Tag Archives: water

The glory of wetness and a black mark.

“It is a bleak sort of day, but I’m glad to be out walking.” Something like that was my thought as I set out on my creek path this morning. A white shape caught my eye, silently winging down the creek, and within two seconds it passed by me close enough to see that it was egret. Then, gone behind the trees.

I had read a poem by Wendell Berry about mud in January, and I looked at the muddy creek, stirred up and deep from recent rains. It wasn’t photogenic, but it was briefly captivating. Flowing streams are good to look at for a few minutes, but there is too much busyness there, and I get restless.

When I pulled my eyes away and to other things, I found a unusual depth to even the neutral colors, from all the leaves and bark and needles being entirely wetted. I have walked by these trees for almost 30 years now ! but this is the first time I noticed their massiveness. As I studied the chunky patterns on their trunks of pines, it took me a long time to notice another design style in the spider’s web.

I ran across a wide road to get nearer the fields, and on the faraway other side of those hayfields and pastures whiter clouds hung in drifts on the hillsides, below the gray sky. This is a day between rainy days; those clouds may be forming into bringers of rain by now, but then they were waiting and still…

Wherever redwood trees towered above me on the path, thousands of their little cones littered my path. How many are lying on the ground just in this neighborhood? And each one a wonder. I stuffed my pockets with them.

After my camera battery was spent, I watched fat robins bathing in the creek’s muddy overflow, their wings fluttering and splashing. Today some Orthodox are celebrating the Nativity of Christ, and yesterday was our (new calendar) feast of the Baptism of Christ. Water is the joyous theme, as it is a fundamental substance of our life, and a fitting symbol for all of creation. Christ baptizes the earth with His baptism, sanctifying it, filling it with Himself. The days on this earth can only be bleak inasmuch as I am not noticing the glory. Why do I forget this reality? I can’t remember ever finding a bleak day out of doors; even when my mood is low, the glory lifts it and comforts me.

This evening, water was sprinkled all over my house, as we walked around singing about our Lord’s baptism, by which he revealed Himself and the entire Holy Trinity. At the end, my priest surprised me when he reached up with the snuffed-out candle and painted a waxy cross on the ceiling near the front door. I had never seen this done before! It feels like a resurrectional form of the Israelites marking their lintels with blood. I am in awe.

The day has been a complete blessing.

As a man to that river.

The voice of the Lord cries over the waters, saying:
Come all ye, receive the Spirit of wisdom, the Spirit of understanding,
the Spirit of the fear of God, even Christ who is made manifest.

Today the nature of water is sanctified.
Jordan is divided in two, and turns back the stream of its waters,
beholding the Master being baptized.

As a man Thou didst come to that river, O Christ our King,
and dost hasten O Good One, to receive the baptism of a servant
at the hands of the Forerunner, because of our sins, O Lover of Man.

-Hymn of the Great Blessing of Waters

Xerophytes

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manzanita

 

Xerophytes are plants that are xerophilous, which means they have special features that enable them to survive in very dry environments. One of my favorite xerophytes is the Bristlecone Pine, which I wrote about some years ago, calling them Gnarly Patriarchs.

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gnarly patriarch

Some of the plants in my home landscape are considered to be xerophilous, though to maintain a xeriscape such as I have it is not necessary to have nothing but xerophytes. A xeriscape, in addition to featuring drought-tolerant plants, uses deep mulches and other means of conserving water besides those that are built into the plants themselves.

In a patch by my driveway, enclosed on all sides by concrete, Mexican Evening Primrose blooms and thrives all summer with a little water once a month or so. It thrives so well that such an enclosed space as it lives in here is usually the best spot for this plant, unless you are okay with it taking over the whole garden.

Mexican Evening Primrose
Mexican Evening Primrose
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toadflax – Linaria vulgaris, with warrigal

The picture at right is of warrigal or New Zealand Spinach, an edible green, growing alongside a yellow mystery flower [since discovered to be toadflax], both of which I consider quite xerophilous, as they lived in my back yard for months last summer with no water, and never so much as wilted.

That root xeros comes from the Greek, for dry. My current project is to incorporate more of these unthirsty friends into a plan for my front yard, and I hope to have them planted by the fall.

 

 

Garden tour with figs.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mrs. J lately. She has been involved in my life in so many ways for over 30 years now, from the time when we became neighbors in the neighborhood where neither of us lives any longer. I hadn’t seen her since my husband’s funeral, and was glad when she phoned today.

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oaks and olives

Mrs. J has always loved plants, and soon after we met she was taking horticulture classes and learning the botanical names for everything. When we planted a rock garden at our old house she helped us choose the plants, including at least two that I want to plant in my new back yard garden, a Mugo Pine and a Pineapple Guava. Many plants that I love remind me of this friend.

Mrs. J became a realtor and helped us sell that old house and buy this one. She advised us to plant the Sweet Olive bush that has been a joy to me and which I am now nursing back to health from drought. She was the first person I knew to use manzanita bushes in a residential landscape, planting sixteen of them in her front yard across the street.

Usually we see each other once a year for the triple-birthday celebration we have with another friend; the three of us lived on the same street for a couple of years, back when our babies were coming along regularly. We all love gardening and we discovered that we all were born within a four-day period in the same year. We started taking turns preparing birthday lunches for each other, and have celebrated 30 of them so far.

Today is Labor Day, a special day that we never have celebrated together. Mrs. J was surprised to find herself without pressing obligations on this holiday, so she phoned me. I also was without pressing obligations, and as we began to talk about my back yard project we came up with the idea that I might travel the half hour to her place to get a garden tour. I soon was off on a country drive.

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The sort of grouping we both like.

That route made me very nostalgic and weepy. Our family has been driving these roads for 42 years now, and much of our history took place at one end or the other of this winding hilly road through oaks and golden hills, which Mr. Glad also drove back and forth to work for 20+ years.

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fig with zinnias

The pictures above are of the stretch of road a mile or two from our old house, where our family would take walks or bike rides. Back then there was no yellow line down the middle; that line seems to me to pretend that the road is always wide enough for two cars.

Over the years Mrs. J has designed landscapes and houses in several places. Currently she lives by a creek and has space and resources to use many of the ideas she’s been collecting her life long.  When we went out her front door we soon found ourselves by her beautiful fig tree that had several fruits ready to eat right then. We ate and they were sweet and juicy. Did I tell you I am going to have a fig tree in my garden?

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dogwood

 

Dogwoods are a species I don’t plan to have, but Mrs. J loves them and has varieties from all over. They get enough shade from the tall oaks by the creek. This might be the Korean one.

 

 

She went up north to Corning, CA and bought an olive tree that is 100 years old. It had been pruned a few months earlier to prepare it for transplanting; now it has been given a spot where it can leaf out and enjoy its new and more temperate home.

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Olive trees don’t need as much water as you might think. Mrs. J had to remove some ornamentals from under another olive tree because the irrigation of them was too much for the tree. In another place, where an emitter is leaking, she cleverly made use of the extra water to plant a clump of horsetail grass.

 

The creek has never been so low, she said; I was surprised that it still had any water at all. In a few months this stream could turn into a torrent. That is our hope and prayer.

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