Visitors

I felt foolish this morning, going out to water in the 45˚ F chill this morning. I felt even sillier being outside in a heavy coat in the middle of May, but that’s the weather we were dealt today. I considered putting it off, but the next two days are supposed to be even chillier than today. The low tonight is 36˚, which is way different than yesterday’s high of 93˚.

By the time I did several tasks, such as pot the bamboo, plant a lilac in the hole (a hole is a terrible thing to waste!), and pull a few weeds, it started to warm up, and by the time half the lawn was watered, I was able to ditch the coat. It was still cool, but pleasantly so.

It was an interesting morning with lots of visitors. A couple of hummingbirds stopped by to sip from a few larkspur flowers. When I lived out in the country with Jeff, I developed a dislike of hummingbirds because the species that lived there were very aggressive, and they often dive-bombed us. Unlike those hummingbirds, my little visitors were polite, drank their fill, and took off without once trying to attack me.

The bumble bees that visited also left me alone, even though we skimmed by one another on several occasions.

A couple of the feral cats in the neighborhood came to sun themselves on my lawn. (I’ve discovered the older of these two black cats stalking among my larkspurs. I sure hope it’s not after the toad that lives there!) I ran them off because I sure don’t want them getting too comfortable around here, though there’s not much I can do about it when I’m not outside. A neighbor who lives next to the crazy cat man (I don’t imagine he’s crazy except for feeding the myriad cats), is almost choking from the smell of cat urine. So not something I want to deal with. Still, the cats, while not actually polite, did take off running when they saw me.

And the people I bought the house pulled up to the curb to talk to me as I was watering out front. They couldn’t stay to explore, but they were impressed with the way the place is looking. And it is looking good. I’m not sure how much credit is due to me since it’s been a collaboration with me, the contractor, some workers, and nature all playing a part.

My final visitor was (drum roll please) . . . me! After I finished my morning’s tasks, it was too nice to go inside, so I wandered my paths, enjoying the scenery, including the newly bloomed roses.

Most of the places I’ve lived the past thirty years had great long-distance views — mountains, Grand Mesa, desert, or city lights, so one of the reasons I got into this whole gardening thing was that I wanted to create a view so I had something to look at other than neighbors’ houses.

Apparently, even though the yard is a perpetual work in progress, I have accomplished at least part of what I set out to do.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Futile or Not

Yesterday afternoon, as I walked from one room to another, I was struck by a sudden sense of futility, and I wondered what the heck I was doing. Well, I knew I was walking into a room, but that wasn’t what made me stop and think. It was this whole gardening thing. I’ve been so focused on babying my yard (as one friend puts it), that I hadn’t stop to look sideways at what I was doing. And when I did have that change of focus (going through literal doorways is often accompanied by going through figurative doorways) it all seemed so . . . futile. Ludicrous. I mean, does it really matter what we do with our time? Why spend so much time spent on what, in the end, is a rather unimportant project?

Luckily, my doorways are close to one another, so by the time I got to my destination, a second or two later, sanity (or at least a sanity of a different sort) prevailed, and I realized I was right, it doesn’t matter. In that case, working outside, enjoying the beauty of the green and purple and orange and pink and whatever other colors manage to punctuate my space, matters as much as anything does.

And anyway, I have to do something with my time, so foolish or not, I might as well be working outside. At least I’m not starting wars or gunrunning or selling drugs or anything else that would mess with my serenity. (So far, the only thing that’s messed with my serenity was going through the door yesterday, and it’s impossible to live in a house without ever going through a door.)

Writing about my yard also seems foolish, but then, it’s what I do (at the moment, anyway). I write and I garden.

Small talk.

At least I’m not writing about the weather. Oh, wait. I do write about the weather, too. Speaking of which, the high today will be close to 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the low tomorrow night will be near freezing. Yikes.

As for today’s gardening chores, I planted the flowers I bought the other day, pulled weeds, searched for signs of seeds sprouting (found some!).

And I found a home for the bamboo with a friend of a friend, assuming it survives these temperature variances. I decided it was too much of a responsibility to try to keep the plant alive and at the same time try to keep its destructive powers under control. I have enough to deal with in my yard as it is.

As you can see, futile or not, here I am, back to gardening and gardening talk.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Cannibalism in the Garden

I had a productive but exhausting day, and I didn’t even get everything done that I wanted. I watered my plants — lawns, bushes, flowers. While doing that, I dug weeds. Afterward, I planted new snapdragons and destroyed older ones, though I didn’t mean to destroy the pretty flowers.

The snapdragons I planted last year were sold as annuals, but a couple of clumps came up again this year. The problem that I tried to rectify was that the clumps were so close they were almost on top of each other, and I thought they needed room to grow. I reached between the two clumps — one red and one pink — and definitely felt a division. So I tried to dig up the red clump, and both clumps came up. It turned out they had a single root. I didn’t know that was possible — I’d presumed that each color would have its own root system.

Since the flowers were out of the ground and would have to be replanted anyway, I went ahead and divided the root. I hope it’s early enough in the season that the roots will reestablish themselves. I gave them plenty of water, hoping that will help.

While I was outside, my neighbor brought me a bamboo plant she was going to throw away. It was a houseplant, and I wasn’t sure if it would survive in my yard, but I talked to someone recently who had some bamboo growing wild in the alley behind their house, so I thought I’d take a chance. The poor plant was tall and limp (since she was going to throw it away, she hadn’t watered it for a while), so I planted it, mulched it, and staked it.

The stake is a four-foot bamboo stake, which amuses me. It seems rather . . . cannibalistic. Sort of like the Silence of the Bamboo. Will the newly planted bamboo recoil in horror at being planted next to a dead stick of its own species? Or will it feel comfortable knowing it was being supported by its own kind?

I’m being factious, of course. Plants don’t have that sort of mental capacity, at least I don’t think they do. And anyway, the deed — cannibalistic or not — has been done. Now it’s a matter of waiting to see what will happen. The way I figure, either the bamboo will die or it will take over. I was going to plant it in a buried pot since that’s one way of keeping the bamboo from spreading, but I want it to spread a little, and supposedly, the invasion is easy enough to control if you cut back the new baby shoots in the spring. While researching bamboo after the fact (the fact of planting, that is), I learned that bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants — some species can grow thirty-five inches in a day and get 100 feet tall. Yikes! If this plant takes hold, maybe I’ll have to get a pet panda.

Yeah, right. As if I don’t have enough to do now!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Attracting Flowers

I recently read a book claiming that the secret of the universe, the power of the universe, is attraction, so you’re supposed to think positive thoughts because what you think about is what you attract.

I don’t believe that is true. The way I understand it, the power of the universe (if there is such a thing) comes not from attraction but from the energy created between attraction and aversion, push and pull, yin and yang.

Nor do I believe in the power of positive thinking because of its corollary — that if bad things happen to you, it’s your fault because you attracted them. The truth is, sometimes bad things happen for no reason. Besides, in the push/pull of the universe, “positive” and “negative” don’t mean good and bad. They seem to be arbitrary names attached to the way ions are charged. And in the real universe, not the universe of positive thinkers, two like charges repel, two unlike charges attract.

Sometimes, of course, in our own lives, what we think about is what we attract. Look at me, for example. What I’ve been thinking about lately, almost to the exclusion of anything else, is my garden and plants and flowers. And guess what? Today I attracted an abundance of flowers! The power of positive thinking? Perhaps, but the truth is, I went out and bought the plant starters, though that makes them no less mine than those that are already growing in my garden. (Which raises the issue of whether, in fact, the flowers that grow in my yard belong to me. They could just as well belong to themselves, or to the universe, or anyone who stops by to look at my yard.)

The purple and pink petunias will be going in various containers. Despite their less-than-optimal appearance, they should grow up to be beautiful.

The marigolds will be planted with the cherry tomatoes (when I figure out where to plant the tomatoes.)

And the assortment of purple flowers is a hanging basket. Because of the wind that’s coming tonight and the possibility of a storm tomorrow, the basket is temporarily an on-the-ground basket.

It’s too hot to plant today — 95 degrees Fahrenheit! Tomorrow will be a bit cooler, and I won’t spend the morning coolness buying more flowers, so I’m hoping to be able to get these flowers planted so that they can attract more flowers.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Roofs

I’m taking care of a house for a friend who is out of the country, and the winds around here have been sending some of his shingles flying to who knows where. Because of the need to find a roofer, I’ve been checking with people to see if they know of anyone to contact. So far, all I’ve heard is horror stories, not about roofers, but about roofs. Apparently, the cost of building supplies has gone up way more than the inflation rate of other products. In fact, if I were to build my garage now rather than two-and-a-half years ago, the roof for my garage would cost more than I paid for the whole thing. Ouch.

One neighbor, who has a beautiful roof that looks almost new, had to fight with his insurance company because they wanted him to replace it at his expense. Apparently, the insurers looked on Google maps to inspect the roof, and since his roofing material is no longer being made (because it lasts — his roof is actually 30 years old) they said it needs to be replaced. Yikes!

He finally got it straightened out, but he is so not happy about his insurance company using Google to check on the condition of his roof.

I can see insurers using Google maps to look at the roofs they’ve insured to see which ones they might need to physically inspect, but to simply use those images to determine whose roofs need to be replaced, seems lazy at best, fraudulent at worst.

Luckily, it’s not my roof that I’m having to deal with. (And anyway, I think my insurance company already has photos of my roof from when they came to inspect a couple of years ago.)

Luckily, too, it’s not my decision what to do with the roof on the house I’m taking care of. Luckily, I don’t have to do the work to replace it. And luckiest of all, (considering the estimate I got for my friend’s roof), I don’t have to pay for it!

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Today’s Treasure

The first California poppy of the season!

One poppy does not make a poppy field, but it’s a start, right? I never particularly liked these small poppies, having grown up with the large red floppy-petaled poppies, but after my visit several years ago to the Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve, I developed a fondness for the smaller flower. In massive numbers, they look like a sunset fallen to earth, and oh, it sure was something to see.

I won’t be able to duplicate those fields of color, of course, but since the plants seem to do well here (and no wonder, the two climates — the high prairie of Colorado and the high desert of California — are similar) I should be able to create small patches of a blooming sunset.

But that’s for the future. Today is about enjoying the first poppy of the season as well as the first dwarf snapdragon, another of the seeds in the wildflower mix I planted last December. When they say dwarf, they mean it. These flowers are tiny — no bigger than a bee (hence the rather blurry photo). If they weren’t part of the mixture, I wouldn’t have been interested in planting such small flowers. They don’t really add much color to the yard, but since they are an annual, it doesn’t really matter. I’ll enjoy them this year, assuming, of course, I can see them.

The first bellflowers, another flower from the wildflower mix, have also bloomed. Not as big as a poppy. Not as small as a dwarf snapdragon. But so pretty. Maybe I could do a whole patch of these, too.

This ice plant wasn’t part of the wildflower mix; it was something I bought last year just because I liked the name. (Supposedly, it’s called an ice plant because it shimmers like ice.)

As if being able to see all these flowers poke their pretty faces up to the sun isn’t treat enough, today a friend stopped by to take a tour of my yard. I enjoyed showing the things I have done, the things my contractor did, and the things nature did. Somehow, it all works together to make something special. She’s been watching my garden take hold over the years, so it was fun seeing it through her eyes.

The yard was especially pretty today. I’d mowed this morning, so the lawn was nicely manicured, and the larkspur were at their peak. It won’t be long before the larkspur grows too tall and top heavy, so it would behoove me to get garden stakes if I don’t want a leaning garden. (That happened last year. The winds caused the plants to grow slantwise.)

So, those are the treasures of this day. I can hardly wait to see what treasures tomorrow will bring.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Do the Job in Front of You

I’m reading a science fiction book about people being able to step from this Earth into multiple other Earths, as if all possible Earths were stacked together like a deck of cards, and people could go from one to another.

At first, it was kids who found a way to step, and suddenly, kids all over the world were disappearing. The cops didn’t know what was going on. Terrorists? Aliens? One young cop asked the sergeant-in-charge what he was supposed to do, and the sergeant relied, “Do the job in front of you.”

It’s funny how in a story about strangeness, such an innocuous remark should have caught my attention, but it seems to be good advice no matter what. For example, landscaping a yard and creating garden spots in that yard can be rather overwhelming. It’s not something that can be done in a season or even two or three. I’m starting my fourth season, if I counted accurately, and despite how nice some parts of the yard are, other parts are still quite wild and weed-infested.

I’ve never had much patience for such long projects — I’m more of a do-it-and-get-it-done sort of person. Or at least I was. Apparently, I am now someone who can embark on a project that will never be finished. Almost by definition, a garden is always in progress. Volunteer plants show up. Long-standing plants die. Weeds take over certain areas. The only way to deal with such a long-term, unending project, is to do the job in front of you.

This change in me, from wanting things to be done to being able to deal with things that never are done, is a holdover from grief. Grief is one of those things that are never finished, though oddly, grief comes about because a loved one is finished — finished with their life here on Earth. But for those left behind, it’s never finished. At the beginning, especially, it seems impossible. Not only are you going through the most horrendous pain and most confusing time of your life, you are faced with a never-ending list of end-of-life chores. A person who dies doesn’t just disappear. The body has to be dealt with. Their things have to be dealt with. The government has to be informed and dealt with. Banks have to be dealt with. The only way to get through all that is to do the job in front of you.

It’s the same way with writing a book — during the course of the months and sometimes years that it takes to complete a novel, there are thousands of decisions to be made. Some people can sit down and simply write, without a plan, without agonizing over every detail, but for others, writing is the details. And the way to write for those people is to do the job in front of them, whether a paragraph, a page, a chapter.

I suppose life is the same way. I tend to try to look into my future, to see what I can do now to prevent some possible effects of old age, but in the end, no amount of projection will protect me (or anyone) from the vagaries of life. All any of us can do is the job in front of us, and the job — the life job — is to live the best we can today.

Luckily, we are all (or at least I think we all are) dealing with a single Earth, which makes things just a bit easier to do the job in front of us.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Tiptoe Through the Larkspur

Admittedly, “tiptoe through the larkspur” doesn’t have the same resonance as “tiptoe through the tulips,” but it has the benefit of being the truth of the day. I’ve tiptoed through my tulips, too, in an effort to pull up weeds, but the tulips are long gone, and the larkspur are here now.

(I just looked up “Tiptoe through the Tulips” and it turns out that the song was originally sung — and sung as the romantic song it was written to be — in 1929. Amazing the things one can learn with just a few keyboard strokes.)

It was a lot easier preparing a bed for seeding when there were no existing plants I wanted to keep. All I had to do was dig up the entire area, with no care to the weeds I was trampling. As careful as I tried to be today, I ended up stomping on some larkspur and one poor lily when I tried to weed at the back of the garden area. Ironically, the more careful I was, the more off-balance I got, and the more plants I trampled.

I need to keep the newly planted areas as moist as possible for the next couple of weeks, and if the seeds don’t sprout, I’ll buy bedding plants. I will buy bedding plants, anyway. I have planters to fill as well as areas that could use some ready-grown plants.

In keeping with the irony of this morning’s “tiptoeing,” the air was utterly still all the time I was out there weeding and digging and hoeing, but as soon as I started to toss the seeds onto the prepared ground, a gust of wind blew through my yard. Who knows where that handful of seeds will end up! Luckily, I have plenty more seeds. If I don’t have much luck this spring, I’ll plant the rest next winter, along with some columbine. I’ve never had luck with columbines, either, but I just learned they are a seed that seems to do well with winter planting. And not only are they perennials, but they reseed themselves. I can always use another plant that can take care of itself. But that’s a project for another day.

Today was about tiptoeing through the larkspur to fill in empty spots and to add more seeds to my wildflower garden. And that I did.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.

Poor Air Quality. Eek.

Last night I was supposed to meet a neighbor so I could dig up some of her flowers, but the meet didn’t surprise me that it didn’t happen — that’s simply how the entire day had gone.

I’d waited all morning for my mechanic to call to let me know he was on the way to pick up my car to fix the brakes. (Neither of us want me to be driving without brakes.) He finally called in the afternoon to tell me he had an emergency and would have to reschedule.

I’d waited for the appliance repair people to call me back about fixing my refrigerator, and they still haven’t. I talked to a woman who has been waiting for weeks for those same people to fix her stove, so I don’t expect my refrigerator to be fixed any time soon. I do have a couple of other numbers to call, but they are from way out of the area, so a service call would be prohibitively expensive, assuming they’d come at all. Since it looks as if this will be a long term wait, as is anything that needs to be done in this area, I’m working on clearing out my refrigerator. Even though most of the food left should be okay in 50 degrees (such as salad ingredients and duck eggs), I’d still like to make it as easy as possible if a repair person ever shows up. And to make it easy for me this summer if no one shows up. (The refrigerator works fine in the winter for some reason.)

And now I’m waiting for my gazebo to be finished, though who knows on that one. As I said, it’s very difficult getting anything done around here.

So, that’s why I wasn’t surprised my date with the neighbor’s plants didn’t materialize. It was just one of those days. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Yesterday was a terrible day to be outside with three different weather advisories going at the same time. Two were for wind and fire danger. One was for poor air quality. And yikes, was the air bad!

The accompanying photo was taken on what was actually a cloudless afternoon. Those muddy-looking clouds are smoke from the New Mexico fire being driven through here by the wind. Luckily, the air quality today isn’t nearly as bad, it so I was able to spend some time outside. And to give my lungs a rest.

The wind, unfortunately, was still terrible.

Tomorrow should be an even better day for air quality, so I’m planning on planting seeds. I’d already planted some, but with the wind and the low humidity (single digits) we’ve been having lately, it’s been almost impossible to keep the ground moist enough for seeds to sprout. Still, I figure if I do a small enough area, I should be able to keep it watered until the seedlings come up. Assuming, of course, the air remains clear enough for me to be outside, and the winds don’t blow away the seeds and their soil covering.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Waiting

This was one of those hurry-up-and-wait days. My mechanic was supposed to call in the morning and let me know when he could come and get my car, and he didn’t. I’d called and left a message with an appliance service about getting my refrigerator fixed (it doesn’t get below 50 degrees), and they didn’t return the call. I also waited for answers to texts that didn’t come.

So, in the early afternoon, I grabbed my phone and headed out to an Art Guild meeting. Because of my work schedule (and because of quarantines and other things), I haven’t been able to attend a meeting in more than a year, though I did supply desserts for various functions put on the group. It was good visiting with these people again; it was almost as if all these months hadn’t passed since I’d seen most of them.

One of the members is the woman I bought my house from. She mentioned that she’d talked to my across-the-alley neighbor, and the neighbor had told her how beautiful my yard is getting. So the guild decided to meet in my yard next month. I didn’t know what to say, so I didn’t say anything. And the die was cast. I’m not really set up for hosting such a meeting, though luckily, I should have enough chairs through the benevolence of a relative who’d just sent me four kitchen/dining chairs.

One of the things they mentioned wanting to see (and use) was my gazebo, and they didn’t seem to mind when I told them it had no roof.

As soon as I got home, I contacted my contractor to see if he could get the gazebo finished in time. I expected to have to wait to hear from him since this is a day of waiting, but it wasn’t too long before he responded, “Let’s make it happen.”

So now I have to wait for him to make it happen (and hope that he gets it done in time). I also have to wait for a call from the appliance people. (Luckily, I don’t keep much in the refrigerator, and most of what is there won’t go bad even in the relative warmth.) But I don’t have to worry about waiting for a call from my mechanic, at least not until next week. He finally called and said he’d got stuck in an emergency, and so we rescheduled for next week.

It’s kind of ironic — I hadn’t really planned to go the meeting. I figured since I haven’t attended all this time, another month wouldn’t make a difference, but I got tired of people not responding to me, so I decided to stop waiting around. It turned out to be the right thing, being around people who did respond to me, except for the part about meeting here next month. Oh, the pressure!

It will be interesting to see what the yard looks like next month since most of what is blooming now will be gone by then. (Flowers such as the wild yellow roses that showed their faces today bloom quickly and disappear as quickly.) The yard should still look nice, with or without blooms, with or without a gazebo.

And, with or without a working refrigerator, I’ll figure out something for refreshments.

***

What if God decided S/He didn’t like how the world turned out, and turned it over to a development company from the planet Xerxes for re-creation? Would you survive? Could you survive?

A fun book for not-so-fun times.

Click here to buy Bob, The Right Hand of God.