Wednesday Vignette – fall and grace

And suddenly, without any real warning, fall is here. The equinox was yesterday. Does anyone else feel like they got cheated? The normally long, hot, languid summer disappeared, as it was somehow exchanged for a long series of more or less traumatic events. It’s been such a weird year, with our surrealist summer essentially starting in March, when everything came to a screeching halt.

For several months, we were in Covid limbo, and watched common sense get twisted into a hyper-politicized, nonsensical rage. We watched in horror another colder type of rage emerge, where fellow humans were murdered in broad daylight. I’m proud to say that America keeps responding to the hate-filled outrage with widespread and righteous protests. It proves that we still respond to pain, and possess the motivation to fight back. Let’s keep that up!

Then fires exploded. First in Beirut, and soon thereafter up and down the American west coast. Midwest crops were leveled by a freak Derecho, and the eastern seaboard battered by hurricanes and storms. It really does feel like the Universe is handing out bitch slaps left and right.

And then, the cherry on top. Right before Rosh Hashana, we lost yet another American Civil Liberties icon – the third in less than a year. Nina Totenberg – NPR’s legal correspondent – shared the spiritual significance of RBG’s passing: “A Jewish teaching says those who die just before the Jewish new year are the ones God has held back until the last moment bc they were needed most & were the most righteous.” I found this confluence of events oddly inspiring. I wonder where women would be in this patriarchy, if it weren’t for RBG’s ingenuity and resolve. She was a moral and inspirational trailblazer, and – like John and Elijah – now she too, has passed it onto us.

Obama said it too, as he made the comparison with his and every other black American’s ancestors. We can’t give up – we just can’t. He is right. Don’t know about you, but I take these universal bitch slaps seriously. I want them to shake us all out of our stunned coma. If we all play our part, we WILL see light on the horizon. And it will be the bright light of relief, as opposed to smoke filled fire light. Can you feel it? 40 more days until we can release our collective power to turn this trend around. Tell everyone you know – we can do this! We can do it for ourselves and for Elijah, John, and Ruth.

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

Wednesday Vignettes – hugs

You know what I miss the most about life in this pandemic? It sounds silly, but I’m a hugger. I miss hugs. I miss friends’ hugs, I miss happiness hugs, I miss supportive hugs, I miss consoling hugs, I miss celebratory hugs, and I miss hugging those I love. Sure, I can hug my people at home – and trust me, I do – but I can’t hug those I’m distancing from. Feeling kind of done with it, frankly.

A hug can mean so many things, and right now, I think we all need some hugs – of one sort or another. It can hold you up when you’re down, it can transmit energy and joy, it can imbue strength and determination, and it can share pain and loss and soften angst, anger, and despair. With everything going on, I’d be surprised if we couldn’t all benefit from a sincerely given squeeze or two.

And that’s my silly little vignette this week. I just want to say that you’re missed. Today’s words on the Countdown Calendar (48 days left, by the way) are CREATIVITY and EQUALITY. Let’s think of really creative ways to lift each other up in the weeks, months, and years to come. With everything going on; floods, fires, death and disease, loss of jobs, shelter, and material things, so many of us have more misery on our plate than anyone should have to bear alone. I wish I could say virtual hugs do the trick, but really – they don’t. Hang in there, good people, and promise to do at least one thing every day that makes you smile. Consider yourselves hugged from afar – whatever kind you need.

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , | 20 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – horse in the hospital

Ho boy, what a week! And it’s only Tuesday night… We had some unusual, freak “wind events” these past couple of smoky days (50+ mph) – courtesy of the extreme temperatures to the south of us, and the millions of acres on fire around us. The violent gusts caused some damage in the garden, but I’m still grateful. It could have been so much worse.

If you look past all these herbaceous, big-leaved wonders that have hit the ground, this may not look so bad. The worst damage, however, can be seen in the top right corner. A Viburnum trunk split and a good chunk of my cool green canopy over our table dropped. Not sure how much of that trunk is salvageable – if any. We’ll see tomorrow, I guess‚Ķ It likely means I will lose some of my precious shade.

Tomorrow is clean-up day, and it will take some time. But, everything is relative. It will no doubt take longer to clean up after the horse in the hospital a few months from now. Plants are resilient, and will always keep trying to come back. Dare I hope the same for the US? 54 days left, in case you were wondering. Make sure you’re registered! ūüėČ

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , | 21 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – the crowning missus

About three years ago, my boss Maurice and his husband George took down a row of declining poplars. But, instead of doing what most people do, they chose to not have them removed. Instead, they left the base of the trunks in the ground, and cut up the rest into suitably sized logs that they used to build a stumpery. The soil between the stumps was filled with a multitude of ferns, and other plants that might do well in a situation like that.

IMG_4552

Pleased to meet you, Mrs. Robert Brydon.

The other night, we were invited to their garden to hang out, and to admire the progress. We donned our masks, and off we went. We were met by a veritable cloud of small, pale blue bells floating atop the fern berm. It looked especially effective and fabulous in the blue light of evening. This chance hybrid was found by an estate gardener in Cleveland, OH, back in 1935. He named it after his wife – well, in as far as back then, wives’ names were pretty much their husbands names, preceded with a “Mrs”. So, let me introduce to you; Mrs. Robert Brydon . I’m guessing what the honored missus’ actual name was, has been lost in the fog banks of time. I appreciate the subtle protest of her spirit, as her official namesake assumes the form of a dense mist, making itself very noticeable by smothering everything in its path with a cloud of airy flowers. Mrs Robert Brydon – whomever she was –¬† was no shrinking violet!

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , | 16 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – waves

Saturday was a good day in our little bubble. The August birthdays of myself and my best beloved fall within three days of each other. Normally we would have taken a much longer time out to celebrate, but of course this year is not normal. Instead, we packed our masks and a picnic, and took a quick day trip to our favorite beach. We climbed one of the many rock formations, and sat for a long while and watched the waves break. It’s powerful, awe-inspiring, and oddly peaceful to follow the noisy, continuous heaving of the water, over and over and over again. Safe on our rock, with the entire world around us in constant, never ending motion.

IMG_4432

Being back home again to our normal turf, made me appreciate our day away even more. There are waves here at home too. I try my best to escape and hide in the stillness of the garden, but very close to my green oasis, the tent city on the nearby freeway exit is growing, as the days go by, and people with rolled up sleeping bags collect cans to survive. As soon as I glance at my phone, the ebb tide flow of newsflashes and scandals crash over my head, and I get sucked into the vortex of violence, poverty, and hate that is the world outside.¬† “Don’t look at your phone, dummy”, I can hear you say. Weirdly, I feel like I have to. Like a shipwrecked clinging to flotsam, I feel an urgent need to follow along in the tidal wave of tangled information and disinformation, lest I lose my grip on reality and will never again be able to retrieve it. I don’t dare to let go – too much is at stake. It’s funny how the fluid waves of the ocean has the capacity to still both mind and heart, while the murky ripples of our collective swamp can be so completely unnerving and disconcerting. This week is only two days old, but my heart is already in my throat. How about you? How do you keep going?

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – the path

My big event this week, was the finishing (FINALLY!!!) of a little pathway connecting the back of the garage with the newly raised and refurbished fire pit patio that I sweated over a few weeks ago. This work was preceded by still more rock-heaving labor. It took a pandemic to get me to do all this stuff, and it’s finally getting to a point where I feel like I’m almost done. I still have one little connecting path to finish (between the driveway and the Snowbell bed) but somehow that doesn’t feel as daunting as the one I just finished did.

Anyone who saw my pre-pandemic garden knows that it was as disjointed as my thought patterns;  a string of vignettes  Рone unrealized impulse followed after another. Rather chaotic actually, but of course in my head, I always knew what I wanted. I just needed to get around to do it. With the past months of isolationist practices, I finally did it. It was as if the pandemic and the need to isolate gave me license to spend near unlimited time out there Рwhich I unapologetically did.

IMG_7256

Last night I sat outside, admiring my handiwork, and musing on what a little continuity can do… By connecting these two random areas, space suddenly revealed itself, and the path itself became a major feature. Of course there has always been a way to get from Point A to Point B, but it was never quite defined, beyond its nebulous slippery and muddy contours. Now it is. A path adds structure, direction, definition, and purpose – it’s an affirmation. It struck me that my new path did for my garden what getting a running mate did for Joe Biden. Selecting Kamala Harris firmed up the purpose, and squashed all doubt. The synchronicity and timing of the two events was completely random, but I like to think that both will prove positive. Just like the path linking my little garden spaces mysteriously rendered them larger and more significant, likewise the merger of the two personalities on one ticket,¬† widened the road to come, and turned on the brights. I already know the turns of my path. It will be fascinating to see the undulations of theirs, and the direction it will take.

 

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – bright spots

IMG_4404

This is not something I see often – a blooming aloe. I think it’s happened only once before, and that one was of a different variety and so long ago, that my shady garden wasn’t quite as grown up yet. This one was acquired about four years ago. It kindly put out a little growth each summer, and spent winters languishing in my not so favorable indoor conditions. A bit like that dance – two steps forward, and one back. Still, it survived.

This spring, it got to move to my community garden plot. Before long, there were buds. Several buds. I can finally say I know what it looks like in bloom. Not sure which Aloe this is – if anyone knows, I would love an ID. Anyway, it’s happily strutting its stuff in its pot, which is where it will stay. (It’s not really hardy here in Zone 8.)

What happened to my mostly blue/yellow/white/silver planting plot, you may wonder…?Well, it’s still there, but quickly became a holding tank of sorts, for rescues and all kinds of plants in need of homes. So, when offered to take over another plot in the same community garden, I of course accepted. The new one will be mostly all hot colors; reds, oranges, and the occasional pinks, along with splurges of dark foliage plants like Canna australis, Hibiscus, and ‘Oakhurst’ Eucomis. A lot will be transferred over from the other plot as well. All this to say that I’m spending free time having fun playing with plants, and coming up with fun combos in all my new space. (The sudden abundance feels quite luxurious, to be honest. Once the migration is completed, the cool feel of the first plot will be mostly restored to its original intention.) The red stems you can see in the background represent another plant which languished in my home garden; Euphorbia ‘Dixter’. Kind of leggy – as one might expect, having been yanked out of its previously dark existence.¬† I have a feeling by next year, it will look like it’s supposed to. More to come…

These little joys are what keeps me going. I hope you all have someplace to lose yourself in, where you can create and contrast and play with the beauty that has the power to safeguard you from the many horrors presented by the various news cycles. Where you can restore and recharge so you can head back out, feet planted firmly on the ground, to face the world – come what may – with a Bring-It-On attitude. Be well, friends. 82 days left…

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , | 20 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – countdown

Don’t know about you but, in terms of light, the past few years here in the meltingpot have been a looooooooong and very dark tunnel leading in the absolute wrong direction. So, when we passed the milestone signifying 100 days left to the presidential election, I wanted to do something to mark the realization that we’ve made it this far. Now the end of that tunnel, is pretty much in sight.

Passersby often comment on my front garden, so – for better, for worse – I know it draws some attention. I decided I wanted to put some kind of message out there where people can see it. But, which message should I pick? Reunite caged families? Listen to science? Black lives are cherished? There is no planet B? Drain the swamp? Gun control? Federal militias go home? Wear a mask?…. They are all important, but if I were to put them all out there, our front yard would look as the freeway exits in our WA suburb do across the river, where political placards seemingly are a permanent fixture on an otherwise scenic landscape. (I never have figured out their election cycles up north… do they ever end???)

As far as issues go, climate is still my number one, but the more I thought about my messaging, the more I realized that the absolute most important thing about this one is to turn out the vote. Looming complacency scares the shit out of me! And the idea of people staying home because their candidate isn’t “perfect” scare me even more. Look where that got us four years ago… (shudder). So, I thought if I could emphasize that it’s a value thing, rather than an issues- or a personal thing, people might be more likely to recognize the importance of using their right (and duty) to speak up for what they want – in other words VOTE!

IMG_7145

You get the idea… I think I will switch out the plant supports for a couple of bamboo canes instead, but hey – this works for now. I also want to adjust the numbers upward so they are more centered. The picture, btw, is a few days old. By the time you read this, the calendar will read¬† ¬† ’90 DAYS TO GO’.

A couple of otherwise useless plant supports, a piece of bamboo and some zip ties made a decent mockup (it still looks like crap, and I plan to improve it visually, but for now, it works, and I needed to get it up there.) Each number is paired with a word (written on the left) that indicates something I want to see more of from our dear electeds, after January 20. There are twenty numbers so I needed twenty words. I suppose, if everyone were to make their own Countdown Calendar, the words would differ from person to person, but here are mine:

Acceptance

Creativity/Ingenuity

Diversity

Empathy

Equanimity

Equity

Fearlessness/Courage

Justice

Humanity

Opportunity

Poise

Respect

Science

Stewardship

Tolerance

Truth

Vision

 

I wrote each number on a different color scrap paper, thinking if it keeps visually changing every day, people might be more prone to noticing. I used what I had laying around – unfortunately the combo in the photo is a bit drab. Some will inevitably be more visible than others. The most noticeable ones will be those with colors clashing with their surroundings. In retrospect, I wish I had had more bright, fun colors at my disposal, but alas… Hopefully people will still see it, and themselves get inspired to start defining which direction THEY want our nation to go in as a whole, rather than getting myopically hung up on single issues. (And heaven knows there are a gazillion of those…) I’m sensing that if we all know that, and are aware that perfection does not exist in a democracy (or in humanity, for that matter) – we can cut through the constant spinning/sound byte/buzzword/static/crap, keep feet on the ground and a clear head, and vote as best we can.

UPDATED LOOK as of August 13, 2020:

IMG_7227

Switched out the very flimsy plant supports for some much sturdier bamboo canes, and adjusted the height of the numbers a little. Used wire to secure the dowel rods to the metal ring – which, in case you are wondering –¬† is a recycled section of a ventilation system I happened to have laying around. Much happier with it now.

Please tell me I’m not crazy to fret enough about this to mar my front yard for the next three months. If my little Countdown Calendar can get a single other human to the polls (who otherwise wouldn’t have bothered) I will think it was worth it. If it doesn’t, I guess it was still worth it, because thinking this up and making it, made me feel better. Be safe out there, check to ensure your voter registration is up to date (and not purged), and go find your own 20 words. And, vote as early as you can.

Much love,

Anna

61811735558__4B6459B6-B53F-4DEE-9FB4-B382649FC0F1

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , | 14 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – evolving sensibilities

I have started to see an interesting change in myself. Ever since first becoming a gardener back in the last century, I have never really liked pink very much. Granted, a lot of plants with fab leaves seem to come with pink flowers, so yes – by default, I accidentally DO grow some pink things. But, other than occasionally gravitating toward the charms of some hot pink marvel, I have never really sought out the softer versions of that particular color. Until one day…

As most of you probably know, I spend a few days a week at a wonderful “destination nursery” called Joy Creek. A major part of this nursery is the four-acre stock garden, cut through by a network of pathways. One day, when wandering down a path less taken, I saw this little pearlescent, pink thing glow in the shade between some larger shrubs. You know how there are certain genera that just never grab you, for whatever reason? Well, Geranium has been one of those genera for me. Although I understand how much of a useful, valuable workhorse some Geraniums can be (in dry shade, for example), I just never found enough of an urge to explore them further.

Geranium x oxonianum 'Wargrave pink'

I stopped and examined this adorable little freshly pink flower, and decided I needed to figure out what it was. Much less blue than most other pink and purple geraniums, this one leans more of a peachy, yellow-ish pink. And, it has a green center that radiates through the petals in a marvelous translucent way! (Some of you might also know that I’m a sucker for green flowers, so that alone gave it some serious street cred.) At first opportunity, I headed for our backstock area, to examine the many other geraniums we grow. Try as I might, I couldn’t find anything that looked remotely like it. Next step was to ask my friend and fellow coworker Tamara. Being a savvy smartypants, she consulted the Joy Creek inventory maps, and came up with a name. Later that night, I did some research on that name, and realized that it didn’t look anything like the one I was trying to identify. Worse – it was listed as the ONLY geranium in that bed. Nobody else seemed to know what it was either – trust me¬† – I asked EVERYONE.

The search went on. I googled images, and eventually landed on one called Geranium x. oxonianum ‘Wargrave Pink’. Convinced that that was the one – or at least a spitting image¬† of it – I googled where to find this plant for sale. Most all of the sources were located overseas, in England. Tamara and I begged our boss Maurice to propagate it, and I tried jogging his memory about trips to England from where he might have brought this beauty back. The gardens at Joy Creek contain plants brought over from all over the world, and we grow plants given to him by British horticultural dignitaries like Christopher Lloyd and Beth Chatto, so this possibility wasn’t at all a farfetched idea. Still, the nickel of recollection did not yet drop, so the origins of this particular Geranium remains a mystery. I suppose it – as suggested – could just be a seedling – although a lucky one at that. Or, someone else planted her in the garden, and never told anyone. Such generosities have been known to happen on occasion, as well. Anyway, she’s pretty, isn’t she?

Whomever she is, she is the first pink flower that has evoked major plant lust with her flower alone. As mentioned earlier, it’s almost always cool leaves, structure, texture, fragrance, fall color, what have you, that sways me. But no, this one is entirely about the flower. I think that means that I’m evolving, and capable of change, and of widening my scope. (Which I think is a good thing in just about any arena.) Just so you know, I have another pink object of obsession brewing, (a tiny-leaved, small flowered, climbing rose called ‘Pompon de Paris’ that sports long, arching canes full of miniature, double, fragrant flowers – about the size of a quarter – so I know this sudden ‘pink thing’ not just a one-time infatuation. It’s delicious! My sensibilities really ARE changing…

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , , , | 25 Comments

Wednesday Vignette – behind bars

IMG_7081Somewhere in the far windings of my addled brain, I vaguely remember a skit from a Swedish 70’s variety show (Hasse√•Tage’s Svea Hund, 1976) where the Vegetables were taunting the Rose for just being “beautiful”, and not at all “useful”.¬† The Dandelion waltzes in. The Vegetables like him even less than they like the Rose, as – to their thinking – he is neither useful, nor beautiful. The Rose argues otherwise, and defends the Dandelion as both handsome and useful. There was more to it of course, but I could not find the clip showing the actual inspiration for this post. (It’s apparently available online, but only viewable in Sweden.) The point of the skit is that without beauty, the soul will wither, and starve. As flowers and other features of the vegetative kingdom bring beauty, they can soften the hard edges of our lives and make our existence more tolerable.

Lately, I have been fantasizing about life behind bars. (Not necessarily for me, but I can think of several I’d like to see locked up.) The barrage of images of random arrests on the streets of Portland, by federal police (or whatever/whomever they are) in riot gear, keeps that vision rather real. On three separate nights in the past week or so, I have heard helicopters hovering over our neighborhood, and police trying to break up mostly peaceful, late night protests mere blocks from our house, declaring them “riots” over the loudspeakers.¬† It’s been pretty surreal. So, as I’m beyond appalled at the state of the union, I figured riffing on the idea that our world can be made less harsh and more palatable with plants, might help brighten the dark corners of my gobsmacked soul.¬† I imagine these lovely Liatris serving their useful function as jail bars, protecting me from those who wish to exert their power over me and other citizens who too might be waking up to the fact that authoritarianism is not quite what we want in a “democracy”. Can you see it? After all, a pattern is a pattern, is a pattern…. right?

 

Posted in Wednesday Vignette | Tagged , , , , , | 12 Comments