Rosa's Poetry Archives: George MacDonald

If thou hadst closed my life in seed and husk,
And cast me into soft, warm, damp, dark mold,
All unaware of light come through the dusk,
I yet should feel the split of each shelly fold,
Should feel the growing of my prisoned heart,
And dully dream of being slow unrolled,
And in some other vagueness taking part.

And little as the world I should foreknow
Up into which I was about to rise-
Its rains, its radiance, airs and warmth, and skies,
How it would greet me, how its winds would blow-
As little it may be, I do know the good
Which I for years half darkling have pursued-
The second birth for which my nature cries.

The life that knows not, patients waits, nor longs-
I know, and would be patient, yet would long.
I can be patient for all coming songs,
But let me sing my one monotonous song.
To me the time is slow my mold among;
To quicker life I fain would spur and start
The aching growth at my dull-swelling heart.
-George MacDonald, 'Diary Of An Old Soul'


Domesticity, Easter & the Ephemera of Sleep

I thought it wouldn't happen until after the baby was born. Somehow I've been, for many mornings now, up at 3 or 4 AM. Awake. I lie there, hungry or uncomfortable but mostly just wide-eyed, staring into the darkness, willing sleep to return to me. I've read all about the physiology of pregnancy, how your body shifts it's sleep cycles to mimic that of a newborn: most of sleep time is now spent in light sleep.
Which I think was nice (in theory) of God to prepare me like that. But when you also have to be awake during the day, looking after other children, I start to wonder about the efficacy of giving all the supervisory powers of the household to the grouchy & sleep-deprived.
Rosa, Reluctant Dawntreader
This morning it was 5 when I awoke. I somehow decided that this was a relatively normal hour to be up. The neighbor's lights in the windows and chirruping of birds helped with this illusion. Food and the book of Isaiah also helped. It was with quiet pride that I made the coffee before B, Captain of the Morning got up. His bustling efficiency & exuberance in the AM has been a wonder since our first days together when he called me early one Saturday morning (at least it was before 9.) He started to describe his apocalyptic dreams the night before, while I clutched the phone and moaned silently. "Gee, you sure are up early!" I croaked sleepily after 10 minutes of dream analysis. " Yeah, you know, I guess my first impulse of the day is to find someone and talk to them!" he told me, chuckling. "Red flag! Red flag!" I thought.
And somehow we've managed together for 10+ years and his morning super powers have really been the hand of God extended to me. He would bring me coffee each morning, giving me flowers and reports on how the garden looked in the morning light. A neighbor cat used to accompany him, jumping on my bed and kneading my legs in a quietly reassuring way. It totally pandered to my self-diagnosis of MI (Morning Invalidity).
Her Strident Tones Pierce Through Me
But then G came along, as cheerful & unquenchable a morning sprite as ever strode through the dawn. Most days I let them alone together, enclosing myself in a shroud of dim light in the back of the house, trying to sleep through the squeals, shouts, ukulele chords and Sound of Music re enactments.....
We started a tradition on Easter morning of visiting a nearby meadow at sunrise. We watch the mist rise above the tall grasses, ringed with old growth redwoods and scrub oaks. Some years we see owls, this time it was bunnies and deer. We sing together and read the Easter narrative. I think we started it in order to ensure that we were able to keep Resurrection Sunday in a way fitting with the joy that we found in our hearts; especially since a multitude of other things (family dinners, church, Easter egg hunts and this year, art shows), threatened to envelop the day. Well, Easter morning we woke to G's requisite AM greeting: "Mommy or Daddaaaaayy!" It was 5:30. B leapt out of bed and soon the two of them were laughing and shouting about being at the meadow before the sun. I followed gamely, albeit it silently. And of course it was lovely.
Rosa, Pillar of Salt
But this morning, at 5, I expected to be awake for an hour and then to go back to sleep (G usually doesn't wake up until 8:30). G popped up at 6:45 and hasn't looked back. Me, I'm Lot's wife. And I'm looking back at a morning lie-in that has been destroyed in a maelstrom of fire.
Pretty melodramatic, I know, but as I said, I'm not a morning person.
(photo credit: found on Flickr; taken by real life friend Peter Thomsen. Thanks Peter!)


Stations of the Cross

Easter is my favorite time of year, and somewhere inside me is the desire to contemplate and celebrate and garner all that the season has for me. But in all honesty, these days all I can think about is how I am still 4 weeks from being done with this 9 month Marathon of Rotundity (aka pregnancy.) It has gotten old! God give me strength.....
Good Friday
So I needed some help today to reflect on the meaning of Good Friday, and not to spend the day whinging and napping. (Although a good bit of that happened anyway. Sorry, B & G.)
We ended up at a Good Friday service in downtown SC, at the beautiful old red church, Calvary Episcopal, home of 2007's Santa Cruz U2charist, which I attended and blogged about here.
It was a lovely old service, we took G up for a blessing while we took communion; which, at the wooden rail in front of the church on garishly bright blue needlepoint kneelers, was totally novel to me.
The priest with his hand on G's head, praying aloud that bit from the Psalms 'The Lord bless you and keep you, the Lord make his face to shine upon you and bring you peace. Amen.'-and her little 4 year old voice, 'Amen!' was one of the highlights. I didn't realize that the Good Friday service was one of the oldest liturgies in the church, dating to the 3rd century.......
And then I was off down the block, for something I had been heavily anticipating.
One of the things I love about our church is that it gives a gift each year to the people of our town; on Good Friday. It is a public art exhibit, a rendering of the traditional Stations of the Cross, done by a group of artists from our church community. We erect it right on Pacific Avenue, (aka The Main Drag) and so today I sat, watching people walk by. Actually, plenty of people hurried by, eyes averted, but I was surprised to see how many people stopped and came back, reading through each artist statement, stooping and peering at each station's display.
I was officially there as a docent, though I don't know how much official docenting went on. It was great just to hang out and talk to whomever was around, about anything and everything.
I talked with a woman from Poland who gesticulated wildly about her as she talked. She told me about her Catholic upbringing, singing in church choirs and her current interest in the religions and philosophies of the world. Another woman went out of her way to explain that though she had nothing to do with church or religion, she wanted to thank us for putting on the show. "It has been a profound experience for me" she said.
We just put the pieces out there and let people experience them. There was little to no 'evangivibe', something that apparently helped the Abbey (our church's coffeehouse) win the Metro's Best New Coffeehouse Award. (For whatever that's worth.....) But one of the things that I most love about this event is how incarnational it is. And not in your face.
Us Vs Them
Whether it's been Bible Parades or aggressive street preachers, ranty arguments & passing out Chick tracts-in my experience, growing up in SC as a Christian has been tinged with guilt for not wanting to participate in any of the above activities. (That and not wanting to listen to Amy Grant or Petra. And being bad at volleyball. I don't know how this one crept in to my G.P.S.-Guilty Protestant Subconscious. Youth group outings?) There was usually an element of "let's go witness to 'those crazy people downtown'."
Hey, We Are the Crazies!
But the beautiful thing about this instance is that this time, we are the crazy people downtown, bringing Jesus to where we actually live, letting our 'light so shine before men that they see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven,' in the words of Jesus. It felt good to sit back and give something to our community, no strings attached.
The plan is to set up the stations again at the church for Easter Sunday and to leave them up for a week or so. Since a lot of the exhibits are live (painting, music), there are a few new & different pieces that will be added in their place. B & I were asked (today!) to contribute to one of these new pieces. I am glad to do it, and can hopefully climb out of my Woe-Is-Me-And-My-Belly state in order to do this piece as an act of worship. It's sort of meant to be a secret, I think, so I'll wait to post photos until after it is unveiled on Sunday. (Now isn't that intriguing?)

(Oh, and here's a link to Pastor Dan's blog re: Stations of the Cross, I like how he describes it.)


We Made A Garden:: Part One

In this series of posts I'll be laying out some of the practical aspects of the garden we are installing in the courtyard of the Abbey Coffeehouse, which is part of our church, Vintage Faith Church, 350 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, CA. The courtyard is expected to open at the end of April 2009.

We started planning it last year, and expected to open along with the Abbey itself, mid-July. We built a large curving wall to enclose the space. A week before we were to open, we found out that we had been erroneously assured that we didn't need a permit to build this wall. Well, we did. So, almost a year later and whole lot wiser (thank you, City of Santa Cruz for this eye-opening experience) we are ready to plant the garden out, and officially open the space.

Design: Monastic

This is meant to be a monastic garden, in keeping with the Abbey theme, and so we are incorporating elements from these old monastery gardens: function & form, culinary & medicinal herbs & fruit. Wild and tangly with areas of quiet simplicity. We're trying to walk that line, design-wise, between free-form and ordered. We'll see where we go with this. Its really not so removed from our California heritage either: the California mission gardens had similar elements, and our Mediterranean climate lends itself well to many herbs-at least everything in the lamiaceae family, which makes up the bulk of most common culinary herbs. In addition, our climate works well for biblical plants like pomegranates, grapes & the (non-fruiting) olive tree that is a focal point in the garden.

Design: Problems

This garden is mostly concrete, so that's been a challenge. Against one long brick wall there are two beds that once held miles of box hedges. Last summer, we pulled the hedges and tried to dig in the soil. Our shovels bounced off the ground. It was terrible. And depressing-this, practically our only free (i.e. non-concrete) planting space in the courtyard, filled with nasty, impenetrable soil interwoven with 50 year old box hedge roots. So we decided to build up: we built planters over the beds, with open bottoms, just false-fronts really. They're backed by the brick of the building, and we decided to line the backs to protect the brick from the soil's moisture. Instead of spending the money on the wood for the back, we used a 1x3 strip of redwood across the back and hung heavy plastic from it, so that it sloped away from the brick. Instead of filling the entire planter with lovely and expensive soil, we used fill dirt and pieces of concrete and brick from around the back of one of the buildings. The milkweed and other weedy grasses that sprouted up from last summer we hacked down and then forked into the soil to add organic matter. Also tossed in were various dead rosemary plants we found littering the church work yard. I love the free section of Craigslist, yesterday evening someone came and delivered a truckload of clean fill dirt onto the doorstep of the garden, we paid a nominal $40 for delivery. In addition to B, Phil Barrick and Dave Boschen, we got a college student who was taking a break from studying calculus in the Abbey next door, and the mighty TJ, Master of the Brew Bar, to lend a hand at the shoveling, while I sat back and directed. Sometimes being pregnant has its benefits. We need a good bit of compost in order to amend the soil, I'm still working that angle.

Design: Turn Down the Sugar!

This section of the garden gets only morning sun, so its been a challenge to find plants that fit our monastic theme and low-light requirements. We put in the jasmine to climb the red brick walls
on wire trellising-the idea is to create arches with the jasmine and a few shade-tolerant heirloom roses and bleeding heart. It looked dreadful. So sugary sweet, way too saccharine. It was like a Disney Princess flick, done in plants. I wanted to gag. So I'm adding Angelica (angelica archangelica) which has a strong, architectural form and an umbelliferous inflorescence (like Queen Anne's Lace) atop 6 ft stalks. It sounds like Giant Hogsweed without the searing, painful sap and invasive nature. It's medicinal as well, which is a plus. I've not grown it before, and it's a little hard to get a hold of: I have my name down for it at 3 different nurseries.

Also, in one corner I decided to add an elderberry (Sambucus nigra). There is a dark purple-leaved form called 'Black Beauty' that might do. I'm still a little unsure of how the foliage will look against red brick.

So that should help tone down the saccharinity (new word!) It feels so cobbled together at this point: weird pipes run along the walls, and mysterious conduit & electrical boxes inexplicably stuck here and there. It almost makes me want to plant a box hedge in front of it......
But overall I'm encouraged, and am trying to keep in mind that all gardens are a work in progress, constantly changing, and few or none are planted in ideal conditions.
(and thanks to JR Crellin for the lovely angelica photo.)


Cultural Anthropology

This is a slice of our life seen through the lens of a local grocery store chain, posted mainly for those who live elsewhere......(thinking of Susan particularly)

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.