Monthly Archives: February 2016

Wing to wing, oar to oar.

Amy and Leon Kass edited an anthology of “readings on courting and marrying.” I have a copy of the book, which I bought after hearing them interviewed at length on the Mars Hill Audio Journal. In that series of discussions they said that they found, from talking with many of their students — and they were both university professors — that modern young people aren’t prepared to fall in love in the way their ancestors found so easy. They hoped that providing certain thoughtfully-chosen literary readings for these impaired youth might compensate for the unfortunate changes iAmy and Leon small_0n society as a whole that had led to this sad situation, which did not facilitate good marriages, and worked against people getting married at all.

I have always wondered if their project bore fruit, if the Kasses ever heard of anyone being helped toward a normalization of love and marriage by the reading of their anthology. I’d like to go back and listen again, to think more about their assessment of the problem and its causes, but that is not the subject of my post.  I mention them because for the title of the anthology they used a phrase from Robert Frost, found in a poem he wrote on the occasion of his daughter’s wedding. That poem is the main thing I wanted to share here.

For the Kasses the poem captures “the togetherness of the married couple empowered to resist the flux of wind and water. Frost is not the first to use the language of speed or quickness to show how love may quicken the life of a couple into a vitality that far exceeds what each partner might attain alone. But Frost also plays on the archaic meaning of ‘speed,’ ‘prosperity or success in an undertaking,’ as well as on its Latin root, spes, meaning ‘hope,’ to point to the possibility of rest within motion, permanence within change, the eternal within the perishable.”

~ Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass, from Wing to Wing, Oar to Oar: Readings on Courting and Marriage


No speed of wind or water rushing by
But you have speed far greater. You can climb
Back up a stream of radiance to the sky,
And back through history up the stream of time.
And you were given this swiftness, not for haste,
Nor chiefly that you may go where you will,
But in the rush of everything to waste,
That you may have the power of standing still —
Off any still or moving thing you say.
Two such as you with master speed
Cannot be parted nor be swept away
From one another once you are agreed
That life is only life forevermore
Together wing to wing and oar to oar.

~ Robert Frost

I watch the birds, bees and weeds.

gl P1030454

In the back yard I heard the jay before I saw him, as he remarked in short screeches about the breakfast I’d laid out. In the last couple of weeks I’ve taken pictures of doves, chickadees and juncos at the feeders, but the jay was the first to come since I moved this one closer to the window, and he is a larger target to focus on, so his picture came out best.

As soon as he flew off I went out front to tackle the perennial bed that was a mess, but before ten minutes of weeding had passed, I had a burning need to go back indoors and fetch my Weeds of the West.  I returned to sit on the bench swing and leaf through the whole book, trying to find the names of two or three weeds that had challenged me that morning. It’s good to know your enemy.

Though it’s hard to think of Persian Speedwell as an enemy. It is pretty, and the book says “It was probably introduced as a border or rock garden ornamental.” See, the ladybug likes it.

I spent a lot of time on the beds where chard, collards and kale grow, and I picked a big bowl of greens which I washed later in the day. In the picture below you can see Swiss chard behind the speedwell and also the feather-like arrangement of “scattery weed” seed pods that exploded a few minutes later at the touch of my hand.

I still have not found out the real name of that scattery weed, whose picture I re-post below. In the past I asked if any of my readers knows its name, but they did not; maybe one of my newer readers does? I couldn’t find it in Weeds of the West. It arrived in our garden in the last ten years. UPDATE: It’s Hairy Bittercress or cardamine hirsuta.

cardamine hirsuta

Just a few feet away from the Persian Speedwell — a weed to me — is another cultivated type that I planted because I wanted it, Creeping Speedwell (below). So far the Persian has not even tried to invade the Creeping, though if the Creeping can be said to creep, the Persian gallops.

Before Fall I plan to revamp this whole area, but in the meantime, I must try to keep a little order. Today I put in several hours of work and got plumb tuckered out! I’m glad tomorrow is a day of rest.

They rise against their rootedness.

February is one of my favorite months for driving up and down the center of our very agricultural state. I won’t have that pleasure this year, but a few Februarys when I managed to visit family and the land where I grew up, the expanses of almond orchards were to be seen out my window for at least as many miles as it took me to drive one of the hours through what is called the West Side of the Central Valley. They are especially pretty on stormy days when the clouds are also playing their melodrama in the skies above.

The landscape along Highway 5 is never static, and not just because the seasons change. Our drought, and the loss of aquifer, mean that some farms will have to change what they grow, or downsize, or go out of business. One grower recently announced that they will be taking 10,000 acres of almonds out of production this year.

So I will enjoy the orchards I see, and not presume on their future. Richard Wilbur in this poem helps me to see aspects of fruit trees that I might not consider on my own, such as lifespans. Is it old orchards that are being “taken out,” or young trees that will never have the chance to be fully grown? What are the West Side bees meditating about this year?

gl w-side alm nurs closer


These trees came to stay. w-side alm med close
Planted at intervals of
Thirty feet each way,

Each one stands alone
Where it is to live and die.
Still, when they are grown

To full size, these trees
Will blend their crowns, and hum with
Meditating bees.almond-tree-flower

Meanwhile, see how they
Rise against their rootedness
On a gusty day,

Nodding one and all
To one another, as they
Rise again and fall,

Swept by flutterings
So that they appear a great
Consort of sweet strings.

~ Richard Wilbur

gl w-side alm orch clouds


gl P1030373 manzanita

My friend Elizabeth sat with me today on the patio and we had lunch together at 4:00. Yes, lunch. That is what time she normally eats what she calls lunch, and it worked for me. I tried to have her for her 100th birthday earlier this month but illness prevented us. The Comfort Soup I had put away into the freezer came out again and we ate it along with some sourdough bread, and Sumo mandarins that came in the mail this week. Yes, in the mail! Magical, that was.

As soon as she walked into the family room Elizabeth saw a photo of some of my grandchildren, and recalled events at church involving two of them, when they were 15 years younger. She told stories to Susan and me of the last severe drought that was also about 15 years ago, and kept me entranced as she always does with tales from throughout her life, from Hawaii, Saudi Arabia, South America and many other places she has lived or spent a lot of time.

Today I learned about how her mother detested the cold, but gave birth to my friend in high elevations of the Rocky Mountains, in icy February. When she was near to full-term the doctor said she must not ride the horse to town any longer, but rather should walk, because she was less likely to slip on the ice than the horse was.

It was balmy in my neighborhood this afternoon, especially for February! First we sat in the corner of the garden next to the manzanita bush, where eventually I want to have a bench, but where today we sat in black iron chairs. (You can see them in the upper left corner of this photo.) gl fountain w plants crp

Elizabeth played with her cane by dangling it around by its strap loop on the top. The neighbors on one side were playing drummy rock music in the garage. Over the fence near us children were squealing and running around. I shared stories of my Chinese neighbors in the next house from that, who have loud-laughing parties outdoors in any month of the year, and of the grandma who sings Chinese karaoke into her microphone for the pleasure of the whole neighborhood.

The fountain was gurgling, and I assured Elizabeth that yes, it is recirculating its water. (You can see how it splashes some on the ground, too.) She lamented about how the southern California swimming pools “are taking our water!” and about how all of the neighbors on her block are gone to work every  weekday, not one is around. While her son is at work in the afternoons she is busy making her lunch, watching animal programs on TV, reading the Bible or doing crossword puzzles. She feeds the local animals, that is, their several cats.

Elizabeth lost her husband after they had been married 43 years, the same as me. She says that probably the Lord wanted her to know Him better on her own, and while her husband lived she didn’t put much effort into that “vertical” relationship. She is very thankful for her good life, and she reminds me of the blessings of my own. She is nice to have fountain group Waterlogue-2016-02-24