Monday, July 27, 2009

A Sunday Putter

Yesterday, Sunday, I went out to garden. The vegetable box was completely overgrown. I pulled out the kale (we ate it for dinner), the old lettuce, the cilantro and all the nasturtium. Then I replanted lettuce seed for the coming weeks. The tomatoes are clinging sturdily to the vine, but haven't ripened. I have one eggplant that I'll need to pick shortly. I clipped back all the daylilies; pulled out their dried stems to make everything look neater. Then I climbed around behind the crab apple tree and entered into the fearful zone of overgrown vines, tilting apple tree, listing Joe Pye Weed and intrusive poke weed. I whacked it all back, using my weed whacker, I gave the whole hillside a clean shave. I pulled the apple tree up and tied it tall, anchoring it to the crab apple tree. Poor old Joe Pye (my cousin) had been completely overtaken by this nasty vine. I don't know what it's called, but it grows like a blanket over things and it has these seed pods. It's bad, bad, bad, my neighbor A, told me last year. Meanwhile, next door, my neighbor C, has a forest of pokeweed about to go to seed. The birds will come and distribute the seeds everywhere, bringing on disaster for anyone not wanting the stuff to grow. Nothing can be done about it, though.

The sweat poured off of me as I worked. I kept a towel near by and wiped frequently. It felt so good. T stopped by and said, "There really is a garden back here." That was surprising. She hates gardening. Meanwhile, out front, the gold finch feeder is attracting a huge clientele.

I have to get up now and go get ready for my day job. The Putterer

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

In Contemplation of Zen

There are people who have a spiritual path, they have faith and live with a sure knowledge that an almighty power watches over them. There are others who deny that omniscient creation. I take a middle road on these things.

On the other hand there are those that seek to attain a personal enlightenment in life through quiet meditation, a spirit of calm and the practice of yoga. I would characterize myself as far removed from this. I am more worrier than warrior and so, in fact, I was highly amused when someone referred to me as "Zen."

At first I laughed at the thought, but then I began to incorporate the compliment into my being and felt some pride in it. Wikipedia defines zen in this way: "the attainment of awakening, often simply called the path of enlightenment. As such, it de-emphasizes both theoretical knowledge and the study of religious texts in favor of direct, experiential realization through meditation and dharma practice."

Last Saturday, after a run in the park, I was, in fact, practicing yoga out on the back deck. My mat was stretched out alongside my pots of geraniums, nasturtium, camomile, chives and impatiens. One of my plants growing from a lovely green glazed pot was an experiment that I thought I'd try. A banana tree. I picked it up for $6 at Home Depot. It was a tiny two-leafed sapling. It won't possibly make it through the winter and so I'll have to bring it in. And it could take several seasons of this special care before it will bear fruit. And come to think of it, I don't even know if it needs another banana plant for cross polination. (I'll check in later with my assistant, Ms. Google.) But the plant is literally growing at a rate that you can almost see. Every morning a new leaf unfurls from its top and the tiny thing is now a budding giant. But there on my mat, stretched out in my stretch, I looked up to see the underside of one of its leaves. The sun was conveniently sited on the opposite side and so it glowed in celestial earnest. In that light its veins were isolated and vivid. I reached up and ran my fingertips along the underside and I felt certain that the plant was responding to my touch.

Here was a girl, at times, who has been so frought with worry and anxiety that sleep was sometimes illusive. A girl who constantly shouldered self-doubt. A girl with so many activities and responsibilities that she literally raced erratically from one to the other. Stressed out. Exhausted. Stroking the banana plant and not a care in the world. Let's call that Zen.

So, if I am Zen and my friend sees me that way, I am going to venture that a shift has occured. We are principled learners on a journey of growth, are we not?

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oh Deer Me

On Thursday morning, a deer trespassed in my garden. He munched his way from the daylily cotton candy, to mini pearl, to Lady Jane Staunton. He sawed off the purple blooms of two hostas and nibbled away at the sedum autumn joy. I found his footprint pressed into the soil next to my eggplant. A friend intervened and chased him away, but the damage was done. Still the next morning, a few lilies opened in defiance and enough color remains. It was disappointing, but not devastating.

I had a deer several seasons ago, who after tearing through my garden like it was a salad before dinner, dropped scat to further the insult. Since then, I have been carefully selecting plants from the catalogs marked "deer resistant." But the daylilies are my passion, I plant them fully acknowledging the risk that a deer might come and take them out in just moments. He must have come from Cherie's backyard and indeed, he likely stepped over and around the lobelia and monarda and cones that are not to his liking. A success, I suppose.

The garden attracts. It calls out not only to my spirit, but the birds come--there's an abundance of guana now splashed on my chairs from a nest somewhere high above. The bees and wasps and yellow jackets are attracted. The mosquitos. It is a haven for wild things. And so too, a deer. The Putterer

Postscript: Life's synchronicities are intriguing. Shortly after posting, I drove past a dead deer at the side of the road. Heartbreaking, to see it.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Proust in a Geranium

Whenever I look at a potted geranium, I think of my Grandma. And this summer, thanks probably to the ample rain and the cool fresh air, I have a pink geranium growing in a large torquoise pot on my back deck that would do Grandma justice. Its full blooms, none of the petals are rotted or toasted by the sun, are about four inches in diameter. And its wonderful, spicy smell and sticky gum take me back to hot summers at her house in a small town in Western Pennsylvania.

She had a large four-square house with a huge wrap around porch. The premium seat on the porch was the old glider covered in a deep green vinyl. The vinyl was always cool to the skin and you could fold yourself into it with a cold glass of lemonade or ice tea that perspired drips down your arm. It all felt so fresh that you hardly noticed how hot it was. Everyone gathered on Grandma's porch and all around us were her geraniums. Mostly red ones, but sometimes a few white or pinks were tucked into the corners. And there was never a single blight to any of the blooms. Whenever I asked her what she did to make them look so good, she would just offer a homily of obvious tasks, water them, fertilize them. No tricks. They just grew of her green thumb.

I suspect they also basked in the aura of her ample love. Because to be around Grandma was to know that you were special. A visit to Grandma's house was a highly anticipated event. Even our dog knew there was something there, because whenever we drove around a certain hill in the woods, she'd whine and wiggle with excitement. Hugs meant that Grandma's soft arms would envelope you in a circle of warmth. And not long after that, we would all be eating her raisin cookies with a cold glass of milk. Later, when I grew up, I still made treks to her house, and the joy of her greeting ritual never changed.

Today, the sun is beating down on the backdeck. And at 9 A.M., the humidity is already choking the air. I want to garden, but already I can anticipate the sweat dripping down my face and stinging my eyes. This would be a perfect day to lounge about on Grandma's glider and enjoy the geraniums. The Putterer

Friday, July 10, 2009

Reaping the Rewards or Just Getting Lazy?

Now we enter the lazy weeks when the garden delivers. This is the point at which, all the putterer does is mow, clip back and enjoy. Either that, or she's just lazy. Because out there twisting their way around the ferns and the hydrangeas and Aunt Rhody are the invasive morning glory vines and all the other derelicts who want to suck the life out of the soil and strangle the plants. But heading out to untangle their grasp on the plant stems and pull on their lengthy vines just seems too tedious a task, especially in the late summer sun. So it's tempting to look past all that and just settle into the chair and read and relax.

But summer weather, this week, has been a strange cool, low humidity phenomena. In all the many yeaars that I've spent in Washington, DC, I have never experienced a more pleasant July. Windows open. Cool breeze. Even chilly at night. A perfect way to enter into the weekend, which unfortunately is supposed to be just a bit more humid. But, I think all day tomorrow, after a run to warm up my muscles, I'll head out to the garden. I want to add a few annuals in places that look bare. I want to plant a few things in the farmers box to harvest later this fall. I want to clip the tops off of the wild yellow asters that are climbing up the back slope. And then when it's all done and the business of the garden chores are complete, I want to collapse in my chair and wait for the most anticipated moment of the day--my daughter comes home! The Putterer

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Making Sense of Clutter and Chaos

The gardener working in the hot sun, weeding, clipping, lifting heavy loads does not operate mindlessly. The week's events are analyzed. Priorities are set. Decisions made. While the hands are busy, the chaos of the mind is organized.

Sometimes I think about luck and good fortune. Is it possible that optimism breeds opportunity? Who would you rather spend time with, the eternal optimist or a Debbie Downer--waa waa.

A cool fresh breeze or stagnant humidity. I allowed myself once to float at the edges of depression, to stare into a future dark and fearful. It was a place I couldn't bear to be in. I have also known the crushing disappointment of misplacing trust with those who don't deserve it. And I have endured the horrible hurt of severing a toxic relationship before more damage is rendered.

Yet everyday without realizing it, I reduce life's complexities to a simplicity. I mindfully search for laughter and joy, because I know that sharing it delivers disproportionately a greater return, provided you know and understand the caveats. It won't work, for example, with people who are stuck in their own miseries and unable to grow. This disposition of mine, though, seems to bring people and ideas together. Everyday, there are new projects, new leads to follow, new programs to pursue, new thoughts to write down, new books to read, new theories to test. I sometimes feel as if I'm choking on all the possibilities.

This morning I saw that my crepe myrtle was covered with blooms. I feel like it is too early, yet, for her to flower. But perhaps all the rain is rushing the season. Another daylily opened; Spanish Glo splashed her peachy charm against the fence. Her pedals have a petticoat ruffle all the way around them. And the Fourth of July tomatoes are living up to their name, with more than a dozen fruits (is a tomato a fruit?) drooping from the vines. A tiny eggplant sits beneath a purple blossom. And two friendly gold finches are dropping by the feeder and not rushing away when I pass by them as they did earlier this spring. The Putterer