Category Archives: Home & Garden

The Solstice


Catalpa blossoms rain down, festooning the dirt with casual but royal elegance. Could it be the wind and flowers mistake me for a queen or even, a lesser goddess?

Evening primrose open their four-petaled flowers in such humble, yellow cheer that even a householder in dull forbearance can’t help but smile.

And look at the comfrey — always impressively stalwart — shooting its stalk straight up through the lower leaves of the rhododendron! Its huge leaves belie its oh-so-delicate flowers, making me think that Nature needs to make a joke now and then.

When the stalk inevitably flops to the ground, will the comfrey berate itself — demand a taller performance next year — start haggling with the rhodie now for more lasting support a year from now? We all know the abiding message, there.

At the cellar door, ferns volunteer in improbable narrow cracks, suggesting good will, a knack for survival.  Yet another lesson — ‘grow wherever you can! grow outside the plan! take up residence and thrive in the unlikeliest of places!’

Such extravagance, year after year, in the garden. How lush, how beautiful, how generous, and never with a demand for anything in return.

The first day of summer refutes my pessimism. It suggests possibility and reorders instinct and sensation in favor of the body — ah! dirt tumbling off the trowel! a wooden rake handle against the palm! the smell of blossoms and the sound of children playing. 

All I have to do is step outside.

[Is this the same person who dropped the ‘f-bomb’ on a neighbor’s landscape guy yesterday after storming out of the house to request that he stop using a now-banned gas-powered-leaf-blower? Indeed. You mean to tell me you are writing odes to catalpa blossoms today but were telling a hired landscaper yesterday to ‘use a fucking broom’? Well, yeah. After watching him aggressively yank the cord to wind up the blower practically in my face, it was not in fact my fault that I had to practically shout it at him, ‘USE A FUCKING BROOM!’

And, BTW, don’t you love this guy taking the high ground? As if my calling him a dick head (yes, I did that too) was more egregious than his aggressive, knowing violation of a new city ordinance put in place precisely for people like me?

I would call him a dick head again, but I’ll admit to some ‘spill-over’ wrath. There had been a series of disastrous phone calls to the hospital earlier (we’re talking mental impairments now, not physical), plus numerous calls to caregivers and c-pap manufacturers that were not full of fury and condemnation but nevertheless sucked time and soul from my day. By the time that now-illegal awful, awful high-pitched whine started up, I wasn’t having it.]

Happy Summer Solstice, all!
Peace. Peace. Peace (or in my case — at least the absence of cursing)

White and grey catch up



These peonies bloomed for the first time in years. Gifts, I would say. They seem more like repositories of light than flourishes of cellular organic matter. At the Boston MFA’s Matisse show, I was taken with the shadows of one of the artist’s chairs. Later, with the similarities between peonies and chair-shadows. img_4159

On Wednesday, there was a hearing in Newton to consider a House Resolution asking Judiciary Committee to look into impeachment. I spoke. Lots of others did too. It passed.

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img_3801Because one objection has been that impeachment is a matter best left on the federal level, I hunted for precedent and found one in the “History of Newton”, by Samuel Francis Smith. If you read the second sentence, swapping ‘the Trump presidency’ for ’embargo’, it sounds like something Charles M. Blow would say.

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I repeated this quote (“My Name is Mary Sutter”, by Robin Oliveira), quipping that I’d like to tatoo it to Nancy Pelosi’s forehead.

On Thursday, I listened to Comey with friends and was impressed and captivated, to say the least, but started feeling ‘off’ around noon and left early.

Came home to a message that my sister had been hospitalized. This wasn’t a surprise — her doctors have been calling for her admission since late March — but still. Her oxygen levels were very low, but after a few days of high volume oxygen and an IV diuretic/catheter to take down swelling, she is much better. They ruled out pulmonary embolism and pneumonia.

Stories and stories dwell in diagnoses, don’t they? Entire lifetimes, in fact. These stories are better left untold for now, though for some reason on Sunday, I spent hours trying.

And now off for my weekly Local Indivisible Power tele-call. Then to the hospital. Then, GODDAMNIT, to the page! Well? Except at 2:00, there’s the weasel Sessions testifying. I don’t expect to be impressed. More like this: Finn slinking up the stairs while I hurl imprecations at the TV.

So, maybe tomorrow?

P.S. The lab work came back negative for both shingles and herpes and since it spread to my arm and since K. has poison ivy right now and since our dog traipses through a band of the oily stuff to get to the field where we play fetch and because I snuggle and kiss Finn constantly, I am now convinced I have a mild case of poison ivy, which makes more sense than a case of shingles with no other symptoms and negative lab work.

 

The power of stuff to undo us

The Weight of Things, Part I

Look at the lovely Rosenthal platter — that flourish along the scalloped edge; delicate blue flowers draping off the rim. I have service for eight plus another smaller platter, a casserole, a tea pot (squat and round) and coffee pot (tall and slender), plus matching sugar and creamer, candlesticks.

They were a wedding gift from my mother.

Recall this: Mother is back from a trip to Germany with her second husband. They are seeing the world! While on the continent she buys an entire set of china for her daughter who, at the age of 33, is at last engaged to be married.

When Mother hands Daughter the crumpled brochure, Daughter doesn’t bother to hide her dismay. Are the dishes too feminine? Is she inclined toward blue these days? Such a fraught exchange!

They’ve been here before. A history of thwarted choices gives Daughter an unhealthy sense that she’s entitled to sour incivility. So many items ticked off! How much did Mother spend, exactly?

There will be a cost to Daughter’s wounding response and she knows it. It’s no longer a gift-giving occasion. It’s all about Mother’s hurt feelings. Daughter’s cooing and back peddling will be accomplished with a combination of guilt, annoyance, and compulsive, middle-child diplomacy. Of course the dishes will be beautiful! It took a second, is all! Of course, it was a generous gesture!

They’ve been here before, too.

Does it matter that I love the dishes now? That as I wash off the residue from last night’s dinner, I do so with care, knowing how inconsolable I’d be if the platter broke — my mother dead and gone these 22 years past. Stuff has the power to undo us sometimes.

The Weight of Things, Part II

We’ve purchased a shed in the sorry acknowledgement that our belongings have outpaced our capacity for sorting, disposal, or storage. The garage is packed: sports equipment, gardening tools, lumber, Christmas decorations, craft booth panels, two table saws, bikes and chairs. There’s beer brewing equipment, scuba gear, coolers, kayak paddles and beach chairs. At least three complete socket wrench sets, possibly more.

img_3262Now picture Son moving to Parts West with two suitcases. His entire apartment is boxed up in the garage, too. Now what? Most is too heavy to ship.

Too heavy indeed! Here are the pots and knives Mother purchased in such industrious cheer — the dish towels and extension cords, an array of spices! He’ll make curry and roast chickens! He’ll eat on Mexican dishes while looking at the spectacular skyline. Oh that view, Mother exclaimed, that view!

And then there was the dreadful pick up eight months later. Utter disarray.

Seeing these things makes for uneasy recollection. For some reason it is the contrast between the early optimism and the later despair that gets to me the most. I don’t know why. The hard questions arise, prime among them — how could I have missed so much?

I know how — because I wasn’t even looking.

It’s a little better now — maybe you can build up an immunity to memory by repeated exposure to triggering belongings. Things have resumed their status as objects. They are once again problems to be solved — sell? donate? keep?

The iron skillet is coming in the house, but — anybody want a waffle iron?

 


A Temporary Guest

“Landscape has a secret and silent memory, a narrative of presence where nothing is ever forgotten.”  John O’Donohue (this and all following quotes from “Anam Cara, A Book of Celtic Wisdom”).


According to the ancient Celts, “Landscape is not matter nor merely nature, rather it enjoys luminosity. Landscape is numinous”.

To “consider yourself as a complete stranger … who has just stepped ashore in your life” is to realize that you are not “the helpless owner of a deadened life but rather a temporary guest gifted with blessing and possibilities you could neither invent nor earn”.

Have a great weekend! I am off to the garden center with a friend and not likely to have clean fingernails for awhile.

Anam Cara is Gaelic for ‘soul friend’.

The chilly season and hideous pj’s

Being cold begins to feel like an existential state. Grey day after grey day dampens the mood.

Fortunately, the plants don’t seem to mind. Up they come.



Except the newly-installed petunias. It appears that the rabbits have been dining on them.

A shed arrives Monday  — meaning we will be moving the last of the shade lovers from its proposed corner out back. I’ve already moved: ostrich ferns, comfry, anemone, and sedum. Some days, it’s just been too cold. But a sign that the gardening season is (finally) upon us: yesterday morning at 6:20, I ‘found myself’ outside completely absorbed in gardening. There I was moving rogue perennials around, turning the soil, and potting up a few things for my sister without having bothered to change out of my pj’s and slippers. 

These were not my usual black stretchy things that could pass for pants in a pinch. These were cheap plaid red & green flannels dotted with some nameless breed of puppy — absolutely hideous pj’s in other words, made of a cloth so awful you’d pass it by even if it was marked down to $2.00 at the Christmas Tree Shoppe (need I say these were purchased online?)



What are the most embarrassing clothes you’ve made an appearance in? 

(There WERE people out and about, in case you’re wondering). 

A catch up ramble

So much has happened. And now the fall is really here.

Son #1 completed his degree. Thought he did back in May? Well, surprise, surprise (it was to us) — he didn’t. But now he has. Maybe we’ll get around to celebrating, but right now there’s just this saggy relief. Son #2, in spite of a well-anchored plan to take a year off, changed his mind the night before classes started and we all jump-shifted.

The very same week, my sister’s Personal Care Assistant of eight months walked out saying, “I don’t need this.” My sister seems relieved, but I’m a little worried — after all, she’s essentially been bed-ridden since April.

I. Will not. Be. Picking up. The slack.

Thankfully, today she announced that in fact she would look for another person (last week is was a different story).

We had the tree work done, which is the good news. It’ll prolong the life of the roof and be safer when the snow comes. The bad news? My neighbor leaned over the fence and got the crew’s info and the very next day they showed up at her house and cut down two very tall, healthy oak trees right at the back lot line. I was sick for days. Talk about ‘unintended consequences’.

We lost a lot of natural screening. It was an icky feeling of not having any control. The noise was the least of it.

This picture is before the trees came down. I think it may be time to finally take down the play structure. Now that there is a lot of sun back there, we could plant some pines and they might actually thrive. Finn continues to keep me sane. We go to the lake and I wear him out as best I can. The watery play makes his coat so soft!   July was the hottest on record in Boston. August was both the hottest AND the driest on record in Boston. I still have an annoying rash to prove it. And we will have the water bill to prove it. I’ve watered most beds religiously, but the ferns have crisped up. We’ve never given a shit about our lawn. But those are minor matters in the face of climate change.

We’re watching “Transparent” (that’s Allie, above)(and yes, it’s as good as everyone says). I got tired of all the blood baths — lately, “Justified,” “Peaky Blinders” and “Game of Thrones”. Finally got back into reading, last week finishing Anne Enright’s “The Green Road”. It was really, really good. (I’ve read two others of hers: “The Wig My Father Wore” and “What Are You Like”). The mother figure in “The Green Road” — a real martyr-type that possibly could warrant a diagnosis in this day and age — was so, so familiar. It’s a type, I guess.

Happy September. Hope to be around more. I actually have some cloth pieces to show and tell!

 

 

Friday in June

Morning face.
Done with wind and overall tacking down, plus I added white stitches to lighten house. It disappears a little too much. Maybe for this week, the house ought to take on the shape of England? I mean, WTF?

Later on, it was nice to start the weekend with another bday celebration. Out on the deck. Beautiful light. Perfect temps. QUIET. School is out for the year.

 This barley salad was soooo good. Made several modifications. Very tasty with salmon done on the grill.
I modified the salad both because of available ingredients and taste preferences. I didn’t have any black beans, so none went in. I only used red peppers, not both green and red. I skipped the called-for carrots because I thought they’d be overly crunchy. And, instead of canned corn, I cooked up a fresh ear.

Probably the most important modification flavor-wise was substituting about a quarter teaspoon of Truvia in lieu of corn syrup and adding quite a bit more oil. Recipe calls for scant amount of canola. I added at least 3 more tablespoons of olive oil. This, from someone who likes a very acidic dressing.

Surprisingly, my pantry did contain a can of chipotle peppers in adobe sauce. That, along with the cilantro, cumin, and citrus juices were essential to the slightly smoky, but bright taste of the salad. Also surprising (to me): no garlic.

The next day I used the same dressing on a mix of chopped cherry tomatoes, red onion, and avocado and it was equally delicious.

Have a nice weekend all!

P.S. One of the nice benefits of a grain salad is how they keep overnight. And since the barley salad didn’t feature the olive oil very centrally, I could eat it straight out of the fridge. So good!

P.P.S. Brexit fucking floored me and made the realization that the xenophobia highlighted by Trump is not limited to our side of the Atlantic. I spent a fair amount of time on Twitter first thing that morning. Last night, K. and I re-watched “Children of Men” and all the ways that movie is scarily prescient were doubly so… the vans full of refugees being carted off to detention centers, shocking lack of resources, the vast poor and scant people of means, plots and counterplots, police working counter to the public’s interests, the human species on the brink of extinction. So much rubble, despair, and violence! I hope the Brits re-do the vote. What a stupid risk Cameron took with England’s future.

If you’re interested (I took twitter feed off side bar of the blog), my moniker is deeamallon: stream is here.