Sicily: Part Two (Palermo and some of Ancient Sicily)

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The chronology of our Sicily trip is a bit out of order in these two posts but I’m trying to remain focused on a few themes related to gardening and the green spirit. “Buon divertimento!”
Cucuzza squash in the Mercato di Capo in Palermo.

We’d planned to drive into Palermo twice during our time in Sicily but a food poisoning incident put an end to that plan two days before we were scheduled to fly to Rome. What’s worse is that I’d intended to spend that last day at the botanical garden but all I could do was vow to return. What’s a girl to do? Seriously.

This meant that we had to leave the island with only a few memories of the chaotic città di Palermo, but at least we saw the catacombs and il Mercato di Capo. My other hope all along had been to visit a market in Palermo and somehow we landed at one of the largest quite by accident.

Ok, maybe it was fate after all, a big hug from my Sicilian family from beyond the grave…

My great-grandpa Frank Amato with a cucuzza he grew in his garden in SE Portland. Since it’s much colder here in Oregon than in Sicily I know this was a triumph for him. I’m sure this photo was taken to always remember this accomplishment.

All I could think about that day in Palermo was my family. Everything I saw as I looked around brought color and life back into the black & white photos I’d grown up seeing. This awakening of snapshots invigorated me and although I walked beside my husband, I knew then as I know now that this experience was my own and I embraced every awkward moment of it. (Honestly, he’d bought a platter of pastries and was reliving his own Italian childhood as we walked through the market that day.) There we were walking together reliving our own memories yet his were real and mine were only the half-imagined stuff of stories, old photos, and dreams mixed with raw emotions. I wanted so badly to be a little girl walking beside my great-uncle Charlie (holding his hand), or to be with his best-friend, cousin Joe.

It felt strange to be in Sicily alone.

Il Mercato di Capo.

Yet, that was the beginning of an ongoing chain of epiphanies for me as I walked through the market.

Any American with a strong tie to another culture can make choices—either cut their ties and let the past remain the past or inject new life into it. I’ve always straddled my Italian-American identity and dealing with being bi-cultural in Oregon in the 1980s was not easy. Countless times Americans have told me I wasn’t Italian enough to be Italian and they were wrong. Children should never have to grow up defending their identity. They have no idea how painful and damaging those words were to me.

Besides, Italians don’t quantify their identity, they qualify it. That’s why I have a blood right (jus sanguinis) entitling me to Italian citizenship. I’ve been given that choice by my bloodline. In Italy it doesn’t matter how much Italian blood you possess, what matters is what you do with the heritage that’s been passed on to you through birth.

As a girl I’d looked at photos with family members and I’d been told that these were a part of who I was and of my identity but I know now the damage that can do over time. I was always confused because those photos weren’t of my life in the 1980s with a mother who wasn’t in the least bit Sicilian and with two brothers who in no way cared about any of this.

We’re the American generation that really is able to choose to be called American but I’m the only one of my siblings who’s chosen to remain hyphenated. This is what happens in bi-cultural and bi-racial families. Individuals must be allowed to decide who and what they’re going to be and the family fabric will change.

I wish I had siblings like me, but I don’t, and honestly, we’re not that close. For me it’s always felt like a cultural rift or divide but it’s difficult to say.

Instead of dwelling, I’ve lived my own independent life and have chosen to remain Italian through my marriages and I’m pleased now to have an Italian mother-in-law. It’s the way my life is, has been, and will be. I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I love to cook and garden. I have an undying love for produce and fresh food. And when I wake up I drink my coffee and spend a lot of time everyday thinking of making new dishes for the many friends I invite to eat at my table.

Seeing a market in Sicily one day can make all of this happen if you’re the right kind of person in need of that kind of emotional catharsis. I’ve been crying out for that experience for so long and it’s sad I had to wait for so long and travel so far but I’m a better person now.

Ok, now back to our regularly scheduled programming…

This mosaic floor depicts the bountiful harvests available on the island during the era of the Roman Empire.  Many of the orchards had been planted by the Greeks centuries before so there was already an agricultural system in place.

Leading up to that epiphany in the market we’d spent the day before driving from Termini to the Villa Romana del Casale in the interior of the island. The villa contains the largest collection of Roman mosaics in the world and is an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The “bikini girls” is by far the most famous mosaic work in the complex. Seeing it in person was a highlight of the trip for me. It was absolutely nothing like I had imagined. The figures are quite large and they’re more real when seeing them in person. The shading on the leg muscles was much better than I’d remembered seeing in books.

I also noticed all of the botanical bits and pieces as we walked through the entire complex. Recounting what I knew about the meaning of each plant as we looked at the mosaics was interesting to John. Although he has a Master’s degree in history, with an empasis on the Italian Renaissance, he’d never read much about ancient Rome and Italy. It was fun sharing with him.

Nowhere in Rome will you see anything quite like the Villa Romana del Casele. It’s huge and very well preserved. Walking on walkways overlooking all of the rooms and floors was a brilliant design plan too. You see so much!

It really made me long to return to my days as a student of art and landscape history. I’d once worked hard to specialize in ancient art, philosophy, and history. Using my knowledge while there though really enriched the experience for me. John left knowing a lot more about Italy’s flora and the history of it too although we both still have so much more we want to learn.

Driving several hours though the countryside, stopping in the road for a shepherd and his flock of sheep, and chatting all day with John about his impressions of the place made for a dream-like day. We still had one more stop though.

We drove for a few more hours to Agrigento, on the southern coast of Sicily. This is where you’ll find the Valle dei Templi. In addition to being a national monument in Italy, it’s also one of the best places in the world for Ancient Greek architecture.
The temples are above the valley, along a ridge. As we drove into town they were difficult to miss. The view from the road below was truly breathtaking and I was left speechless. I’ve had few spiritual moments in my life, but that afternoon was truly a spiritual pilgrimage for me.
Yes, there was an attached garden too but its gate was closed.
And it was so lovely that in the middle of the ancient Greek temples, catacombs, and necropolis you’ll find this humble home built by an Englishman by the name of Hardcastle who came to “save” the temples. I will not get onto the topic of what other Europeans have done in Italy in regards to preserving the history of the ancient and artistic heritage we all seemingly share, but I’m certainly of the opinion that this lovely eyesore should have been built somewhere else—oh, and that England should hand back the Elgin Marbles to Athens.
(I also highly recommend the novel Nike: A Romance by Nicholas Flokos. It’s a love story like no other concerning the repatriation of the Winged Victory statue in the Louvre.)
This should probably make my sentiments and opinion quite clear.
Here I am standing in front of the Temple of Concordia.
It is sad to me that John does not share my interest in the ancient world, but he has other things to buoy his interest up north and happily we ended up learning a lot from one another.
Life is a funny thing and we all need our own raison d’être as the French like to say. I think it’s important that we each find our own and respect others’.  There truly are so many options out there that make life truly worth living.

As we walked back to the car, I spotted this sign and glimpsed over to the area it was describing.

Only exhaustion at this point kept me away.

I wanted the signs to tell me more—so much more.

But my body was in no mood to make the descent.

I definitely need to study more and return refreshed and prepared to Sicily.

We drifted from that ancient universe to Palermo and then to Cefelù after several trips into Termini. The days truly all blend together now.
That evening in Cefalù I purchased seeds at this shop for my mother-in-law and myself and it was a bit like a candy store for me. All the necessary new Italian vocabulary I needed to communicate with other gardeners was there on the shelves.
(This is not vocabulary you learn in your regular Italian language course.)
Then I ate something that gave me food poisoning and the trip took a turn.

John and I after a day of bed rest due to food poisoning. Our nausea made walking difficult but we made it down to the common area at least.

Our last full day in Sicily was spent recovering from the food poisoning. John only had three bites of the aranchi rice ball that made me so sick so at least he empathized. We were both unable to move much that day so we just processed what we’d seen so far and John and I talked about what was yet to come.

Wild native Gladiolus italicus growing in the olive orchard.

I wandered around where we’d been staying to take more plant pics and after John returned to our room, I sat with the Sicilian tourists at the restaurant below our lodgings and soaked up their noise as I wrote to friends back home using the Wifi connection.

The day-trip tourists ate daily at the restaurant and then danced to loud music and talked to one another. (Yes, Sicilians love agroturismo too and they’d all paid to take a bus to artichoke country to spend time basking in the harvest.) We were largely ignored as outsiders, but that last day it changed for me.

The day before I’d heard an old man on the patio playing traditional Sicilian music with his mandolin. My heart had seriously skipped a beat. That day he was back. The tourists piled onto the buses and only he and I were on the patio. He hobbled over to me and sat down speaking Sicilian dialect as he slowly crossed the distance. Looking right into his eyes, I pieced my words together carefully.

I told him in broken Italian I understood him but did not speak well. He shifted to Italian.

I pointed at his mandolin and said to him (in broken Italian), “the music of my great-grandparents”.

He asked me if I was Sicilian. I said yes. He asked me my name. I said Amato because that’s what a Sicilian means if he’s asking about your name. He wants to know the name of your family. He asked where my family was from and I said Termini.

Cha-ching!

And that’s the key to opening up a Sicilian. He smiled a wide smile and his eyes lit up. Then he asked what my mother was and I said “American”. As is usual, he told me that was ok and then he played music for me and sang. He apologized for his playing and blamed his age. He told me he lived nearby and was widowed and alone. He walked to the restaurant when he could for the exercise.

Then we talked about Oregon. He was shocked that Sicilians so long ago had moved so far away. This was not the first time I’d heard this either. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that they’d avoided other Sicilians in the United States intentionally. At least that’s what I’d been told by a relative not long before he died. We never had spoken much about it when I was a kid, but he told me because by that point it no longer mattered. What’s done is done.

The view from our bed. The doors to the room are glass but then there is a second lockable set with louvers. It’s a great way to manage the Sicilian sun and heat.

This is part of my American story and I’m proud of it. My Sicilian family thought differently and I’m happy they landed in Portland.

It’s also been said they came here for the soil. They wanted nothing more than to be able to grow vegetables in peace and to prosper beyond poverty. Unlike many other Italian emigrants, they saw success early on and their sacrifice paid off.

Last photo before leaving.

Driving through Palermo in the dark on our way to the airport I recalled having seen the bleak monument near the waterfront only days earlier dedicated to AI CADUTI NELLA LOTTA CONTRO LA MAFIA (those who’d fallen in the fight against the mafia). I thought of the judges who’d been blown up along that same road. I thought too of the brave Sicilians participating in addiopizzo. Many of them are of my generation and I know that if I lived there I too would be in their ranks.

I abhor the glorification of organized crime in any way, shape, or form. The commodification of this way of life feeds on the glorification of interpersonal violence and it’s not what Sicilian culture is about and I’m ashamed of the ignorance of those who play into these stereotypes.

Leaving Sicily that Friday morning was very difficult for me. I’d only just started watching as something inside of me had germinated and began to grow. At least whatever it was was going with me.

When the wheels of the plane lifted off, I felt an emotional tug in my gut. I did not want to leave but I left with my eyes wide open for what felt like the first time in my life.

Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show (An Introduction)

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It’s been a few years but I’m back! Coming up here to Seattle from Portland has reminded me why I missed coming to the Pacific Northwest Flower & Garden Show so much. I guess it’d been so long I’d nearly forgotten. Sure I missed one heck of a snow storm, but it was worth it.
Here are a few highlights with more posts to come because I’m still really enjoying the show. I’m going to seminars, and after I hit “publish” I’m off to look at some books. (Later tonight I’ll return to the restaurant where I first learned how to eat with chopsticks as a teen—but that’s another post.)
The show in Seattle is just edgy enough to have a neon-style light in a log on the ground in the garden. I have no idea yet how much this would cost, but I want it.

There is glass here. This is Chihuly Territory after all and his work has inspired many to take up the craft and I’m eternally grateful for their work.

There is nothing more reminiscent to me of the PNW style than huge trees and rusty metal. This is a refined nod to the logging industry if ever I saw one and to the great resource which although now managed, is something that still inspires awe in all who experience it. That’s why each and every year the ancient woods are brought into the convention center. I’ve missed these homages.

Whimsy? Not always my thing but I burst out laughing when I saw this bat house. My former foster children would have loved this.

There is always something that appeals to the over-the-top Italian side of me. This garden display cured my wintertime blues and made me crave a glass of limoncello.

As someone who specialized in modernism as an art history student I understand it and its midcentury relative well. It’s not my style because I’m too wild and flamboyant to live in it, but I love seeing it and being in it when it’s in another’s home.

It’s calming to see the lines all “just right”.

Seeing the simplest joys and pleasures on display here make me tingle.

Then there is what I would do. Luckily I cannot afford a giant glass pavilion with an art orchid made of glass and metal in it. Was it my favorite display garden? Yes. The huge glass Sarracenia? Well what do you think? This was amazing to behold. It could be in a museum.

I should add that I come here for the hotel too—at least this time around. Let’s just say that my husband really likes to spoil himself with a nice hotel so this trip I actually have marble tile on my bathroom floor. Did the show spoil us rotten with a great discount at the Fairmont Olympic? Absolutely. Will I take high tea tomorrow with our extra discount? Definitely.

I think one of these is going home to the family house on the river. It only seems appropriate when you have salmon spawning behind your house.

Not something I’d put in my garden, but I would love to see these in lieu of other options in other gardens. Variety is good. I think they’re fun and I would love to slam that arrow on the front of my house so that people would walk around that way but it might be an overstatement. (I’m pretty sure there might be something more “subtle” I could do too.)

Miniature gardens are in the show as well. They aren’t for me, but my husband is now eager to make a few. I’m excited to see what he makes and I would love to have one. I just wouldn’t know where to begin. John has loved other types of miniatures for years so I know he’ll make something wonderful.

This is a stake you can add to a planter pot and I loved it. (Gotta have my bling.) We do live in a rainy region so we might as well celebrate it.

Yesterday I didn’t buy much but I came back to the hotel last night after a long day with a few free plants from a reception. I was grateful.

My husband John got to take a silly picture of me. That’s his takeaway from the event. (You can tell I’m amused.) I’m afraid this is a word that pops out of my mouth from time to time and he does tease me about it a lot. Again, I love the silliness.

Then there is ikebana too.

I miss making arrangements but I’ll be back at it again soon.

(More to come with A LOT more detail. I just wanted to post a few pictures.)

Going on Now: Labor Day Sale at Cistus Nursery

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Gorgeous Hedychium met us in the parking lot.
This summer has been lean and mean for me financially. So when Cistus Nursery posted that they were having a 30% off Labor Day Sale I knew I was in luck. What a great opportunity for me to save some pennies and head on out to Sauvie Island with my friend Billye.
Admittedly, I hadn’t been to Cistus since June so that made this visit a bit more special to me. It looked lovely as usual and I was so happy to be back.
While walking around with all the prickly things I thought about my friend Loree over at Danger Garden. I can still hear myself thinking, “Wow, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t take a picture of one of these things for my blog. I can talk about these things.” Then, just as I leaned in with my camera to get a closer look at the gorgeous Agave americana ‘Yellow Ribbons’ on the top shelf, the Agave aff. macroculmis T73-99 just beneath it on the bench poked me in the leg. Oops! When will I ever learn? (Both are great plants. Don’t let me give any of these plants a bad name.)
I admire those of you out there who can live with these plants and not hurt yourselves. Maybe I would do better with the Nolina macrocarpa sitting beside ‘Yellow Ribbons’? Hmmm, I think not. No. Let’s be positive. Maybe now is just not my time.

It really was a beautiful day and I loved looking up above the nursery to see all of the textures from the plantings. I’m so in love with green texture these days.

I was a little bit disappointed that Sean Hogan (the nursery’s owner) wasn’t around that day, but I hope to catch up with him this winter. He is a good plant friend and very much understands and encourages my seed habit. I like talking to him a lot about seed collecting adventures.

Canary Islands Juniper, Juniperus cedrus.

During this visit I looked at things differently. Sure, I don’t have room for this tree, but I liked it so I took a picture. I’m branching out a bit again, learning a few new things, paying attention.

My friend Billye with her new Italian greyhound Tango.

When you visit Cistus Nursery it’s often quite relaxing. This is the kind of retail environment you like to sit around in while you enjoy the sights.

Than again, if you’re like me, you can park people in the shade while you shop. Billye went for the plants but we all know that we’re not always so lucky and sometimes we end up dragging people with us to nurseries. Cistus is friendly for those folks.

While we were there, birds swirled overhead.

Chilean lantern tree, Crinodendron hookerianum.

As we walked back to pay for our plants I saw this Chilean lantern tree blooming. Mine is still happily growing along but it’s not blooming right now. I think I might have pruned it when it didn’t want to be pruned. I can wait.

Ashe magnolia, Magnolia macrophylla ssp. ashei.

My friend and I ventured back into the corner we’d missed. It was fun seeing a big leaf magnolia. These trees really make me smile with their big huge leaves.

Giant Cape Restio, Rhodocoma capensis.

There were other treats.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.

Up at the register I found temptation after temptation.

Lysionotus pauciflorus.
This one was really difficult to say “No” to but I did. Maybe next time…

Salvia buchananii ‘Velvet Slipper’.

I liked this one too.

Looking around it felt great to be back. I wish I could have purchased more but planting all of these plants takes time. I don’t have a lot of extra time nowadays. It’s good though because I’m staying busy with my garden coaching client.
Sometime soon I’ll be back. I highly recommend you go too if you can do so before now and Monday. The sale was really quite a treat. It’s worth the trip.

In the end I walked away with a few things I’d lost in the garden: Sedum divergens, a pine-scented rosemary, and a Melicytus crassifolius. I also added a few new friends: Carex testacea ‘Prairie Fire’, Mahonia gracilipes, and my first Dahlia. (It’s a Dahlia ‘Fascination’ and I’m so excited to finally have one.)

Who knows what I’ll end up doing this weekend, oh wait, I know: Annual Dahlia Festival. Maybe I’ll see you there!

 

Growing On

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Japanese maple (Acer japonica) in my backyard.

I’m still feeling a lot like this seemingly vulnerable leaf on one of my Japanese maples, but as days have passed, and the leaves have all opened up, the leaf no longer sticks out. I’m taking this as a sign. As it lifted up its head to the sun it was enveloped by the support of other leaves around it.

In the garden I am comforted.

Salmonberry (Rubus spectabilis) growing above the Pacific Ocean.

My trip the the Pacific a few weeks ago also had me viewing an understory of nearly nothing by salmonberry bushes and their blooms. I tried for far too long to get a nice shot of their hot pink blossoms but the wind was simply too much. Instead, I did capture this berry.

Morning glory vine (Ipomoea) on a tombstone in Oysterville, WA.

In my photos I also found this lovely rendition of a morning glory vine on a gravestone. I don’t believe I’ve shared it yet. Eternal blooms fascinate me more and more as I age. What flower would I want on my headstone? Why? I am such a plant nerd it’s impossible to choose just one. Besides, in the technological world we live in I’m much more likely to desire something akin to a slideshow. Oh! I am so ashamed at times to be so spoiled by the world around me. We’re lucky I think.

Dudlyea brittonii seedlings.

Many of the seeds I was unable to plant last year made it into production this year. Above you’ll see one of my favorites. I cannot wait to see these grow up. They are such beautiful plants.

Unknown Agave I grew from seed.
I guess these little “friends” area telling me that it’s time for the plant to be moved to a larger pot.

It is time to repot older plants I’ve grown from seed. This is a plant that really spoke volumes to me when I looked closely at what it was saying to me. “Plant me. I need more space. If you don’t, I promise to break this planter. It is weak. I am not.” Ok, maybe I’m totally exaggerating.

Me last month pruning the willow arbor while waiting to be picked up to go out for the evening. I can prune in a linen dress. Wow, the things we learn when we wait impatiently…

Being able to climb up onto a ladder to prune was a huge undertaking for me. In the past I would have been too dizzy to do this but not anymore!

Hellebore plant (Helleborus orientalis) pregnant with seeds.

Collecting seeds for my Etsy shop Milton’s Garden Menagerie has started all over too. Even though I am still not 100% about where I’ll be going next in my life, I do know with complete certainty that I want seeds to remain—and plants too!

Cuttings from my Begonia boliviensis I grew from seed. The propagation goes on and on…

Hanging on the Peninsula (Oh, the plants!)

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After my husband left, asking initially for a separation, and then weeks later for a divorce, I really have to admit now, that at that time, I wanted nothing more than to go away too but I really wasn’t able to do so since when you live with a chronic illness, saving money is far from easy.
I think the yellow bloom is an Acacia, but let me know if you can ID it. Its companions are some lovely Agave americana or century plants.

So just in case this kind of situation ever arises in your life, I suggest you stash money away for just this kind of thing. Then again, you’re probably not at all like me, and you wouldn’t have gotten yourself into this kind of mess in the first place.

I love this pine tree. Not sure which one it is but the needles are really long and beautiful.

So, as a present to myself I did eventually purchase a plane ticket to stay with my high school friend and her family down in California.

I think this is Oxalis valdiviensis.
She recently lost her father, so in a sense we’re mourning simultaneously, but in very different ways.

Nice little planter with some kind of Aloe.
Being down in CA again, just south of San Francisco, has been relaxing and I’m glad I’m here.

This is a planting in front of an apartment complex with possibly Aloe arborescens and some form of the common ice plant Delosperma cooperi.
I have some big plans to visit some large gardens but today started off slowly and I just enjoyed a walk to and from the Trader Joe’s.

Here’s some more of that amazing tangle of Aloe.
Everything you’re seeing here was shot with my lovely new iPhone as I walked the 1.7 miles to and from the store. I wore a sun hat (since I burned my face last week), and the sun on my arms felt so nice.

I think this is a kangaroo apple hedge but I am not sure—Solanum laciniatum. Thoughts? (I mean other than, “Wow, that’s in the deadly nightshade family and it’s a hedge!)
Looking at such a lovely landscape did lift my worries a bit, and I cannot believe how much I enjoyed such a simple walk. (I guess I am still in awe of my body’s ability to function again.)

You know, this is part of the world where you can have your flowering cacti out on your patio. I know mine would love to life here too it only the could…

The walk helped me to think a lot, and to think about my blog, and where I was going with things and why I’m even here so often.

I really liked this gate.
I took this to text to my niece. She has a California poppy (Eschscholzia californica) tattoo.

I like being here, and I like it when I am able to write more complicated posts about interesting topics and things. Something inside of me—namely mental and physical exhaustion—has been making those deep and meaningful posts impossible right now though and I’m hoping California will help me to recover.

Jade Tree hedge. Yes, the houseplant. Crassula ovata.
The first day seems to have gotten me off to a great start, and that’s not bad considering I read a book about technical botanical terms on the plane. That stuff is dry and reading it during the flight was a huge hurdle for me to lurch over—but I did it.

This Echium was part of a really pretty planting at a small office complex near downtown San Carlos.

Coming to terms with being such a highly sensitive person has not been easy for me, and if you know me, you probably know that I hide it well, and like many gardeners, I hide it there in the mass of plants best of all.

This quirky garden was hard to miss: Agave americana, Agapanthus, Canna.
You see, only recently I discovered that I absorb and learn so much more of what I know through my senses than through my mind. I am not as intellectual or as cerebral as even I’d thought and that’s a relief because for years I was beginning to think that I was not smart at all. I simply didn’t understand my skill set the way I do now.

More of the quirky house. This place was great!

For so long I’ve wondered why as a child I did some pretty absent-minded things. Somehow I took drowning to new level, and it was as if I sought out the sensation over and over. I liked how if felt, but I knew nothing of the consequences—something about the panic thrilled me too.

Not sure I have ever seen a Dusty Miller (Jacobaea maritima) used as a hedge. This was a first and it was pretty fun.
This has all come back to me as I feel that same feeling, but now in an impending divorce and failed relationship, that rush and thrill of near death and the dramatic panic that comes with it. Yes, it’s like that rush any addict feels to help them to feel alive.
You settle into the mess that you’ve somehow emotionally sought out—just for the pure experience of it. Sensation seeking doesn’t have to be so self-destructive though, or so harmful to the individual. I just didn’t know this—but you may have felt it before too.
You’re here looking at garden blogs and plant pictures so you must want to drown a bit too and sense something, desiring the plant, craving the climate maybe, absorbing a sensation deep inside of yourself that resonates and feels warmly and it’s called beauty.
It’s dangerous. I know. But is is mostly safe, that’s the good part, and if you want it to be unsafe, that’s always an option too. Some of us walk the line of sobriety, but for others like myself, there are the other lines in this funny composition we call life.

You can plant a Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia) here in your hell strip—no problem!
I’ve vowed to no longer drown, and to not seek out that sensation. My swimming lessons have not necessarily started yet, but I am drifting and treading water this time, and I keep telling myself how much I want to live.

You can grow your own Citrus tree too.
Yes, somehow my love of nature and plants figures into this, but it is an ephemeral thing, something I feel and it has very little to do with anything I know.

This little pocket on the walk back still had its native trees intact.
When it is around me, I feel it, and it feels good and I am happy. Much of what all of this is comes out of some kind of happiness inside of me, and from the comfortable place I seek, where I can sit calmly finally and rest. It’s been years since I’ve been able to do so. When my body was very swollen and reactive I lost my compass and I was out of touch with the outside world. For years I was truly adrift.
Probably one of the best under-tree plantings I’ve seen in awhile.

People drift apart and so do plants. Sometimes plants grow too in places where they shouldn’t be able to do so. I think the same goes for people.

Poor old Sequoia who had the burbs grow all around ‘um.
I’m not sure which succulent this is growing in the English ivy but it looked nice in bloom.
When I was a girl, I did not yet understand or appreciate that a woman must have a room of her own. Right now, I want nothing more than a garden room of my own. (If only Virginia Woolf had willed it so…)

This house really screams of springtime (left to right): Leptospermum, Wisteria, Blooming Cherry (Prunus) and a pink climbing rose (Rosa).
These thoughts and many more floated in and out of my mind as I walked through the beautiful streets of San Carlos today. I tried to remember all of the many sensations I’ve felt from this area over the years, and I was reminded just how many times I’ve come here to this part of California to be healed of something in my life. Oddly enough, the most difficult transitions I’ve ever faced started here and that amazed me to remember today as I walked.

Hedge of Darwin Berberry, Berberis darwinii.

This has nothing to do with plants, but years ago my heart was healed with laugher while staying with another dear girlfriend from high school and we were laughing so hard we missed an earthquake. When we awoke from the hilarity, we notice the lights were all swinging. The sensation of that moment will last forever for me.

I don’t think this is the place to grow an Azalea (Rhododendron).

Whenever I walk, or work with plants, I do tend to feel a great deal, and now that I am no longer swollen, the sensations are far more real and tangible to me. To have been cut off from how I “see” things for so long made me blind in a way that we never speak of, in a way that few of us probably even understand.

Golden Clock Vine, Thunbergia gregorii.
I am a sensation seeker and I know how to spot others like myself. Often, we’re the ones petting and pawing at plants as we walk past them. We need to not only see the textures, but we must touch them too.

Where I hang my sun hat when I’m staying on the Peninsula. (Thank you SO MUCH friends for putting me up and for putting up with me.)
So my life is hanging on, as am I, and this will pass as did the other moments in my life when I needed to seek a kind of refuge here. I think that for the first time though it has become clear to me that this area—including the city of San Francisco—offers me the many sensations I seek, and this involves the pleasure of plants, as well as the many other beautiful things this little corner on the planet has to offer.

Neighbor’s beautiful Bougainvillea.

Thank you for taking this little walk with me.

PS: If you’d like to read the amazing post my hostess wrote to me on her blog about what I am going through, please check it out: Jess Out West: An Open Letter.
I have to admit that I really liked what she wrote and am honored and lucky to have her as a friend.