Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Morning Walkabout

Turning forty has honestly been a life-changer for me.   I didn't moan and weep over losing my youth, but I did get pretty philosophical and start thinking about how I wanted the second half of my life to be and what changes I needed to make in order for that to happen.  And I've made those changes, little by little, bit by bit, learning to weed out the bad stuff and embrace the good stuff and seek out help when I can't do it by myself.

One thing that I've found most difficult and rewarding is embracing the person that I am, no matter which person I happen to be on any given day.  There are such a lot of Heathers in me (bonus points for literary reference) and I am working to love them all (or at least tolerate them.)  Some days I'm goofy, some days I'm introspective, some days I'm intellectual, and some really FUN days, I'm all three of those things at once.  Or every five minutes.  Whhhheeeee!

Not as fun are the days when I'm anxious or sad or I go off track.  Those days make me more anxious or sad or off-tracked and I'm having to learn to pet myself a little and forgive myself, but it's hard. Staying on a schedule and trying to live in the moment help, and I've discovered that making time to go outside (even when it's cloudy, pissing pollen-laced rain, and windy) and puttering in the yard and garden really settles me.  I mean, I always knew I LIKED to be outside, but I'm not sure I've ever noticed before that it actually has a physical affect on me.  I've named these little spells "Walkabouts," because it's fun to think that each time I venture outside is a little journey in and of itself.

Yesterday, I went out before starting my inside chores.  I carried the little basket Kelly gave me years ago, my new tea mug, and my camera.

Here's what I saw:

Sassafras trees have blooms.  I don't think our little volunteer has ever bloomed until this year, and I'm just delighted and tickled by it. Must remember to make gumbo filĂ© this year, although I don't like gumbo. Maybe I can use it to thicken lotions or salves?  I wonder if it would hurt sensitive skin.  

I have yet to actually stake or string up the sweet pea vines, and this one was all, "Forget you, lady.  I'll do this mess ON MY OWN."  Have you ever seen anything so delicate and so strong at the same time?

As soon as I rounded the corner of the house, a mockingbird told me EXACTLY what it thought of me.  Can you guess why?

This azalea bush has struggled been neglected for years.  The kids now use it for a fort/hideout/tunnel of awesomeness and I trimmed it back a bit last summer, and it apparently appreciates the attention.  More blooms to come?

I love this little canopied walkway in the side yard.  Although, to be honest, so does Frodo.  And his excretory system.  Ahem.  STILL, you know, oooooh, mysterious!  Lovely pool of light at the end!

Microgreens before they are washed.  Actually, these are thinned romaine, buttercrisp, spinach, mustard green, and arugula seedlings.  (And a few broccolis I spilled all over the end of one row.)  Getting all the dirt out of the roots was a big pain, and not worth the time it took to get my little bowl of tasty and spicy greens.  I think in the fall, I'll plant big squares of the greens and use scissors to thin them into rows to avoid the dirty roots.

Is it weird that this is one of my favorite pictures ever?  It's my harvest for the day:  microgreens hidden underneath a mound of sorrel and a bouquet of old-fashioned white irises and my tea cup, and so on the surface, not really all that fascinating.

But it's full of love of the garden and outside, and plans to brighten up the inside and nourish the people within.  It's

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Thank You, Phil Robertson

This morning, I was getting ready to get my new little routine of happiness going (more on that tomorrow, I hope) when I decided to stop by Facebook whilst my tea was brewing.

Big.  Mistake.


Because one of my friends had posted a video of America's favorite bearded fundamentalist spewing hatred and it got me seventeen different kinds of het up.  I was het up at the fundamentalist, het up at the folks that think he is awesome at anything other than running a successful corporate empire, het up at a country that fosters such meanness and wraps it up in religiosity, and fourteen other kinds of het-uppedness at which you can probably guess.  I won't post a link to the video, because I don't think this guy needs any more publicity, but if you really want to, you can go stare at one of his bobble-heads at Hellmart for a few minutes.  It would make about as much sense.

Anyway, I decided to remove myself from Facebook for the day and go about my business, which involved a cup of hot tea and weeding the garden.  However, when I got outside, I realized two things.  A:  it was raining; not pouring down rain, but the rain referred to as "pissing," when there's really nothing on the radar, but everything is still dampened by the stuff whizzing around in the air that is wet.  This lead to my second realization, which was that B:  I was too angry because of Phil's ugliness and the pissing rain to finagle with the itty bitty weeds and shoots in my water-logged garden.

"Right," I said with Hugh Grant grimness, and I marched across the yard.

We live on an acre of land in a fairly large subdivision which is pretty much straight in the country.  The front part of our backyard is azalea beds and patio and my kitchen garden, but the back consists of what I refer to as The Shed of Horror, Will's fire-pit area, the kid's play area, and a shadowy wedge of space that could, up until about thirty minutes ago, only be called "dank."

Part of the space is a randomly fenced and gated area that a long ago jasmine vine decided it really needed to take over.  Inside the gate is a sloped concrete slab.  We assume that somebody once had a boat or dogs or possibly a smallish dragon that sat upon the slab.  Outside of the gated area is a tree that developed an awful lean during an ice storm several years ago and that has been taken over by the jasmine, a climbing rose, and some sort of tea olive which we always refer to as The Medusa-like Monstrosity because that's what the Southern Living Gardening Book called it.  The whole atmosphere is one of neglect and mildew and "Hey, copperheads and rattlesnakes and brown widows!  Come live here."

Here's a picture of the slab area.  Forgive the crappy cellphone pic, but I wasn't taking Audrey (my D610) out in the rain.

Here's another view, where you can see the gigantic, tree-sized limb that fell off of the oak tree that has been shedding limbs since we moved and which is finally (to my relief, frankly) just a trunk that I hope will quietly rot where it stands.  The huge limb has been caught right in the crotch by a smaller tree that I am depending on staying strong.  Stay strong, little tree.

Anywho, I attacked the jasmine, Medusa-like Monstrosity, and mildew speckled leaves of the leaning tree with all the het-up strength I could muster.  I snipped and lopped and tugged and whacked like a determined mad woman, because in reality, I'd been wanting to clean up the area for a long time and I wanted to get it done before Spring got firmly established and the birds were building nests and because the rain wasn't accompanied by lightning, so I might as well do it now.

After subduing the leaning tree, trimming off a few of Medusa's snakes, and getting the jasmine on the outside in some sort of order, I moved into the gated area.  Lop, lop, whack, whack, tug, tug.  It was all pretty intense.

So intense that I broke my garden rake.

I said words that ought not to be said in mixed company.

Frodo took that as his cue to hide under the play fort, away from the rain and his het-up mom.

After a few minutes spent fuming, I got back to work.

Why, yes, that IS a child's play hoe.  WHATEVER WORKS, people.

I have to be honest:  there were some times when I started to chuck in my plastic blue rake and give up.  But every time my sodden, out of shape body started complaining, my mind presented me with the audio of Phil Robertson's hateful twang and I got right back to work.  When I was worried that the copperheads, rattlesnakes, and brown widows would come out and bite me, I channeled an image of that bigot's beard and I gleefully kicked half-rotted logs out of my way.

Once when I did that, I found this guy, the only creepy-crawly I discovered.  At first I thought he was a black salamander that took a wrong turn in Albuquerque, but I've since decided he is a slimy salamander.

 Isn't he ADORABLE?

After finding Albert (that is the salamander, in case you couldn't connect the dots), I realized that my anger and a couple of decades of detritus had both been swept away.

In a matter of a couple of hours, I managed to put together this pile of stuff:

(That's River's rake there, for size reference.)

I was left with this:  

Obviously, there's still a lot of work to do, but I think I've decided that I want to turn this little area into a sort of outdoor ladies' parlor, where I can chill out with a good book and/or friends and a delightful beverage or two.   I think, in fact, that I will invent a cocktail and name it after Phil Robertson.

And every time I enjoy said cocktail, I will raise my glass and say, "Cheers to you, Phil Robertson, and your tiny little black heart."

Blackberry mojitos, anyone?