Week 15 

April 9, 2017 – SUNDAY

Computer problems photos posted when able to transfer:  Sick Cat photo, Charley in carrier ‘squirrel’ feeder

The First of Nine: We have entered the long side of the year, six months of full light. Outside on this day building toward summer’s equinox I finished planting between our flagstones the last of the two flats of stepables. On bent knee, on hard stone, over weeks I have planted uneven joints with silver spoon (Raoulia australis) imbedded in a soil/buttermilk/rock mix. I’m glad the flats are gone. Empty cracks remain to be filled, but the difficult-to-procure stepables are done with. I do not relish more hours bent over but wish to complete the patio. So, perhaps, I shall get more.

Yesterday a loud cry I had not heard before. What was Oskar saying? “Is it some new word, a new sentence?” What he said he repeated, and not understanding his desire and thinking him bored, I took him down to his automated feather. Later I returned to the room and found him lying flat between heaps of vomit. I petted him, cleaned up the vomit. Just as I finished, he ran away – disappeared. I searched each room of the house and re-searched before finding him, black cat on black shirt on black slate. Black on black on black, my cat limp on a cold floor.

JM scooped Oskar up and placed him on his lap, the place Oskar is most content. I called an emergency vet. “Call the SPCA poison line, get their opinion. Bring him in if they recommend it.”

The night before I fried up a batch of chicken livers for dinner. When my back was turned, stealth Oskar jumped onto the counter, plucked a raw one out of the dish, took it too the floor, finished it off before I understood what he had done. Bacteria on raw chicken are often problematic for humans, and our cats, like humans, eat foods that have been cooked so bacteria and their toxins are as problematic for them as for us. While talking to the poison control hot line, JM reminded me that yesterday I had rubbed a little aerosol-calming pheromones on Oskar’s fur. He is high strung, and I hoped that doing it would calm him down. I mentioned what I did. The bottle, in print illegible to me, said it should not be ingested. Whether bacterial toxins or pheromones caused Oskar’s condition, we were instructed to deliver him to the vet. We did. His vital signs, except for his elevated heart rate, were fine. The vet administered subcutaneous fluids, sent him home with us with instructions to monitor him closely. He improved almost immediately, and the improvement continued throughout the night. This morning, Oskar – again ‘bright-eyed and bushy tailed’ – woke me demanding his scheduled breakfast. We’ re relieved. We lost a day and spent a bundle, but are glad to have our cat back, speaking the language we understand.

April 10, 2017 – MONDAY

Photo  Cal – bikes on rail

Read on: Classes today. A way to expand mind, to challenge it. The man sitting next to me asked if I had read the assignment. “No.” I said.   He had not read it either. As the professor read the ‘story,’ I whispered to him, “This is like being back in elementary school.” I love being read to, and it was like my childhood schoolroom after lunch, except for the erudite comments slipped in between sentences read aloud.

April 11, 2017 – TUESDAY

Turning out: Yesterday’s class discussion of the illusionary nature of reality, of memory, of life itself. Today’s class an interview of a California poet laureate, two local publishers who started publishing back in the ‘Hippie’ era and the state librarian.

‘The book itself a real thing, a sensual experience, that inside, real or imagined.’

I happened to see in one of my alumni magazines a blurb about an individual (J), one of the people who ‘talked me into’ attending the first college I attended. She is now up for a national music award. Good for her. But, knowing her, I am not rooting for her.

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Trivet:   Made in 7th grade (My design, wood burning by sister Mary)

In elementary school, my teachers frequently asked me to work on classroom bulletin boards because they thought me to have ‘an artistic eye.’ Others, over the years, thought me artistic, too. In college, a classmate, upon seeing a graphic I had emblazed on my file cabinet, assigned me the task of creating and implementing a cover for a college event. When in 6th grade I was working on a bulletin board, J can up to me and insulted not just what I was doing, but my artistic ability. I, a sensitive child, ran out of the classroom and into the girls’ restroom where I locked myself in a stall to sob in seclusion. Sometime later the teacher came after me and from outside the stall asked me what had happened and, understanding my nature, asked who had hurt my feelings. I would not say what had happened or who had been cruel to me. I did not respond. I only promised to return to class – when I could, after my tears had stopped.   J invited me and a few other girls in the class to her home to celebrate her birthday. I don’t know why I went (probably because I did not want to hurt her feelings by saying no), but I went. The celebration did not seem to be joyous, and my only strong memory of the party was standing on the edge on an alga-covered pond behind her home.

In high school she made friends with and hung around with upper classmates. It was only when they graduated that she sought out my companionship. As a senior in high school and as a freshman in college I heard her repeatedly claim that she was the “most beautiful woman in the world.” Limb for limb and proportion for proportion, I was as ‘lovely’ as she was (perhaps lovelier) and facial feature for facial feature she did not ‘out pretty’ me. It puzzled me that she saw herself in that light. I understood beauty to be an ‘ideal,’ an ideal that varied from society to society, and even within a single society the definition of it changes. So, in my mind, there could not be any more beautiful than all others. As young women, J and I both were considered attractive. Of the two, I had the better body, partially because I had been physically active. Our faces, in two very different ways, attractive, but for either of us to have claimed beauty beyond all other living woman, I found such a claim unimaginable.

I’m often amazed at the talent of others or the creativity of others and stand in awe of other’s accomplishments. In college J confided in me that whenever she saw what others had done she thought, “I could do that better.” She was not just more beautiful than half of the human race, she was infinitely more talented as well.

My college communications / theater professor insisted that I had the intelligence and sensitivity of one in a million. He had told me that my acting had made him laugh and cry as no one else he’d seen act and that I WOULD go to New Your to pursue a career as an actress. (My husband said that professor disapproved of him and disapproved of our relationship.) I, brave when fighting for an idea or for others, am timid by nature about myself. When I graduated, I looked at the average income of New York actors – at that time it was under $3,000 a year – and realized that if I went to NYC, my likely income would be poverty level and perhaps street-person-level income. I understood I might have talent, but others had talent too, and luck, lady luck, had much to do with success. ‘Making it,’ I understood was in large part ‘chance,’ and I decided not to throw the dice although I understood in most ways life was a game of chance. In high school, my older sister told me I was not to go to Hollywood, a place I’d never considered, partially because my parents did not ‘believe’ in going to movies, and I had seen so few. (I’d only seen movies on TV. I did not see a movie in a movie theater until my freshman year of college, when, when visiting a Chicago friend, she took me to my first movie-theater movie.) I suspect my older sister thought me ‘movie-star’ attractive and – envious – so warned me against the lure of glitter. In truth, I thought little of the way I looked and understood that any beauty I possessed was not of my doing, but merely the result of a genetics, of youth and my living in an era when my type of features were considered ‘beautiful.’ I was not vain about my looks because I understood I had nothing to do with them. It was an accident. And when I looked in the mirror, the person looking back at me was a stranger, a reverse two-dimensional image who was not me but only my surface. Since I rarely saw that surface, I was more familiar with others than with myself. It was those I saw and not myself reflected that I thought of.

In college, I learned that my ‘friend’ J was not my friend. Several individuals told me what she was saying about me. She had told bald-faced lies about me, our high school experience and about things I had supposedly done or said. I was informed that she had, in an attempt to get me thrown out of school, reported me to administrators for having broken school rules. The most outrageous, she claimed: I was sneaking out of the dorm for clandestine meetings with men. Because I was an ‘over-good-girl,’ her claims (which did not happen) could not be corroborated. If anyone had set up watches to catch me in the act, they would have been sadly disappointed since there were no acts to catch me in.   She left college at the end of her freshman year. (It was a long time ago, perhaps it was sophomore year???) Her freshman year she had been engaged to two men at the same time, and at the start of Christmas break she told me that she would not tell her first fiancée of her engagement to another man until after Christmas because she wanted to wait until after she received the beautiful presents she knew he had bought her to tell him she planned to marry another. J was involved with David, yet another man, a man who took me out to relate the hurt he had experienced in her mistreatment of him. I listened to David tell his sad story, but did not tell him what she had done to others. During the evening together when David was relating his sad J experiences, he said, “I think I’d like to live in California.” And thinking about that I stated, “I might like living there myself.” To which he said, “I was not asking you to marry me.” At that moment, I thought: “They ‘deserve’ each other, so in love with themselves they are.” I’d never found David attractive. He lacked a good brain and, without that attribute, I could not find him desirable. But even if deserved, her mistreatment of him and of fiancée # 1 was not unlike J. She had, she had told me, on her aunt’s wedding day asked to wear the aunt’s big emerald ring and was given it to wear. J never returned the ring to her aunt but, instead, kept it. I did not approve of her behavior, but still, when told of her lies about me, I never defended myself against her bogus claims (NO!!!!, outright lies), nor said anything about her sometimes-outrageous misuse of people. I had been taught that God was the judge. There was no need to defend myself or accuse her. God saw all, knew all.

One reason I suspect my mother would not let me transfer to another college in spite of the fact I hated the one I attended so completely became clear from what Mother told me not long before she died. J had spread a rumor in our local community that I had been kicked out of that college. (I’ve been told that J got kicked out of that college, but have not been able to verify that rumor.) I believe that in Mother’s mind my graduating form that college proved to others that J’s claims were a lie. I guess I can attribute my ultimately marrying Michael to J’s big lie. If I had not have stayed at the horrible place, I would not have met or married Michael, wonderful Michael. That may have been the first, but it is not the only time in my life, where individuals in an attempt to harm me have actually made my life better.

The last time I saw J was at a high school reunion. She came up to me and said, “I’m glad to see that you have turned out.” (My mother-in-law told me I had not, but that’s another story.) I responded, “How else should it have been?” To which she said, “That was a good come-back,” which indicated to me that her ‘hello’ was meant to be an insult. She remains a good and committed Christian. Her actions show it. AND in the blurb about herself I read today, a lie, or at least, based on my knowledge of her history, a partial lie. It seems she is as she was, and in my opinion, with or without awards, she “DID – NOT – TURN – OUT – WELL!”

April 12, 2017 – WEDNESDAY

Photo of rainy vista & craneflies

Sleepy: Rain today. It was to have rained yesterday too, but yesterday only a few drops fell. This year, a season of rain. We needed rain, but I do wish that the rain had come average year after average year instead of long drought followed by this one unrelenting rainy season. I had a class this morning. I did not attend it last week. I did not go today. I’m interested in the topic, but I’ve found that four days of classes is too much. Actually, three days of classes is stretching it. I have my priorities. I did not receive my architectural license renewal letter, so must get a form online and send it in with a check. First things first, or so I tell myself.

The views of the world around me, soft-edged, mist turning my world into softness.

JM called. He is sleepy. “Sleepy.” I said, “It is sleepy weather. It is a wonder that anyone is awake.”

And then on the wall at our entrance ‘craneflies’ mating. Why is it that I observed such encounters often as a child but rarely notice them now? And then the squirrels did it again! This time they ‘unscrewed’ the feeder from its secure top, dumping it and its contents onto the hill below. We are finding it difficult (perhaps it is impossible) to outsmart the squirrels.

April 13, 2017 – THURSDAY

Ixia, one of my favorite flowers

Marvel: I cannot help but marvel at a flower. Those that grace our yard I enjoy enormously partially because I have selected them, planted them and watched them grow. I photograph them over and over again. They are a continual pleasure. Some plants are flowering better this year, but some were better in past years. Water makes a difference (too little and too much) and nutrients and sunshine and the unknown. And on this day, like so many others, I delight in petal and color and leaf.

April 14, 2017 – FRIDAY

Photos of night-lights

Never-ending pleasure: At dusk we walked the yard, JM and I flitting from flower to flower like some insect drawn by color, smell or profusion. The garden’s beauty the result of JM’s digging, removing a couple feet deep of clay, replacing it with a dump truck of rich soil, planting wonderful plants and sunshine and water. Again this week, a neighbor walking his dog stopped to say he’d wanted to tell us for years how much he liked our yard. “Thanks,” we responded. We like it too. We like to look out our windows at it. We like walking our yard. We like being in our yard. When we moved into our home, grass in the front yard, a few old rose bushes and a huge white cedar bush on the corner. The sides of the house, ivy growing over concrete chunks, a couple of wild plum trees and side, side, front and back – each isolated from the other, now united, one garden wrapping around our home.

Home 2015 Night lantern

Our garden is not just for the day but for night. JM has his lights, lights on strings, lights in jars, lights that burn. Where color dominates daylight, light, yellow light, the night.

April 15, 2017 – SATURDAY

Beauty of the whole: George (a man who works around our garden and house) and I spent hours planting, transplanting and cutting back growth. The garden is in glorious bloom:

  • Solomon seal and Calla Lilies at the side of the house;
  • Bright pink, red, white and orange azaleas planted next to the driveway;
  • Ixias (one of my vary most favorite flowers) in white, yellow, pink (I’ve not been able to get the lavender I so much covet to grow) in the front yard are splendid, but more lush in past years — perhaps this year was too wet;
  • In the sidewalk/street strip Dwarf Contorted Black Locust trees with their hanging clusters of white sweet-pea-like flowers (they are a member of the pea/bean family);
  • Flowering Black LocustBlack
  •  Clivia;
  • Home 2015
  • Bearded Iris in purple and yellow (the reblooming ones in various colors planted years ago were lost as trees gathered sunshine and left them in shade;
  • ‘Flowering Maple’ on the little hill between the Oak and Magnolia;

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    Flowering ‘Maple’

  • Foam flowers under the ‘Flowering Maple;’
  • Violets scattered here and there;
  • Oxalis (domesticated and wild) all around;
  • Dogwood:
  • 2014 November Bird Trip

    Dogwood

  • Freesia;
  • OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  Yellow Freesia
  • and..

Today’s flowers will fade, replaced with other kinds of flowers as the season progresses. I never imagined that I’d enjoy our garden as I do. I studied biology, with lots of botany. One of my favorite classes was ‘systematic botany,’ a class where I learned to identify plants and their Latin names. I love hiking Midwestern woods in search of rare flowers, but in spite of my love of trekking in the woods and seeing the wonders of plants, I found that learning the names of various plants and their families made me look at them with a scientist’s eye. Rather than enjoying their wondrous beauty, I found I was unable to stop myself from classifying the plants I saw. A tree was not a tree, it was xxx, and a flower I could not see it for its beauty but saw it as x species belonging to xxx genus and… It was as if my scientific eye and my artistic eye were battling each other. Seeing the world through my scientific eye, I lost the ability to just look at the beauty of the thing itself. J. Michael told me that Thoreau after years of observing nature closely had the same problem. As much as I liked knowing what flower was what (knowing there scientific name and family pedigree), I did not like not being able to look at nature abstractly (without cataloging the elements) and because of that I made an effort to ‘forget’ what I had known. I can look at a plant and recall its common name, but I no longer call them by their proper names because if I do that, I, for some unknown reason, cannot do so and also enjoy the plants pure, unnamed beauty. I want to see nature with the eye of a painter and not with the eye of the scientist. I wish I could do both, but a peculiarity of my mind prevents that. I understand that plants and animals are divided and sub-divided (kingdom – phylum – class – order- family – genus – species), but I want to look at them holistically, as part of a whole. I considered becoming a systematic botanist but decided not to because I wanted to see a unified world, and I could not see such a world when I was analyzing its pieces.