Monthly Archives: February 2013

Tulip or magnolia or both.

Pippin with Liriodendron

Yesterday I talked with the dental hygienist Joan about hikes and trees and flowers. She asked, “Are you a plant person? Did you see the saucer magnolia trees across the street?” Oh, yes, I had seen those lovelies, smallish ones with their flowers opening so brightly pink.

“I have my camera and want to take their picture when I leave,” I said. But later with all my strolling about and photo-shooting I never got a good one of those Chinese Magnolias that people often mistakenly call Tulip Trees.

Chinese Magnolia

I told my friend when she took the pointy tools out of my mouth, “I had a real Tulip Tree in my yard once so I know that those are not really that.” She misunderstood, and said, “Oh, but tulip trees are magnolias.”

I explained that what I was talking about was nothing like what she was talking about, and promised to send her information when I got home. I also sent her this photo of Pippin as a young girl enjoying the blossoms and leaves of our tree, which we had planted a few years previous.

It was a fast grower and a joy to have around, shading the play fort and adding grace to the landscape. Here it is in the 80’s on the right behind the children.

Yard with Tulip Tree

But in researching the botanical name of our Tulip Tree, I discovered that is IS a member of the magnolia family (but it is not what Joan thought). Oh, my — crazy how confusing things get when humans try to classify the world formally and informally all at the same time.

In 2011 I planted tulip bulbs in the front yard (here where we have no trees with that name), and had a glorious display last spring. It looked as though they weren’t going to come up a second time; often tulips don’t last, in our climate, because it’s too warm and wet. This winter was cold and drier, and what do you know, there are little tulip leaves bravely poking through now. Perhaps in a month or so I’ll have another kind of tulip flower to write about.

I am helped to be glad of Spring.

Normally it takes 15 miles and a half-hour to get back from the dentist, but today I added considerably to the length of the trip what with all the U-flipping I did along the country roads, trying to find a place where I could safely pull over and park, near a good view of the mustard fields.

Mustard is ubiquitous right now, I kept telling myself, so why bother? You should be home pruning your own roses. Acacia trees are also appearing like so many suns along every block and mile, but I like the mustard better, especially when it crowds in among the rows of black and twisty grapevines.

Before I’d started home from Dentist Town I walked around being nostalgic. In times past our family would on Sundays drive down the highway to church, through a valley that in springtime was scattered with old trees in pink or white blooms. We made a game of counting those trees – especially the white ones.

When Mr. Glad and I moved to this area 40 years ago I learned what a quince was, and after that, about this time of year the coral-colored bushes always came out and introduced themselves again, dressed exactly like this one that I found today. And look! Even the bee was with me in my blossom reverie. He is just left of center intent on his business.

Rosemary was in flower (photo near top), and in another shape climbed up the wall alongside juniper. I found an old white tree with Miner’s Lettuce at his foot, looking very like the ones we used to tally up as treasures. The hope that my photos of trees and shrubs might be o.k. comforted me when all the mustard views seemed flat and distant.

But it turned out I had a couple of pictures on the camera worthy of snipping and cropping to show you my loves. Until I saw them in two dimensions on my monitor, I hadn’t lifted my eyes to the hills at all, being so obsessed with the lower stretches of terrain. Now I can glean a little comfort from my pictures on another level.

privet berries

It’s been a dry winter since Christmas, and as a farmer’s daughter I find it a challenge to respond wholeheartedly to the greetings I hear daily now, along the lines of “Isn’t it nice to have this beautiful weather?” and “Don’t you just love that Spring is finally here?!” It feels a little scary to leave what is usually our rainiest season behind without getting soaked.

But just because I’m writing on the topic, I did some research and found an encouraging map that gives me some good news: Some of California’s reservoirs are fuller than average right now; a third of them are full to 80% or more of their capacity. Another chart, though, shows that the water content of the Sierra snow is low. Not the lowest ever, but….Things have always been iffy this way for mankind, since The Flood. Sometimes enough water, sometimes flooding, sometimes drought. At least this year the trees and fields are drawing enough moisture from the soil that they can make flowers. The hills are green now…perhaps we’ll even get rain in March and they won’t turn gold and parched too early. I will thank the Good Lord that by His mercy and faithfulness Spring has come again.

More or less of what?

My thoughts about children’s books and Lent converge on this excerpt from Richard Wilbur’s More Opposites, which I think one of The Most Fun collections of poems and drawings. I don’t even require another person to read Wilbur’s humorous poems to — they often make me chuckle contentedly or muse to myself. I see that I already posted this particular one, but it was years ago, and I for one can use it often.

The illustrations of this question in the book include a simple drawing of people with distressed faces holding their tummies. I think the cartoon at bottom makes a similar companion to the poem.

It’s #15 in the More Opposites book:

The opposite of less is more.
What’s better? Which one are you for?
My question may seem simple, but
The catch is — more or less of what?

“Let’s have more of everything!” you cry.
Well, after we have had more pie,
More pickles, and more layer cake,
I think we’ll want less stomach-ache.

The best thing’s to avoid excess.
Try to be temperate, more or less.

There is a Mennonite cookbook titled More With Less, from which I gleaned many good cooking ideas in the early days of my homemaking career. But more valuable than the actual recipes was the refreshing concept that one might have more health and more enjoyment of eating and probably more money to spend on other things if you ate less.

Of course this is something we need to keep in mind all the time, not just during Lent. The church fathers caution us not to eat so much food that we aren’t able to pray after eating it; an overfull stomach hinders prayer. If it’s possible that Less Food = More Prayer….
Let’s just pause and think on that.

Are toddlers lonely? — Blue Chameleon

A chameleon is the protagonist of Emily Gravett’s simple-plotted story with minimalist illustrations and text. He enters the story in a blue state and with the lament “I’m lonely,” after which he proceeds to change his colors and even shape as he goes about trying to make friends with a banana, a boot, a spotted ball, a sock, a fish, etc. until he gives up and becomes white and nearly invisible.

A colorful fellow chameleon eventually comes along and is the first to answer the lonely guy’s minimal queries such as “Hello” and “Can we hang out together?”

I wouldn’t read Blue Chameleon to my children or grandchildren because the social dynamics of the story are so unrealistic and foreign to the world of this age child.

Why introduce someone so young as to not know his colors to the concept of loneliness? If there is a deeper message to the book, it might be that if you are a Colorful Character you might make friends more easily — yes, why not get the kids started early on, stressing over their self-image. It could be seen as a cautionary tale as well, a heads-up that inanimate objects or fish won’t be likely to answer your greetings.

These messages are beyond the concerns of children I have known in my own family and in my day-care business. I haven’t seen a child who was worried about friends until at least Kindergarten, and at that time I would rather teach them how to be a friend rather than start them off with the example of discontent and self-focus.

If a child has someone there to read this book to him, he is not alone and already has at least one other human in his life. But if friendlessness is truly a problem for a very young child, I can’t see that this story would do anything to help.

I’d prefer to teach colors with a book like The Color Kittens — not that anyone is in dire need of a book to learn about this aspect of every single item in his environment.

The animal in this story is not a good representative of his species; real chameleons use their color-changing abilities in order to make themselves unseen, not the opposite. To hide from enemies, not to make friends. And I’m pretty sure they don’t change their shape, or take on more than one color at a time, unlike these storybook creatures — or the stuffed toy in my living room — who go about with all their colors shining brilliantly at once.

I suppose the biggest problem with this book is that I find it boring, so I am annoyed with it and try to figure out what bothers me. Too many books for the very young aren’t any fun for the adults and I suspect that that is one reason they don’t read to the children as much as might be profitable. Next time I should write about a book I love to read to children. But you probably already know about all of those!