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?


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....


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


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.
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!


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.
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.

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.