I dream, and wake to good things.

Recently I was laboring to find and write words to convey the empty feeling that persists deep in the bones of my psyche, a kind of panic at being a stranger in my own life. I had stepped back from that project, because this feeling is typical of emotions and imaginations in that it lacks substance. It is natural for someone in my situation, but not evidence of true emptiness.

I have an even deeper perception, in my spirit, of how God is “satisfying my desires with good things, and renewing my youth like the eagles’.” (Psalm 103) He has me all figured out and He knows who and where I am, even if I myself am sometimes confused. But while I was realizing that I didn’t want to spend time chasing nightmarish ephemera, I came across a poem that perfectly captures in a few words what it is like to have this “dream.”

Reading it brought on a healthy cascade of fresh grief, but now that I’ve revisited that I want to be awake again to today’s good things — which include the poem itself. It takes my experience and makes it into a cathartic story in which every word adds to the growing picture of a woman whose person and setting are more solid and convincing than my mind’s vague imaginations. I feel as though the writer has put the poem into my waiting hands, because I needed her to do with her skill what I couldn’t do for myself. I am so thankful for poets who give joy to the world the way musicians do, playing their instruments for love.

I had to look up “eelgrass,” and found that it is an ocean plant with ribbonlike leaves.

WIDOW’S WALK

When he visited Nantucket, Crevecoeur noted, “A singular custom prevails here among the women… They have adopted these many years the Asiatic custom of taking a dose of opium every morning, and so deeply rooted is it, that they would be at a loss how to live without this indulgence.”

Walter Teller,
Cape Cod and the Offshore Islands

Captain: the weathervane’s rusted.
Iron-red, its coxcomb leans into the easterly wind
as I do every afternoon swinging
a blind eye out to sea. The light
fails, day closes around me, a vast oceanic whirlpool…
I can still see your eyes, those monotonic palettes,
smell your whiskeyed kisses!
Still feel the eelgrass of embrace —
the ocean pounds outside the heart’s door.
Dearest, the lamps are going on. I’m caught
in the smell of whales burning! Vaporous and drowsy,
I spiral down the staircase in my wrapper,
a shadow among many shadows in Nantucket Town.
Out in the yard, the chinaberry tree
turns amber. A hymn spreads through the deepening air —
the church steeple’s praying for the people. Last night
I dreamed you waved farewell.
I stood upon the pier, the buoys tolling
a warning knell. Trussed in my whalebone,
I grew away from you, fluttering in the twilight,
a cutout, a fancy French silhouette.

-Elizabeth Spires

 

The heat makes me glad.

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Today was one of the hottest days of the summer, at least 97° in my garden at the peak. But after a week of my being indisposed and then out of town, there were piles of yard work that needed to be done. Piles to be made, of pine needles and trimmings of spent flowers, and wisteria vines. I was able to plan my day so as to work (or walk) outside until 11:00, and then again at 3:30 or 4:00. When the sun is slant, the heat is not so unendurable and long-lasting.

The Apple Blossom penstemon is at its peak right now, so it doesn’t need trimming – only admiring.gl-27-lemon-p1050606

 

 

Last month I gave the lemon tree another iron treatment and some extra food, so the new leaves are looking healthy. And the lemons are growing, too – yay!

Some things are a little out of sync with the seasons – a couple of the lavender plants are in full bloom, almost three months late. By next spring I expect they will be on track with the rest.

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Rudbeckia with toys

In the greenhouse, some greens and hollyhocks are coming along – and on the front right, those are the little lily plants that I managed to start from the black jewel-like seeds I collected at church.

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Strawberry Tree – Arbutus unedo – fruit with pine needles

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I pulled all the remaining leeks to make room for planting those greens, and lots of pea seeds. I hope later this week.

In the afternoon I chopped the roots and the upper tops off the leeks, standing at the patio table in the shade. It was still very warm, but since I was not exerting myself very much I could just bask in the balminess, and remember periods of my life when I lived in places with less coastal (brrrr!) influence.

I was a little worried when I noticed that about half of the leeks had started to form tall stalks. I wondered if they would be the woody and unusable parts that happen when flowers are forming.

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But I read online that if that is the case, there will not be layers of flesh. And if you do find a hard and tough core, they say you can just discard that part and use the remainder of the leek. These stalks had no signs of flower buds, and inside they looked normal. So I cleaned them and added them to the pile ready to chop and cook.

Today was probably the last hottest day. Tomorrow won’t likely get above 90°, and the next day the high will be in the 70’s. As I type, at 7:30 in the evening, it is still 80° outside.🙂 This weather is too late to ripen the tomatoes, but comes at the perfect time to warm my soul.

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Forest and crabapples with Ivy.

gl-s-crabapples-ivy-9-16At the lower elevations, the northern California forest in September is a dry and dusty place, but it still holds many sights to see and ponder over, if you are lucky enough to be with my daughter Pippin, as I was last week.

I had long hoped to travel the several hours to celebrate little Ivy’s birthday with the family, but business here at home kept me up in the air about my plans until the last minute, when I realized that it would be possible for me to make a quick trip up and back. On my one layover day we three “girls” walked in the woods. We chose to drive to a little park not far away this time, instead of making our outing to the woods right behind their house.

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I’ve written before about how Pippin has always had her senses keenly tuned to the natural world; when I am outdoors with her she stops to notice many details of flora and fauna that I am blindly passing by.

I doubt I would have seen these slugs descending from a tree on their slimy rope, but once I saw them I had to record them with my camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And the way their line was attached so firmly and invisibly to the tree…

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Pippin told me that this plant is called Pinedrops, and is similar to Snow Plant in that it lives symbiotically on the fungi that in turn live on tree roots; for most of its life you don’t see it above ground.

 

 

 

 

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While my eyes were probably on my boot tops, Pippin noticed a large wasps’ nest in what she took to be a dogwood in the stage of bearing fruit. I wondered how many wasps might live in that large house.

 

 

 

 

 

We also stopped by a fish hatchery where Ivy fed the various species of trout, and I spied a commonplace wild sweet pea that I thought uncommonly healthy and pretty.

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wild sweet peas – Lathyrus

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Back at the house, I took up the challenge I never can resist: trying to photograph the crabapples. They make me wish I were a real photographer, so I could capture how gorgeous they are. At Pippin’s they have two or three varieties, and the Professor shakes the trees from time to time in the fall and winter so the fruit will fall on the lawn and feed the deer.gl-s-p1050555-ivy

 

 

 

 

Pippin is a gardener as well as a naturalist and her dahlias are worth the drive north just to visit them. This trio she had just brought in for the birthday party table.

 

 

I didn’t entirely ignore the grandboys, but because it was Ivy’s birthday I didn’t feel bad focusing on her this time. Given that I have eleven grandsons and “only” three granddaughters, you might understand my feelings for the girls.

This year it was a Dragon Cake she wished for, and her parents were obliging. They added a castle for context. Happy Birthday, Ivy!

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All of his riches are within.

On Sept 25th we are remembering St. Sergius of Radonezh, a Russian of the 14th century who “filled the wilderness with ceaseless prayer, and transformed the forest into a holy place of God.” From The Prologue of Ohrid I give you this sweet story:

A saint does not shine outwardly. All of his riches are within, in his soul. A peasant came from afar to the monastery to see St. Sergius. When he asked the monks for the abbot, they told him he was working in the garden. The peasant went to the garden, and there saw a man in poor, ragged clothes, digging like any other peasant on a farm. The peasant returned to the monastery dissatisfied, thinking that the monks had made fun of him. So, to make things clear, he asked again for the glorious holy father, Sergius. Just then, Sergius returned to the monastery, and welcomed the peasant, serving him at the table. The saint saw into the heart of his guest, and knew the low opinion he had of his appearance. He consoled him by promising that he would see Sergius in a little while.

A prince and his boyars then arrived at the monastery, and they all bowed low to St. Sergius, and asked his blessing. The monks then removed the peasant from the room in order to make room for the new guests. In amazement the peasant looked on from a distance, to see that the one he had sought had been nearby all the time. The peasant rebuked himself for his ignorance, and was greatly ashamed. When the prince departed, the peasant quickly approached the saint, fell at his feet and began to beg his forgiveness. The great saint embraced him and said to him: “Do not grieve, my son, for you are the only one who knew the truth about me, considering me to be nothing–while others were deluded, taking me for something great.”

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painting by Mikhail Nesterov