While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

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October Theme: A Sense of Time

When autumn finally arrives.

The morning after a wild party requires a lot of cleanup.  Bottles, cans, plates and utensils need to be recycled, thrown out, or washed – and if the party wandered outside furniture needs to be righted and neighbors require an apology.  And much like the aftermath of a storm, the garden looks battered.

This morning, looking out the window to a rain soaked, windblown landscape, my spouse said “Looks like folks partied in our yard and left the cleanup for us.”  This time of year is defiantly messy.  Incessant rain (a mixed blessing), strong winds, and tired leaves tell us that summer is long gone and the days of cleanup have arrived.  But, also, these are the last days of brilliant color.  When a dark gray sky is peppered with small dots of bright light, colors become intense.  A deep red canopy of Lagerstroemia indica, ‘Pecos’ is echoed by Cotinus coggygria, Purple Smoke Tree and Acer palmatum, ‘Ornatum’.   Against a green background of Eucryphia x intermedia ‘Rostrevor’ and Arbutus unedo, the gleaming yellow branches of Cryptomeria japonica, Sekkan-Sugi shine like a spring morning.  Vivid orange berries of Cotoneaster franchetii attract spotted towhees in such numbers that the limbs almost touch the ground under their weight.  The plant may be considered invasive in these parts, and I didn’t invite it into my garden, but it is a welcome addition to the berry-producing plant population growing here.  Farther down the path, Styrax japonica greets us with its timid pale-yellow leaves that change color first from deep inside the canopy, then travel out to the end of its branches.  I like the two-toned look.  Brilliant yellow blades of Chasmanthium latifolium wind through branches of a young Sinocalycanthus raulstonii, ‘Hartlage Wine Allspice’ covered with large, Irish-butter yellow leaves.  I think of warm buttered toast when I see these leaves – especially since we can see the plant from our kitchen window.  But for all the beauty autumn color brings to a garden, I find my attention called to my favorite conifer – Picea pungens, ‘Baby Blue Eyes’.  Though beautiful in every season, this little tree comes into its glory in autumn and winter.  Whether speckled with frost or clothed in rain drops, this tree fills the garden with shades of silver-blue that spread into the darkest corners of my landscape.   Passersby always glance up at the tree, even taking a moment from their phones to see it.

Autumn comes on in a slow, welcome stroll from a worn-out summer, and it rushes away much too quickly.  But if you take a moment to go outside immediately after a fall rainstorm, the intensity of ephemeral colors that surround you will stay with you through winter.

And before you are ready, the cycle will begin again.


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October Theme: A Sense of Time.

Have you seen how autumn hurries home?  In a rush of small motions, all direction and purpose, sunlight flies past our eyes.  With barely time to blink a leaf falls from a high perch and lands upon its dying kin.  Gold on brown.  Beauty on decay.  In a moment that seems so long, change occurs in an instant.  Rich green life becomes radiant with color until that life relinquishes its glory and floats away.  No more tangible than time are those thoughts we sense from a distance.  Strong colors evoke a memory or a word that is just out of reach; it is so innate as to be common yet it evades capture.  It always moves too fast.

Have you seen how autumn runs away?  Left behind to wonder how it came so soon yet left so quickly, we stand stunned like mourners at the bed of an absent loved one with concealed fury that whips and breaks the air around us.  Violent air in a space restrained by decorum.  It jerks and twists and threatens – so much bluster for something inexorable.  So much gaudy spectacle for something so timid.  It rarely leaves politely.  It always leaves us here, alone.

Soon this flashy bombast stumbles into exhaustion and rests upon the ground like old footprints.  Glints of frost dance and shimmer in hollows, and brighten dull brown days.  A subdued sun hangs low in a monochromatic sky – just a few colors will be used to paint this season.  We will paint it slowly at first, with faint detail and subtle hues.  We will paint it into that recessed spot and hold it at a distance.  How does it look?  Pale, remote – gently laid to rest.

And like those thoughts just out of reach, we know it will be familiar.

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Time to Speak Up.

Insulting.  Degrading, contemptuous comments.  Sexist, racist, and intolerant.  Lies and false accusations on record, but denied.   Erratic behavior, very little self-control, a hair-trigger temper, and narcissistic.  Uninformed.  Thoroughly unqualified.  A bully.

These are the most conspicuous and frequently cited characteristics of the republican nominee for president this year.  These are the characteristics of the man who aims to, if elected, guide this country to a ‘renewed level of greatness’.  This is a man who bullies those who don’t agree with him.  This is a candidate who resorts to name-calling and condescending behavior if he hears something he doesn’t like.  This is a man who demonstrates no reluctance to lie, change his previously stated position, and then lie again.  This is a candidate who smirks at the world.  This is a man whose primary interest is in winning at any cost.

This is the definition of a bully – Trump.

The scope of harm this man will do if elected president of our country may prove to be immeasurable.

Speak up, speak out.  The time is now.

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October Theme: A Sense of Time.

What’s the Hurry?

A busy wind rushes through canopies filled with turning leaves and frantic squirrels.  Against a purple sky gleam brushes of yellow and orange foliage.  Thin limbs dancing with abandon are watched by stoic, solid elders.  The elders know soon enough they will be pushed to bending, and they will give just enough.   No reason to rush.

The air smells panicky, the wind sounds disordered.   I wonder if I should be worried but all around me is such ephemeral beauty that I don’t want to seek shelter.  We mammals respond to autumn with greed; we want more of everything.  More color, more crisp crunches under our feet, more glimpses of what was and what is to come.

A few drops of rain hit my face.  I am far enough from home that I know I will be drenched before long.  Above, a slow growl of thunder announces the intent of this deep purple sky.  Get on with it then, I think.  We’re ready – all of us.