Thursday, April 30, 2015

Songs out of the Drawer

Do you find songs jumping out of some closed drawer in your brain, landing with both feet into the moment? Some songs just fit.

Sometimes, it's a rhyme or a rhythm that triggers them. 

For example, out in the garden I mentally put off a task and the word "procrastination" flashed like a miniature lightning bolt in my mind. In milliseconds Carly Simon's melody for "Anticipation" responded.

next thing I knew, I was humming:

Pro-cras-ti-na-tion, procrastination,
is just a delay, 
is keeping me waiting ...

Other times, it's a response to a current situation.

It happens to me a lot. We start on a road trip, and I'm humming "On the Road Again." 

Feeling irritated,  I'll go with "All you need is love..."

Yesterday, the pest control manager, while crawling around the basement to find the extent of active termites, also discovered a water leak. So we had to call the plumber too! When he finished, and was paid I surveyed the mess left behind. 

What sprang to mind? 

You're taking one down,
You sing a sad song just to turn it around ...
You had a bad day. 
You had a bad day."

What are you singing today?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Zoo Pooh at Jones Valley Teaching Farm

"Here are our raised beds" said the volunteer at the Jones Valley Teaching Farm in Birmingham, Alabama. Downtown high rises are just blocks away. The three acre site is surrounded by high density housing, a highway overpass, and what appears to be the frontier of the suburbs. 

 For a few dollars a season, a family can rent one of the 8'X4'plots and work it themselves. Most of beds were still full of winter weeds. I noticed leftovers, some greens gone to seed and a shriveled tomato plant. Pitiful as they were, they were still a portent of the mini-gardens' potential.

One young couple weeded their box, a baby propped up watching from his stroller.

The volunteer pinched her nose. The garden staff had just fertilized with pooh from the Birmingham zoo.  I couldn't smell it, but it reminded me of the time we took our four year old to cattle country in northern Colorado. She got out of the car and complained that it smelled like elephants.

 At the farther end of the farm were longer  beds lined with cinder blocks. The volunteer pointed out that they were already planted with spring lettuce, onions, and spinach for farmers' markets.

The blocks were effective but not pretty. If  marigolds were planted in the holes they would be!

These, however, were small works of art, constructed by a local stone worker. I'd love to see them mid-summer full of flowers.

I think this interesting structure was the chicken house.  

The farm has fruit trees, too. The fruit and produce are used for cooking classes for neighborhood families  in a site just a block away. 

What used to be a derelict lot has been turned into a friendly safe haven. There are even shady benches and a picnic table. 

As a former city-dweller, I would have loved a community garden like this one, elephant pooh and all.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Slammed by Others' Suffering

I've been slammed up against others' suffering recently...

a friend's husband who is showing evidence of dementia

a young mother's intolerable and unremitting struggle with pain

a blogger's report of the high rate of congenital heart defects in Iraqi children  

 60 Minutes' cellphone videos of the horrific sarin chemical attack in Syria in 2013...

Ignorance seems the preferable choice to preserve my personal peace. But these circumstances intruded into my bubble.  Surprising myself,  I've wept over people thousands of miles away, and just down the road a piece.  Outrage and helplessness have washed over me like waves, threatening to drag me into dark places. I've prayed in the middle of the night for people I know pretty well, and people I'll never meet.  I even dreamed I was a Middle Eastern mother trying to smuggle my son to a safe place. 

 Knowledge of what's happening close to home and afar weighs heavy when the problems are complex and appear hopeless. Rationally I know I am powerless to heal anyone's physical or emotional wounds. But the innate desire to help led me to small steps to at least try to lessen others' grief. 

 I can pray for my friend to be strong, and encourage her. I can make a dinner for the neighbor crippled by hyper-sensitive nerves that shut her down. I can hold her hand, clean her house.

Syria, Iraq, and other war-ravaged countries are still within my range of influence if I help fund relief efforts. The blog (linked, above) in turn linked me to Preemptive Love, an organization that facilitates training Iraqi doctors and nurses to do pediatric heart surgery.  My gifts to a range of other organizations could feed a family for a month or provide support for schooling or job training. 

And grim as it was,  60 Minutes report on sarin scrutinized an unsolved atrocity. I can only hope some of our congressmen saw it too, and are persuaded to put pressure on Syria to solve (or confess to) the international crime. 

Uncomfortable as it can be, we're linked to the rest of the world by the media. And as part of the 20% of the world not living in poverty, I'm in a position to give time and money. Just writing this makes me ashamed of how little that is, while simultaneously grateful for the choices I have. I want to be mindful of misery so that I am generous, but not hardened. 

How have you responded to tragic world, or close-to-home events? Whose compassion do you admire? I'd like to hear. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

It will always be spring in heaven.

We're moving through the stages of spring too quickly for my tastes. 

I wish the redbuds had lingered in their bloom phase. Now the petals are just  fading pink bits on the deck.

The daffodils stand green and empty like poles without flags.

The dogwood blossoms drop like scraps of paper as leaves push them right off the branch! I don't want the pink ones to ever leaf out!

As a consolation, I watch the fattening iris heads. 

And stop to admire the morning's froth of petite periwinkle flax. 

It is my personal theory that nothing will die in heaven, therefore everything will be in bloom all of the time! Doesn't that thrill my gardener's heart!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Callaway Gardens, continued

Thirty years ago I worked a puzzle of azaleas in a forest. The bushes,  packed close together, reminded me of confetti tossed on the ground. 

I noted the name of the garden where the photo had been taken, and although Georgia seemed unlikely as a site for any future vacation, I kept Callaway Gardens in my "wish" file. 

Last week I traded the wish for reality.

 The azaleas were in mid-bloom. A few early ones were spent, limp and pale, while others were still budding. But as you can see, these were prime.

They were particularly effective from a distance that hid any ugly fading blossoms. And they reflected magnificently in the water. 

I'll never have a lake to recreate the effect so I relished the moment and took lots of photos.

Maybe I'll even create my own puzzle!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Sprigs: Super-sized Succulents

Tucked into a beautiful rock wall in the conservatory at Callaway Gardens in Georgia, are super-sized succulents and stupendous stonecrops. Note how  the slabs are stacked vertically, and alternate beige and grey stones. 

I used Bill for size comparison.

Hens and chicks are more like hens and turkeys, they are so big.


This close up of the above plant, shows the formation of new leaves, about as long as my forearm. The stem was as thick as my wrist. 

I wonder if they only grow this large in ideal conditions? 

If you are passionate about gardens, make sure any trip to Atlanta includes a stop here. 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Sprigs: like a bride

Gardens are like brides. Every season mine needs something new and something old.

The "new" is a raised garden bed. Carrot, bean, cucumber and beet seeds are just waiting in their little envelopes for their right entrance time. 

When I bought the corners for the DIY frame I chose 12" high sides. But I didn't realize that with the boards warping over the winter, I'd have gaps between the 2X6s that ran the 8 foot length of the beds. Hmm. So I've stapled 1/2"wire over the gap, and am laying landscape cloth across the bottom and up the sides. 

home made compost!

The fine new box needs something "old" -- compost. 

It's been cooking in the plastic barrel for about 5 years.  I'm lazy and haven't turned the pile or kept it evenly moist. 

Bill scraped out the bottom half of the bin. 

I forked through it to remove the peach pits and avocado seeds. (I won't toss those in anymore.) The friable, dark brown soil is nearly a miracle, created by decomposing vegetable peels and grass clippings. Running my gloved hands through the rich product has motivated me to be more active in the future.

As you can see, the flower girls in the lower right hand corner of the raised box couldn't wait for the celebration to begin! 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

What's New in Your Neighborhood

This cooking class probably wasn't what Mr. Rogers had in mind, when he sang his daily ditty:

So let's make the most of this beautiful day, 
Since we're together, we might as well say, 
Would you be mine? 
Could you be mine? 
Won't you be my neighbor? 

Won't you please, 
Won't you please, 
Please won't you be my neighbor? 


But that's what exactly what happened when I gathered with friends to watch the chef at End Posts restaurant. End Posts is part of the JOLO winery, part of my neighborhood. Really. We came for of a night in their Women's Wine and Dine series. 

How did those wine glasses get there?
We gathered 'round the chef's domain just behind the winery's tasting bar. There we observed and quizzed Chef as he walked us through the steps to transform  Italian White Bean Soup into a heartier white "lasagna."  

We tasted a homemade vinaigrette with dates and figs, later served over local baby lettuces.

Just like the cooking shows, he had the progressive stages of the entree prepared so that we could watch him put it together (with a little help from me!).


We learned how to make dark chocolate and orange wafers with hazelnuts which were served for dessert with a large dollop of whipped cream.

Of course, we were sipping various house wines all the while. Helping my mother cook was never this much fun!

We adjourned to the dining room, its crisp white linens and elegant decorating. Over the table set for seven, we chatted more with the other women who had been part of the class--new friends, just like Mr. Rogers encouraged.