Sunday, January 25, 2015

Thoreau on Success

"I learned this, at least, by my experiment: that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

From Walden - via Brainpickings weekly.
Because we can all use a reminder now and again.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

What's Blooming Now

Daffodils are almost over, 
Hellebores are in full swing:
Pansies brighten up the pots,  
Foliage is king.  
Summer Snowflake is confused: it's not even spring!
Camellias brighten up the shade,
I wonder what next week will bring?

Sunday, January 18, 2015


My first violets were given me by Eleanor, the extraordinary gardener who lived next to my childhood home.  It was she who taught me to garden, to love the smell of the earth, to tend green shoots and pull weeds by their roots.  And she shared her violets with me.   

I have planted those violets and their progeny between paving stones, under an orange tree, beneath my bedroom window.  It is tedious, but I pull the leaves aside and pick the flowers to put in an old spice jar next to my bed.  I drift off to sleep to their soft sweet smell.  Half awake, I smile, for the fragrance greets me before I open my eyes.

And I have shared my love of violets with others, and planted them in my friends' gardens.  And Ellen, an extraordinary gardener and a dear friend, sent me this picture of her violets.  
It has inspired me to go pick a bouquet of my own.  So if you'll please excuse me, I'm off to find my shears.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

How To Save A Life

On the way in to Lunardi's today, I saw what looked like an iridescent green lump in front of the entry doors.

A man coming out said "I think it's a hummingbird."  We guessed that it had flown into the glass doors and stunned itself.  It wasn't dead, but it wasn't lively, either.  And it wasn't even trying to fly.

I was afraid he would get stepped on.  I was afraid he would die, and that would break my heart.  The man standing with me was afraid to touch him. 

So I scooped the bright green body into my hands.  He didn't try to get away.  He didn't even flutter as I scooped him off the sidewalk.  It was a cold day, so, with my fingers cupped around his tiny body, I began to exhale gently on him to warm him up.  

After a few minutes of soft steady warm breaths, he began to squirm, so I opened my hands.  He fluttered in my palm, moving so slowly I could see each tiny wingbeat.  After a minute and with a good deal of struggle, he managed to fly to my shoulder, then he just sat there.  

I didn't want him to get cold.  I didn't want him to die.  He didn't want to fly.  So I scooped him back into my hands and exhaled some more.

When I could feel his tiny wings beating against my palms again, I opened my hands.  He stopped struggling and sat quietly on my palm.  A part of me wanted to take him home and take care of him forever, but I know wild things are happier in the wild, so I reached up and held my hand next to a low tree branch that was in the sun.  He clung to my finger, and I had to nudge him onto the branch.  He just sat there looking at me.  I backed away, I went into the store.  Wild things need privacy.

When I came back he was gone.  I looked around the base of the tree to make sure he hadn't fallen.  I looked all around the entry to be sure he hadn't flown into the glass again, or fallen after a short flight.

I looked up in the sky to say good bye, and be careful. 
 A part of my heart flew away with him.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sharing Citrus

Wally and Norberto harvested most of the lemons and oranges before the first freeze.  And the limes.  

We live in California, remember, and while all of California is emphatically not like L.A.  (contrary to what some of our East Coast friends think - no bikinis and semi-naked surfers here) it is warm enough in the SF Bay Area to grow citrus.  Just barely.  Near the house.  At the top of the slope.  But not when we have an unexpectedly cold year, or an unexpectedly cold night.  It only takes one.

Of course you remember that cold air is heavier than warm air, and it flows like water.  Downhill. Thank goodness.  Everything in the bottom garden has frozen and turned to slime. 

But the citrus near the house was covered with fruit, like some crazy Christmas decorator had gone nuts.  And when the weather prognosticator predicted temperatures in the twenties (no sympathy from those East Coast and Midwest friends, I know... none expected from people expecting a high today of four degrees) we decided to bring them all in.

We have been feeding our oranges Ultra Bloom food, and they are sweet.  Finally.  After, like, five years of sour citrus we finally found the secret.  Tell your friends.  Well, not if you live in Chicago.   It will just piss them off.
We sent Norberto home with bags of lemons and limes, and oranges for his kids' lunches.  We sent baskets home with Sam and Zoey (after a quick lesson in the easiest way to peel an orange) and left boxes for the Gossip Girls.  We ate oranges every morning. 

We left a big bag of limes on Clark and Ellen's front porch - he is famous for his Clarkaritas.  Fresh lime juice, agave nectar, really good tequilla.  Makes me thirsty just thinking about them.

 And we shared with the Food Bank.

My friend Rushika is a big supporter of the local Food Bank, and in the past we have given them peaches and marmalade, jams and jellies.  So we filled up her car.  
It feels good to share.  And everyone remembers the Food Bank at Holiday time, but now?  Not so much.

Let's change that. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

resolutions redux

I thought of a few more things, not resolutions - remember, we're done with those.   Nope, instead of making a list of future failures (more often called New Year's Resolutions) I am making a list of Things I've Accomplished In The Last Year.  I hope it catches on, it's a whole lot more uplifting than that list of shortcomings you plan to overcome and probably won't.  

So here are a few more:
I started playing the piano again.

I can better hear the still small voice that says "Something is amiss here."  And I'm paying more attention to that voice, 'cause I'm always sorry when I don't.  So much in this world tells you not to listen - holding onto a quiet place and learning to listen for that voice is the work of a lifetime. 

I have decided that some of the things I write are just for me.  I'll let you know how it feels.  But I probably won't let you read them...

I'm taking a digital photography class.  Mostly to have more fun and less frustration with my point-and-shoot camera.  Whether the photos on this blog will improve is an entirely different matter.  Stay tuned.  

What have you done that you're proud of?  What have you started?  What have you left behind that desperately needed leaving behind? 

Friday, January 9, 2015

January In The Garden

Here, courtesy of Dustin and the other fine folks at Sloat Garden Center in Danville, is your to-do list for January.  If you live in the SF Bay Area, that is.  If you live in the frozen Midwest or the stormy East, you have the month off.  And if the weather doesn't thaw soon, you might not be gardening until June!  I'm not sure right now whether I envy you or feel sorry for you.  I guess it depends on whether I'm on my way out to the garden, or on my way back in.  

January In The Garden

  • Plant deciduous flowering cherries and plums, dormant fruit trees and Japanese maples. Look for deciduous vines as well: wisteria, akebia, and Boston Ivy.
  • The first of our summer bulbs (gladiolus, dahlias and lilies) arrive in select stores this month. Call ahead to the Sloat Garden Center location nearest you for information.
  • Dormant roses have arrived.  Learn how to plant and care for them. Plant roses with E.B. Stone Sure Start and Greenall Rose Grow Planting Mix.
  • Top dress roses and tender plants with Sloat Forest Mulch Plus.
  • If it has rained, continue to dormant spray. Dormant sprays help prevent peach leaf curl, fungal rot and other diseases. We recommend Monterey Liqui-Cop for disease. Bonide All Seasons Oil or Monterey Horticultural Oil for insects. They can be mixed and sprayed at the same time!
  • Protect your plants from slugs and snails with Sluggo or Sluggo Plus.
  • Protect citrus from rodents with Bonide Repels All.
  • Don’t forget to water houseplants, especially if the heater has been on.
  • Deadhead cyclamen to keep them in bloom.
  • Protect plants and tender succulents from cold with a frost blanket such as Easy Gardener Plant Blanket or N-Sulate and Cloud Cover anti-transpirant spray.
  • Clean up the garden: Prune roses, shrubs and trees. Prune and cut back perennials & ornamental grasses. Need a little guidance? Contact us!
  • After pruning, be sure to clean your tools.
  • Stop the weeds! Weeds that begin with winter rains go to seed in March & April. But the clever gardener never lets them get that far. Pull weeds now before they go to seed. Apply Weed Prevention Plus made from natural corn gluten to prevent weed germination.
  • Now is the time to remove plants that aren’t thriving to make room for healthier plants. Sad, but true!
  • Feed the birds: We carry Wild Delight Gourmet Bird Seed, Songbird Blend, Nut & Berry, Nyjer thistle, and Sunflower Seed. Also we have suet in 6 flavors to attract a variety of birds from woodpeckers to phoebes. Finch Socks with Nyjer are easy to use and popular with the birds!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Looking Back

It was a beautiful Christmas.  The trees..
 ...the tags.  
Thank you Des for teaching me how to make them, and for giving me the confidence to go off in my own directions.  Next year we're having another gift tag making July.  Mark your calendar.

Our party was great fun - 
and there was barely a scrap of food left.  That made me so happy!
Leslie made chocolate mousse with real moose.  Oops, I mean with real gold leaf sprinkled on top.  It was fabulous and gorgeous.  It disappeared so fast! 

Everything that would hold still got garlanded and lit and wrapped with ribbon:
Brit and I made peppermint bark, and granola, and butter toffee, and wrapped them with cellophane and bright ribbons.  Gifts for her friends - I think we have a new tradition.  Brit?
Early in the season for inspiration we went to the Flower Mart.
 And to Ron Morgan's.  He is walking talking inspiration.  If you go to one of his classes and don't come away inspired, you weren't paying attention.  
It was a Christmas filled with friends...

...and family.  

It was a wonderful year.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

No Resolutions

Accomplishments.  Not resolutions.  I swear everyone  I know resolves to lose 5 pounds, to exercise more. 

And no one ever does. 

People resolve to spend more time with family, or less time with family, and more with friends.  To quit smoking, to finally start that novel.  And really?  If you wanted to, you would have done it by now. 

Nope, starting last year we are not setting ourselves up for failure, we are looking back at what we have accomplished during this year just past.  So here are some of mine:

I learned the words to Quizas.  In Spanish.  Thanks to my friend Delin who sang them all the way thru Cuba, who inspired me.  And I sing them - loudly - in my car.

I learned to understand Italian.  Despite feeling like a big dummy a lot of the time (not Gina's fault, she is a most encouraging teacher and celebrates every success, no matter how tiny) I stuck with Italian class.  Every Wednesday, rain, shine, or crutches.  And when we went to Lucca I realized I could understand the people walking down the street.  And at the table next to us in the restaurant.  I cried.  The lightbulb finally was on.  I am so proud of myself!

I lost my nerve.  And the tumor that was growing on it.  Hopefully now I can hike pain-free.  So glad I lost my nerve.

I learned not to let it go - I did something massively cringe-worthy humiliating, and I owned up.  It was hard.  It would have been so much easier to pretend it never happened, or it didn't matter.  But it did.  And I did not want to hurt my friend and not own up.   And I didn't want to live with a lie.  My lie. 

So I said I'm sorry. And a lot more.  And my friend forgave me.  Lucky me.

I learned to smile and nod.  Thank you Gossip Girls for pointing that out - I would have missed it.

I got more strips for my Jill Jar.  From the adorable Morris family.  They give me curled strips of beautiful paper with all the things they love about me.   Like "She makes even a cast/boot look chic,"and "She can teach a twelve year old how to make a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece."  
Not much teaching there, these girls are seriously talented.

And there are days when this jar saves my life.  Thank You Morrises.

I learned to sketch - again.  I learned to make really good chili.   And I learned what an Oxford comma is, and why it's needed.  Besides the Vampire Weekend song.

What did you do this year?