In our Northern Hemisphere, it’s the season when much of the biomass is dying or going down for a long nap, during which, even if we look hard, it’s not always easy to tell if a particular plant is going to wake up next spring.
But here, some flowers are at their peak, and because we haven’t had a frost yet, only lots of rain, even my cherry tomatoes keep growing and fruiting. Because of the early rain, the turning leaves are brighter than most years.
A couple of days ago I finally planted winter greens and such in the newly refilled planter boxes. My friend who gave me the 30-odd pots when he moved away also left me with a paper bag with “Seeds” scrawled on the outside; inside were envelopes and pill bottles full of boughten or hand-collected species, so I planted one row just of the lettuce and kale and beets from that “Timothy” collection. Out front I scattered the tiny “purple viola” seeds that had been stored in a tiny mints tin.
This picture is Before Planting, during which time the perennial Painted Lady runner beans have started growing up the trellis again. Without a frost, I guess they haven’t got the message that it’s nap time:
I made use of the seeds from new packets of Renee’s Garden seeds. The artwork on those always draws me in and makes me try different varieties.
Once the jungle of asparagus foliage had been cleared away we discovered that new spears are popping up all over, at least three months earlier than usual, so I’ve been eating them. The soil mix that was left over after I filled the boxes we spread on the asparagus patches (now five years old) and replaced the mulch on top.
The daphne is in bloom early, too!
Out in the neighborhood I found the flock of 22 wild turkeys that I hear have been hanging out by the creek for months.
Where two creeks join, it was interesting to see how much muddier one was. I got distracted and missed the left turn that would have kept me on my usual walking route. But that was okay, because I ended up on a sidewalk that I normally only see from my car as I drive by, and came upon this strange and beautiful bush, that I identified as a Purple Potato Bush. It had exactly one berry on it, but a score of new flowers and many new leaves.
The Gardener feels that she herself is also still blooming, but also by turns taking naps… If she hasn’t turned into a berry or been cut down by frost she will still be around come spring….
The highlight of our Thanksgiving season was a visit from Kate and family, including that baby I met back in January, who came from India this month for various family get-togethers and his baptism. Glory to God!
He and Kate and Tom did land first in Colorado to meet our newly relocated clan family, a few days after I’d come back here. So I wasn’t present when Raj encountered snow.
Two days after my return, my part of the state was inundated with smoke and ash from the Butte County Camp Fire far to the north, and the day of Raj’s baptism far to the south I was not physically present. My friend and I were here in what looked for a few days like a thrift store, organizing donations to the fire victims. Myriah did not lose her house, but she did certainly lose her home.
As soon as Myriah drove on to the disaster area with lots of sweaters and socks and new coats, the Glad Group began trickling in, starting with Pearl’s family from Wisconsin and San Diego, and continuing with Raj and his parents, then Pippin’s people from northern California. Everyone wanted to meet Raj! And of course, to see his parents whom they’d been missing for a year and a half.
Until Wednesday, the smoky and cold air had continued to hang over our county oppressively. Then RAIN, glorious and cleansing, fell from the skies, and overnight the Air Quality Index fell from the 160’s (similar to what I experienced in Mumbai last winter) to below 20. All day Pearl and I baked pies, and yams in orange sauce, and prepped the turkey dressing. With the rain came milder temperatures overall, so we had to leave the door and windows open at times to vent all the oven and stovetop heat, and for two days we had the comforting background music of steady pattering and drumming. Pearl took lambs’ ears and dodonea from my garden to add to spider mums from Costco and created table decorations for the feast.
I had braved the smoke one day, wanting so much to get Pippin apples for pies, and drove a half hour to our favorite apple ranch where they still had stock of four varieties. I brought home Pippins, Romes, and Pink Ladies. It is still a sadly nostalgic thing for me to go there alone, but I am trying to embrace the joy of having such a rare and wonderful farm to go to, where I can find two or three dozen different varieties of apples over the course of the season. It makes me want to embrace and cherish apples more actively, too!
I looked and looked online to find a recipe for pumpkin-chocolate-chip muffins, the hankering for which had come over me when thinking of how to get ready for my crowd. I discovered just in time that I had my own “best” recipe right here on my blog. It made a generous batch, enough for everyone to enjoy while waiting for the primary offerings of the feast.
When the rain stopped briefly we looked at the newly-washed and radiant garden, and breathed in those scents that are like an autumn feast in themselves. A whole flock of bluebirds visited the fountain for baths and we wondered if they were washing off soot. My fava beans that sprouted when I was in Colorado are doing great. I cut a butternut squash down from the trellis to roast for soup, and Ivy found giant fruits on the arbutus (Strawberry Tree).
After everyone had arrived, the “usual” fun began. This time, I think the unique circumstances of my recent sojourn in Colorado, followed by the fire and smoke, followed by the rain that kept me from walking, all contributed to lack of sleep, so that I felt alternately flat and in a hole — maybe in a flat-bottomed hole? — for days. But I did manage to take a few pictures, so now in recovery I have the vision to see them as a cohesive expression of a moment in our Glad cultural history.
The Usual included wrestling and snuggling and staying-up-too-late-talking with brothers, daughters, aunts and uncles, and all the assorted kinfolk that one only sees once or twice a year anymore. Oh, it is hard being scattered over the continent and globe!
I didn’t have it in me to go with everyone to San Francisco, the aquarium etc. at the Academy of Sciences on Saturday, and to Fort Point, so the smiling picture of Raj I also stole. But Sunday after church Kate’s and Pippin’s families and I did go to the redwoods! It was a dreamy time to go, almost winter and after several steady downpours had removed every trace of dust from the big trees, and both Pippin and the Professor helped me in my ongoing botanical studies.
I learned that the lichens that hang from the trees like tresses are lichen fruticose, and that the needles in the tops of the coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) resemble those of their cousins the giant redwoods (Sequoiadendron giganteum) that grow naturally in the Sierra Nevada. Big leaf maple and hazelnut trees made splashes of light and color in the groves that were dark in midday, the close canopy blocking the light from way up there. We made little impact on the deep quiet of the woods, strolling on the duffy paths — but that atmosphere was broken by a big crash and boom, the sound of a tree falling somewhere in the park. If everything hadn’t been thoroughly wet, we’d surely have seen some dust raised by that event.
When Raj was carried into my house last week and met the third or fourth new crowd of relatives in a fortnight, he did respond to my face and voice with a sweet smile. Perhaps the FaceTime sessions truly did help him to remember my voice, adding to whatever deeper memories were embedded from those newborn lullaby sessions with me nine months ago.
Now Pearl’s and Pippin’s families have departed, but Tom, Kate, and Baby Raj will be with me for a few more special days. A good rest and a forest walk have perked me up quite a bit, so I have hope of making the most of the rest of this week and entering into the joyful work and celebrations ahead.
I will close with a few lines [surprised to see that out of all the many stanzas we used, I chose the same lines three years ago to share here] from the “Akathist of Thanksgiving” that we read together on Thanksgiving evening, and which express my mood right now:
I was born a weak, defenseless child,
but Thine angel spread his wings over my cradle to defend me.
From birth until now Thy love has illumined my path,
and has wondrously guided me towards the light of eternity;
from birth until now the generous gifts of Thy providence
have been marvelously showered upon me.
I give Thee thanks, with all who have come to know Thee,
who call upon Thy name.
Thou hast brought me into life as into an enchanted paradise.
We have seen the sky like a chalice of deepest blue,
where in the azure heights the birds are singing.
We have listened to the soothing murmur of the forest
and the melodious music of the streams.
We have tasted fruit of vine and the sweet-scented honey.
We can live very well on Thine earth.
It is a pleasure to be Thy guest.
My husband didn’t speak to me from the grave, but I did get a pertinent message from him — and from myself, too — and it was delightful. You know how below each individual post on my blog there are three links to “related” posts from the past? At the bottom of yesterday’s was one titled “Walking in 2012.” As I was finishing my breakfast this morning and ready to leave for the gym I clicked on it to see what I had written about back then. (I have published almost 1000 posts and have forgotten many of them by now.)
It was about a brief conversation I had with my dear husband at the very beginning of the new year of 2012, and about a neighborhood walk I took as a result. Reading what he said, and what I said…I could hear us all over again and laugh at how we were. What I recounted of that walk and all that I learned, well, it was just what the doctor ordered. I thanked God and Mr. Glad, and I changed my plan and set off for a walk in the outdoors instead of driving to the gym.
Rain had fallen last night and early this morning, but the clouds had all blown away to the edges of the sky, and the sun was shining. I walked along the creek, and the sweet earthy smells emanating from all the plants and the ground were so delicious. I started thinking about the time my husband and I were walking in the rain forest. That was a pleasant and vivid memory.
I hadn’t brought anything but my cell phone, and I was glad to have it because very soon I began taking pictures of trees. So many of them seemed to look extra handsome with some dark gray clouds in the background.
One of the first I noticed was an olive tree (above) that seemed to fit very nicely in a front yard, and had been pruned so as to keep it looking the way an olive should. Some neighbors on my block have four or five olives in front of their house and they prune them like lollipops twice a year. I wanted to plant an olive in my new landscape but many people discouraged me, partly because they get so big. So I will keep two of mine that are in pots, and get them matching pots, and study the best way to prune them according to their natural bent.
This redwood tree I saw this morning must be the healthiest and best formed specimen in town. I could hardly believe it was a redwood, it is so thick and green, and standing all by itself, too! Coast redwoods much prefer to be in groups, where they can preserve moisture and coolness against dry weather. Most of them along the avenues here are not planted that way, and they have suffered terribly in the last few years.
One yard on my way had both a giant fig tree and a very tall persimmon tree. I was admiring them when the neighbor came out of his house and we said, “Good morning.” I remarked about the beauty of the persimmon tree and he said,
“I guess… I get the trimmers out here all the time and try to keep it away from my gutters.” You can see how it is indeed very one-sided after that kind of pruning, but it looks as though it would still give the owners plenty of fruit, on top of what they get from the fig tree.
I noticed then that even though the sun was shining warmly on me, tiny drops of rain were starting to fall, too. Oops — I wasn’t prepared for that, and only had a pocket of my flannel shirt in which to put my phone. But first, I had to snap another olive tree, this one an example of what you do not want your olive to look like. Those are lots of suckers growing at the base of the tree.
Hmmm…the rain was heavier, and I looked for a tree that might be close to the sidewalk and with a dry area underneath. I found it in this palm tree; here is my view from under its thick canopy, with the added interest of a fig tree growing out of its tidy trunk.
I stayed under that roof for a minute or two, but not knowing how long the shower might last, I was soon braving the wet again, after having wrapped my phone with two handkerchiefs I’d found in the other shirt pocket.
With it under cover, I had to pass by several more lovely tree specimens without taking note of them with the camera. I came upon a big redwood with lots of dry ground under it, so I paused again and took a picture of its underside, but I will spare you. That’s the first time I’ve preferred a palm to a redwood. Soon I was on my way, after picking up a big leaf. When I got it home I put my Waterlogue phone app to painting it. That tool is addictive, but I find that most of the pictures I take don’t convert very well.
That was my adventure, much more fun, I’m sure, than I’d have had at the gym. I didn’t even get very wet, though I had the joy of walking in the rain. I made new tree friends, and renewed the lessons I’d been taught almost four years ago, with the help of my late husband. I told you he wasn’t very far away.
On the paths that crisscross my neighborhood, there are wild things down by the creek, and tame things that hang over the back yard fences. This Cécile Brunner rose was a welcome sight; I stopped for a spell to pull a branch down to my face and sniff. We removed our own C.B. not long ago so I’m thankful to share this one, glad the owner doesn’t mind, or doesn’t notice, it trailing in a friendly way over the fence.
I’m trying to try, to resist my sedentary ways and go for more walks in the neighborhood, just normal brisk walks — or slower if my camera is along — of the sort humans have liked to do in many times and places, before the days when so many of us had gym memberships.
After passing by several tall Coast Redwood trees with bright new needles, about five minutes from my house I come to a bridge across the creek. It crosses right where two creeks come together, right in the middle of town.
From the bridge there’s a view of the unpaved path closer to the creek, where you can walk free of bicycle and stroller traffic.
Roses, honeysuckle, figs and potato vine hang over the fences at various points.
This fig tree used to dangle its fruit lower down where I could actually eat some in season, but now it’s too tall.
Where the path intersects a major road I like to look down from another bridge to see this lush growth in the creek bed. After the creek bed dries up in the middle of summer, the fennel and blackberries and willows will still be making it green down there, and eucalyptus trees will hang over the paths for shade.
When I turn around and cross to the east side of that road, I can look up toward the hills that are the source of those creeks. On this morning the fog was staying late up there, so you can’t see the tops of the hills.
But in this next picture you can see the line of trees revealing where one creek runs down.
There’s a giant old rosebush at the edge of the field, which makes some lovely blooms in spite of being neglected by men.
I’ve seen two varieties of salsify along the path this spring — or at least two colors. A mountain woman friend of mine used to dig salsify roots to cook for a vegetable, but I never think about that plant until the flowers are blooming, at which point I’m pretty sure the roots would be tough.
My walking loop brings me past the neighborhood school and park, where our children used to climb these redwood trees — no mean feat — in the days before the city started trimming off the lower branches.
And then I’m passing by that first bridge again, and almost home. If I haven’t stopped to take too many pictures, it’s only taken me an hour.