Tag Archives: childhood memories

Sunflowers shine on my garden.

gl dragonfly 2 by JR 5-31-16

So many flowers are growing in my garden that I haven’t ever grown before, or not for a long time. The Kangaroo Paws are ever-changing and fascinating.  One of the three plants sent up a flower stalk months ago, and the blooms are opening now. I didn’t know that these little rising-sun flowers that have popped out were even part of the deal.

In May Mrs. Bread took this photo of a dragonfly who flew right to that plant that matched his own color. He knew, even though the buds were small then. >>>gl P1040891 k paws 7-25-16gl P1040891 k paws closegl P1040894 k paws

 

 

 

 

When I was in Monterey, on California’s Central Coast, I saw lots of Kangaroo Paws in different colors. Some plants were seven feet high.

Maybe next year all three of mine will bloom at the same time!

 

gl rice straw P1040853

I bought a bale of rice straw with which to mulch the vegetables and strawberries, and I did get the job done just before the heat wave rolled in. While I was pulling hay out of the bale I was swept back to my childhood when we used to play in the hay barns at the neighbor’s horse ranch. I had completely forgotten about what was a fairly brief, but special year or two of my life, but that hay smell….

My everbearing type of strawberry plants are producing their second crop, and I’m getting more than in their first fruiting. Every other day or so I pick a few to eat in the garden. I’m enjoying them more than I expected, now that they are responding to the summer weather and being healthier.

gl berries P1040889While most plants are growing taller, the fennel is getting fat. I’m growing the bulbs to roast as vegetables. It must be time to pick them, because flowers are beginning to form on the feathery tops.

gl fennel P1040851

gl P1040862 chamomile

 

 

 

Chamomile flowers are cute little skirted pom-poms. This is the German variety, which is said to grow to 2 ft., but mine is 27″ high 🙂 The short Roman kind is on the other side of the garden, covered now with tiny yellow buttons, and no skirts.

 

 

 

 

 

When I bought plants in the spring, for some reason I thought I was getting an orangey-brown variety of sunflower, but my giant specimens are lemon-yellow, and I do love them. They are nearly 8 ft. tall, and would be all of that, if they held their heads up just a tad straighter. But then they wouldn’t look quite right.

The goldfinches have been hanging around a lot. This morning six goldfinches and one house finch were having a drinking party at my fountain, and taking baths, too, while I sat in the garden eating breakfast. Later on I surprised one that was pecking at a sunflower leaf, and last week as I was walking around in the evening I came upon a goldfinch perched quietly on a bachelor’s button, enjoying the air a bit before retiring.

gl garden sunflowers

I wonder if it was birds who ate my green beans…. Well, I consider everything experimental this year. It will be interesting to see which things want to come back next spring. In the meantime, I have learned how not to plant tomatoes in a box, and that if aphids show up on my kale, I better wash them off quickly. The sunflowers are trying to convince me — and so far it’s working — that they are a success.gl P1040874

If we would all break out into such glory when the summer sun shines!

What summer is for.

Do you know how hard it is to pick up just one book at the library? I managed to do it twice this week and I felt my self-control as a great freedom; I didn’t even go into the used bookstore that is off the lobby. But since then everything has changed.d76bf-beefromside

“People can lose their lives in libraries. They ought to be warned.” –Saul Bellow

When I was a child we lived ten miles from the nearest public library, and I never visited it until high school. I had lovely hours in the library in Berkeley when in the summers I visited my grandmother, and she would leave my sisters and me there for a while, and come back later when we had picked out a stack to take home. I remember checking out Anna Pavlova and Little Men when I was ten, and lying outdoors on a cot in the afternoons, in the mountains with Grandma at the Berkeley City Camp. When not at Grandma’s, our summers were too hot to manage much activity, so I sat indoors in an easy chair and read a book every day in those carefree days of youth, supplied by the bookmobile.

I think one of the books I read then was Seventeen by Booth Tarkington. When Bellezza wrote recently about Seventeenth Summer by Maureen Daly, I thought that was it, and I bought a used paperback and have been reading it, but it’s not what I remember. So I hopefully borrowed Booth Tarkington’s Seventeen from the library (closed stacks), and it’s waiting for me now. In no time at all I should be getting to it, because the Daly book is hard to put down. How can that be?

The backdrop of the story is the most luscious and lazy summer imaginable, evoked very effectively by the author’s prose. But when I’m reading it at night I don’t fall asleep, and one morning when I was still in recovery mode (She says, wondering if she will ever again not be in recovery mode…) I picked it up from my nightstand and read for an hour before getting out of bed. It is a book that makes me feel something of the leisure of my youth, when there was no need to hurry. Absolutely no need.14110-beeonflowerfrted

The worst way to read, he said, is with the thought that you do not have enough time. The only way to read is in the knowledge that there is an infinite amount of time stretching ahead, and that if one wishes to taste only a few sentences per day one is free to do so. –Gabriel Josipovici, Moo Pak

Last week on my way home from visiting my children I listened to Mary Norris reading her own Between You and Me, a book that has made me laugh out loud countless times, all by myself in the car. I’m so glad she narrated her own book, and I love her voice and her humor. She reminds me of the women in my father’s family. I could not be content, though, to only listen to it — I must have my own print copy. So I ordered one online. But I could not be content to wait for that to be shipped, and I discovered that the local library had a copy, so that was the first book I picked up.

Two days later Seventeen became available, so I went back for it. Today a dear person sent me a link to a Naomi Shihab Nye poem, “Different Ways to Pray,” and reading it confirmed in me the feeling I’ve had that I need to calm myself and sink into some poetry. I began to read more about Nye and her books. I saw that my local library had a couple of collections by her, and I also ran across this that she said:

There is a Thai saying: ‘Life is so short, we must move very slowly,’ ….Being busy has become our calling card, our sign of success, our obsession—but poetry doesn’t want us to be busy. When you live in a rapidly moving swirl, you can only view your surroundings with a glance. Poetry requires us to slow down, to take time to pause.

So I hurried over to the library and found 4c80e-gjreadhobbitwo27dellcrpthe one children’s book by Nye that I wanted…. and then I found a few more children’s poetry books to take with me; that’s probably the level that I am most likely to access currently.

Then on to the adult non-fiction and another book by Nye… but I could not make myself leave as quickly as I’d come. There I was with shelves of poetry and literature towering on either side of me, and I had to scan some titles, and take a few books down, and notice that a couple of my favorite poets were not even there! The armload I carried to my car included Robert Bly and W.S. Merwin.

Now, will I manage to sink in and let the poetry teach me to move. very. slowly…? I am finding it difficult to quiet down today; it seems that the effort to truly rest is wearing me out. Maybe that’s because I was awake past midnight reading about Angie, whose life before cordless phones and TV served up a flavor of time that we can hardly remember the taste of. Angie speaks of doing “leisurely things like ironing or peeling potatoes for dinner.” (Hinting at an attitude among teens that also may have become extinct soon after this book was written.) If she hadn’t recently fallen in love she’d probably be reading on the porch swing in the warm afternoons, too.

After all this rambling around the subject, I feel I must leave you with at least a little piece of a poem. So here are some lines from Nye’s children’s poetry collection titled Honeybee. They are from the poem “Girls, Girls”:8ec4e-beeinshadowlambsears

When a honeybee is alone–rare, very rare–
It tastes the sweetness
It lives inside all the time.

What pollen are we gathering, anyway?
Bees take naps, too….

I soak up homey and farmy vibes.

gl3 NL hat weddingMy travels over a long weekend were for the purpose of attending my nephew’s wedding, held very near my old high school and home in the agricultural middle of California, the Central Valley. If the event had begun any earlier than 4:00 in the afternoon, much sunburning would have occurred; as it was, the two sunhats I retrieved from my car were traded around for a few hours among several of our family group, of both sexes.

At the reception, descendants of my parents, with their spouses, were seated all together at one of the long tables on the grass, and my own clan took up two-thirds of those chairs. No seat assignments had been made beyond assigning us a table, and as I was the oldest — the matriarch? — I sat at one end, what might have been the head of the table. But truly I didn’t sit there very much. The three-year-olds Liam and Ivy kept me busy, fetching drinks or wedding cake, or taking them up front to dance in a circle with me. Do the books on how introverts can survive parties ever talk about the strategy of hanging out with the preschoolers?

It was fun to introduce those two to the aunts and uncles and cousins they hadn’t met since they were old enough to be introduced. “Ivy, this is your Aunt Cairenn. She is my sister; we used to be little girls like you….”  The children were all happy to shake hands and be cordial, though reserved. And my heart filled and was satisfied to see all the love shared among the younger generationsgl3 wedding trees and across generations, even though many of them rarely see each other.

Over the two layover days I spent time at three houses, each situated in the middle of a different citrus grove. Two belonged to my siblings and one was the home of a man I grew up with in a bygone era that seems a short while ago; we used to ride our bicycles between the rows of orange trees and slide down the golden hills on pieces of cardboard. While I wasn’t paying attention, my brother and sister and my friend Dick were learning the art of farming, so that now they can carry on in their parents’  tradition and even in some of their groves.

I had the chance to play among the trees again, this time with Liam and Ivy and Scout, who in the absence of store-bought toys were making do with old oranges that had fallen off the trees, with snails among the dead leaves, and with a trowel in the dirt. The smell of the trees and of the Bermuda grass lawn, and of the soil, and the air that stayed warm into the evening when we watched the Black Phoebes swooping and scooping up insects… All of these sensations and moments added up to create in me a dreamily contented mood.

2016 wedding Soldier corn hole DL

mt view-by K crp

My nephew the groom partly grew up in the same house that I mostly grew up in, that his grandfather built. I stayed three nights with my sister who is another of his aunts; she and her husband farm mandarins and oranges for his mother and for themselves, and live in a house they designed to have a view of the Sierra Nevada much like this one from her neighborhood (taken by someone else).

It was fun to be with country people who are daily involved with plants and animals different from my usual. In addition to the snails and phoebes mentioned above, I learned about or interacted with:

A frog that I met in the bathroom. It was at midnight and I didn’t want to frog in bucket at nancy's cropbother with him right then, so I went back to bed and he disappeared for two days, during which time everyone teased me about my tall tale. Then he was found in a different bathroom, and I was judged to be sane after all. Here he is in a bucket.

A house finch who flew down the chimney into the ashes; I helped Nancy use an old towel to surround and collect the tiny bird and carry him outdoors.

Gophers come down from the foothills in droves to feast on the roots of all the watered orange trees and vegetables, etc. that my friend Dick grows on 50 acres, and their tunnels contribute to the erosion of the sloping orchard land. His son explained all this to me and showed me the traps they put into the tunnels, trying to keep the population of pillagers at bay. It’s a constant and fairly hopeless battle that must be fought nonetheless.

More snails: Did you know that some snails are carnivorous and eat other species of snails? Yep. The brown snail is a pest in the orange groves, but the Decollate snail ignores the trees and goes after the brown snails. My brother is in the field of citrus research and one nephew is a farm advisor on such matters. I lured them into the grove with my questions and we scratched around under the trees trying to find some Decollate snails so I could remember how they look different. Later I did find an empty shell at my sister’s. You can see one on Wikipedia’s page about them.cara cara vs blood

Pink oranges. Have you heard of Cara Cara oranges? I hadn’t; I must not have been spending enough time with all the citrus growers, because already Sunkist is selling lots of Cara Caras — they are mainstream. Friend Dick is growing them, as well as…

Berries: I had brought with me boxes of blueberries from Costco for a family breakfast, fruit that seems to have been grown in Salinas, California, not far from the coast. But even in the hot Central Valley they are growing blueberries now, more of them than are produced in any other area of the U.S. I learned about this from Dick as we stood on a patio overlooking his garden, and I could well imagine how the earlier spring might sweeten up the fruit. His son ran down and brought back some blackberries bigger than my thumb and mm-mm….yes. The flavor lingered on my tongue as I drove away.

Another nephew is marrying in October, so I will have a good reason to visit again and soak up the vibes of my childhood stomping grounds, and chat with farmers about their crops and the weather and the birds. I know that time will be here before I know it; I should read this post again about a week before my departure, to remind me of the joy I am likely to have once again.

Days that glow with butter.

This poet’s experience was not my own, except perhaps during my brief visits to my Grandma, to whom I am forever grateful for not being a buyer or consumer of margarine. I can still see the giant pat of butter that she would lay on top of a baked potato that she had slit and pinched open to receive the gift.

That mystical event of the tiger spinning himself into a pool of butter on the ground was early etched in my memory, too. It’s a food with special powers.

BUTTER

My mother loves butter more than I do,
more than anyone. She pulls chunks off
the stick and eats it plain, explaining
cream spun around into butter! Growing up
we ate turkey cutlets sautéed in lemon
and butter, butter and cheese on green noodles,
butter melting in small pools in the hearts
of Yorkshire puddings, butter better
than gravy staining white rice yellow,
butter glazing corn in slipping squares,
butter the lava in white volcanoes
of hominy grits, butter softening
in a white bowl to be creamed with white
sugar, butter disappearing into
whipped sweet potatoes, with pineapple,
butter melted and curdy to pour
over pancakes, butter licked off the plate
with warm Alaga syrup. When I picture
the good old days I am grinning greasy
with my brother, having watched the tiger
chase his tail and turn to butter. We are
Mumbo and Jumbo’s children despite
historical revision, despite
our parents’ efforts, glowing from the inside
out, one hundred megawatts of butter.

–Elizabeth Alexander

butter art 97 crp