Saturday, June 28, 2008

The Week of Long Days

It was a week late, but summer did finally arrive, just in time for the close of my favorite time of the year -- the week of long days. Here in Washington, that means dawn edging in at 4:00 am and sunset edging out at nearly 11:00 pm. That's a lot of daylight!

The temperature has nearly reached 80 F today too, which, in my book, is as near to perfect as exists on earth. DH spent most of the day gardening, and I spent most of the day appearing to garden, although what I was really doing had a lot more to do with basking in the sun than with anything like work.

You know I couldn't resist giving you flowers, though, could I?

First is a shot of these two unknown white bushes blooming on either side of our front gate. I don't know what they are, but I do know they didn't bloom last year or the year before, so seeing them covered in delicate white lace was a nice surprise.



Next is a photo of our "secret" garden. It was mainly a huge mess until DH weeded it a few weeks ago when he dug up the lavender to plant in my pig wallows. It's not very big, but now that it's cleared out, it's amazing. You can follow the little path into the middle and peer out through the trees and all you can see are flowers, leaves, and the distant water down below.



The next photos are all of the same thing -- the most beautiful roses I've ever seen. They are in a part of our lawn that has not really been landscaped. In our first summer here, two years ago, they were nearly choked over with weeds -- we only discovered the roses because of a desperate long shoot of blooms that made it over the top of the weeds near the end of the summer. We cut back the weeds and made sure the roses got water last summer. This year, we are seeing our reward!



The buds are a deep salmon pink when they are closed, and when they open, they are a deep golden yellow, edged with apricot.



I took so many shots because I couldn't seem to get one that showed them in their true glory.



The next photo shows how much work is left to do on that section of the garden -- it is a wild mess -- but it is a wild mess of the most beautiful flowers I've ever seen.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Miss Worthen, Where ARE You?

It has become very clear of late that not everyone had a fifth grade teacher like Miss Worthen. For proof, I offer Exhibit A, the source of which I shall leave anonymous, as it is irrelevant to my point:

Stop and take a look at what us women have in our closets.

US women?

Miss Worthen – you missed one! Where were you when this poor writer was in fifth grade?

More and more I believe we need an army of Miss Worthens – her primary mission was to prevent ignorant ten year olds from the misuse of personal pronouns. If you, for example, foolishly uttered something stupid like "Me and Jim went to the store" – Miss Worthen would deliver unto you the appropriate punishment. If you were an habitual offender, you would be sent to sit on the floor in the hallway and made to write out the correct construction a specified number of times. Occasional offenders were allowed to sit on a stool in the corner of the room while writing out the punishment.

I admit that I suffered Miss Worthen's punishments a few times. I also admit that because I preferred the hallway (where I had time to woolgather if I wrote fast) to the stool in the corner, I learnt to escalate myself into bigger trouble (by arguing) just to get the bigger punishment. Of course, I didn't prefer the bigger trouble brought by the note home to my parents!

But I digress – Miss Worthen's methods were sometimes harsh, but they worked.

I do not say "I" when it should be "me."

I do not say "me" when it should be "I."

I do not say "us" when it should be "we."

When they are not sure of which word to use, I cannot understand why people don't simply remove the extra words to see how the sentence sounds. In my example above, that's all it would have taken to see that the correct word should have been "we."

Stop and take a look at what us have in our closets.

Miss Worthen was never my favorite teacher. Till now.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Garden Girl and the Pig Wallows

After all the sniveling, whingeing, and moaning I've done lately, it's probably hard to believe that it only took two consecutive days of sunshine to do it. But it did.

Witness garden girl.



Able to dig dandelions out by the root. Able to frighten snails away by her very shadow. (I wish!) Able to transform a patch of mud that looked an awful lot like a pig wallow into a patch of mud with some sparse droopy flowers.

It was a good day.

We started out by going to the Lavender Wind Farm to pick up some replacements for the lavender plants we lost over the winter.



We decided to go with Folgate English lavender (lavandula angustifolia) this time because the blooms are a deeper purple than the hybrid and French lavenders that we planted last summer. The conditions here also seem closer to England, so we think it will be hardier in our weather.

Folgate lavender grows fairly large, but it takes about three years. Two of the plants we lost were on either side of our gate, and we debated replacing them with something else because the empty beds are the part of the lawn that looks like a pig wallow, but the owner of the Lavender Farm suggested replacing them lavender, but filling in the gaps with annuals until the lavender grows large enough to stand on its own.

That seemed like a good idea, so we decided to do that, and then we went to Sally's Garden to get the annuals to fill in the holes. I ended up with purple and pink cosmos and some other purplish daisy like things whose name I can't recall, but as usual, I didn't get enough because there are really two pig wallows! If I had put them all on one side, I think it would have looked fine, and I almost did, but for some reason, I didn't at the last minute.

Here is one of the pig wallows.



Fortunately, DH found two lavender plants that were much larger than the ones we bought hiding in one of the big beds near the front of the lawn, and he dug them up and moved them to my pathetic pig wallows, so they don't look quite so bad as they would have otherwise.

Here are the pig wallows with my droopy cosmos and DH's lavender plants.



I suspect a trip to the garden store is in my future. One can never have enough droopy flowers can one?

While we were out, we had ice cream at the world famous Kapaw's. They make their own waffle cones -- Yum!



In my other garden endeavours, I pulled up a weed with a firmly embedded root, which let go suddenly, showering my entire head with truly disgusting mud. I also managed to trip on a clump of turf and fall down, face first, barely missing the rake! I twisted my ankle, ruined my jeans, and laughed for 15 minutes at the picture I must have presented, considering that I already had mud all over my head. I limped over to where DH was weeding and asked if he'd heard me scream. He said yes but that he'd assumed it was because I was rolling in the mud with the dogs. On purpose.

In spite of the nasty weather we've been having, our flowers have been progressing from spring to summer.

My pot of pansies is offering assurance that the Curse of the Black Thumb is in retreat.



The poppies are popping!



The snapdragons, which a few weeks ago, appeared to be at death's door, have a new lease on life. I love snapdragons.



The backyard is like heaven for dogs.



I don't know what this little bush is, but the photo doesn't do it justice. It's quite amazing up close. The flowers are shaped like stars that have yellow centers. It's a gorgeous thing.



In the bed where DH found the large lavender plants, we also found a lone iris. We really need to sort that bed out. It's large and it's so crowded, it's difficult to see what is even growing inside. Ah well, surely there will be another sunny day before the end of summer. Surely...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Two Good Things

The sun came out today. That was one good thing. The other good thing was totally unexpected, and totally due to Auntie. The blog entry I wrote last summer about the snake in my mother's kitchen, won second place in one of the contests at the Arkansas Writers' Conference!

I took it down since the rules of the contest required that it be "unpublished' and, technically, having it on the web could be interpreted as being published, so I'm not linking to it now. When I remember what I did with it after taking it down, I'll put it back up and link to it then, but in the meantime, I'm chuffed. Particularly, since I only wrote the thing for my own amusement.

Good things are supposed to come in threes, so I wonder what the other one will be...

Unruly Sun!

It's been nineteen days with no sun. My flu has turned into bronchitis. We've had a winter storm this week, which is only remarkable because it isn't winter!

But it's back. A hole has opened in the clouds and the sun has come back. I was beginning to think it never would.

I feel too crappy to jump up and down, so instead, here's a poem to celebrate the return of the sun.

The Sun Rising

by John Donne

Busy old fool, unruly sun,
Why dost thou thus,
Through windows, and through curtains call on us?
Must to thy motions lovers' seasons run?
Saucy pedantic wretch, go chide
Late school boys and sour prentices,
Go tell court huntsmen that the king will ride,
Call country ants to harvest offices,
Love, all alike, no season knows nor clime,
Nor hours, days, months, which are the rags of time.

Thy beams, so reverend and strong
Why shouldst thou think?
I could eclipse and cloud them with a wink,
But that I would not lose her sight so long;
If her eyes have not blinded thine,
Look, and tomorrow late, tell me,
Whether both th' Indias of spice and mine
Be where thou leftst them, or lie here with me.
Ask for those kings whom thou saw'st yesterday,
And thou shalt hear, All here in one bed lay.

She's all states, and all princes, I,
Nothing else is.
Princes do but play us; compared to this,
All honor's mimic, all wealth alchemy.
Thou, sun, art half as happy as we,
In that the world's contracted thus.
Thine age asks ease, and since thy duties be
To warm the world, that's done in warming us.
Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere;
This bed thy center is, these walls, thy sphere.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Thanks!

Thanks everyone, for the helpful suggestions for cheering myself up. I know it's a drag to read about the misery of others, but sometimes suggestions help because when you're lost in your own woes, it's hard to come up with them yourself.

Shoes? Shoes are good. I have ... ahem ... a few pairs of shoes already, but a few more can't hurt. I just bought three pairs, so rather than buying more, maybe I'll put them on (inside, there's no point in drowning them immediately) and think about going outside again someday! The rain will stop. I know it will. I'm sure it will. Really.

Ice cream? I think I'd better wait for a holiday in a warm place for ice cream. I need to warm my bones. My heating bills are astronomical right now. I'm running the furnace and a space heater. But I can have hot chocolate!

It's funny. Until I lived here, I always took summer for granted. It's hot. It's miserable. You get tornadoes. You get hurricanes. You get mosquitoes. West Nile disease. Name some nasty summer pestilence, and I was ready to deal with it. What I was not ready to deal with was not having summer. Oh my God. No summer! What kind of messed up deal is that?

Now I long for my humidity. My swamp. The sound of the mosquito truck spraying noxious chemicals in the air. Shimmering heat poisoned by the emissions of a million stalled cars. The feeling of your skin fusing to the seat of your car when you first get in. The taste of the salt and the ice when the margarita first hits your tongue after you've fought your way home through miles of sweltering traffic. Home.

I thought about this a lot this weekend as I stared out at the rain. I think the real problem is that I have to come to terms with the fact that short term solutions like walks, and shopping, and books -- all things I normally enjoy -- only have a brief effect, and once I've finished, I settle right back into feeling blue. Which means I was right in the first place; the solution to my problem has to come from within. Distraction isn't going to work.

Oh well; I really do appreciate the suggestions. It's nice to know you're out there! And now I know there is only one way to a happy ending -- I will have to write it myself. But I am good at doing that; I'm just reluctant to expend the emotional energy unless I have to. I see now that I have to. So that's OK.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Running on Empty

I've always believed we bear a certain responsibility for our own attitudes about things. Sitting around and moping is nothing if not self indulgent. And yet ... and yet ... I haven't seen the sun in more than a week -- it's 46 degrees F. and rainy, with no sun in the forecast. I've barely seen DH in days; he's on a big project at work. I am not having any fun and I don't even know when I will be having any fun in the future.

My reserve of positive mental attitude is hovering dangerously near the empty mark. I need a refill, but when it's this low, it's hard to work out how to get it.

What do you do to cheer yourself up when you're feeling low?

Suggestions are welcome!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Age Ranges on Books: Just Say NO!

Lately, I've seen several discussions of proposals to put age ranges on books. I have trouble grasping how this would work because of my own experience with reading progression.

I remember when I was in my first year of school, we were divided into three groups for reading, according to level. Each group was allowed to choose their own name, and ours, the advanced group, chose the politically incorrect name "the Indians", in response to the middle group's choice of "the Cowboys." (OMG, I think the third group was "the Horses"! LOL!) We weren't, however, allowed to choose our own books, and they were, I recall, stultifying variations on "See Dick Run." The only difference between the groups was that ours was allowed to progress through each volume faster than the other groups, and so, we got through more of them.

Naturally, I never learned a dang thing in school. In fact, I don't recall learning anything in school at all until I was about 15 years old. Pretty sad. That's not to say I didn't learn things; I just didn't learn them in school. I spent most of my time in school staring at the wall, at the clock, or at the notebook on my desk. My dad taught me maths; books taught me everything else. I was good enough at words that when called upon, I could BS the teachers so they didn't know that I never paid a bit of attention to a word they said.

The thing about age ranges on books is that I hated school so much, I don't know how I would have got through my childhood if I'd not had books to look forward to! Every day when the bell rang, I raced home to my dogs, and my books. No matter what kind of plans I had with my friends, and I nearly always had some kind of fun there too, I always had an hour or two in the afternoon, after school, with my books. The good ones that taught me things. The ones that gave my life some color!

When I was six and seven, I was into Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Cherry Ames. They were far more interesting than the silly Dick and Jane things we had at school. Then, I moved into LOVE with Harlequin romances! No sex, but I doubt very seriously that mild romance novels would have been rated at an age range for an eight year old! Or Georgette Heyer and her magical Regencies -- I was fascinated with the Ton.

By the time I was nine, I was ready for the big leagues -- my dad's Book of the Month Club books. So I moved into reading the featured NYT bestseller of the month. Whatever it was. I learned a LOT that way.

I asked my parents and grandparents a lot of uncomfortable questions about the words and meanings in the books. And they gulped and explained them to me. I'm sure it wasn't easy for them, but it meant we talked about books. Almost every day. I'm sure it was hard for them, but I'm still grateful. And as hard as it must have been, it did give them useful ways to talk to me about things well in advance of me coming upon threatening situations in real life. For example, our discussion of Valley of the Dolls happened long before anyone offered me drugs in school -- but that cautionary tale was already lodged in my memory as a reason to stay far away from them.

The idea of intentionally making children dumber is just alien to me I suppose. But there will always be some who want to do that. In the end, it probably doesn't matter, because those people wouldn't have read and discussed the books with their children anyway. But it makes me sad to think there are people who want their children's lives to have fewer colors.