Tuesday, March 31, 2009

True Confessions: Garden Shame

What was that commercial jingle when I was a kid?
"Curlers in your hair! Shame on you!" Seems to me it was for a Dippity-Do ad or some such thing? Well, it might not be for curlers in your hair, but we usually experience shame at some point in our life. Sometimes it is over important things and sometimes it is over the ridiculous.

The other day, I happened across a 'tweet' referencing "garden shame". Now what is garden shame? Webster's says it is (excerpts):

a: a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety
b: a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute
c: something that brings censure or reproach

Now, how on earth could anything like that be coupled with the endeavor of gardening or the garden itself?! Yikes! In my humble opinion, if something is growing in the garden, it is a miracle, a thing of beauty in and of itself. I sensed from what I read in this tweet, the garden shame arose from a comparison of garden appearances i.e. my garden doesn't look like Martha Stewart's or P. Allen Smith's garden or maybe even a neighbors. Doesn't that seem an unfair comparison?

As I sit here, I ask myself a few questions: Should I feel shame because my garden does not look like someone else's garden? No! My garden is a reflection of me. Am I to feel shame about myself? No! Am I a work in progress? Yes! Is my garden a work in progress? Yes! Do I have a professional gardener on staff? No! Do I have loads of time to sweep my garden clean of dirt creating an impeccable space? No! Would I, Me, Myself really want to? No! (because as we know, I like being dirty!)

If my garden were perfect, why would I need to learn, try, grow, reorganize, experiment? Where would be the fun? The "growing" experience? It may be an overused and much maligned cliche' but gardening is a journey, not a destination. If your garden becomes "perfect", seriously, you need to start over!

We are not all born to our mothers to know instinctively which plants harmonize in regards to color, texture, growing requirements, etc. nor have we all been able to obtain esteemed degrees in horticulture or design. BUT, we all CAN learn by educating ourselves through various means to become competent, if not proficient, at doing those things! Would you get to interact with other gardeners (hello tweeters!), spend billions of dollars on books, read magazines when we should be working, reorder plants to fill the bare spots made by the plants we killed or spend countless hours learning, sharing, and enjoying? Besides, design and what is pleasing to the eye can be quite subjective, opinions varying from person to person (the only person you HAVE to listen to is the city inspector if you let your grass get too high and then his opinion counts unless you want to be fined). What looks good to me may not appeal to anyone else. I like that Cereus giganteus (saguaro cactus) next to the Louisiana Iris' ! Not really but you get the picture : )

In addition, consider when you began to trod the path towards becoming a gardener. Did you learn from your grandma when you where knee-high to a grasshopper or did you begin late in life? Are you a Jedi Master Gardener with the "Force" being with you or are you more like Larry, Curly and Mo when it comes to natural ability? Janet Carson who has degrees in horticulture and has been doing it all of her adult life is farther ahead in experience and understanding than I am. Although I have "green genes", my DNA didn't make itself known until I was 28 which was 18 years ago and I still come up with hideous plant combos and plants that inexplicably die. I dare you to ask me about "the Chocolate Garden".

So, if you are having problems with garden shame, don't. Do not waste your time, energy and precious brain cells, save it for something that deserves that kind of angst and self-recrimination. Love the garden you have and garden the way you love. Gardening hopefully brings joy, provides helpful therapy and an outlet for expression, not shame. But if you are affected and suffer some shame, it might help to follow a good 12 step program, here I'll get you started:

Step One: I do not really make plants grow, God does. And we know God does not make shameful gardens. Repeat after me: I feel no shame.

Speaking of which, the only garden in which shame was an integral part and understandably so, was one named Eden. And it wasn't because the plants didn't look as good as those in the neighbor's garden (soooo, maybe they didn't have neighbors yet). Who wants to keep up with the Joneses anyway? All it gets you is a bad-ass recession!

Just to show you I do not feel shame about my garden even when I am neglectful of it and it doesn't look like the New York Botanical Garden, I posted a photo of my shrub up top. Yep! It is a 'Juniperus 'Andora Compacta' (purple bronze at this time of year). Can you tell? I just happened to not weed the bermuda grass that kept comingu up in it the entire summer and it looks p-r-e-t-t-y nasty! But hey! Life happens and it wasn't a priority at the time but the fact it survived being taken over by the "devil weed" is a miracle! And THAT, my friends, is beautiful! While I am at it? Although I make every attempt to garden as organically as possible, I have another true confession: I use halsulfuron on my nutsedge, prudently, but I do.

And I say . . . I feel no shame!

Your garden is yours. Comparison only creates envy and that kind of green doesn't grow, it only destroys. So enjoy your own garden without abandon and do your best with what you have. It is enough.

And repeat after me . . .

Friday, March 27, 2009

Viva Las Vegas?

Originally, I envisioned my missive about the International Master Gardener Conference to be a daily posting of the happening of the previous day. BUT, something unexpected happened to change my plans which I will get to in just a bit.

The flight, albeit long was fairly uneventful as flights go and in spite of a four hour layover, managed to end without crashing in the strong winds we encountered upon landing. Frankly, I wanted to kiss the pilot and would have, if not for that whole locked cockpit door thing they have going now. Unexpectedly, the desert air felt as if it had a recent infusion of arctic air and to think I packed shorts, halter tops and bikinis :(

Monday was the first full day of the conference. It consisted of the traditional welcome to the community and some interesting statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture followed by a keynote speaker, Jeff Lowenfels, who spoke on a topic I've been curious about for some time now: mycorrhizae. I also bought his book "Teaming With Microbes" in order to attempt to understand the science behind his lecture. Although I did not realize it at the time, I realized later that he is not a scientist and so I must look closely to make sure his assertions are backed up by science. I look forward to the read.

The second half of the morning was taken up presenting various awards to MG groups for their projects. Among them: a children's garden in Lafayette, LA, a series of backyard ecosystem workshops in New Castle, DE, an inmate veggie garden in Kane Co., IL, organic gardening brochures in Toronto, ON, a waterwise garden in Sandoval Co., NM, a gardener's companion calender in Placer Co., CA and Junior MG awards for Menard, TX.

A choice could be had for either lectures or tours for the afternoon. When attending a conference of any kind, I pretty much choose lectures/learning over tours/visiting. The first session was on Latin names of plants. Although I picked up some trivia, it wasn't what I'd thought it would be and was mildly disappointed. Clearly the presenter was knowledgeable but did not share with us much as to how to understand the latin names and finished in only 30 minutes of the 60 minute session.

My second session was "Art From Found Objects". It sounded fun! It was entertaining and inspiring. While I am not a person who likes mega amounts of ornamentation in my garden space, I did come away inspired and amused. The photos are not the best since I took them of the powerpoint screen but I am going to post them so all can see some of what she collected. You may see them here as soon as I get them posted this evening.

The third and final session for the day was "Community Gardens 101". I had been anticipating this lecture for awhile! Some gardeners in my community are interested in starting a community garden here in Newport for those that are being hit hardest by the economic crisis. This HAD to be filled with information and resources! Right? Wrong! Some parts were dry and the others were inspirational (the guy HAD to be a preacher in his off time) but in the end, we did not come away with any nuts and bolts to build our gardens with.

Truly, I wish I had gone on the tours this time. Oh well, Tuesday morning would bring those! Breaking with my usual habit, I did decide to go on two tours to four different gardens instead of lectures on Tuesday. I was jazzed! Then dinner and a show that night!

Tuesday dawned cold and windy, what I was coming to expect from Las Vegas in March (*sigh*). I dressed warm but very snazzy and accompanied my fellow gardeners to the waiting tour buses. First stop, a home in a subdivision where all the homes look alike. You definitely don't want to try to make your way home on your own if you are drunk because you'll end up in someone else's bed!

Driving into the neighborhood, we all looked at each other because, surely, these tiny lots could NOT house a garden for a tour. The space was very small indeed. Surprisingly, it showed what you can do with a small space but we were still puzzled about it being a tour stop at an international conference. I will mention, the hosts were wonderful, the gardens were impeccable and the plants were well-labeled!

On to the next stop: a two acre garden. My juices were flowing in anticipation of THIS one! About all I can tell you about this garden is: nothing was labeled and what we had been told should take an hour to cover, only took 30 minutes. BUT, that was just fine with me. For upon arrival at this garden, the bus driver did not lower the bus for my exit after I'd had to reboard to retrieve something resulting in my falling off the bus, not expecting the long drop-off. Making a long story short, my right ankle broke and sustained significant tearing of a number of ligaments. Hence, why I was glad the tour only took 30 minutes instead of the aforementioned 60 expected minutes. I felt shocky but didn't want to be any trouble so I waited on the tour bus. (Shhhhhh! This is my story and I'm sticking to it! My dad doesn't need to know it happened table dancing!)

After returning to the resort, my state coordinator Janet Carson took me to the emergency clinic for treatment. Traveling alone, I have no idea how I would have managed without her assistance i.e. getting my meals, helping me pack, and transporting me. She was a Godsend! The new perspective I have gained as a 'handicapped' person was enlightening. Many a kind stranger helped me all the way back to Arkansas and for them I am extremely thankful!

Needless to say, I cancelled the rest of my trip and conference attendance to return home. Not exactly a stellar time, nor what I'd expected. Numerous comments were made regarding how much better the Little Rock conference was two years ago compared to this one. The accomodations were a disappointment in Vegas. For less money, I could have stayed at the Bellagio and will when I return next time.

The Neon Lights Tour on Monday night was fun! Take it if you end up in Sin City.

The changes which have taken place over the 20 years since my last visit were phenomenal! And while I did not have the vacation of my dreams, I met some terrific people. I look forward to seeing more of Las Vegas and doing the photography I missed upon my return . . . someday.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane (better be a jet)

"I'm leaving on a jet plane, don't know if I'll come back again . . ."

Okay, so the verbage isn't EXACTLY right : ) But you get the picture that I am going someplace. That "someplace" is the International Master Gardeners Conference in Las Vegas, NV. I will be there from tomorrow until Friday and I simply cannot wait! What could be better than a vacation in Vegas surrounded by plant-loving people?! Not much!

The conference consists of pre-conference tours, workshops, lectures, garden tours, a trade show, food and lots of time for networking. In additon, instead of taking the post-conference tours, I am electing to rent a car and head into the desert to do some photography and sight-seeing of my own. When I explained to the parentals where I was going and what my plans were, it became apparent to me that my daddy is watching waaaaaaaaaaay too much CSI. Two hours later, he is calmer but not extraordinarily so. He has always thought I was his 9 year old ill little girl but now with his dementia, I think HE THINKS I am 3 years old :( Trust me, I will be safe. I do NYC by myself, I can do this.

Anyway, I digress. Given that my time will be spent having an absolute blast (!) I don't see myself as having much opportunity to tweet or blog unless it is late night. BUT I will share what happens at the conference with you and any photography I am able to do, upon my return (if I come back :).

This trip is special in another way as well. Going to Las Vegas, especially right before my birthday, has added significance. The trip is a celebration, a marking of a new birth in my life: of me. It is the beginning of my new life, one filled with hope, promise and joy. All things have changed recently in my life, some good changes, some painful changes but they all are part of who I am and where I am going. THAT new start is something to celebrate and embrace. What BETTER way to do that than doing what I love with people who share my passion?

So, see you later, adios, sayonara, arrivederci, auf wiedersehen! Happy spring and joyous gardening to all!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Garden, Gardeners and Garden Shows Oh My!

"It's a beautiful day in this neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor, would you be mine? Could you be mine?"

Of course you can! If there is one thing I know about gardeners, it is this: no matter where you live or what what your zone (even if it's the twilight zone!), no matter how far away it is, no matter the gender or style . . . we are all kindred neighbors. There is something about getting dirty in the soil that brings us all together. The earth is a bonding place.

This has been a Garden Circus Week for me and while I could go on for hours and literary miles, I will try to contain myself :) Let me elaborate.

The promise of spring brings with it a bevy of garden shows around the country. Here in Arkansas, there is the "large" one in Little Rock (I use the term large VERY loosely) and even smaller county shows usually put on by local master gardeners which enjoy a very active and healthy following in my state. Last year I attended Philly and was disappointed in it's lack of practicality, monotony in repetition and ridiculous vendors. The presentations were wonderful, I must admit (Joe the Gardener was there and you must SEE him if you haven't already!). I was offered the opportunity to attend the Chicago show this year but the price I would have had to pay in order to attend was too high. So, this year I've had to live vicariously through other's experiences and their blogs, which indeed, I have been doing. I will say though, that although there are some shows I clearly did not appreciate in their entirety, I am able to take away something to inspire me in some way.

For me, the creme de la creme comes this next week. Sunday, I leave for the International Master Gardener's Conference. It is an every other year event held in different locations and I look forward to see what the desert hosts show us! Master gardeners tend to be focused on plants, sharing and the down-and-dirty nuts and bolts of gardening. THAT is what I LOVE! This will be an ENTIRE resort filled with no one but gardeners!

Which brings me to gardeners. A gardener of recent acquaintance, Garden Wise Guy, posted a YouTube link on his blog to show what is involved in physically putting together a garden show such as the one in San Francisco. The video was provided by Jayme Jenkins. If it weren't for the ingenuity of these fine people, the second-hand experience would be beyond my reach. I thank them for not leaving me stranded in the horticultural wasteland in find myself in out here on the delta.

The internet has given me the opportunity to meet some amazing gardener friends! GK, Cynthia, Hoodsie, Amanda, Michelle, Scott, Ian, and countless others. Again, if I expounded on each of them, well you know, the literary miles thing. Some friendships have even transcended the internet. I count myself lucky to have gotten to know them. All of us can learn from one another regardless of the level of gardening knowledge we feel we do or do not possess. Man! It is exciting to learn from each other!!!! I get soooooooo JAZZED about this part of my life!! Just give me some dirt and plants and I am SET!

Discovering the web site "Twitter" has allowed me to meet some fascinating people, mostly gardeners and some photographers, who have blessed me in the short time I've come to "know" them. Their garden advice, their compassionate thoughts, and funny life-advice have enriched my life in a short time. As I mentioned above, there is something about our love of the earth and growing things that bonds us together. Ahhhhhh, there is NOTHING like a fellow gardener! Certainly, I have learned that if we band together we can even help influence the gardening policies of the White House! There is nothing we cannot do. Now that there will be a garden at the National Residence, let us gardeners move on to helping our government take care of this recession thing :)

Gardens. For all we are about, for all we converse about gardening, it would all be just words if we did not apply our hand to the proverbial plow, so to speak, and create gardens. The culmination, the manifestation of our green madness: our gardens. No matter how big, 15+ acres, or how small, a container on our balcony, we grow gardens. We take pride in them, we enjoy them, we work them. In doing so, we grow, we heal, we pleasure in them and we share with each other. Across the fence, across the street, across the internet, across the miles.

I thank gardens for bringing us together. Sometimes I wonder, if everyone did gardening of some kind, if the world would be a less bitter and angry place? Would it culitvate peace and peas? Flowers and friends, instead of discord and enemies?

There is a garden I am growing on the corner at my business. It is at the third busiest intersection in our county and therefore highly visable, as am I when I am tending it (note: wear highway orange for safety, not my usual uniform!). It has furnished much enjoyment for the community and inspired others to created spots of green of their own along the highway. There is no end to the stream of people who stop in to comment on the garden or ask questions about the plants. This garden is raising awareness. A small garden can have big and far-reaching results. Even the number of cigarette butts being tossed out the car windows at the stop-light there have decreased significantly!

It doesn't take much to create a starting place for change in this world, in our communities, in our sphere of influence, does it?

But then, we gardeners already knew that :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

To Tatt or Not to Tatt: A Journey of Self-Discovery

A mighty, weighty question.

Recently, I posed the question on Twitter whether I should get a tattoo, go on an exotic vacation, get a new car, etc. to celebrate the recent monumental changes in my life. Hands down, the concensus was to acquire a tattoo. Now an explanation of why this is something that requires much consideration on my part.

All of my life, I'd pretty much been taught that tattoos were body mutilation along with piercing. Now before anyone goes and gets upset, hello? That just happens to be the environment in which I was raised out on the windswept, rural, prairies of western Nebraska, a very ultra-conservative place. The only people who ever got tattoos where guys who were sailors, truck drivers or Hell's Angels. So, see where I got my thinking? And because I have been none of those . . . well , the thought just never crossed my mind.

So, when raising my boys, I taught them the same thing, horrified at the thought of my sweet little fair-skinned boys coming home with permanent black ink somewhere on their body looking like a biker. I about passed out when my eldest came home a year ago with his ears pierced. Again, only girls do that, not boys. Remember, I am from Nebraska.
But times change. And no, I am not having a mid-life crisis as my father seems to think any change signals.

All right, here's where it gets strange: I am seriously thinking of getting a tattoo. Me. The tattoo-averse chick from the prairie. Of late, it has not been a fleeting thought, it has actually been a thought that hounds my thinking! And yes, it is even titillating to think of doing it!

Now, for the extremely mind-boggling part? If this is something I were to pursue, I am actually thinking I want a snake! Yep, I fear snakes like I fear nothing else. I hate snakes. All I have to do is to look at a photo of one and that night I am haunted by vivid nightmares about them. Think of the Lonesome Dove scene where the horse is crossing the river . . . yeah, those are the stuff my dreams are made of when it comes to vipers.

About the snake and where I'd put it. I don't want a little one. I want a whipcord-thin-slim, long, black asp slithering gracefulling down my spine to the middle of my hips with the tail curling slightly onto my shoulder-blade. Classy, simple, elegant, mysterious. Of my own design. Or one like above (without the copyright info).

All of this confused me to say the least. So, I took it to my counselor. Yeah, I see one. So what? She's simply fabulous! Anyway, I shared my thoughts about it with her.

We discussed this at length. Our final take was this: I've am basically a free-spirt who has been living in a box of other people's making for far too long and the last few months have been letting myself be me, just me. In addition, I have a desire to express who I have come to know as "me" in a tangible and visible way. The choice of the snake may be a way to express my embracing of the things I have previously feared in my life. By putting it on my back instead of my arm, I display this but do not have to look at the snake all the time. It makes sense.

Still, the jury is out on whether I will acquire the ink and if I do, what form it will take. My friend "C" said she got one when she was 21 on her hip, it was Mickey Mouse. Now that she is older and has put on some weight, it now more resembles "Dumbo", the ears are larger :) I suppose one needs to be careful and think ahead when choosing the design :)

If you'd like to visualize what it would look like, check http://tinyurl.com/d8gajo If you wish, feel free to express an opinion of whether I should consider it, what and where. Doesn't mean it will change my mind, but I'd like to hear your thoughts.

A great amount of thought will be given to this, more so than I'd anticipated. It might mean more to me at 45 than 21. And maybe I will continue to wait until my journey of self-discovery has logged a few more miles.

I'll let you know!

Friday, March 13, 2009

To Spread or Not to Spread: The Musings of Garden Chick

Okay. So I muse. Big deal. Sometimes I muse about vital things like the recession (which I cannot control) and sometimes I like to muse about things less serious

I LIKE to muse.

Take for example, this afternoon.

I was vigorously toweling off from my shower. Always starting with the hair, creating that messy-just-stepped-out-of-the-ocean look, and working down my body, wisking away fine droplets from my moisture drenched tan skin and that's when I noticed IT. A fine blond hair above my belly button , aka navel, but henceforth to be refered to as 'button'. Now, my belly is covered with blond peach fuzz as I would guess most bellies are, (aren't they? please let me know if I've been misinformed) but this piece of peach fuzz obviously had it's own DNA telling it WHAT to do. Because it was not 1/16" long, it was clearly 1/2" inch long. Completely had a mind of it's own! I could not let it stay that way.

Now, you might ask, what is she getting at? Beeeeee patient, I'm getting there, I'm just on the way to my shoes!

So then, back to my musing. I pull out a small pair of manicure scissors and attempt to cut it off to match the rest of it's buddies. And during this artistic act of restoration, I pinch my belly with the finger holes of the scissors. OUCH! What was that? Don't ask me how I did it. Well, when I bent over to see if I'd mortally wounded myself, I saw what appeared the be the round head of Casper the Friendly Ghost!

Huh? You ask? Well, as I bent, my belly button opened up slightly and surprise of all surprises (another blog coming on surprises)! It was white! Gasp! This can't be! (see photo of my normal navel at http://www.pbase.com/gardenchick/image/99927182)

You see, I've been tanning for my upcoming trip to the desert. Noooo, you don't have to be tan to go to the desert! But I want to lay by the pool and not blind my fellow swimmers with my lily-white winter shade of epidermis!

Okay okay. So here is where I start musing: when you are tanning, are you supposed to hold your belly button open?

Now, when I was in college, I had a friend that liked to lay in the sun. Alot. She had it down to a science, a skipping-science-class kind of science, to bask in the sun for long periods of time. Anyway, she was so extraordinarily preoccupied about what would appear white and what would appear brown, that as she reclined on the blanket there in the park, she would spread her fingers and toes so the spaces between would match the rest of her.

Well, now I get it! Because who wants to wear a bikini and have a white navel?!

So, is the answer to spread or not to spread?

Will anyone notice? Will anyone care?! Okay, so maybe no one will probably get close enough to see but I will KNOW! Am I being paranoid? Maybe, but I happen to like my button. In fact, when I had my gall bladder removed (very unglamourous subject), they were going to put an incision above my button. I said NO. That would look positively disastrous! "Go THROUGH the button", I said, which they did :) Well, I suppose this is a nonsensical issue with the other goings on in the world (which worry me too, btw) and one might think it isn't worth musing about.

But . . . I'm going to hold it open anyway, along with my fingers and toes ;) Because unlike the recession, THIS is something I can control.

Does Blondeness Extend Beyond Roots?

Stardate: March.10.2009

Mission: Pursuit of great hair. For the last month . . . it has been elusive. Not a single day has it been sighted. In the mirror. In the window. In my mind. I simply must possess this great hair. Without it . . . there is no hope. Not even from Obi Wan Kenobi.

Target: Little Rock, Arkansas. Lying 97 miles southwest of my location. For blonde hair. Bottle blonde. The kind of blonde technically not given to blonde moments.

Contact: Jennifer. Paul Mitchel stylist. Gifted. Booked up the wazoo.

Report: Rushed morning. Don't comb hair (why should I?). No make-up (in a hurry). Old t-shirt (don't risk getting color on important top). Must arrive on time. Be finished on time. Another mission to be accomplished upon my return with non-negotiable ETA. Drove like a bat out of hello. Construction notwithstanding. Arrival five minutes late. Jen nowhere in sight. Concerned. Waiting. Rest of salon staff think I'm a homeless person parked on their bench out of the rain. Could be. They go to call Jen. I pull appointment note out of bag. SHIT. Instructions said Wednesday. SHIT again. Blonde moment.

Oh God. Beam me up Scotty. Please.

Clearly without the blonde for one more day. Decide to make hay while sun shines. Okay. It wasn't.

Mall not an option with looks like that. Universe was wet enough. Didn't dare cry. Went another 14 miles to favorite nursery in the galaxy in pursuit of consolation. It worked. They know me, didn't care what I look like (looked like been rained on and just coming off a 7 day gardening marathon), felt sorry for me, gave me golf cart, let me busy myself for two hours. Plants have a way of cheering me up. Ask Wall-E how well that works. Logged 222 unnecessary miles at a very unwarp speed.


Stardate: March.11.2009 (correct Stardate)

Mission: Pursuit of great hair. Again.

Target: Little Rock, Arkansas. Lying 97 miles southwest of my location. For blonde hair. A bottle blonde, increasingly given to blonde moments.

Contact: Obi Wan Jennifer. Stylist of those possessing the Force (those forced to drive another 194 miles second day in a row for their hair). Yes, she IS worth the drive.

Report: Rushed morning. DID fix hair. DID put on make-up. DID wear awesome shirt. One might be forced to go to the mall. Drove like a bat out of hello. Construction notwithstanding. Jen was there. Waiting. Staff didn't recognize me as homeless person from day before. Welcomed with open arms, offering drinks. Wonder why. No SHIT-ing this day. Relaxed. Submitted to treatment.

Am now blonde.
Am worth it.
Moments and all.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Mikki's Love


She has been my friend. For twelve years.

For twelve years I took her for granted. Thinking she would be around today, tomorrow and next year. But I have learned that nothing is forever. And that the worst thing you can do is to not appreciate those you love.

You see, this awakening, this realization comes from recently discovering that Mikki is dying.

Mikki is my tri-color australian shepherd/golden retriever dog. In these, her last remaining days, she has been "speaking" to me. Imparting cherished and important truths. Mikki my friend, my dog, has been teaching me. You might say, making sure I learn something from her. Now, it is important to note here, Mikki is a gentle, intelligent, compassionate, devoted, loving companion with a somewhat sly, yet innocent, sense of humor.

Example: she is having trouble walking but when she really wants to, she can jump up on the back of the sofa in order to see the mailman and bark wildly, for sure incessantly, at him (which has been a favorite pastime during the entire course of her life!). When she sees me looking at her in surprise, she jumps back off, slinks with a limp to the rug, lays down with a sigh, looks pitiful and sad, appearing to say "What? That wasn't me. That musta been a short-term miracle cuz I can barely walk! In fact, I'm so weak, I think I need some more of that salami and cheese."

While Mikki is still with me, which will not be for long now, I will enjoy her, spoiling her rotten with love, food and furniture rights. She is unabashedly and certainly soaking up this pampering with all she's got! Almost smiling as she reclines on the leather furniture :) I will mourn later.

This leads me to the important life lessons I think she wants me to know and remember.

If you knew your life was almost over, how would you spend the time you have left? Here is what Mikki says:
  • Eat anything you want like lots of salami, cheese, canned food and cat poop.
  • It is okay to spit out your medicine if you don't like the taste.
  • Spend as much time as you wish laying around on the sofa, the leather one. Oh, the bed, too.
  • Sleep until you get to eat again or until you have to go outside to the bathroom and then do it on the patio of you can't make it to the garden.
  • Let everyone else clean up after you.
  • Speak your mind to mailmen, UPS drivers, young whippersnapper puppies, squirrels or anyone else who catches your attention.
  • Don't let anyone make you take a bath, whine, they will give up. (okay, forget this one, they will give you a bath ANYWAY, don't fight it, it gets over with faster)
  • Lick other's ears. Like your sister's. Alot.
  • Pass gas when you want, they will just pat your head and say in that baby voice "Isn't that cute?!"
  • Look appealing so everyone who walks by has to stop and rub their hands all over you (feel you up).
  • Use any and all looks to get whatever you want.
  • Drink until it is running out the other end.
  • If you don't feel so hot, you don't have to exercise.
  • That although someone might be physically gone, the memories never go away.

And most importantly . . .

  • Accept love and give love completely, unconditionally, never taking each other for granted for in the blink of an eye the one you love could be gone.

If it is one thing Mikki has done exceptionally well, it has been loving me without conditions, even when I took her for granted.

I am going to spend my time . . . loving. No matter how long I have.

Can "simple" animals teach us humans something valuable? I think they can.

If you had little time left . . . how would you spend it?

Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Garden or a Yard?

As I speak or write to others, I often question how to refer to the area in which I toil. Is the area surrounding my indoor living space a garden? Or is it a yard? In order to arrive at the answer to a question of such magnitude, I consulted the "wise old sage", the "wizard of Oz", yes, you guessed it: the internet.

First stop: Merriam-Webster dictionary for definitions. Yard is defined as "a small usually walled and often paved area open to the sky and adjacent to a building" (yikes! a prison!), "the grounds immediately surrounding a house that are usually covered with grass or an enclosure for livestock" (thinking Plimouth Plantation here). In earlier times, the yard was where the laundry was done, the dishwater disposed of, the ahem "heap" kept, and the animals housed in our largely agrarian society. As our living became more urbanized and mechanized, our yards ceased to be the service areas they once were and we began to plant them with grasses to keep the dust down and to beautify our surroundings. Hence the yard became a "lawn".

Next, I checked the entry for garden which is defined as "a plot of ground where herbs, fruits, flowers, or vegetables are cultivated, a container (as a window box) planted with usually a variety of small plants, a public recreation area or park usually ornamented with plants and trees".

It would seem as though we as we turned away from our agricultural/rural way of living, we would have more time to pursue other activities if we planted our yards with grass (heck! taking care of a lawn is like planting a crop!). Now it seems as if we are coming full circle to a semblance of what we'd left behind. More money is being spent restoring lawn areas with other plants, trees, shrubs and flowers. We apparently are not satisfied with surrounding our indoor living spaces with a carpet of grass but are creating "gardens" filled not only with ornamental plants but food producing ones as well (there is a movement afoot to bring back the "victory" gardens of old). Places are being created, even small ones, in cities and suburbs filled with green growing things to refresh our eyes and calm our spirits as we inhabit our concrete jungle and navigate through our asphalt wilderness.

Next, I moved on to exploring the differences in the "mood" of a yard or garden to determine which catagory my outdoor space would best fit. The internet served as an excellent resource recording others' thoughts on the subject. I will begin with their thoughts on what a yard is.

  • Buy, buy, says the sign in the shop window; Why, why, says the junk in the yard. ~ Paul McCartney

  • I buried a lot of my ironing in the back yard. ~Phyllis Diller

  • I always thought a yard was three feet, then I started mowing the lawn. ~C.E. Cowman

  • A lawn is nature under totalitarian rule. ~Michael Pollan

  • This generation should entertain this generation. It's only fair. When I was a kid, I mowed the lawn. Now, somebody else's kid can mow the lawn. ~Tom T. Hall

A yard appears most often associated with a lawn (when was the last time the lawn was anything but a headache). Or a graveyard for the things we no longer desire (old sofas, garbage or an ex :)! Just kidding! Or the place where incarcerated people receive their exercise! It would seem, the mood set by a yard is lacking in renewal, relaxation or beauty.

Now on the other hand, here is what has been said about gardens:

  • The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna Rion

  • It is good to be alone in a garden at dawn or dark so that all its shy presences may haunt you and possess you in a reverie of suspended thought. ~James Douglas, Down Shoe Lane

  • I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation. It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green. ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

  • Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity. ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

  • In my garden there is a large place for sentiment. My garden of flowers is also my garden of thoughts and dreams. The thoughts grow as freely as the flowers, and the dreams are as beautiful. ~Abram L. Urban

Ahhhh! A garden! It is sensual, peaceful, a thing of beauty. A place to dream and create. A way to nourish our bodies and our souls. I believe after reading the above and knowing how this space around my abode moves my heart, I now know there is a profound difference between what is a yard and what is a garden. Now when I converse or scribe, I can assuredly know my outdoor space is not merely a yard but is indeed . . . my garden.


Gardens are a form of autobiography. ~Sydney Eddison

This garden quote caused me to contemplate what my gardens say about me. That foundation and structure matter to me? That I don't need much water? :) That I love weeds? That I am creative? That I break rules? That I am vibrant? That I am not a run-of-the-mill gardener? That plant names mean something to me? That I am natural? That I am a failure? Or rather that I am a work in progress? Gardens can be a reflection of who we are, what we are about and what is important to us.

What does your garden say about you?

Begin creating your autobiography today . . . in your garden.