Posted tagged ‘Pacific Northwest garden’

Spring Has Sprung

March 20, 2015


I haven’t been sharing much lately, as I’ve been busy cooking up a new life for myself. I’ll reveal all in a bit, when everything’s settled, but for now, here’s my garden on the first day of spring. It’s way too early for all this, but I have to admit that I’m really enjoying it. And Toby loves to be in the garden with me, hiding in the feathery grasses and pouncing out joyously at every opportunity. If there’s still snow where you are, here, have a few spring flowers.











Save The Bees Knees

August 1, 2014


Bees are in the news almost every day, all up in your face when it’s a slow news day in the Middle East or Ukraine, and today I even saw Toby get stung right in the kisser. There’s colony collapse disorder, arguments about whether or not neonicotinoid insecticides are involved, talk of mass starvation when pollinators disappear into the beepocalypse, and worse.

Yet my garden has hundreds of bees in it at any given moment. They love lavender, and salvia, and my garden is overflowing with both of them. I sometimes sit for an hour, watching the bees, who pay absolutely no attention to me, and thinking about how they might disappear from the Earth, and how we all do disappear, and similarly non-summery thoughts.

But one good thing I realize is that the bees love my garden, and they’re not dying here. And it’s something we all can do, plant a garden full of flowers that bees love, and do everything possible to provide their favorite habitat. It’s not the long-term solution, but for once in the scheme of impending world disasters there’s actually something we can do to help.

Plus, watching bees and smelling the lavender gives you something to do when you forgot to charge your phone.

Garden Therapy

May 24, 2014


Do you remember reading as a child, or reading to a child, this little ditty from Winnie The Pooh “this warm and sunny spot belongs to Pooh, and here he sits and wonders what to do?” Well, this is my spot, and I’ve been sitting there a lot, wondering how to create the rest of my life.

DSC_8406Toby, not much of a therapy cat, nonetheless loves to hang out in the garden and seems pleased to have my company out there.


I also have dozens, if not scores, of winged companions. Would you say that this is a giant bee, or really tiny flowers? Would you say that trying to compose the next 20 years of my life is a giant challenge, or just a tiny mote in the eye of the universe?

DSC_8373Zazou, who is also interested in bees, shows up to put the flowers into perspective. Me too, I’m in need of perspective. Perhaps if I go back to France and get a little distance from all that’s happened, my troubles too will shrink down to a manageable size.

DSC_8376Sometimes it all seems so dark, with just the tiniest bits of bright spots to remind me to keep my eyes open.

DSC_8390Other times I feel so wide open and exposed that the slightest psychic breeze can carry me away, scattered silly.

DSC_8398But even the bees like a change, like to spread themselves all around the small world of my garden, and so too, perhaps, should I. I’m a bit terrified to go back to France without Shel, lest every single thing remind me of him. But then, how would that be different than here? Thus I also contemplate a trip to some place he and I never went together, to remind myself that I do have a separate existence, now that I’m an off-leash puppy.

DSC_8423Solitary travels, even though I once went to Finland and Russia by myself, aren’t my favorite thing. I need to be able to share the bees, and their stings, the flowers and their thorns, with someone who cares.


I guess it’s all a question of what’s in focus: the beauty or the emptiness, the light or the dark, the loss or the presence. I carry it all within me, as well as those grief bursts, now less frequent, but more powerful. The paradox of the day is that often, right after having had a fine, even fun time, where I think to myself that I’m really doing a whole lot better, it all falls apart once I’m alone, and I dissolve into pain. I need to find a way to let it out bit by bit, like drip irrigation. Who said that tears make things grow? That’s such a gentle image, whereas mine scour me out like steel wool, leaving raw, dull spots where all the shininess has been rubbed off.

DSC_8412But somewhere in there, in the deep, hidden center, there is healing going on. Grief picks at the scab until it bleeds anew, but I put my nose into the heart of this iris and inhale its delicate apricot scent, and I remember that life is beautiful, even though death is part of it. Or maybe life is beautiful because death is part of it.

DSC_8461-002The fact that I am craving beauty, and light, is undoubtedly a good sign. They’ve got those in abundance in the south of France, and I have so many dear friends there. Shel wanted me to go back, even to move there, because he said he’d never seen me happier than when we lived there. French Letters too probably would be happy to be repatriated. J’y pense. I’m thinking about it.


November 28, 2012

It’s a beautiful word, Shishigashira, the name of the lovely little maple by our front door. Its leaves shimmering in the cold rain, I’ve been watching it day by day. But not for the right reasons, I must confess. I’ve been watching, waiting, for those leaves to fall, so that I can decorate the green-trunked and leafless tree with red holiday ornaments.

What a fool I’ve been, really, to wish the hastening of the seasons. To wish these brave golden leaves dull and fallen. On a day when heavy Chinook-type helicopters have twice flown so low over the house that the windows vibrated, how could I wish any sign of life to meet its end?

All things fall, all too soon. The day I finally hang my Shishigashira with shining and sparkling balls, playthings for the December rains, should be a day of mourning as well as celebration. And in the meantime, I don’t want military helicopters shaking leaves from my tree, or anyone’s tree, or taking up space in the cool, wet sky. The rain is enough.

All On A Summer’s Day

June 22, 2012

We had summer the other day, and it was glorious. Amazingly, it corresponded with the first day of calendar summer, and the solstice. It was so inspiring, seeing the sun, and the blue sky, that before lunchtime

we’d already fired up the smoker and given it its annual baptism by cherry wood smoke, ending up with a succulent platter of smoked chicken. Lunching on freshly smoked chicken and chilled rosé, out on the deck all a-flower, even getting a little sunburn, now that’s summer.

Knowing that summer wouldn’t last, I took advantage of the warm afternoon to make a yeast dough, letting it rise in a sunny spot whilst I drank more rosé and got a little more sunburned. Normally, sunburns are against my religion, but I figure that when summer lasts just a day, what the heck, live dangerously. These cute little chocolate swirls are fun to make, according to me, and fun to eat, according to Shel, and the recipe is here.

As evening fell we lit the grill, opened a fresh bottle of rosé,

and got ready for some nicely charred rib-eyes. The sizzle of steak on the grill, the waft of woodsmoke in the air, the crunch of garden-picked salad greens, a nice French rosé, those are summer’s own delights, however fleeting.

It takes a long time to get dark on the first day of summer, after which, alas, the days start to get shorter. Here, sitting on the deck at 9:15 p.m., we watched the boat traffic,

and caught a glimpse of the Space Needle.

Night came gently to the garden, just before 10:00 p.m., and the next day summer was gone. I’m sure hoping it returns before we head to Greenland and Iceland, where the nights will be short but glaciers and mittens will abound. Still, I’ve heard that you can get a sunburn from the reflections of those ice floes, although I’m pretty sure it will be too cold for rosé up there.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

June 9, 2012

We’ve already had more rain this month than in a whole “normal” month of June, if the weather here can ever be called normal. Although this makes the cats grumpy, not to mention the humans, the plants are exploding with joy. This heaping bowl of kale, spinach, lettuces, and rhubarb are just the tip of the iceberg, albeit the most delicious tip.

Zazou seemingly remains unimpressed by her lushly verdant surroundings, disdains vegetables, and sulks in the house unless there’s no danger that she’ll get her princess paws wet.

The peonies were drooping their heavy heads into the lavender, prompting me to cut an unreasonable number of them to adorn the table. Tomorrow will be our 17th wedding anniversary, and an extravagance of flowers seems called for.

Meanwhile, out on the deck, this cerinthe, which I think is one of the coolest plants ever, even if some nincompoop did nickname it “blue shrimp plant” is at its spooky best.

The lavender is in full bud, but not yet in bloom, so the bees are having to make do with the likes of this purple-leafed dahlia.

Tomorrow is the one day in the five day forecast, and the one day in the past ten days or so, when there’s no rain predicted. I’d like to think it’s all in honor of our anniversary, but I’m more inclined to think that the powers that be are even more tired of grumpy cats than we are, and decided to give us all a break.

But whatever the weather, tomorrow all we’ll be thinking of is how 17 years ago we stood in the garden and said why yes, in fact, we would, until death did us part. That’s seemed perilously close, oh too many times, but today, everything’s coming up roses.

Basking In Beauty

September 4, 2011

It’s back to school time for some, but for me, it’s finally time to live outdoors. All of a sudden, the things we were missing all summer long have burst into bloom, even though some are out of synch with the Earth’s rotational space-time demands. Sweet peas in September, that’s not usual. I bury my face in them and sigh anyway.

Also unusual is the fact that this one Swiss chard plant, as well as several lettuces, have been feeding us since early Spring, never letting up, because there’s been no sun until now to tell them it’s time for a break.

My sole tomato plant has managed to produce two, one more than I expected, ripe tomatoes that actually taste pretty decent, not as insipid as cool-weather tomatoes can be. We’re supposed to be having a heat wave next week, and maybe we’ll even get a third tomato, which would be a thrill. Yesterday we grilled cheeseburgers for lunch and ate them with our firstborn tomato. There’s something that feels deliciously decadent about grilling at lunchtime, when other people are at work, but even that illicit pleasure couldn’t outweigh the joy of having actually produced a tomato. Those of you who live where ripe, sweet tomatoes are a regular summer feature don’t know how lucky you are.

Heat wave, such a delightful phrase to those of us in the chilly north. But it won’t be enough to help these eggplants, which even though I chose the plant because it’s makes little Japanese fruits, has only now started blooming. I might as well snip those flowers and put them in a vase as hope for something actually edible to ensue, but they’re beautiful anyway, and I’ll take that.

Since I can’t grow much at home, the farmers’ market is our mainstay, and it’s happily stocked this year with almost everything I need from the vegetable kingdom.

Shel has discovered the joys of cooking over fire, which used to be exclusively my domain. and now he fusses over the coals possessively while I prepare mountains of luminous vegetables to add to our almost daily meat-grilling extravaganza.

And for the first time this year our little market offers island-grown tomatillos and poblanos, an irresistible invitation to salsa.

The only indications of impending autumn are the denuded state of the blueberry bushes and the crabapple tree. I’m leaving the last berries for the birds who need to fuel their upcoming migration

although it’s the crows who devour the crabapples, so sour, so hard, and as they don’t go away for the winter, it must be for pure enjoyment that they stuff themselves with the fruit.

We’ll be flying away like the birds ourselves, in just another month, so for now we too are stuffing ourselves with summer on the island, loving everything about it, while it lasts.

Summer Surprised Me

July 9, 2011

I went out on the deck this morning and it was suddenly summer.

All during chilly June I’d planted.

The solstice came and went and the days started getting shorter

without summer ever showing its face.

We complained about the endless grey weather every day,

remembering days of swimming and sunburns in May,

which was fantastically warm in the south of France.

I watered, I muttered, I weeded, and I stopped paying attention to the sky.

Until this morning when, still wearing my fleece slippers, summer slapped me in the face,

my flowers asking me, insisting, “silly girl, don’t you even see?”

Sighing, I slip off my slippers and surrender to summer, although it may only last a single day, like this blossom.

Garden Lessons

June 7, 2009

Sunrise garden 021

This week it feels like summer’s already gone, as one dark and dreary day follows another.

Sunrise garden 051

And while, as all Northwest gardeners know, some flowers bloom and thrive only in shade, I am not one of them.

Sunrise garden 062

But even on the dullest day parts of the garden reflect light beautifully, and if they can do it, so can I.  There, that’s my goal for the day, the week, for life: to reflect more light.

Sunrise garden 057

And to that let me add other whispers from my garden’s store of timeless advice: even when progress seems to be all a-tangle and every road looks to be going nowhere at all,  forge ahead.  Or at least squiggle forward.

Sunrise garden 002

You can count on happiness to be found in the unlikeliest of places, if you can see beauty in the tie that binds.

Sunrise garden 026

There’s a lot to be said for turning your face to the world, even when you’re having a metaphorical bad hair day.

Sunrise garden 008

Find some bright and uplifting people, the more of them the better, and hang out together, hang on together, hang in there together.

Sunrise garden 025

Coax the bloom from the bud in every way you know how.  Be gentle.

Sunrise garden 046

But when aphids bite, when they try to suck the joy and life out of you, bite back.  Bite hard.

Sunrise garden 043

When doubt and fear creep in, don’t focus on the stinger, focus on the honey.

Sunrise garden 017

Love the one you’re with, even when you’re as different as poppies and peonies. 

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Bloom shamelessly for all the world to see.  The sun is bound to come out after a while, and when it does, be ready.  Be very, very ready,