3.27.2010

King Edmund the Just, Lent & My Daughter's Imagination

We started reading the Chronicles of Narnia to G a few months ago-I've been looking forward to this stage in her life for quite a while. I vaguely remember reading the first couple of Narnia books as a child; they were definitely enjoyable, but it wasn't until I was an adult that I read the series completely.
Now, they are the epitome of the comfort read. I read them in between other books, as a sort of palate cleanser. Cheap paperback copies litter the house and car, and B & I dip into them so often it's hard to remember which one we're currently re-reading. We collect different tattered paperback editions of the series, own numerous 'lender copies' and were up in arms over the decision to re-issue the books in a new order. (I think I've actually been quoted in saying,"The Magician's Nephew first?.... what, are they on crack?" ) We've made a couple of special trips (okay, 3) to Headingtion, outside Oxford to visit Lewis' church and its etched glass Narnia window. Yes, I bought a mug. And a keychain. But I resisted the Aslan bobble-head, and the Lewis and Tolkien Rock 'em Sock 'em Robots.
Bedtime Stories
I love the night time routine around here: bath, book, bed. Sometimes honored grown-ups are allowed to read the book du jeur, but most often it's one of us, on our bed. A nice end to the day, even when I'm so tired it's hard not to nod off between paragraphs. 
So with Narnia, each evening we'd read another chapter or two and we soon plowed right through The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe as well as Prince Caspian, the second of the series. She seemed to be tracking with the over-all story, although it was hard to tell. (She is only 5.) At any rate she ran around for days shouting, "Soup and celery!" ala Trumpkin, the red dwarf  in Prince Caspian.  For better or for worse, we've shown her the recent Narnia movie as well as the BBC Wonderworks productions of Prince Caspian, and Dawn Treader. The Wonderworks productions are just so laughably bad. "Mom!" she said, in an accusatory voice, "Trufflehunter the Badger looks like a person dressed up in a skunk suit." And you know, that's exactly what it was.
King Edmund the Just
So last Saturday G awoke from a dream in which she saved Edmund, the youngest but one of the Pevensie children, who are featured in the first 3 Narnia books. In her dream, Edmund is being pursued by monsters, and she (G) fights them off. Ever since then, Edmund has been her constant companion. They go everywhere together, occasionally joined by the rest of the Pevensie children. She takes him to school, they get their hair "prettied" together, she baked him a sand cake for his birthday. A couch cushion became a stand-in Edmund for a while, and she left him her little paper bag puppet for entertainment when we had to go out. "I told him where the invisible Band-Aids are, in case he needs one. They're easier to find than the real ones." In the car the other day she told us we needed to be quiet so that she could have some 'alone time' to think about Edmund. I've heard her sort of mutter under her breath, "Come on, Edmund, let's go!" on her way to wash up or play outside. And she keeps repeating the refrain, "I love Edmund because his family loves him. They forgive him, and I forgive him."
Deeper Magic from Before the Dawn of Time
The interesting thing about all of this is that it is preceded by a conversation we had on the way to pick up B from work. Winding our way down La Madrona Drive, through the leafy twists and turns of Carbonera we began to talk about heaven. She also wanted to talk about Aslan and about Jesus and the parallels between the two. I ended up talking to her about how Aslan knew the Deeper Magic that said that when a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor's place, the Table (used as a place of execution) would crack and Death itself would start working backwards. This was all very heady stuff, but she kept asking about it. So I told her that just like Edmund deserved to have consequences under the rules of Narnia, after betraying his family to the White Witch,  we deserve our own consequences for our own acts of betrayal under the rules of our own world. And our consequence is being apart from God forever. We talk a lot about consequences in our house, so I thought it might translate. G usually gets a 'Time Away' in her room; I guess I was eluding to the idea that the consequence of sin was a sort of eternal, Cosmic Time Away. I talked about how Jesus stepped in, just like Aslan, and did this startling thing for us. That we're like Edmund, undeserving of this great gift of forgiveness that has been given to us through Jesus' actions that first Easter. And when we tell God we are sorry for the wrong things we've done and ask Jesus for forgiveness and help, He will come to our rescue. "I think we need to pray that prayer right now, Mommy," she told me. So we did.
 The Roar of Love
As it is in most of my conversations with G about life, the universe and everything I feel like I am tripping along, just barely one step ahead of her.  It is so good to have to break theology down into words that make sense to a 5 year old; to purposefully strip my language of cliche phrases and unnecessary words. And to be able to talk about these things over a long period of time, in little fits and starts, instead of one pedantic outburst in a Sunday School classroom. I am honored to be here with her through this time, and I pray that her little imagination and spirit are infused with joy as she reads on through this seminal series by C.S. Lewis. And that she will continue in the great love affair that sweeps up all mankind into the arms of God.

3.20.2010

Oh, What to Do? Worra Worra Worra!

So here I am all alone in a quiet (very quiet) house. I find myself so thankful for these few hours to myself. As the car filled with children pulled out of the driveway, my first thought was, "Nobody knows what I'm doing! Look, I'm going in this room, now this one-no one is following me!"
I live at the hub, the nerve center of a family, often needed for everything that involves feeding and sustaining 3 other humans. Understandably, there is not ever really a moment to do something that just involves me. Like writing, or running, or gardening. As I look this list over, I realize that it's a big step up from last summer with little newborn H.O., when my list mainly consisted of bathing, grooming & feeding myself.
Imagine my torn emotions with a few hours alone on a Saturday. The garden offers hours of transplanting, there's a redwood forest with inviting trails just waiting for me, and a blog of which I've been a seriously absentee author.
I think this is all normal stuff. I hesitate to even write it down, I mean, who doesn't feel busy? I don't want to bleat about my blessings, which are manifold.I am grateful, exceedingly grateful for this time in my life, for the blue forget me nots that crowd the edges of the garden and the sweet pea seeds that need sowing. For my family, B, G & H, so vibrant and cheerful this morning. My morning glories.

There's a hundred odd things I want to write about, if I can ever make it to the computer. They include:

-King Edmund the Just, G's Invisible Friend Du Jour
-My 3rd Grade Saint Patrick's Day, A Cautionary Tale
-Going back to Scotland!
Okay, hopefully now that this list is out there for the world to see, I'll feel the weight of the anticipation and actually write. Sorry everyone!

(The title is taken from an old family joke-a Casper the Friendly Ghost episode that involves pot-o'-gold-less leprechauns all pacing and worrying. "Worra worra worra!")

3.12.2010

The British Lawnmower Museum

The Brits. You gotta love 'em-what other nation encompasses at once so much pomp and so much silliness? Over the years our love affair with this island of paradoxes has been spurred on by such things as a propensity for silly town names, a yard-long list of contributors to the halls of great literature & the ability to churn out both great cheese & great chocolate. Not to mention the roaring trade in ancient monuments and chlorophyll.

I was listening to Gardeners Question Time tonight, washing dishes and spacing out. Everyone was where they should be. The Littles in bed, B doing homework; I was looking forward to nothing more than a night of tea & books followed by as much sleep as I could stuff into me before H's nightly game of Wake the Mommy began. (He's best in his division.)
Anyway, on GQT Eric Robson was interviewing Brian Radam, mower enthusiast & curator of the British Lawnmower Museum, in Southport, Lancashire.  Check out the website for some serious trainspotting for gardeners. Favorite bits include the section for Lawnmowers of the Rich and Famous; especially an impassioned appeal to celebrities to donate their Qualcast Panthers and Green Zephyr Specials.
Princess Di's lawnmower is on view, apparently. So.

My favorite lawnmower is hands down the Greens 6" Multum in Parvo (1860). Not only does it have a snazzy Latin name ('with little, much'), it's cog-driven, made to mow between gravestones & cute to boot. I'll tell you another thing, I never thought I'd ever start a sentence with 'my favorite lawnmower is......'
When you Mow, Flymo!
I was gardening at the Seamill Centre on the south west coast of Scotland when I first came into contact with the Flymo. I have no idea why this hasn't taken off in the States. Its many admirable qualities certainly outweigh the glaring design deficiences (top of the list being, of course, that there is no way to carry them without bashing your ankles on the plastic apron. That they are eye-watering orange is also a strike against them.) But the hover mower is really a great invention. Seamill boasts almost 45 degree hills of grass and the only way to cut the grass (barring sheep) is to
tie a rope to the handle of a Flymo, and let it down over the edge of the hillside. The hovering blade keeps the mower moving, and all we had to do was stand with braced legs and guide it in large arcs over the grass. Each time it felt like a bad, bad idea, but at the end of the day the grass was cut and we all went home, digits intact. And really, in the world of lawn mowing, what more do you need?

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.