Wednesday Vignette – Two Ladies

Wadjet and Nekhbet

Wadjet, depicted as a cobra, was the protective deity of Lower Egypt, whereas Nekhbet – the vulture goddess – watched over Upper Egypt. Together they established laws, protected the country, its people, and its rulers, and promoted peace.

After the unification of Egypt, the crown of subsequent pharaohs consisted of the depiction of two deities whom – despite their physical differences and their representation of two separate, yet united regions – were always worshipped individually, as well as together. Contrary to most other freewheeling, shapeshifting gods of the time, the Two Ladies remained distinct from one another, and still managed to rule together in sustained peace. That’s quite the achievement!

Just think about it… I think we need some new deities to help us heal ourselves and this polarized, fractured world. Maybe we should engage the Two Ladies to come to our rescue? You know, build bridges over gaps, stitch together our torn and frayed ethnic and cultural fabrics, and make us celebrate our universal sameness instead of our differences. Then, after all the crazy has been dialed back, and the appropriate time-outs have been doled out – then they could lead our motley masses into a future where the focus is on facts, fairness, and fearlessness. Now, wouldn’t THAT be nice?

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Wednesday Vignette – communication

To prepare yourselves for this post, contemplate this statement, and envision a hand, indicating a height:

“Cut it to about here.”

For a while now, I’ve been involved with designing a seating area on the Benedictine Monastery campus in Mt Angel. The Sisters offer spiritual walks with members of the community, and the walks culminate near the giant 130′ tall Sequoia that was planted in the late 1800’s by one of the very first Sisters to join the order. The seating area is designed as a place of contemplation and meditation, and will focus on the installation of a new Peace Pole. The work is set to begin in about two weeks, at the end of March. To date, an overgrown red-twig dogwood that was eating the existing flag pole had been removed.

I will show you more about the project in a later post, but for the purpose of this Vignette, suffice it to say that a prominent part of the design are four 40′ x 12′ bermed beds, planted with carefully selected plants that will provide year round color and fragrance. Part of the past few weeks have been spent procuring all these plants, and I have made several trips down to the convent to drop them off. On the last of these trips, I had an errand to the offices. When I got to the top of the stairs, I looked toward the future site, and….. GASPED!!!!

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The cause for my semi-heart attack was one of the grounds workers, merrily going about cutting back a magnificent Bayleaf (Laurus nobilis). The large shrub was adjacent to one of the four beds, and my plans called for limbing it up. Several of the Sisters had mentioned the Laurel, and wanted it to remain. In my design, I had worked it in to serve as an evergreen backdrop to the fiery branches of a Midwinter Fire dogwood in winter.

The miscommunication, according to the worker, was that he had been told something along the lines of that sentence I asked you to ponder, at the top of this post. I can see how that might have been misunderstood, but jeez-louise…. I wasn’t there when the instructions were given, and I’m not going to pass blame. There are always two sides to each story – at least! No, I just want to make a note of how damn important clear communications are to  e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g  we humans do. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of thinking that others can read our mind, or to overestimate the notion that others really know what we mean. I’m as guilty of that as just about anyone else. From the receiving end of that scenario, I also want to stress the importance of asking all the questions you need answers to, and eliminating all doubts before making assumptions. Yup, I admit – I can be guilty of that, too.

I went home and emailed my pruning god – Mike at Joy Creek Nursery – to see if there was any hope for recovery for this poor decapitated shrub. He promptly returned a detailed email filled with disbelief, instructions, and – thankfully – some encouragement. It will take some work, and it will take a few years, but there is a chance. We’ll proceed with the project as planned, but – obviously – the limbing up of the Laurel will be postponed for a while. That wounded thing needs to be allowed to grow some new branches first, before we take off the few it has left. Time will tell…

So, thoughts and prayers everyone, that the rest of this project goes off without a hitch. Ironically, the massive Sequoia was once topped by some local pranksters who were determined to use the top few feet as a Christmas tree. This was decades ago, and the tree has recovered fine – at least as far as I can tell from my vantage point far below. I’m going to keep that in mind as I watch the injured Laurel try to heal itself. Communications, or the lack thereof, can indeed be life-changing – for better and for worse. Mishaps like this are the kinds of things that should keep us all humble.

The only beauty in this travesty was that the entire area was filled with the most wonderful fragrance. I took some of those severed Bay branches home to use the leaves in my cooking,  all the while musing that if the Sisters could sell all those downed leaves at market rate, they could pay for this project many times over.

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Wednesday Vignette – the fourfold

As I was waiting for a friend at a recent visit to the Portland Japanese Garden, my eye fell on these marvelous screens that visually separated the ticket office/entrance from the hustle and bustle of the SW Kingston Avenue parking lot.  Their strictly defined rectangular forms and delicate stands stood out in front of a backdrop of similar, yet very different formal expression – a leafy mass of bamboo elevated atop thin, stripped stalks. How the definition of the built transforms the natural from space to a place, made me think of a class on Postmodernist Aesthetics I took back in architecture school – on Heidegger, in particular. I shamelessly admit that most of that class went over my head, but I do remember one significant concept; the spirituality of place stems from the fourfold – earth, sky, mortals, and divinities.

“A bridge stretched across a river, Heidegger argues, provides such a sense of space. … Space is therefore something which stems out of a place. The fourfold of existence can only appear in the space created by a certain place, and the place, in the case of the bridge, was created only upon its construction.”

 

Screen at the Japanese Garden

Well, it isn’t a bridge, but you get the idea. By erecting these screens, significance and intention infuse the space, and invites us into a place of spirituality and meditation on our human connection to the world around us. Given that they are placed at the very edge of the Garden, they also mark a transition – into a very special place. The Japanese Garden practically vibrates with this kind of metaphysical ju-ju. If you haven’t had a chance to visit since Kengo Kuma’s masterful renovation a couple of years back – I highly recommend it. It belongs on everybody’s bucket list. I consider myself lucky to live so close.

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Wednesday Vignette – marks of time

 

IMG_2521I love tulips. And, I also like things that have a bit of patina – the evidence of time on things, mortal and immortal. Sure, the freshness of youth has its perks, but there is an implied softness in age, a timeworn complexity of refinement, that is so very appealing.

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A dear friend gave me tulips last week. I imagine, by now most might have thrown them out, since they are past their prime. But my tulips still grace our table. I delight in seeing them age, each day adding more lines, shadows and progressing imperfections, that still – to me – are so perfectly perfect. Until one by one, the faded petals drop, and all pretenses are gone. Even that, has beauty.

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Wednesday Vignette – anticipation

This week, the NorthWest Flower and Garden Show in Seattle commences. It’s always fun to go to, even if not always mind-blowing. I first visited the show in 2015. Since then, I’ve tried to go every year, but last year I was traveling, and missed it altogether. Sitting here, the night before I leave to go up there, I was trying to think of what had made the biggest impression on me since I first started going.

Interestingly, one of the things that stuck out the most, it turns out, is from a year previous to what I thought it was – that’s how vivid it still is in my mind.

Naturalistic wooden deck floor

This perfectly fitted wooden deck floor from 2016 was so wonderfully unusual and inventive. I just loved it! The naturalistic edges, perfectly fitted into the adjacent planks, and as they straighten, and the pattern fades as the boards move to the right, look like waves hitting a sun drenched ocean beach, to me.

This kind of rare creativity is rather infrequent at shows like this. You see a lot of trendy, predictable stuff that will fade as quickly as the late spring snow flurries outside the Convention Center curtain walls. It’s the things like this that makes me want to return, year after year. I wonder what this year’s show will bring…? Given this year’s theme – Gardens of the World – and the spiking trendiness of houseplants, I somehow expect to see a lot of tropical foliage, but that’s just a guess. I promise to report back what I see… Stand by!

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Wednesday Vignette – gut flora

A slightly different flora than one might expect from a garden blog, but I made something the other day I just HAVE to share. It was too good not to.

My mother told me she had the health of her gut flora analyzed, and received a long list of foods and instructions on whether to cut back, increase, or remain steady to improve and balance her microbiome. There were some surprises, and certainly some challenges. One of the listed instructions was that she should increase her Jicama intake. Both of us have eaten Jicama before, but always as an ingredient in something else. And not with any real frequency either – as Swedes, it’s not exactly on either our cultural or culinary radar.

Anyway, I found this new challenge intriguing, so I picked up the smallest Jicama I could find at the grocery store – since chances were decent that my experimentation might not pan out. I figured I’d start small – just in case I’d botch it. Well, let me tell you, the result of my little Jicama trial slunk down fast! What I made turned out to be delicious! And, since I am my mother’s daughter and we share a decent amount of DNA, I’m guessing Jicama might be good for me too.

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RECIPE:

Make the dressing first:

Edited to include one crushed clove of garlic. How could I possibly have forgotten THAT???

Mix juice of 1/2 lime and olive oil (1:3 ratio like any ol’ vinaigrette)

About 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds

A touch of cumin (spiskummin if you’re a Swede reading this)

A few shavings of lime zest

1 tsp brown sugar

And now, add he substance:

Peel and julienne a medium sized Jicama

A good handful of chopped cilantro

Top with roasted, salted pistachios and a wedge of lime

Sooooo, sooo goood! Enjoy, like I did, eating it right out of the bowl with a spoon!

(Pretty sure I might have added a crushed clove of garlic, but I honestly can’t for the life of me remember. It would be unlike me NOT to… I guess you’ll have to experiment, too. It’s probably good either way. I’m making it again tomorrow – will determine then, and update this post. 😀 )

I’m still trying to come up with a good name for my newest concoction, but am not having much luck. My resident word smith is out of town, and inspiration fails me. Any good ideas? …. Anyone? Edited again to say I finally came up with a name – Jicama-mama salad. It was hb’s comment below that brought the inspiration. After all, it was created for my dear mama! 

Edit number 3, for those of you who wondered why Jicama is so valuable to our gut flora; A screen shot from Health Line, to support the additional tidbit that inulin is a substance that aids in Butyrate production – which is essential for intestinal health. Good to know!  🙂

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Wednesday Vignette – in the abstract

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We had our first snowfall of the year in Portland on Monday night, and woke up to a white world. As you can imagine, ur remaining highschooler was elated to hear a “snow day” had been called. I grabbed the camera and went outside to see what kind of pretties I could find. When I later checked the result, I found this – a shot I don’t even remember taking, but turns out to be one of my favorites. Not even sure why… I think it’s because of how the light falls, the shadows, the fuzzy outlines, and the abstractness it all created. If you really want to know, it’s a remaining piece of my crazy Passiflora ‘Snow Queen’ wrapping itself around a palm frond (Tracycarpus fortunei).

I examined this plant closer a couple of weeks ago, and realized that it seems to root from nodes along its stems that touch the ground. Maybe it also extends underground… Couldn’t quite tell…  Either way, I hacked it back pretty severely, but saved the spots where it had rooted – hoping I can dig up and give away some starts eventually. This plant can apparently be a beast in our climate (Zone 8b), but it is oh so pretty! I’m kind of glad this sudden cold kicked it into temporary submission – if only a little.

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