Friday, September 24, 2021
Friday, September 3, 2021
|This is a forest pansy redbud tree.|
Thursday, August 12, 2021
Wild thistles grew up in my back garden — the same garden that gets mostly ignored each Spring while the maintenance frenzy is targeted in the front of the house — the “Show Gardens."
Near the end of June, I force my way into the weedy patch, yanking and swearing under my breath. On this hillside berm, only a smattering of the hardiest perennials are still alive, the ones we planted with such optimism eight or nine years ago from $24 pots of nursery stock — specimen flowers and special grasses.
By now, I expected a hillside swimming with intense yellow Black Eyed Susans, punctuated with purple coneflowers and stands of waving ornamental grasses, all corralled within regal rhubarb leaves — edible space fillers. Instead, Creeping Charlie, wild ginger, plus an army of other weeds took over. I begin the exorcism but leave the wispy Queen Ann’s Lace and wild thistle, the iconic image of Scottish souvenirs.
Thistles, it turns out, come in all varieties and many are edible, especially the genus Cynara, a.k.a. artichokes. The thistle in my garden is Cirsium or “bull thistle,” identifiable by that well known shaving brush “bloom” of short purple spikes. It’s a biennial — that is, it only appears every other year, and it turns out that most parts of this prickly plant provide nutrients for humans who are brave enough to dive past the sharp thorns.
Not me. Now, in August, the plant is brown, and the purple brush has gone to seed. Every day a bright yellow goldfinch arrives. He perches on the top and eats seeds from the bulb head. I look forward to his visits with much more joy than a hillside of black eyed susans ever could provide.
Watching this little bird picnic ritual is more fun than fussing over any perfectly groomed flower bed. Why did I ever try to insist otherwise? It’s that old devil “control.” If growing old changed anything about me (O.K., not counting the sagging skin, gray hair, arthritic joints…AND I CAN’T SING NOW! And don’t even talk to me about memory!), it’s the willingness to give up control. I’m still a detail fanatic. I “notice” but I don’t feel compelled to correct and that’s a major personality shift.
I confess that I spent much of my life saying “I can’t.” “Why don’t you?” “They won’t.” “Why can’t they?” "Do it my way.” “Don’t do that EVER.”
Why did I spend so much energy trying to control all things — all these people, all these parts? How did I ever expect to juggle it all — not just events and people within my reach but pretty much worldwide?! Is that the sin of arrogance? I wonder how things might have been different had I learned this lesson fifty years ago — or maybe even last year?
Is this new found acceptance a gift of age or a side affect of the Covid year?
|The Road to My House|
Sunday, July 11, 2021
Thursday, June 24, 2021
Patti LuPone. Stephen Sondheim’s 80th birthday concert. (YouTube) I listen about once a week. She’s brilliant. The words to that song drop from her mouth like razor blades. She’s exactly what people mean when they say “a true stage performer.” You hear every syllable of the lyric. She expresses more in that 4 minutes than most screen actors manage in a two hour movie.
But those lyrics! Sorry, Stephen. I think the song is a little out of date. Maybe the image of useless, society women spending their days schlepping between fittings and lunch dates — martinis in the tank — was true once upon a time. At least, in the Doris Day movies.
Or maybe that image was never true. True upper society women during the last century more likely met at a museum fundraiser — or maybe a horse or dog show (dogs that they bred and trained). They went to lunch at their social clubs to listen to lectures: Parasites in Ocean Mammals, Growing Food in Window Boxes, Statistics on Eastern Immigrant Graduate Students (whom they sponsored with an annual rummage sale.)
Meanwhile, mid-level women without domestic help were probably canning strawberry jam, going to their monthly book club and quilt making circle. They ate the crusts off peanut butter and jelly sandwiches left by the kiddies while standing at the kitchen sink!
Then the century rolled over and everybody got careers and jobs!
Oh my! How easy it is to paint these pictures with such broad brush strokes!
I had the ladies for lunch yesterday. Mostly, we are “retired” from art careers or teaching careers (those just happen to be my friends — not too different from women who retired from law offices or non-profit organizations.) We ranged in ages from late 60 something to near-eighty.
Two still actively work. Two have only this year given up careers; Covid made the decision easier.
Conversations ranged from “have you decided what you want for end of life?” to “what should we buy at Ikea? the best choices from Trader Joe’s? Travel plans now that the world is re-opening. And most importantly: how has the Covid year changed you, me, and our culture?”
I like ladies who lunch — especially those at a certain age. Our view is different. We are less competitive and more tolerant. I like that about us. We read and we laugh. I like that too.
I’d love to invite Patti LuPone to lunch — introduce her to my friends. I’ll bet she has some dandy stage stories. Or maybe she would simply join in with “my end of life plan — I’m giving my body to a medical school — right after I have all the tattoos sanded off” or “I always buy frozen rice at Trader Joe’s.”
We’d certainly all laugh.
MYSTERIES, YES (a poem by Mary Oliver)
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood,
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs,
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity,
while we ourselves dream of rising,
How two hands touch and the bonds will
never be broken,
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company, always, with those who say
“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.
Wednesday, June 9, 2021
But I still want to make the decision. I know where the valuable pieces are. Ebay may think this is only a $50 cookie jar but I know better!
Tuesday, May 11, 2021
I’ve been thinking about the story of the boy who traded his cow for magic beans. It’s a fable that needs some unpacking.
First, according to the fable, he and his mom live alone and are poor. She’s a single mother. Is he illegitimate? Where’s Dad? Nobody ever asks. Curious. We know a lot about Cinderella’s father. And Snow White…Sleeping Beauty…Beauty (Belle. Really? Couldn’t come up with a more original name?) and the Beast. Come to think of it, most fairy tales featuring beautiful girls (and they are always beautiful.Ugly girls never get the Prince.) have much to say about their parentage. They are never bastard children.
So poor Mom gives the cow to her son and trusts him to take Milky White (Was that the cow’s real name or was that only in the Stephen Sondheim version?) to town to make a fair trade.
Would you? If you were so poor that the only thing standing between you and starvation? Would you entrust your one asset to a boy? Wouldn’t you go along? The fable doesn’t say that Mom was physically disabled. Sick. Weak. All we ever know is that she’s poor. Illustrations (and the movies) show her cleaning. Would any sane woman chose to CLEAN rather than hit the market to drive a hard bargain?
Mom had something else in mind. I think she needed to say to the boy, “It’s time. You need to see and move into the grown up world. I’ve done all I can to prepare you. Now it’s up to you. No more games. Here’s the cow.”
(Granted, Mom, kinda’ looses it when he comes home with magic beans! But Moms…we are not perfect. When our kid says…
“I’m dropping out of medical school to try out for the All-Male Olympic Synchronized Swim Team.”
Or “My buddy’s dad’s friend will hire us to clear timber in Alaska. All I need is an airline ticket and a pair of snowshoes.”
…we are apt to hit high C.)
So Son comes home with magic beans. AND THEY WORK!
(The rest of the story gets a little weird…a stalk to the sky, Giant’s home, golden harp and/or goose/and or eggs. Somewhere along here the story plot dissolves into pure silliness. That’s what happens when a writer plays to the masses.)
But first, all kinds of truisms…planting for the future, nothing is ever a ‘sure thing,’ sowing seeds…you get the gist.
My three grandsons are facing the “take the cow” stage of life. It’s scary. Their parents want them launched but only if they (1) don’t take risks (2) don’t do anything dangerous…which really means #1 all over again or (3) don’t go so far away that they can’t be rescued.
But that’s not the way life…or fables work. They are ready. They get to take the cow. And they might get magic beans.
“I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical ‘therapy’ to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological disease: music and gardens.
In many cases, gardens and nature are more powerful than any medication.”
(Oliver Sacks, Doctor of Neurology, in his international best selling book, “Everything In Its Place.”)
What about art? Theater? Literature?
No, Dr. Sacks is pretty clear. Music and gardening.
I wonder if Dr. Sacks ever suffered from arthritis? What about a degenerative back? He was well into his 70s when he died. Surely, his knees were shot.
All bad but not nearly as stressful, neurologically speaking, as dementia or Parkinson’s or stroke — the big worries at my age. My skeleton may not work very well but I hold out hope for my brain.
Every seed planted is magic.