Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for Jan, 2020

Allan’s midwinter adventure

Southwest Washington Paddle Trips

25 January 2020

There were daily rain and windstorms last week and more coming next week, flooding many rivers. Today’s storm would arrive later this evening, but because the afternoon would be only cloudy with showers, I set off for a paddle near the Willapa Bay.

Screen Shot 2020-01-27 at 5.08.52 PM.jpeg

The Canon and all three forks of the Palix River flow onto the same delta across Highway 101 near the Rose Ranch barn.

DSC03829 2.jpeg A boater’s view of the landmark barn.

The Canon and the Middle Fork Palix don’t look to be wide and soon disappear beneath the tree cover.

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 6.28.55 PM.png An interesting intersection of river adventures.

DSC03862 2.jpeg Nosing into a rising 8.6 foot tide.

A truck soon pulled up with a brilliant duck hunting boat.

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 5.53.38 PM.png A motivated welder had crafted this duck blind/gunboat, armoured with diamond plate steel.

Screen Shot 2020-01-26 at 7.40.41 PM.png If ducks had the protection of an iron clad boat…

“Hey, watch your yak.” In my distraction, a…

View original post 622 more words

Read Full Post »

15-16 January 2020

Back in the 1990s, I read and loved all of May Sarton’s memoirs, Plant Dreaming Deep (plant is a verb, not a noun!), Journal of a Solitude, The House by the Sea, At Seventy, Recovering, After the Stroke. Endgame, Encore, At Eighty-Two.

I was horrified soon after that to read the truly mean biography of May written by Margot Peters. (I learned this month in May’s letters that May herself had a bad feeling about what Margot was going to write.)

Thus it was a relief to me when I read The Last Gift of Time in December 2019 to find a thoughtfully critical but loving chapter all about May, in which Carolyn Heilbrun mentioned May’s books of letters. I immediately put in an interlibrary loan for the second volume (since her later life interests me the most).

Carolyn’s kind words about May:

And in a footnote:

And…

I loved finding a photo of May and Carolyn…

..and of May and her friend Doris. In the 1990s, May’s journals had led me to the memoirs of Doris Grumbach.

I read both of their journeys into old age when I was in my 40s and must read them again now that I am almost there. I feel an affinity with old age because of my childhood spent with my grandma and her peers.

May quoting Katherine Davis:

The prolific letters took me two days to read (and I have since put in a request for volume one). I also checked out some blog posts about May and felt distressed that some readers had completely gone off re-reading her journals because of the biography. Some felt deceived that she did not have as much solitude as her memoirs described, but I remember May often writing in distress about interruptions and too much company. To me, that says that May was nicer than I have become, in that apparently she found it difficult to be completely clear and strict about non-peopling! She did try: “…finally, I came to see that my loneliness (acute and awful) was loneliness for myself and what I had to do was get back to my blessed solitude. My motto, the opposite of dear Forster’s , has become “only disconnect”.

From the introduction by Susan Sherman:

How I love that! In my 20s and 30s, I felt that I loved difficult people the most. (I seem to have lost that knack in my almost old age, though.)

Another reason some readers have turned away from May is because the biography discussed her turbulent love life. So how many male writers who practice serial monogamy or polyamory are given a pass for their relationship dramas? One blogger lambasted May for having turned away from her long time partner. The letters reveal that May continued to be close to her till the end, visiting her in assisted living and having her home for weekends and holidays even when the former partner had severe memory loss and was incontinent. That’s not neglect or rejection.

The same blogger was angry that May had help with her garden and suggested she probably underpaid her workers. She did not!

Why shouldn’t she have help? And she cared for and assisted her neighbor who helped in the garden. “I persuaded him to go a long way to a doctor he had faith in in a different city–drove him there, and next week will take him to another hospital… But I have now lost two days at my desk and have added a lot of outdoor work to the usual stint…

So….all that said, here are more takeways from volume two of her letters.

How can I not love a woman who cared so dearly for her cats and dogs?

…….

And about her last cat:

“We have been together for seven years At times of the day our lives intersect but mostly each goes her own way, although always aware of where the significant other is. That is the magic of it, this happy and free dependency.”

Some of her letters are to favourite and familiar authors, one regular correspondent being Katharine White who wrote Onward and Upward in the Garden, the first book of gardening essays that I ever read.

May mourned a lost friendship with Elizabeth Bowen: “…what I cannot believe is that you and I have ceased to be friends. Elizabeth, all around me, friends are dying (I am 53).” I can certainly identify with all aspects of that! Apparently, Bowen was offended by something that May had written about her house.

After the publication of Plant Dreaming Deep, May was hired for “a monthly column about country things” for Family Circle magazine. I’d love to have read those columns, which must have been a continuation of the sort of column that Gladys Taber had written for years.

May was so excited about the job…

Taber’s Butternut Wisdom column (which I loved as a child) ran from 1959-1967 but May’s only ran for one year.

I adore the descriptions of May’s house where she planted her dreaming deep.

And her many descriptions of gardening frustrations, both in Nelson and later at her “house by the sea”.

The tree peonies are about to flower in fact the white one is out..a godlike flower, really to be worshipped. But the iris has done badly. What a philosopher one has to be to garden at all.”

She moved to the sea because…

Sometimes I imagine a home in an apartment, maybe with a view of a park, where all I have to do is read.

She did move but continued to have a garden. It took her awhile to find a good gardener for her garden by the sea.

In her very old age at her House by the Sea: “We are having a horrible July, wet and cold. The garden is rotting and the deer eat whatever survives..all of 18 English old-fashioned roses I had planted this spring…they ate all the buds. I have a good gardener at last as I can’t garden anymore except laying down.”

May treasured winter for the same reason I do: solitude.

She continued throughout her letters to struggle to balance friendships and solitude.

Jazmin sometimes made the reading a challenge.

However cantankerous May was, she can’t have been worse than me, so I still dote on her. One of these winters I hope to reread her memoirs and those of her dear friend Doris Grumbach and those of my most beloved (and quite possibly not cantankerous at all) Gladys Taber.

Read Full Post »

After reading a memoir by Pulitzer Prize winning poet Maxine Kumin in December, I went on with more of her memoirs and three books of poetry. Mr Tootlepedal might enjoy her thoughts about fungi in….

I like her thoughts about winter solitude.

Her memoirs mostly reminisce about life on her farm, with horses and dogs and vegetables. Mulching with newspaper is a continuing task.

……

I have made almost all the beds in my back garden with the newspaper method, laying down thick pads of paper and stopping to read the news, often horrific, feeling like I am burying people’s grief in my garden as I piled mulch on top. Sometimes the news of war and genocide made me feel like I was making a shrine to people who had suffered and died. So when later in the month I read Kumin’s poetry collection, Where I Live Now, this poem said it all to me.

In the same collection, you will find poetry about bindweed and assorted vegetables, dogs and horses, and scathing outrage at world events.

In two different poems about the loss of beloved horses and dogs:

….but when my old

dead horses come

running toward me

in a dream

healthy and halterless

….If only death could be

like going to the movies.

You get up afterward

and go out

saying, How was it?

Tell me, tell me how was it.

******************************

….That night, the old dog works

his way back up and out

gasping, saluted with dirt

and barks his familiar bark

at the scribble-scratched back door.

I pull on shirt and pants

a Pavlovian response

and stumble half awake

downstairs to turn the knob

where something, some mortal stub

I swear I recognize

some flap of ear or fur

swims out of nothingness

and brushes past me

into its rightful house.

*********************************

Along with the three books of poetry, I also acquired through interlibrary loan Inside the Halo, her memoir of recovery after almost dying from a horse carriage accident.

Imagine being an active gardener and horsewoman disabled for many months.

I love this bit about order in the garden versus disorder in the house.

The walkways are papered with old grain bags and then covered with pine needles. It has taken years to achieve this orderly oasis, which somehow compensates for my disorderly desk drawers and the chaos of my closet.

I learned the fascinating tidbit that Maxine’s dear friend Anne Sexton has a poetry/rock groups called Anne Sexton and her Kind, a band name which may have been a shout-out to Christopher [Isherwood] and his Kind.

I read two more books of her poetry, And Short the Season and The Long Marriage.

From And Short the Season, two poetry fragments about death.

…our catholic homage to an afterlife

we like the thought of and don’t believe in.

And

…who gets to choose this ordered end

Trim and untattered, loved ones at hand?

–Allow me that day.

Don’t miss her entire poem about bindweed! And she also praises my favourite thing….

To read poetry again after many years was a gift. I have three more books of Kumin’s essays to seek out through interlibrary loan.

A few days after I had read Maxine Kumin’s poems about the loss of beloved animals, Our Kathleen, knowing that I was non-peopling, stealthily came through my gate without my even hearing it click and left me a poem and a gift to commemorate our good cat Frosty.

The hellebore is from the FrostKiss series, thus “a kiss from Frosty”.

I was amazed that neither Jazmin nor I heard the click of the gate when Kathleen was on her mission. It must have been while we were watching part three of Monty Don’s American Gardens, during which he visited the Hollywood garden of Tony Duquette, a set designer who had figured large in volume one of Christopher Isherwood’s diaries, so that I could imagine that maybe Christopher and Don attended parties there.

Yes, I want my garden to look just like that, but it never will.

Read Full Post »

Reading: Gardening Mad

11 January 2019

I acquired an old Monty Don book, a collection of his Observer gardening columns from the mid 90s, via interlibrary loan…

…all the way from Salt Lake City.

He was considerably more outspoken in the olden days before becoming the presenter for Gardeners’ World….or perhaps he has mellowed with the passing of time, as do many of us.

So here are some of my favourite bits to inspire you to seek the book out.

Perfect description of working in the wind…”I got caught by a lazy wind (doesn’t bother to go round, just pushes right through you… The wind always makes everything immeasurably worse.” One of my dreams for cutting back on work is to be able to sit out the windiest of days. My former co-gardener Robert described the wind as a big bully pushing us around all day. Sometimes I wish I had realized how windy life near the sea is before I moved here.

“It is curious that gardening can make the mildest mannered liberal (me) into a seething mass of bilious prejudice. For no obvious reason, there is an eclectic selection of plants that I cannot abide.” For Monty, one such plant was the camellia. I have a friend who is completely against red pelargoniums (geraniums) and was shocked to see them in my garden. (They remind me of my grandma so I sometimes have a few.) I have been known to turn my nose up at sheafs of gladiolas, and when I saw a square of those little purple-leaved begonias bedded out in a garden, I hated it so much my arms hurt. I think the physical reaction when a garden bed makes my arms hurt to look at it is that I have the urge to dig it out. I have mellowed a lot myself; I used to have much stronger prejudices against certain plants.

An example of the outspoken Monty: “Gardeners can be terrible snobs and bores, and no bore is more snobbishly dreary than a hellebore bore.” (He does go on to praise hellebores themselves!)

Here is just the beginning of a wonderful two pages on allotments, which I photographed and sent to my Leedsman wasband, who has taken to allotment gardening in a big way. “Allotments are never still. They flicker past, always from trains, strange slivers of cultivated sidings with scarecrow sheds…” Those two or three pages provided an excellent history of allotments.

I always appreciate when Gardeners’ World visits an allotment patch.

Here is another example of Monty being outspoken: “The Garden of Eden is the archetypical Paradise, and presumably, assuming that no one intelligent enough to read The Observer is stupid enough to be a Christian fundamentalist, Eden was taken from …the gardens and parks that surrounded Persian palaces.” Oh my.

A bit later:

Some of the columns were followed by a spate of irate letters to the editor, and no one writes letters to the editor like the British.

Furthermore, he goes on about gardens being about “lust, sex, fecundity”, in the way that he only hints at now on telly when he opens a fig or takes the outer petals off of a balled rose. “Good gardens must be about sex. Not f***ing exactly, but we are in that territory.” It’s not censored in the book. And so on, for several sizzling paragraphs. You get the full Monty in his older books (another older book being My Roots, which had one sentence so steamy that I rather swooned and did not quote it in my blog).

In expressing dissatisfaction with some staid National Trust gardens, he writes “It is significant that National Trust gardens inevitably have a tea room. Why? No one under the age of fifty actually chooses to go to a tea room except in desperation and a spirit of irony.” Here is one of the few places where I must disagree. I loved tea rooms when I visited the U.K. at age 21 and 35.

He craves “wacky, shocking, revolutionary gardens” but also gives the National Trust credit for having “the greatest collection of gardens in the world.” I wonder if anyone wrote a letter in defense of tea rooms? They certainly wrote in about the Trust.

Some 1990s thoughts about Gardeners’ World:

One passage influenced our telly viewing for three nights.

Edge of Darkness proved to be an excellent series; Netflix has it. It wasn’t quite as post-apocalyptic as I expected based on Monty’s description.

16 January

I continued reading (more on this later, maybe) and non-peopling, until, on the 12th day of non-peopling, I had some brief company when Tony and Scott kindly brought us an enormous and heavy mirror that their friend Lisa had offered up for free.

Tony’s photo

It is in the shed for now but will go somewhere in the garden during the dry season.

I gave Lisa my last potted bunch of Iris reticulata as a thank you. Not much for such a fabulous mirror!

Then back to non-peopling for another three weeks! That’s the plan. We’ll see how it works out.

I have a few photos from Allan to give this post some visual pizzazz.

Next door at the gear shed:

Jazmin:

And the beginning of his arbor project:

The Gravel Project is still on hold because of endless rain.

Read Full Post »

Every day, barring Sundays, in the first half of January, Allan foraged for us, daily gathering the mail at the post office and books from the library, and every now and then some groceries. On January 7th, he saw a family of deer on the hospital lawn.

You can see in the background that the pink and white heathers are in full bloom at the community building: so boring in summer but nice for the locals in winter.

On January 17th, a shipment from Digging Dog Nursery arrived. I love their plants but find their packing challenging to dismantle. Because I was absorbed in a book, Allan did the unpacking, directly into the compost bins.

The reason I made such an early order is because the nursery had a special deal for plants delivered before January 20th.

We had one casualty, not caused by Allan.

Riz Reyes suggested propping with with bamboo. Allan did an even better hopeful repair.

On a trip to the far north (well, two miles north), Allan picked up the small container of Frosty’s ashes at the vet and watered the Depot Restaurant window boxes of Annuals That Will Not Die.

Skooter does not want to get out of bed on these cold and rainy days.

We even had a bit of snow, which had melted before any photos got taken.

…except for this one from Allan’s window.

A heavy windstorm with gusts of 50 mph caused only the slightest damage.

A Tommy crocus in the front garden (where the gravel is supposed to go)

When we unpacked the bag from the vet, we found not only the little cardboard urn with its so touching words that “Memories of those we hold most dear will remain forever imprinted on our hearts”, but also an actual footprint.

That Is a wonderful idea. I wish I had footprints for my Smoky and his mother Mary.

I have been going through old photos to delete the dreck and found a selection of iPhone photos of Frosty that may not have made it into my recent memorial posts. I cannot quite bear to cross check them to make sure, so here they are.

With his mother, Mary, and his brother, Smoky, in 2012

Snoozing with his mother Mary

The Pocketbooth app

I miss him.

Jazmine has filled in as a part time lap cat although she prefers her own chair some of the time.

With Jazmin, I was pleased to get the latest Seaside Knitters book.

May Sarton, retrieved from storage. More on this later, I hope.

I intend to write more in a future post on the books I’ve been reading (25 since the year turned).

I’ve been thrilled to be able to watch Monty Don’s newest gardening travel show, having found the episodes online, illicitly uploaded onto legitimate sites. I hover on Friday afternoons googling for the show to appear so I can watch it before it disappears. I would happily pay a pretty penny to see them if only one of the streaming services carried them. Patience is not one of my virtues.

Imagine living in a city and seeing Monty Don walk down the street between garden visits and stop to take a photo of your front garden. What a thrill that would be. (I do think mine would inspire him to stop and look.)

On Saturday, January 18th, I am feeling rather guilty that we are not crossing the dreaded bridge in wind and rain to participate in the “March to Win” put on by the north Oregon Coast Indivisible group. I have not had to leave my property or make words with anyone (but Allan and the cats) in fifteen days, and I hope to continue on in this way for at least another fifteen. I also wish to avoid the inevitable hugging. To soothe my guilt, we made a monetary donation to Pacific County Immigrant Support.

I snitched these photos from the local Indivisible page in honor of the citizens with more fortitude and selflessness, a good turnout for a rainy and windy winter day in a small town.

Read Full Post »

We’d had the last of our company on January 3rd, when Denny and Mary brought Allan some birthday cider. Jazmin proved that she is no longer afraid of visitors.

I then retreated to many rainy days of reading and non-peopling, while Allan does Allan things, including the boating outing he recently shared.

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

Allan went out for a dentist appointment and saw an appealing cottage name.

His outing was rewarded with a valuable find.

And with the sight of a doggie in the window at Ilwaco’s Azure Salon.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

Again, Allan had an errand, by bus to pick up the repaired van. He read the schedule wrong and so did some light weeding at the Ilwaco Community Building while waiting, where he saw signs of spring.

He noticed a hummingbird on the white heather (too fast for a photo).

Hellebore buds

Fern and mahonia

Thursday, 9 January 2020

Because I had to emerge from my lair to water in the greenhouse, I took a walk around the garden between wind and rain storms.

A mess of buckets needs tidying by the greenhouse….someday.

The sodden, weedy garden did not call out to me for attention….

…except to fix this wind effect.

The door table has lost a panel.

The winter blooming honeysuckle survived dividing and transplanting but has no flowers.

The tall Danger Tree snag is slowly disintegrating.

We have had over six inches of rain lately.

guelder rose viburnum

Hellebore whose leaves should be trimmed

Cornus ‘Midwinter Fire’

One of the hamamelis, of an assorted lot that I got from a friend, has leaves that cling on unappealingly.

In removing some leaves to reveal the flowers, my hands soon felt the cold.

Perhaps if freezing weather comes next week, the Azolla in the ponds will die. I would not mind.

Jazmin came outside too late to join me on the walk.

Skooter hates the rain and spends his days napping.

Jazmin, though not quite as lazy, gets in plenty of snoozing time, having adopted as her own the chair I wanted to give away.

The gravel project has been postponed for at least another week, with more rain and possibly even snow predicted. I can’t say I am sorry because I have a goodly stack of intriguing library books and only four weeks of staycation left.

Read Full Post »

I spent four delightfully rainy days in early January thoroughly absorbed in Christopher Isherwood’s Diaries, volume one–900 small print pages followed by an ever so useful glossary of all the characters and of the many terms unfamiliar to me from his years in the Ramakrishna faith. I wish that all books with a multitude of characters, fiction or non fiction, had a glossary!

The diaries begin right after his 1930s experiences in Berlin, described in the memoir Christopher and His Kind. I haven’t read that book yet so am glad we had just seen a film of it. The Berlin experiences eventually became the famous musical, Caberet..

During World War II, Christopher had moved to the United States and spend a year living with a Quaker group helping refugees from Germany. The rest of the diaries, except for some traveling, take place in California.

I’ve already shared the following passage from near the beginning, the moment where I fell in love with these diaries. Gerald is the friend who introduced Christopher to the ways of Ramakrishna, which Christopher studied for his whole life.

More descriptive writing:

…..

Here are some more of the bits that spoke to me, which is to say they reminded me of my life….and I found it comforting that someone in such a different world (the world of Hollywood in the forties and fifties) had some similar thoughts and experiences.

Christopher had a tribulation that I shared (from 1994 through 2003, culminating in divorce):

(Asit was one of the monk initiates who noisily lived in the room next to Christopher in the Ramakrishna house, described in an earlier part of the diaries.)

…..

…..

Like my sleep deprived relationship, Christopher’s ended in separation.

Even into his fifties, he agonized about and analyzed his friendships.

“What I really want is solitude in the midst of snugness,” he wrote. I found it most endearing that he complained when company came to stay and longed for solitude, and yet went out to dinner and parties what seemed like several times a week.

In his fifties, he wrote often of aging. (His partner, Don, was much younger.)

….

That was just in his fifties! I can’t wait (but must wait) to read about how he felt in his 60s, in the 1960s. He wrote of a friend who turned 65: “Billy in tears, drunk and lonely–and pitiful in a way that a woman of sixty-five is pitiful–her life over. But Billy’s life is by no means over. It may even be really beginning.” That’s good to hear, as I will soon turn sixty-five.

I loved his descriptions of his home throughout the years. He always included the addresses, so I was able to google them and sometimes see inside.

In the late fifties, he and his longtime partner, artist Don Bachardy, bought the house that they would live in till Christopher died, and in which Don still lives.

I was thrilled to find on google street view some photos of the garden along that block today.

Christopher had a garden problem that I could well relate to.

(He had some close women friends, including, to my delight, Dodie Smith, author of I Capture the Castle, one of my favourite books–and 1001 Dalmatians.)

Another close friend, Igor Stravinsky, was not bothered by garden incursions.

I was so pleased to be able to get from Netflix the documentary about Chris and Don…

…which had special features at the end with Don, now an old and accomplished man himself, taking the filmmakers on an inside tour around that very house. So when I read the next two volumes (I am waiting so impatiently for an interlibrary loan of the 1960s diaries!) I will be able to visualize the inside, where Don painted and Chris happily puttered with his houseplants.

Despite the weight and size of the 1000 page tome, Jazmin managed to read part of it with me.

Speaking of solitude, I am finally achieving the non-peopling days of rainy reading that my sanity (and disposition) requires. It was hard to emerge from the diaries and read other books while waiting for the next volume.

Isherwood’s mention of Anais Nin’s diaries–“seventy volumes already”–reminded me that I had read most of them in 1980-ish. I became disillusioned when, as she aged, Nin kept rhapsodizing about how much she wanted to be around young people. Even at age thirty, I thought that was just silliness. Despite the age difference between Christopher and Don, Christopher appreciated the company of friends his own age. Maybe my exasperation with Anais Nin is why memoirs did not become my favourite genre till I discovered May Sarton and Doris Grumbach in the late 1990s.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »