Saturday, August 20, 2011

Resting in Peace

I titled this blog "As grows the garden, so goes my life" because that's how it is.  You can usually tell the state of my being by looking at the state of my garden.

Today we are into our third month of record high temperatures and drought here in Austin.  When 104-107 is all I ever see on my iphone ten day weather forecast, it does not inspire me to get out there and weed, plant or hang out.  Everything we have is dying.  I water on our two allotted days per week, but even the hardy, drought resistant, Texas native perennials are withering in the relentless sun and heat.  It feels barren and sad out there.

It is sad in here too.  Two days ago my father passed away.  I pride myself on being strong and resilient but today I am withering on the vine.  I feel parched and need water, but the rain doesn't come.  Just tears...tears...and more tears.

I am grateful that he has been released from a body that no longer served him.  The distress I have been carrying for what he and my mom were going through is leaving me.  When I think of him now I don't have to think of his pain; I think of his love, his humor and the bounty of gifts that he gave me every single day. 

But it still hurts like hell.  Daughters have a special bond with their "daddy".  No matter where I was traipsing around this planet I always felt his love and support and knew that he had my back if I needed him.  We had a ritual - I would call him before getting on the plane on the first leg of any journey I took.  He was my lucky charm and I felt safe as I boarded my flight.  It never was luck I needed, just love.  Love is boundless and borderless and it doesn't require a phone to connect to it.  He gave me more than enough to last my lifetime. 

I know that this is a journey and we are only passing through, with sacred occasions to mark the passages - first love, marriage, the birth of a child, the birth of a grandchild (a great gift this year) - but losing a parent is compelling me to reflect on my life in fast forward and technicolor.  It is all rushing before my eyes and filling me with sweet and bitter memories, and I am raw with the awareness that time does run out.  I have been at a crossroads this year, feeling my way towards my future.  It is time to forge a new beginning and honor my father by being my own lucky charm. 

Soon the temperatures will drop, some rain will fall and I will find my usual comfort, trekking through our overgrown yard and trying to whisper some life back into our stressed out garden.  I am sure that when the clay pots are full of fresh herbs, the ruellia and lantana are flowering and my blue gardening boots are caked with fresh dirt, I too will begin to flourish again. 

Because as grows the garden, so goes my life....

John Landreth Albert
October 31, 1918 - August 18, 2011
Send us some rain Daddy!   My father's obituary

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trashcan Herb Farming

While rereading my last post (man, time flies when you’re ignoring your muse) I realized how narrow our window is to eat greens from the garden. In January I was still waiting for them to get big enough to pilfer from – we usually leave the plant in the ground throughout the season and just steal some leaves for the evening salad. It seems like we just got started with that when the warm weather came rolling in and the bitter taste arrived with it. Chris sampled one of the most tender, youngest leaves today and had to immediately spit it out. The plants are still there and look hearty and proud, but they taste like old news and will soon be relegated to the compost pile, forced to offer themselves up to the cycle of life, returning as fertilizer for some future batch of radicchio, arugula, butter and romaine. We didn’t leave the country this year in March like we often do, so we were home enough to walk smugly past the lettuce section of the produce department for several weeks. Still, I wish the cool weather had hung on just a little longer because store bought salad just doesn’t hold a candle to our crop. The good news is Chris was very diligent and got an early start with the salsa garden; tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro are all well on their way to our pottery “chips and dip” platter. “And the seasons they go round and round.” (Thank you, Joni.)

We’re finally figuring out placement for our herbs. They seem to be such fussy, fragile things – not unlike me. They wilt easily without enough water, get fried with too much sun, droop without enough sun, are easy prey for bugs – again, much like me. I’ve had a “shade garden” in a circular area among the live oaks by the driveway for years. I filled it with hostas and creeping ivy and caladiums in a wheel barrow. It’s not a true shade garden though; it gets some nice gentle morning light and then another caress as the sun goes down. Don’t ask me what direction it faces, I’m lousy at making those kinds of calls. I’m more of a left/right gal than north/south. It’s close to the kitchen door and right next to the trashcan and recycling bin, so the area naturally gets a lot of attention from us. No matter how busy we are we’re tossing wine bottles and newspapers pretty regularly, so we notice what’s going on in the vicinity.

Chris started piling his pots of herbs there and at first, I’ll admit, I felt like he was encroaching on the little slice of fern laden forest heaven I had been trying to create for so long. I soon noticed that the herbs all looked very happy in their new home. It is super easy to water and to scoot out there and pinch off some basil for the chef. He does know what to do with those herbs so I am more than happy to have them in the shade garden/mini trashcan herb farm. They also look lovely and fill up the space that really wasn’t flourishing like I had hoped it would. And if you can grow something that is pleasing to the eye and the palette, why on earth (so to speak) wouldn’t you?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

James Taylor

The recent relentless rain in Austin finally let up today so I was inspired to throw off my flannel pants and fuzzy slippers (the beauty of having a home office) and open my pores to some much needed vitamin D. I walked in circles around the track at our neighborhood elementary school while the sun was setting and the moon was rising. Whenever I find myself between these two marvels at that perfect moment, I feel like I’m getting my own personal realignment from the cosmos. The moon will be full tomorrow so she had an abundance of intuitive lunar magic to bestow, balanced by the orange winter sun lighting my path with its brilliance.

When I returned home I grabbed an O’Doul’s beer and walked around, surveying the landscape that I have essentially been ignoring for weeks now. It’s that time of year when brown is the primary color scheme and freeze stress is the most popular look. The “back 40” is overgrown with bamboo, which is blanketed with the brown remains of wild vines that I allowed to run rampant towards the end of the summer. Even the arbor that we were married under is draped with dead vines, probably a huge feng shui faux pas (if I may mix my Americanized slang use of foreign phrases.)

My lack of attention to all this has been eating away at my naturally guilty conscience, but I was struck by how comforting it was to just stand there and look at it. I never even picked up a pruner or clippers and I still felt a connection and kinship just being in the middle of the chaos. It’s different than the piles on my desk that can also feel like chaos. There’s nothing therapeutic about looking at that mess, feeling the halogen light streaming down from above or the soft breeze of the heating system tickling my face, reminding me of the huge utility bill headed my way.

When I’m out in Mother Nature, it is as if she has been waiting with open arms for me to even stop by for a quick visit. She is not passing judgment saying “hey, we’ve got some overgrowth here, when are you planning to get to work?” The winter greens are still growing in spite of my lack of attention (thanks to Mother Nature’s superb watering job this week) and the kitchen scraps continue to turn into black gold in the compost pile. This relationship is not conditional – she is not going to turn her back on me if I don’t live up to her (or my) expectations. She might not flourish with quite as much pizzazz, but she’ll keep growing and doing her thing, offering me a quiet place to think, move, reflect and connect.

While I stood there in the gathering darkness, I realized that even when I stray far from my garden for weeks on end I will still be welcomed back with no agenda. James Taylor was singing “ain’t it good to know, you’ve got a friend” on my iPod. Yeah James, it is.