Saturday, September 26, 2009

Found Treasures

One of the great things about gardening at an old house is the untold number of gardeners who've been there before you. Some of their handiwork is very obvious: the monstrous azaleas that flank the front steps, evergreen and tidy (with regular pruning!) that burst into hot pink glorious-ness at the first hint of spring; the deep-blue hydrangea at the corner of the front porch that blooms all summer and marks North East truer than the truest compass; the stately line of pecan trees that marches down the side yard, shading the house in summer, allowing the sun to warm us in the winter, and providing enough nuts for dozens of pies and cookies and brownies in between.

There are also the not-so-obvious things: the clumps of snowbells that randomly sprout and bloom near the front steps and in the side yard - out of zone and out of season and charming with their tiny white-with-green-polka-dots flowers; the amazing not-an-agapanthus that became three huge plants when I dug it up and moved it earlier this year (which is, by the way, something called a crinum lily and which continues to bloom at regular intervals. This picture was taken about an hour ago using the "night" setting on my camera); the confederate jasmine that has exploded in the corner where the hose-holder-with-faucet lives and which I am training to run down the railing of the back steps.

And, then, there is this:

One lone beautiful red lily that sprouted in the middle of the side yard. I've been here three summers now, and never seen that lily before. And if weeks of intermittent afternoon rains combined with these endless weeks in a sling hadn't conspired to keep us from mowing the grass, that lily wouldn't have stood a chance. I dug it up (obviously) and have every intention of replanting it in the back yard...and when I did, I also found these:

a handful of bulbs, each one waiting to be another lily! Some are now planted by the back gate and some have moved around the corner to my mama's house. All of them are a reminder that at least some of what we do in our brief time on this earth lasts, in ways we cannot possibly imagine, for years and years after we are gone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Introducing 'Like Fire'

You remember my friend Lisa, yes? Lisa and I egged each other on during May's blogathon and then practically abandoned our blogs together for the rest of the summer. Lisa - though she may not know it - is one of my role models. In all honesty, Lisa is sort of who I thought I'd grow up to be: she works at an Ivy League University in a big city; she's smart and funny and reads both widely and deeply; she's fiercely loyal. She buys used books on the street during her lunch-hour and is devoted to her four-legged friends; she's an incredibly talented artist, an inventive cook, and a master baker of cookies that are as pretty as they are delicious. She has more integrity than anyone I know and I'm not embarrassed to tell you that a rousing round of "What Would Lisa Do?" has become one of my major tools for getting through a difficult day. In short, Lisa rocks and I am a better person because I know her.

While my blog was languishing in favor of sitting on my porch and watching my garden grow, Lisa was busy putting together another blog....this one all about books and the people who read them and how those books change both the world we live in and how we look at it. Here's a link to her latest entry...check it out:

The Light Gleams an Instant, Then It's Night Once More (Like Fire)

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Friday, September 18, 2009

An Open Letter to My Friend, Caroline

Dearest Caroline,

I just read (again!) your essay in A Few Thousand Words About Love and realized I had probably never told you how much it means to me. The first time I read it was just a few months after Britt was killed. I was visiting Katharine in Connecticut and she had a copy of the book on the table by the bed in her studio/guest cottage where I was sleeping. Just a few paragraphs in, I was crying so hard I could barely see and I'm afraid that section of her book is forever wavy from my tears. In the years since then, I've read it often and, the more time passes, the more I am struck by the truth of what you said: ..."as the capacity for pain grows, so does the capacity for joy. And when you know that sadness can visit at any time, your appreciation for happiness is overpowering."

Even in those very dark early days of my grief, you helped me decide not to be one of those people who allowed my grief to steal my life. I thought of you and your widows' group experience every time I went to a Compassionate Friends meeting...and granted myself permission to flee those rooms when the relentless "you will never be happy again" drum beat so loudly I couldn't hear myself think because you had done it, too.

These days I find joy in small and simple things...seeds that sprout in my garden, the exuberance of my dog, David's smile when I come home from work each day...things I know would also have given joy to Britt and though the grief is a tangible presence in each day so is her love and the love of my friends. I am so fortunate to count you among them.

much love to you,


P.S. - Those of you who don't know this book definitely should.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Why I Write

Random stumbling and clicking around the Internets (following my friend Cara, because she was following me yesterday ;) made me land on this quote from one my most favorite writers:

“I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” -Joan Didion

That really does sum it up for me. It's all about getting the stuff that's inside my head out where I can see it. If I was uber-cool, I would have a picture of myself with Ms. Didion, snapped at some fancy party or a high-toned reading for this post. (If I was super uber-cool I'd know how to put an umlaut over the "u" in uber.) Alas, I am not, and so here's a picture of Cara's cool tattoo instead. Cara is so cool, she probably knows how to make an umlaut.

Continued World-Avoidance

In an effort to retain what's left of my own sanity and ignore the lack of same being displayed all around me, let's continue to tour the tiny but pleasant space I call "home."

Here's another touch recently added to the step closer to being well and truly done. I'm not too fond of those tab-tops in this space, but one of my sisters assures me they are easy to get rid of and that will also help to shorten the curtains and keep them out of the sink when they are closed.

What I really like is how the zinnia patch threw up red and yellow flowers (very similar in tone to the colors in the living and dining room) and then also gave me greens and oranges to draw from. Even when this year's zinnia patch is done, I will still have all the colors of my summer flowers around me. That's a good thing.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Flower Break

I have spent the last couple of days more engaged with the world than I really like to be of late and may I just say WTF?? Of course I can. It's my blog and I can say what I want. And one of the things I want to say is this: People are crazy. I mean seriously bat-shit crazy. And since I don't have a lot of energy for foolishness (particularly of the manufactured kind) and it completely wears me out...I quit. At least for the rest of the day I just refuse to put up with crazy people.

Let's look at my beautiful zinnias instead, shall we? I grew them from seed (a first for me in the flower department) and they have been just lovely out there in the garden for months. They came up in a rainbow of colors - pink and purple and yellow and red and white and orange and cream and even green - that have helped to inspire the ongoing painting projects in the house and they show no sign of letting up. Zinnias may be my new favorite flower.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Good Medicine

Another thing I did while I wasn't posting for most of July and August was take a few days off work (really...I did!) and head to Atlanta to visit my mother in law. This was sort of huge as a) I rarely use vacation days for actual vacationing and b) Dave hates going away and so one has to drag him, kicking and fussing, into the car to get on the highway. It was a wonderful six days away.

Also, it was my favorite sort of vacation: spending time with people I love and just talking and lazing about and doing not much of anything. MIL and I went to IKEA (FUN!) and I found a cart full of things I couldn't do without and only spent $50. We visited the grounds of a Trappist monastery near her home and it was both incredibly peaceful and joyful. I spent one evening with two highschool friends I hadn't seen in years and their significant others and that was a joy as well. And, there was a puppy.

I spent the better part of six days making friends with Boots. Boots is bulldog/Jack Russel mix, only 5 months old, and well on his way to becoming a Damned Fine Dog. In the way of all puppies, he is full of energy, a little destructive, and sneaky as hell. Everything is new and exciting to a puppy and they just radiate happiness and a desire to please. I really did want to stuff him in a bag and bring him home with me (he's from the same litter we seriously considered getting another dog from and I still think Mojo needs a brother) but I also want my MIL to keep loving I didn't steal her dog. I did enjoy cuddling him a lot: this shot pretty much sums up that vacation; good stuff.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

The Garden Lives On

One bad thing about not posting for so long is that I missed showing you some great photos of the garden during July and August. It's been pretty spectacular. With the exception of the tomatoes (it's been a bad year for tomatoes and my friend Cara, in Boston, has had the only brag-worthy crop I've heard about) everything has been gorgeous and delicious and - as Britt used to say - abundantly abundant. More cucumbers than we could eat, several rounds of eggplant that were yummy, bell peppers and banana peppers that have made Dave very happy, and - Oh! - those peas.

Those peas have been just incredible. We are still picking them (another full basket last night) and they are flowering again. (Do you think they heard me talking about pulling them up to make room for greens?) They are no longer that pretty....the rain has been constant and one has to sort of trample them to get to ones inside...but they are still producing. And, miracles do happen, I LIKE them. Me. Legume-hater me thinks these peas taste great. They are not grainy or sandy or gritty...they are just gooood. Which is just one more piece of proof that food you grow yourself Just Tastes Better.

Here's a shot of some peas in the kitchen...I've lost count of how many bags like this we've had. Yum.