: Denise Duhamel

I just didn't get it-
even with the teacher holding an orange (the earth) in one hand
and a lemon (the moon) in the other,
her favorite student (the sun) standing behind her with a flashlight
I just couldn't grasp it-
this whole citrus universe, these bumpy planets revolving so slowly
no one could even see themselves moving.
I used to think if I could only concentrate hard enough
I could be the one person to feel what no one else could,
sense a small tug from the ground, a sky shift, the earth changing gears.
Even though I was only one mini-speck on a speck,
even though I was merely a pinprick in one goosebump on the orange,
I was sure then that I was the most specially perceptive, perceptively sensitive.
I was sure then my mother was the only mother to snap,
"The world doesn't revolve around you!"
The earth was fragile and mostly water,
just the way the orange was mostly water if you peeled it,
just the way I was mostly water if you peeled me.
Looking back on that third grade science demonstration,
I can understand why some people gave up on fame or religion or cures-
especially people who have an understanding
of the excruciating crawl of the world,
who have a well-developed sense of spatial reasoning
and the tininess that it is to be one of us.
But not me-even now I wouldn't mind being god, the force
who spins the planets the way I spin a globe, a basketball, a yoyo.
I wouldn't mind being that teacher who chooses the fruit,
or that favorite kid who gives the moon it's glow.

-Denise Duhamel


Upon being Literary-Minded or Where is the Grand Narrative in the Sub-Prime Mortgage Crisis?

Tonight I was in Bookshop Santa Cruz with Susie, and the Elevens. I was on the hunt for a card for my mother-in-law. Upon entry I steered immediately for the card section and began hunting for something appropriate: not too quirky, artsy, ironic or Santa Cruzy (she's more of a Max Lucado/inspirational sentiment/Marth Stewart type.) I immediately found the antitheses of all these requirements, found them in spades. I picked up one in particular: on the front a photo of a marble statue of a woman with fairy wings superimposed on top, lots of glitter. A banner above the statue read: BREATHE. BELIEVE. RECEIVE. And the message across the statue's midriff read, "It's All Happening." Chuckling inwardly, I turned to show my friends, as a joke. I had to hunt around the bookstore for them, and when I couldn't find them I realized it was because immediately, upon entry, they had bled away into the store to look at books. It was so endearing, satisfying and familiar; hanging out with booky people who weren't just in there waiting for me to find my thing so they could leave. I stood there for a moment, grateful for my friends and then realized that the song that was playing over the store's loudspeaker was Sufjan Steven's 'Casimir Pulaski Day'. I ended up just standing there in the midst of all the books and people, humming along; a goofy grin on my face. The trumpets at the end of the song are so joyfully solemn, and the story Sufjan tells is so sad and beautiful.
La Derecha vs La Izquierda
I read aloud to a friend of mine last week- the opening paragraph to 'The Voyage of the Dawn Treader', that great bit that starts out, "There was a boy whose name was Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Now, this friend is a self-proclaimed non-reader (she told me, half-joking but probably not too incorrectly that she had read one book the year before-and she's definitely does not do fiction). So after I finished the paragraph she said, "I get no picture from that. I know those are all words, but they don't say anything to me. It's all jumbled." Which is interesting, because she is so astute with matters of finance and marketing. She tells me about the housing crisis and how you should buy a house when the market is on the upswing, not at it's lowest, and I smack my forehead (Gomer Pyle voice), "Well whatdayouknow? I never would have thought of that!" And that's just the stuff I understand. To the rest, all about equity, mortgages and tax shelters, I think the same thing-those are all English words, but they don't mean anything to me. Sometimes when I get in a conversation with left-brained mathy types, I want to gently interrupt them and ask, "Um, could you just write me a story that uses metaphor and allegory to explain the sub-prime lending crisis and what exactly hedge funds are?" But to her credit, this friend always keeps explaining and clarifying terms until even my feeble abstract-thinking right brain can understand. ( I picture my poor little brain like a choo choo train chug-chugging up a steep hill, muttering, "I think I can, I think I can.")
It's good to be with all sorts of people, not just those like me and so far my experience at our church has taught me that. And I've realized this past week that being around people who are not 'literary'has made me appreciate and recognize where myth & story have played a big role in my life.
Towards the end of 'Dawn Treader' Lucy is reading the magician's spell book and comes across
a spell 'for the refreshment of the spirit.' It's more of a story than a spell and as she reads it she forgets that she's reading-it's as if she is living in the story, as if it were real, and all the pictures were real too. At the end she says it's the loveliest story she's ever read and tries to turn the pages back to re-read it, but being magic, the left-hand pages won't move. And what's more, Lucy begins to forget what it was about, even as the words begin to fade from the page. "How can I have forgotten? It was about a cup and a sword and a tree and a green hill, I know that much. But I can't remember and what shall I do?" This becomes an ideal for her in later life, when she says something is a good story, it's one that reminds her of the forgotten story in the Magician's Book. A little later on, Aslan appears and as she asks him,

"Shall I ever be able to read that story again; the one I couldn't remember? Will you tell it to me, Aslan? Oh do, do, do."

Aslan replies, "Indeed, yes, I will tell it to you for years and years. "

This imagery feels so familiar that I didn't even realize it was significant until just this past week. I think in the past I've assumed that of course a spell for 'refreshment of the spirit' is a story; of course the story is a metaphor for that Lewisian Joy, that longing for something more, something outside our earthly experience that points to heaven. Of course Lucy's forgotten story finds it's re-telling with Aslan, the Christ-figure in this story. Being around people who do not immediately resound with these images has made me really see them, and now they show up in sharp relief, as sunlight shafts pierce a cloud.
Por Ejemplo.....
And in other news, I picked up Annie Dillard's new novel, 'The Maytrees'. I guess it's been out for a year, but I'm about a year behind so this is brand new for me. (Why am I still writing this post? I've got a book to read....!)


File Under: Hair-Brained Schemes Gone Right and the Death Of A Good Tree

B's birthday party last night. We borrowed a projector and set up a screen on top of our car, parked in the driveway. We anchored the projector on a rickety table in the garden and had a viewing of 'The 5,000 Fingers of Dr. T'. The guests sat on the porch under an assortment of camp blankets and quilts. The little girl cubs piled on top of each other in a rocker. I was inside for most of it, washing up. Every now and again I would glance behind me, my eye caught by a flicker of light. Each time I was startled to see moving images framed in the glass of my front door. It's pure eye candy: Dr. Seuss' fantastical sets, awash in 1950's sci-fi lushness. Hans Conried dancing around like a maniacal stork; Tommy Rettig pre-Lassie days, with his doe-like eyes and pristine dungarees. What a film! I first came across this movie whilst still in high school, my older brother took me to a showing at the long gone but still much missed Sashmill Theatre in SC. B first saw it at the Stanford Theater in Palo Alto, and it was one of the things we had in common when we met-a love for this goofy film. Happy Birthday, B!!
Earlier in the evening, our friends Jack & Nancy came by, armed with banjo and accordian; not unexpectedly, an impromptu garden concert ensued. It was pretty idyllic, although frequently interrupted by tears and trodden toes, brought on by the little girl mosh pit.
A Good Tree
I'm trying to enjoy our life beneath the mammoth oak for as long as I can, now that the diagnosis is in. I think I'm still in shock, and can't really articulate it like I want. But I will say that my favourite oak tree, the one that has borne me up and held me between it's boughs for 12 years now; given shade and shelter to my garden and a deep brilliant indigo-hue to my hydrangeas, has been diagnosed with Phytopthera ramorum, aka Sudden Oak Death. I'll write more about it soon, but it's still a little too raw......


Broccoli rabe

For Mum, a quick word about broccoli rabe. (Pronounced rob), also known as rapini. Don't be thrown off by it's name, it's not the same as broccoli. Rapini's botanical name is brassica rapa, while broccoli is brassica oleracea. So they're of the same genus, in the brassica brotherhood. Rapini's leaves are what are typically eaten, although they are a tad bitter and usually steamed or sauteed with oil, in true cooking green's style. I think of them as a more user-friendly version of mustard greens, which are also in the brassica family. Rapini is a trifle more amenable to the California palatte, I don't know how those Southerners handle all those mustard greens. Maybe it's the sweet tea?


Rosa's Recipe Archives: Split Pea Soup

I made this soup yesterday, absentmindedly hucking things in as I passed by the stove and so the measurements are pretty loose.

4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1 cup yellow split peas, rinsed and sorted
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
1Tbsp olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped small; with leaves
2-3 kohlrabi, peeled and chopped
small bunch of parsley, chopped
3 tsp cumin
salt & pepper

Heat 3 cups of the broth until boiling, add split peas. Return to a boil & reduce to simmer, 45 minutes.
Meanwhile saute onion, garlic, celery (reserve leaves), kohlrabi. When peas are finished, combine with onion mixture, don't drain off any excess liquid. Add remaining one cup broth. Add celery leaves, parsley, cumin and s & p to taste. Simmer about 20 minutes.
Serves 3

This is quite nice with a crusty loaf and a green salad; add some stout and you've got a great meal. And kohlrabi is such an underappreciated member of the Brassica Super Friends. Raw, it's taste is reminiscent of broccoli stem crossed with radishes but without any radish spice. You should be able to find them at a farmer's market. Santa Cruzans should go on up to the UCSC Farm & Garden market cart, which is at the base of campus (at the corner of Bay & High) every Tuesday & Friday from 12-6, running until the end of September. Christof Bernau, manager of the UCSC Farm Garden has in the past waged a tireless campaign to convert Santa Cruz to a kohlrabi diet; a worthy endeavor. I think he's moved on now to the Dandelion Greens crusade. Good luck with that (gag).
Say hi to Suzie & Robeson there, apprentices at the Farm (in the same program I completed in 2002) and also two amazing Abbey Gardeners.
For the Synesthetes
Color palette: gold and green. I think it's good to know the color of my dinner before I cook it.
Smell: earthy, comforting, faintly curryish
Sound: humming, stirring, chopping, Mates of State, Sufjan
Quiddity: Bag End


Permits are important after all........

It's interesting how things turn out. I expected another crazy day of gardening mayhem and instead I'm here, making split pea soup and listening to Mates of State and Rupa and the April Fishes. Rupa is singing blithely in French and the world seem fine. Thanks also to the County for ordering a halt on the plastering of the wall surrounding the new courtyard; the courtyard won't be finished for the opening, and we can't plant until next weekend. A relief in a way, although I am eager to usher in the greening of that concrete space.


Abbey Garden

My brain hurts and my back is sunburned. I close my eyes and I see terra cotta and variegated leaves. I try to speak and all that comes out is "Rosemary 'Tuscan Spires'." There is a slight twitch beginning in one eyelid. I dither endlessly about the drainage requirements for an ornamental olive and the prospective root run of an espaliered apple tree, and whether or not the Apothecary rose (rosa gallica plena) can be special-ordered from an obscure out of state heirloom rose nursery. I waste valuable time nosing around stores looking for patio lights and fountains. (Did I mention the eyelid twitch?)...... What could bring on these bizarre symptoms? Must be the opening of the Abbey coffeehouse and courtyard this Saturday. And don't even ask me about the ants in my hair.

There I was, on my belly, underneath the rose bush trying to shape some of the lower scaffold of branches. I spied a plant tag, and decided to shimmy closer to discover this plant's potentially exalted moniker. "It must be something old and French," I told myself. I got closer, ants running across the leaves that hung right in my eyes, and discovered "Gourmet Popcorn." Aack! What a wretched name for a lovely thing! If I were awake and in my right mind, I would begin a ranty post here about stupid plant names, and Oprah's new rose that premieres in December ('Legends' blah!) If I could be bothered. Which I can't. My eyes are starting to cross and so to bed to with me. Oprah's off scot-free. This time.


My friend Travis, who is on staff at our church, told me a few days ago that the library has the best internet connection in the whole building. That the library is only incidentally hi-tech is very fitting. B & I were joking that we should put up a sign that said "VFC Library-Come for the wi-fi, stay for the Dewey Decimal."


I'm actually incredibly disgusted by the taste of Scotland's national beverage, but we spoke with a friend of ours over there (see Tunnock's tea cake on the side bar)this morning, and so I've got Scotland on the brain....and here is the debut of YouTube on rosa-sinensis. (sigh.....it's all downhill from here....)


Castle Beach

Bonfire tonight, down at Castle Beach. It was that lovely crisp and blanketed fog, like the sand was being put to bed by the sky. Fire, sand and sea were all muted and fuzzy-edged, though voices carried clearly across the driftwood strewn beach. I felt as I usually do as I approach a group of friends, very glad to be there, but slightly cocooned, and by-standerish. I think it's a shy thing, or an introverted thing, but often I find myself struggling to be present, and not just a voyeur of my own experience. ("Here I am, with all my friends. I am talking to them. Talk. Talk. And now they are talking back. Interesting.") Being a writer probably doesn't help. Or a reader, I can easily get lulled into treating everything around me as one giant story I'm reading; like the actor who is late for his cue because he's too busy enjoying the play going on around him.
Whale Museum
Right above this beach is what's known locally as the Whale Museum, actually the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History. I went on copious field trips there as a tot, mine was one of the many pudgy little girl fingers poked into the tired sea anemones in the simulated tide pools....
The really terrible thing though is that my 5th grade class got flashed by some guy as we waited out front for our bus. I think he was chased away by a teacher but I've blocked it out. Growing Up in Santa Cruz, indeed. (Sorry, mum! I don't think I ever told you this....)
But the cement whale out front is perfect for late night scaling and conversation. I heartily recommend it-as well as the tide pools in the museum. Tell the anemones I said hi.


Mixed Tape

I keep all my old tapes in a rusted metal bread box. They are some of the hangers-on of my past, sentimental and awkward, taking up room, hardly working anymore, and full of memories. There's not many left, only about 20 or so, and the tape player on my stereo barely works, so I hardly ever look in there. But I did this week, & I unearthed an old mixed tape; woefully garbled, wobbly and sad. But it contains many gems, and so I am on the hunt for all of these songs on CD or mp3. We'll see how it goes.

So far I am a little disappointed with iTunes, for neglecting almost all of the Throwing Muses early albums, and for having only one rather obscure album by the Smiths. Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweetheart by Camper Van Beethoven is also sadly missing. How am I going to get a hold of their finest song, "She Divines Water"?I should ask their guitarist, Greg Lisher, he works in downtown SC , except he's my secret guitar hero crush, and I'm too shy.
All I could garner was a beautiful song by the Pogues 'I'll Love You to the End' as well as Mark Heard's opus 'Strong Hand of Love.'
What is it about mixes, that are so evocative? All about invoking a particular season of life. As I listen to this poor little tape, wobbling it's way through my speakers, it's suddenly 11 years ago and I am falling in love for the first time......


Hydrangeas and Feathers

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all.
-Emily Dickinson

He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.....He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler.
-Psalm 91 outtakes

hydrangea macrophylla closeup taken by Susie of the woodland realm, both fairy godmother & wielder of the mighty lens.


Ferndell Falls

This morning I lay on our new/old couch, out on the porch and drowsed. (We've decided that white trash living might actually be more about the good life than anything else.) In a half awake state I mused on the natural springs nearby and how they go from creek to river to sea; imagining the harbor seals flipping in and out of the water which began it's journey across the street in a redwood forest. One hundred paces across Forest Road lies the genesis of Ferndell Creek; a natural artisan well that bubbles and seeps out of the redwood dander. As it's collection of hydrogen and oxygen coalesces into a downward trickle, the nascent sounds of creek life are born. Soon water gathers force and travels under bridge, road and fern until it throws itself off the edge of the redwood-lined gulf. Today I stood beneath it; light glinting and water spattering, casting rainbow and spray. I took off my glasses, (they got wet anyway) and was blind, stumbling and slipping on the river rocks and shale, laughing as I cast around for balance.


The Abbey Garden, Biblical Trees and the Slammer

The new garden is really coming along, and I am excited about it. There's lots to do, although right now we're held up a little bit because this garden is part of the new coffeehouse courtyard, and there's all sorts of things being built, assembled or painted that we have to work around. I am so glad to be a part of something like this, and to help offer a space that promises tobe full of a beautiful characteristic of God: His unabashed fecundity. I don't know if it's a characteristic necessarily, my OED defines fecundity as fertile, to which I add wild, heaving with life, lavish creativity, teeming, overflowing. So fecund might not quite cover all that I'm reaching for....so I'll invoke my new favourite speed Scrabble word and merely refer to it as the quiddity of God. Or, as Bertie Wooster would say, "It has a certain....thingness...."
This is the courtyard to the Abbey, the new coffeehouse/art/music lounge that is opening soon. Being named the Abbey, we've decided to bring in a lot of plants from the old monastic gardens, while still playing a bit on the biblical plants theme. Monastic gardens were definitely planted with an eye for the practical, and these gardens mainly grew plants that were medicinal, edible, or aromatic (I've found not a few plants that were grown primarily as 'strewing herbs', that is, fragrant plants that could be strewn on the ground to freshen the air, like medieval baking soda.) Accordingly, the plants we grow in our Abbey Garden will have some practical purpose as well as historical significance. Oh yes, and will be beautiful. It sounds like a tall order. We'll see what happens!
Odds & Ends
1) I'm hot on the trail of a suitable small tree for the center of the courtyard, replacing the lovely white flowered rose that has been bravely soldiering on in the bare concrete expanse that made up the pre-existing site. (The only other bit of greenery, the ubiquitous box hedge, was grubbed up a few weeks ago; so R.I.P. to G's favourite after-church hidey-hole.) We're considering a pomegranate, I've found a few for sale that are already trained as a standard tree. I thought this was a perfect little tree until I read about their thorny, spikey leaves and now I am reconsidering; tomorrow will find me off to the nursery to see how pomegranate leaves rate on the Pokeometer....
Otherwise I'm not sure what sort of tree should go in there. I suppose most fruit trees would do fine, and right now I'm tempted by the beautiful symbolism of the almond tree. The almond is always one of the first flowering trees on show in early spring, and is usually one of the last to lose their leaves. Its flowers symbolize the cups that crown the seven branches of the Jewish candelabra (Ex. 25:33-36; 37:19-20). The rod of Aaron after breaking into bud, bore almonds. But my favourite mention of the almond comes from Jeremiah, who sees it in a vision:

"The word of Yahweh was addressed to me asking, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" "I see a branch of the watchful tree," I answered. Then Yahweh said, "Well seen! I too watch over My Word to see it fulfilled" (Jer. 1:11-12).

In this text there is a word game between the Hebrew words shaqed, almond tree, and shoqed, I watch. Also, the image of the almond tree, the first tree to bloom, reminds us of the watchful eye of God, that watches over His word to set it to practice. God is the almond tree of Israel.

Besides all this, the almond is interesting in all 4 seasons: early spring, when it breaks dormancy, flower buds in spring, fruit in spring/summer, leaf drop in autumn, and architectural bare branches in the winter. It does mean that it'll be leaves all over the courtyard in the fall, but that is what fall is named for, is it not? However, they are rather ubiquitously planted all over town , for these reasons. So we'll see.

2) We've lots of other ideas and so far, we're trying to think herbs and architectural plants. Angelica, dill and rosemary fall into both those categories, and I'd love to get a hold of some rue. I'm hanging out with a friend at the UCSC Farm and Garden next week, so I'll see what I can procure from their prolific stores of interesting plants.

Here's some of what we're after:
*Meyer's lemon (espalier)
*rosemary 'Tuscan Spires'
*Angelica archangelica
*Rosa gallica (apothecary rose)
*dill, mint, basil, (the usual)
*creeping thyme, (esp. chartreuse leaved)
*oregano (I'm donating a lovely ornamental oregano
I originally pillaged from UCSC's Chadwick Garden.)
*salvia mexicana 'Limelight' (gorgeous!)
*verbena bonariensis
*aloysia triphylla (lemon verbena)
*euphorbia characias wulfenii

I'd also love an olive tree and some bee skeps, but that's probably not going to happen.
And by the by, many thanks to bnegin, for the almond tree pic and to Pia Compagnioni, and the rest of the cyber Franciscans at christusrex, for the info on almond trees. Thank you, my brothers. (**said with an appropriately heavy New York/Italian accent and gestures.**) Also for this groovy quote:

"A tree, as a man, is a vertical figure projected toward Heaven. It is a symbol, because of its vital strength - annually renewed during the cycle of the seasons, reminding us of the victory of life over death."

In other tree-related news, B brought home a You Tube clip today of our friend Messo, being arrested by the Berkeley police after coming down out of a tree. I blogged about this before, so here's the follow-up story, 6 months later......when last we met Messo, he was a UC Berkeley student, acting as a hangers-on/support staff for the Berkeley tree-sit. In the You Tube clip you see him actually sitting in one of the trees in the oak grove, which is highly (no pun intended) illegal; as it is owned by the UC Regents & soon to be turned into an extension of their athletic dept. Messo subs at B's school-an early intervention preschool for autistic children, and you hear him mentioning it in the clip. I was going to break my rule about posting You Tube clips here, seeing as how it's about a friend of ours being arrested on a felony charge; but the ability to embed it has been disabled.

Anyway, here's the link instead, if anyone is interested. In which Our tree-sitter friend gets arrested.
I don't think they have wi-fi in the clink, so Messo, you probably won't be able to read this, but if you could, you would read about how we love you and are praying for you. May God see you through this, straight into His arms.

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.