Thursday, July 29, 2010


Like heavy pondering clouds
Building up to bruising storm
Fearful, anxious, careworn thought
Mounts up in thunderous form.

Whipping winds swirl round and spike
Intending certain damage
Flattening opposition
In its red, blinded rampage.

Raindrops swell and coalesce--
Liquid bullets bombarding--
Splattering the sere landscape
No excusing, no pardoning.

Flashing anger like a bolt
Heeds not where it may strike
But wields the daunting weapon--
A razor-tipped weighty pike.

At last the full flung release
A shower of words pouring
Drenching the receptive earth.
Is it cleansing and restoring?

Exhausted, spent, weaponless,
Dissipated clouds retreat
The reckless wind slacks off in rage.
Who is left upon their feet?

The heated storm has passed by,
The earth absorbed the shock.
Did kindness in the end prevail
Or only expose the rock?

Friday, July 23, 2010

Determination and Dirt

Early in the summer I realized how burdened I felt with my yard work. It so happens that I've been working on three different areas, some for about 20 years now. They never seem to get to the point where I can say the basic ground work is completed. I decided that I would get two of those areas to that point this year, and complete the third area next summer. It has given me a sense of motivation that has held up through the worst of summer's heat, humidity and glare.

My plan is simple: every morning by 9:00, weather permitting, I head out the door in my grungiest of clothing, spray on a layer of insect repellent, and grab my shovel. I work until noon, with short breaks for water, a Snickers ice cream bar and a periodic to-the-elbows scrub in poison ivy treatment.

Significant progress has been made. I have:
1. removed all the grass in the cul-de-sac area and covered it with a layer of compost.
2. planted shrubs, ground covers and flowering plants in that area.
3. removed nearly all the myrtle, which was overrun with grass and weeds under the pines area. This probably added up to 200 square feet of area entirely dug up.
4. brought home, so far, three cubic yards of compost to help out plants in the sandy soil.
5. brought in two van loads of plant materials from a generous friend's yard.
6. divided and spread out plant materials into the cleared ground under the pines.
7. cleared out myrtle in the terraced area, replacing it with perennial flowers and mulch.
8. moved plants that will be in the way when the dead pines are cut down next month.
9. managed to water often enough that things are staying alive, if not thriving.
10. carried countless buckets of the removed myrtle to my neighbor's house to help move forward her projects.

Most days I find myself covered with dirt, sweating profusely in soaked clothes and staggering with weariness by noon--but the prize is in sight! I look forward to-- not finishing the yard work--but getting to that point where I am seeking to improve something that is already good--making it great. It's like being a cabinet maker--the pieces are all cut and assembled. What is left is the sanding, polishing, and fine-tuning that make it an accomplished work of art.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Discipline and the Deep Rut

There's a fine balance between being disciplined and digging a trench so deep we can't get out of it. I made a decision this summer to spend my mornings in the yard, with two clearly defined goals, and to spend the afternoons on my computer, with less defined goals but achievable results. It's been a good decision for the most part. Sometimes I rebel.

The yard work is grueling, but the vision in front of me keeps me at it. It is the possibly delusional idea that, once I complete some specific projects, yard work will become easier on a maintenance mode than a creation mode, and that somehow I will be satisfied with that.

The computer work is a grind. I reward myself with small breaks to check on my Scrabble game or to play Word Twist. If I can crank out a few well-designed lesson handouts each day I am satisfied. This project feels more like Atlas trying to heave off the weight of the world, and each page completed is a grunting heave towards freedom from that burden.

How do you tell when you have crossed the line from disciple to rut? Well, if it rains this morning, you won't find me outside...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

If Virtues Were Commodities...

Suppose you could buy a virtue. Some are more rare to find than others, and therefore more valuable. Some you might find in abundance but very impure and in need of refining to gain value. Some would be so elusive that a black market might develop to fool the unwary buyer into purchasing a beautiful but nonetheless fraud.

Three virtues sprang immediately to the top of my list as the rarest, most treasured, and hence most costly: humility, patience and courage.

Humility is for true virtue connoisseurs. They can recognize the real package--not flashy but very weighty. True assessment is heavy with honesty.

Patience also does not gleam to dazzle the eye. Its dull sheen can fool the inexperienced buyer into thinking it not worth the price, but it multiplies with use, so growth is the real value.

Courage does flash and gleam. If it had a fault, which virtues can't, it would be seduction. It is the sex symbol of virtues, but needs to be replenished often, since it can get used up so quickly.

Thank goodness virtues are not purchaseable commodities. If they were the vice of greed would abound and corrupt, pollute and distort the treasures sought.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Thoughts about Odd Names

A starfish isn't quite a fish.
To call it so--confusing
But people do persist with it.
I find it quite amusing.

Sea cucumber is not a fruit--
It isn't even a plant!
But this guy has that certain shape
Long and plump, that much, I'll grant.

You can't buy with a sand dollar
Although it be round and gold.
You will get bounced from any store--
"Don't come back" is what you're told.

Feather star is not a duster
And it never touched a bird.
You wouldn't sneeze if it stroked you.
Its name is quite absurd.

Who named all these echinoderms?
They need to get some glasses!
Or these critters will get misplaced--
Put in incorrect classes.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Getting Back to Eden

I concluded a long time ago that my passion for gardening stems from a desire to create a paradise, a new Eden, or at least the feeling that I got the old Eden back. No one can say for sure what the original garden was like, but it had to be serenely beautiful and full of a variety of luscious vegetation. Wildlife would have been attracted to it and welcomed, too. It also happened to have naked people wandering through it and that was OK with everyone. I haven't figured out where that fits into my vision yet and I can't say I'm particularly comfortable with that feature. But the rest--I'm working on it. I'll let you know when I get there.