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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.

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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.

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North out of Loomis Lake

Southwest Washington Paddle Trips

6 January 2020:   North out of Loomis Lake

Today started out blustery, bracing and wet. It was raining and cold last week and so it will be next week.

Still, I have recently began following the NW Kayaking Facebook page where almost daily someone posts what a lovely time they’re having out on a paddle, albeit bundled up and sometimes with rain circles in the water.

With an afternoon predicted to be cloudy but windy, I bundled up, packed the sail kit and took the kayak to nearby Loomis Lake.

Screen Shot 2020-01-08 at 8.03.07 PM.png Loomis Lake is the largest lake on the Long Beach peninsula.

DSC03806.jpeg

WDFW will unlock their ramp and fishing will begin the last day of April.

Today I used an undeveloped right-of-way I found and have listed in my book of SW Washington launch sites.

DSC03807.jpeg The 30 mph morning gusts had blown away.

DSC03808.jpeg There is even a ‘yacht club’ of…

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Books 2019

I don’t have much to say about what I read in 2019, having written already about the books I loved the most.

Goodreads did a neat little wrap up:

Here they all are.

Jane Casey’s mystery series was excellent. I have put in an interlibrary loan request for the latest one.

The Almost Nearly Perfect People was a perfect book.

I want to be best friends or at least neighbors with Novella Carpenter.

Super Sushi Ramen Express is as perfect as the almost perfect people book. I wonder if he has published anything new?

Two books about books with the same title…

…My beloved Virginia Ironside, who wrote the quintessential book about grieving for, companion animals and is very funny about aging.

Natural Causes shares wisdom about when it is time to enjoy what is left of life without medical tests and interventions.

Christine Walkden, I want to be your best friend and neighbor. You, me, and Novella, living on the same block and visiting each other’s gardens.

Meg Wolitzer is a favourite novelist.

I decided to read mostly gardening books during gardening season. Although sometimes a new book by a favourite author or on a fascinating subject snuck in.

Plot 29 and Hidden Nature and The Ivington Diaries are wonderful and worth the cost of buying them from the UK.

I wanted to write better. Vivian Gornick’s book did not help as much as I hoped.

I cleaned houses for 18 years so found the cleaning book pretty gripping, even though I made a decent living out of it in Seattle.

How to Forget made me want to reread Mulgrew’s earlier memoir. I haven’t yet.

All the Monty Don books made me ever so happy. I liked The Plant Hunter better than garden lust.

I had fallen behind on Anne Lamott.

With gardening season winding down, I read books about the social internet and new books by some favourite authors.

I remembered how much I like Augusten Burroughs and realized that while I like David Sedaris’ memoirs, some of his earlier essays are downright mean.

Allan and I enjoyed The Leftovers telly series ever so much. So I had to read the novel, also good.

Daemon Voices –loved it but it still didn’t help me write better. 57 Bus–a tragic but uplifting true story. What Goes Up reminded me in painful ways of life with a bipolar partner.

Astoria is one of the best history books of my reading history.

….More gardening and social media, memoirs, and at least some mysteries, a staple of my winter reading. Mysteries are frustrating in summer when I cannot read a book in one day.

I went on to read the rest of the Edward trilogy into 2020; they went well with John Robison’s memoirs. Still disgruntled with mean David Sedaris.

The Last Gift of Time was my favourite memoir and in some ways my favourite book of 2019. Looking back, though, I probably loved The Ivington Diaries more. Maybe.

In looking at the next batch, I realized I had not recorded reading the excellent

…which explains why I then read The Liar’s Club and will soon read two more Mary Karr memoirs. Now that throws off Goodreads total of 125 books and however many pages..

The book without a title is the apparently obscure Monty Don gardening memoir, My Roots. The Rosie series continued with the Aspergers theme. I enjoyed the Yorkshire Dales detective series for the setting and for good writing.

I love Ruth Reichl.

Jennifer Weiner and Amy Schuman both had good things to say about feminism and beauty bullying of women. Both are stereotyped as “light” writers.

The Pawnbroker’s Daughter, which was an offshoot of reading The Last Gift of Time, was one of the best books of the year and had me start 2020 by reading some poetry. That’s something old…as I last read poetry in my 20s..and therefore something new.

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2005

Allan has been going through his old photos and found these from when we lived in our 400 square foot Ilwaco house behind the boatyard. Oh my, it was small, cold in the winter, and rustic.

The kitchen…

Kitchen window view…

Looking through into the living room. With books, a boxy tv, couch and coffee table, there was barely room to walk.

No wonder our current 1100 square foot house seemed so huge when we moved in.

In the bathroom…

View of pond, with cat food…

Upstairs dormer view…

The upper garden…

Outside the fence….

Looking down on the pond…

Outside the lower garden…

Our cat, Maddy…

A more thorough tour of that old abode is here.

And back to the present day….

2 January 2020

Today was Allan’s birthday, age 67. We had birthday dinner at the 42nd Street Cafe, where we were spontaneously joined by our friend Gene, former manager of the city of Long Beach (and before that, Seaside), who unexpectedly treated us to dinner.

While I got the obligatory photos of our delicious beet and Brussels sprouts appetizers (we love our veg!)…

…Allan forgot his camera and my phone failed to capture the pasta entrees. We chose the 42nd Street partly because it has the best birthday sparkler…

…made even more fun because Juan is working there now. Someone asked him how long it takes to burn and he told them thirty minutes. Ha! It is really less than a minute, but don’t blow it out! I wonder, though, if wishes count without a candle to actually blow out?

I am 705 pages in to Christopher Isherwood’s diaries, volume one, with three more books of his diaries and letters to go. With no reason to leave my property till the end of January (I hope), made possible by Allan doing the hunting and gathering, I fervently hope for an exceedingly quiet month at home.

I have quite a bit of reading lined up and more Isherwood on order from interlibrary loan.

The calendar is blank till February 10th and I hope it stays that way.

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December garden reprise

Until we get our winter garden project done, I’m saving that story. We are in a holding pattern because of weather and holidays. Not our holidays so much as gravel delivery holidays.

Meanwhile, here are some garden moments from December 2019.

10 December, a rose next door and a telephoto bird with Allan’s new and better camera..and Skooter.

17 December

While we were working on our project, our neighbors stopped by so I could pet my good friends Cotah and Bentley. I found out a couple of days ago that they are moving to a house on one of the nearby hills. I’m happy for their people going to a new home but how I will miss having my vicarious dogs next door.

Later, I saw my friends at the treat gate where they got biscuits and apples. I have to admit I wept.

They will be back on occasion as their people are the best of friends with the folks who live in the big house next door but still….I have so enjoyed treating these dogs almost every day.

Birds are loud in their Bogsy Wood gathering these days.

18 December

When Scott, Tony, and Rudy stopped by, my buddies got treats; they were next door while their people moved a load of furniture.

That is the last time I have gotten to treat them. It’s awfully quiet in the garden when them gone. They always used to let me know when they heard me.

22 December

Allan photographed the rain in the Bogsy Wood swale….

…and a billboard on an empty lot on the main route through town.

The dark grey building in the background is our post office. The lot is owned by a fellow who lives on the hill.

Meanwhile, in the garden:

Fatsia japonica ‘Spider’s Web’

Mahonia

Acanthus ‘Hollard’s Gold’

Windfall from storms

First snowdrop

27 December

We enjoyed gingerbread cookies from a mix and cookie cutter gift from Montana Mary. Allan made them, of course.

Skooter enjoyed the last vestiges of Christmas.

30 December

Lezlie and her dog Winston stopped by while running errands. We gathered three big bags of windfall apples for her deer and crow friends. Some of the apples were still so good that she said, “These are lady apples.”

How she makes me laugh and laugh! She brought me a tapestry and some books.

The books will make for good work season reading, when I stop getting library books because I can’t deal with due dates while working. The tapestry is my staycation motto. On rainy days, at least.

31 December

I noticed that a new box of Builders had miraculously arrived.

I’d been down to six bags, barely enough to get us through the rest of the gravel project. Now I have no excuse to delay except for weather and the fact that once we get the gravel dumped (five yards), we won’t be able to get into our garage till it is spread.

Today was so dark, windy, and rainy that Skooter spend most of the day tucked into a sweat shirt.

I started a new book, 1000 pages of Christopher Isherwood. I had learned about his diaries whilst reading The Last Gift of Time.

Jazmin read with me. I adore a good book of diaries so much.

I knew immediately that I would love the book.

Every address where Christopher and his friends lived is given in full, making for some enjoyable Googling.

Allan had checked out the film The Art of Racing in the Rain, which packed a double whammy of the inevitable aging of a companion animal (in this case a golden retriever who looked so much like Monty Don’s Nigel) and formula one auto racing, which was one of my late friend Bryan’s favourite things. Between being reminded of him and of Our Frosty‘s recent death, I barely managed to not howl through the film. (Bryan would not in the least mind being mourned along with a very good cat. Oh, how he loved his cats.)

And yet. Here was a film about death that proposes reincarnation. Bryan was adamantly atheist. (I used to joke that I was an apatheist: I don’t know and I don’t care. But I do care that Bryan–and my grandma and my cats!–are not just gone.) So maybe it was purely cosmic that Allan happened to find that movie at the library.

The year turned into a new decade, depending on whether or not you are a stickler for when a decade finally begins. As far as I am concerned, it is now the 20s.

1 January, 2020

I continue on with Christopher Isherwood (310 pages in now) while my Queen’s Tears blooms.

Thanks for reading and for all the wonderful comments which make blogging so worthwhile.

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21-23 December 2019

My Roots by Monty Don

I certainly don’t want to get in trouble with Montagu Don by sharing too many takeaways from this wonderful older book of his. This is to inspire you gardeners to find it; I got it from the public library in Aurora, Illinois via interlibrary loan. This is also a glimpse for my reading friends who do not have a great interlibrary loan resource like Timberland Regional Library and may not have the book budget to find a copy to buy.

The back cover has my favourite takeaway, about a method of getting a solitary staycation.

The book contains thoughts that go beyond gardening.

I wish I had said that last bit so I could use it in my blog description.

Monty’s wife, Sarah, appeared in the telly series Fork to Fork, and she co-wrote The Jewel Garden, but I have never seen her on Gardeners’ World, and so I love when she appears in his books, as in the preface.

And later, on page 115:

Takeaways:

“If you garden with gaiety, then you are immediately at the heart of a great mystery that will unfold revelations for the rest of your days. If you garden with solemnity you will rapidly become–if you are not already–a boring old fart.”

Spend! Spend! Spend! ….People begrudge a hundred pounds on a dozen plants that will last as many years whereas they will blow that much on a bad meal with friends they don’t really like.”

Which reminds me of one of my favourite gardening quotations…..

….although there have been years when my annual gardening budget, in order to pay the mortgage and bills, was $25 or less.

Monty describes winter gardening as “tooling around doing little things between gaps in the weather….like rearranging the plates in the cupboard, which, if I am honest, is one of the reasons I like doing it.”

In 2005, Monty resolved to “rely less on labour-saving kit. I am starting to feel profoundly irresponsible using endless noisy machines to do jobs that could be done as well by hand… There are few bits of mechanical baggage that improve the quality of the garden and equally few that improve the quality of life for the gardeners and their neighbours.”

I do love his self-deprecating humour. “[My list] of unwritten books grows longer every year–which may be a blessed relief to the book-buying public but is a source of real dissatisfaction to me.”

He writes of how important a wood is in the garden, making me happy for my Bogsy Wood, even if it is just alders. “….the way that the light constantly plays inside the trees, falling in beams and spangles or distant splashes.”

And later:

Monty also suffers from celandine in the garden. I should have been out in the past couple of not too rainy days digging it up.

Why I feel I was born in the wrong country:

I live on a street which has, in a ten block stretch, only about six good gardens, three of which, including ours, are cared for by Allan and me (and a fourth one, below, was created by us but then let go.)

I believe that in any town of 900 people in the U.K., there would be gardens all along the street, maybe not at every house but at least at every few houses.

Below, this also applies to the repetitive nature of garden blogging:

Monty is more politically outspoken in this older book, it seems to me.

He also has some choice words for Thatcher, Bush, and even the RHS’s show gardens and the National Trust open gardens.

Everything he wrote rang true, though, and I think he had some influence on improving National Trust gardens and garden centres. I love him for it.

This, about makeover shows and designed gardens…

…made me think about how his own makeover show, years later (Big Dreams, Small Spaces), relies on the garden owners to mostly create the design and implement it themselves.

It reminds me of another favourite gardening quotation.

You’ll have to get the book to read his scathing critique of Chelsea Flower Show gardens at the time, including recreations of The Lost Gardens of Heligan and of a London blitz garden “complete with bombed ‘house'”. I probably would have liked them. He wanted to see original ideas.

I was well chuffed to find out that Monty and I have the same favourite gardening book.

And in googling about the book his son gave him, I found out that there is a documentary about Jarman’s garden, called The Garden, that I can watch online for under $5.00.

I used to carry this book with me to show any prospective client who wanted a garden right by the sea.

I also learned that Monty has two telly shows I had not heard of, Don Roaming and Real Gardens. I searched and could only find brief excerpts online. Later in staycation, I will allow myself to start watching garden videos again. (If I did that now, I wouldn’t get my pile of library books read.)

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

30 December 2019

The Pawnbroker’s Daughter by Maxine Kumin

It must have been in The Last Gift of Time that I learned about this book. It began as a memoir of growing up in the 1930s, becoming a poet, and then about halfway through segued, to my amazed delight, to a memoir of life on a farm with an old house, horses and dogs, a huge swimming pond and a big vegetable garden. The farm was called PoBiz Farm, financed as it was by poetry. (That link goes to a long essay that became part of the book. In this article are two more poems about the farm, one about how much work it was, in which her husband says “I hope on the other side, there’s a lot less work, but just in case, I’m bringing tools.”)

I will now read everything that I can find by Maxine Kumin. I am smitten. Other than her poetry books, I especially want to find her essays about country life and her memoir about recovering from a terrible carriage accident. I have two on order already. She also wrote many children’s books; our library has at least one of them.

One of the themes in the latter part of this memoir is moving into an old farmhouse. This passage…

…reminded me of something else: I want to reread, in order, all the memoirs of Gladys Taber’s country life. When I was a child, my grandmother bought the Family Circle magazine each month. She’d send me down to the corner store for “our magazines” (also Woman’s Day and Better Homes and Gardens). My favourite part was a column called Butternut Wisdom. In my 50s, I discovered Gladys Taber somehow, and soon realized she had written that column. In the early 2000s, I painstakingly typed out all my takeaways from her books and posted them in a Taber group in Yahoogroups, and then changed my email, lost my password, and could never get back in to retrieve them. After fifteen years, the books will seem new again and the takeaways be easier with a digital camera. Owning them all will make the re-reading easier than interlibrary loaning.

Back to Maxine Kumin. In her Pulitzer Prize winning poetry, the garden looms large.

….

She includes the stories of…and eulogies for…all of their many rescued dogs. “I have never been able to keep my animals, their births, eccentricities, and deaths, out of my poems.”

About one of the dogs, who loved to run with the horses.

That made me weep, as you can imagine.

As for porcupines…

…my dog Bertie Woofter was born for revenge and caused us three expensive trips to the vet with a snout full of quilly pig stickers.

I am ever so excited about discovering Maxine Kumin; I predict hours of good reading ahead.

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

Bonus book

School of the Arts by Mark Doty

Coincidentally, I had a book of poems checked out by the author of three of my favourite memoirs (Still Life with Oranges and Lemons, Heaven’s Coast, and Dog Years), with poems about flowers, Cape Cod, gentrification, sex, dogs, time, death. Dog lover friends, I encourage you to find the long poem called Letter to God.

…..

Part of a poem about time and death…

….which is on my mind a lot because of the death of my old friend Bryan.

And then there are poems about flowers…

…including a two or three page poem about a pink poppy that I send to my friends from Pink Poppy Farm.

Suddenly, I find that I must read all of Mark Doty’s books of poetry, even though I haven’t read much poetry since my early 20s.

School of the Arts was book 125 of my reading year. Some say they envy my reading time. I doubt they would trade with me. I have the tiniest of families; any smaller and it would be just me and thus not a family at all (unless I counted the cats). I have really only two highly focused interests, gardening and reading. My friendships have dropped off to those few who are not offended by my craving for solitude. Thus–I have much time for reading during proper reading weather.

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