Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Sounds and the Succulents

In a recent class at the Great Outdoors, Dave Mix, with Pacific Home & Garden, taught us how to put together container pots for patio gardens. I chose to do a bowl of succulents, and with the addition of just a few more accent stones, it will be finished – or as finished as any gardening project ever is. In a land where water is increasingly precious, finding beauty in native, low-moisture varieties is such a joy.

My new little friends include hens and chicks, sedum, santolina, and baby toes. As I poked these little gems into the soil, I was struck by all the different colors from the succulent garden and out into our yard – the soft, silvery lambs ear to the dark Mexican heather fronds to the crimson tips on the dragon’s blood sedum. There are more variations of green here than on all the local paint-mart chips combined.

Succulents survive by retaining water (something I do after two margaritas and several baskets of chips). They send the message: “Set me in the sun and leave me alone. I’m tough, I can take it. I can get by on just a little. Let me be.”

Of course, I’m suspicious about such neglect. It’s hard for me to respect their wishes and not over-water them. Even my hovering is cutting off their sunshine. I’m learning to leave them alone – and am grateful that you don’t have to deadhead a cactus.

At the seminar, Dave also taught us how to listen to our pots by patting and ringing them somewhat like a toning bowl. When a pot is cracked, it makes a funny thud next to an un-cracked one, and you can detect even a hairline fracture. So now this crackpot knows how to spot a cracked pot.

Toning and the use of sound have long been studied for their healing effects on the body. We enjoy the constant gurgle of a fountain and waterfall in our koi pond, as the fish dip and slip among the reeds cruising toward their next slow mosquito meal. The sound of the water draws down our shoulders and floats away the day’s cares. Nightly it call us out to the patio where we dip in our fingertips to check the temperature, still too cool for the lily pads to rise.

These days, the flow and gurgle of lively conversation with good friends and family keeps me sustained. I’m comfortable working alone and can enjoy long hours in solitude, but it’s an oasis when we gather and share laughter and stories. It seems more important than ever that we simply stop and together witness our lives, in sunshine and in shadow.

Where is your oasis? Have you paid attention to the sounds you love today? What are they? Notice what brings you contentment and allow it into your life each day.

In the meantime, if you ring my doorbell and I don’t answer, I’m just out back – ignoring the cactus and watching for the lily pads to rise.

Great Outdoors:
Pacific Home & Garden:

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Books, Buds, and Bugs

Why do I check out so many library books at one time? The fragrance of the paper? A towering stack nearby flirts from the floor and beckons to be embraced. I’m wondering why I invited these home when devouring eight books in fifteen days would mean bathing in nothing but coffee.

The seduction begins when I enter the lobby and feel the overwhelm of possibility. All these amazing ideas clamor to get inside my head and incite me to act: build it, plant it, imagine it, cook it, visit it. My blood races and a little saliva puddles at the corner of my mouth. No, it’s not a seizure, I’m just seized with excitement like a lone boll weevil feasting in cotton field. So many tomes, so little time.

From the dusty volumes of the great indoors to the pollen-infused great outdoors, we bid farewell to our final jasmine blossoms of the year. Bursting in abundant popcorn-y clusters, the vines beguile us with an Orville Redenbacher bounty of blooms. They spritz the loveliest of perfumes throughout our yard and into our home. As the lacy green tendrils yawn and drop their petals and stretch across the fence line, it’s time for the fragrant freesia, sweet alyssum, scarlet nicotiana, and silver leaf senna to step up and fill the air.

These plants and dozens of others form our “butterfly bed-and-breakfast.” In our collection of edibles, the dill patch has checked out early, having served more as a bug hors d'oeuvre than a cooking accent. The bronze fennel persists, perhaps as dessert while the caterpillars munch the brunch that is my herb garden. We’ve entertained just one hummingbird this spring, but more will check in as we feed the flowering fronds (and imprison the cats indoors).

Which host plants do you cultivate for your passions? What nibbles away at your time and prevents you from tending your goals? Are you amassing late fees on your dreams? This week I pledge to multitask: pull up the lawn chair by the jasmine for at least one hour and breathe while I read. How will you nurture your projects this week?