Thursday, April 29, 2010

Luxury itself, thick as a Persian carpet,
honey fills the jar
with the concentrated sweetness
of countless thefts,
the blossoms bereft, the hive destitute.

Though my debts are heavy
honey would pay them all.
Honey heals, honey mends.
A spoon takes more than it can hold
without reproach. A knife plunges deep,
but does no injury.

Honey moves with intense deliberation.
Between one drop and the next
forty lean years pass in a distant desert.
What one generation labored for
another receives,
and yet another gives thanks.

- Connie Wanek, Honey
from On Speaking Terms

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Rotate Clockwise

I don't hold many memories of this place, yet. 

There was the day my camera arrived, or maybe a few days after that, when I finally got around to opening the box.  I'd wanted it, been eying it for so long that it hardly seemed possible that it was there in front of me. I sat down on my mattress, there on the floor in the center of my new house, and began to unpack the contents of that parcel, so full of possibility that I felt almost unqualified to open it.  There was a body, sleek and dark, just heavy enough to give weight to the hand, shaped to be held, not a switch or button out of place...and when I opened the cover to peer inside, when I glimpsed the mirror there, the guts and workings of that beautiful machine, it gave me such a thrill I lost my breath for a moment, while my heart skipped like a sun-kissed stone across open water, I must confess.  If ever I have known a love at first sight, I did then. 

Since then this magnificent creation has become my small and steadfast companion.  Despite my fears that I could not begin to know, much less master, its controls; that I would not be able to translate my vision into its language; that I might just suck at finding, seeing, pushing, sifting, and even learning; that this was nothing more than indulgence; that it was more than I needed or could use or even handle, what I have instead come to find is that my camera simply makes me very, very happy.  Minutes and hours pass easily through my lens (oh how dearly I do adore thee, VR zoom!), each click of the shutter splitting time like a meditation bell, my inner child playing the xylophone, an electric current snapping through the frayed wire that's hanging overhead.  I lost myself yesterday afternoon, blind, and then I lost myself seeing.  Only what's there. 

The images are mostly raw, yet, because I still have so much to learn.  I wield a tool that vastly exceeds my skill. This can lead to a dangerous situation in the case of motors or blades, or an embarrassing one when it comes to microphones or whip cream, but with my trusty light-box in hand things usually turn out okay, and what doesn't is easily forgotten.  I don't know what I'm doing half of the time, or most of it, and I keep forgetting to adjust the exposure compensation and change the speed, try the rear flash instead of the slow one (if I can stand the flash at all), reset everything again...I can barely focus.  Shutter, aperture, still a mystery.  Basically I'm a total idiot when it comes to this thing, but every now and then--maybe often, even-- something sort of miraculous happens, when what I see is captured, magically, and returned to me as the poem I could not speak, the canvas I could not paint. This I love.  That it happens sort of randomly now is a pleasure.  That I might one day know enough to bring something new to light, that is my hope. 

Oh, and have I mentioned how my kick-ass and totally worth it battery holds a charge forever...............? 

On another note, tonight the moon is full, in Taurus and Scorpio, a powerful combination.  My birthday's close at hand, and my energy is high as I turn into the next year of my life, the next season of my being.  A couple nights ago I came to the sudden realization that not only must I, but I do, love this body of mine, this earthly companion (so small and heavy and full of light), and moreover I will love it, this new and aging body of mine, and no longer will I hope to cast it off, as long as I am breathing.  In the temple of self-portraits I have entered a new hall, where my wrinkled skin tells stories about me while I sleep, dances wild and slow in circles round my half-shut eyes.  I miss the Miss I was, the girl I never did be, but there is strength and laughter in me yet.  And skirts, of lengths and widths and fullness and colors I've not yet worn, with room enough to spin. 

Go out and look at the moon tonight; She goes around and around, and it's not for nothing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

A flavor like wild honey begins
when you cross the river. On a sandbar
sunlight stretches out its limbs, or is it

a sycamore, so brazen, so clean and so bold?
You forget about gold. You stare—and a flavor

is rising all the time from the trees.
Back from the river, over by a thick

forest, you feel the tide of wild honey
flooding your plans, flooding the hours
till they waver forward looking back. They can’t

return; that river divides more than

two sides of your life. The only way
is farther, breathing that country, becoming
wise in its flavor, a native of the sun.

William Stafford,
Looking for Gold
The Way it Is: New and Selected Poems

Monday, April 26, 2010

At The Bank

The company I work for makes fascism seem like a good thing.
Are we good corporate citizens?
Are we getting all this?

You mean we don't need to fight?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

I have discovered some beautiful things

Not the least among them, the sound of my maple. Home begins to change.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Hive Mind

My bees have arrived, and already I am fascinated.

I think I forgot to mention that I am going to be host to a bee hive, here in my backyard. A friend and colleague who began beekeeping last year, with one hive in her own yard, has expanded her operation this season, generously providing all the necessary input in return for a 2x2 foot space in my yard and around a dozen others in the metro.

So, I've got a stack of bees going on now.

In addition to the pleasure of knowing that I am in some small part helping to fuel a friend's fire, and more importantly to assist in efforts to restore and revitalize the bee population both locally and globally, I now have a ready-and-willing colony of pollinators to help get things growing, as well as a new past-time.

Bees are a strange and beautiful culture, one from which we might learn much about our own peculiar ways, and I look forward to sharing some of that here in the months to come. For now it's just cool to watch them.

Stay sweet, and sticky,

Thursday, April 22, 2010

SERIOUSLY: How much more fucked up do things have to get??

These aren't my words, but I'm posting them here in the hope that you will add your name to the list of those opposed to this insanity. Please click here to do so, and read on for an explanation.

If the U.S. government has its way, a powerful intergovernmental group you’ve probably never heard of may soon prevent anyone anywhere from labeling genetically modified (GMO) food.

Operated by the United Nations, the Codex Alimentarius is a collection of guidelines, codes and recommendations regarding food safety and labeling standards which are used by the World Trade Organization (WTO) to settle international disputes regarding food and agricultural trade agreements.

The U.S. Delegation to the Codex meeting is adopting a position that would make it virtually impossible to label foods as "GMO-free" anywhere in the world.

According to draft language circulated by the FDA, the U.S. will oppose a proposal at an upcoming meeting of an important Codex committee that would allow the labeling of genetically engineered food. Consumers Union and more than 80 family farm, public health, environmental and organic food organizations, including Food Democracy Now!, have raised concerns that the U.S. position will create major problems for American producers who want to label their products as “GMO-free.”

Unfortunately, rather than taking a proactive stance on GMO labeling and standing up for the rights of America's citizens, the Obama administration has incorporated pre-existing Bush administration positions, stating that Codex should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods.”1

Leading national food policy experts believe this position directly contradicts USDA Organic standards, which prohibit the use of genetically engineered products. If adopted, the Obama administration’s proposal might not only weaken organic standards, but could also lead to further genetic contamination of U.S. organic crops - the fastest and most profitable segment of agriculture today.

Even worse, the current U.S. draft position paper declares that mandatory labeling laws such as they have in Europe are “false, misleading or deceptive.“2 If the U.S. succeeds in writing this proposed Codex regulation, any attempts to label foods here in the U.S. as genetically engineered, whether voluntary or by law, would become far more difficult, if not impossible.

This extreme position on genetically engineered food is unacceptable. Countries should be able to make their own decisions on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. [and so should people....]

Thank you for participating in food democracy –

1. Consumers Union, Press Release, April 20, 2010
2. 80+ Groups Urge FDA, USDA to Change U.S. Position on Food Labeling Civil Eats, April 20, 2010

Monday, April 19, 2010

Three down, five hundred ninety-seven to go...

Played hooky from work again today, planted a Mount Royal plum in my backyard, found space for a few hostas my sister dug from her place, and relocated a few scattered irises. There's so much space to fill here, it's going to take a few hundred more holes and more plants than I am able to envision at the moment, but I made some small progress today in a couple areas closest and most visible to the house. The four peonies on the south side of the house are now a meter high and balling up, getting ready to burst open in another week or two, and it's not even May yet... Crazy.

The rhubarb is leafing out nicely, although it's now occupied by a colony of ants; I discovered they'd taken up residence in one of the buds about a week ago, and I cut that one out, but (naturally) they simply moved next door... Not sure what to do about that but I might try dousing or dusting them with a chili pepper solution.

The soil here, in the yard and most of the gardens, seems to be quite rich--dark and moist and full of fat earthworms, which I take to be a good sign. Seems the birds of the neighborhood do, too.

Lilacs are beginning to bud, which revealed the identity of the little tree out front to be a Japanese lilac with what look to be pink blossoms (or perhaps purplish, though apparently less likely). Other perennials are filling in, but it may be a few weeks or months before I'll know what they are... bit of a hindrance to the design process but also something of a reprieve. I might just have to wait until next year on a few things.

All in all, not much for a day's work (if that's what it was), but things go as they will. And I'm going to bed.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Willow Moon: Weep Gently, Rise Lightly

The fruit trees arrived in the mail on Friday, with perfect timing. I got a late start heading north on Saturday morning and swung by my folks' to walk the grounds and help scope out sites. They found good spaces for the three plums and two pears just north and south (east) of the sauna, respectively, with the two sour cherries going in just a little west of there, in the field to the south of the house. The two cider apples, and two others on order, will live in the back garden yard, occupying some fertile ground behind the pole barn.

Following the instructions that accompanied the trees, each one got nice 2x2 foot hole, a generous dressing of composted manure, a good soaking and a protective cover of mulch that Dad had chipped up from last year's garden leavings. The trees themselves were all in good shape, 3-4 feet tall and about 5/8 in diameter or so, nicely branching. The cherries were starting to leaf out already, the rest still just beginning to bud. Only one substitution was made--a Superior plum for the Underwood, which was quite all right since I'd been on the fence between those two, anyway (with the former being at the top of last year's list).

Mom and Dad got all those trees in the ground Saturday afternoon, while I took a pear tree and traveled further north to spend the day with my dear sister, who I see not nearly enough, helping her finish work on the lovely tile mosaic she'd pieced together for their "master" bath. As it turns out, free-form mosaic work is not the most, um, straightforward of's much like putting together a jigsaw puzzle that's been mixed up in a box with six other puzzles, but with half of the pieces removed... Looking forward to seeing it on the wall next time I'm there.

wind-borne heart

Sunday I put in a few hours at my folks' in the afternoon and evening, weeding the front garden and coaxing the turtle out of hibernation. With the early Spring and unseasonably warm weather, Dad's been able to get the gardens cleared (during which he uncovered a full rabbit nest near the garage. Boo.) and chipped for mulch (no, not the bunnies!), and the back garden's already tilled. The front garden still needs to be turned over with the broadfork, since we're continuing the no-till approach there, but we didn't make a lot of headway on that... Instead Mom got the cilantro bed cleared of every last weed and then helped Dad get the potatoes planted in back, while I scoured the turtle, planted some of last year's blessed thistle offerings, corralled some rogue chamomile and scattered some old packages of dill. The clover I planted in the paths has come in nicely, if a little aggressively (going to have to keep that in check), and there's now a pretty green turtle body to be seen (I'd have snapped a photo but I was too dirty). My plan is to bomb the center with orange and yellow Calendula and Bachelor's Buttons this year, and get that shell painted.

Birds are out all over the place. Mom and I caught sight of the cedar wax-wing, among others.

As usual, we ended up working til sundown and sharing a late and cobbled-together meal. I left for home with a handful of fresh asparagus spears, my rosemary and my bay laurel, four boxes of composted manure, two fruit trees, the old reel lawn mower, a nice hammock stand and a working sun roof (oh joy! thanks to my brother-in-law) or rather moon roof, through which that lovely crescent, whose dark side has been so beautifully visible lately, smiled down on my tired head as the sounds of some good old-time radio theater kept me company on the drive home, where I returned to find my bee hive had arrived. A rather surprisingly sweet weekend.

above the light

Friday, April 16, 2010

New Garden: Phase 1

So I had this idea today, that instead of trying to plan my new gardens around color and texture, height and width, function or fancy, etc. I could instead work out a sort of map of my psyche, and plant accordingly. Here I plant my bleeding heart, here my untapped potential, between them I'll lay my career path (probably just a weedy pile of gravel, until I can do more heavy lifting), over there my leggy hopes, just behind that my dormant dreams, in that shady spot I'll transplant my fears, and back by the fence I'll make some space to grow a child's garden. Out in front of the house, to the east, will be my social niceties (somewhat stunted), to the south my mythical archetypes (totally overgrown), to the north my pagan roots (so great and gnarled) and to the west, my cosmic oneness (the perfect windbreak). In the center will be a creeping groundcover of neckache and backache, some perennial laziness, a DNA/herb spiral, buds of math and music and poetry, humor, patience, anger and passion, and I'll find a little room to bury the bulbs of my libido, under a wind chime constructed of feathers and dry bones (no pun intended, but whatever). I could readily fill a tacky birdbath with crocodile tears, and maybe get a little solar-powered waterfall worked in there, too, to keep them flowing. What else? A few tangled branches of psychic divergence, perhaps. Thorny canes of hostility. Some tender blossoms of peace. Oh, and the drama. High drama, on tall stalks, bold and colorful--a contrast to the delicate undergrowth of grief and loss, which would be situated not far from the Zen rock garden where I shall rest under a wizened tree bearing the fruits of my labor, as the vines of my ambitions climb skyward. I suppose some pure and simple joy could be cultivated in there, somewhere, in the spaces that are left.

You might be surprised to know that there are plants for all these things.

Or, I could work from energetics and Chinese medicine, map out parts of the body and the herbs and flowers that are associated with those, or create an emotional landscape of flower essences, or use something more European and Magickal as a guide, incorporating all the old texts and tapestries... Hmmmm. Possibilities. I'll let you know what I come up with.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Can't trust that day...

Monday, I tried to kill my yard. Tuesday, I tried to kill my joy. One of these was a good idea.

I stayed home Monday, to make up some lost time. The goal was to get the asparagus planted and then go to work, but one thing leads to another and being dirty all over is just a lot better way to spend an afternoon than being compacted into a cubicle. I watered my thirsty lilies, relocated the rhubarb a little further from the fence, removed every dandelion in the gardens to the south and east of the house and the boulevard. I brutally ripped those tender little shade-grown roses away from their family on the opposite side of the fence and moved them to a sunnier side of the yard, where I hope with all my heart they will not die, sweet things.

In the northwest corner of my backyard there is a big L-shaped pile of dirt that the previous owners liked to call their "pumpkin patch". There's some evidence of squash, but it's difficult to see what they were trying to do's just a heap of meager soil and weeds, with a few piles of yard trimmings scattered around under the rapidly growing grass. The whole thing seems sort of ill-considered and purposeless, and it's in the way of my vegetables, in particular my asparagus, among other things. So after I realized that there was no way I was going to--in one day,
having no plan and no wheelbarrow--move all that dirt, I decided to just cover it up, in the hope of smothering it.

here we see stupid pile of dirt

here we see murderous blue tarp

Those three boxes on the left are where I ended up planting the asparagus, to buy myself some time. I caught a glimpse of them out there...graceful ferns waving gently in the breeze, backlit by the setting sun...but I still can't quite place them... Need a few more anchors in the yard to work that out. Anyway, in the middle of the so-called pumpkin patch was a pretty nice little mound of what looked like a mixture of compost and sand, probably just what asparagus wants, so I put some of that in the boxes, and filled out the balance from the heap. Good enough for now. (I hope.)

Early Tuesday, I woke so peacefully to the gentle storms passing through that I could have stayed in bed all day... and I probably should have. Instead I drove myself downtown, walked into a shiny building and sat down in front of a screen which did not greet me upon my arrival, nor did it offer much in the way of sympathy when I began to realize that the person who awoke in my bed that morning was being held down, suffocated by my own hand, just to get through the day... And I did get through it: by the end of the day I'd all but forgotten the rain that quenched this deserted spirit, and that was a Damn Shame. (Heresy, practically, after a March with no snow!)

Anyway, it's Wednesday now, and I've got taxes to file (right on schedule). Here's hoping for rain or windfall...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

never so beautiful as when you fall apart

in the neighborhood

Sure, I probably could have gotten a lot more done this weekend. Turns out that getting older actually does slow you down. Or, getting lazier makes it harder to do things.

Stayed up late last night, poring over the Friend's School Plant Sale catalog with my younger sister, each of us making wish-lists too long to remember, much less afford... How can you not get excited about something called Amorphophallus, or the Sapphire Tower? Monkshood, Masterwort, Toad lily, Batface... try one of those, or opt for something a little more straightforward, like Cook With Chicken, Makes Body Strong. So many things to grow, and to know... I fall in love with one little plant, so easily-- give me a couple hundred and I'm bound to get carried away...

Spent much of today getting to know my yard a little better, clearing out the dead stuff and taking stock. I've got a nice assortment of perennials here: peonies, daylilies, hyacinths, yarrow, lungwort, coreopsis, asters, irises, violets, others. There are a few little roses in the back, languishing near the fence behind the lilac (they will be moved). Out in front there's a sprawly juniper, a dogwood of some sort, a good-sized flowering crab and couple other little trees and shrubs which I have yet to identify.

Turned up a few auspicious finds today, including a couple nice polished agates and other stones, a no. 2 pencil, a handful of heavy-duty zip ties dropped by the wifi guy, a ginormous blue tarp and two perfectly serviceable canoe paddles. I've now acquired a rake, a fork and a little weeder thingy, none of which (sadly) meet my tool standards but one cannot travel back in time, alas. It's a start. Got to put my Felco pruners to work today, and so thankful to have them (gratitude, CM). Also realized with some excitement that I might now be able to justify getting that super nifty pack-down saw I've wanted...

Oh, yeah, and got a good deal via craigslist on a crapload--well, actually a box and four bags full--of Lilies of the Valley, which I shared with my sis. I still had enough to circle the lilac and border a wide corner near the front fence, and I hope to be taking in their sweetly intoxicating fragrance by my birthday, if all goes well.

Nice to be out working today, listening to the birdsong and the neighbor kids across the alley... glad for them, since it turns out I'm situated between Mr. Oddball (Silence of the Lambs? or Forrest Gump?) to the south, and Crazy Cat Lady to the north (hello, you're looking at me and I just waved at you! and what's with those shorts??) and even though both of them seem to be quite a bit more anti-social and nuts than I am, I might find myself sucked into some kind of vortex of lonely mediocrity if it weren't for the Ideal Young Minneapolitan Family across the alley. (Oh, wait.)

Well, anyway, the one thing I did not manage to do--well, okay, not counting the rest of that list I made this morning--was get the asparagus planted. I'm really at a loss about where it should go. Seems like it should just have a place, and I should be able to find it, but so far I'm stumped. Perhaps tomorrow.

Damn Tasty Bread Pudding (for one)

1 large and extremely stale piece of decent bread (not too dense), cubed, about 1 c
1 very small onion, diced (about 1/8 c)
1 small clove garlic, minced
3 cremini mushrooms, (halved and) sliced
3 good oily salty tasty black olives (kalamata, nicoise or the like), minced
pinch of rosemary
1-2 tbsp mild dry goat cheese (or maybe Swiss or dry white cheddar?), in tiny cubes
1 egg
2 tbsp milk (soy or cow)
salt and pepper

Put the bread chunks in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg and a couple tbsp milk, and dump it over the bread. In a small skillet, saute the onions in a bit of butter, with some salt, over heat high enough to brown them slightly. Add the mushrooms, garlic and rosemary, bit more salt and pepper, and saute until the mushrooms have cooked through. Add mushroom mixture, olives and cheese to bread bowl and mix it up a bit, then pack it into small buttered baking dish. If you don't have an adorable pint-size glass bread pan, use whatever else you've got, glass or metal. Bake at 350, covered, until the pudding puffs up and begins to turn golden, then uncover and bake until nicely browned. Turn onto a plate and serve with fork.

(Theoretically this recipe could be doubled, quadrupled, octupled, what have you... )

Saturday, April 10, 2010

new morning

My body knows it hasn't stretched this way before, in this place, and then it hits me, not like a ton of bricks but almost like a warm gust of wind or a spray of rainbowed mist: I've been living here for just shy of six months now. Six months! In all that time I haven't pulled my arms back like this. I almost can't believe it.

Last night I curled up on the rug in the living room, snuggled up with a pile of pillows under my whisper-soft sleeping bag, and in two short hours I slept away so much fear and loss and worry that when I woke I felt I'd entered a new dimension. Lucid and changed, it scared me a little, maybe more. I'm through something.

For six months, I've been cocooned here. Four months have passed with my stereo sitting on the kitchen floor, acting as a sort of "coat-shrub". Close to two months since I got back from my trip. Almost two weeks since I saw the herbalist and the shift in vibration, the release of grief, the rush of sap through dry veins...

Spring is here, and I have a lot of work to do. I'm ready for it now.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

this my tulip

lying in the gravel where i found you, pink and battered, splattered by muddy drops, dusty but not broken, wrapped around yourself, around me, what joy it is to find a blossom in the evening! and to bring you home

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

recent findings

Two boxes on my doorstep today, one hiding not at all inconspicuously under the doormat. A box of seeds, expected. Another, what? Forgotten. Asparagus crowns! Okay, right, so what am I supposed to do with these now? Guess I'll have to read up, do a bit of building, maybe some actual planting or something. Spring's been here for a while now, shouldn't have come as a surprise...

And Easter's come and gone, already, with nary an egg in sight, but there were a few other finds over the past weekend...


pasque flowers


(tomatillo) husk

fuzzy unfurls

one year's growth (red elder)

red elder bud

tiny gardens

peach running

bees, underground (a whole colony of them, in the field past the Big Hill)




fallen, above the dam

Monday, April 5, 2010

breaking ground

This evening I came home with a new shovel, cut a circle through the grass near the back fence and planted a root of the old rhubarb from the garden back home. Then I ate steak, and ice cream, and felt sort of perfectly at home for the first time, here. Now I'm going to sleep. More tomorrow.