Friday, April 26, 2013

Take Heart

"Why are the woods so alluring? A forest appears
to a young girl one morning as she combs
the dreams out of   her hair. The trees rustle
and whisper, shimmer and hiss. The forest
opens and closes, a door loose on its hinges,
banging in a strong wind. Everything in the dim
kitchen: the basin, the jug, the skillet, the churn,
snickers scornfully. In this way a maiden
is driven toward the dangers of a forest,
but the forest is our subject, not this young girl.

"She’s glad to lie down with trees towering all around.
A certain euphoria sets in. She feels molecular,
bedeviled, senses someone gently pulling her hair,
tingles with kisses she won’t receive for years.
Three felled trees, a sort of chorus, narrate
her thoughts, or rather channel theirs through her,
or rather subject her to their peculiar verbal
restlessness ...    our deepening need for non-being intones
the largest and most decayed tree, mid-sentence.
I’m not one of you squeaks the shattered sapling,

"blackened by lightning. Their words become metallic
spangles shivering the air. Will I forget the way home?
the third blurts. Why do I feel like I’m hiding in a giant’s nostril?
the oldest prone pine wants to know. Are we being   freed
from matter? the sapling asks. Insects are well-intentioned,
offers the third tree, by way of consolation. Will it grow
impossible to think a thought through to its end? gasps the sapling,
adding in a panicky voice, I’m becoming spongy! The girl
feels her hands attach to some distant body. She rises
to leave, relieved these trees are not talking about her."

 - Amy Gerstler, Bon Courage

At left, partly obscured by a corner, is the old dark brown metal back door leading from the backyard to our master bedroom. 

Pictured below that - to  match the orchids in the top picture now blooming outside the door -  is the entrance to the master bedroom that I’ve finally finished repainting.

Now all that’s left is the pond with a final leak to mend before we can resume the filtering and endure the algae cycle as it becomes balanced; and the rock garden ready to be planted with the new stuff now waiting impatiently in pots; and the raised beds waiting for their new borders to be made out of repurposed wood from the old trellis; and the sprinkler system to be mended so the thyme that is currently paused by drought can resume its creeping, and the low-voltage lighting to be replaced and tuned up.

Way back in my back yard, behind an old shed and a big rock and beneath a looming California pepper tree, are the remnants of a crude a woodpile. Years ago, the large pine tree in the center of my yard lost the top 1/3 of it’s crown to drought pests and pine tip moths. The 20” diameter trunk toppled over smashing flower pots and sprawling across the pond and vegetable garden. The tree crew chopped the trunk into slices about 20” tall and tossed them loosely on the spot where they have remained pretty much undisturbed.

Some of the smaller branches made it from the woodpile to the fireplace, back in the day when we still had fires. Over the years I’ve used a dozen or so of the larger slices to edge new planting beds. The rest of the pieces gradually settled themselves down as pepper tree leaves slowly sifted a blanket down on them, smoothing out their individual shapes. Termites from the canyon behind the fence drift up on the breezes from season to season, helping entropy return the wood to what has become a rounded mound of wood mulch and leaf dust.

While I often think of my plants as living entities that I can chat with, it has never occurred to me to attempt communication with my dissolving woodpile. I certainly never considered that the woodpile could have a deepening need for non-being, although it’s clearly headed in that direction. I wonder if the spongy blocks of wood talk about me. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Iris and Backyard Projects

"Thou art the iris, fair among the fairest,
   Who, armed with golden rod,
And winged with the celestial azure, bearest
   The message of some god.

O! flower-de-luce, bloom on, and let the river
   Linger to kiss thy feet!
O! flower of song, bloom on, and make for ever
   The world more fair and sweet.

 - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Flower-de-luce (1867)

This spring, we are investing carefully in the services of a skilled handyman to take care of some of our backyard projects that I like delicately to refer to as "deferred maintenance."  I think it would be more accurate to call it making up for years of neglect, but in the meantime, there isn't much time for me to be blogging let alone playing in the yard.

But, we're almost done. The crooked four-footed trellis where the white wisteria lives is now a straight tripod resting on solid ground instead of sinking slowly into a raised bed where nothing but invasive ivy grew.

The pond was drained, cleaned, and re-sealed. In a few days the pond guy will be back to remake a more modest waterfall and fill it. He has cleaned out the clogged pipes and the filter which was so full of gunk it acted more like a plug than a filter. The pond guy was initially horrified when I told him I didn't want him to just dump the pond gunk at the back of my yard, but instead wanted him to dump it into some raised beds that could use some organic amendments. It cost me a few days of nasty smell as the stuff dried out, but after adding some good potting soil the beds are now ready for me to plant tomatoes for the critters in the canyon to harvest.

Finally, I've finished the decorative touches around the back door leading from the master bedroom to the backyard. I scored an old wooden window with six panes that I've painted to match the door frame and Dean, the jack-of-all trades has hung it above a window box that only remains to be planted.

Dean will also be repairing some irrigation and some low voltage outdoor lighting to make the whole yard not only lovely again but maintainable without frequent hand-watering during the long hot summer.

Meanwhile, I'm doing my gardening inside arranging flowers and trying to finish a quilt. The quilt is at that I-hate-you stage where it's gone on so long I'm sick of it and just want to finish it and move on to the next project.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Thought for the Day

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge"
-       Chares Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)

It follows then, that my lack of gardening confidence actually turns out to mean I’m a very smart gardener. 

Therefore, as I'm no fool, today I’m going to sew.

The picture is an Alternate-leaf butterfly bush, taken in China by Kyle Port of Harvard.