Tag Archives: manzanita

The Zephyr brought joys.

Liam’s papercrafting

While my son “Soldier” was away for a few weeks, his wife whom I call Joy brought all four children to California to see the grandparents. They came by train, the California Zephyr line, which gave me an excuse to tell them stories about my yearly summer train trips as a child to see my grandmother. The images that my mind retains through the decades related to those journeys are vivid. Many railway experiences of the current Amtrak era are worlds apart from what I knew, but I’m happy that the children had a new adventure, and even slept overnight on the train, which I never did.

Their lively group stayed with me five nights, and visited Joy’s family nearby as well. We were so busy all those days, I barely remembered to take any pictures, much less write about our fun.

braiding seagrass

Liam’s side of our Bananagrams game, using all his tiles.

We went to church, to the beach, to the cemetery — bringing along yarrow, zinnias, snapdragons and sunflowers for the children to lay on their grandpa’s grave. They are too young to remember him, so when we got home I showed them a photo slide show on the computer.

We took walks along the creek and to the neighborhood school’s playground. I read from Eleanor Farjeon’s The Little Bookroom  as I had read to their cousins last month, and laughed hilariously over “The King’s Daughter Who Cried for the Moon.”

The children combed my garden to find everything I would confirm as edible. They gathered hundreds of manzanita berries from under that little tree and chewed on them, spitting out the several rock-hard seeds in each. The strawberry tree fruits are ripening now, but the tree has grown so tall that they needed a ladder and a broom to knock them down.

These children are, as we say, “good eaters.” No matter what strange concoction Grandma has made, they want to try it — even my ultra-spicy pudding that I make with the pulp left over from making ginger broth. When oatmeal or buckwheat porridge was on the breakfast menu, they loved having a smorgasbord of toppings, everything from peanut butter and milk to chopped dried apricots and this seed mix.

I was given a dozen homegrown peaches recently and I used a recipe from Smitten Kitchen to make a cobbler, half of which we ate for dessert one night, and the remainder next morning for the third course of our breakfast, after grapefruit and scrambled eggs.

It was delectable. Where the recipe called for vanilla or almond extract I used almond. I think if I make it again I will increase the amount of fruit, and use a little less cream or butter in the scone topping, with confidence of still being able to call it Plenty Rich. And I would like to try it with plums — or any fruit!

My dear people are headed back home to Colorado now, and the cobbler is gone…. The taste of scones and peaches is already fading, but Joy and her young joys made a big deposit of sweetness in my heart, to flavor many days to come.

Turn the poet out of door.

It’s the “false spring” one day, and the next, not. When I was at church to bake communion bread, it was spring for sure. Of course the dough knew it, and behaved accordingly.

Yesterday, the wind and various other factors contributed to further thaw the bones of my soul. While I was in my own garden trimming the lemon tree, pomegranate bushes, lavender and a few other plants, a series of great gusts came up suddenly, and made a clattering of doors and toys and other blowing-around stuff in the neighborhood.

The poem below doesn’t originate in my area of the country, so it will never perfectly fit the weather here, but I love the spirit of it, and I’m sure it will please a few of you in more northerly parts of the world. If you tend to be impatient with poems, try reading this one out loud.

TO THE THAWING WIND

Come with rain, O loud Southwester!
Bring the singer, bring the nester;
Give the buried flower a dream;
Make the settled snowbank steam;
Find the brown beneath the white;
But whate’er you do tonight,
Bathe my window, make it flow,
Melt it as the ice will go;
Melt the glass and leave the sticks
Like a hermit’s crucifix;
Burst into my narrow stall;
Swing the picture on the wall;
Run the rattling pages o’er;
Scatter poems on the floor;
Turn the poet out of door.

-Robert Frost

Because we haven’t had any rain in several weeks — or has it turned into months? — I had to put the hose on potted plants that aren’t on the automatic drip system. Hidden behind one big pot, this little great-grandbaby of a cactus I started was in full baby bloom. I brought her indoors to brighten up my kitchen, still lit also by the fairy lights, which are there for the days when spring is clearly not. yet.

One balmy day was all I needed.

We came out of church last Friday evening and the wind was blowing warm. It was the softest… Blow and blow it did through the night, knocking down leaves and branches and clumps of mistletoe, banging my garden gate.

Saturday morning I walked on the bike path and it was the happiest, friendliest neighborhood walk I’ve experienced in two years. Many many people and no masks, so you could take in their smiles and their open faces turning this way and that to say “Good morning!” to everyone… Whole families on bicycles and dozens of dogs on leashes. I’m sure that in all my decades of walking that route people have never before been that happy in an outward direction.

mistletoe
oxalis
manzanita

When I got home from my walk, and was not driven indoors by any sort of chill, I wandered the back yard and saw that the manzanita buds are out. My row of Stir-Fry Mix greens needed thinning, and because of the sun shining and all, I did it then and there. I took the thinnings in and washed them immediately in the sink. Springtime energy in January!

Recently I had the only tree on my property trimmed to please the neighbors, over whose back yard most of the tree’s mass hangs threateningly. It is a tall Canary Island Pine and my late husband and I have resisted several times outside pressure to just cut it down. I tried to take a flattering picture but there is no way to do that, because it is a gangly thing.

Our book group chose Silas Marner to read over the next four weeks. I could not find my old paperback that I last read probably 15-20 years ago, but tucked behind the trim of the bookcase I found this smallish volume:

It was my grandmother’s school book! She was probably reading it in about 1910 in Winona Lake, Indiana where she grew up. I did not remember seeing it before, though I am sure I was the one who put it on the shelf, who knows when. There are quite a few pages with her notes like this:

I had been reluctant to commit to reading with the group this month, but now that I have found this copy of Silas I can’t resist reading along with my grandmother.

I have eaten half of the greens, chopped into a pot of tomato soup this afternoon. The balmy weather lasted one day, and now we are back to January. But that blessed day snapped me out of the endurance mode into expectation.  I have a nice fire going in the stove and wonderful books to read as I sit by it.

I haven’t been accomplishing very much this month if one looks at my to-do lists. But maybe the important things are not listed there. I’ve been trying not to get caught up in things that I don’t really care about… so here is a good quote, to help me end my post:

“Doing nothing is better than being busy doing nothing.”

– Lao Tzu

Melodies play all through me.

I first titled this post “Melodies of life,” then “Melodies play in my mind…” but then I realized that music is more pervasive than that. My heart is full of melodies today. I mentioned last summer how Kate’s husband Tom would sing about everything; I asked him to make up a song for going to the Indian market and he was on it immediately and with a good will.

Now it’s Raj who sings all day, as long as he is in a happy mood. As the weeks went by and he got used to being in Grandma’s house, his mood gradually improved. But the change when his father returned from extended job training was dramatic. Until then, I think he was intuitively ill at ease, what with his nanny and father both “disappearing” and being replaced with Grandma. Once the family unit was restored he relaxed and became much less reactive. The songs increased.

His mother has created custom eclectic playlists of songs to play for the children, including many from her own childhood, when we had our favorites to sing on trips and before bed, and sometimes around the piano. From being fed throughout his whole short life by both the recorded music and the singing parents, Raj seems to have at his disposal a hundred songs to sing as medleys while he is playing.

Rug I just got for my newly refurbished closet.

He has been allowed to watch toddler videos in Spanish, which I found very educational for myself. When I achieved 500 days in a row in my Duolingo “study” a few weeks ago, I stopped; it just seemed like too much with all the world events demanding my attention. So I’ve enjoyed learning some new words and phrases by means of catchy songs (on “Super Simple” Spanish, YouTube) like “Ponte tus zapatos, zapatos, zapatos…”

At his morning naptime the parents sing to little Rigo, and I could hear them from downstairs, especially when Tom returned and took his turns in a man’s voice. “As I Went Down in the River to Pray,” was reintroduced to my own musical repertoire in this way. Other sweet reminders are “You Are My Sunshine” and “I Feel Like a Morning Star.” These melodies have comforted our souls, especially as we were repeatedly recovering from little boy noise — oh, my! The wild energy is exhausting; I’m glad the parents are young.

The family departed this morning for their new home and jobs in Panama. It’s the same daughter whom I visited in India two years ago, where I was able to be present when their firstborn arrived. I’m posting a few more stories and pictures before I move on to the next chapter of my life.

One discovery Raj led me to was manzanita berries as food. He found a funny unused plant stand in the greenhouse that he liked to sit on, and one day I found him in there chewing on something from a cup. He had collected manzanita berries from under the bush. I knew that they weren’t toxic, but I had never heard of any human eating them, so I looked them up and found an article about how you can use the unripe berries to make cider, the ripe berries in baked goods; you can even boil the seeds to make “a sophisticated drink.” No joke!

Well, if a toddler was enjoying them, and going back for more, I must sample one myself. I tried several, actually, and they do taste good, but there is not much flesh to taste! You immediately get to the seeds in the middle, which are basically three little stones filling the fruit. I hope I never am so poor that I need to survive on them.

Their last day here, when Tom and Kate were busy packing, Raj had been informed that the trip was imminent. Finally they would go to their new house in that mythical place called Panama, which he’d heard about for several months. He was as cheerful as could be, working from the essential understanding that they would be on an airplane and an adventure again. Finally he had a personal use for the phrase that he’s heard so often in the last year: “You ‘tay here, I be right back!” He told me this many times, as the move was the topic of the day.

And when in my bedroom he found a stuffed llama toy, he thought he’d like to get in my “big red bed” with it, and he snuggled there for at least a half an hour, leaving and returning with books to read, and more stuffed animals, chattering nonstop. He found a basket of Christmas cards and “read” all two dozen of them; I particularly liked this activity!

What will I do, now that it’s quiet here again? I managed to note on paper at least a couple dozen songs that I heard my grandson sing over the last few weeks, and I’ll try to create my own playlist of cheerful tunes to keep filling my house and heart. ❤