Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Enjoying Transitory Seasonal Splendors

"Vain transitory splendours! Could not all

Reprieve the tottering mansion from its fall!
Obscure it sinks, nor shall it more impart

An hour's importance to the poor man's heart."
- Oliver Goldsmith, Ill Fares the Land

Pictured at left is a glowing white mansion of a spiderweb, now long erased by the rain. This is the contemplative time of year.

Even the birds – mostly pale pink-hued house finches - gather around the big bird feeder for their morning meeting are going about their business quietly. The wind gusts restlessly and the rain beats softly on the roof. The garden was washed clean in last week’s rain, and today's rain is just enough to waken the fresh smells. The air is perfumed by the ubiquitous eucalyptus trees, and carries just the faintest lighter note of the narcissus flowers.

The narcissus bulbs – potted, brought indoors, and forced - rewarded the gardener’s faith and bloomed for solstice. They were banished to the patio when they beame tired and began to nod their heads. Today, ragged and way past their prime, they sit reprivingly just outside the door, smugly drinking the fresh rain and reminding me that they'll be back. As I stand on the covered patio, I catch heir fragrance - just right and not as overpowering as it was its full glory indoors - where they imparted an imposing and melancholy fragrance reminiscent of an old overly ornate, overheated funeral home.

Even the dying flowers seem to be reproving me smugly. They are far from dead. Instead of mourning the lost mansions of their prime, they are considering their accomplishments this year with satisfaction. They turn their backs on the gardener; they carry away stores of energy into their unknown future.

Meanwhile back inside, the season of mail order catalog abundance is over. The seed catalog season is now well underway. Gardening catalogs tantalize the gardener daily with their colorful pictures promising impossible fruits and flowers. And succulent vegetables bursting with tastes.

Outside my window rain falls promising nourishment to my garden and enabling drought-stressed inhabitants to stretch and recover strength. Inside, paging through these seed catalogs cozy and dry, my gardening ambitions are stoked; and it’s easy to forget I live in a desert where vines of sweet, fat pumpkins and heirloom tomatoes have to struggle to survive. Indoors and out, we all remember in our own ways this the price we pay for living in paradise.

As this picture shows, I learned much on Roadtrip 2010, even from bathroom graffiti. This puts me in the perfect mood for the perfect day at the rainy end of a good year. A meditation about how even the most glorious gardens provide only transitory splendors, eventually no longer experienced, only remembered; inevitably forgotten. Like the gardens we cultivate, we all end up as stories, remembered for a while and then fading like the narcissus. This year’s story has been hard, but it has been a very good one.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bad Signs of the Times

Roads go on
While we forget, and are
Forgotten like a star
That shoots and is gone.

On this earth ‘tis sure
We men have not made
Anything that doth fade
So soon, so long endure.

- Edward Thomas, “Roads”, The Ickneid Way

We did see some monumentally disturbing signs of the times on our recent roadtrip. Here's a taste:

What about dinosaurs? BOLO: Dinosaurs!

"It is a common and just Observation, that when the Meaning of any thing is dubious, one can no way better judge of the true Intent of it, than by considering who is the Author, what is his Character in general, and his Disposition in particular."
Alexander Pope

We may have discovered an unknown species of dinosaur on the roadtrip.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Printer Ink vs. Dinosaur Hunting

“You have navigated with raging soul far from the paternal home, passing beyond the sea’s double rocks, and you now inhabit a foreign land.” - Medea

I got everyone ink cartridges for their printers for Xmas, from a fancy mail order place somewhere overseas. Despite my prayers and the heavenly manifestation of a sacred ball of light in the television, I’m beginning to worry that they will not be delivered in time.

By way apology in advance for not having Xmas presents for all my dear friends and family, I offer this tip on some cheap land for sale in Montana. Apparently you can hunt deer and horses as well as dinosaurs on this land, so, enough said.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Fourteen FAQ Answers

When I was a child I caught a fleeting glimpse out of the corner of my eye. I turned to look and it was gone, I cannot put my finger on it now. The child is grown, the dream is gone.

The Great Boston molasses flood of 1919.

Yes, there is an approved form for that.

We use white rabbit hair that is dyed pink.

Genius lives on. All else is merely transitory.

The report called it an unidentified particulate.

We get that one all the time. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology has a network of pollen counters across the United States. Each counter works under the direction of an AAAAI member and must first pass a certification course provided through the AAAAI.

I would prefer not to.

It was like that when I got here.

Yes: vegetarians can eat animal crackers.

That would be Jacques Chirac.

These people are beyond science, logic and reason. They have strangled the fuzzy bunny of reason, backed over it with their under-inflated off-road tires of ignorance, popped it into reverse, and driven over reason’s flattened bloody corpse.

Although this poison is colorless and tasteless, the presence of arsenic has been detectable since the Marsh test was developed in 1836. So, no.

Once, if my memory serves me well, my life was a banquet where every heart revealed itself, where every wine flowed.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Safe for Snakes

"I will choose a place where the snakes feel safe.
All day I will love that remote country.
At times I will climb the peak of its lonely mountain
To stay and whistle until the sky grows cold."
- W. S. Merwin

I was over-thinking the things I learned on the road. I learned that a bare flat horizon of badlands feels much lonelier than mountains and places where the sky is very busy. I was trying to figure out why I like mountains better than open prairies. Then I remembered. I’m not a rugged cowgirl or mamma bear or other stoic frontier type. I’m a city girl who is trying to learn how to grow tomatoes.

The neat thing about the trip was that conversation was eclectic, thought-provoking and intermittent. Sometimes, we’d ride in silence for an hour. Or sometimes we’d have shorthand conversations: Need coffee? Pee alert level yellow! Look a squirrel! Mom! Stop wasting film on neon signs! (I have, in addition to low-battery anxiety, a need to take pictures of places. This often means taking pictures of signs. It was a road trip and we spent more time on the roads than doing tourist stuff. And yes, my biggest regret was not stopping at the SPAM museum. Probably the last chance this lifetime...)

At one of the silent, contemplative times, my train of thought was brought to a screeching halt as I was once again amazed by the scenery. Instead of seeing the Rastafarian rat - who presumably is a poor speller, and who presumably lives beneath the red neon sign above - I saw this manifestation of a certain copyrighted mouse whose iconic presence was a big part of my childhood.

The Disneyfication of legends and nursery rhymes seems far away driving through America in late November. Yet, when I saw this apparition in the sky, I couldn’t help but feel safe. Sort of like the bat signal only different. Mickey calling me home to SoCal. I’m hoping my snakes feel safe here too, because I’m sticking around.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010