Tag Archives: neighbors

Watching and watchfulness.

 

The birds are happy today and so am I. While I’ve been sitting in my garden corner both a wren and a chickadee came by to say hello. You can hear what the Bewick’s Wren told me here. A while later, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement in the collard patch.

The plants are tall, and with half a dozen house finches hopping from stem to stem and pecking among the flowers, they reminded me of their mustard cousins mentioned in the Bible, in the parable of the mustard seed.

A pair of bluebirds have been flitting about the garden for a week at least. They do appear to be playing, randomly flying from tree to tree to arbor to birdbath, swooping across each other’s paths. Weeks ago we saw them checking out the birdhouse, and now I find that there are at least the beginnings of a mossy nest in there, though I haven’t seen them working on it. They don’t sit still for long, but I got this shot that at least shows the male’s bright blueness.

I’ve selectively removed a couple of established ornamentals from the back garden so that I could carve out spaces for all the young plants that have just this week been liberated from the greenhouse. Last night was their first to stay out all night. Normally I wait to plant until May 1st, but that is Holy Saturday, and I won’t have time. No frost is forecast for the next ten days, so this year I will join the many people in my area who commonly plant in April.

Yesterday I invited neighbors over to see my back garden for the first time; I only met them in Covid-time and we have chatted on the sidewalk and texted a lot about our gardens, we have shared seeds and plants and produce. They brought their 2-year old and we had a good visit strolling about and drinking iced rooibos tea. The little boy insisted that both of his parents come into the playhouse with him. I told them that is the first time I’ve had a whole family in there together.

While we were looking at the pea vines, I asked them if they had seen any honeybees yet this season. They said they’d seen one. Suddenly the carpenter bees we’d been watching were joined by excited honeybees and bumblebees! I think they had just got the news about the borage.

I sent my neighbors home with a dozen plants, most of which I’d grown from seed this spring, but a few propagated from cuttings, or volunteers removed from the garden and potted up. In the last category were Yellow Bush Lupine and Showy Milkweed.

I have a lot of calendula seedlings from seeds that a friend at church gave me from her garden, the Indian Prince mix (picture from seed packet at right). Calendulas are blooming now here; they often overwinter and reseed themselves, but I only have two currently, so I’ll fill in with several new plants. This is one of the established ones:

It is the 5th Sunday of Lent for Orthodox Christians. After this last week of Lent proper, we enter Holy Week; Pascha is May 2nd this year. In this last week the tone changes a bit; it shifts from repentance to watchfulness, our rector told us, and we begin to look forward to the raising of Lazarus, which is a sort of pre-feast of the Resurrection of Christ Himself.

I arrived early today, so I could stop by the hall to drop off a bag of onion skins, which are being collected for dyeing eggs for Pascha. I couldn’t help taking pictures of the wisteria and other beautiful flowers there.

Today we commemorate St. Mary of Egypt, who in our hymnography is often called “Mother Mary,” which can be confusing to those who think of Christ’s mother by that name. We usually call that Mary the Theotokos (“God-bearer”) or the Mother of God, to affirm Christ’s divinity.

This hymn got my attention this morning:

The image of God was truly preserved in thee, O Mother,
for thou didst take up the Cross and follow Christ.
By so doing, thou taughtest us
to disregard the flesh for it passes away;
but to care instead for the soul,
for it is immortal.
Therefore thy spirit, O holy Mother Mary,
rejoices with the angels.

St. Mary of Egypt by her life exhorts us not to slacken our effort in this last week, not to think that we can coast the rest of the way to Pascha. She was repentant and watchful for decades in the desert, and the fruit of her life and testimony has nourished the Church ever since.

As Abba Zosimas said of her, “Truly God did not lie when he promised that those who purify themselves will be like Him. Glory to You, O Christ our God, for showing me through your holy servant, how far I am from perfection.” 

Fava beans, and moving on.

It’s convenient that my next-door neighbor has gone camping this weekend, because I need his yard waste can. I forgot to ask him but I am pretty sure he will be okay with me using it to load up with all of the garden clippings I’ve collected in just two days. He has his dragster parked long-term and rent-free on a few inches of my driveway so he likes to feel that he is doing things for me, too.

The fava beans were a big job! Yesterday I cut all the pods off the 30-something plants that grew from two packets of seeds I’d bought online. I might have started the harvest earlier if it hadn’t been so rainy. As it was, I got caught in a surprise shower in the  middle of the process. Before the last week of rain the beans were overflowing their planter, thus:

But by the time I got to picking them, they had grown a few more inches and were  getting infested with insects and maybe disease, and were just a mess generally. Here are a few shots showing how the project developed over the day. By the evening I was sitting under the wisteria shelling the creamy green beans out of their pods, which I dropped on to the patio at my feet. Just the plants and the pods of these Vicia faba — also known as broad beans or horse beans — filled most of my own large green waste bin.

It was slow going, but I shelled a couple of quarts of beans. That didn’t make much of a dent in the tubful, and I needed to do some other kinds of work still before bed; the thought occurred to me that I could offer them on a county freesharing Facebook group I belong to, so I took pictures and posted them, and this morning  a woman came and took half of the remainder. Tomorrow another member is coming and maybe she will clean me out. I could eat all the beans myself eventually, but I have so many things needing doing right now besides shelling favas… like cooking the ones I did shell!

While I was waiting for the lady I thought I’d do a little deadheading – ha! I ended up spending hours on the front garden, yanking out the poppies that want to cover every other plant, shearing one wallflower bush, cleaning up the irises, weeding. Oh, yes, and taking pictures of pretty flower pairings, or trios, and the asparagus in its ferny state with Johnny Jump-ups. I dragged the neighbor’s can over to my driveway and started piling in the green and flowery trimmings.

A Painted Lady butterfly was drinking at the chive flowers, and making me think that she was showing off for the camera. Unlike most butterflies, she did not flutter away as I drew near, but did pirouettes, and flew from bloom to bloom striking different poses. Perhaps the strong drink was making her lose all inhibitions. All the while I slowly came closer…  and then she came closer to me, spread her wings on the flower right in front of me and let me watch and admire her at her work.

Her wings are a bit tattered, I can see now in the closeups. I wonder if a bird tried to make lunch out of her… Speaking of birds, I think I may have made friends with a certain chickadee. I will tell you about him later; right now I have to head to rest and sleep so that I can tackle more garden tasks tomorrow.

 

W’y rain’s my choice.

Street lights shine down throughout my neighborhood, but I was wishing I’d brought a flashlight nonetheless when I went out earlier this evening with my umbrella to deliver a package that had been delivered to the wrong house. In this town we have confusing arrangements of names and streets. Today’s error resulted from something like this: One address is 5211 Fred St and the other is 5211 Frank St, with Fred and Frank being short loops off of Fritz St.

Our mixed-up houses are only two blocks from each other, so it didn’t make sense to drive over there. I would get wetter climbing in and out of the car than if I just took a short walk. I had to strain to see the house numbers, even the ones that have a light behind them. Until I got my bearings I took a few steps up two or three driveways in order to read the addresses.

Rivers of water flowed across the sidewalks, in many places pooling into lakes before they reached the gutter. But that’s not a problem if you have sturdy galoshes like mine. I found that my mind was singing the first stanza of a poem that I learned from Goldilocks when she came for her sewing lesson yesterday, barefoot because her boots had gotten soaked at recess.

This very night her school is having a fundraiser and all the students are reciting together:

It hain’t no use to grumble and complane;
It’s jest as cheap and easy to rejoice.—
When God sorts out the weather and sends rain,
W’y rain’s my choice.

That’s only the first fun verse of James Whitcomb Riley’s “Wet-weather Talk.” I bet the children are all glad that we’ve been having steady downpours for a few days, because that will help the audience get into the spirit of the poem that goes on for a few more stanzas exhorting us not to be “lockin’ horns with Providence.”

We are likely to rejoice in rain here in dry California. I was also happy to go on a little expedition, and only slightly disappointed when no one answered the door; I left the package on the step and came home again. I passed a man whose taxi was just driving away, and he laughed and said, “Another fine night for a walk!” and I answered with the other lyrics that popped into my head, “Splish splash…I’ll be takin’ a bath….”

But no, I wasn’t even very damp when I came in the door to the lovely warm fire that I’d got going a little earlier. The time to write this blog post was also here. It is certainly easy to rejoice when Providence gives me opportunities and the strength to take them.

Of course, other days rejoicing can cost more. But “sufficient to the day is the evil thereof,” as the Bible says somewhere. I don’t think I need to worry about those other days right now. A Russian proverb says, “Every day is a messenger of God.” My little delivery errand turned out to be a gift to myself, and that could only come from God.