Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Charmed, I'm Sure

Dear friends...loved ones...strangers, all:

I hope this post finds you well.  It's been a while.

The past several weeks have come and gone, bringing with them many days of searing heat and drenching rains, along with many long hours of over- (and under-) time... I've had very little time and even less energy to write about the goings on here, in my humble dwelling.  We have some catching up to do.

Among other things, the weather this year has presented a challenge to my best intentions.  I had grand plans to fill in my gardens this Spring, but between the frequent rains, an insanely demanding workload and a not a small amount of physical and emotional turmoil, I have so far been unable to fulfill many--or any--of those visions this season.  Nonetheless, my modest gardens are thriving, if running a little wild...but that's okay.  I kind of like them that way.

In April I enjoyed the first tender spears of asparagus from my garden, and within the passage of a couple weeks they quickly surpassed me in height and promptly flopped over onto the sidewalk.  It looks like I'll have to move them to a slightly larger space with more forgiving parameters, perhaps somewhere in the vegetable-garden-to-be over on the sunny side of the walk.  Likewise, the strawberries which I rather short-sightedly planted in the patio garden have more or less taken over the entire space, sending long runners out over the concrete and into the yard... I enjoyed a sweet crop of them in June, and a couple of the pink-blossomed Fragoo variety more recently, despite the best efforts of the birds, rabbits, squirrels, toads and/or what-not. Actually, I have yet to see a toad in my yard this year, but that may be only because I've spent so little time out in it.  Days go by without my attention being turned to what's happening outside my window, and then I'll wander out and encounter another little miracle, like the Cardinal Flowers (which I was not at all sure were still there) in bloom today, or my squat Hydrangea sending up clusters of bright green blossoms, or the Witch Alder (to which, as you might recall, I paid my last respects last Fall) freely leafing from its once-dry branches.  There have been many other happy miracles, too many to remember, or to name.  In spite of the fact that I have barely had the time, energy or where-withall to tend my gardens this year, the plants have--as they so often will--exceeded all expectation.  Not least of these, my gorgeous Peach--the Apple of My Eye--stands a good eleven feet tall, outside my kitchen window, holding among its generously spreading branches not less than two dozen little fuzzy, blushing peaches...The squirrels, it seems, are not interested in these beauties, and I do not mourn their loss in the least.  Out back, where the vegetables--tomatoes, cabbages, peppers, basil, mints, shiso, leeks, broccolis, eggplants, tomatillos, potatoes--now grow, a handful of volunteer pumpkins have practically covered the entire garden, as well as a good twenty feet of the sidewalk, with vines that seem to grow by the minute, climbing up and over, out and around just about anything they can get their little tendrils on.  I probably should have pulled them, but they grew with such vigor and bright blossoming beauty that I just couldn't really see enjoying the Summer without them. And except for the one that decided to transcend the asparagus, they don't seem to have interefered too much with their neighbors, plus there are now at least couple good-size jack-o-lanterns in the making.  Let go, and let grow, I say.  (Or at least that's what I'm going with until I get my act together and dig the living daylights out of this place...) 

I've also gussied up the patio a bit, with some help and inspiration from a good friend who also made the kind loan of a number of pretty pots and dainty stands and hooks...After a several hours of hot and heavy shopping/gathering, and a couple sweaty dirty hours of potting/placing, we transformed the space with a few bright flowers, a trellis here and there, a sunny orange hibiscus, a rapidly unfurling banana tree, a couple clumps of lemongrass and a few other random selections. That hellishly hot weekend we also picked up a couple nice cheap lengths of reed fence, with the intent of establishing a minimal barrier between my yard and cat lady's, although I have yet to put it up, having not yet had or taken the opportunity to broach the subject with her--perhaps this weekend.  Also, after running my little electric mower around and under the fallen lilac for weeks on end, I finally got around to trimming it back--a task which was made enormously easier with the help of a friend's saw's awl--and I managed to retain the better part of its old arching grace, even though it ended up bearing a strange resemblance to one of those kind of awkward eighties haircuts (a la Molly Ringwald)...but it looks a lot better--pretty good, even.  I've got some Blue Lake bush beans coming along, and am planning on planting a few more short-season veggies, in the next few days... lettuces, kale, perhaps some peas.  All in all, things are changing shape...not into what I had in mind, exactly, but that's just how it goes, of course.

There have been changes inside, too.  It took me a hell of a long time, but I finally finished painting my bedroom and moved in a couple of months ago, although it seems like forever ago now... I've still got some work to do--electrical, mainly--but having a proper closet and a lot of extra floor space upon which to throw all the laundry and dance around has been a happy improvement over the tight quarters I previously occupied, which are currently evolving into an excellent little work (out) room.  A few serendipitous finds on craigslist transformed the piano and living room, adding artful/utilitarian storage and dramatic lighting, and just as soon as it stops being stupefyingly humid out I'm gonna get some paint on those walls, too, and in all modesty I think it's going to be spectacular.  After more than a year and a half here, I guess I'm finally getting settled in, and it feels pretty damn good.

So yesterday was National Night Out.  I got a notice about it in the mail last week, and even though it told me that the event would be taking place basically right outside my house, I couldn't help thinking about ways to avoid going.  I left work yesterday, after having to cancel an evening appointment, and headed off to the Midwest's best-loved big box store to pick up a certain ottoman which I'd recently decided I must have, despite my strong and possibly genetic disdain for shoddily built furniture.  Turned out that it wasn't in stock and was apparently being discontinued, so I went home.  When I pulled into the driveway, my neighbor to the south was coming out of his garage with a camp-chair in hand, and asked me (while I was still not out the door of my car) whether I was coming out to the meet-and-greet.  Yeah, I said, I had a few things to take care of but I'll probably make it for a while.  I went in, spent a truly stupid amount of time on hold waiting for the mostly worthless staff at aforementioned store to tell me whether or not they actually physically had what I was looking for, and finally got confirmation from an actually helpful young man that yes, they did indeed have one, and it was mine for the next 24 hours.  Success.  With that, I went out to meet my neighbors.

I didn't really know what to expect, but what I found was quite a pleasant surprise.  There were about 20 people, loosely gathered around a small table spread with various home-made treats, fruits, smoked salmon, veggies, breads and chips and dips, with a cooler of good beer beside it.  On another little table was a vase of garden blooms and a few hand-thrown ceramic vessels, among the other door prizes.  I was greeted by a couple from two houses down, who I'd met briefly last summer, and soon found myself in conversation with a whole bunch of kind Minneapolitan spirits... Among them was a guy whose "favorite" interstate exit just happened to be the one for my childhood hometown (population in the hundreds, mind you)--he always liked to say the name as he drove by (which you'd appreciate if you knew it) and even recalled the number, which I did not, although I'd probably have been able to pick it out of a lineup. There were several other similarly peculiar coincidences, if you might call them that, and I also learned that my next-door neighbor to the South is basically the Don of the neighborhood, you might say.  He's been here for thirty years, even though he can't be very close to 50, and at one time he and his mother and grandmother all lived in different houses, all on our side of the street.  It's funny to meet people who have known the inside of your house longer than you have...At some point he remarked that you'd pretty much have to be a gardener, cook, some kind of artist, eccentric or maybe a tree hugger to live in our neighborhood, and I suppose that's not all that surprising, but it was still nice to find out.  I ended up staying until close to an hour after the scheduled end time, and went home with the gift of a small bag of delicious scones, a sweet favor from the brighter-eyed of the gay couple down the street, along with a new sense of fondness, and gratitude, for my welcoming home.

Speaking of which, I made it up north for a visit last weekend, after not having been there for quite some time.  The gardens--especially the front one, which I'd worked with CM for so long--was arrestingly beautiful, changed but familiar.  The deep rains and soaking sun of this Summer have done wonders, as have my parents' labor and commitment.  We enjoyed some time together on and in the lake, and reveled in the passage of gentle storm which was followed by some of the most captivating skies any of us have seen, in recent memory.  It was good to be there, especially after working until well past dawn the night prior, and when I arrived back home I felt tremendously restored.  I'll have to chalk a little of that up to my recent reacquaintance with that magical herb--just one of so many--Yerba Mate, as well...I don't know exactly what it is about that plant, but it's truly remarkable to me, the way it can simply lift one out from under the heaviest, gnarliest, and toothiest of burdens...Goodness.

This evening I put up a new hammock in the stand that I'd been given as a housewarming gift by my sister and her husband last year, a hand-me-down from an acquaintance who has since relocated to Maui.  It's both pleasantly stripey and damn comfy, and as I was resting in it tonight I couldn't help but wonder, again, at how I came to be so lucky...The sky above my place affords a perfect view of sun and stars, with just enough tall trees around to capture the wind and bring it down to Earth.  Everything I've needed has come to me, in the most amazing ways.  And after the past few months of being run down to practically nothing, I am quite suddenly enjoying a wave of peace and well-being... It will be fleeting, no doubt, but for now there is nothing to enjoy it.

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