Flowers in the compost
In our part of the world, it’s been a short summer. That is, it’s felt even shorter than usual.
Normally, our summer doesn’t kick in until the Fourth of July, and that was the case this year. We had an uncommonly dry June and some oppressively hot, humid days in July. OK, it’s global warming, we know that much – the climatic instability shift that’s no longer deniable to anyone who’s been paying attention to reality. That’s left August, which included a very dark, rainy week.
So here we are, in what’s officially the final three weeks – usually some of our best, if we can get outdoors to engage in them. That is, if you don’t have kids in school. (Unofficially, of course, the whole thing ends on Labor Day weekend.)
Here are 10 highlights from my Summer of 2018:
Even with a field guide, weeds can be hard to name. At least in polite terms. As a gardener, identifying them as weeds is easy enough, once they’re past a certain point of sprouting – they aren’t what you’re expecting and they’re growing faster than what you planted. Staying ahead of them is another matter, especially if you’re trying to be organic like us.
Here are 10 that have been especially problematic this year.
I wonder if the longstanding tradition of morning cleansing of marble steps at the front door in many inner city neighborhoods of Baltimore has survived the stresses of two-income families or single-parent households? Who knows when it started or in how many other locales it’s also practiced. This has been a custom of row houses, connected to each other – blue-collar communities, in fact – and not of detached suburban housing. And that makes the foremost difference.
These poems consider what women do and preserve – though not always exclusively. Yes, I’ve known women who bale hay or decipher monastic manuscripts, and I’ll also admit men can know nothing of bearing children or nursing. Yet, somehow, many women seem most at home around the kitchen, even if it’s nothing more than a teacup or a picnic. Even her garden, should she be so inclined, seems to extend from that table or the alchemy of her oven. And that goes for flowers, as well as vegetables and berries. (Remember, though: not all mothers and daughters can stand to be in the same kitchen at the same time, though they both be masterful cooks.)
Looking back on Baltimore, I remember my next-door neighbor, each morning in season watering the black locusts between our houses and the street. Maybe she did her stoop, as well. But the trees, which seemed to have always been there, were beautiful and timeless, as if spreading their own table.
For the poems, click here.
They won’t coexist. They strangle any competition. At heart they’re boa constrictors with stubborn roots. And if that won’t work, they’ll just suffocate it.
Mint comes close. We have both spearmint, east of the house, and peppermint west of the Smoking Garden. But sometimes it comes in handy. Especially for folks who want contractors bags filled to brimming.
What would you add to the list?
In the cardio aftermath, I was generally laying low, apart from my immersion in some serious revisions of my previously published novels.
And then? I looked at the window and saw an outburst of green – on the trees, especially. I had a sharp sense of having lost a big chunk of time.
We had some hard storms this winter, and some major branches came down from our trees. We were lucky they missed hitting roofs, cars, or outdoor furniture.
Still, it’s meant a lot of cleanup, and there’s more work to be done with a chainsaw.
The gardens, too, are behind schedule. I never got to the beach to collect seaweed, back before the seasonal out-of-town parking ban kicked in. Hauling those buckets and extracting the collected bags from the car trunk takes exertion, beyond what’s considered safe during recovery. I mean, I’d hate to take a nitroglycerin pill at the beach while working alone.
Nor did I get to some interior painting and picture-framing, as planned this winter. Some? There’s a lot.
We are watching some big changes downtown, especially where the city is carving away a hillside to extend our riverfront park and open space for new housing as well as open direct access to a hilltop park above, which is also being expanded and developed. This development, which crept up on me while I was recovering and not heading down that way to the indoor pool, will greatly enhance the central focus of the city.
Downtown is also undergoing the razing of an old retail block to make room for a five-story retail and worker housing structure. It will also eliminate what’s been an annoying traffic obstruction.
Glad I’m back in action. Wonder what else I’ve been missing.
The daily soup special at the family restaurant in my new novel, What’s Left, was one way to introduce the now widely touted practice of local sourcing, perhaps with a hint of organic gardening. Here it begins when Cassia’s great-grandmother and her sister make rounds of nearby farms, gardens, and orchards in search of fresh produce, eggs and dairy, and perhaps meat. (I never get quite that specific, but a quick brushstroke will do.) The action picks up with her parents’ generation and its back-to-the earth movement – one in which I suspect some bartering might have occurred. Used cooking oil, for instance, has found value as motor fuel for some farmers.