Thursday, January 31, 2008

Lunacy and Imagination, Part 1

“As things so very often are
Intelligence won’t get you far.
So be glad you’ve got more sense
Than you’ve got intelligence.”

Piet Hein

My imagination waxes and wanes with the moon, and sometimes it feels like sense and intelligence seem to ebb and flow inside me. Lunacy or imagination?

These nights, here at 32° 46'13" N, 116° 57' 22" W, the waxing moon is still only a part of itself. Each night, outside my bedroom window, it rises in the east a bit earlier, but still looks like an old woman haunted by loss. Yet when the moonrise finally creeps above the trees, the light seems distracted – perhaps by other planetary events beyond our view from earth – and not paying full attention to me below.

Of course, through the miracle of the interweb (sic), you can go Here to calculate your very own longitude and latitude.

The night is no longer young. Before the moon rises, night is lost in middle age. The shadow of pallid moonlight on the dew-damp stones outside the window makes each stepping stone look like it’s shrugging its shoulders. It looks like the preoccupied gesture a weary mom makes, brushing her arm past her tired face, in wordless reply to a persistent child needing attention.

The moon is a mere shadow if its former self. The first month of this new year is almost over, but the waxing moon promises there’s life after January. The phases of the moon usher in and out seasons. Not a blunt and banal four seasons, but more like 400. More than once a day, the whole world changes right before my eyes.

Take, for example, my back yard. My garden is like a river: I never step into the same garden twice. During the waxing moon, my imagination seems to swell, and I seem to have more sense. Then later, like the waning moon, I realize that while I may be better informed, I’m often none the wiser. So much for internet intelligence.

While it may be obvious to the point of banality, Seasons always return, but each is different. This winter may be similar to last winter, but it is not the same. And this waxing moon is smiling at me.

This post was inspired by a post from From Greeny at Sometimes You Get What You Need with a picture of a smiling moon...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Earth-bound, Heaven-amorous

"A tree beside the sandy
Holds up its topmost boughs
Like fingers towards the skies
They cannot reach,
Earth-bound, heaven-amorous.

“This is the soul of man.
Body and brain
Hungry for earth
our heavenly flight detain.”

Sri Aurobindo (1872 – 1950) “Tree”

Our rain may be over for now. The storms this past weekend, including the gusty winds, have made a mess outside my back window, shredding my fish-shaped whirligig, overturning empty flower pots, leaving downed pine needles and small branches askew in puddles. But towering over the disheveled yard, the old and diseased pine tree that anchors the whole yard is still standing. In past winter storms we’ve watched as the taller older branches are pruned by gusts of wind, leaving the tree looking like a headless, distressed bonsai, albeit considerably bigger.

The coast live oak I planted beneath the pine last October is struggling. You can see the top of the oak's head peeking over the rocks at the base of the pine tree in both pictures. I expected some die back as it settled into it’s new home, but it’s going to have to work for a living - at least until it finds the secret paths beneath the waterfall rocks that have kept the pine alive. Both trees are situated in the high point of the yard, amid large rocks tossed there 40 years ago by the home builder to clear the footprint where the house stands (see the roof in the background of the second picture).

The so-called soil where the trees are planted is a thin covering of pine needles and dirt deposited since then, and amended once or twice with my compost. This veneer of soil covers a surface we generously call DG rock, aka decomposing granite. This means the “soil” is actually not quite dissolved rock, and thus not very root-friendly. I’ve got a tough old wisteria ‘alba’ on the arbor at the bottom of the big rocks. You can see the bare wisteria branches next to the arbor in the first picture. The wisteria is like the older tree, both are patient enough to take their time working roots through the same unforgiving soil.

I’ve amended the live oak’s feet with compost, and even planted some allium bulbs in the same spot. They’re beginning to poke their heads up beneath the ubiquitous nasturtiums that don’t seem to take much notice of the seasons. While they bloom madly in the spring, nasturtiums continue to bloom any time they get a decent watering.

My design here is pretty simple. The idea is that by the time the old pine finally succumbs, the live oak will stand ready to take it’s place, eventually providing shade for whoever else manages to cling to the meager soil and patiently assist the granite in its decomposition.

I’ve situated the black stone Buddha head at the trunk of the pine, where it protects the tiny sapling growing out of its brain. The dying old tree and it’s optimistic offspring quietly provide a metaphor for such slow changes man witnesses: bound here on earth where we linger a while before continuing our journey to our ultimate destination.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Natural Enemies

“It is a human trait to hate who you harm.”

Last night, between downpours of rain, two feral cats sang an angry serenade outside our porch door where they had converged to eat the handful of dried cat food I leave on the steps every morning. I feel so sorry for the skinny scruffy guys, one of whom has visible scars and patches of missing fur. There we saw them in the light of a flashlight through the window: facing each other inches apart with their ears back and fur puffed up, talking trash so loud that at first, we thought it was a police siren racing and ambulance siren up the hill. Pictured here is my drought-deciduous ficus petiolaris about as full as it ever gets, between the same rocks I think the cats live in.

Although they left once the food was gone, we don’t know who ate it, and we don’t think the cats ever actually fought one another. Perhaps they’re related or otherwise known to each other. While there was clearly little love between them, it seemed like neither had much appetite for a fight. I interpreted their closeness in space to the fact that they knew each other and the threat they each posed to the other.

I’m leaving food out because I hate to see the effects of the “mean streets” of our neighborhood on their daily struggle to get food without becoming food.

Besides, I’m pretty sure they’re keeping rodents out of the vicinity. My faithful spouse says we can’t know whether the food disappearing nightly is taken by possum, skunk or rat. But the confrontation last night was enough proof for me to keep feeding the cats. I may hate rats – who I prefer to call ground squirrels – but when I consider the cats may find them almost as edible as the kibble, I can’t hate the rats enough to poison them any more.

Clearly, I’ll never be a naturalist comfortable with the wildlife I live amidst, patient enough to identify and observe them. I suppose the simple reason for this is that I fear creepy crawly things. Take, for example, spiders. Here’s my asparagus fern (I think “meyerii”) in a brittle old plastic pot – the most spider-ish plant in the yard.

Just thinking about spiders reminds me of one of bravest things I ever did. I once smashed a spider with my bare hands when I saw it on the tile next to the bathtub where my small daughter played innocently with her rubber duck. That was more than 30 years ago, but I still remember the thrill of confirming that my maternal instincts were so automatic as to protect my child at the risk of my own life. I touched a spider with my bear hands!

I can still feel the exact spot on the palm of my left hand where I stared in awe at the still-squirming spider guts that proved my bravery. Man, I hate spiders.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Rainbows: Nature’s Recycling Sign

“It is not once nor twice but times without number that the same ideas make their appearance in the world.”
Aristotle "On The Heavens”

So, was Aristotle the first guy to recognize that nobody is the first guy?

Today we’re between winter storms: more rain, and harder, and longer is promised for the weekend. From the high spot in my back yard I can see the Laguna mountains to the north, and this morning their tops are dusted with white.

When I think I’m thinking original thoughts, I’m probably just recycling stuff my long gone maiden aunt once thought. Possibly we both puzzled over the same mysteries our ancestors worried about as they hunted mastodons. The more I read and learn, the less original and creative I sometimes feel.

My ideas and thoughts are as circular as the crude illustrations I recall from elementary school books showing photosynthesis with clockwise arrows from the sun, to the cow in the field, to the roots and microscopic organisms beneath her hoofs, and back into the growing plants she munched. Remember the wiggly lines from the plants to the sun overhead? Or, remember the illustrations of weather that show water tumbling from the skies and puddles evaporating back into the sky? The snow on the mountain is just part of the cycle, parked temporarily like frosting on a mountainous cake, until the wheel turns again, and the snow melts, and the rivers flow down to the seas.

I’m just the latest copy of an ancient strand of DNA making it’s current appearance in the world. Some of my code is so deep it verges on instinct: the sense of wanting to hibernate in winter, for example, or the primal joy of seeing rainbows after a storm.

Some of my code may permit me to “discover” new ideas, and if I’m lucky, to advance collective knowledge a few small steps before I am planted beneath the earth for the roots of plants to digest, and I become wiggly lines of misty water evaporating up into the sky. Next time the wheel turns, I might be the snow on the mountains, visible on a clear and sunny morning from my garden in the valley. I might be the rainbow, or I might be the rainbow’s faint shadow, rewarding the early risers on a cold January morning between winter storms.

I’m probably not the first person to see the rainbow as the promise that the cycle continues even after we’re gone.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Oh, What a Head This is...

"Mind, not outward form, prevails.

"A fox entered a theatre director's store-room, and found a human head skillfully finished, so elegantly made that the only thing wanting was breathing; in other ways it was like a living creature. Taking it up in her paws, she said: 'Oh, what a head is this! - But it has no brain!'" Alciato's Emblems #189

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said that about cabbage, I’d be able to buy a cup of coffee, if I also had about five bucks. My garden contains much that is planned and much that is beautiful. Unfortunately, that which is planned is not beautiful and that which is beautiful is not planned. My horticultural education has been erratic, and mostly of the “now see what you’ve done” type. Which, you might think, would discourage me from ever ordering another packet of seeds from a catalog based on the flower or leaf color.

But if it’s true that there’s no teacher like experience, it’s safe to say that my gardening experiences have been dripping with wisdom. I’ve learned so much about what not to do, I’m almost out of mistakes. Pretty soon, the only stuff left for me to try will be all the right plants and the right ways of growing them. While reading garden books suffices in winter to replace actual gardening, I am still determined to cultivate my garden my way once I get back outside.

Besides, everything you ever read in any horticultural book had to first be learned from experience. For example, it was once believed that mistletoe (Viscum album) grew from bird droppings because it only grew high up in trees, never grew on the ground. Of course, we now know that mistletoe is spontaneously generated from the flies that grow in garbage, and from there, they fly up into trees to get their bearings, leaving small mistletoe seeds that also spontaneously generate in garbage with the flies. So don’t believe everything you read.

I’m ordering seeds anyway. New seed catalogs fill my empty head with visions of gardens to come. The pictures are so lovely, they often prevail over reason. I believe that’s exactly what my garden should do. While I absolutely follow the zone restrictions, most of my selection decisions are often based on what I find beautiful. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Victory of a Prudent Gardener

“That ignorance must be banished
What monster is that?
It is the Sphinx.
Why does it have the bright face of a virgin, the feathers of a bird, and the limbs of a lion?
Ignorance of things has taken on this appearance: which is to say that the root cause of so much evil is threefold. Some men are made ignorant by levity of mind, some by seductive pleasure, and some by arrogance of spirit. But they who know the power of the Delphic message slit the relentless monster's terrible throat. For man himself is also a two-footed, three-footed, four-footed thing, and the first victory of the prudent man is to know what man is.”
Emblem 188, Alcatio's Book of Emblems

Back in the pre-internet days, men remembered things. Emblems were ways to encode an entire story in a single picture. Often the story was a lesson or some spiritual guidance. One early book that compiled a bunch of these emblems in Latin is “a collection of 212 Latin emblem poems, each consisting of a motto (a proverb or other short enigmatic expression), a picture, and an epigrammatic text. Alciato's book was first published in 1531…” Check out Alciato's Book of Emblems for more. The emblem above signifies that “ignorance must be banished”, and instructs on the threefold evils that cause ignorance: Levity of Mind; Seductive Pleasure; or Arrogance of Spirit. The mythical monster, seen above attacking my garden in winter, combines them all.

Contemplating the “threefold causes” is an exercise in deciding whether one form of ignorance is better or worse than another. For me, no question that the last is the worst kind of ignorance. Having a sense of humor, or a sense of pleasure, might be a sufficient reward to remain ignorant. At least you’d have a good time before you were banished, or before some gay priestess slit your throat. The arrogant ignorant (Insert your own contemporary example here) seem to cause the most harm these days, perhaps because such harm is so avoidable.

I’m feeling a strong seasonal pull, the subliminal tug on the arm into the dark ying of the year. Where I live, the night sky is never clearer than winter. Orion strides across the Southern sky earlier each evening. A clarity of sky leads to a clarity of mind in some of those short but dark nights of the soul. And such thoughts lead me, inevitably, to foggy ignorance. Darkness can also be a metaphor for unenlightened minds, blighted by ignorance as sure as some of my tender plants were murdered one recent night by Jack Frost.

Ignorant people don’t grow, just like my garden these days. Seeing my once-vibrant yard reduced to silence makes me feel ignorant of Nature. Just at the point where I thought I had learned some stuff, the weather still surprises.

The promise of soothing soft rain for days on end – made earlier in this young year – has already been broken. Things look dry; even the air is dry because all the moisture escapes into the universe on cold nights if it’s not tucked cozily beneath a layer of cloud covers. The air in the morning is chilly and bumpy without the softening scents carried aloft on dewy morning breezes.

Winter is our rainy season, and I depend on winter rains not only to nourish the trees, but to wash away many of my unspeakable garden mistakes and crimes. I have not been spared this cleansing forgiveness so far this year. I can still see where I should have done something different and avoided harm. Bodies of bulbs remain unburied. Frost damaged dead tips have not been trimmed – correctly it turns out, because cutting back the dead branch will only coax it to grow; it would be sending the unborn buds to a premature death like their predecessors. But even if not cutting frost damage the right thing to do, it looks like a lot of bodies strewn on a battlefield long after the battle has ended.

Here is a picture of a jumble of rocks across the canyon in somebody else’s back yard. You can see a cleared space at the bottom – somebody clearly lives inside, even if it isn’t a hibernating bear.

As I turn the page on the calendar to 2008 something hibernating in the most primitive cave of my brain begins to stir. I can already feel the days getting longer. Soon, it will be time for me to banish ignorance and slay the mythical symbol of ignorance before it does my garden more harm. Then again, as a prudent gardener, I should probably wait until March before concluding there will be no more frost. I’ll settle in to wait two more months before I plant those nifty seeds calling to me from their storage cupboard. Winter is what it is.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The World’s Weirdest Planting Instructions

“Darwin and Mendel laid on man the chains
That bind him to the past. Ancestral gains,
So pleasant for a spell, of late bizarre,
Suggest that where he was is where we are.”
David McCord, Progress

Medusa gourd is wearing her Xmas present scarf and hat while her rasta cactus head is getting some much-needed water and sunshine so it will bloom.

So, it’s winter and I’m inside looking out, and I’m reading obscure herbals and wondering if we weren’t better off back in the days when we grew our own medicine - before they started advertising prescription meds on television. Between diet pill ads and fat fast food ads, you get to learn about the latest miracles of modern chemistry. That’s progress. The common thistle (Carlina vulgaris) , it turns out, has the following medicinal properties: Carminative; Diaphoretic; Digestive; Diuretic; Emetic; Febrifuge; Purgative. Who needs diet pills with something like this?

I found the entry below about the carlina, a sort of artichoke shaped plant with spiky leaves and spikier flowers. These are the kinds of things that, in smaller sizes, cling to passing animals and people to snag and distribute their seeds. And if you think it’s weird that you have “scarify” morning glory seeds, or wash protea seeds in a dirty ash tray to fool them into thinking their parents were burned, imagine trying to cultivate the carlina thistle as an aphrodisiac. The instructions below are meant either to discourage or to impress you with the effectiveness.

My cotoneaster matches the ceramic red mushroom, but neither holds a candle to the carlina.

This is from Mattioli’s COMMENTARIES, Lyons, 1579: “The carlina thistle (Carlina vulgaris) native to the Mediterranean region was an important magic love plant in medieval Europe. It was believed that its root gave man the strength and sexual potency of a stallion. To get an effective carlina, you took topsoil from a rose garden in bloom, mixed it with sperma from a black stallion, planted a carlina in it at the stroke of midnight under a new moon, watered it with the urine from a while mare and let it grow. It was then uprooted under the following new moon, cooked and eaten. Today the dried, highly hygroscopic carlina is used in rural parts of Europe as a weatherglass.”

Or, you could just get yourself a barometer from Sharper Image and some Viagra from your doctor. Because I don’t think I can get my hands (figuratively, that is) on horse piss.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Signs of the Times

"Madness may be a sane respones to an insane world, and insanity breeds special perceptions"
R. D. Lang

Yes, this photo shows a koi shop above a sushi bar. I perceive a pipe leading from the koi store downstairs to the kitchen of the sushi bar. Recycling in action.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Sister Wisdom

"No ray shall light the caverns of your shame,
Fevered miasms filtering through the chinks
Shall suddenly like lamps burst into flame,
Steeping your bodies in a sweat that stinks."
Charles Baudelaire Fleurs Du Mal,
Trans: — Jacques LeClercq, Flowers of Evil (Mt Vernon, NY: Peter Pauper Press, 1958)

Not a bad description of menopause - for a guy. The symptoms suck. No wonder, some woman want to forgo the symptoms altogether. And according to the Mayo Clinic, women should be able to mask their bad symptoms with drugs. They should be able to have their cake and eat it too: “even though menopause is not an illness, you shouldn't hesitate to get treatment if you're having severe symptoms.”

I almost strained my irony bone trying to digest the affirming if baffling advice. You’re fine, just fine! But can I get you anything approved by the benevolent and compassionate men in the FDA and big pharma? There is a storm brewing inside your body and you might burst into flames at any moment. Try a few of these to weather the coming storm.

I’ve got a better theory, which I’ll explain in a minute. But first, this brief digression on sister wisdom.

Sister-to-Sister oral traditions are a species of inter-generational oral history outside the bounds of the more typical vertically inter-generation teachings passed down from mother to daughter: parent-child teachings. I'm talking about a different spiecies of oral history: sister to sister.

I mean here, "sisters" in the broader sense: peer-to-peer relationships between older women. These days, women are realizing they can establish friendships with other women even if (or especially if) they become too old to have “girl friends”.

So, what’s the difference from mother-daughter teachings about wisdom? Well, mothers tell their daughters what they know about how to live among men. Things like how to tease boys and remain pure, and how to lock away all your cares and fears and cook us dinner. How to remain nubile and attractive, and did I mention how to cook? How to live with Fathers, brothers, sons. In contrast, sister-to-sister wisdom tells women how to live with themselves.

Which brings me to my take on menopause. Here's my theory about Menopause, or it’s alarming ancestor, Hysteria, which women “suffer” as they age. The hormonal stew sloshing around in women of child-bearing ages is the real sickness and the storms of menopause sweep away the miasmas of fever. From the onset of puberty, hormones that make women nubile make them very distracted. Then comes menopause, and women pass another hormonal mountain range. The end of menopause permits women to pay attention. They can (if lucky) retire from their lifelong role as daughter, wife, mother, caregiver. As the word itself subtly hints, women can pause in their lifelong task of caring for men, pause, and become sisters with other women.

Once past that point, women can put away hormones, tranquilizers, muscle relaxants, sleep aids, and every other masking agent that shields our loved ones from ourselves. We can cultivate our own gardens. Blogging our stories about growing up with a sisters, is, to me, like a joyful reunion of sisters after a 40-year stretch where we had to be wives and mothers. We last spoke when were were young, when we were sisters together in our father's house.

So, that's my sister wisdom secret. Re-connecting with sisters when we're past menopause is not a sweat and a fever. It's a wonderful treat.

(This post was inspired by post by a lyrical post by Goldendaze
“I am the youngest of five girls and Barbara is the second from the oldest. She has just turned 80 and I wondered if she would corroborate my memory. Sure enough, she not only remembered the instance but was able to fill in the empty spots. “)

Monday, January 07, 2008

Whatever It Was

"Whatever It was

that made this earth
the base,
the world its life,
the wind its pillar,
arranged the lotus and the moon,
and covered it all with folds
of sky

with Itself inside,

to that Mystery
indifferent to differences,

to It I pray,
O Ramanatha."

The Poem is by Devara Dasimayya, (10th Century) “Whatever it Was”

The picture is by Jessie M. King, illustration for "The Ruba'iya't Of Omar Kahyya'm" (1913)

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Early Outdoor Memories

It was a perfect, quiet day, and the kids are skiing down the mountain – and they’ve got their headphones on. They can’t enjoy just hearing nature and being out there alone. They can’t make their own entertainment. They have to bring something with them”
- Richard Louv, in “The Last Child in the Woods” quoting a parent describing a recent ski trip with teenage children.

I’m reading “The Last Child in the Woods” which “explores the increasing divide between the young and the natural world, and the environmental, social, psychological, and spiritual implications of that change”. The author says that Baby Boomers (born 1946 and 1964) “may constitute the last generation of Americans to share an intimate, familial attachment to the land and water”. Here's me and the kid, communing with nature a few years ago. Ok, many years ago.

Before he gets to analysis and recommendations, he describes the richness of his own childhood, and his earliest memories of using his senses and “sensing wonder” which I think is Rachel Carson’s phrase.

It made me try to recall my earliest memories of the great outdoors. I think it must be rolling through the grass down an enormous hill in my front yard. Visiting the neighborhood years later, I was amazed to find that the hill is shorter and less steep than a flight of stairs. It must be about 4 feet long, on an incline that requires more than gravity to roll to the bottom. But it was Soooo big back then! I’m sure it was originally almost a hundred miles long, and steeper than mountains.

For me though, the sense of smell is my strongest connection to early childhood memories, and seeing blogger pictures of snow, I'm remembering the snows of my childhood. The closest I get these days to the snows of yesteryear is the realization that a killing freeze murdered my coleus - whose skeletons you can see in this picture.

I remember the smell of a smoke from chimneys when we were out in the snow. I remember the smell of melting, drying snow suits hanging in the basement laundry room after we came in from the snow. As everyone knows, puddles of melting snow beneath the basement clothes line smell different than puddles of regular water. I remember the earthy smell of wool scarves wound around my neck to cover your nose and mouth, after the scarves got caked in snow from snowballs my very accurate big brother threw.

What a shame if the generation of kids out skiing or sledding somewhere today will, years from now, associate nature with the play list they made for their iPod. What’s your earliest memory of using your senses out of doors?

Friday, January 04, 2008

Between a Rock and Another Rock

"Disorder is inherent in stability, Civilized man doesn’t understand stability. He’s confused it with rigidity. Our political and economic and social leaders drool about stability constantly. It’s their favorite word, next to ‘power.’ Gotta stabilize oil production and consumption, gotta stabilize student opposition to the government and so forth. Stabilization to them means order, uniformity, control. And that’s a half-witted and potentially genocidal misconception. No matter how thoroughly they control a system, disorder invariably leaks into it. Then the managers panic, rush to plug the leak and endeavor to tighten the controls.

“Therefore, totalitarianism grows in viciousness and scope. And the blind pity is, rigidity isn’t the same as stability at all. True stability results when presumed order and presumed disorder are balanced. A truly stable system expects the unexpected, is prepared to be disrupted, waits to be transformed…

"Wouldn’t you say that a stable individual accepts the inevitability of his death? Likewise, a stable culture, government or institution has built into it its own demise. It is open to change, open even to being overthrown. It is open, period. Gracefully open. That’s stability. That’s alive.”

-Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, 1976

My black pine is a 10 year old one gallon plant that I have been envisioning for years as a life-sized bonsai from a Japanese courtyard garden. Here it is being pulled by an old hose wrapped around waterfall filter pipes and some clothesline. Beneath it struggles a bougainvillea that is deep purple, although it's been too thirsty to bloom for years. It too, is about 10 years old. This bougainvillea is less hardy and slower growing than its bright red sibling, "San Diego Red".

Part of being a gardener is trying to plant trees to make shade for the next generation to sit beneath. Attempting to attain Disorder, the pine snagged by the hoses and ropes of Stability. Pine and vine, both living things destined to die, caught between two rocks symbolizing a sort of chronological immortal existence.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Just Another Wednesday

"Each one is a gift, no doubt,
mysteriously placed in your waking hand
or set upon your forehead
moments before you open your eyes.

Today begins cold and bright,
the ground heavy with snow
and the thick masonry of ice,
the sun glinting off the turrets of clouds.

Through the calm eye of the window
everything is in its place
but so precariously
this day might be resting somehow

on the one before it,
all the days of the past stacked high
like the impossible tower of dishes
entertainers used to bild on stage.

No wonder you find yourself
perched on the top of a tall ladder
hoping to add one more.
Just another Wednesday,

you wisper,
then holding your breath,
place this cup on yesterday's saucer
without the slightest clink."

Billy Collins, "Days"

No snow, but plenty of glinting sunshine. My straggly red hibiscus bush, moved to a sunnier spot on the last day of last year, is glowing with happiness in the morning sun. The cones of my recently acquired Banksia "Erectefolia" are like miniature piles of stacked dishes.

Hoping for taller piles of stacked dishes of days for all my friends and loved ones. Happy 2008!