Acceptance

To be in the process or act of accepting is a widely varied thing. It can mean gladly or formally receiving something or someone. Acceptance might demonstrate an embracing of what is. It can also signify being resigned and enduring patiently. Gardening teaches me about every aspect of acceptance.

Resigning myself and enduring stem from the limits, catastrophies, and disappointments every gardener experiences.

Climate, soil, changing seasons, budget, and energy all establish limits for me. Customarily, I try to ignore, push, or overcome any limit I bump into. After awhile (sometimes hours, sometimes years), there are just some limits I have to accept. Time is one of them. I can’t seem to spend all the time I want to tending the garden or the Gardenhood. There are, after all, only twenty-four hours in a day, and I have to attempt to sleep for more of them than I care to. Then, of course, there is all that time spent on necessary and pleasurable self-care: cooking, eating, bathing, reading, and making real human contact. Oh, yeah, and the other necessaries: laundry, house cleaning, paying bills, and that little thing called work. I can make the most of each hour, but I simply can’t make more hours. I grudgingly accept that.

Hail leveling a garden surely qualifies as a castrophe. Earwigs destroying the zinnias is a great disappointment. But what can you do? If you’re going to garden, you have to feel the losses and carry on.

Carrying on has the potential of alchemy. The dross of drudgery is transformed by an unexpected beauty. You drag yourself out to water or weed before the heat sprawls into the day, and you discover that the lemon-maroon lilies, yellow species hollyhocks, blue butterfly delphinium, purple verbena bonariensis, pink Meideland roses, and scarlet bee balm, are exactly the hues of dawn, hope, and welcoming you wanted in the garden. Even if you don’t know how to photograph it, your peripheral vision puts it all together, and you delight in it all the same.

A neighbor walks by and tells you how beautiful the garden is, and you happily receive the compliment.

A month ago, when the kind, generous, amazingly creative, and energetic Kevin — author of the versatile, very inspiring, lovely, sunny, and spirited, Nitty Gritty Dirt Man — nominated Gardenhood for the One Lovely Blog Award, I had another occasion to learn about acceptance.

To formally accept his nomination, I had to thank Kevin — which I did immediately and somewhat breathlessly. I also had to provide a link to his site from my own, which had already been done in Gardenhood’s blogroll.

Next I had to find 10 blogs to nominate for the same award, notify them, and post links to their blogs. I’ll do that before I close.

Finally, the stipulations of my acceptance include posting 7 random facts about myself. I’ll see what I can do.

In order to know if accepting the nomination was right for me, I had to understand what the award really means. There are quite a few of these awards. Plain and simply, they are utilized to increase bloggers’ awareness of each other and boost readership. That being said, I so admire Kevin and so adore the blogs I’m nominating, that I decided to accept the rules and  the award.

So here are the blogs I’d like to nominate. (You can read this as: These are blogs I really enjoy and am glad to recommend). Please give them a look-see. Then, while you’re at it, have a look at any of the blogs listed in the blogroll.

Hmm. Now for those 7 random facts:

  1. I was born at 2:51 PM.
  2. Dwight D. Eisenhower was President.
  3. I’ve lived in 6 states or provinces within 3 countries.
  4. I lost a toenail diving from a boulder into a swimming hole. The water was so cold, I didn’t notice the loss until I got out.
  5. The third time I read Anna Karenina, I was twenty years old and on a concert tour in still-communist Romania.
  6. My first book, Into the Fullness of Being, was published by my dear, dear friend, Robb Heckel. Of the 200 copies, all but a few found their way to people’s book shelves (even some people I’d never met).
  7. When I was a Freshman at Macalester College, I smoked a pipe — tobacco, of course.

Once, again, thank you, Kevin. It’s been both an honor and an adventure.

Post Script: While dragging the hose through a long Saturday morning, my thoughts rooted in the notion of acceptance, a song slowly unpacked itself from memory. “Come gather round people, wherever you roam, and admit that the waters around you have grown. Accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin…” I include it here (especially for you, Jim, who way back in May, requested more music).

After the Hail

In the land of Garrison Keillor, people are known to respond to nearly every cataclysm by saying, “It could be worse.”

Crazy, how that puts things in perspective.

And, on June 6 in the gardenhood, it turned out to be true. Wild as the storm was on and all around the flat corner lot, not so far away, it was far more dangerous. Torrents of rain filled the streets and swept the hail into drifts. This photo was published by a local television station, KRDO.

It’s hard to imagine any part of a garden surviving this.

Friends living just blocks away had everything — flowers, vegetables, tree fruits — destroyed. Over the next few days, I was fortunate to run into or hear from quite a few. I say fortunate because each one of these folks was carrying on, replanting, cleaning up, treating survivors for trauma. Gardeners are an intrepid and inspiring lot.

My own first steps of the journey into the aftermath gave me a big surprise. As I photographed the damage, the undamaged and the broken but valiant became more important, more fascinating. I had expected to feel grim and to summon my stoicism, but I went back indoors to make breakfast feeling a measure of delight. Most things would pull through. Lily buds remained at the tips of battered stems. The Meidiland rose never blinked. Hollyhocks leaves were shell-shocked, but they held tight to their buds. There will eventually be blossoms and perfume through the garden.

View from the front porch, the morning after the storm.

Three days before the storm, Crambe cordifolia and Walkers Low catmint had been subtly charming.

Nearly unrecognizable the day after.

More than half of three varieties of heirloom and native beans were reduced to stalks, but it was early enough for these short-season plants to reorder seed.

Potatoes were mashed.

The “Julia Child” tomato was reduced to a stalk and one leaf. “Oh, well,” rings her soprano voice, “These things happen. Carry on!”

Riddled hollyhocks held tight to their buds.

Most Oriental lily buds stayed put, though a few are well-dinged.

Fascinating leafy texture filled the bird bath.

Verbascum bombeciferum rivaling Scarlet O’Hara for post devastation defiant beauty.

Penstemon strictus and P. eatonii never blinked.

Echinacea quipped, “What storm?”

Moonshine yarrow was tipsy, but sparkling.

It was permissable, even wise, to let all the debris, the riddled leaves, the bent stems, stay as they were through Thursday and Friday while I worked, rested, and rallied for clean-up.

Saturday morning, before temperatures flirted with 90, I filled my mulching wheelbarrow to its 8 cubic foot capacity three times. This from my 1,000 square foot front garden, alone. And that didn’t get it pristinely clean. Not by a long shot.

The 8 cubic foot capacity wheelbarrow awaits its first load.

Bless the honey locust trees and whoever planted them in the parking median in front of the  house. Although their leaves rained on the garden, their high and airy crowns minimized the damage.

Reminded by an email from Larry Stebbins, I sprayed the remaining foliage with seaweed extract, and the healing has begun.

In ten days, Julia has grown two fine leaves.

The wonderful spuds have grown so much, I’ve started to hill them.

The garden is happy, breezy, and full of sun. So’s the gardener.

The Edge of Calm

Willie the terrier is happy I’ve finally perched in front of the computer. Temperatures pushed 80 today, and I pushed through every urge to relax. He, of course, had many urges to relax as well, but must keep track of me.

This is the end of a week in which I almost lost track of “firsts”: First tulips, aptly Tulipa kaufmanniana “The First”; first daffodil, a long-term resident in the median; first blues and purples from Chionodoxia and giant crocus; first Pasque flower, although Easter is weeks away; first day with Rose back to work, despite a cold so terrible she reported she’d have to feel better to die; first leaflets on so many shrubs – especially the bower-like Cotoneaster in the back yard; the brilliant yellow forsythia, first shrub to bloom; apricots in the alley, first of the fruit trees in flower; first appearances of rhubarb, delphinium, allium, buds in the front porch tulips; and the first supper eaten outside.

Despite what seems like an enormous amount of activity, spring is still a wrestling match. Spikes of cold followed by warming trends, insufferable winds. All of it creating peril for the life which must emerge. I race to clear gardens of debris and clock crucial billable hours only to get jerked indoors by the chain of inclemency. Rough handling all around.

It occurred to me that if the Inuit can have names for every type and condition of snow, Coloradans might extend our vocabulary for Spring. Perhaps if the season was longer, or our lives depended on such an intimate diversity of knowledge, our perceptions would be keener, and the language arise. Yet another bubble of thought formed in an excess of labor and released in the ethereal exhaustion at the end of a day.

At the end of this day, I lifted Willie to a spot on the vintage bent bamboo and aqua vinyl couch on the front porch. Then, I turned on the sprinkler and sat beside him with a deep bowl of soup. Strains of John Lennon’s “Watching the Wheels” hummed to the rhythm of pattering water, “I’m just sittin’ here watching the sprinkler go round and round…” And watching the sky, knowing just the moment when, behind the house, Pikes Peak began consuming the sun. The overhead blue faded. The breeze faltered and cooled.

Perception dogs me in this week of leapfrogging firsts and mind-altering fatigue. The muffintop puffs over the skinny jeans, yet the skinny jeans zip. I cartwheel over an apparent abundance of new, exciting, and colorful life, yet the objective lens of my camera finds a patchy array. The apricot in full bloom sends thrills to my marrow, yet it abides in an alley with dumpsters, power lines, and cars, and there is a freeze coming.

When the fever of Spring no longer sends one into a mating frenzy, the soul burns with another yearning. There is no time to lose. See things as they are yet find beauty.

For more than a year, I have admired the tenacity of some unattended iris, clinging to the corner of a garage on the alley. It stands near a rental unit in a four-plex, and I imagined an undaunted gardener compelled to plant them and equally compelled to change homes and leave them. I wondered how long they’d bloomed there. Why choose such a bleak spot? Were they planted in the last decade to see reliable afternoon rains? I also fantasized about liberating them. Last fall someone weed whacked them while still green. Last week, someone laid a cement block on them, which I moved aside. This morning I found them uprooted and tossed, the newly emerged leaves still turgid. Clearly, someone despised them, either hating iris on principle or thinking they were weeds.

I gathered each chucked rhizome, and as Willie walked me on, I rocked between outrage at the abuse of beautiful plants and acerbic glee that someone spared me the work of digging them. My plant crime forensic skills aside, I also remember that violence against iris isn’t the only kind perpetrated near by. How can I ignore voices raised in drunken argument, a little girl gruffly led away by her dad from a spill off her bike, patrol cars arriving down the street with sirens blaring. That all of this awareness fills my thoughts within footsteps of the misprized iris illuminates the shifting ground of perception, the unsettled beliefs and experiences of a middle-aged woman walking a neighborhood into fresh identity.

There is no time to lose. See life as it is. Intend beauty.

In the hours since I began feeling my way through this writing, Willie has shifted positions without waking, keeping himself supple, not allowing the sediments of daily process or old age to settle in hip, shoulder, or spine. He dreams, feet paddling, eyebrows twitching. Twice I heard then saw his tail wag, swatting the canvas covered pillow.

Rest well, Willie. Tomorrow, I’ll plant evicted iris, and I need you to watch and remind me that I owe us both some rest.