a strange calm day: birthday countdown sunshine

My 20 year-old son and I spent the morning preparing to open the pool, which we work hard to care for as though it's our own, though this place is a rental. But it has a terrible old porous cover, and if winter isn't super cold, it opens green, no matter how carefully we close it. This year, opening it a month late, it was green with the first signs of some new species of life developing on the surface. 20170603_113450_HDR
Well, he's in charge of the mechanics, I do the chemistry. But the pump wouldn't start! Signs indicate it must be replaced. So green the water will remain for now.

It is a sunny, sunny day, the kind of sunny day this area is not at all known for. And it's 85 degrees, but a nice 85, with a light breeze instead of a heavy stillness. 20170603_083538-EFFECTS
He wanted to take me to see Wonder Woman tonight. I felt excited at the idea, then demurred after several hours of expense leading to futility. We will go on Monday. But I sent him with another brother to see it tonight, anyway. I feel like being quiet and comfortable and reflective. With The Mary Tyler Moore show for background.

Isn't perspective a funny thing? Set in the background this way, the green pool is kinda pretty, isn't it? 20170603_175849

But not as pretty as my birthday lily. Birthdaylily

20 years, fickle April, birthday countdown thoughts, and Earth Day

This isn't going to be the post I had in mind when I began thinking it over yesterday. My heart is a bit overfull just now.

Two things to think over which spawn many other channels of thought. First, I will turn 51 in six weeks. I like being a prime number. But it is a scary age for me to be. Second, this is my twentieth year having some sort of garden, though it's 23 if you count the zinnias under the tree in Olathe. I'm counting from the glorious garden I built in Saginaw in 1997, though. 
I had little energy last year to give the garden a proper start, and so I have been happily and eagerly making up for it this year, only as we had no April to speak of, some of the vegetables which like April best are probably not going to produce really well before it turns hot. There is this thin window of time in which the ground is workable but not too cold, and the air is warming but is not yet hot. And this year, the window is even thinner than usual, because we reverted back to February at the end of March, then shot straight into May a few days ago. But such is gardening life along the 39th degree. 

My first garden, in Michigan, was kind of a thing of wonder. It became self-sustaining in two years' time, and was actually left alone to grow for at least a couple years more after I moved away. I didn't have all the internet advice I have now, and didn't even get much from the library. But I had towering tomato plants mixed in with all kinds of flowers and herbs, and just whatever I felt like growing. At first, gardening in New Jersey was something of a trial in comparison; the earth is very sandy there, especially where we lived, just three miles from the sea, and then five... Tintonfalls...and then more. Oh, I miss the sea. So I focused on the herbs, slowing adding in whatever I could when conditions allowed, and then for my last two years there, on the west side of the state, I had a 20x20 plot in a community garden. _DSC7794 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-57-16

That's where I really learned to garden, and where I learned to love gardeners. I will always treasure my brief time there, though I had a more difficult time finding some of the truly interesting plants there which were so easily available in Michigan. In NJ, anything which wasn't commonplace came at quite a premium. Well, everything just costs 30% more there. It makes people creative, though.
 _DSC7773 - 2011-07-10 at 08-50-07 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-50-07
_DSC7782 - 2011-07-10 at 08-52-58 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-52-58
I forgot I could be creative for awhile after moving here to Ohio into a neighborhood where a putting green lawn is valued far above the offerings of nature or my own "oldcountry" aesthetic desires. That is, I didn't forget, but I've been torn between worrying over lawn edgings and dandelions and needing to "express myself through the medium of growing interesting stuff in interesting configurations.” Doing it to satisfy both the neighbors and me would really just require throwing a lot of money around. You get more for your money here, but I can't justify it. 

So my back gardens in my rented space are semi-conservative little oases, and I treasure them as much as I can, while the front areas are more for public view, and no one knew what to think last year when I got the notion of growing middle eastern cucumbers on a trellis in front of the porch…if I told them that on the east coast, many people do not waste their front lawns on the cultivation of grass, they’d think it’s all just as awful as they believe they’re told by the news.

I never planned to have a garden, you know. This is because my mother had an enormous one for a couple of years, completely organic back when that was rather tougher to do in the post-mid-century living better through chemistry era, and I hated having to weed it. Well, I hardly weed my gardens at all. I just grow stuff between the stuff so I don’t have to. The carrots always need it, though.

I have repeated many aspects of my mother’s life, after being so certain I never would. I love gardening, I love old stuff. I have experienced some of the same pains and losses. And now I’m turning 51, the age my mother found a lump in her breast.

It is not 1987. I did not smoke as a teenager. I have not consumed huge quantities of Coke and Pepsi throughout my lifetime. I have eaten less processed food, though probably not much less. I cook with olive oil, I drink milk, I eat more fish, I breastfed my kids, and I’ve done a somewhat better job of keeping middle age weight at a reasonable place.

Still, and all. One can’t help but think about it and wonder. I have assigned all my belongings to various offspring, and I keep thinking they should not have too many drawers or boxes to sort through someday, because there’s only so much charm to be found in browsing through what other people won’t throw out.

I’m actually more likely to be felled by a heart condition because of my horrible teeth, but the fact is, from this point forward, the markers are not just, “Now I am older than Pushkin, Darin, Judy Holliday...*” but “I have been a mother longer than I had one,” “this is the age she got sick,” and two years, ten months older than I am now, “now I am older than my mother lived to be.”

So besides having my vitamins and checkups and thinking about doing a better job of making sugar calories matter, I’m working to be pleasant and giving and at peace with life, the universe and every little thing. Growing beautiful things and sewing gifts and making purple cocktails, helping tense cashiers calm down a bit, loving the dog and my kids and trying not to poison either the earth or other peoples’ hearts and minds keeps me pretty busy at that.

Here’s to Earth, to Mom, to Purple Rain, to all the Aprils you and I will live to see. Gardentools


_DSC7772 - 2011-07-10 at 08-49-36 - Version 2 - 2011-07-10 at 08-49-36

Hot September Evening

Here, first, I know some of you become excited when you see this sort of thing.


This is how dogwoods do in fall.

And by the way, I don't care that some of you don't say fall. Like, whatever. We do. It's short for a very old expression, "fall of the leaves." It's nice.

It's thundering out, but we don't expect much rain. If we have some, it'll be all right because we're no longer continually overcome by it. True September weather is expected to begin around the 10th, and I'm so thankful for the reprieve. Last summer was kind of cold, and this one was mostly just wet and then not very hot until this past weekend. We are to have heat all week, and I am soaking it in.

Here are memories Facebook showed me for one year ago yesterday.

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.30.00 AM

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.28.39 AM

No point in your trying to friend me there. You can find me easily and better at Google Plus or Twitter.

I haven't painted anything this summer, but learning to properly sew with the machine has been fun. Back when Mom knew me, I suppose she couldn't have imagined my favorite hobbies besides reading would be sewing, painting, and gardening. Cooking she might have guessed. But she didn't teach me everything she made in time, and I had to figure out some of it on my own. I was awkward as a young person, and as things came easily to her, I think she found me confusing. 

Yesterday when I was watering the pointless watermelon vines, and the peas and beans, I got to thinking about how it would be if I knew her all along up to now. It is a certainty I would not have my second child if my mother had not died when she did, and also I would not have endured some scary painful events. But I wouldn't trade second kid for the knowledge life would hurt less. It all came as sort of a weird package deal. Am I saying I wouldn't trade kid for Mom? That's too complex and silly to bother thinking through. What is, is.

I think Mom, still alive, would have passed through her very extreme religious era into something more...peaceable and open. It isn't wishful thinking; there'd be no point in that. It's just how she was, how many people are.

Big fat raindrops are drumming along the skylight now.

I think I'll make the olives tomorrow. I finally have it down pretty well after all these years.

Season's changing in the front, but in the back it's still summer for a little while longer.


Faire votre connaissance

That's what was running through my mind over and over again when I awoke after some silly dreams; typical dreams for me, wherein very interesting things are just about to happen, and then are inexplicably and interminably delayed.

Then suddenly this song was in my head. I've never been a great fan of it, but it has lasted, hasn't it?


As I was turning on the lights in my little plant box, I was thinking about that, and of course the name Mungo Jerry came to mind, and before one of my kids could say, "Bob's my uncle," Mun-go Jerrie-and-Rum-ple-Tea-zer came wandering into my brain.


I haven't written about Werther yet, because he might be right; it's the best one we've seen. In a way.

But it always comes back to Frank, and I expect he plans to sing this song to me all morning.  


This weekend I hope to see two movies; The Wind Rises and The Grand Budapest Hotel, and I hope to shore up the plastic greenhouse so I can put a heater in it and start using it, and I hope to make a little marmalade and also write down more stuff and work on my quilt. We'll just see about all that.

Mais, d'apprendre à me connaître dans le matin nécessite de l'energie, n'est ce pas? Only when the sun is shining...

Titles are so limiting, aren't they?

I was such a grimy child. I could sit outside and play in mud, or dirt, or sand, or a tree, or my little wading pool, for hours on end. I hated baths and was scared of the shower. I mean, I went to school clean, but did as little as possible on my own to make that happen until I was at least ten. 

People thought of me as a tomboy. For awhile, I did, too, but looking back, I realize I never was. I didn't play with dollies much, or Barbies much, though I had both. And I had a little toy kitchen and tea sets and all of it. But they were just accessories to a chaotic life. Neither did I play sports as I was tremendously clumsy, at least, according to everyone around me. I don't remember myself that way. I rode my bike for hours, and could jog for several miles at a time. Latterly, the family bowling gene appeared. Whatever.

As a child, I played with clay, paint, craft sets, crayons, glue, rocks and sticks and leaves and paper and paper and more paper. Yet no one thought of me as artistic or creative in the slightest. 

I'm beginning to wonder if they thought anything interesting about me at all, other than that I was always covered with dirt or something colorful and sticky that was probably also stuck to my carpet. 

I played detective and cowboys and indians. But all girls did, because there weren't exciting girl things to be. We sometimes thought we wanted to be the superhero or the cowboy because he was cool, not because he was a man. I mean, by extension, men got to do the exciting powerful stuff, so that was part of it. It's just—it was the merest breath of a hop for me to want to be Bret Maverick to, well, wanting to be with him. I mean, not that way, that came later. Just there, his, breathing in his awesomeness. 

Tonight as I undressed to shower after putting in 70 leeks, and gosh do I hate planting leeks, yet I love growing leeks, I thought about how I was as dirty as when I was seven. Not really at all, though. It wasn't visible except on my hands. But I'm an adult, and so of course, I felt just miserably but also gloriously dirty from digging and raking and planting today. And of course I love a good strong shower, and emerging clean and new. Yet I can't wait to get out there tomorrow and do it again. I mean, not plant more leeks. Something. Something else I can nurture and grow while playing in the dirt. 

Yes, this is a dull photo of 70 baby leeks. Gardening is tactile. 

This wasn't really about that when I first thought of it...um, unlike other women I know, I haven't thought of myself as a "girl" in many years. And never truly a "tomboy," which, really, is fairly misogynistic if you think about it. Sometimes I think I don't relate to other women very well because they're trying so hard either to be one or not to be one; I am never quite sure about it all. But then, too, in certain ways, women can relate only to each other, and it's important to recognize and cherish that. I do. 

I spent many years watching my children enjoy doing the playing and digging and messing, and so I did very little of it myself. But it's who I am naturally. I chop and mix and bake or shake. I throw paint around. I collect stacks of books. Sometimes I spill things. And I dig in the dirt. But I also like a neat clear space, tidy shelves, organized tools, and clean skin. 

This is me preparing to remove garden grime. I decided that if I shared this fairly terrible photo, every other photo of me that follows it will look very good by comparison. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

I'm continuing to strive to be the best parts of myself; the original ones and the later ones that come with maturity. 

She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meet in her aspect and her eyes:
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which heaven to gaudy day denies.

One shade the more, one ray the less,
Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
Or softly lightens o'er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express
How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.

And on that cheek, and o'er that brow,
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent!

It never hurts to think well of yourself, or at least to think well of your possibilities. I really am pretty much who I have always wished to be, just have to do a bit more with it.

Then, too, I am also thinking of Joseph Cotten's perfect, almost over-chiseled lips. The sky is growing dark and my attention turns from the external to the internal. So to speak. 

Rita, girl, you are a mess. But I understand. 

Summer's End

All too briefly, the air was still, warm, a blanket of calm


Unlike Damocles, not given to flattery

yet a single hair bears the dagger twisting overhead 

revealing not the perils of power, but of Limbo

or the vain grasp for illusory freedom


Now the air is charged, cooling, crawling over my skin like

ants over a pool of spilled honey


It never was summer; it was a trick of the mind.


2012-09-17 11.50.51
2012-09-17 11.50.51
2012-09-17 11.50.51

the harvest season, part two

Here's a poblano pepper. I gave away 4 last week, and now 4 more will be ready to use by this weekend. I haven't decided what I'll do with them. Before last week, I'd have said this is all I'm getting from the two plants. But after the rain, more blossoms appeared. :-) 2012-08-02 13.14.17

This Swiss chard has been a miracle! First, I planted two each in cheap potting soil in pots. They grew, but then they didn't grow more. I cut some, they grew back, but only a little. I transplanted them to this area in the horriblest heat after removing the lettuce, and they stayed inert for several weeks, but I was loathe to remove them. They were at least pretty. Then suddenly, before it even rained, they started growing again, so I cut them, and now they keep coming back, just like regular. 2012-08-02 13.17.39

These are also miracle plants. I bought a 6 pack of banana peppers on clearance for a dollar. They'd hardly grown and yet were producing little tiny peppers. I put 2 in the ground, 2 in the pot, and the other 2, well, they didn't make it. The ones in this pot, the peppers didn't grow, so I picked them when they turned red, and that was that. The ones in the ground took forever, but finally started growing, and so far I've gotten 5 nearly-normal sized banana peppers from them. And now suddenly, these 2 are producing again. :-) 2012-08-02 13.16.56

 A third "miracle!" This patio tomato plant produced 4 good tomatoes at the end of May and beginning of June. And that was that. It was okay; my Early Girl and Tiny Tom plants went wild and produced tons of good fruit starting in the middle of June. They've slowed down now but there are still quite a few more. But now, after over a month of rest, this thing has produced a couple new tomatoes. 2012-08-02 13.16.33

This is lemon verbena. I always have some on a deck or patio where I live. It's hard to keep year round because you have to bring it in at just the right time, but I think I'll succeed with this one. I just cut it back today, and will do it once more in a couple weeks, then leave it out until the nights turn cool.  2012-08-02 13.16.41

I'm going to keep sharing more like this during the harvest season until I decide what sort of theme or plan I might use for a gardening blog. I want it to feel like something you'd want to hug or have tea with and laugh with, you know? 

the harvest season, part one

I decided to break this into two parts since I have a lot to share.

I've been posting my garden photos at Google+ mostly for convenience. But I will share some here today. It has been suggested by three separate people that I start a gardening blog. For serious, you know. I don't claim to be more than a semi-expert amateur gardener; good with what I know, but there's so much I don't know. But I think it might be an appropriate challenge for me to take on, as I begin to think about my "late in life" career, beyond motherhood. Combining writing, gardening, and a bit of cooking (and a bit of philosophy) is a perfect match for me. Of course, there are thousands of blogs like that already, aren't there? So the trick would be some individual appeal in order to stand out from the crowd.

I've never thought of my blog as more than just a fun extension of me and my interests. Sometimes a crowd reads it; sometimes no one does, and I've been largely okay with that over the past 9+ years. But this new endeavor would be something for which I'd want to be taken seriously, even if it isn't all written seriously. So. Food for thought. 

Here are some photos I took today of my deck plants and my sort of "experimental" garden patch. This fall I am going to add several inches of good garden soil to it, because I did that with the one on the other side, and things grew better over there, for the most part. These are pictures taken with my aging phone, and I'm on the computer with which I can't manipulate them well, but if I start a real gardening blog, I'll have to use the regular camera!

Here is my sophisticated water delivery system. It didn't rain for almost three months, so things were dicey here and there, but I tried to do this at least once a week over each area. 2012-08-02 13.10.16
And late last month, we did finally get some measurable rainfall, which did some amazing things seen in some of the next photos. They say not to expect rain as a trend, though. 

This is my sweet sad little eggplant plant. I planted it late because eggplants have been frustrating me. And for awhile, it was just too hot to feel like working at this. But I decided to put this one in, and I think it will probably produce two or three useable eggplants. :-) 2012-08-02 13.12.42

This is a variety of pepper plants; all but the two poblanos in the back were grown from a mixed seed packet. So far there've been two Purple Beauty bells, a regular California Wonder bell, a Corno DiToro, and I'm not sure about the other two yet. They grew so slowly for so long, I never thought they were going to make it this far. But I coaxed them along, and now they're just lovely things, though smaller than they would be in a normal season. They will probably each yield no more than 6 peppers (the Purple Beauties have already yielded a few each,) but that's all right. 2012-08-02 13.13.14

These are the Corno DiToros. They will start turning red in the next week or two.  2012-08-02 13.14.07

These are Rutgers tomatoes starting to ripen. These two tomato plants (the other is a German Johnson,) also grew very slowly. As I said, I think the soil on this side just didn't provide as much good stuff. It's very much all clay, which I worked and added garden soil and peat moss to. 2012-08-02 13.13.27
I always like the Rutgers tomatoes; they're firm but still juicy. No, not an "heirloom," like the German Johnson, but a nicely designed tomato for home gardeners; reliable and tasty.

I planted 20 green bean seeds in spring, and only 2 grew! But they have hung in there long past their ordinary life span. I pick a few beans, they grow a few more. For a few weeks when it was extra hot, they almost stopped, but now have picked up again, producing even more than before! 2012-08-02 13.15.06
I just planted 28 more seeds in my other vegetable patch; I'll take pictures as some of them start to pop out of the ground.

 Part two

liliales birthday countdown: 2010

In 2010, I got a plot in the community garden. It is like an allotment, if you are familiar with those, in that you have a (20 ft x 20 ft) space with which you can do pretty much whatever you like, as long as you don't use unnatural pest sprays or fertilizers, etc.. But it's unlike an allotment in that you have it for only six months, then they plow it all under and you have to start completely over the following April. Previous gardeners do have first right of refusal, so you can keep the same plot for years, if you like.

I got to the town hall before anyone else to sign up for the newly freed spots, but didn't know how it all worked, so I didn't go inside until a few others had arrived. Still, I got to choose my spot, and it was a great one

People thought the way I planned it out was unusual, though I'm not sure why. And anyway, it was a patch that had been well-worked and well-loved, and everything grew beautifully, even artichoke plants. I have lots of posts on here showing off my progress and harvests. And there are some lovely photos of the wild beauty I managed to create—foster?—here.

The garden was 3 miles away, and I didn't much enjoy the drive to and from it; it was the kind of 3 miles that takes 20 minutes, but it was still grand. 

People on Google+ like to talk about being geeks or nerds. This decade, that's the thing to be. I don't label myself anything except maybe "dilettante." But if you know me from G+ you might get a kick out of my 2010 Holodeck update. (The Men of My Holodeck Fantasies; a thing I've been carrying on about for nearly a decade.)

But this is the post I most want you to read. What I see, what I know is there. It's short. And still meaningful to me. 

Irises are like good bourbon

A great bourbon is fragrant, decadent, and wholly joyful to experience. Unless you greedily have much too much. Then you wake up thirsty, head crowded, and really don't want to look at a bourbon bottle for a long, long time. I experienced this once about four years ago, and will never do it again. 

Just because you can have a lot of something doesn't mean you should. That's a basic truth in life that irises (and everything in the mint family) haven't grasped, and neither have many people who grow them. These things were about to launch forward into the front yard because no one had thinned the herd in the past few years, and they just kept propagating like the soil whores they are. 

Normally you wait until fall to do this, but after hacking down the day lilies that died off early because of the tremendous Three Week Heat, I was in the mood for more destruction. 

2011-08-03 13.34.09
And it's not like they can actually be killed. There are plenty more where all that came from.

2011-08-03 13.34.26
I hauled the remains to the back and shoved it all behind the tree line. Maybe an iris forest will appear there next spring. 

 More on gardening plans to follow.