Tag Archives: succulents

Glimpses of then and now.

I had just begun to eat my eggs and greens when I glanced out at the garden table and knew it was warm and cheery there, so I moved out to that sunny corner. There were two lovely bird sounds close by that I haven’t heard lately, and I wondered who was singing, and if I had identified them before…

Then a new sound, and hopping noises in the hopbush, and whom did I see but my old wren friend Bewick! I’m pretty sure I haven’t noticed him in a couple of years. The titmouse was back, too, this week, peeking from under the wisteria. The birds are telling me it’s fall.

I have yet to do most of those pre-winter chores outside; somehow it always seems more necessary to read poems, or watch and write about the garden instead of working in it. I did plant a pot of mums, and had Alejandro transfer a bunch of succulents out of pots and into my gravel area under the manzanita. After I told him which one was my favorite, I came back this morning to see that he had put a circle of small stones around it.

I spent an hour last night looking at pictures of my back yard just four years ago. It is pretty unbelievable what has “happened” since then, by which to say, what the rain and sun and tiny plants have done together, after humans arranged them to work in harmony. The next few photos are from fall of 2015:

The photo below is from February 2016, about two months after planting, through my rainy bedroom window. One of the dodoneas is already dying, and the replacement for the first, defective, fountain is already installed and running.

And this morning:

Oh, but all this new landscaping went in just a moment ago, compared to the events I will be remembering with friends this weekend: My K-8 elementary school is having a reunion, spanning ten years of graduating classes, and I am driving south to take part. Other than my siblings, I haven’t seen any of the people who will be there since high school or before. I don’t think we’ll be wanting to take pictures of our older selves in the “now” – we much prefer the “then” from our yearbooks, where we all look so cute! This one is me in First Grade.

Next, glimpses of my garden currently, and goddaughter Mary on her family’s trampoline, from last week when I got to spend a little time with them.

Work has ramped up on my remodel project. The latest delay has been over non-standard construction in the original house, which was revealed after removing sheetrock in advance of moving a closet wall. This photo shows the three main parties so far, including the contractor and the architect, who are calculating the necessary strength of extra beams they will install to bear the current load, in addition to the weight of the new rooms.

It made me happy to hear how conscientious they are about it. The architect said to me, as I listened in on their hour-long discussion yesterday, in between their tromping up and down the stairs from the garage to the great room above it, “You are learning about how not to build a house.” Everyone has been saying, “Once they get started, it shouldn’t take long.” I think we are at that point now, of having started. But until now, that point was theoretical.

I guess that’s about enough procrastination, and I must go pack a suitcase!
Those garden chores will have to wait till next week. 🙂

They like a little shade.

In this season when they are happiest, I took pictures of most of my succulents. Many of them are blooming, and it’s hard to get a good picture of that, because their flowers are often on a stem that stretches far from the mother plant before the blooms open.

They are pleasant images from my life, where this week the plumbers and other workers are busy doing repair work before any of my new construction can start. Just one day of it was unnerving for various reasons that are not pleasant, so I won’t bother going into all that. And eventually all will be well… it was good to sleep, and wake to hear the fountain singing.

I don’t know the names of most, but a couple that I do know here are Red Sedum  and Hens and Chicks…  The purple flowers are not a succulent, but bacopa or Sutera cordata.

The busyness around here makes me feel an affinity with these plants, which like the heat of summer, as I also do. They can live without water for long periods, but most of them require a little quiet shade in order to thrive. It occurs to me that I might brush some pine needles off the bench and sit a spell with my garden friends this very afternoon.

time happiness

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I don’t know what “time happiness” means exactly, but I have an inkling about the longed-for place that St. Nikolai talks about:

Moments of happiness are given to you only in order to leave you longing
for time happiness in the bosom of the ever happy Lord;
and ages of unhappiness are given to you
to waken you out of the drowsy dream of illusions.

O Lord, Lord, my only happiness, will You provide shelter for Your injured pilgrim?

– St Nikolai Velimirovich

And I don’t know anything about “ages of unhappiness.” My sad times can’t by any stretch be called ages, though it’s true, when one is in the midst of intense sorrow, time warps.

Today has been sweet and kind of dreamy. I stopped on the bridge over the creek and thought about how beloved this little patch of suburbia has grown, especially in the last three years. This is the season when the creek bed is so packed with plants, you can’t see the little water that is down there. It was quiet and warm. The warm part of the day is short now.

I was passing by the yard with roses, lilies and other plants that are wilted and ugly from drought, insects, and disease. No one cares enough about them to pick off a dead leaf. And then what caught my eye and made me stop? A weed growing next to the fire hydrant.

“Weeds grasp their own essence and express its truth.”
– Santoka Taneda

It occurs to me just now that I may have posted a picture of this weed once before, recently… if so, it is deserving enough for a repeat showing.  It has been neglected just as much as the cultivated plants, which for a weed means it was not killed or pulled out. That has let its essential health and hardiness shine forth and produce tiny and flowers all over, decorating the wasteland beautifully.

A boy and his loves.

Liam was with me for a couple of days last week. He is almost six and suddenly reads with astonishing fluency. Reading is downright fun for him, I guess that’s why, and the more you do something you love, the better you get at it. I was pleased to realize that he would be just the person at just the stage to appreciate The Disappearing Alphabet by Richard Wilbur, so I searched through my bookshelves to find it. We read it together with many giggles.

The artwork, by David Diaz, is much more pleasing to me than that in The Pig in the Spigot, another of Wilbur’s books for children which I wrote about here once. Each page is devoted to a letter of the alphabet, with a short verse musing on what would happen to our beloved world if that letter were no more.

After reading the book, then eating dinner, we went on one of my creek walk loops. Immediately we began to practice our mutual love of plants and their names. My grandson is starting to understand that I don’t know every plant, and our nature study is more of a joint effort now, with him not saying, “What is this?” so much, and saying, “Grandma, look!” more.

But he brought up the subject of the alphabet also, as we walked along, saying, out of the blue, “If there were no letter N, we wouldn’t have pain! or lanes! — or extensions!”

Our walk took longer than I planned, because I had forgotten about how it’s our habit to meander and pick things, as I had started out with Liam in Flowery Town years ago.

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We ate quite a few new-green wild fennel fronds on this walk, and even some slightly older ones, comparing the flavor. And several times he reminded me that we must take the route home that passes by the pineapple guava hedge, because he was eager to taste the flowers I’d mentioned.

We ate flower petals, and got to bed late, and the next morning the boy picked more right next to my garden dining spot, which he added to our breakfast feast. Rarely is it truly the right weather to eat breakfast outdoors here in my city, and this may have been my first time to do it with company so agreeable.

The middle of this second day was spent at my church, where the end of the children’s week-long summer program featured a long session of water play, and Liam was delighted to get all wet and to eat a popsicle.

Even here, he drew my attention to a tree blooming right above, which I’m sure I’d never noticed before. Our rector said he planted it himself “way back.”

Australian Silver Oak or silky oak, Grevillea robusta

While children were settling down for the Bible lesson that morning, another boy showed me this fly that he was admiring on his hand. I think Liam was already waiting patiently on the other side of the circle so he didn’t see it.

Later that afternoon I had planned to have him help me clean the greenhouse, but then realized he’d like better to pick sweet peas to take home to his mother. I have only a little patch that I didn’t pull out yet. He was diligent about that task for nearly an hour, and collected a large jarful. I made headway on the greenhouse, and we took breaks to study the bumblebees that only recently decided to mob those flowers.

One day we had read Monarch and Milkweed, and the other, I showed him my milkweed plants; the Showy Milkweed is in a jungle behind the fig tree, where I hope, if Monarch caterpillars hatch out, the birds might not notice them…?

Liam helped me to see my flowers without a magnifying glass. As we were looking at some tiny succulent flowers, and I was trying to get a good picture of them, I began to notice little black dots on them. “Are those holes in the petals, can you see?” I asked him. He squatted down and looked hard, and told me that they were things on the ends of hairs coming out of the middle of the flower. Ah, stamens! When I enlarged the photo, I could see, too:

We washed rocks! Liam had been examining and organizing one of my collections of pebbles and stones and such in the house, and out here I had him put these larger stones from the Sierras and from the Sacramento River through some sudsy water and a rinse, so they could wait presentably until I find a use for them.

What other things did we both like to do while he was visiting? Eat ice cream cones, and judge matchbox car races, and read Winnie-the-Pooh. Many times during his last hours with me, lines from Pooh or The Disappearing Alphabet would come to his mind and he would say them again, looking at me with a twinkle in his eye, knowing I liked them, too. He especially liked these from the page about the letter L:

“Any self-respecting duck
would rather be extinct
than be an uck.”

I was so grateful to Liam’s parents for making this intimate visit work out. Next time I see him, he will be more grown up, and a different boy. But probably not all that different. I hope we can always find a way to share our love for words and plants and many more details and gifts of this vast world in which our loving Father has placed the two of us as grandma and grandson.