And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed, ….and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies*, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own origin, ….and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d, duly with love returns.)
If you have not already put away every thing pertaining to Christmas, perhaps you are like me in some way… I have various reasons, year by year, to leave up the lights around my kitchen window, or to be slow about putting away my basket of music CD’s about the Christ Child and the glorious message of God With Us. I just mailed the last of my Christmas cards this week.
My Orthodox parish celebrates the Nativity of Christ on the “new calendar,” December 25th, like most of you, but many of my friends only began on January 7th their feast both liturgical and dietary, and this year in particular I am grateful to continue my heart’s celebrations with them.
These monks in Ukraine gave a concert some years ago, and a full 15 minutes of their carol-singing is in this video, which I’ve been listening to over and over. Their joy infuses me, and I weep for being comforted. “Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people…”
Comfort ye! Comfort ye, my people! Saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her that her warfare is accomplish’d, that her iniquity is pardon’d. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low, the crooked straight, and the rough places plain. -Isaiah 40
I don’t need to know a word of their language to hear the message: Christ is born!!!
If this is a little too much exultation for you at this time, because you celebrated plenty already, it might be you could benefit from reading Auntie Leila‘s encouraging words about how to wind down from the overstimulation of the Christmas season. I was greatly helped by her simple and homey ideas, with easy “action points,” in this article, “An Epiphany Thought.” She writes:
“We didn’t used to call it overstimulation back when I was young, but when I recently saw something about this idea for moms, I reflected on how, as a young woman definitely fighting through to a quieter situation, I developed some strategies to address just that issue, of needing to be calmer so that I could think!”
In many ways it was easier to keep a quiet sort of focus and household when I was a young mother maintaining a certain atmosphere in the home, for the sake of a large family who lived together. Now that I have only myself to keep in order, I don’t do such a good job, and I am grateful for reminders like this, of how to “mother” myself.
One factor in the overall mood of a home certainly is the weather outside, and many of you have asked me how we are faring in my area of northern California, with the storms, high winds and flooding. They haven’t been a big problem for anyone I have talked to, and though I’ve been out and about the last few days, I haven’t come across any flooded areas. We have had these wet winters before, and to me this one doesn’t seem unusual. But I am just one person.
In spite of unfortunate damages, I can’t help being very glad that we are getting so wet. It’s a perpetually arid land, and I’m afraid people will always be fighting water wars. When extra water is falling from the skies, it feels like showers of blessing from Heaven, and cause for at least a temporary cease-fire in those battles. I will go on ignoring the weather news and will try to pay closer attention to what’s happening in my garden — and in my heart and home.
It is a joy to have sunny days in which to work in the garden that is heading into its quieter winter months. This is the season for harvesting and cleaning up, often at the same time.
I don’t know if there is any good solution to the overcrowding of the Fig Tree Corner of my garden. There are no plants that I am willing to remove, so I guess I’ll have to just try cutting them back a little harder this winter.
Only the pomegranate bush is a little prickly, when I try to push in next to it to reach a fig. The salvia on the left I just push aside, when I stoop down to enter under the tree’s canopy and then stand up again as straight as I can to reach the fruit up high in the center… or not reach it, which is often the case. The hopbushes (dodonaea) between the tree and the fence don’t actually have a lot of width to trim back. There is the olive in a pot, lavenders, yarrow, and lithodora almost completely hidden under the tree for most of the year.
Birds have been eating many of the figs this summer. They take a big hunk out of one the moment it is beginning to be ripe, and then the wasps come along and gorge on the sweet flesh for a few days, before it is left abandoned in shreds, still hanging.
I was introduced by a mutual friend to a fellow gardener who lives on three acres not too far from me. Rosemary had more figs than she could use this year, so I went to her house and we picked side by side for a half hour; I brought home slightly more fruit than she kept to share with friends that very morning. Her figs were a more standard variety than my dwarf Black Jack type, maybe a Mission or Brown Turkey. They were awfully sweet and tasty, with more concentrated figgyness than mine typically have. I dehydrated most of them.
Yesterday I stood on the edges of my planter boxes to harvest the Painted Lady runner beans and cut down the thick vines that have hardened to sticks. It’s tricky to pull the long stems back over the fence from behind my neighbor’s woodpile, where I know he won’t be making use of the attached bean pods.
While I was standing up there, I got a fresh view down under the zinnias, and saw that I had three beets ready to pick. I didn’t even remember that any were growing there, next to the eggplant where the pumpkin vine had been encroaching. But when I harvested the pumpkins, the beets were exposed. Also an eggplant that had been partly eaten… but when I cut off that part, half of it was intact and lovely.
Four little pumpkins got ripe, and there is one more that might possibly. These are the ones I grew from seed collected from a decorative pumpkin last year, because it turned out to be the sweetest of all I had roasted. I’ll let you know if these prove anything like that tasty.
I’ve been trying to get calendulas to thrive in my garden again, the way they seemed so effortlessly to do in ages past. I think back then they received more water and sunshine; this year they are finally, happily blooming in the planter boxes, after taller (shading) plants have been removed, and I got the watering schedule corrected: those boxes were getting less than half the amount of drip irrigation they needed.
Most of my garden is pretty dry, with minimal irrigation, so anytime I have a plant that needs more than that I put it in the boxes. Right now most of the space is given to zinnias, the last sturdy stars of summer.