Friday, April 29, 2011

Journal of a Disappointed Gardener

"I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill...:
W. N. P. Barbellion, The Journal of a Disappointed Man

...Nor yet is the last Cheeto found beneath the cushions; neither yet is a humane and peaceful death to those whose stupidity should have led to their timely death years ago; nor yet is wisdom to those who actually think before speaking; neither yet is experience required to be a suicide bomber; nor yet irony to those most in need of irony's balm; nor yet is ottava rima simply a poem in eight 11-syllable lines, rhymed: abababcc.

Nor finally, is the race to the swift. It's actually a crap shoot, and it goes to whoever remains upright and staggers across the finish line.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Short Vacation to Northern California

Well, I've seen all there is to see
And I've heard all they have to say
I've done everything I wanted to do . . .
I've done that too
And it ain't that pretty at all
Ain't that pretty at all
So I'm going to hurl myself against the wall
'Cause I'd rather feel bad than not feel anything at all

You know, I just had a short vacation, Roy
Spent it getting a root canal
"Oh, how'd you like it?"
Well, it ain't that pretty at all
So I'm going to hurl myself against the wall
'Cause I'd rather feel bad than not feel anything at all
- Warren Zevon, It Ain't Pretty At All

Actually, it was pretty. Much better than a root canal. We ate some world class food, and we drank as we generally do, also world class. Stayed in Berkeley, but spent a day or two across the bay in San Francisco.

We did the usual stuff. Drove past Fisherman's Wharf (you don't want to stop there.) You can see our car reflected in the window of the store selling fake crap, priced like the real thing.

We drove up and down hills. Between us, I worried about an earthquake and all the live electrical wires falling on me. One of the reasons for the world class drinking was to assuage my fears.

We drive by the Alcoa Building, which hasn't been called the Alcoa Building since before the end of the last century, but it's hard enough to remember old stuff without having to re-learn it.

We went to Magnolia brewpub, despite the dramatic foreshadowing of the politics we'd encounter there.

The place is pretty shabby and tarnished. I got some awesome socks that look like a shark, complete with a tiny fin. So when you wear them, it looks like your feet have been swallowed by a shark, albeit one with a very orthopedic shape.

Why anyone would want to live in such close proximity to so many other people escapes me. Sure, there's a great food and drink scene and lots of pretty places to see, but the earthquake, people!

And does your laundry really smell fresh when you dry it outdoors this way? Maybe it's hip to smell like car and bus exhaust, and I'm just showing how out of touch I am. Still.

After driving up the inland route, we decided to take the coast (more or less) home. At first it was pretty foggy and only the seagulls knew which way the ocean was.

After driving north through the inland valley of California, breathing delightful dust from freshly fertilized fields and passing cattle feed lots, the ocean was a lovely sight, even in fog.Our return trip coincided with Earth Day, and we had good reason to enjoy the earth.
The further south we got, the more sun peeked through. We were travelling east as much as we were travelling south because of the way CA curves. Or maybe like a shark sock on a foot.

We drove past fields of artichokes ready to harvest and through Castro CA, the "artichoke capital of the world". One of the few remaining sights along a road blighted by rich piles of McMansions and vanity vineyards was the giant artichoke. Or should I say, the GIANT ARTICHOKE. A bit anticlimac after the signs, but still.

Stopped at twilight for dinner in Santa Barbara, unoficially at the southern border of NorCal. Next stop, SoCal and the not-so-scenic megalopolis of Los Angeles. By then, we hopped on the 405 to the Five and home by 10:30 in time for a nightcap and glorious return to our own bed.

With apologies to Warren Zevon, no need to hurl ourselves against a wall this trip. We had a wonderful vacation and visit, and most of all we had lots to celebrate. Thanks to our hosts, the Doctors K for a great time.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Glasses Half Occupied

"In the hinterlands of Pommerania, there is a mountain made of the hardest diamond. It's one hour deep into the earth, one hour up toward the sky, one hour long and one hour wide. To this mountain comes a little bird, once every hundred years, to sharpen its beak. And when this bird has worn away the whole mountain, the first second of eternity has passed."
Article Source

I shall now recount the tale of my adventures, beginning with my abounding optimism that when my wisteria bloom, all is right with the world.

In my younger days, this season might have found me in a coffee shop with free wifi, attempting to defeat the forces of an obsolete version of MS Windows and write my novel. Younger still, I might have been in the recreation room of Mom and Dad’s split level, watching an after school special about how being reunited with one's lost puppy is a metaphor for finding meaning and purpose amid the chaos spawned by evil forces inhabiting the shadows beneath one’s bed.

The next time my wisteria blooms, I might be outside gardening downwind of the fragrant blooms of my white counter-clockwise twining Chinese Wisteria (Wisteria Sinensis) and appreciating life. The purple wisteria pictured here is in the front yard, and is the clockwise twining Japanese Wisteria (wisteria floribunda). Or, I might be meeting with my psychiatrist to unpack the formless fears engendered by a bad case of Alien Abduction Syndrome compounded with looming tendrils of senility.

What these glimpses of remembered past and imagined futures have in common – besides Lent and wisteria – are that they probably manifest some underlying dysfunction in the way I see the world and/or in which the world sees me. Last night, Tech Support Guy told me that atrial fibrillation has been associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s and so have cold sores. This depresses me almost as much as if I experienced dramatically foreshadowing visions of, say, rafters dripping with blood.

Then it occurs to me that there is a positive side to losing one’s mind. One reason I am not visited by gloomy forebodings these days, is that with age comes acceptance. Also, thanks to my hearing impairment, the moaning of ghosts in the shadows outside my window no longer disturbs my rest.

The prospect of a fathomless future spent in a skilled nursing facility with a semi-deaf roommate who believes in heaven and hell, and swears that Lawrence Welk is alive and ageless scares the crap out of me. But like Grandma once said, the good thing about dementia is that the victim doesn’t know it. She might as well have said I may have Alzheimer’s but at least I don’t have Alzheimer’s.

So remember when you visit: my glassy-eyed unfocused stare and the perpetual dribble of drool at the corners of my mouth may frighten you, but inside my own head, I’m actually imagining that I am in an episode of Pigs in Space where Link Heartthrob proposes marriage and I accept. Which may not be such a bad place to spend eternity waiting for the wisteria to bloom, or for a sharp-beaked bird to wear down a mountain.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Wake Up!

"Waken! my people, to the boughs green

With ripening fruit within you!

Waken to the myriad cinquefoil

In the waving grass of your minds!

Waken to the silent phoebe nest

Under the eaves of your spirit!"
William Carlos Williams, The Wanderer (1914)

While winter snow blankets New England and tornados rage through Florida, Spring has arrived in my backyard. I’m ready to hit the garden to plant my seeds and prune the frost-killed branches. The bees are waking up, the irises are blooming, and even the calls of the mourning doves seem happy. I see birds – hawks, doves, thrushes and humming birds – cavorting in the sky two by two. The overwintering migratory tourist birds have gone and the local birds have begun ignoring feeders and noticing bugs and the flowers. Wild mustard covers the hills in swaths of pale yellow, and my seedlings are stretching their roots through the paper pots and leaning into the sun. Birds have to hunt, but plants make their own food.

My quilt of winter root vegetables is done. I had more success indoors than out this year with root crops. My onions and shallots outdoors have yet to flower and ripen.

The stone path winding through my quilt has been hand-embroidered “Garden with attitude” an intentionally ambiguous statement that may be advice or may be the name of the quilted garden of winter root vegetables. The fact that they're "mental" pleases me because I so frequently exhibit such attitudes as "beet it" beet and redlight radish.

Leeky, has been embellished with ribbon stalks and root tassels to emphasize that I clearly know Nature less the more I try to grow vegetables with attitude. The vegetables are fabric available from The back of my quilt includes the url as well as the peintws name of this pattern: "Make your own Friend! ...stuffed vegetable edition". I stuffed one set and made the quilt from another set.

For a while I’ve been too tired to blog. Now, suddenly, I have energy, and I’m too busy to blog. My winter activities of making cozy quilts, fermenting sauerkraut, and canning lemon lavender marmalade no longer entice me. The sunshine and the millions of shades of green are reaching beneath the eaves of my spirit and reminding me that I need Vitamin D and dirty fingernails.

I need the slow stretching exercise of garden work to relieve my winter-cramped muscles. The air is soft and it smells green. It’s time to sow my seeds and refresh my mind and body by working in the garden.