12.29.2009

three dreams

Dream No. 1:
My sister has just started dating Barak Obama, who, in Dreamland, is younger and unmarried. I get to meet him, and he is nervous about meeting the family. I warn him about my dad, and he asks for tips on how to make a good impression. I shrug and then let Obama buy the first round of drinks, and feel like a sponge. "Well, he is the leader of the free world," I say, to console myself.
Dream No. 2:
I am walking with my sister in law, K, down a steep San Francisco street towards an outdoor event. There are alot of people milling about. Suddenly, K darts into an open doorway. Barak Obama sits in the darkness with his staff and advisors, shaking hands and making statements. K calmly introduces herself and I tumble in on her heels, feeling foolish and tongue-tied. Suddenly, over a loudspeaker, we hear that the L.A. marathon is about to begin (even though we are definitely in San Francisco). I leave with K and am horrified to discover that she has entered the marathon, and I must as well.
Dream No. 3: I am nursing H. It is bedtime but because of some floods we have been made homeless. We are with a group of other people, (maybe at a shelter). There are no beds so we have to all sleep together in a clump, sitting upright in chairs. We try to make ourselves as comfortable as possible, sitting in a circle and putting our feet up on each other's laps. Barak Obama and Joe Biden appear, wearing yamulkes and suits without the jackets, only the shirtsleeves and vests. They begin to fuss around us, tucking blankets around our legs. I am sycophantically eager, making stupid jokes about how the leaders of the free world are tucking us in bed; guffawing loudly at my own wit.  Obama turns to me. "Do you still have my book by your bed? Get it out, and I'll read you all a bedtime chapter called, The American Family." I scurry to grab my copy of The Audacity of Hope and give it to him, saying, "You know, I've never cared very much about politics, but hoo wee that was a great book!"
Analysis, anyone?

12.27.2009

Sorry, Santa!::A Brief Addendum

Man, I really sounded like a grumpy old church lady in that last post, didn't I? Sorry, mainline denomination! Maybe the reverent singing of Frosty the Snowman was a blessing to someone, sort of a low church liturgy? Let's hope so. I'm trying to be up with people, even (and especially) the people that irritate me. Because I sure hope someone is doing the same for me.

12.26.2009

In Which I Grit My Teeth at a 'Seeker-Friendly'- Christmas Eve Service

We went to B's parent's church on Christmas Eve. A big, main-line denomination. I didn't have huge expectations; I assumed it would be a standard service- 'Silent Night', a show-boaty rendering of  'O, Holy
Night', maybe a bell choir.We were going out of deference to B's family; as I said, not a lot of expectations. I figured an hour of lite carols and candles, and then we'd be home.
  Well, it took me quite a while to climb out of my irritation. I'm not sure why but the church felt the need to start off the night with 4 or 5 of the most insipid secular Christmas songs ever to spew out of a Muzak mall speaker. 'Let it Snow!', 'Rudolph', 'White Christmas',and my personal enemy of Christmas carols, 'Silver Bells', sung slowly and reverently. ("As the shoppers....... rush home with........ their treasures!') Probably the apex of the horrible sing-along was when we were all bidden to follow along with the singers on 'Frosty the Snowman'-"Thumpety thump thump! Thumpety thump thump! Look at Frosty go!" Eventually, they thought they could spring the subject of Jesus on us, now that we had sung a sufficient number of 'fun' songs. I think this was a 'seeker-friendly' thing, like we'll get them nice and comfy with our holly jolly Christmas and then whammo! Hit them with Jesus!
I kept thinking, Hello! We're in the church! Expecting to talk about Jesus! It's Christmas Eve, for goodness sake! It took me a while to calm down. Not only do we not have to hide the fact that we're celebrating the birth of Jesus, we have an awful lot of history and culture down through the ages from which to draw! Like this:

Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
And with fear and trembling stand;
Ponder nothing earthly minded,
For with blessing in His hand,
Christ our God to earth descendeth,
Our full homage to demand.


King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood,
Lord of lords, in human vesture,
In the body and the blood;
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.


Rank on rank the host of heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.


At His feet the six wing├Ęd seraph,
Cherubim with sleepless eye,
Veil their faces to the presence,
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia, Alleluia
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


I love the imagery of Christ descending to earth from the realms of endless day, blessing in His hand. 
'Let All Mortal Flesh' was originally derived from the 'Prayer of the Cherubic Hymn', taken from the Litany of James which was written sometime in the 4th century. It is quite old and still packs a lyrical punch.
Now, I'm not surprised this church didn't include 'Let All Mortal Flesh' in their choral line-up, most churches don't. But I am saying that there is a deep and varied history of hymnody within the Christian church, 2,000 years of music, passed down through the ages. Would it be so hard to draw from some of these, and leave 'Winter Wonderland' and 'Frosty the Snowman' to the mall carolers? I'm just saying.

(Thumpety thump thump! 
Thumpety thump thump! 
Look at Jesus go!)

But sometimes you just gotta get silly:

12.22.2009

Rosa's Video Archives::The Saw Lady, Silent Night, & a NYC Subway Station

I can't tell if I really like this, or really don't. It's either ethereal & quirky or whiney & cringey.


See what I mean?

In the spirit of the season, I'll go with the former. I mean, who am I to sniff at the Saw Lady? All I can get from a saw blade is a rhythmic to-ing and fro-ing. It's true that this back and forth manner removes dead branches, increases air circulation, and brings sunlight into the center of a fruit tree. But it's hard to do that in a crowded subway station.
We don't get too much in the way of musical saw busking in Santa Cruz, at least not anymore-now that Tom Scribner, local Wobblie, has died. And B fondly recalls the chapel hour at his lil Christian elementary School-Mr. Copehanger playing 'Amazing Grace' on the saw. But for the most part our days are pretty musical saw-free. Which might not be a bad thing? I still can't decide.

(And many thanks to mike kobal for the Youtube link, and musicmuse_ca  for the Tom Scribner pic. Beautiful!)

12.19.2009

Christmas Shopping, Wings of Desire and the Brotherhood of Man

I was downtown this afternoon, having shopped, coffeed and taken my library books for a walk. I was on my way back to my car, when at the corner of Pacific & Locust I heard the strains of street musician fare, pretty typical stuff, sort of pseudo-theremin thrown in with someone's Chinese water torture bongos. I had been musing on the idea of prayer, about how it often felt like a one-sided conversation, and while it was good to tell things to God, I wanted to talk to someone who would talk back to me. I used to pray and get some sense of the Divine discourse; lately it's been more like Anne Lammott's Outbox Prayer. She had a request, and would write it on a slip and put it in her 'outbox'.
As the music came more sharply into focus, I found myself thinking: what if it were true that each of these people walking by were loved, dear, and very important? I don't quite know how I got there, mentally. One minute it was plaintive inner bleating about unanswered prayer and the next I was hyper- aware of the people walking past. I peered at them from behind my scarf; the couple in front of the movie theatre, the shambly guy in front of the bagel place. The hipster girls by Urban Outfitters. The homeless guy curled up on the bench in front of the library; his cat gnawing on a chicken bone. I had wandered into Wings of Desire-I wanted to hug people and murmur encouragingly to them in German. And if all these people are so important and beloved, I must be too; we are all related, all children of the Father. I remembered that great Chesterton quote about the 'streets full of splendid strangers.' Click on the link for the full quote and an old post from the archives.
I don't often walk down the street thinking things like this, especially not in the midst of a crowded shopping afternoon, with irritating bongo drums that just. won't. stop. But there I was. I don't know if it was a Divine poke or just a really good cup of Peet's, but I don't need to know. I've lately come to the idea that I needn't question the way truth and grace come to me.
Here's the Innocence Mission to finish things up:

12.15.2009

Rosa's Poetry Archives:Gerard Manley Hopkins-Advent Reading Week 3


God's Grandeur

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
It will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed.Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
And all is smeared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
And wears man's smudge and shares man's smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.


And, for all this, nature is never spent;
There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;
And though the last lights from the black West went
Oh, morning at the brown brink eastward springs-
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings.

-Gerard Manley Hopkins

Why didn't anyone tell me about Gerard Manley Hopkins? I know I've heard his name before but 'God's Grandeur' is the first of his poems that I've stumbled across. This poem leapt off the page from an Advent devotional reader (from Holy Bible: Mosaic,) and carried me through the day. I found myself repeating, "There lives the dearest freshness deep down things" to myself as I planted daffodil bulbs and 'the Holy Ghost broods with warm breast, and ah! bright wings' as I cared for kith and kin. 

I was reminded somehow of Robert Southwell, although that could also have to do with the fact that they were both Jesuit priests. Last Advent I dusted off a Southwell poem from the Poetry Archives, and here it is. It's just about my favorite Nativity poem. Except Chesterton's. And Lucy Shaw's. Oh, and Lewis'. Maybe a series of Advent poetry posts is in order? I'll add that to the pile of good intentions.
And thank you Fr.William Hart McNichols, for the iconic portrait of Hopkins. Lovely.

12.10.2009

Sorry it's been so silent around here. Actually some silence would be nice-it feels like the circus is in town to stay. I don't even know how to catalogue it all, and if I were any less bleary-eyed I could be more eloquent in the descriptions of my days. Suffice to say, I am knee-high in children. I suppose I could say chest-deep, with a nursing infant.
The Littles

Both G & H are sick, of the gummy, runny cough-cough variety. Red droopy eyes and short little tempers. It's like living with tiny old people, hacking and kavetching about their ailments. "Oy vey! Mommy! ((cough cough))  I want to watch 'Dora Saves the Mermaids', if I should live so long!" 

Today's Theological Interchange: 
G: "Do you know how high Jesus could throw a sandwich?" 
Me, slightly distracted: "Ummm...what was that? Uh, no. How high could Jesus throw a sandwich?"
G, jubilant, arms aloft: "All the way to heaven!"

 Assessment: Tired, But Hopeful

I've decided that this time in my life I get to be the person to whom my family comes home; there's something nice about that. It's not a role that I've ever sought out-I've never aspired to being a domestic-y sort of person, except for the fact that I like to garden, cook, read and stay close to home. I suppose it's funny to think that when I told God I would do what He wanted me to do, and go where I was needed, I would be sent here, to this home-life, filled with the joys and struggles of child-rearing, the most difficult job I've ever undertaken. I've decided to start saying that I work from home, that I'm working on a little start-up project. G & H- my little start-ups.
School House Rock

Growing up in a single parent family, my mom was usually the last one in the door; my brother and I home from school for several hours, already having squandered untold millions of brain cells on after-school TV. My life now is a complete reversal from how I was raised, and I find myself floundering around quite a bit. It's weird to still be getting the hang of things that should be simple, like cooking, cleaning & communicating. But when you begin to add the different overlays of our life, the waters are a little harder to navigate. I welcome these challenges-I feel more tired these days, as well as a bit more hopeful.
If you could pray for me, I'd be grateful.

11.24.2009

Rosa's Reading List::Blogs & A Book

Blogs......

Esther In the Garden
It all started here with the story of Esther Montgomery, who married a Martian. She is trying hard to cope with an extraterrestrial family; and this comes out as she writes about her garden. The twists and turns are delightful, and pacing is brilliant. It has been 'mothballed' but you can read the blog in its entirety.
This blog spawned several offshoots, so to speak. Esther's neighbor,
Lucy picks up blog-writing and has two blogs:


Loose and Leafy
Pictures Just Pictures

Esther's Boring Garden Blog. This is Esther as her most brilliant, in my opinion, and her use of parenthesis is unparalleled.Click here to read a recent post about the correct pronunciation of the word 'hosta.' ("Hos-TA!")

Hugh and Camelia- this is a book on its own, written in blog form, chapter by chapter.
All of these reads go down better with a cup of something hot. For me it was usually Irish Breakfast tea, or Red Rose (can't get enough of all those ceramic figurines).
......And a book
I just finished  Michael Chabon's 'Summerland'. It was entertaining, if a bit bewildering. A sort of Field of Dreams meets Native American/Norse mythology Chronicles of Narnia? It got a bit crowded in there, but it was well-written. And extra points for a  plot contrivance based on pleaching, a woefully under-used horticultural practice. More on pleaching later, we just got back from a visit with a few of my fave examples.

11.19.2009

More About Trade As One

I've just been reading  Trade As One's blog and enjoying immensely Nathan George's 3 part series on consumerism. One of the things I love about Trade As One is that it recognizes the crisis of consumerism and its harmful affects on the soul of the consumer; I'm talking about the sort of spiritual malaise that enslaves us when we are loaded down by debt and trapped in the cycle of work/spend/work/spend ad infinitum. Nathan says that the way to get out of this cycle is to cultivate gratitude and generosity in our lives.
'Through gratitude and generosity we step outside of our little world where we are the center of attention. In doing so, we step out of the firing line for all the messaging, advertising, fear-inducing hype-speak aimed at us. As the din from all that noise diminishes we start to hear all sorts of other things we have been missing all this time – like our names, our purpose, and the incomparable joys of living in that purpose.' -Nathan George, Founder, Trade As One
Crunchier than Thou
I realize that I have been too quick to take Fair Trade for granted. Living in Santa Cruz, I see it used so often as one more PC label, one more way to judge whether or not you are of the elect-"Is it organic? Free range? Biodynamic? Sustainably grown? Fair Trade?" One more phylactery on the PC Pharisee's proud forehead. ("I thank you, Lord, that I am not like that tax collector. He is so not green-and did you see that French roast he just bought? Totally not Fair Trade!") 
27 Million
It wasn't until I started reading a book at a friend's house, Not For Sale: The Return of the Global Slave Trade and  How We Can Fight It,  by David Batstone, that I began to sit up and take notice. The issue of human trafficking has never left us, and the fact that there are an estimated 27 million people who, right now, are slaves, is hair-raising, and left me wanting desperately to do something.  This friend of mine told me she gets together with a few women every month or so to pray for these 27 million, each known and loved by God. When she told me this, it was like a light went on inside my heart and I realized that this was something that I could do, something that was within my grasp. 
Viewing the Trade As One boutique last Sunday through the lens of the trafficking issue filled me with gratitude and generosity. Looking at the jewelry, thinking-"these bracelets were made by a woman that was rescued from the sex trade in Cambodia! Awesome!" I just kept walking around with the same silly grin on my face, self-consciously rubbing my arms-I think I had chicken skin all day. I wanted to buy it all. I didn't! But the few things we did buy we will treasure. It's not the first time I've been around this sort of thing, and the idea of supporting micro-businesses from the Third World is not new. But somehow it is hitting me differently.
"Do justly, love mercy, walk humbly with your God.-Micah 6:8"


 I'm still ruminating on all this, and trying to assimilate it into my life. Most days, I'm either sitting in a nursing stupor, or dashing about, generally tired & absent-minded; forgetting important things like meetings, people's names and the odd noun, but inwardly my ear is cocked to the heavens, listening.
 Subvert The Dominant Paradigm:
 Have An Opinion, And Don't Put It On Your Car!
If you want a bit of a laugh, read the Santa Cruz Sentinel's two articles on the Trade As One boutique at our church, Vintage Faith, last Sunday. The articles themselves aren't especially chuckle-worthy, but the myriad of comments afterwords certainly are. We Santa Cruzans just can't help ourselves when it comes to opinions! It's something in the water. But I won't say what, or I'll get alot of mistaken angry comments about the controversial flouride in the water supply debate.

But please, have a poke around the Trade As One website, and hear a few of the stories from the producers of their products. They are marvelous-like the story of Divine Chocolate from Ghana, the world's first chocolate company owned by farmers, and the way they honor and support the equality of women in their company. Good stuff. I can't wait to open our Advent Calendar with their chocolate! If you missed the boutique, they will be at the Rio Theatre (here in Santa Cruz) December 12 & 13.

11.08.2009

Rosa's Poetry Snippet Archives::B

He has not left you orphaned
or alone
since He knit you together 
soul and bone
through space and time
He winds His silver thread
for you to feel along
with heart and head


Allow no clamor to undo you
or hasty hoary hand to misconstrue you
Remember the first kisses of your
wakening day
and rush to meet your Maker
along the way.  
-B


This sweet little snippet was found floating around on our office desk, written several years ago on the back of an index card; I preserve it here with love. It is possibly written with our little G in mind, I'll have to confirm it with the poet.

The picture, by the incomparable illustrator Jessie Wilcox Smith, is from the 1920 edition of 'Princess and the Goblin' by George MacDonald. Note the thin sliver of thread that the princess Irene is holding; one of the finest metaphors of faith that I have found. The thread stretches from her ring to her great great grandmother, who sits at the top of Irene's rambling castle home; Irene has to follow the thread where ever it leads her, no matter how roundabout, in order to find her way out of the goblin's cave, and then-but wait, you really should read it yourself. And then you can read 'The Princess and Curdie', and come over for tea and a wee blether. If you need a refresher course on George MacDonald, here is a post from yesteryear to get you started.
Did You Mean Obtuse?

 As I did a Google search for this image, I misspelled 'goblin' and was asked, "Did you mean princess and the globulin?"

11.01.2009

Trade As One



 Vintage Faith Church of Santa Cruz, CA will be partnering with Trade As One to host a Fair Trade boutique November 15, 2009. It'll be in the Fireside Room- click on the church link for directions. I for one will enjoy this detour from the normal frenzy of purchasing that Christmas can become. I'm excited to buy gifts that will bring justice to those who need it. So come on out! Tell them rosa sent you.

10.27.2009

Truth Amidst Schlock

Because of the Lord's great love
we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.

The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him,
to the one who seeks him;
it is good to wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
Lamentations 3:22-26

1-800-CHRISTIAN
Who knows how these things happen, but somehow a catalog appeared on my coffee table bearing the title 'Christian Gifts: to Encourage, Comfort and Inspire'. You know the sort: filled with things like Guitar Praise: Solid Rock Edition, inspirational banners, key chains, wind chimes, mouse pads, and bible cosies. Also something called God's Girlz ('tired of toys with a worldly appearance? You'll welcome these dolls with a perfect fit of faith and fashion!'). I think my favorite is the description of the Gospel Masters CD set; Elvis Presley singing the hits of the tent revival era: 'Worship the King of heaven with the king of rock 'n' roll!' Normally I try to stay away from these sorts of Christian junk venues, it's bad for my soul, and I don't need any more fodder for bitterness and cynicism.
What Would Jesus Buy?
Years ago I read in Voice Of The Martyrs magazine about the Christian pastor in China who
was imprisoned for his faith and put into a labor camp-where he was forced to make Christmas tree lights, sold to the West. The very idea makes my head want to explode, and is why I found the whole WWJD? bracelets (made in China) particularly repugnant. As a culture we don't need more schlock, and we need even less the schlock that is based around the teachings of the homeless One who exhorts us to store up treasures in heaven, rather than on earth, for 'where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." And we give tacit approval to the social injustice of slave labor when we support an industry that is built on the backs of the oppressed. I should be the first to point out that I struggle with living this out: I don't check the labels of everything I buy, or boycott China and other nations with dodgy human rights records. But I'm trying.
Balaam's Ass
But this morning I found myself flipping through the Jesus junk catalog, just prior to chucking it out. I veered past the faux Gucci handbag-style Bible cosies (horrors!) & averted my gaze from the sick-making Precious Moments section. ("Lord, I've Sentimentalized the Gospel for Money!")
My eye was caught by a Scripture reference that I didn't recognize (I think it was on a Scripture-based travel coffee mug.) I looked it up,and found the above scripture from Lamentations. It was soothing, sweet & beautiful, and suddenly I had been handed the balm that I didn't know I needed. I sat still for a few moments, my anger and indignation momentarily placed on my emotional back-burner. God is so good, and always gets in there with just what I need to hear.

"For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12

It also made me laugh, and remember that God is not above speaking to me through the pages of Christian schlock. And neither should I be. Who am I to snigger at the way truth comes to me? It's like finding an oasis in the desert and then turning up my nose at the glass of water that I'm handed because it isn't Waterford crystal.
(But I still threw the catalog in the bin.)


10.13.2009

Hand Drawn Map Association : This is map #180

Hand Drawn Map Association : This is map #180

Shared via AddThis
I am so intrigued by the Handmade Map Association and this particular map. I've always loved a good map, and have been known to use old atlas pages for everything from gift wrap to wallpaper. Go get lost in their collection of hand drawn maps, and tell them rosa sent you.

9.16.2009

Rosa's Poetry Archives: A.A. Milne


Bad Sir Brian Botany

by A.A. Milne


Sir Brian had a battleaxe with great big knobs on.

He went among the villagers and blipped them on the head.

On Wednesday and on Saturday,

Especially on the latter day,

He called on all the cottages and this is what he said:

"I am Sir Brian!" (Ting-ling!)

"I am Sir Brian!" (Rat-tat!)

"I am Sir Brian,

"As bold as a lion!

"Take that, and that, and that!"

Sir Brian had a pair of boots with great big spurs on;.

A fighting pair of which he was particularly fond.

On Tuesday and on Friday,

Just to make the street look tidy,

He'd collect the passing villagers and kick them in the pond.

"I am Sir Brian!" (Sper-lash!)

"I am Sir Brian!" (Sper-losh!)

"I am Sir Brian,

"As bold as a Lion!

"Is anyone else for a wash?"

Sir Brian woke one morning and he couldn't find his battleaxe.

He walked into the village in his second pair of boots.

He had gone a hundred paces

When the street was full of faces

And the villagers were round him with ironical salutes.

"You are Sir Brian? My, my.

"You are Sir Brian? Dear, dear.

"You are Sir Brian

"As bold as a lion?

"Delighted to meet you here!"

Sir Brian went a journey and he found a lot of duckweed.

They pulled him out and dried him and they blipped him on the head.

They took him by the breeches

And they hurled him into ditches

And they pushed him under waterfalls and this is what they said:

"You are Sir Brian -- don't laugh!

"You are Sir Brian -- don't cry!

"You are Sir Brian

"As bold as a lion --

"Sir Brian the Lion, goodbye!"

Sir Brian struggled home again and chopped up his battleaxe.

Sir Brian took his fighting boots and threw them in the fire.

He is quite a different person

Now he hasn't got his spurs on,

And he goes about the village as B. Botany, Esquire.

"I am Sir Brian? Oh, no!

"I am Sir Brian? Who's he?

"I haven't any title, I'm Botany;

"Plain Mr. Botany (B.)"


for the Elevens

9.15.2009

The Sun Has Got His Hat On

It's rare that I get to lift my head above the waters of hearth and home these days. In the past few weeks I've felt especially tethered to the house by the heat and Mother Hubbard-style pocketbook.
It's that time of year around here, that last gasp of a drought-filled and forest fire-riddled summer (tongue twister du jour). Which is all fine for the dry-farmed tomatoes, which just get juicier and sweeter the hotter and drier it gets. For me, not so much. My skin is librarian pale & I look like I belong on some misty moor somewhere, drinking tea out of a thermos and picking dead bracken out of my knee socks. Here in the SC mountains, when two weeks ago it reached 104 on my porch and we haven't had rain since the end of May, I can be found cowering indoors and administering lime Popsicles to sweating children. I can't even go out into the garden, it's too dispiriting. The tall stalks of my white Japanese anemones have a hangdog expression, and the Dutchman's Breeches (dicentra formosa) has gone all dry and crispy, which in garden parlance means dead. Most everything is still technically alive, thanks to drip hose irrigation, which is exempt from our County's water rationing, but since I can only overhead water before 10AM and after 6PM on Tuesdays and Saturdays the plants are looking fusty and cobwebby and the whole garden wants its face washed. I refuse to give in to the Red and White Sparkly Rocks School of drought-tolerant suburban landscaping, but if this continues, a foray into the world of California native bunch grasses might not be so far away. And what a desperate day that will be, I've never been able to get excited about bunch grasses.
Saved!
But then the other night-most unexpectedly-the foggy marine layer's condensation turned into heavy mist, which turned into drip drip drop and soon it was barreling down, for the first time since the end of May. It was glorious.
Yesterday morning we woke up early and trundled G off for her first day of preschool, which we reached after a five minute walk through our sylvan burgh. The rain had softened the edges of everything, like my life suddenly filmed with a gauze filter. I felt on top of things, for the first time in a long time, walking with the Littles, G and H.
My heart flipped over to see little G, so eager and fearless in her ladybug raincoat and yellow boots. She was a bundle of four year-old inconsistencies, skipping valiantly ahead and then doubling back to clutch my hand, nervously: "Hold my hand, Mommy! A car is coming. Do they see us?" We were even early to school. Now that is a miracle.

So much has happened on our little street in the 13 years I've lived here, but this morning's Preschool Walk felt like a processional of sorts, a culmination of all the late night walks with friends, with B, the runaway balls chased down, the post office jaunts and creek walk expeditions....it is a dear place to me, and I guess being tethered to it is not so bad right now.
Current Happy Things
1. The Mistmantle Chronicles by M.L. McAllister thanks, Blessed! Man oh man, these are great!
2. the Thursday Next books by Jasper Fforde. Totally silly! 'The Eyre Affair' is the first. I'm on Book 5.
3. Sammy, my nephew-I got to meet him this weekend. Los Angeles is too far away!

8.30.2009

I never thought I'd welcome the downhill slide into September that August becomes, but this is one seasonal change that I am anticipating.
We're finally in the home stretch before school starts and I have never been more happy to see September roll around. Instead of the usual melancholia that engulfs me at this time of year- (Gone again is summer, the lovely! Oh, the fun not had! The things we meant to do and didn't!)-I feel like I'm gasping for the finish line. It's been a long summer. Having a newborn and an exuberant four year old at home all day every day has definitely been wearing on me, especially as I navigate these waters with much less sleep than usual. I can't keep my eyes closed for too long (hide and seek; pre-meal prayer) without getting groggy. I didn't think it was possible for me to read any more books than usual, but I have been devouring them at a frantic pace. I think it's because I need a momentary escape into a different world than mine. Which feels strange to even say-I love my world, and those who inhabit it with me. It just feels a little intense right now.
B's teaching gig has a 9 month contract, which means in the summer he is ostensibly unemployed. So we have less money to spread around, and this time of year is usually the leanest. We're getting good at stretching paychecks to the last minim. Thus far we have seen a lot of God's provision for us all coming from unlikely places, and are generally feeling more grateful than usual, which is always a good thing. And B just started back to work last week, and G's preschool starts soon, hurray hurray.
I am grateful for this time in my life, I know I am. If only I could just look at it properly-surrounded by my loved ones, taking things as they come, one diaper change at a time.
I don't know what the next few months will bring but I hope they include:

-more of Laurel's Kitchen Fresh Corn and Tomato Soup
-Abbey Garden redo
-new compost piles
-sleep
-and of course

8.29.2009

Hot!

We've been cowering indoors all morning. It's the heat, you see...well over 100 degrees up here in the redwoods. We're heading for the beach!
Anyone else hot?

8.28.2009

Gardening Forensics

My soil and I have come along way together. In ways it's like an old friend, familiar and careless. I know that it is so sandy it seems to grow pebbles, that its black and acidic nature is due to the oak trees overhead, and that if I dig around the rhododendrons, I'll smell the old coffee grounds that anoint it daily.
Our tiny little spit of lawn is edged with river rock, at least it was-now the garden beds have been sucking stones into their soil like giant gumballs; I unearth them every now and again when I turn the beds over. I found the rocks in the nearby creek and hauled them all up in the rusty red wagon that now lies slowly being subsumed by the vinca behind the house. Most of the rocks turned out to be sandstone, and fell apart years ago, but a few of the original river rock remain. These tend to surface every now and again in the garden beds, like submarines or whales, spouting compost, partially decomposed mulch and old pieces of my 4 year old's sidewalk chalk.
I love how the soil in my garden tells the story of my life in it. If I ever had to move away from my garden, I might have to lift the topsoil and take it with me as my flower beds contain a strata of my last 13 years in this one place. If I dig down far enough I can find the remains of our broken Fiestaware dishes from our early days of marriage, we used the broken saucers and teacups as edgers, as I remember. B called the broken bits 'Fiascoware'. Gently decaying pieces of irrigation tubing, plant tags and twist ties add heft and bulk to the soil and remind me of old planting schemes gone awry. "Here's where I tried to plant those peonies two years ago! What was I thinking, putting them so far from the drip hose?" I mutter to myself as I poke around with a trowel, pulling out shards of plant tags. Old gladiolus husks, iris tubers and decayed roots are like the Ghosts of Plants Past, murmuring the stories of their lives to me as I bend my ear to the earth, stretching my fingers through the soil.
I feel so attached to this space, to the coming and going of seasons, the new growth and slow decay. I daydream about a larger space, with more sun and privacy, but honestly, I wouldn't know what to do with another garden; this is my home.

8.26.2009

Favorite Small Places

It's little wonder that I have a love for the diminutive: I live surrounded by tiny things: children, clothes, booties. I've never managed to recover from that intense desire of childhood: entering the world of the Borrowers, or The Littles or Thumbelina. And our house is like our own private diorama, especially by American standards: under 1,000 sq. ft. Our car is a VW Beetle. And every seat is taken. I don't want to sound virtuous, we really struggle with the lack of space, and I admit to occasional pangs of desire for one of the ridiculously monstrous SUVs, you know, the sort that should be named Goliath or U.A.E. (named after the country whose oil supply it depletes just backing down the drive.) But most days, I am content in my small life.
B is particularly adept at small space living, we have a lot of things hanging behind things, nested in other things, under beds, or somehow given dual purposes. I think he'd have been happy living on a boat, or designing train berths.
We've always equated small with coziness, like Mole End or Ratty's snug home beside the river in Wind in the Willows, always preferable to Toad Hall when you want to be cozy. It is easier to curl up with a book in 800 sq feet than in Buckingham Palace which, as we all know, is 828,818 sq feet. I do hope the Royal corgis will budge up for Her Majesty and Prince Phillip....
I've realized recently that there are a few places in town that give me that feeling of smallness, a sort of coziness/small town America feeling. Things that sort of reset my cultural vestibular system. So here are a few of the places- local charms on my Santa Cruz bracelet-just for you.
1. Porter Memorial Library
Soquel Village
This little place is part of a vanishing breed -the private library. They rock the card catalogue, and the dusty display case to patron ratio is high. It is volunteer run, and my library card is made of card stock and my name is written in by hand. And even though I've had a book overdue since 1982, they still welcome me back with open arms. There's so much to recommend about this place (Shannon Marie, if you are still a rosa-sinensis reader, you would definitely love it).
One of the last times I visited this library I spent a lot of time in the little local history section with the librarian who looked to be in her 70's. She told me about growing up in the mountains outside Soquel, off Old San Jose Road, educated in a little one room school house-her school would occasionally go to 'town' to share some classes with Soquel Elementary School (my alma mater.) She pulled out one of her old class photos, one of those long, thin, panoramic pictures that showed the entire school lined up on the grass in front of the school. It dated from the late 20's or early 30's. She pointed out a young woman at the end of a line of children, dark haired and smiling. "See her?" she said, "That's Miss Woolsey. She was my favorite teacher." I looked at her dumbfounded. "Miss Woolsey? Alice Woolsey? But she was MY favorite teacher!" We stared at each other for a moment, and then laughed. Sure enough, this septuagenarian and I had both been taught by one of the most exemplary teachers I've ever known, she at the beginning of her teaching career, and myself at the end. Alice Woolsey taught my second grade class, immaculately dressed in sweater sets, brooches & makeup. She was a classy lady. When we would take a paper to her desk and tell her we were 'done', she would reply archly, "Rare or well?" We'd all watch in awe as she would dance & sing to scratchy recording of 'Yellow Bird'. I felt loved and believed in & able to achieve with Miss Woolsey as my teacher. It was due to her that I won the second grade spelling bee. When she died, they named a street after her.

A Eulogy:
The Village Diner
Soquel Village
This place has been gone for many years now and the ache is still palpable. Does anyone (besides the Elevens/Izzie) remember this little spot? It was next to the Hairy Chair barber shop, across from the Bagelry in Soquel Village. A tiny little diner with heart-breaking retro decor and burgers and fries that would make you weep. The chocolate cake was exactly the size of the cake in Roald Dahl's Matilda, (masssive), the coffee was strong, and we were on 'hey-how's-it-goin'' terms with the proprietor. What more could you ask for in a restaurant? Even now, 7 or so years after its demise (help me out here) I still have to avert my eyes when I drive by. It's now the home of a garishly painted taqueria. Gone, gone. Here's an old review just to pound the nail in the coffin.

3. The Word Shop
Seacliff
The Word Shop is a sweet lil Christian bookstore,very tucked away and homegrown. Allie, the proprietor, is lovely and will sit around and talk about life, the universe and everything with you all afternoon. We know this from experience. There's a section on heretics, poetry and old hymnals. I love it. It's volunteer-run, and needs more exposure. Check out the website link, and go give them your custom. An added bonus is that it is right down the street from the coolest remaining 50's sign in the county, the Sno-White Drive In. The food I can't vouch for. But the kitsch is outstanding.
4. El Salto
Capitola
This is a nice little neighborhood, perfect for walkies. It sits on Depot Hill above Capitola Village and boasts many beach cottages with sweet little gardens and a walk along the cliffs above the ocean. I believe the parking just might be permit only nearer the cliff, so watch out for that.
5. Prayer Mountain
This little gem is located in Scotts Valley, right before you hit Mission Springs, one of the ubiquitous Christian camps in the area. What sets Mission Springs apart, by the by, is one of its Maintenance staff alumni. Which goes to show that you never know just what sort of mindless trivia you'll find on rosa-sinensis.
So I discovered Prayer Mountain years ago. It's proper title is the Fasting Prayer Mountain of the World, modeled after Dr. Yongi Cho's prayer retreats in Korea. If you are able to find it (and a lot depends on a little sign written in Korean on your left) you will be happy you made the trip. It's basically a retreat place dedicated to prayer, seeking God and getting away from it all. You need to register when you first arrive, after which you'll be assigned one of the small one-room cabins that litter the hillside. You can stay overnight if you wish, and it's free. But don't bring food-this is a place of fasting. It's incredibly peaceful and landscaped in this very Eastern sort of way, though without pagodas or Zen gardens. It's hard to describe. It's in a redwood forest, but every now and again you'll chance upon old stumps that have been planted with shade plants, mainly of the impatien type. Everything is meticulous. Why this means Eastern to me, I'm not sure. And I'm also not quite sure why I've included it in this list, but you'll be glad I did if you ever go there. Here's some yelp reviews (of all things!) to give you some more practical info.
6. Super Secret Staircases
downtown Santa Cruz
There are some fabulous little alleyways and streets that connect different parts of downtown SC to each other. I have fond memories of tramping them in the dark with friends, coffee in hand, the smell of jasmine and ocean air in our nostrils. I'm not giving you any real directions to find these places, since part of the delight comes when they are just happened upon. Start looking near Walnut Street, across from Santa Cruz High. Or Mission Plaza to Green Street. Find Walnut Street and the pristine and hidden Lincoln Court where I spent most of that Crazy Summer with Oliver and Scout. The summer I met the Contessa and was an official Slacker Employee at the Del Mar Theatre. But that's another story. So go to the Abbey, get something to go, and then start walking.
7. The Mystery Spot &
Gift Store
What list of favorite little local gems would be complete without the Mystery Spot? When I was little I remember some Japanese tourists, very polite and lost, knocking on my grandparent's door, asking for directions to the Mystery Spot. As a child this was akin to watching a space ship trying to parallel park out front.
I love this place so much it hurts. It's got all my favorite components in a tourist destination: a mention on Ripley's Believe It or Not!, kitsch, nature, dizziness, balls rolling up hill, free bumper stickers and goofy tour guides. (I think the suspenders over T-Shirt/belly/beard might be requisite). Did I mention the kitsch factor? It's high. When I was a kid the staff used to go out to the parking lot and put Mystery Spot bumper stickers on your car while you were on a tour. That was in the days when bumpers were not attached to your car, and they made those stiff paper bumper stickers with wire to wrap around your bumper. Now they are properly plasticy and sticky and they hand them out free. But it's not the Mystery Spot on its own that earns a place on this list. No, it's the gift store, which is an incredible treasure trove of 50's Americana, complete with buffalo nickel rings and redwood burl carved into clocks, cribbage boards & crosses. Add to it dubious tom toms and Native American jewelry which may or may not have been made in the USA and you'll have to agree that the tat is pretty outstanding. Now what did I do with my Mystery Spot shot glasses?

8.23.2009

My Little Synesthete

G, in from sandbox, reports busily to me:
"Mama, I just want you to know that the soup I'm making you is Hawaiian soup."
Me, preoccupied with a book & a nursing infant:
"Hmmm...does that mean it's got Hawaiian stuff in it?"
"Yeah! Rosemary and rattlesnake grass! Pretty Hawaiian, huh? And daddy's is English soup! Daisies and woodchips!"

8.14.2009

Rosa's Poetry Archives: Leonard Cohen

These Heroics
If I had a shining head
and people turned to stare at me
in the streetcars;
and I could stretch my body
through bright water
and keep abreast of fish and water snakes;
if I could ruin my feathers
in flight before the sun;
do you think that I would remain in this room,
reciting poems to you,
and making outrageous dreams
with the smallest movements of your mouth?
-Leonard Cohen

8.03.2009

Flora Grubb Gardens











B and I wandered around last weekend in the windy fogginess that is San Francisco. We took refuge in Flora's garden and nursery and enjoyed a good hot latte from Ritual Coffee. I wish more nurseries would catch on to the idea of giving their customer a little shot of something hot and stimulating whilst they shop. The only other place I've seen this is at Cardwell Nursery Garden Centre in Gourock, Scotland. Except that place is sort of like a Cracker Barrel with a nursery tacked on to the side and lots of coach buses in the ample parking lot, which seemed to emit hordes of geriatric Scottish women in capacious & bedazzled track suits without cease. And did I mention the cafeteria? Awesome.
Where was I?
So Flora Grubb Gardens-it was great. And you should go. The lay-out was great, with plenty of plants in the Dramatic Color/Architecture genre. And they appear to be the winners of the Most Blood-Curdling Succulent Collection-Bay Area Awards. But for me and my Aberdonian blood I found it to be a place of inspiration rather than actual purchase. $6.50 was a little steep for a 4" plant, and $49.50 for the uber-cool silk screened T shirts in the gift store elicited a hollow laugh. But maybe the price range is fine for the urban gardeners that shop there; me, I contented myself with taking pictures and garnering ideas-the few things that were in my price range. (Free!)
I put my name down for an Angelica archangelica (which is proving to be an elusive plant) and talked up the Abbey. I particularly loved the big wire bins of tillandsia for sale; they could be sold via bulk bins since they are epiphytes (in other words, they don't need soil & get their H2O from the atmosphere.) Apparently, a tillandsia comes with your purchase of a pound of coffee beans from the adjacent Ritual Coffee kiosk. Which I thought was classy.

I think my favorite thing besides the latte-in-the-garden was the hanging succulent portrait. I would dearly love to replicate this for the Abbey Garden, but I am sure that it's just a leetle too expensive. Maybe something on a smaller scale? Anyhow, I definitely recommend a visit to this nursery, especially if you have any junker cars that want planting out.
But go, have fun, and tell them Rosa sent you!

7.31.2009

Flora Grubb and Her Marvelous Succulents

I know I'm not the only one to be so mightily impressed by Flora Grubb, but I have to say-man! She is cool. I am all a-twitter. (The old-fashioned kind.) Since we are planning on stopping by her nursery digs (ha ha) tomorrow in San Francisco, I decided to have a rummage through her website.
And wow. I mean, the things she does with succulents! In the beginning of my gardening career I admit to being pretty ambivalent about plants of the fleshy-leaf variety. I think I just classified them under Spiny/Pokey/Flabby and sort of moved on, horticulturally. After all, I did grow up in California in the 70's and 80's-a time in which xeriscaping meant landscapes full of terra cotta pots shaped like animals, stuffed with hen & chicks, aloe and the ubiquitous and hideously flabbiferous jade plant. (Driftwood as a planting medium was also a requirement.) When I met B he was still smarting under the wounds of growing up in Salinas in the 1970's, he still winces when he hears wind chimes. Somehow tied up in that is a revulsion for all things succulent. And for a while I was inclined to agree.

But my heart has changed towards them, thanks mainly to an eye-opening horticulture class at our local junior college. My succulent admiration began innocently enough, learning about CAM, Crassulacean Acid Metabolism, which is a system of carbon fixation in some plants (but mostly unique to succulents.) Most plants open their stomata (cells on the undersides of leaves that act as pores, taking in carbon dioxide, letting out oxygen & water which are by-products of photosynthesis) during the day. Succulents open their stomata at night, when the heat is less. Very efficient.
And then I began to notice the beauty of the sedums, aeoniums and echeverias. Aeonium zwartkopf & its fabulous Dr. Seussiness. I began to love their surfaces, both glaucus and shiny, mottled and clear; as well as their stunning forays into the colors green, burgundy and grey. I began to look closer, and to discover the amazing symmetry of each leaf and its precise placement along the stem; each positioned so that none covered another, radiating out so that everyone received the optimum amount of sunlight. I was fascinated/repulsed by the weirdness of lithops, the aptly named living stone plant, which actually contains a partially or completely translucent top surface (a sort of window) allowing light to enter the interior of the leaves for photosynthesis. Another bit of protection for these plants that grow in harsh desert climes.
I now think most succulents are totally groovy, and this area is really one of the few places where B and I diverge in taste (besides his strange affinities for seafood, Aplets & Cotlets (he made me link it), and Ron Paul.)

At the Abbey Garden I've decided to redo some of the pots, taking out some of the things that are getting baked to a crisp, and replacing them with some of our CAM friends; I'm thinking sedums rowleyanus and morganianum, respectively. Any other suggestions?
But oh yes, Flora Grubb! I'll post pics after our visit......

7.24.2009

Rosa's Blog Picks:: Cake Wrecks

Thank you, Eleven, for the link to this towering monument-made of fondant-of a blog. Stop by and tell them Rosa sent you!

7.18.2009

Accio Plot!

Has anyone else found the new Harry Potter movie to be as underwhelming as I did? My expectations were a tad too high......I think I might have forgotten Rule #1 when Viewing Movies Made From Books, namely "'Libri est Melior"-'The Book is Better.' In this case, half the book is missing from the movie. Unfortunately, it's the half that made the book so good.
The worst part of it is that now that the series has been completed (no more HP books to come) the best thing I have to look forward to is another underdeveloped, rushed-through, apocryphal, thumbnail-sketch-of a movie next year with 'Deathly Hallows'..........
But I did find a good article about JK Rowling and the Christian themes of Harry Potter. Her last little quote at the end is the best. Here it be. And to bed I go!

7.13.2009

The Abbey Garden

So I had a baby, and a few weeks later, had a garden. The former event definitely eclisped the latter, which is why it is only now, two months later, that I am remembering to post about it. Our church's coffeehouse, The Abbey, is now approaching its first birthday, and the year has been good. I have been so impressed by the incomparable genius of Sara Peterson, The Abbey's manager, design maven, and barista champion.
The adjacent courtyard seating area took a bit longer-there were a few minor setbacks. Let it be said that if you are trying to get the county's ear, just build a wall without a permit and stand back. But that's all in the past now, and the courtyard looks lovely. It's a little more shabby chic than I would have done. It's hard to imagine a shabby chic monastic garden, but somehow I think it works-only in California!
So here are some pics of the garden, which opened with much acclaim and pancakes on June 6th.

I am happy with the design over all, and since it is a work in progress (which is a good definition of a garden, I think) I will not kick myself too hard for the things that I would have done differently. Although come winter, I will practive the fine art of Ultimate Pruning i.e. Hoik & Toss. Things to be hoiked include: the dirt in the pic above, cleverly disguised with mulch as garden soil, but actually terrible fill dirt. I meant for this planter (5' x 2') to only have a thin layer of the free-from-Craig's-List fill dirt, but with the volunteer help it was about 3/4 fill and 1/4 potting soil/compost. I was too pregnant to lift a shovel to fix it, so we just planted and held our breath. As a result the plants are pretty sickly looking-the lemon verbena, usually a rangy, ungangly (though fragrant) addition to the garden, is now sporting yellow leaves and almost no new growth. The rest of the plants look anemic and not long for this world. The first rule in organic gardening is to look after the soil, and the soil will look after the plants. In other words, healthy soil equals healthy plants. So I forgot this rule. Just don't tell them up at UCSC's Farm & Garden, or they'll take away my certificate.....

I still haven't got ahold of a few of the plants I've had in mind for this garden, namely; Angelica Archangelica, and biblical hyssop (not hyssop officianalis, as it turns out, but origanum syriacus). I've gone through two verbascum bombyciferum 'Arctic Summer' plants, which is a shame, since this is such a great plant.

I have really loved doing this design, getting to work with amazing people like Bruce & Claudia, The Abbey staff, and all the other Abbey Gardeners out there (you know who you are!)

Current Happy Things


audio

1.Welcome to the Welcome Wagon
by the Welcome Wagon
gastronomy
2.lime popsicles
film
3.Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince (B wants to see it in 3D. I am unsure. I'm afraid it will bring back too many Captain Eo memories...)
book
Great Expectations
The thing that really tickles me about reading Great Expectations, besides that it is unexpectedly funny, is that I am unable to maintain any amount of internal smugness upon reading a 'classic'; Dickens wrote it as a serial in a newspaper. It's like feeling snooty for reading 'Prince Valiant' or 'Rex Morgan, MD'. When you consider that most of Dickens' works were published in this manner, as serial pieces for the masses, you can't help but think that despite what we've gained since that time (where to begin?!) we have become decidedly less literate as a culture. (McSweeney's not withstanding!) Here's a nod to a new online mag that is turning the tide: Content. Check them out and tell them Rosa sent you!

7.03.2009

I have never been so thankful for the volunteers in my garden; they are almost completely carrying the show-thanks to some eye-catching rose campion (lychnis coronaria) and the lovely contrasting chartreuse blooms of the euphorbia. Add to it the jasmine in bloom, purple veronica 'Chadwick Especial', and some tall weedy-looking white daisies and orange California poppies; these make up the majority of what's in bloom in the garden. I haven't figured out how to nurse and garden at the same time (probably a good thing) so any flowers that come up are there of their own instigation, as I can do little but move the sprinkler around.
Over in hydrangea corner, in all that delicious acidic soil, the deep blue and purple blooms are just lovely, as is the sky seen through the twisted and outstretched branches of the scrub oaks. I find myself outside often, on the porch with a baby, watching the trees: elder, oak, bay, madrone and redwood wave lazily in the light June breeze. It's been lovely. And helps to remind me why we live here, besides the fantastic rent, and the friendly neighborhood.

I need all the help I can get lately, when most things in our house feel cramped, broken, and in need of a paint job. I think I might be ready to live in a larger house (we've got about 800 square feet, the kind of place which feels bigger if we all suck our stomachs in), but meanwhile I'm trying to be grateful for what I have. I desperately want that sense of contentment that belies my surroundings, I think it might have something to do cultivating the inner life. I've just started Teresa of Avila's 'The Interior Castle'; we'll see what she has to say about it.
Bats!
Meanwhile, I have a weird ear infection-it doesn't hurt, but my left ear is totally full and I feel like I'm on an airplane. It's hard to hear and I've got that odd cocoon-like feeling all the time, sort of in my own world because I can't hear everything. Add to it the constant state of sleep deprivation that I live in, and you get a sort of spaced-out, vaguely smiling at everyone, prematurely batty version of myself. I'm beginning to feel like I belong in some sort of home, or at least in a rocker on a veranda, reminiscing about the olden days. Stop me before I start calling everyone 'honey' and collecting stray cats. Maybe I need some meds?

6.25.2009

Radical Nature: Art and Architecture for a Changing Planet


Is anyone going to be in London this summer? Stop by Kew Gardens and think of me and then head over to the Barbican Gallery for their summer offering: 'Radical Nature: Art & Architecture for a Changing Planet 1969-2009'. It looks like a great show, really interesting stuff. I love Agnes Denes' exhibit: Wheatfield-A Confrontation, 1982. The wheat fields were planted and harvested in the Battery Park Landfill, Manhattan.
This show is a retrospective, so B's bosses, Helen Mayer Harrison and Newton Harrison- forerunners of the ecological art movement-were asked to include a piece that was originally exhibited in 1974. The piece is called 'Full Farm', which basically consists of raised beds and grow-lights in a gallery setting; which I think was cutting edge technology in 1974. Now it just looks like the museum staff have a little indoor allotment.

I bring this bit up because somehow, in the haze that followed giving birth, I agreed to design the plantings for this piece. Which sounds like over-commitment when I can hardly manage to dress myself before noon, but it seemed like fun at the time. Honestly, I can hardly recall what I put in each raised bed, but I think I did add some English wild spinach, chenopodiom bonus-henricus, in honor of our new little sprout, (common name, Good King Henry). I have no idea if this is commonly cultivated in the UK; I figured in London it might be considered a posh menu item, in a similar vein with California's dandelion greens, the edible variety of which is more of a wild chicory than what is usually seen gracing America's lawns. And what an awkward sentence, sorry. Anyway, do stop by the Barbican and graze on my design. Special prize offer for the first to send me pics!
It feels a little anti-climactic, my garden design debut at a London gallery, but who knows.....next year-Chelsea?

6.17.2009

I don't seem to have two minutes to rub together. But somehow I have plenty of time to sit around and read. How could this be? Oh yes, I am nursing a newborn. I have plowed through a small library's worth of books in the last six weeks, and am constantly scanning the horizon, looking for a new read. I've nursed my way through all my favorite comfort reads: the Chronicles of Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Dorothy Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries, Jan Karon's Mitford novels and I just finished the last of the Harry Potter series. Okay, so actually some of these I read right at the end of the pregnancy. I read fast but not that fast.
Appeal to the Bookish
So does anyone have any other books to suggest? I'm plowing steadily through Madeline L'Engle's 'A Swiftly Tilting Planet', and Thomas Howard's very groovy 'Christ the Tiger'. I think I want some more fiction, as my very tired brain probably cannot keep up with much more than a good story. But not that Shack book, or anything by Dan Brown. Oh, and if Oprah recommends it, or you read it at your book club, the odds are good that I don't want to read it. But I don't want to be picky....

6.16.2009

Living La Vida Loca

I'd say mostly it's good, actually mostly it's been great, these last 6 weeks of life with our new little guy. But then there are those days when my brains feel like mush, the mental equivalent of watching reality TV shows featuring the rich and whiny, eating Cheetos and swilling Dr. Pepper. And I can't seem to manage showering, teeth brushing and donning clean clothes, all in the same day. Let alone find time to blog, garden, call people back, or any myriad of things that I used to do with ease (except call people back, I never do that with ease.)
My World Measured in Square Footage
I forgot just how stymieing it feels, life with a newborn; tethered to the couch as I nurse and nurse. My world feels like it is shrinking down into the size of my home, as I spend so much time in it. And since my house is only 700 square feet or so, my world feels very small indeed.
I need grace for this time, which I already knew would be hard. But I forgot what kind of hard it is. Because in the midst of the hardness, the crying, the diapering, the sleepless nights, it becomes very hard to remember that this isn't my new reality for the rest of my days and that having two children won't always feel like this toiling procession through the Land of Needs.
Reeds and Wicks
So H.O. and G both are sick, and last Friday night we were down in Steinbecktown staying over with the in-laws. Little H.O. stayed up most of the night: snarfy, coughing and crying, poor little guy. And I stayed up with him, nursing and reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. As I lay there, in the wee hours, I felt such crushing exhaustion and something like despair. "Oh Jesus, help me." I whispered into the night.
And what rushed in was a half remembered bit of Scripture from Isaiah 55, a description of the Messiah, "A bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out."
It's a fairly accurate depiction of how I felt, actually. Like a reed that someone had tried to sever, left bent, twisted, unable to sway in the breeze. Or a guttering wick that is little more than a faint tendril of smoke. Jesus looks at these reeds and wicks tenderly, does nothing that would harm them any further and nurtures whatever life is left there. He looks at me and doesn't judge me, or tell me to just suck it up and get on with life. He reaches down with divine restoration in his hand and I trust that he will mend and heal where I've been bent, that he will strike the match that will relight this wick. I wait and hope.
"He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young." Isaiah 4o:11

6.06.2009

In Which I Have A Spinal Headache

Caveat: Not for the Squeamish
So apparently if you have a spinal block put in really really fast, sometimes the little hole in your spinal column doesn't close properly. And if this happens, a little bit of spinal fluid will drip out. And when it does, because it is a pressurized system, when you sit up, your brain flops down a little bit and you get the killer headache of the century. And if you then try to get out of bed and do something wild like, say, eat food-it will most likely come back up with a vengeance. So that was me, for 4 of the 5 days I was in there.
On the afternoon of day 4, after B had gone home to look after G, the docs figured out that I had what is known as a spinal headache. And the solution was to take a bit of my own blood and insert it in the hole in my spinal column which would then clot and fill up the hole. I know. I could hardly listen to him describe the procedure without retching. I've always been squeamish about anything having to do with my spine. The real reason I delivered G without any pain medication is because I was too freaked out by the description of the epidural-("a shunt? In my spine? Aack!") So I had to decide, right then, if I wanted this procedure done to me. I agreed, reluctantly. The anaesthesiologist skipped blithely off to prepare the room.
And all at once I was overwhelmed with the feeling of being totally alone in the hospital with my baby, about to undergo a procedure that would probably leave me paralysed. I tried to call B but he didn't answer. I tried to call my mom. Same. I started to get teary.
The nurse came in and tried to talk me down. I remember really wanting her to take my hand and hold it, but she was all bustling efficiency, and there's probably rules about hand-holding.
And just then, my mom walked in.
"Mom! I'm so glad you're here! I need to have another procedure done!"
"I had a feeling that I should come see you now, instead of after I get my errands done," she said. She came over, took my hand, and started to pray over me.
This evidence of God's interjection into my fearful, dark little moment calmed me almost immediately. She held little H.O. and I got onto a gurney.
Recovery
After 4 hours flat on my back (reading Sayers' Murder Must Advertise), I popped out of bed, put on my robe and started walking. I left mom with H.O. and went visiting next door: friends who had just delivered that morning. And I haven't looked back. Thanks, little blood clot!

6.05.2009

Full Disclosure:: The Birth Story Part Two

So there I was in the O.R., breathing through an oxygen mask and not quite sure how I got there. The whole thing was surreal, yet there was a strangely familiar element involved that helped to mitigate the fear & trauma; the 'voyeur of my own experience' feeling. I get this now and again-part of me stands back, watching myself do something and I think, "Here I am, doing this crazy thing. Huh. So that's what that feels like. Interesting." This has gotten me through a cornucopia of life experiences, ranging from grade school spelling bees & my first kiss to walking down the aisle on my wedding day & giving birth to G, my firstborn.
I got a spinal block, and felt mild panic when my legs went numb. I kept trying to wiggle my toes and ended up flapping my arms around, just trying to move something. The nurses hung a curtain in front of me, over my stomach, and B sat on a stool at the edge of the curtain, so he could at once see my face and the um...big show on the other side of the curtain.
He said later that it was hard to go from the horror of sitting beside me as I was cut open, seeing all my interior bits and pieces and then on the other side of the curtain, there lay I, doped up and smiling, teary-eyed and excited to hold our son. In fact, the poor guy got faint and the nurses made him sit on the floor in the ante room.
I'm glad I didn't know how serious the situation was, I had a very real feeling that Jesus knew what was happening, and that He was present. I mean this actually, not in a Precious Moments sort of way; I mean I really felt that Jesus was looking out for us. This also helped mitigate the fear.
He Was Green
Babies aren't supposed to poop in the amniotic fluid. They're supposed to have their first poop after they are born, thick, tar-like stuff called meconium. When there's some sort of problem, and the baby experiences trauma, he often poops. This is dangerous because the baby is also breathing the amniotic fluid, and aspirating the meconium can be life-threatening. When the doctor finally got H.O. out, he was green with meconium staining. This means that he pooped about an hour or so before and probably had aspirated it. So little H.O. went to the NICU (Neo-natal Intensive Care Unit), but not before he had been given to me and I could kiss his sweet face.
After
As I was being put back together, I started to shake. And shake. I couldn't stop; and I had intense pain in my shoulders. I found out later it was a deferred gas bubble, air had gotten in during the surgery and risen to my shoulders. It went away after a few days.......but the shaking. It got worse until my whole body was convulsing (except probably my legs, which were still numb.) They got me into a recovery room and gave me ice chips for the thirst and warm blankets for the shakes. This part seemed to take forever. I think the shaking was from the adrenaline, but I'm not sure. After an hour, H.O. was doing well enough to be brought to me. And the days of recovery began.
"Furthering the Healing Ministry of Jesus"
We delivered the baby at the local Catholic hospital in town, the same one where G was born 4 years ago. There's 2 hospitals in town, and this is the only one with the NICU. I was so relieved and thankful that we didn't decide to use the other, newer & swankier hospital across town, even more relieved that I didn't have a home birth.
Thank You
Thank you to everyone who visited, and prayed. Two people told me later that they woke up that night with an urge to pray for us, one person was awakened when we assume little H.O. was first in distress, an hour before we went into the hospital, and another person was awakened to pray at 3:30, when he was born-just about an hour after we checked into the hospital, on May 1. Our little May Day basket.
"The world's favorite season is the spring. All things seem possible in May."
- Edwin Way Teale
Later that morning, after sleeping a few hours and trying to de-groggy myself (didn't work, still groggy, in fact) a sweet L.O.L. came in to visit. She was there for some innocuous purpose, a survey or something. Sister Mary something.
"Are you a nun?" I asked.
"Yes, dear."
"Would you pray over our baby?"
She laid hands on H.O. and prayed God's blessings on his life in a tremulous yet strong voice.
And all the other blessings that I've left out, like that my dear sister was here from Australia just in time to see the baby, and that B's paternity leave came through the day before I went into labor-all these things serve to highlight the biggest blessing: our little guy.

5.19.2009

Full Disclosure:: The Birth Story Part One

A few days ago I asked B, "Should I blog about the birth on rosa-sinensis? Isn't it a little too....personal, or graphic, or something?" "Of course!" He quickly replied, "Talk about a creative act! Do it!"
So I went into labor on the 30th of April, waking to contractions every half hour or so. I was elated, having spent the past month prior moaning and lumbering through life, cursing and groaning whenever I would drop something, or lay down, or get in a car, or put on clothes, or breathe in and out. You get the idea.
B stayed home from work, and we spent the day walking through our little sylvan burgh, being hailed by neighbors driving by, "Hey-is this the big day?! Woohoo! I'll be praying for ya!" One woman pulled over right there and prayed for us, asking for protection and covering as we went into the delivery. At the time, all I felt was the joy of living in such a loving community-I didn't think of those prayers as being particularly needed, after all, we'd done this before with G.
So all day I labored. And the contractions never got consistent, or very close together. I'd heard all about how women would get turned around at the hospital, in false labor, so I wanted to be sure before we went in.
Labor seemed to stall out and then pick up again as the evening came on. B and I decided to get some sleep, and went to bed, with me waking up every now and then with contractions, that were getting more and more painful, but not very close together. (The recommendation is to come in when they are 5 minutes apart, lasting for a minute for an hour.) Finally, at about 2 AM (we're into Friday, May 1 at this point), we decided it was time to go.
We got to the hospital at about 2:20AM, and I was admitted. My midwife told me that I was dilated to 5cm (10 is when you are pushing), and that though my water hadn't yet broke, she was going to leave it intact. I continued to have strong (read: painful) contractions as the labor nurse put the fetal monitor on me, trying to get a read on the baby's heartbeat. We were chatting in between contractions when the nurse suddenly ordered me to turn over on all fours. Now, I haven't been able to do that for a few months, and that was when I wasn't in labor. B helped haul me over, and the nurse sort of threw an oxygen mask at me, and the midwife came hurrying in.
"I'm getting a decel!" the nurse told her (meaning the baby's heart rate was decelerating), and the midwife checked me again. I was at 7cm now, and suddenly she said, "I can feel the cord through the waters! We've got a prolapse here! I want the O.R. prepped now!" Or she might have said "STAT!" I don't remember. Suddenly it all became very medical, and it went from my expectations of laboring in the Jacuzzi like the last time, giving birth au naturel, sans medication,(whoops! I stumbled into some broken French there, sorry....) to being prepped for an emergency C-section. While we were waiting for someone to give me a shot to stop the contractions, I remember mumbling through the oxygen mask to B, "Pray! Pray!" And suddenly we both were praying out loud for God to save our baby.
Cord prolapse is when the umbilical cord slips through the birth canal before the baby, and threatens to come out first. This is dangerous because the cord contains the life supply to the baby, and if the cord gets pinched, the baby is at serious risk. The wiki page I am linking to here gives an 11-17 percent mortality rate for cord prolapse. I didn't know at the time how serious it was and I remember part of me being relieved that I wasn't going to have more contractions, or have to go through pushing again.
They wheeled me into the O.R. with my face smashed into a pillow, and my butt up in the air, covered with a sheet, so the pressure was off the baby and the cord. It was so surreal, in this position, that it took some of the fear away, probably because I didn't have that T.V. scene with me on my back, watching the hospital lights in the hallway flash over the heads of the O.R. nurses as they wheeled me into a room where I would be going under the knife.

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.