Sunday, September 28, 2008

Remember Me, but ah!

"When I am laid, am laid in earth,
May my wrongs create
No trouble, no trouble in thy breast;
Remember me, but ah! forget my fate,
Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate."
- Henry Purcell, “Dido’s Lament”, from “Dido and Aeneas”

Yeah, yeah, I know. The season of autumn has descended on the Northern Hemisphere. Stuff is dying all around me and change is in the air. So, I could post some melancholy seasonal whine about how gardens are just reminders that everything is temporary, and that everything ends. Some totally awesome seasonal buzz kill after the parched wild summer. But I won’t.

Instead, I meditate on the parable of seasonal change as Summer jilting Autumn, the way Aeneas jilted Queen Dido. She died alone, like Mother Nature in Autumn. But More particularly, I try to avoid her fate and enjoy what's now. And now, it's Autumn. I'm darn sure not going lament about Autumn's pathetic, lonely fate once Summer blows town.

So heed Dido's warning and remember Summer fondly, not mourn her passing. Meditate about spending less time observing the solemn passing of the seasons, and more enjoying the present. Winter may be moving in on Autumn, but I'm I'm paying attention. I am memorizing Autumn.

I’m more interested in the good stuff; in the golden hour of the day; in one final blaze; one red moment. This is the time of year to enjoy how Mother Nature ages gracefully. Done this way, growing old isn’t so bad. Nature has cloaked herself in the fiery splendor of autumn – even here in my sweltering desert, Summer bows out gracefully to Autumn.

Likewise, I meditate on the garden. Summer's youthful garden is cloaked in a million shades of green. Now, is is old and red and brown. Summer's departure eventually leaves the aging Gardener cloaked in the fiery colors of autumn. I'm trying to avoid Dido’s mistake, but not her lament. Don’t just forget my fate, but also remember me. The fortunate learn to enjoy getting old before they die.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


"Then weltering seas of filth
And ever-rippling dung: and plunged therein,
Whoso has wronged the stranger here on earth,
Or robbed his boylove of the promised pay,
Or swinged his mother, or profanely smitten
His father's cheek, or sworn an oath forsworn…"
Aristophanes, “The Frogs”

It’s come to my attention recently, that forgiveness isn’t a bad way to go, even if the above isn’t guaranteed, or even possible. I don’t have to practice turning the other cheek very often, because I’m generally such a sweet, upbeat and simply charming person. I’d prefer to make myself into a joke, rather than to face conflict and open hostility. It’s my way of avoiding uncomfortable mojo. It’s what makes me such a sucker for passive aggression – I’m easily wounded by the invisible bad vibe.

So, even though I preach forgiveness, I have promised myself to stop making excuses for the bad behavior of others. It’s all I can manage these days to forgive myself. One thing I know is there’s no way out of here alive. If the show ends when the curtain falls on my last performance, why not go out doing something that feels good to me. If I can be anything I want to be, why not be kind, tender, and forgiving? Then again, why not have some fun and be rude, disagreeable and generally unlikable?

My answer is that perhaps there is some great wheel turning at the heart of the universe, and we’ll all be back again and again, or at least until we get it right. Perhaps there’s some cosmic dice game and the odds are on the House. Maybe karma works.I'll always pay my boylove just in case.

I’m ducking an important issue here: whether there is such a thing as unforgivable behavior. Of course evil exists. We should speak out when our silence gives power to those who hurt us. And like any good parent correcting any misbehaving child, all grown ups should call other grownups on unacceptable behavior.

Good exists too.I say I’d rather generate a forgiving vibe than an angry one, and it seems to be my life’s work to live up to that.

I’ll be in the garden if anybody needs me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Yes You Can

"Settling, white dew
does not discriminate,
each drop its home."
- Soin (1604 - 16820

I’m at the age where I can spout sturdy clichés like they were pearls of wisdom. Example: you can’t go home again.

A couple of weeks ago when I was back east. I drove through the neighborhoods where I grew up, and where my child was born. For so long, these neighborhoods were home to me. And yet I frequently got lost driving down so many memory lanes, either because I’ve changed or the places have changed. I couldn’t find home.

A few days later, back in California, I was sitting outside reading a book while my cat sprawled on the cool patio. I looked up and found – home. It was only in returning to the town (where I’ve now lived most of my life) that I found what I’d been looking for in those old neighborhoods where I grew up. I found that I had returned home.

Another cliché is the one aunts and uncles used to say when we were kids they only saw every few years: my how you’ve grown. There on the patio with my cat and my book, I found myself thinking that I’d grown a bit more since the last time I was home.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

What I Did on My Vacation

Went to the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Took the ski lift to the top of the mountain and checked out the view. Gnats were deadly, and I sweated so much my hearing aids shorted out. The good news was that, unlike ski season when the lift never slows down to load and unload, they stopped the chair so old fogies could sit down and get up without fear of being dragged to their untimely death.

Went to a pottery studio near the Shenandoah. Blue Ridge Pottery is just down the hill from Skyline Drive, on Goose Pond. More deadly gnats at the pottery studio, but I loved the pottery tree stump amid an unkempt garden.

The old Civil War Inn adjacent to the studio is undergoing yet another renovation to make it into yet another bed and breakfast where rich white people can visit between "antiquing" ventures. If I lived in that climate, this is what my yard would look like. We did a lot of eating and drinking and talking of politics, with predictable results: nobody changed anybody else's mind about anything.

Despite the gnats and other wildlife, we enjoyed seeing deer in the woods near our luxury condo. My brother tried to run them down, being a resident of Virginia where deer have overrun the suburbs, including his yard. Despite looking like Bambi and his doomed Mom - quite exotic to my Californian eye - deer apparently have no natural enemies in Virginia except serious gardeners.

Although I didn't make the day trip, the progeny went to Monticello and brought back a picture of Thomas Jefferson's garden. Not terribly impressive this time of year. Back home, I'm already late starting my lettuce and other cool season seeds. Planting an entirely new vegetable garden twice each year has become such a habit to me, it's hard to imagine living in a climate like Tom, where you can only plant once each year.

Kicked back and enjoyed nature. I liked the fauna, and the flora...

...and I should mention, I liked the beer. We toured a brewery, ate at several brew pubs and soaked up a great deal of the atmosphere along with the beer.

We went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore. I loved the tropical rain forest because it wasn't quite hot and humid enough walking along the harbor in the drizzle in Baltimore to make me homesick for the dry air of California. The dank furry thing amid the tree branches looked to me like a piece of old torn shag carpet that had been left out in the rain, although a docent insisted it was a sloth who had just become a father. She insisted that the mom and the new baby sloth were hiding somewhere nearby. More old carpet most likely.

The best part of my vacation? I sat on the porch one rainy morning and read a book.