A cardinal, the very essence of red, stabs
the hedgerow with his piercing notes;
a chickadee adds three short beats,
part of the percussion section, and a white-
throated sparrow moves the melody along.
Last night, at a concert, crashing waves
of Prokofiev; later, the soft rain falling
steadily and a train whistle off in the distance.
And today, the sun, waiting for its cue,
comes out from the clouds for a short sweet
solo, then sits back down, rests between turns.
On the other side of the world, night’s black
bass fiddle rosins its bow, draws it over
the strings, resonates with the breath
of sleepers, animal, vegetable, human.
All the world breathes in, breathes out.
It hums, it throbs, it improvises. So many voices.
Only one song.
Here’s a video from Britain that provides a lovely audiovisual accompaniment:
The song of a Bewick’s Wren came through my bedroom window as I was waking to the morning. I’ve never heard one of these birds carrying on so long.
If you are not familiar with it you can listen here: Bewick’s Wren
What busyness in my life all at once. June warmth makes my blood to move faster, and days fill up and empty themselves, as the thermometer on my patio rises and falls. A few of the many things:
**Half the plants in the garden need trimming already! I severely pruned the plum trees, trying to keep them small, as per Grow a Little Fruit Tree. Santa Barbara daisies, wallflower, helianthemum, gazanias, bush lupine and salvias, all needed a midsummer shearing. Then there were all those one-gallon salvias and such for which spots must be found in the ever more crowded landscape. I’ve been gardening for hours every day.
**Still seeing butterflies and wasps that I don’t know, and which I can sometimes identify. These wasps that my Seek app says are paper wasps ignore the sunflowers that are open, and hang out on the fat buds. I wonder what they are doing…
**Rats seem to be eating my garden as they did in 2016. Then it was tomatoes. This time it was the single collard plant that came up from some old seeds. After it grew back for a few days they ate it again. Then they tried the unripe Painted Lady runner beans but evidently didn’t like them. I’ve planted fresher collard seeds and am trying to figure out how to protect them when they sprout. Rats spurn Swiss chard, and all the other current offerings, though they did nibble on snow peas back in April.
So as not to attract rodents unnecessarily, I’ve been bringing the bird feeders into the garage at night. At first light finches and mourning doves and even crows are waiting for the sunflower seeds to reappear.
This morning, as I often do, I pulled on my robe and went out to hang their “chapel” feeder on its hook above the patio, and then I looked up into the redwood tree, because I could tell that the wren was broadcasting from there at that moment. But I couldn’t see him. A junco and titmice and a hummingbird flew back and forth from that tree, to and fro across the yard from tree to rooftop to tree; but the wren followed his routine of staying out of sight while visiting in turn every tall tree in the neighborhood, making sure he communicated to each household, insisting on joy.
**I’ve been cooking a lot. I love having fresh tarragon with which to make the Tarragon-Parsley Salsa Verde. This time I used walnut oil instead of olive oil and it’s great. The yellow in the picture above is lemon zest.
I took all the remaining Painted Lady beans I’d stored and soaked them together. The older they get, the more they turn dark and red and shiny. The older beans took longer to soak, and longer to cook to tender.
**My computer comes and goes with my Computer Guy, and while he’s always interesting to talk to on almost any topic, the other day when he came merely to pick up the PC he wanted to talk for an hour before he even unplugged it. He has lots of ideas for how to improve the state of the nation. I told him he’d need to be king so he could make unilateral decisions.
**The construction workers came back! The new bathroom is perfectly usable now, though it has a couple of details unfinished. I soaked in its tub the night after my most strenuous day of pruning. Lovely. My master bedroom walk-in closet is almost done — maybe tomorrow I will be able to start moving into it, after more than a year of shifting my belongings from one room to another. This was the closet that I basically wanted to get unextravagantly spiffed up before the major remodeling was begun. And it has been the biggest inconvenience. That is sometimes most aggravating to think about, but on days like today, the wren makes me laugh aloud.
**I pulled this weed out of the germander and was impressed by the little black seeds. I think it is Black Medick.
**Yesterday morning I was surprised by daughter Pippin appearing in my front garden and calling “Mama!” up to me where I sat by a sunny open window. Such a familiar voice and word… ❤ How she happened to be here is too long a story, but we enjoyed the best hug ever — well, at least since I saw them in March. And then we sat in the garden and chatted and it was so good for our mother-daughter hearts. She and I are not phone-talkers at all; we really need to be together in person to be fully satisfied.
**I don’t like to write much here about things that are expected to happen in the future, because they aren’t real yet. But the excitement I feel is terribly real, over the imminent arrival of Kate and her family; they will stay with me for several weeks! She is my youngest, whom I went to India to see, and whose two babies I was blessed to see come into the world, one in India and one in DC last summer. Her family actually contracted the coronavirus and got over it while cooped up in their DC apartment; otherwise they would have been leery of coming to California to see all the grandparents before they go abroad again.
We’ll see what kind of blogging communications I will be able to accomplish in the next while — maybe it will be the little boy voices that wake me morning by morning to the important realities of this particular summer season. That will also be music to my ears.
“Their voice has gone out into all the earth, and their words to the end of the universe.” -Psalm 19:4
Way back in October, I think, was the last time a certain one of my favorite plant nurseries was open — until Saturday, when I drove over for the reopening. The retail aspect is a small part of a larger sustainable agriculture/ecological/educational project, and is only open on weekends in the warmer months. Over the years I’ve bought lots of annual vegetables there, but lately they focus on perennial edibles and and medicinal plants.
It’s a beautiful drive, out into the more rural areas of my county. I remembered to wear my sun hat to keep my scalp from burning, but when I got into the nursery area itself there was netting all over above, which probably made it unnecessary. Passionflowers bloomed like stars up there.
For an hour I got a huge rush of excitement and energy, as I saw more and more species of perennial salvias and echinacea species that I could take home and add to my pollinator garden. Echinacea Purpurea, Pallida, and Paradoxa. Salvia hians (Kashmir Sage), Salvia forsskaolii, Clary Sage and Dune Sage. The forsskaolii, or Indigo Woodland Sage, I used to have in my “old” garden, but it didn’t survive the transition. None of the new plants is in bloom yet so I’ll show them later after they are revealed in their fullness.
There was one plant that I had no desire to bring home for my garden, though they say it is grown worldwide as an ornamental. That is the Porcupine Tomato:
This flowering tree grows near the entrance/checkout. Does anyone know what it is?
In my own garden, June seems to have arrived early, and so suddenly… I guess that’s because I’ve been sitting around moping and confused; I know I am way behind in planting the second planter box. But the rest of the garden just went on doing its thing, and is ready to comfort me now that I desperately need it. When there is a lull in the strange high winds we’ve been having, I can sit out there and silently bake, in the company of other creations and creatures. For a few moments at a time I revel in just being.
The showy milkweed is over five feet high already, and in the back yard it’s a favorite of the bees, along with the lavender and the echium. Oh, speaking of echium, I saw my type at the nursery; I must have bought it there several years ago. It is not the Pride of Madeira-echium candicans that is more typical here. As recently as last week, though, I thought it was just an oddly growing form of it. If it were Pride of Madeira it would have blocked the path by now; good thing it’s more vertical!
At the nursery my kind was called Tower of Jewels, and just now I found a helpful site that explains all the different forms. Mine is also called Tree Echium, echium pininana. I never noticed before how the echium flowers resemble borage and my newer plant, bugloss. Well, they are all in the borage family.
I took a slow-motion video of the bees out front on the germander (teucrium). In real time they seem very excited, almost frantic, in their buzzing from flower to flower, but when I watched the video it showed their true selves as purring bee-copters taking all the time in the world, that is, the whole day and their whole short lives, to do their work.
I’m needing to take long breaks from talking this week, mostly my own, which seems like more and more idle talk. No one talks in my garden. Even the tropical birds have been moved to their new home far enough away that I can’t hear them; now I can hear the native singers’ quieter tunes and gentle chirps.
I think I was looking for a quote on a different topic this morning when I ran across this beloved one (a beloved quote? really? Yes.) from G.K. Chesterton:
Women have a thirst for order and beauty as for something physical; there is a strange female power of hating ugliness and waste as good men can only hate sin and bad men virtue.
Forget for a moment the reductionist nature of these ideas — most short quotes, in order to be pithy, have to focus on one or two ideas and lay aside the complexities of the subject. Just think about what we are thirsty for… (You men also thirst, naturally.) I realized just this morning — by bathing in the the sunshine and the lavender scent, the breeze and the humming — and this afternoon, by speaking briefly about it with a wise person, that the very concrete realness, the materiality of my garden satisfies something. Maybe my garden has to do double-duty right now because of the recent lack of human touching.
How it helps me pray… I don’t need to figure out that mystery. I just want to enter in.
On Passover afternoon, ten days ago now, we had Kneeling Vespers of Pentecost. Almost everyone took part at home, but I live close to the church and I drove over in hopes that there would be few enough of us that I could participate indoors. My hope was realized! I’m sharing this picture because of the golden sunshine. May God fill us with His light!