398th July, Year Of Our Lord, 2097, in the Year of the Plague
How are you?
Are you well?
It’s still feeling strangely like a cross between the longest weekend ever… and childhood summer “vacations” (where we still had daily calisthenics, times-tables, chores, and encyclopedia “research” papers to write for our parents), but here we are. Still social. Still distant. Still friends. We hope you’re finding space for silence, time for talking, and the ways and means to do that which you must. We wish you peace.
Another Monday morning… Lather, rinse, repeat. We work, we cook, we read, we sort our far-too-numerous possessions (ETA: some people rearrange furniture. Constantly), and then we work some more. We sleep, we wake, watch some sort of entertainment and wander around our small corner of paradise. We are grateful that we have a roof over our heads, but …well, most of us are very sick indeed of the shape of said roof, and the color of the shingles…
Ah, confinement. It would be easy to say that it’s making people crazy, but it’s not… it’s privileged people encountering the word “no,” some of them for the very first time, apparently. This is less “going crazy” than poorly handled rage. If it were actual “stir-craziness,” wouldn’t all of us confined be infected with it? So far, you’ve limited your toileting to actual toilets, haven’t you? Yep, we figured. In this society, we constantly blame on mental illness people wholly unable to deal with the reality of no: “No, I don’t want to date you. No, I don’t need to hear from you. No, I don’t owe you time, money, or attention. No, you can’t come in here without a mask.” Hearing “no” is hard – but most of us learned to deal with that around the two-year mark without shooting anyone, road-raging with our shopping carts, or widdling on the floor in public. It’s an annoying part of life when kids tantrum, but it’s …unnerving to discover that so many of our fellow humans are only masquerading as adults, and are really ginormous, ill-tempered children. With apologies to actual children.
Owing to the fact that we know we won’t be hosting guests here for the foreseeable future, we’ve dismantled our cozy little guestroom. We even gave away the bed to a family who needed one, and have repurposed the larger room as our new office. Extra benefits include it being both larger and cooler than our previous office, both absolutely necessary as we continue to share office space during what is obviously the longest summer in recorded history. Work has taken off. T has been privileged to be a part of the reading jury for the NSK Neustadt Prize for Children’s Literature – an international children’s literary award which was going to necessitate a trip to Nebraska – and is finishing the novel which is going to come out next fall (the one out THIS November is also done, yay!). D has been juggling clients – one of them having delayed their project by over a year – and trying to wrap up myriad small contracts so that he has time for a larger one, where he’s the primary technical architect for the installation of a manufacturing execution system. That project may take several years, if it gets approval, so fingers remain crossed.
We had so many plums on our plum tree that it broke two branches, necessitating a lot of running around and propping things up – and rapidly trying to deal with a good eighty pounds of plums. Next year we’re going to thin it a bit better – the poor tree just can’t handle that kind of weight. The garden as a whole has been both a joy and an annoyance… well, rather, the gopher has been an annoyance. It has eaten, by today’s count, two whole tomato plants, two cucumber plants, and three flowering bushes. We’ll draw a veil over the holes in the lawn… people rhapsodize about how lovely it is to see more turkey, coyote, and mountain lions about, and how with the decline of human traffic we see the return of nature, but this is one return we could have done without. Nonetheless, we are butterfly, bee, and bird central with our various flowers, and we’re growing tons of herbs and root veg.
A lot of the hotter weather crops are REALLY slow this year, as nighttime temperatures were really variable through May and June. While elsewhere it’s been sweltering, in our little pocket of micro-climate, we are having foggy mornings and sometimes days that don’t heat up until about 4pm. – which means we still have verrrry hard peaches, though they look beautifully ripe. It’s quite a bit more humid than we remember from previous years as well! Unfortunately, none of that makes our melons and squash grow faster. Oh, well.
We’re still singing – D has continued his Zoom voice lessons (probably serenading everyone in the neighborhood, because summertime = open windows), and T occasionally threatens to join in. Our community choir here continues to figure out how to maintain a choral presence in the communities and navigate social distancing at the same time. The last week in May, we concluded recording for a virtual choir concert – and while it’s been a steep learning curve becoming accustomed to the technology involved, we’re hopeful it will release soon. It’s hard to imagine the winter season without music, so we… don’t. That’s seemed to be working for us so far. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, and all of that.
This week someone commented that life is a series of things falling apart, and coming together. That seems… accurate. Regardless of the many things we have believed that we can count on, there has always been an element of risk, and the opportunity for abrupt failures. Many people just now are discovering this – and some feel that they’ll never survive this falling apart. But here’s a secret: we already have. It’s done. The past is gone. The sinkhole has opened and we are at the bottom, and now… now we are going to sit in the ashes of the disaster for a bit (until people properly begin to understand the whole mask thing, perhaps?) and know that we cannot fix it. At all.
And then…? Then, things will come together.
This isn’t meant to be magical thinking, or some kind of faith-in-magic trick. Obviously, there’s no timetable on this, no way to pinpoint the date when we stop thrashing against this frustrating reality, and re-emerge into “regular” life. This is the reality: ambiguity. There’s no cure, no fix, no answer, so the disaster sits here, and we sit, being reminded that wholeness and safety has less to do with us than we previously believed. So, the exercise becomes thinking about how we’ll remember these moments five or ten years from now. “Remember when we set up the tent in the backyard? Remember when you painted the rocks with positive words and left them by people’s mailboxes on your walks?” Remember how we learned to sew a lot better, sewing masks for strangers?
Remember how we all kept going?
‘Tis the Fifty-Seventh of May in the Year of Our Lord 2020, in this, our Plague Year.
How are you?
Are you well?
T was pleased to be reminded of this wonderful quote. By this far into the plague, all of us are showing cracks, occasionally verbally giving way to fear or anger or hiding in the bathtub for extended periods. We’re seeing our older generation slip away, and too much is changing, too fast. If you’ve been veering down into the dumps and back up again, we hope you can get outside – over and over, that’s what’s been a saving grace for us. Even though we’re forecast rain for the next few days, we’re grateful that it’ll be warm-ish and we can still put on a hat and breathe in the air.
How have you been holding up this week? We’ve been introduced to the wonderful world of Odd Products; this week we have toilet cleaner subbed from our grocery order that is… minty. Er… mint feels deeply anti-bathroom for us, but y’know what? Whatever. We make do. We also make do with entertainingly named brands of toilet rolls we’ve never even heard of… Forest Green? Well, it does come from trees which might have been green once…
We remain grateful that things, while occasionally frustrating or challenging, aren’t at all bad at our house. We’re healthy. We are working (occasionally losing what day it is, but remembering when we’re pinged and running late to yet another Zoom meeting). We can pay the rent. Sure, the goods are odd, but the odds are good that we’re going to be okay. Yet, it’s disconcerting when people invite us over or beg to come over, or even just show up to drop things off – and it’s hard to gently say, “Yeah, well… we’d better not come out for a walk,” when we’d love to, but it’s all a process — of acknowledging this unavoidable change, grieving the loss of the “regular” we knew, and trying to get with the program of figuring out how we live now.
We hope you are able to read – some friends aren’t – and some of us can only read nonfiction as we assemble facts into our brains to help us stay centered. We discovered the free Hoopla app with free audio, ebooks, magazines, and apparently films and video games. Along with our Overdrive account – both apps work with our local library – we’ve got plenty of electronic books, anyway.
We hope you’re able to both work, and rest. Fact: the more normalized this current state of living becomes, the more we as human beings tend to expect from ourselves. As a society, we’re so obsessed with (capitalism) output and production that we rarely realize that we can choose rest. Some of us have been working all along, and some of us are being recalled to work in the next few weeks, but as you can, for as long as you can, don’t neglect sitting outside on a blanket, doing nothing. Even if your entire family relies on you, don’t neglect lying down for twenty minutes – you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you help another. Prioritize joy, peace, and rest. Set boundaries. Say no. Remember to watch for your body’s stress signals, drink more water, and rest. If your breath is rank and your children are wilding and the house is a disaster and your hair’s on end, breathe and remind yourself that everyone is alive, the house is standing, thus, you are safe. You are a roaring success.
Cut yourself some slack. Breathe.
You are loved; you are so truly loved.
How are you?
Are you well?
Do you, like we do, sometimes run out of words? Even in silence, we’re here – we’re doing fine. May we hope that you are, too?
Wow, it was forty-one days, actually – and no, this is not how long it rained this Spring, but how long it had been since T had left the house/neighborhood/been in a car. The evidence of this was spate of endless cleaning, wherein the car was wiped down in the garage, and apparently the baseboards needed sanitizing. Once it was determined that the paint was coming off, it seemed expedient for one to leave the house, lest individual hairs also come under this extreme scrutiny. (This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last that some of us have removed paint. It is what it is, the house is CLEAN, all right?) (Send help.)
Still, there comes a time when even those of us being über-careful with germ avoidance must leave the house, and where better than to the neighborhood year-round Farmer’s Market? God bless those people who drove the three or four hours up from Santa Cruz, Fresno, Watsonville or environs to provide strawberries, blueberries, lettuce, and more. Just behind the Post Office – a mere four blocks from us – we found bakers and bee-keepers – and a woman with terrifyingly sized quail and goose eggs – fresh oranges, onions and greens of all kinds. We were out of the house for all of about twenty-five minutes, but it still just enlivened a gorgeous, sunny day. If you can, please support your local farmer’s market. The food they’re producing, especially if we can put some of it up and preserve it, will serve us in good stead come the end of the summer.
Back home, the weekend’s fun task was to muck out the fountain. Hrafen, Morrigan, and Bran have, somewhere, come across a large store of baguettes and stale white bread. We’re thinking that the big park across the street, which hosts a great many large Canada geese in the fall, has a dedicated few folk who think bread is good for gulls, and the crows, being considerate neighbors, bully the gulls, swoop in and steal it… and then, because it is stale, they dunk it in the fountain, and hold it there until it softens enough to eat. Granted, they also dunk in the odd lizard, vole, or other rodent, then proceed to tear out their entrails, but the bread, believe it or not, is the worst culprit for clogging up the fountain, because the crows have the attention span of toddlers and occasionally just abandon the bread and wander away, thus making our arrival at the fountain to turn it on for our enjoyment… disturbing. The peanut shells, odd almonds, and bits of ephemera (buttons?) aren’t so bad, it’s the decomposing, over which we’ll draw a veil… After a lot of work the bottom of the fountain is visible and the water is clear, and the crows are… nonplussed. We’re hoping they give carbs a break for a month or so.
As happens every year when the weather warms, our interest in cooked food wanes, and we simply want salad and fruit. Of course, these days our food choices are… definitely weirder than normal. We couldn’t find lettuce until we went to the farmer’s market – while other areas are unable to find rice or pasta, produce here has been wiped out pretty quickly. D’s had enough trouble getting dairy milk that he’s started experimenting – though T has very decided opinions on hemp milk, and is crossing that off of the family list of Adventurous Plantmilks To Try In Tea. Bleh. Since we’ve made our own soymilk in the past, we decided to just get a soymilk maker and just make it official. (Happily, it can make oatmilk as well, or nutmilks, or whatnot, if the proper ingredients can be found.) This is a less expensive and easier option for us. Now, if only we could somehow make our four strawberry plants and apricot tree go faster! (And before you ask, yes, we’re rooting the bottom of the lettuce that we finally did find, to plant in the garden. And celery too, which is growing nicely.)
We hope you have a tiny garden – ours, and our wee strawberries, continue to be a joy. The row-marker radishes are all standing tall, the melons and cukes are starting to think about reaching their nearest plant neighbor and strangling them (yard bullies: they’re kind of a theme), and the kale is a sturdy half inch high. The rest of our very slow flower order has arrived as well, and we are loving the newly growing dianthus (think carnations), and more California natives that look like scrubby wildflowers one sees at the beach, varieties of poppies, and other tough, ground-covering flowers that are good for low water gardens and don’t mind getting stepped on occasionally. And they will be stepped on – if it’s not the crows, it’s the other wildlife which has decided it needs to stay in our garden. We haven’t yet seen the skunk this year, but we suspect we’ll play host to even more raccoons and other night wanderers as they revel in our quieter world.
Some of you who don’t like to comment publicly on posts email and say that we sound happy and cheerful. We’re glad that comes through – the garden and the crows do make us happy, as well as spending time in the same space – but as with everyone, there are moments of struggle as well. It’s been difficult to figure out how to “do” death, when the normal gears cannot mesh and drag us through the familiar, with family, church, casseroles and caskets. It’s hard to figure out how much solitude is too much (watch for paint removal; that’s a clue), and how to reverse the inevitable slide into “meh” moods. Many of us are far too busy, and are finding that working from home means overwork, and not giving ourselves or our children enough breaks and away-from-screens time. This is undeniably tough – so, give yourself the gift of a break, a walk, a water fight, a puddle stomp. Give yourself the gift of downloading a birding app, and trying to identify the songs, and do something to lift up someone else. Cards and letters and painting rocks or drawing the day of the week on the driveway with chalk – whatever will bring a smile to a wider, equally glum and conflicted world. The heart you cheer may just be your own.
Be well. Remember what is yours and cannot be taken. Remember to open your hands and share (from an acceptable distance) what you can.
Remember you are loved.
How are you? We hope you are well.
It is interesting to observe how we function in a slower world. We watch the rain, and genially complain that we would put a few more seeds in the ground, but as it stands, that time is not now, so we make do, hoarding egg cartons and watching the slender sprouts within lean toward the muted light. We make do.
Meanwhile, we’ve both somehow gotten involved in the question of what is going to happen with our choir and the last two concerts of the season. We find this choir’s solution utterly lovely – and here’s to those of us wanting to be closer than we are to friends and family far away.
“This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs.”
– C. S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948)
How are you?
What are you doing these days?
In between poring over the paper, we are planting seeds and pulling weeds, painting, singing and (badly) sewing. Cooking. Cycling. Making wind chime #5. There has to be something to do other than camping out on the internet, worrying… Not that it’s easy, of course; these are, as the poet said, “the times that try [our] souls.” But, we’re grateful for the numerous online things to do, from Quarantine Crafts to virtual adventures to virtual evensongs to virtual sing-alongs. We’re grateful that we like each other, and that (when it quits raining) we can go out and enjoy the first moments of Springtime.
“Courage did not come from the need to survive, or from a brute indifference inherited from someone else, but from a driving need for love which no obstacle in this world or the next world will break.”
~ Gabriel Garcia Márquez, from Love in the Time of Cholera
…and other truths of how we drive.
If you haven’t discovered the work of Ottawa cartoonist John Atkinson, you’re in for a treat. Happy weekend!
O World I Cannot Hold Thee Close Enough
~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
O world, I cannot hold thee close enough!
Thy winds, thy wide grey skies!
Thy mists, that roll and rise!
Thy woods, this autumn day, that ache and sag
And all but cry with color! That gaunt crag
To crush! To lift the lean of that black bluff!
World, World, I cannot get thee close enough!
Long have I known a glory in it all,
But never knew I this;
Here such a passion is
As stretcheth me apart, – Lord, I do fear
Thou’st made the world too beautiful this year;
My soul is all but out of me, – let fall
No burning leaf; prithee, let no bird call.
The above image could be entitled, “Waiting”. D is out in the yard multiple times a day checking the color of the persimmons, probably speaking gently to the tree, caressing the leaves. T, whose affection for persimmons is tempered solely by their somewhat slimy texture (they’re excellent dried, and somewhat of a challenge fresh to those who hated bananas as children) is waiting instead for the pomegranates, which she plans to share with as few people as possible. D has reminded her that she was deeply annoyed with her own father who also hoard
eds his poms (the man has TWO TREES, could he not just share??? SHEESH!!!), and that she will probably explode from eating them alone, but so far this has not dissuaded her. Much. She is, however, researching pom jelly recipes, and has been promised one for pom molasses (but what does one do with it? Waffles?)… Autumn is definitely hopping, so stay tuned…
Meanwhile, the apples are down from the tree, there have been many, dried, sauced, and frozen, and the jujubes have been picked, dried, and candied, which has in itself been an education.
If you didn’t know, the jujbe, also known as the Chinese red date, was used in jujube candies back in Ye Olden Days. Much like horehounds, the old-fashioned hard candy that started life as a throat lozenge (or throat sweet, as the British call them), they contained the medicinal juice of the jujube, which apparently is still used in Eastern medicine for a congested chest. Though jujubes the candy are now made only of sugar and filling-extracting gelatin, back in the day, they were medicinal, so jujubes are apparently good for you. When fully brown and ripe, they are crisp and sweet-tart like tiny apples. When fully dried, they are, indeed, datelike. (Datesque?) We dried ours a bit more in a dehydrator and then boiled them in simple syrup for ten minutes to preserve them the Chinese way. Our landlord, Sheng, tells us they’re a hard-to-find delicacy. Jujubes, we discovered, have a secondary function… even when fresh, for some people, they’re a lot like prunes.
As to how we discovered this, there we will draw a veil… *cough*
D’s birthday this year necessitated a trip to the North Bay and a visit to the far North Bay to find a spa we’d long heard of but had never visited. We had cedar baths at Osmosis Spa. Cedar baths are a therapeutic treatment consisting of twenty minutes of being buried from the chin down in gently steaming, heatedly fermenting cedar sawdust and rice hulls. It is… moist, steamy, weighty, and fragrant, and described to us like a “slightly damp weighted blanket. As the body absorbs the natural heat, it can be pretty darned claustrophobic for SOME, while others can get their Zen on pretty easily. We will leave you to image who in this family was flailing and trying to dig out their limbs and escape, and who was peacefully meditating and not flinching every time the nice lady laid icy cold cloths on their head. Ahem. We enjoyed walking the acreage surrounding the spa – it’s a beautiful, unexpected Japanese garden in the midst of redwoods and windy roads. We got a lovely massage afterwards – well, somewhat lovely, given that even after a shower we were discovering ground cedar in unexpected places – but the spa was one of those Experiences that you’re glad you’ve had, if only so that you can agree never to have them again… and that, in part, is one of the best things about celebrating another year. So, um, here’s to experiences…?! And another successful trip around the sun.
Due to the wonderfully ripening fruit in the yard – poms next, and then one of the orange trees is ripening nicely – we have become somewhat of a visitor center for the avian population and it’s …literally wild. The birds are taking over. We have four doves who are regulars, a raft of what we think are Hutton’s Vireos – they’re slightly greenish – at least one regular phoebe, if not two, a robin with his harem, Hrafen, Bran, and Morrigan, of course (as well as a scruffy interloper who turns up occasionally just to start fights), and then this loud scrub jay who recently decided he’s boss of the fountain… not to mention the hummingbirds who are convinced they own both yards and the house. There’s all kinds of shrieking and upset if you go into the backyard – which we must daily. This house is old, with the old-school carriage house type of thing – a disconnected garage which provides extra storage, laundry, deep freeze, and, of course, the car. Every time we go anywhere, it’s full-on avian hysteria and flustered feathers. T has determined that all of this is D’s fault, as he feeds the darned things and encouraged them to think that he had nothing better to do than to sit very still and try to photograph them. We’re waiting for them to become accustomed to us living here, too. So far, we think winter will arrive first…
The choir year is now in full swing, and we’re near to the halfway point of rehearsing for our first formal concert. We had the entertaining – and very early morning joy of singing outdoors for a HERS walk to kick off National Breast Cancer Month. (There is nothing like singing and hitting high notes at EIGHT A.M. – while next to a lake and hoping not to inhale the wildlife.) Our choir got an arts grant from the state of California for sponsoring a free choir for people who don’t think they can sing, and we were tickled to be with them for their debut – where they did, in fact, sing. The cancer walk folk had no idea they thought they were frauds. Currently in our chamber group, we’re wrestling with Spanish – well, one of us is – and syncopation for our holiday concert. We’re doing a 1964 cantata called Navidad Nuestra, and it’s a hoot – lots of guitars and flutes and drums and dance-y tunes. And alpaca, incidentally. Not often you run across those in music, but the piece is from Argentina, and our entire concert is in Spanish. It’s given T a good kick in the bum and really heightened her Spanish language lessons – it’s not doing anything for her Dutch, but she’s hanging in with both.
D started voice lessons last March in a desultory fashion, but has turned from a good singer into a great one, and has added more than an octave to his tenor range, much to his voice coach’s shock (and the continued bemusement of the choir director, who doesn’t worry so much about having only one first tenor now). D himself seems somewhat abashed, but T is amused, because she had been telling him to take voice for years, and her silent, “I told you so,” is frankly not all that silent. In an attempt to distract himself from illness last winter, D picked up the lessons just for fun, but now he calls them a “little puddle of happiness” he carries with him, and is often humming or singing under his breath, like the rest of us choir nerds.
We’re grateful, as ever, for the things which make us happy — and while there’s a lot of ups and down, as there always are with mental challenges, and a lot of times we wish it was all done and wrapped up, life’s not like that, and… we’re okay. T is a bit cranky because she’s been off of her Prednisone for a whole four months, due to surgery… but symptoms are increasing and so playtime is over, and soon the return of The Devil’s Drug will make her even more of a mental case than usual. It’s a bit concerning when one spouse is on mood altering drugs and the other is bipolar, but at least we’ll be fun at parties! Hah, no, in all seriousness (despite fairly sporadic church attendance lately), we’re keeping the faith: nothing is insurmountable and all things are possible. As the days clip shorter and the blue skies grow more brilliant in the chilly breezes, we hope you and yours are well, and that you’re baking and cooking up a storm. Take the time to tell the people around you how much they mean to you — every day, with every crack in our social contract, we are reminded that things in this world change so fast, but you can live without regrets if those who matter know you love them.
D & t
The last week we’ve been hearing… drums, and occasionally the theme from Spider Man played in the hot afternoons. Rather than aural hallucinations, it turns out that we are now experiencing … the golden splendor of having a high school around the corner, an elementary school around the block, and a junior high school two streets away. It is MADNESS in the morning; we opened the garage to find four cars in some bizarre U-turn situation in front of our driveway, and a line of cars piled up at the stop sign. We can only look forward to more of these delightful shenanigans. We’re also going to have to walk a lot earlier in the morning, or at least a lot later, once first period has started, otherwise the sidewalks are rather …full.
It’s so strange to live deep in suburbia with so. many. kids around. We expect to be asked to buy …just about everything, and to support various booster clubs. Or, maybe that was from some 1950’s TV show, and no one does that anymore. (You can tell some of us didn’t go to public school.)
Late summer means that we’re finally beginning to see the big harvests happen for our lovely tomatoes and peaches. We have only three tomato plants and they are all for some varietal or other of plum tomato, so we have VERY many, and they are low acid and tasty. The number of peaches we’ve harvested, even with fighting the squirrel for them, is very exciting! The plan is to make peach preserves, and maybe a fresh peach chutney, though we don’t know what we’d do with it after we made it. Grilled peaches may also be on the menu. Our peaches don’t… look ripe, but they are small and firm and surprisingly delicious. We think they might dry well for chewy goodness later in the year, but we’ll have to see how many survive our eating them out of hand — and the privations of our family, ahem.
Though the pomegranates are getting bigger every day (and the tree encroaches further and further into the space that should be the lemon tree’s next to it, poor thing) we expect the jujubes to come ripe next. We actually tasted one of the fruit which had dried on the tree, and were surprised – SoCal aficionados who have frequented I-10 know about Hadley’s Fruit Orchard in Cabazon, where there’s a Costco sized warehouse full of dried fruit products, and you can get date shakes… well, sun-dried jujubes apparently taste like date shakes, according to D. T, who hadn’t been a fan when introduced to them, just thinks it tastes like …a date, and since one of its nicknames is the Chinese Red Date, that makes sense.
This has been the Summer of The Project. T painted multiple Adoption Day t-shirts for her sibs and niece as they celebrated their adoptions, and D surprised T with a hand-made brass wind chime – she was mainly surprised because who knew you could just make those with enough time and a saw? It sounds lovely – do click on the image to hear it.
D’s latest project is leather working. D is making T a barrel purse, which necessitated a trip to Tandy Leather… a store she hadn’t been into since she worked at summer camp. We will not be making any badly stitched moccasins or dreadful tooled leather wallets, however. T is intrigued by this new and creative streak, and wonders what else she can get out of D while he’s in a maker mood. Perhaps shoes? A footstool?
Other random meandering: One of the dubious gifts of social media is the realization that so many of the people with whom you are acquainted or know/like/follow also know/like/follow other people with whom you are acquainted. In the last (endless) election cycle, there was much talk of “bubbles” and intellectual filter theory, and while not all of us put much stock into it, it is apparent sometimes that types of people tend to stick with types. Or, as they said in Ye Olden Days, birds of a feather flock together, water finds its own level, like attracts like – please, Choose Your Own Ancient Saying. What’s weird is the near hostility which sometimes accompanies this …grouping. Having grown up in a conservative faith, this level of angst is unfortunately familiar… some of us got “It’s Us Against Them” preached to us from the pulpit weekly. Others of us learned to distrust the more obvious groupings at our mother’s knee, and it’s been easy for many people to get their backs up if others vary in looks, faith, social status or belief … just check your Twitter or Facebook feeds.
The human brain likes patterns, and it’s always striving to make sense of things. Like a sheepdog, endlessly herding things, our brain says “Look! One of these things is not like the others!” when we find differences. That “Look!” is at first just knowledge, acknowledgement, but for so many people it goes straight into fear… and since many of us would rather eat nails than admit to fear, we substitute anger. We become hostile.
(Some of you are bristling, saying, “Well I don’t.” Okay. The “we” is general, of course, but this might go a ways toward explaining some of what drives public attitudes on social media these days…)
And what we decide to do, think, or say next we can’t blame on the way our brains work. We are not all alike. We would be bored if we were. So, why can’t humanity seem to get over the idea that societal differences and divergent opinions exist?
The local paper lists each week what one is meant to be doing in the garden, and now is the time to be raking up fallen fruit, pruning apricots (apparently before it gets wet and they get some sort of fungus, though this presents the question and why not the plums, too?) and… raiding the plant clearance bins at Lowes. August, September, and October are fine times to check and see what’s there – perennials with the flowers fallen, annuals that look a bit wilted, succulents that aren’t flowering anymore. T’s parents’ front yard is the recipient of the generous variety of lovely and colorful plants to be found in the half-dead-from-summer clearance bins. One must merely be sharp-eyed and patient, and one can coax all sorts of goodies back to life. T, who worked in downtown Walnut Creek, ended up with a bunch of landscape plants one day because she asked the workers why they were tearing them out. No reason, except that someone decided it was time for new ones… patience isn’t valued in commercial landscaping, but if you’re quick, you can take advantage of that. Happy hunting!
It was the best of fruit. It was the worst of fruit. It was… another lovely summer.
It’s August already… the calm before the storm. We’ve been thinning apples from the two trees like mad, but we already know it’s going to be an interesting autumn. After being inundated by the neighbor’s cherries and our own plums in June, we were grateful for the five apricots we got off of our tree in July and a teensy, single nectarine. We’re bracing ourselves for the goji berries, jujubes, peaches, and apples that are coming next, followed by the poms and persimmons. We put up some plum jelly which is delicious – and experimentally flavored with allspice. This is not to everyone’s tastes, which means there’s more for those of us who like it! We were happy to be able to share it with friends visiting from Scotland and the Netherlands.
The goji berries were a surprise – we mistook the small bush in the corner of the yard for some kind of peppers! We’re still not quite sure what to do with them, but T’s sister loaned her a dehydrator, and we know that many people make and drink tea from dried goji berries, and also eat them – also dried – for the incredible boost of Vitamin C. They have such a mild flavor that the drying seems important. We figure if we treat them like raisins, that’ll be about right. The jujubes… are going to be a bigger challenge, but more and more people are growing these pretty little trees, and we’ll …taste them and figure out how best to treat the fruit. They’re called red dates, and so drying them might also be a possibility. Some varietals are crisp like apples – but we won’t know what we’ve got until a bit later.
The tomatoes are in full swing, and we’re eating them every day. We’re also already making plans for next year… for some San Marinos, because why not make sauce while it’s hot? Those who remember our green tomato mincemeat pie filling will have to wait a year – only three plants really isn’t enough to have that much of a green tomato surplus. Maybe…
When we haven’t been overwhelmed by the garden, we’ve been frantically trying to pull the house together ahead of T’s minor surgery. We are ecstatic to have donated a whole ton of stuff, which means the car can now fit into the garage. We’re – once again – bound and determined to rid ourselves of so much stuff, and keep the sleek and streamlined way of living. Of course, we say this every time we move…
Meanwhile, T is fine – and sh’s meant to be sitting back and relaxing for six to twelve weeks, but there was a much spoken about Swiffering Incident the third day after surgery which probably bodes ill for her resting properly for the entirety of her convalescence. It also bodes ill for the state of the house as well, but D is stepping up admirably, and keeping the cookies coming. This is really all anyone can ask for in recovery, is it not?