Category Archives: Gardening

Solstice Magic

There is still light in the sky. My eyes still register my surroundings without the aid of streetlights or a flashlight. It’s the magical in between. It’s no longer day and it’s not quite night. I feel safe here. If there was a body of water nearby it would also be time it glows. The birds make their last calls and I eventually retreat inside to escape the chill.

Soon the night will be warm as well.  I will frequent my outdoor fire pit and wait for the stars to greet me.  But tonight is only the first day of summer.

Solstice.

Goodbye to all the promise that Spring brings and hello to the reality the heat of summer brings.  I hope it will prove fruitful.  Perhaps I’ll long for the rain again soon, but for now, I eagerly await summer blooming plants and jacket free evenings long after the sun sets.  Paddling past blooming lily pads and eating berries plucked from native bushes.  

Summer is here.

And may it be a magical summer for us all. 

Gaudí’s Garden Part II: Sagrada Família

I saw a rainbow on my drive home today.  Just a small, vertical sash of colors bleeding together.  The further north I drove, the more it revealed itself until I passed it at half arc.  There’s just something about rainbows that splits my face into a silly smile no matter what kind of mood I’m in.  

Perhaps it’s because these natural rainbows have such an unexpected and fleeting existence.  I know it won’t last.  And I don’t know when I will see one again.  So the moment is there and everything else, all my problems and concerns, fade away.  Fade away until the rainbow does just that and then everything comes back into focus.  

But I am still smiling.  And the world is a little better.  And it has always been this way for me.

It’s been a cold winter followed by a soggy spring this year.  The long gray and drizzly months that give the Seattle area such a bad reputation seems to be lingering longer this year.  Most everyone here is done with it and craving the blue skies of summer.  

It’s this time of year where past adventures in warm, sunny places surface just long enough for me to grab a hold of. When I decide which place I want to go, I dig out my old travel journals, and find the right one to remind me of the little details since forgotten. These little leather bound books are full of my atrocious handwriting and they transport me to another place and time. Like a Pensieve from the Harry Potter books, into my memories I go!

Tonight, I open the little, light pink one.  It has a connected book marker, an elastic band to hold it closed, and a loop to hold a pen.   All in matching color.  Inside the cover is written:

BARCELONA

2021 August

With rainbows on my mind, I flip through the pages until I find the entry for “26 August 2021 Thursday.”

“We are sitting on a cool stone bench across from my favorite set of windows that Laurel and I have named the rainbow window.  Perhaps not very creative, but very aptly named.”

The bench was a plain slab of stone, if I remember correctly. It was cool to the touch and that made it wonderful. It was great to sit for a few minutes since the summer air of Barcelona was hot and muggy. My hair became larger than life in that week of humidity and, save for the 20 minutes a cell phone was lost, we learned to slow our American pace.

It was mid morning on that Thursday and my travel companion, Laurel, and I were waiting across from the cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí.  We didn’t know if we were in the right spot to meet our Sagrada Família tour guide.  As two ladies who once missed the middle school band bus, this was nothing new for us.  We’d roll with it like we had been doing our whole vacation.

Luckily, we were in the right place and time.  After watching other much younger and less clothed tourists take Glamour Shot style photos in front of the cathedral, we found our group and began our tour.  And it was well worth the extra expense to skip the line during tourist season despite the decreased pandemic numbers.

We started outside the cathedral with a bit of history and some great views with the help of the binoculars I packed. Tall, skeletal spires pierced the sky with cranes reaching even higher into the blue.

Just like nature, the building, this modern yet baroque style church, is a work in progress.  And there is something about being unfinished that resonates with me.  It’s the unfinished state that lends to the life of its existence.  Are we not all unfinished works of art?  Are we not all changing as our lives progress?  It is the same with this monstrosity of stone.  Changing, alive, alive until it is complete and rests as many colossal cathedrals have done before its time.

Bible stories were built into the outer shell.  I really didn’t know any of them, but my friend’s mom would have been proud of her recollection.  I admired the craftsmanship and the mosaic glitter atop a few spires that was created to look like fruit.  The biblical reference was of Mary’s fruit.  It was just regular fruit to me though and I was getting kind of hungry.

It was a ridiculous amount of details that I could not, even with my binoculars, comprehend within a week or a month of staring at that monstrosity.  An afternoon was just enough to wet the artistic mouth, but hardly enough to taste the exterior brilliance, let alone the magic within.  

I forgot my hunger completely when we stepped through huge doors flanked by metal ivy. Little did I know that when my friend and I visited the vast garden of Gaudí’s Park Güell, that it wouldn’t be his only garden in Barcelona. Gardens seemed to appear everywhere his art was. Like magic. And it really was.

“I am finding it hard to find words grand enough to describe this place.  It is the most beautiful place I have ever set foot in.  There is no sin inside,  There is only light and color and my heart is full of light.  I could sit here from sun up to sun down and not take it all in.  The light changes and shifts color throughout the walls and floor.  It is ever changing.  Just as nature is.”

“The tall columns stretch to the heavens branching out like the trees Gaudí meant them to be.  The floor reflects the mosaic stained glass windows.  Organ plays.  Even if it is just a recording, its notes reverberates off the walls and columns and windows.  The design has both beauty and purpose.”

I wish I was talented enough to convey the magic held within those walls.  I have stepped into other must-see places.  I experienced the Cathedral of Notre Dame before the fire.  Those cold stones formidable around me.  Dark inside save for glowing stained glass windows and candles lit by those with whom to light for.  I have seen the paintings of Michael Angelo above my head inside the Sistine Chapel.  “No photo.  Move to the inside,” was shouted at the crowds the entire time.  I’ve felt the emptiness of the tomb of Agamemnon.  All wondrous for sure.

But when I entered the Sagrada Familia, my breath caught. Tears threatened to fall from the corners of my eyes. And I am not often moved to tears.

So. Much. Color. So much life. Colors flooding the floors, climbing the columns and splashing the walls! I had to resist the urge to toss myself on the floor, roll to my back, and then flail my arms and legs like kid in a pile of snow. Only no snow, but numerous rainbows and I felt like an angel swathed in its light.

The windows were all alive. Ever changing with the sun’s constance dance with time. I could have easily spent the day and still not experienced all the changes in light and color.

“I love it here.  If stone and glass could be alive, this is the place where that miracle would happen.  This garden of light.”

Should it Stay or Should it Go Now? (Part Deux)

It was a hard winter. Record freezing temperatures after a snow storm that buried everything in a long lasting, deep blanket of snow. I thought my plants would be safe from the cold underneath that white blanket. Most of them were.

I spent a good deal of January snowed in and lonely without even the company of my garden. It was fast asleep. After the snow had melted, another cold snap occurred. My hands cracked and split from spreading burlap over my most prized plants and shrubs. No snow blanket this time. Just a hard freeze that kept hummingbirds buzzing around the feeders I hung. I kept them liquid with hand warmers. I tried my best.

I couldn’t cover all the foliage though.  Decisions had to be made like medical triage in war times.  Winter was mounting a full assault.  And there were casualties despite my best efforts.  

I am still waiting to see if a Daphne I blanketed will bear leaves and blooms again. I suppose I’ll do the ‘scrape the branch’ test soon. Will there be any green underneath the bark? Anything to salvage? Enough to salvage? It’s been one of my favorites so I am procrastinating. Hoping there is life left. But I really doubt it.

A few plants that I neglected made it.  They were made for the hardy weather.  One little dwarf pine seemed to really enjoy the snow and frost.  All of my English lavender seemed completely unaffected.  The Spanish Lavender wished it was planted in the Mediterranean instead of northern Washington State.  Sometimes I wish I was too.  I left them for a couple months.  Maybe they would fight to live.  They did not.

There are times though when one must admit defeat. One cannot will something to survive. Nature doesn’t work that way. Either something is planted in the right environment or it is not. So I dug up the dead Spanish Lavender plants and replaced them with two new ones from the nursery. They will either survive this next winter or I’ll treat them as annuals going forward.

At least all my little Japanese Maples are still alive and kicking. I did make an effort to blanket my little friends during the cold. And my lilacs too although they may have been fine without my intervention. Lilacs have always loved me.

As I look around on this mild spring day, I can appreciate all of the native plants growing in my garden and how dependable they are. How they were meant to be in my garden and how I don’t have to make sacrifices for them to stay. My hands will never have to crack and bleed for them to return in the spring. They are happy to be in my garden. And I don’t have to will them to stay.

Cold Slap

I stretch my fingers out to strike each key.  Feeling is slowly coming back to them and the skin threatens to crack again.  I’ve just come back inside.  Temperatures are dropping and will continue to do so after the sun sinks below the horizon.  My happy thoughts of spring are sinking with it.

There is almost another month left of winter, but it usually doesn’t get so bitter cold here in the Pacific Northwest.  I don’t like it.  Neither do the plants, which is why I was outside freezing my fingers off.  I read that if the temperature drops below 28 degrees for 5 hours straight, plants and particularly flowers can sustain damage.  There isn’t a blanket of snow to protect the plants this go around.  Not like this most recent Christmas-New Years when my yard was buried in the white stuff for a full week.  

A full week of snow is also not typical for the Pacific Northwest. At least not west of the Cascade Mountains. A few of my shrubs barely survived and right now they seem to be the equivalent of Covid Long Haulers. Their bodies ravaged from fighting the cold. Will they make it or will they succumb to the frost? I hope they will. Make it. I would like to see them blossom again. I would very much like everything to flourish again.

I used my break today to run to Lowe’s and purchase burlap for ice and snow protection for my plants. After logging out at the end of the day, I raced around putting the material over my Long Haulers. Most of my bulbs I planted in the fall have breached the soils surfaced in the last few weeks. And most of them are wearing a burlap coat now too. Plus a few of my prized Japanese Maples. Will my Daphne come back? Will my Sarcococca ever flower again? Will my Dark Star California Lilac rebound or pack it up and head home (as in compost – tickets to Cali are expensive right now). Will I get reported on my neighborhood Facebook page as the crazy lady covering her yard in burlap and garbage bags? I ran out of burlap. It was just ONE plant!! Time will tell…

Burlap…doesn’t look too cozy and a garbage bag so the neighbors have something to talk about.

At least my feathered friends should fare fairly well during this time.  Once the sun sets, I’ll venture back out to bring in two of my feeders.  The third feeder can stay outside since it’s a heated one.  I had ordered it after sticking maxi pad looking hand warmers to my glass feeders during the last cold slap.  Yes.  Slap.  A cold snap is what happens when it gets cold quickly.  A cold slap is what happens when you aren’t used to arctic weather and it slaps you silly.

I wasn’t the only one not prepared for the weather last time.  The mom and pop makers of my heated hummingbird feeder were not prepared for the onslaught of orders (presumably all from Western Washington).  It finally arrived from https://hummersheateddelight.com about a month after the snowmageddon of 2021/2022.  It was worth the wait though.  Just ask my little hummers.

They are outside with my soon-to-be-flowers and budding shrubs and mini trees.  Hopefully they got enough to eat to sustain their little bodies overnight.   As for me, I am inside and thankful for the heat.  I’ve used my remote to bring my gas fireplace to life.  It’s flames flicker and I wonder if a pattern will form if I stare long enough.  And I wonder how long I’ll need this fireplace to cheer me up before spring is here and the world comes alive again.

Until then…I dream of spring and the smell of flowers in the air.

The Hummingbird Feeder

It’s Christmas Day 2021. Actually it’s Christmas evening now. About an inch of snow fell and there is more in the forecast for overnight. It has been a quiet day for me. I don’t drive in the snow so I didn’t see my family today. I still had a few visitors though. Even if they were the feathered kind.

Feeding frenzy

Here in the Northwest, most of the birds fly south for the winter in search of warmer weather.  And right now I wish I was with them.  I miss sunny skies and warm air.  But I am home weathering the winter along with the birds who stayed behind.

Hummingbirds remain in western Washington all year. This time of year is most difficult for them and I try my best to keep their feeders full and thus their bellies full. My sister even sent me a new hummingbird feeder for Christmas. However, I am not sure yet if the birds will take to it.

A Christmas Gift

It’s beautiful, but the color is blue and they are more partial to red.  I hung it on the opposite side of the house as my other two red feeders.  I look forward to watching it.  She also sent me some hummingbird houses that look like giant, straw teardrops.  I am not sure the little birds will take to those either.  

I’ve only seen one hummingbird nest.  It was tiny like a small teacup.  If the hummingbirds don’t use it, then maybe other birds will.  I look forward to finding a place for them in my yard regardless.  And even if they don’t nest in them, they could provide some solace.    

Thinking of hummingbirds and loved ones today reminds me of a memory from many years ago. I was visiting my cousin in Walla Walla. Not the prison, though that’s nearby. The town that is known more for wineries than its penitentiary now. Though years ago on this particular visit, the latter was still more well known.

My cousin drove me out towards a very small town.  The name escapes me at present, but the house was not in the town anyway.  An elderly man lived there.  He opened his home, or rather his yard, on the weekends for people to visit in the summertime.  It was a magical place.

You could hear the hum before entering the garden.  There were hummingbird feeders everywhere and one had to walk slowly and step carefully along the paths.  Hummingbirds buzzed overhead and around people to the numerous feeders and flowers.  Flashes of green and red caught the sun like little jewels being tossed in the air.  They would dart and dive and drink and do it all again.    

I can close my eyes now and picture it. I can feel the sun warm my skin and the humming buzz in my ears. There was such wonderment and peace at the same time. Blink and you could miss a bird altogether. So quick. Here and then gone.

Last Summer. My own yard. Wishing I had photos instead of just memories of that magical place.

I wish I remembered the man’s name.  The one who fed the hummingbirds. I only remember that his wife had passed away and she had loved hummingbirds.  He must have loved her greatly to keep her garden alive and her feeders full so the birds would come back.  

I have a bad habit of over romanticizing situations.  But here I go again.  So it is my imagination that claims he kept the hummingbird sanctuary alive in her memory and that she sent the birds to him so he would not feel so alone.

Gaudí’s Garden: Part 1

Park Güell

View of Sagrada Família from Park Güell

Barcelona, Spain.  Spain has always been on my travel list of places to see.  Perhaps it still is.  After all, Barcelona is, but also is not Spain.  I found that out after booking a vacation.  

It was springtime 2021 and I had just received my first Covid 19 vaccination. I had been longing for a new adventure for some time and finally feeling hopeful that it would become a reality. So I messaged an old friend on a whim to see if she would like to join me on a trip to Barcelona. Many texts and a few hours later, we had booked airfare and hotel to the colorful city in Spain. We get things done.

A few days later, I realized that Spain was still closed to U.S. travelers. My friend and I decided to roll the dice and our gamble paid off since we were able to travel during our intended dates in August.

I spent much of my time before our departure researching transportation, things to do, and closely monitoring the CDC guidelines and the embassy websites of both the U.S. and Spain. I expected a colorful city with a touch of social unrest due to the Spain/Catalonia conflict. The city did not disappoint and we even witnessed a protest. What I didn’t expect was my love of the art.

I am more of a traditionalist at heart.  I love classical sculptures and life like landscapes.  I am not a fan of contemporary art and only like abstract when needing an adjective for my failed paint-n-sip projects.  So I was surprised at how quickly I fell for the vibrant work of Antoni Gaudí that distinguishes Barcelona from Europe’s other grand cities.  

I didn’t know much about Gaudí before our departure. Just that Barcelona would have some funky buildings we should see along with the grand cathedral, the Sagrada Família. I had no idea that nature in a creative cloak would be waiting for me to uncover.

While we only viewed the dragon exterior of the famous Casa Batlló from the opposing sidewalk along the Paseo de Gracia, we were fortunate enough to spend some time in three of Gaudí’s other creations.  Each one either embraced the nature around or borrowed from it for  inspiration.  

Park Güell was our first excursion after learning to navigate the subway.  An urban hike from the subway stop rivaled the hills of downtown Seattle.  It left us sweaty from the morning Mediterranean heat at the park’s entrance.  Only, we were at the top of the park and not the main entrance.  I’m glad for our mishap.  I doubt we would have explored as much of the nature reserve as we did while looking for the famous, mosaic tiled promenade.  

Turó de les Tres Creus

One of the first trails we took within the lush park lead us up to 3 stone crosses perched atop a mound of stones. Turó de les Tres Creus. A bench at the base of it afforded us a quick rest. I took the time to scribble in my journal thanking the clouds for shielding us from the sun for a bit. It was hot and humid and my sun dress was sticking to me.

We set off again after admiring the view of the city below. I was in my happy place with the sky above me, fresh air in my lungs, and surrounded by fresh greenery. I wonder what this plant is? Look how that tree grew? How weird! I wonder if I could grow this at home in Zone 8? I love it! Can you smell that? Heaven.

Every where I looked there was something wonderful to see. Bright flowers exploding from glossy, green leaves. Palm trees stretching their fronds into the sky like bursts of fireworks. Sprawling ground cover and ivy that seemed to obey its’ masters. Pods that looked like vanilla beans on the ground. Bird music playing throughout the park.

I could easily have spent a week roaming the grounds and snapping photos. I selfishly and unabashedly enjoyed every single plant, flower, tree, and stone step of the garden.

Lost in paradise

However, my travel companion is a horse person and not a gardener. And if it were not for the cute, green Monk Parakeets we encountered along the way, I’m pretty sure she would have lost patience with me sooner. We were lost. In a 50-acre garden. My bliss, but we did have other things to see. And we were in Park Güell to see the famous promenade.

It was time to ask for directions. After some broken French and hand gestures at our map to another group of travelers, we were able to find our way to the promenade. It was spectacular. Palms and carved caverns. A formal garden to the side. Red hibiscus flowers.

A garden within a garden

Oh yea.…and mosaics!! So many mosaics! So much color patched together in a crazy, wonderful way!

There was a slight breeze that felt heavenly atop the promenade. The sun would peek through the clouds ever so often making the green tiles of a nearby roof sparkle. I feel like I could have spent all day at that park and not seen all the little details in the mosaics that covered the benches and topped the roofs of the surrounding buildings.

Park Güell’s Promenade

The promenade itself was a bit dusty with perhaps some sand fleas, but the view of the city below was well worth the bites. At least I think so…I guess I wasn’t as tasty to the little beasts as my friend was. The people were fun to watch as well.  Everyone trying to get the best selfie with the sparkling rooftops of the Park’s Gaudí buildings below and Barcelona in the distance.  In true tourist form, we were no different. And the stone gargoyles watched us all.  

Amongst the tourists

Now, sitting next to my gas fireplace as winter looms, I long for the heat. For my sun dress sticking to me amidst the natural and architectural beauty of Barcelona. And now I know that Park Güell was not Gaudí’s only garden in the city.

Can you dig it?

It’s Spring!  Which means it’s planting season.  Which means it’s digging season.  And digging is a bit like that Forrest Gump quote.  It’s ‘like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you’re gonna get.’ 

I’ve found a few things when digging up soil in the past.  Mundane items such as large or brightly colored rocks, roots, nails, bottle caps, garden fabric (not a fan), and forgotten bulbs.  So far, I’ve never found a treasure chests though.  Disappointing, but I suppose I’ve never seen any X marks the spot on the surface either.  I’ve also never found someone’s pet cemetery, for which I am grateful.  Last week I found something suspicious though.

I was digging along side my driveway and fairly close to the street.  I was attempting to add curb appeal by planting some perennials in the barked strip.  I dug down a few inches and found some garden fabric that had to be cut away.  Underneath it was a nozzle looking item attached to what looked like a thin green tube.  I lightly touched the tube with my gloved hand and couldn’t really tell what it was.  I didn’t want to pull on it for fear of dislodging it or breaking it and possibly hurting myself.  I thought any utilities would be better protected, but I felt the need to be cautious just in case.  The safe bet would be to leave it alone until identified.

Unidentified line

I took a photo and sent it to several people. No one had a clue, but it was suggested that I call 811 and request the free locator service. This seemed like a good idea because I haven’t owned my home for very long. Other than the ugly electric box on the other side of the driveway, I had no idea where the utilities were or how far down I could dig. So I gave up for the day and decided to make the call a few days later.

I’m not sure how many people have actually destroyed utility lines in the past, but I figure it’s been enough for the companies to be aptly worried.  Worried enough to send people out within just a few hours of making the call.  

Still working from home, I went for a run on my lunch break and came back with just enough time before my remote meeting to change out of my sweaty workout clothes and into a pair of comfy sweat bottoms with a floral pattern.  Pants that I wear around the house and sometimes in the yard only.  Not enough time to change out of my tank top or take a shower.  

After my meeting, while I was fielding a work call, a knock sounded at my door.  It was one of the locators.  Since I didn’t have white spray paint to mark the places I wanted to dig, he needed me to point them out to him.  So I went outside in my unfit for public appearance sweat pants and crazy hair and proceeded to point to several places before just admitting that I would probably want to plant in most places except for the east side of my house.  He spray painted a bunch of lines for me and assured me that no lines would be in my back yard.  I needed to be careful in front though and not dig down more than a foot and to be sure to hand dig.

I remembered my real reason for him being out there and directed him towards the unknown line.  After explaining what I had found, I dug down to show him.  He was leaning slightly over and I was feeling a bit braver so I put my finger under the line in an attempt to lift it up for better viewing.  Unfortunately (this is debatable), the suspicious wire just popped right out of the ground.  

Nothing burst.  Nothing exploded.  I didn’t get zapped.  I just stood there in my flower sweat pants holding the broken handle of a rusted hand trowel.  It was rather anticlimactic.  Nothing was hurt except for my dignity.  That took a beating.  

But seriously?  Who buries a broken tool?  The garbage gets picked up every Friday.  Perhaps it was just forgotten.  I’ve almost buried tools before I guess.  I’ve certainly forgotten where I’ve set them down.  I suppose I should be thankful though.  I now know where my utilities are and how far down I can dig around them.  The only thing it cost me were a few minutes of my pride.  

Call before you dig. Even if it’s just an unidentified shovel. Happy Spring and Happy Gardening!

Sticks & Stones

That’s it. Just sticks and stones. And a measuring tape. And about 3 separate trips to Lowe’s, a bit of rearranging, a shovel, and minimal profanities. And Voilà! A garden bed!!

Ready to start this project for yourself?  Here is what you will need:

Supplies:

*12 planter blocks 

*maybe rebar to keep the blocks in place (I haven’t done this yet)

*6  treated lumber boards: 2 inch width by 6 inch height by 8 ft long (cut in half to make 12)

*A level(ish) area to accomodate the project

*A shovel and a level to help with leveling (not needed if leveling is not a concern or care)

*A non-rainy day, preferably, which is a bit of a unicorn in Western Washington this time of year.

*A smidge of patience

*A basic knowledge of Legos or Lincoln Logs

Estimated time:

*Depends on the person, distance from a home improvement center, hauling space within the vehicle, general funds, and the ability to stay on task.

Pros and Cons verses a kit purchased from Amazon (I also have a couple of these)

Pros: better quality and longevity than a purchased kit.  Also, bigger in general. The satisfaction of building your own bed. You can vary dimensions based on wood length and levels (stacks) of blocks.

Cons: You become your own two day shipping.  Or however many trips it takes you.  Also, the lumber yard is a foreign place.  Bring your passport.  Another con is treated wood may not be healthy for items grown for consumption.  If this is the intent, purchase a liner.

Unknown:

How many soil bags it will take to fill this monstrosity.

Conclusion:

Sticks and stones may break my bones, but they are very satisfying to play with in one’s very own yard and garden.  Have fun!

Christmas Tree Dreams

It’s Christmas Day.  It’s 2020.  It’s weird.  But…

I’m writing this in my new house next to my new Christmas tree.  New has been 2020s motto and it’s been hard to keep up. A few brand new ornaments adorn this pre-lit tree I procured on a visit to the FedEx that resides inside the Walmart in my new city.  This is the year we live in.  Where we improvise at every turn.

My pre-lit tree has plain white lights.  I chose this.  Perhaps it was because I had just finished a work errand and was feeling more grown up and thus more sophisticated.  I’ve always been a multi-colored light tree person in the past. Squinting my eyes to make the colors blend together had always been fun.  When I do the same with my new tree, it seems more like a precursor to a migraine.  Perhaps I’m still a multi-colored light girl after all.  

Should I be admitting to a fake Christmas tree on a garden blog?  Meh.  It’s 2020.  For several more days anyway.  After a year like this one, I don’t have it in me to feel guilty about the carbon footprint my fake tree has participated in.  I can feel good that I’ve left the live trees living though.  That’s something.

I’ve actually given a lot of thought to this whole tree thing.  There are plenty of tree farms.  There are also plenty of forests that have been devastated by fire.  So if I wasn’t invested in this life of accounting, I’d buy a tree farm for Christmas tree rentals. 

Rentals as in trees, live trees, borrowed for a price and returned when done.  Think of Blockbuster, but without the stress of rewinding the VHS tape…I mean DVD.  I’d grow trees from seed into little tabletop trees.  I’d rent them to people for the holidays and then grow them bigger each year when returned and then rent them out again at different sizes.  After a sufficient size, I’d plant them or release them into the wild as they say on those nature shows.  

People get Christmas trees.  Forests get trees.  Hopefully fires don’t get fuel – 2020 has left me a bit jaded after all.  Probably not feasible, but it does make me happy to think about reusable live Christmas trees.  Sort of an atonement for my fake tree.

There are 6 days left in 2020 and soon my fake tree will be tucked away in my garage. I’ll store the multi-colored strands that light my new garden too. The days will continue to get longer and longer as 2021 progresses. My garden will grow. It’s not big enough to grow live Christmas trees, but much bigger than the P-Patch I had in Queen Anne. It’s certainly big enough for get-togethers that will hopefully be sans masks, distancing, zoom, and (in the spirit of Harry Potter) that virus that,“must not be named.”

Hopefully, well before the time I decorate my fake tree next year, the world will be a much better, safer, healthier place.

Water Lily Summer

The French master Claude Monet created a large pond from a stream within the Japanese style garden he built in front of his home. It was here that he put brush to canvas to paint his final series called “The Water Lilies.” The most famous of those paintings, of course, was simply named, “Water Lilies.” His pond was full of Nymphaeaceae inspiration and so was my summer.

Arboretum

I didn’t paint this summer and I don’t claim to be an artist anyway.  However, this summer was a masterpiece for me.  It was by far the best one I’ve had in a very long time.  Nature painted me a beautiful picture day after day and, with the world slowing down due to Covid 19, I slowed my pace to enjoy it.   

My days were still filled with work, though from the safety of my home, but my evenings and weekends were often filled with simple adventures. Walks, hikes, and swimming under the sun. A few nights filled with star gazing and comet spying. I reconnected with my outdoor loving self and embraced the lifestyle coined by the Scandinavians as friluftsliv. It was this reconnection with nature that inspired me to take up a new hobby and thus admire and inspect the Monet foliage more closely.

I ordered the first reasonably priced paddle board that Amazon would deliver the fastest.  Summer is short in Seattle so there was no time to waste!  My teal blue board arrived shortly after summer officially began and I was able to embark on its inaugural voyage on a small lake north of the city one evening when the sun still remained high in the sky.  

Floating on the surface of Silverlake were water lilies.  Lots of them.  My first response was not the same as that admiring gaze that Monet’s masterpiece has always elicited from me.  It was more like panic as the wind took me, inexperienced and not yet steady on my board, closer and closer to the pretty patch.  

Lake Ballinger

Of course I love the bright petals that point to the heavens from their circular, glossy green pads.  I still look for frogs to perch on them and sing out songs like from a Disney cartoon.  However, the water lilies don’t just float on the surface.  They are attached to slimy tubes that root in the soil at the murky bottom of the water.  I feared falling in and getting tangled in the tubes.  I didn’t want to sink to their origin never to resurface again. So I fought many times to keep them at a safe distance.  I feared what lurked beneath.  I feared the unknown.  

After awhile, I felt secure on my board.  I no longer feared falling in.  If I did, I was prepared for the parts of the plant hidden under the surface.  I no longer thought I would be drowned by them.  I  even began to seek them out and paddled through the water lily laden Washington Park Arboretum.  It was beautiful.  So much life.  I explored a bit and even touched the slimy stems beneath the surface.  Not so bad after all.  Knowledge often conquers fear and so I learned to love real life water lilies with all their parts and not just the pretty flowers on pads that seem to float in paintings.  

Lake Washington

Summer is now over though.  My paddle board is packed away.  The lily pads have been dying back and I am very sad to say goodbye to them.  I take comfort in knowing that their essence, their roots, will live on below the surface through the winter months.  They will slumber until spring when their new leaves send champagne like bubbles to the surface and then follow with a beautiful display of flowers again in the summer.

Husky Stadium

I am already dreaming of next summer, water lilies, and the new adventures that surely await me.