The Depths of the Earth: I Am A Garden

These days I feel like a garden bed, and not because of the obvious ideas about burgeoning growth and ripening buds. I am a garden because of the little mole that is tunneling through my insides, delving deeper into my depths, burrowing (I can only imagine from this analogy) for grubs and snail eggs. This last week there has been considerable movement down there, from the Jab-Jab variety to the Pick Axe, and then lately, The Auger. I imagine him with a miner's headlamp looking for gold or at least big shoveler hands and a waistcoat like Moley in my favorite adaptation of the 'Wind in the Willows' by Cosgrove Hall.
In Which I Am A Building: Rosa as Row House
And then there's the beginning of 'The Magician's Nephew' when Polly and Diggory Kirke are traversing the long dark empty space behind the cistern in the attics of the London row house where they lived. I guess that makes me a building too. Not the usual pregnancy metaphors. Here are some other unlikely ones.
'For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother's womb.....My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.' Psalm 139:13, 15.
It is astonishing to think that when the psalmist spoke of his frame being made in 'the secret place' he was talking about somewhere that is inside of me. I contain somehow, the depths of the earth, and deep inside me is the potter's wheel. All the imagery of God as Artist is called up, Divine Knitter, Weaver, Potter. Somehow I am now a workshop, my womb a drafting board. I don't know what to think. Why, in the midst of all the aches and pains, the heartburn, nausea, sleepless nights, rotundity and crankiness, do I get to be the drafting table for some new work of God? It fills me with awe as well as gratitude. I can well understand Elizabeth's outburst to Mary: "But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"
Fetus As Forerunner
A Catholic guy I met at a youth hostel in Rome asked me a riddle: "Who was the first person in the Gospels to acknowledge the Christ?" "Ummm, Mary? Elizabeth? Gabriel? Wait......one of the 'Friendly Beasts'. Like.......the donkey. Or.....the little drummer boy?" It turned out to be John, in utero. "As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leapt for joy." (Luke 1: 44) And so we meet John, who is already fulfilling his great destiny, going on before the Lord, proclaiming His coming. The first person to recognize the Incarnated God, the fulfillment of the ages, of all prophecy, all Pagan mythology (yes, I've been reading 'Surprised By Joy') was still being 'woven together in the depths of the earth', was yet to draw breath. I think the Catholic guy might have been trying to make a point about abortion, I don't know, but I came away from that with the idea that if God can use even the ones that aren't considered (by some) to be fully human-I guess the 'Personhood Fairy' hasn't visited them yet-how much more can He still somehow use me, as broken and 'in process' as I am?


Old World Roses

So I put it to B that if he was going to splash out on a Valentine's bouquet for me, he should instead take me to Roses of Yesterday, an heirloom rose nursery just outside of Corralitos (in the southern half of our county); and buy me a bare root 'Charles de Mills'. And it worked.
Corralitos is gorgeous, just so rural with it's loping grassy hills, gently rusting farm implements and brown ponies behind split rail fences. The sun shone weakly through the clouds, a momentary break from the early spring showers that have been bucketing down all weekend. We drove out through land that had been through one of the big wildfires last summer. I heard rumors of horses being killed, so sad. There was new growth on the blackened trunks of the eucalyptus trees on Hwy 1, which I thought was encouraging.
Come for the Sausage, Stay for the Roses
I recommend a trip out to the demonstration gardens at Roses of Yesterday, it's only a mile or so from the Corralitos Market & Sausage Co., and there's ample space for a picnic. May through June are when the roses are at the zenith of their bloom. In May I will be busy (nothing big-just labor, childbirth, and sleepless nights with a newborn) so I'll have to come a little later in the year. This is actually a good time to visit if you're thinking of adding one of these roses to your garden, you can see what it looks like in its least lovely state; dormant and pruned, and so can see what you're getting yourself into. Although it's not so nice for picnics, being either damp from the previous rainfall or downright sopping from the current rainfall....
I also picked up the lovely red Apothecary Rose (Rosa gallica 'officinalis')-for the garden we're planning at the Abbey. The Apothecary rose dates back to before 1500, and is the red rose of the Lancasters in the War of the Roses (white rosa alba is for the Yorks). Also in its favor are the old rose scent and shade tolerance, as well as its propensity to sucker on its own root stock (if the bud union is planted below the soil level.) I had a nice chat with either Andy or Jack Wiley, one of the owners, and it was great to talk to people who really know their stuff. The nursery's been around since the 1930's and their catalogue is full of delightful little vignettes like this:
Souvenir de la Malmaison, climbing. Bourbon. (1893) 10 feet. Flowers repeatedly. Zones 5-9. (duh lah mahl-may-ZAWHN) I find it difficult to select the right words, for this is not just another old-fashioned rose, or can you describe its many subtle qualities with the usual catalog superlatives. Factually it is very hardy...no freeze-back even in the coldest Pennsylvania; a moderate grower, but a profuse all-season bloomer. Flower is large, many-petalled - a pearly soft flesh-pink. Full, tight buds open slowly to show many tightly curled petals full of fragrance. A sunny protected position is best, as well as a garden with low rainfall, as wet weather can keep a bloom from realizing its glory. This rose is well suited trained over an arbor, providing a lovely canopy for a bench. An old-world rose which speaks of history, romance and nineteenth century “Paris in Spring.”
All this and I don't even like Valentine's Day.


Rosa's Blog Picks

Here it is, the best story I've heard in a week. Thank you, OT Girl, my favorite anonymous Occupational Therapist (don't we all have one?)
Reflections of a Rehab OT: Best Story So Far and a Spot of DIY



B and I are driving through our neighborhood, on the way to Joe & Heidi's house a few blocks away. We park our silver Beetle on a long incline behind their garden. It has just finished raining and the grass is wet with dew and the moldering railroad ties that border their property are steaming. Rising above some scrabbling blackberry bushes are the neighboring architectural jumble of red tile roof lines and half-timbered gables, as if our redwood forest neighborhood suddenly ended and Thomas Hardy's Dorset began. The incongruity of these tumbledown cottages is eclipsed by their beauty and we walk around to the front of the lane to see them better. Grey-branched wisteria grow through windows and empty doors. Off to the side is a white marble mausoleum that bares the faded name "Dutra". "I went to high school with a guy named Chris Dutra! I wonder if that's his family crypt?" I ask B, cheerfully. B is ashen-faced, afraid, and I can feel his fear coming out at me. He shakes his head, and won't look at me. Joe & Heidi meet us outside and they, too, seem afraid to talk about the mausoleum. "But I know a Dutra!" I tell them and I make them walk back with me to look at it. Symbols are traced all over the outside, some of the them moving. "It's Masonic Phrenology!" B says in a horrified whisper. "Let's get out of here!"



Soundtrack to the day: Innocence Mission's 'Brotherhood of Man'.
5 AM-I raise the curtains to see: the neighbor's porchlight illuminating the street which is flooding gently with rainwater; rippling down towards the storm drain in soft glistening waves.

In the garden: The roof gutter has clogged and spills over; sending down a steady torrent of water; washing the silt from the soil and leaving a pool of white rocks.
The upper branches of the oak on the hillside glows with a shimmering green moss. The lower trunk is a stark contrasting brown, where it was sprayed last summer in the crusade against the encroaching Sudden Oak Death. Our loveliest oak, the one that overhangs the driveway and the shade garden has all but succumbed. I am grateful for that brown moss ring, it means that the hillside oak is still alive and has a fighting chance.

Noon-G and I are sailing bay leaf boats down the swirling eddies and rivulets of water across the street from our house. "HMS Rosabelle" beats the 'Good Ship Leafy' by a puddle and a half. G's red raincoat is the brightest thing around for a mile. Her new haircut, "I look like Maria (Von Trapp!)" is plastered to her wet cheeks, and she sings a little song as we walk.

6 PM-friend stops by, tea is drunk. She leaves with my favorite Bollywood flick, 'Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge'.

7PM-Dinner-red peppers roasting, tortellini boiling; B teaches G to play the C chord on the ukulele. She is a third of her way towards learning that holy trinity of chords: C-F-G.

It's an interesting life for me now. Staying at home mostly, expecting a baby whose arrival feels increasingly imminent. My constant companion is a 4 year old who today told me gleefully, "I have more energy than you and daddy, right, mommy?" I find myself approaching the smallest tasks with great alacrity and vigour: "Right. Grocery shopping, then library, then home. Okay. Go!" I think my brain has settled down into it's domesticity but it's still a little weird. I'm much more used to slogging away all day at a job, and coming home with a head full of work-related junk that I am trying to forget for a few blissful hours.
It'a little Mr. Mom, except I guess this is Mrs. Mom? Anyway. I am grateful for these days.


In Which I Talk About the Weather

Living in here on the central coast of California means that our winters, though usually very wet indeed, are fairly mild. Rarely does it snow;and most winters all we can boast of is a week or two that leave car windshields covered with a light sheen of frost. This year our sylvan burgh woke up to a covering of hail, that took the better part of the day to melt. That's our winter. I've spent most of the last few weeks in T-shirts and light sweaters, and am tempted to start putting seeds in the ground. In January there were two weekends in a row that we went down to the beach, tidepooling and canoodling around in the sunny sand and driftwood. Nice. I think I've ordered iced coffee drinks twice in the last week. Not only the quince, but the ornamental plums, almonds and a magnolia or two have been brazening forth with pinks and magentas as if April were just days away.
But in the midst of this, I'm thinking about the wildfires throughout last summer, when the air crackled with heat and dryness and the police stood guard over the beach on the Fourth of July to keep revelers from setting-off firecrackers. I'm hoping for rain this weekend, for the plants' sakes and mine: I finally found my own copy of Tolkien's Roverandom and I really want to read it curled up, tea at hand, listening to the rain. Is that too much to ask?


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.