Anticipating Springtime

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Galanthus elwesii.

This past weekend I worked outside for a few hours. There is much debris yet to pick up before the daffodils fully emerge from the ground and I’ve more pruning to do.

The temperatures were chilly, but it was sunny, and the back garden looks a bit better now thanks to the effort.

Container ships waiting near the mouth of the Columbia River to be driven over the Columbia Bar by one of the bar pilots. It’s dangerous work and from this restaurant window we can watch as the pilots are escorted out to the vessels.
The weekend before that we were able to escape for an extended mini-vacation—but I had to take my work along with me.
I worked a lot, but we somehow found the time to visit my maternal grandmother in Aberdeen (WA) one day, and we went to Astoria (OR) the day beforehand.

It’s rarely this clear and sunny during January so I took John up to the Astoria Column. (It is quite a landmark and I was surprised when he told me he’d never been there.) The views were breathtaking that day.

Looking southward (sort of) you see Youngs Bay. This is one of my all-time favorite views. Somehow, it always appears to me to look a bit like a painting.

Anticipating springtime.

Back at the house in Portland, life continues to change and we’re all adapting to the new vitality being breathed into our home. John is a lot of fun and has his own ways about him. He’s a special man to have moved into a place that is so mine, but we’re working to make it his too.

The most interesting adaptation we’re currently going through is that the youngest cat (the partially feral one) is moving in upstairs. As she has aged, she has changed. It has been interesting to observe her as she’s gone through a lot these past few years. Often, I find her hiding in plants like this just staring at me as I work. I stare back at her and she looks away. I suppose she is working too. I don’t really know for certain. She observes the garden for hours on end.

There have been some major territorial adjustments but the two female cats are respecting one another for the first time. (Maurice goes wherever he wants. It’s best that way—but nowadays he limps and doesn’t move around nearly as much.)

Mona tends to sit on furniture more and more and the ground less.

Indoors, Mona likes to be around the plants because she is used to living under them during the outdoor half of her year. She seeks them out in her daily routine.

She’s anticipating spring and follows me outdoors to spend time with me as I work. I never dreamed she’d shadow me so much. She is very much a loner cat but she’s changing. I’m honored but it’s more about her than me.

John is getting to know her more as well. He rarely saw her before but now they see one another everyday and he’s able to spend time petting her.

When I work indoors—writing and cooking as a ghostblogger for a food blog—she sits near my feet.

This is a big change for me. The other two cats are too old now to remain so alert to my movements all day. Maurice used to always be by my side, but now it’s Mona. This is a change.

Sedum spathulifolium.

Life is still a bit uncertain for me professionally as I try to manage working and serious chronic health issues. I miss my time spent at home, but it was very difficult for me to be living without career fulfillment. I grew tired of struggling to get by, and of working so hard to stay afloat, but it has been a humbling experience. I’m grateful.

The garden is seen differently now, but I’m at least seeing it again. The thought of losing it in the divorce made the sight of it excruciatingly painful. I now deeply admire those others who’ve gone through that kind of dissolution. I’m not ready to move on from here, but my time will come. Until then, I want to see my dreams and plans come to life outside.

I miss my garden though because I work a lot now and in order to be able to work I need to exercise a lot to keep the pain under control. The absolute pleasure and peace gardening gave me is now at odds with the reality of living a real life, but I am learning how to cope. It is an opportunity I never was given. I’m reintegrating gardening and am starting seeds again. I’m determined that this place will be reborn again soon.

Lewisia columbiana ssp. rupicola.

That’s why I’m set to rebuild it. I’ve been pulling the garden alongside me during the journey as I’ve been rebuilding myself during these past two years. As time has passed, and as I’ve struggle with its passage, how could I not think of the garden?

Freelance writing work is not easy to find and I was blessed with my current job. It’s amazing and I know it’s the right thing for me to be doing. Being a part-time caregiver is becoming more difficult though. I’m growing to the point now where I want to be away from illness. I live in both worlds, but I still want to belong to the living for a bit longer. I know exactly what I have to look forward to in the future, but right now, it’s my time.

It took the experience of a difficult client telling me repeatedly that I was there to provide her comfort and to take care of her needs. She repeatedly told me I was doing a poor job. Something inside of me rose up and rebelled. I’m in control of my own comfort and needs right now and I’m going to keep making better and more informed decisions so that I will land in a better place soon. I also realized that I was a damned good caregiver. She simply wasn’t the right client for me.

I’m growing in ways I wasn’t able to grow.

I’m carving out more time to write too. I cannot wait to see what publishing some of my own work will do for me as a person. It’s all I ever wanted out of life and it’s accomplishable now. Part of me will be at peace soon after settling that score.

Writing more—more than anything else—will heal some large wounds for me.

I’ve always been a writer at heart who just so happens to garden and love plants.

Lastly, as I go along plotting all these things out, my mind continues to go in and out of the garden and my plans for it—I mean our plans for it.

I’m currently sorting things around the house and am getting rid of old gardening books and other pieces of junk and this vintage window box combination really struck me the other day. I tossed the book but I kept this image from it.

This is the tangled and complicated kind of beauty I admire most. The round and tender leaves of a nasturtium are the last thing I’d imagine paired with a rattail cactus. One plant grows with ease in one season, while the other is an incredibly mature specimen plant—perfect example of the passage of time in the garden.

Spring is coming soon and I guess I’m not the gardening fraud I feel like I’ve become due to these past two years or so of major life changes and transitions. I’m going to Italy and I will be looking at a lot of plants. There hopefully will be a beautiful one-year wedding anniversary celebration to plan. There are more plans for the future than I can mention. I’m not necessarily the specimen plant I wanted to become. I’ve accepted that maybe sometimes I’m going to be the annual plant with great growth and vigor put on during one season. Or, it’s baroque and complicated and like everyone else I’m everything at once and far less interesting or important than I imagine myself to be and then I just don’t matter and I drift back with my eyelids shut to a sunny day in the summertime where all I can hear is the noise from the city streets, or waves from the Pacific Ocean, and I remember the sound of my grandma’s trowel in the dirt beside me as I doze off in the lounge chair.

Yes, I’m anticipating springtime too and the calm nothingness brought on by spontaneous moments of profundity caught in nature and in the garden. Maybe that’s what the feral cat is anticipating too.

Garden Variety in September

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With the help of my landscaper friend (and his helper), last week I was able to prepare the back garden for my birthday party and a small open garden event.
A brief swelling event interrupted my ability to get things completely finished in time, but it was simply a minor setback considering what my life used to be like not that long ago.
Now I will be able to continue enjoying this space until it’s too cold outside to do so and in the meantime I can keep working on other projects that need to be done around the house.
Finally sitting back to enjoy the garden is a lot of fun for me now after 8 years of working on it. Like many novices or amateurs I made plenty of mistakes, and eventually they’ll be corrected I suppose, but I don’t see them nearly as often since there truly are so many other things to sit and marvel over.
One big project right now is to take back the studio/garage space and to empty out its contents once and for all. A dear friend of mine I’ve known since he was born asked me after the birthday party if he could rent the space for an art studio and I was so excited to say, “Yes! Let’s do it!”
I’d always wanted that space to be used for creativity and I’m thrilled since this friend is such an amazingly talented artist. I cannot wait to be inspired by his work.
In the meantime, as I work, I’ll keep looking at the many layers and textures in the garden and I will start coming up with funny names for all the different shades of green I see. This seems like a fun activity to me.
And as the days continue to be dry and warm around here, I keep thinking of the salmon stacking up in the coastal rivers and streams waiting to spawn. More will be on their way soon—once we have rain—but until then I will look up at my salmon knowing they will come.
The Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) on the back of the house changes to a bright red just as the salmon spawn and die. I find this touching just as the cold begins to set in around here.
The Green Rose, (Rosa chinensis ‘Viridiflora’).
Neglect sadly hurt several of the best of my plants this year, and I was unable to enjoy as many green roses as I was able to last year, but at least I’ve been able to share the experience of their scent with others. There is nothing quite like a rose that smells of black pepper.

Spotted Bellflower, (Campanula punctata). 
Here is my Spotted Bellflower, near death, holding on and giving me the best blooms that it can muster. It’s these moments that I’m cherishing now too as I wander around the garden unearthing plants that have fallen by the wayside in the aftermath of separation and divorce. Their struggle to survive is truly making me smile more and more and I’m doing my best now to have a new plant ICU back up and running.
Yes, and then there are those designer-like touches that were added for the party which make me smile too. I am such a plant-driven gardener and I just have to accept that as my lot in life.
Persian Ivy, (Hedera colchica ‘Sulpher Heart’).
Speaking of plants, here is what I believe to be the largest of the large-leaved ivies. I love this vine and I should add that it is NOT an English ivy which is considered invasive here in Oregon.
Dwarf Morning Glory, (Convolvulus tricolor ‘Blue Ensign’).
OK, so I posted a photo of this little blue gem a few weeks ago and here’s another one. No, the plant itself it not a great performer, but given more sun, I think these little guys would have faired better. Overall, their color is worth giving them a shot and I plan to plant more of them next year.
Ponytail Palm, (Beaucarnea recurvata).
Then there are the “other”plants. This poor Ponytail Palm was chewed on a few too many times by a certain elderly cat I know. Luckily the one I grew from seed is inside in a protect spot far from any of my feline housemates.
My little pomegranate fruit was something I took great pride in up until this evening when I noticed it had taken on a little green friend. My hopes for a perfect fruit were dashed, but life will go one. I accept that this kind of thing happens and it naturally a given in any garden. We can’t really control what happens out there but we can struggle with the concept both in our gardens and in our own lives.
Oh well! Better luck next year I guess. This happened and now what do I do? Life goes on…
(Like all gardeners I have faith and hope, and because of this I always believe that next season will be better.)

Wordless Wednesday: Entering September

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Remembering the foster kids.
Japanese Gerbera, Leibnitzia anandria.
Tube Clematis, Clematis heracleifolia.
A pretty planter arrangement for my 38th birthday and open garden parties. 
Begonia hemsleyana (Hardy to zone 8).
Jack-in-the-Pulpit seeds (Arisaema).
Miniature climbing rose, (Rosa ‘Clove Love and Kisses’).
Enjoying the cooler evenings.

My 9 Silly Things I Couldn’t Garden Without

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1.) Lemonade. But it must be sweetened with honey and I insist that it have a splash of rose water (or orange blossom water). This is not for everyone, but for this gardener, it’s key to my overall happiness. (Oh, and if you’re wondering, yes, it might smell like to soap.)

2.) Gluten-free snack with Oregon marionberry seedless preserves. It is a type of blackberry but it tastes about 1000x better.

3.) Inexpensive headphones and my loud Indie music. This is so that I don’t have to listen to the sounds of the city: public buses, barking dogs, ambulances, police flying by on their way to some other part of Portland, and the random drunk walking down Burnside. (I live one house in from this very busy street and it is sadly still quite loud.)

4.) Heart. Yes, I like to garden with heart. (Since my mother is going to read this, yes, “Happy Mother’s Day Mom,” I am just going to remind her that I garden with a lot of heart. (It’s not intended to be an inside joke, but I guess it might be…)

5.) A place to crash. For years I’d avoided using this amazing vintage chaise but as a converted chronically ill gardener—who is currently in much better health—I plan to use it more now than ever because I’d like to continue being happy and healthy.

6.) Bling. This goes in my hair so that if no one hears from me for a day or two they’ll find me in the garden more easily. (I suppose the same goes too if I’m just ignoring your phone calls or email messages.)

7.) Nail polish. I simply cannot say enough about how much better I feel when I’m a complete and total dirtball, with crisp and dry hands, and then I look down and I think, “Damn, those look nice at least.”

8.) Furry companions. For Mother’s Day they posed for this group picture. Trust me, this is not something they like to do everyday.

9.) iPhone. I love it because it plays music while I Google plants. Need I say more? (Note the MacBook in the reflection. I love it too but I did hate bringing it outside so often.)