More Plant Adventures along the Columbia River

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Just about this time last week I was having a bit of a personal meltdown so I dashed out to the Columbia River Gorge to grab a burger and a piece of marionberry pie for dinner. The plan worked.

To say that the spontaneous retreat refreshed me is an understatement.

It recharged me and then some!

The whole escape made me feel significantly better and it gave me some much needed emotional energy.

There is still simply too much reorganization going on in my life. It is all finally coming to a close though and it is such a relief.

That evening I watched the sunset knowing I would be returning to the refuge of the Columbia River basin in just a few more days.

Here I am now, at the end of that trip. I’m writing this entry just before I return home to Portland.

The gas fireplace is lit after a long rainstorm and I can see nothing but green as I look out toward the river.

I’m sitting once again in my Dad’s fishing “cabin” near the Washington Coast just north of Astoria, OR.

The blog has been here before, but I do love to post new posts from here.

(Oh, and please forgive the plastic flowers. Mom has not yet been here to plant the annual marigolds.)

Lady Fern, Athyrium filix-femina. 

No matter how Italian the place appears, and despite the house’s awkwardness in the landscape, nature still intrudes upon the slumber here. Luckily, my parents think ferns growing randomly here and there don’t need eradication. I appreciate that attitude and I suppose I share it too.

A river runs behind the house.

Dad struggles with this painful-looking giant exclamation point in the landscape. Having given the tree to him, I’m not a big fan of this sad Italian cypress. Oh how I wish it could just be put it out of its misery! So many other native plants could joyfully take its place. Don’t you agree?

Piggyback Plant, (Tolmiea mensiesii).

Yesterday—for the first time in years—I wandered around the property in search of plant life.

Deep in my heart of hearts I aimed at trying to find the uncommon (or hard-to-find) terrestrial orchid Goodyera oblongifolia. No dice.

Deer Fern, (Blechnum spicant).

Though I did not find one, I found a lot of other plants.

Even so, I’ve decided that in the future I’ll continue to seek them out in the area. Something tells me that it’ll be fun to tell people I’m orchid hunting.

For the most part I just saw a lot of the usual while being cawed at by crows who didn’t recognize me. Nature can be so unpleasant sometimes.

Big Leaf Maple canopy, (Acer macrophyllum).

I enjoyed the pre-historic feel yesterday.

Sure there are neighbors around here, but I definitely didn’t see any of them.

Salmonberry, (Rubus spectabilis).
Too bad the skunk cabbage (Lysichiton americanus) wasn’t in bloom. There is honestly nothing quite like the smell of it in springtime.

I eventually meandered into the swampy area and it was here were my paper bag full of plants exploded at my feet while I was wading in the stream.

At least the local herd of elk didn’t come through and run me over.

(They travel through our property on a regular basis and when we used to camp here before the house was built they would come through while we were sleeping. It was terrifying to hear the thud of their hooves upon the ground and the branches crashing as they thundered down the hill above, through the canyon, and onward toward the river. Splashing salmon spawning nearby was a whole other experience as well. There is nothing quite like having wildlife just outside your door.)

After many years of playing in the woods of the PNW as a girl you’d think I would have known better. Paper bags do NOT like to be dragged along through tall wet grass during long walks.

After calmly extricating my little boots from the mud I emerged into the meadow on the other side of the house.

Sword ferns (Polystichum munitum) and White Inside-out Flowers (Vancouveria hexandra).

I left my messy bag and chose to go up above the stream to the upper portion of the property. By now I’d been futzing with nature for a few hours but I couldn’t get enough. I was in a very happy place.

Cow Parsnip, (Heracleum maximum).
Oxalis oregana growing through the thick carpet of moss.

I made it back down to the house in time for dinner. I was covered in debris from my expedition, but overall, I felt ready to face the world.

Oh groan.

Time to finish packing.

I wonder what happened in my garden while I was gone.

To be continued…

Growth Takes Time—At Least for Me

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I used to tell people jokingly that our house just happened to be in my garden. This is no longer a laughing matter though as I enter into that next phase of deciding what to do with my life and my belongings—even the green ones.
Yes, divorce takes time. I see that now. It’s not like I will wake up tomorrow and the instant nearly overnight beauty of the mature Japanese maple and some choice tulips will be what my life will look like. I think my current new growth will take some time.
As I grow I will observe, and not judge. Like a gardener tending to a new plant, I will decide what kind of growing conditions are needed and I will watch and wait. If I need to be moved somewhere else to flourish, I will be moved.
Recently, as I’ve been walking around Portland I’ve been thinking about the similarities and differences I have with plants, and the activity has been more informative than I’d imagined it would be and so much more positive than several of the alternatives…

The Laburnum tree that I grew from seed didn’t take long at all before it started to put on its show.

I won’t grow at that rate though and I am alright with that.

For those who know me you’re bound to agree that I can be as tacky and as flashy as the hot pink Azaleas people are always trying to get rid of in the FREE section of Craigslist—at least they do this in the Portland area.

I am part Italian after all and I do love to be a bit over the top at times.

Then there is a lot about me that needs to be looked at closely to be examined and I have to examine it regularly myself. Sadly this does make me a bit of a ruminator, but just so long as my illness stays in remission and I can take that ruminating behavior to the streets, it’s not at all the issue it can become when I am required to be physically inactive due to my health problems.
I know this now and it is the teeny bit of green I’m currently proud to wear. (At least here I have seen growth—lots of it!)

There are also those dainty girl moments which I’ve been having far more of recently. They don’t need to be discussed here necessarily, but let’s just say that my friend pampered me and she took me to have a mani/pedi in California and it was great fun for a change. I had no idea either that an eyebrow waxing could be as exciting as pruning a shrub but there you go. I learned something completely new!

Overall I do feel like the special plant, unusual, hard-to-find, maybe a bit damaged and bruised on the sale rack right now. I am that item most gardeners will pass up because I cost too much, or look a bit odd and my novelty may not come in the correct color for their garden. Ok, I might even need a bit of extra care and attention.

Looking at my illness this way has been a relief. Honestly it has been because I think all of what I just wrote is very true for many of us living with chronic illness.

Sometimes I burst open at the seams a bit and explode like my Clematis did while I was in California. That’s ok too I think, and maybe it makes me more common, and less likely to be as delicate as I sometimes think that I am.

Things I will never go without though as I change and grow will be my tall boots and my odd choice of hot pink luggage with polka dots. Life is too short to be dull and colorless.

This is at my core. These items will remain at my center. They are part of what identify me as who I am.

My humor is also at the center of who I am and remembering why I’m called Annie, and how much I love hearing it with an Irish brogue. This too is part of where I come from and I am proud to have known some very amazing Irish priests.

Lastly, to help me as I grow I will not miss out on my deepest and darkest of treats. There are many foods which I love, but my love of pommes frites with truffle oil, parmesan cheese, and squid ink aioli reaches such depths that I truly would be lost without them.
So yes, it’s an in between phase for me. I am growing but it is slow and as I do so I am noting what characteristics define me and where I am best suited in the design of things. In all seriousness, thinking like this has been far more beneficial than any book or online posting I’ve read about the divorce process. I guess I really do just see things through nature and plants, and yes, I really do still believe that the house just happens to be in my garden.
I just don’t know yet if I can grow here anymore.

Le Monde Végétal and the Green Embrace

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Pardon my French, but it’s simply the way things have to be for me nowadays. As I enter into a new phase of life, one post-illness (aka in remission), post-marriage as I knew it, and during which I must pick and choose what really matters to me now, and ever-will-be it seems, I have to explore things a bit more, things from my past and my present. From my past, I will always embrace and hold near and dear to my heart a love of language, culture, and the natural world around me. This is now being roughly sutured with my love of gardening since the gap between the two is the painful part that’s hurt me the most, making my marriage into something it never should have been in the first place, and causing me great distress. I have to suture these things to help the healing.
My language replacement during the rough years was Botanical Latin, with its many linguistic textures and tones. Yes, my pronunciation in this green world is terrible, but I’ve been told that’s not uncommon by multilingual friends—especially in my situation with a memory that was often on the fritz. As long as I can see the name in my head, and spell it, I seem to be able to survive, and by that, I mean I can communicate. Speaking and being heard means the world to anyone who feels cut off from the rest of the society by the experience of illness. The isolation you feel is really quite incredible and it is more powerful than even I knew while in the midst of it. It changes you.
So with all of this in mind, as I sit here eating leftover Cadbury Mini Eggs from Easter, I will get to the point of my post.
Last week I participated in a little informal nursery tour with some plant friends. For them, it’s become an annual little get-together before the craziness of the Hardy Plant Society Spring Sale. I was not sure how I’d feel about le monde végétal since my life is still very much up in the air, and sometimes I do want to sell the house and garden, but I gave it my all anyway, and it was worth the effort.
Xera Plants
Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’. 
Garrya topiary.
Ercilla volubile.
Primula auricula ‘Dijon Blush’.
Potting gurney.
Moss garden.
McMenamins: Kennedy School Garden Tour
Cistus Design Nursery
Aristolochia californica (red form).
Aristolochia californica (green or yellow form).
Loree aka Danger Garden (blogger friend) with an Agave—shocking!
Sean Hogan’s feet, his dog, my feet, and the feet of one of our green friends on our little tour but I am not sure who they belong to still. 
I think this is a Podophyllum. 
Overall, the tours went very well, and I had a great time meeting new people.
Adding to the excitement that day was the fact that just the day before, I’d sold the chair I’d been sitting immobile in for years, and it left this funny blank spot in the living room. Having space now to freely move around is making me wonder about all the space I’d filled in while I was still ill. While looking at plants, I started to think about throwing so many old plants out so that I could finally create a more clear design. Things seemed open and possible now, where they simply didn’t before this.

Buying a new iPhone has opened up more photography opportunities too, and I am seeing the natural world in all of its spacious glory. Editing and cleaning things out both internally and externally is opening up my world, but it is such a slow process. I feel like I can breathe now though, both in my own world, as well as out in the world I share with all of you.

Cherry trees in bloom on Mt. Tabor.

I think I can say now that Sean Hogan was correct weeks ago when he told me to accept and be embraced by the green world. It’s just the medicine I needed for my transitional malady, and if ever you need to take this treatment too, I recommend it.