The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Squinty eyed and cranky

In case you're interested, here is the oath of office that members of both houses of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives, take when they become a member of Congress: 

"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter: So help me God."

So where in that oath does it say that they can sign any other 'promise' or 'oath' such as 'no tax increases' and that any such promise or oath can supersede their oath to our country?  When did lobbyists dare to demand and get oaths from members of Congress, and talk radio hosts and TV networks start having more influence on our legislators than we, the American people?  More importantly, when will it stop?

Most of us figure that a last-minute, breathless announcement will be made that a financial crisis has been averted due to 'compromises' by both political parties.  Some legislators will even perceive and have the nerve to proclaim the results as some sort of victory.  Isn't that amazing?  That our national advocates, senators and representatives, have had months and years of opportunities, have had reasonable plans suggested such as the President's balanced approach, which some polls show sixty percent or more of Americans support, and yet by the sweat of their brows these national so-called advocates have managed to wring relative defeat from victory.   We could have had double or more reduction in our deficit by means of  reasonable amount of cuts such as means test for Social Security, and a rolling back of the Bush tax cuts, not even effective until 2013,  for the folks who hold most of the wealth of our country, but that's not what we'll get.  Instead we 'll get a small reduction of debt and a meaningless proposal for an amendment to the Constitution.  We get theater.  We get drama.  We get smoke and mirrors that camouflage that there's no contribution from the oil companies and the large (too large to fail) banking institutions and the millionaires and billionaires they have created.  We get no substance on debt reduction.  

So what I get is squinty-eyed and cranky.  And I reckon I'll still be that way in November of 2012.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Bulbs and bulbs and bulbs

If one looks closely in this photo, one can see, in the foreground, a pink lycoris squamigera, also known as a Naked Lady, or an August lily.  Obviously it isn't August yet, but almost, and bulbs are somewhat irreverent when it comes to deciding when to bloom.  If one looks even more closely, in the lower right one will see a small sprawling plant which might be some sort of thyme, but actually is what I call weedus non-rarus.

The reason I am so jubilant about this particular bloom, which I found only today, is that I've waited several years for it.  It was originally planted in another garden but never got ready to bloom there, then it was potted up to move, then planted in its current location three years ago.  It sent up foliage for the last two years, but today -  today here it is in all its loveliness.  And oh, it was so worth the wait.

The passionate enthusiasms I enjoy include my family and friends, reading good books, particularly well-written mysteries by English writers or English-sounding writers, watching crackling good movies, and gardening.  Especially gardening with bulbs.  Here's a great commercial for bulbs:  usually when one plants a bulb, it grows and hopefully blooms where it is planted.  On the other hand if one plants seeds and there comes a rain such as can only be found in these parts right now in myth and memory, those same seeds will likely end up washed to a new location and one can only hope the near or far neighbor enjoys them.  So give me a bulb any time.  The problem is, which kind of bulb.  And the answer to that, for me, is all of them.  Any of them.  I don't grow all of them, of course, but not for want of trying.  We are regularly grateful we don't have more space to plant, because the amount of work would be terrifying.  It comes close sometimes, even as things are.

Sooner or later we'll get every available space filled with bulbs or with tough plants to keep the bulbs company, and some sort of bulb will be blooming almost throughout the year, from grape hyacinths and ipheion in the very early spring, to daffodils and hyacinths and tulips and hardy gladiolas, to amaryllis and lilies, to spider lilies and their cousins, to rhodophiala and sternbergia in the fall.  Then all will be quiet for just a few weeks while the growing world rests and the hidden bulbs are preparing themselves for another season, and the gardener will be dreaming of another spring, the one that will be the best ever.

Friday, July 29, 2011


“I can hold a grudge like a Sicilian elephant.”   (from the Get Fuzzy comic strip, July 24, 2011)  Now isn’t that just the absolute ultimate of descriptions about a grudge?  Of course, Bucky Cat, the famous feline from Get Fuzzy, is the statement maker.  And the phrase started me to thinking about grudges. 

Now ordinarily I stay away from grudges.  They’re just too much trouble to carry around and require too much time and attention to maintain, but in this summer of my discontent, it just may be that I’m ready to make some exceptions.

For instance, this summer horribilis, to paraphrase Queen Elizabeth II, is just about more than I can accept with equanimity.  It isn’t enough that we’ve had to deal with record-setting heat and record-setting drought at the same time.  There’s the pain and worry of watching all those folks along the Mississippi watch their homes be destroyed, and not to mention the Souris River in North Dakota and folks along the Missouri as well.  And the perception that most of the world is going to hell in a handbasket, what with all the war and famine and pestilence.  And what was that fourth horse?

No matter what side of the political spectrum one is on, most normal people care most about a certain few things:  food and shelter for their family; a chance to earn an income; education for their children; a belief that there will be help in time of trouble.  And then there’s our illustrious Congress, who may learn that the American people sometimes have a lot in common with Sicilian elephants.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wherein Lies Thy Strength?


Soft-nosed ivy can pry shingles apart;
A tree root plugs a pipeline.
Willow shoots, well watered, can split a stone in two.
Then . . . there are words.

Lois Wilson in the Christian Science Monitor

For many years, since I was quite young, I have been a collector of quotations.  Magazines used to be a wonderful source:  The Ladies' Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, etc., and it was fun, to me, to prowl through library collections of old issues and find words of wisdom.  The particular quotation above I have cherished for years and even have it in a small frame on one of our book cases, as a constant reminder to me to at least try to be careful of what I say.  It so very true how divisive words can be.  

And I have learned over the years that it is not only words but the way we say them, our tones of voice, that can have an effect on others.   Being human, if I am enduring significant discomfort or exhaustion or stress or whatever, I find myself using sharp tones to those I love, and the key word there is 'sharp', for 'sharp' can cut.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


It’s no secret that our family is a big fan of good movies.  So it might come as no surprise that we have certainly seen the most recent, and last, Harry Potter film.  First of all, most but not all of our family are fans of the books.  We find them wonderfully written.  Other members of our family are more interested in just the films.  For myself, personally, there was an opportunity several years ago to read all the books that had been published to that date, and read them straight through.  Then we watched the films.  Straight through.   Experiencing the stories like that, I was able to realize what I perceive to be the underlying purpose and point of the stories.  Not to glorify evil, as some opponents have claimed.  Not to promote some sinister hidden agenda.   But to simply use incredibly imaginative fantasy to show the value of love and friendship.  To show that families sometime protect, but sometimes abuse (Dursleys).  To show that friendships can evolve into such strong ties of love and trust and support that a version of family is created.  So now I am delighted to say that we have seen this last film twice.   Twice for a first-run film is very, very unusual for us, but unfortunately the first time we saw it, a power outage stopped the film just before the end, and the theater offered return tickets, so we trekked back a second time, wanting to see those last scenes.  The second time, and knowing how events would unfold, we were able to absorb more details and watch for more nuances.  And there were two particular parts that impressed me greatly.  One was the realization that the author, Ms. Rowling, has had all along a tremendous tendresse for all creatures, and the directors must, as well, because the scene of the pitiful dragon finding its way to the light from the deepest reaches of Gringotts’, carrying our three heroes with it, was for me so very moving, expressing that creature’s desperate yearning for freedom in the world and the freedom from terrible abuse.  And then, at the very end (and I’m giving nothing away to sincere H.P. fans), when our three grownup heroes are watching the Hogwart’s Express pull away with their children, the looks on their faces expressed to me a wistfulness that they wished they were going, too.  We all know there are as many points of view as there are members of any audience, so others will have to find their own, but these are mine. 

Then there’s the matter of ‘Larry Crowne’.  First of all, my personal conviction is that Tom Hanks has probably earned more Oscars than any other actor with whom I am familiar, certainly several more than the two he has been awarded, so if he makes a movie, we see it.  And I think we’ve seen them all, with the exception of ‘Bachelor Party,’ which was an early-days one and not of interest to us.  Now we’ve read reviews about Larry Crowne, and all we can say is that the reviewer(s) didn’t see the same film we did.  We found it funny at times, poignant at times, and utterly believable.  And sadly topical at times, because so many are having to deal with what these characters were having to deal with:   losing a job, finding out a marriage was toxic, trying to deal with stereotypes.  No car chases, no violence, just a good story with interesting characters, a great way to spend a hot summer afternoon.  And find some encouragement for the human race along the way.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Around the corner

We all know what it feels like to be overwhelmed and immobilized by ‘stuff’ coming at us.  Whether it is when life stacks too many down events on us, such as a parade of 100 hundred degree days mixed with severe drought or an invasion of ants or a breakage of a favorite object or misplacing something treasured or just the sheer fatigue of trying to manage more with less, we can get a case of the feel-bads or the whim-whams or the heebie-jeebies, and think that the rest of life is going to continue being just like that, only more of the same.

What we forget, at those times, is the scent of daffodils in the spring or chrysanthemums in the fall, or how good cold watermelon can taste in the summer, or how much fun it is to hear children’s laughter.  Or the pleasure of sinking into a really good book, so good we don’t want to stop reading it and go to bed, even though we’re fighting sleepiness.  Or how much fun a family meal can be when everyone is sitting around the table, hunger sated, still engrossed in conversation.  Or going to a movie and sensing that everyone in the theater is totally engrossed and the enjoyment is truly communal.  Or strolling through the museum and finding one’s self surprised and connected to an amazing work of art.  Or hearing a new song with delight, or the riff of an old favorite that one has forgotten.  So many extraordinary experiences happen to us and yet we don’t always stop to relish the fact when it’s just one wonderful experience after another, but let us have a chain of small disasters and we’re feeling downtrodden.  Now we’re not talking here about the truly horrific events such as serious illnesses and natural disasters.  We’re just talking about the miseries of ordinary, everyday c**p.

Well, what works for me, at least most of the time, is to remind myself, as frustrated and exhausted as I can be with a too-long series of problems, that around the corner and down the street, something wonderful may be on its way.  No guarantees, of course,  nothing totally extraordinary like winning the lottery, or even losing five pounds, although one can always, always hope.  But maybe a little rain?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I’m just so confused

This current state of American opinions just confuses me daily.  For instance, I keep hearing that it’s the small businesses that fuel our economy, but it seems to be the very rich and the biggest businesses who get the best tax breaks.   That simply sounds like ‘robbing from the poor and the middle classes to give to the rich.’

And while we’re on that subject, apparently it’s also more important that the very wealthy, the oil companies and the great big banks keep their tax benefits than it is for the elderly and the disabled to get their health care via Medicare.  Curious.  Must be that idea that those oil companies with very, very huge windfall profits and those great big financial institutions, who invented something called ‘derivatives’, will employ lots of gardeners and housekeepers at minimum wage and improve the unemployment numbers.

It also confuses me that progress seems to be a good thing, but the term ‘progressive’ seems to be a dirty word.  Wouldn’t you think that someone who’s progressive would be someone who would help create progress?

More than anything else, I’m fascinated about the amount of theatrics that keeps going on in our nation’s capitol.  People keep getting in front of the cameras and telling us how terrible the President is and how in two years he has failed to fix all the problems created in the previous eight years.  Of course, they don’t seem to get the chance to say what they would do with all the problems; guess they’re just too busy fussing at the President.   What confuses me about all that is that I remember when theatrics were confined to movies and theaters, and occasionally to the local elementary school.

Well, one thing I am pretty clear about:  all those folks who seem to be so extremely opposed to the President and to government programs, and who support protecting the rich from paying taxes, they’re going to be pretty surprised when they start figuring out how to manage without necessary government.  Guess they’ll just have to find some billionaire to work for.  Sure seems to be a lot of them around.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ode to crape myrtles

Or, as we say in the South, ‘Oh, those crape myrtles.’  I can’t speak for all southern gardeners, of course, but for myself and others I know, the temptation is terrible to try to grow plants that are not suited to the South, as well as many which are.  In the second category there are lots and lots of truly lovely plants that will return year after year, or that will reseed, and that will prosper in the heat and humidity and frequent droughts enjoyed by the southern states.  In the first category are all the tempters that always seem to be right out in front at the nurseries and the home improvement stores and even at the grocery stores.

But this time of year, with July and the triple treats of heat, humidity and drought very much with us, when one drives anywhere, what one sees is crape myrtles in bloom.  There are great tall trees covered with blooms, there are small shrublets and clumps, and there are so many colors, white of course and every shade of red and pink and lavender.  There’s one house we pass where they have a veritable garden of crape myrtles, all sizes and colors, and so beautifully placed that we try to pass that way often in the summer just for pleasure.

The first crape myrtle we planted in our current home is white; I am personally mad for white crape myrtles.  It was labeled ‘Natchez’ and may actually be that variety; one can never trust labels.  Whatever it is, it has the most amazing scent I have ever found on a crape myrtle, and we just love it.  It is planted where we can enjoy it in the garden room or on the patio, but stand near it when there’s a light breeze and the sun is on it, and it’s especially glorious.  We also have a red and a very dark red, and we are scrambling to find a place to plant one of those with the color not of pale pink or of lavender, but of this particularly haunting paleness that catches our eyes everywhere we go.

One thing we never do, and it hurts our tummies when we see it, is cut our crape myrtles back to nubs, what one of our favorite garden writers calls ‘crape murder’.  We prune broken branches, of course, and in the late winter when problem branches can easily be seen, we take away in-growing branches that are rubbing against others, but we don’t whack the trees back and we don’t tip-prune the seed pods.

Our neighbors to the south have a row of huge white crape myrtle trees that must have been there for many years.  Sometimes when they are blooming and we are working at the potting bench just this side of the fence and under those trees, I am standing in a flurry of falling petals like summer snow.  We come in the house sometimes with petals in our hair, but we never mind because we enjoy the blooming trees so much and because it’s a rather lovely feeling having petals in one’s hair.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Saving everything

At one time or another, most of us have heard some of the old proverbs about frugality:
‘Waste not, want not.’  ‘Fix it up, wear it out, make it do, do without.’  And one my great grandmother taught my mother:  ‘A woman can throw more food out the back door with a teaspoon than a man can bring in the front door with a shovel.’

Now it seems that being frugal has become ‘fashionable’, although for many of us it has been in style for a long time.  But honestly, there’s frugality and there’s pointless frugality.  For instance, sure, in our home we clip coupons and buy on sale, recycle passionately, and so on.  And we don’t have trouble wearing old clothes.   We wear simple styles, and when our clothes get worn, they become housework and gardening outfits, and are replaced by more of the same.  But we do try to avoid cheaply-made stuff; it’s just going to wear out faster, while decent tees and so on, bought on sale, can last a long time.  I have tees at least as old as my sixteen-year-old granddaughter, and almost as old as my nineteen-year-old grandson.  The great thing about old clothes is that they’re very comfortable, right in there with the comfort of old friends.  And realizing that we were using a shocking amount of paper towels, we’ve started limiting their use and using inexpensive washcloths from the big box store for wiping up in the kitchen, and old dishtowels to drain washed fruits and veggies.

Then there’s recycling, which we’ve carried to the level that if we drink sodas or water in cans or plastic bottles while on the road, we put them in a bag we carry for the purpose and bring them home to our recycle bins.  Doing that is far better than experiencing the guilt of just pitching something in the trash we know can be recycled.  We’ve heard the argument that recycling materials uses energy and is not all that beneficial, and we just don’t agree, for the simple reason that disposing of trash also takes energy and land, but with recycling, so many materials can be turned into usable objects.  We have doormats, made of old tires, that look good, and all kinds of materials are now used in road paving and reusable shopping bags (which we use and like) and many other ways.  We use newspapers sometimes to mulch flower beds and then cover them with mulch; everything breaks down and goes back to nature, all the while smothering weeds and keeping plant roots protected.  And we’re enthusiastic composters; all kitchen refuse except meats goes into a bin; coffee grounds go on the flower and vegetable beds.

All these habits have been going on for years, but now, with water at a premium in our part of our country as well as many other areas of the world, and watering outside with sprinklers limited, it finally occurred to me one day that a lot of water was simply going down our drain.  Now we also empty any leftover tea directly into the flower beds and we heat water in the kettle rather than running the faucet til the water turns hot.  Then I had the bright idea of emptying the water from the colanders, after washing the lettuce or fruit, into a bucket and pouring it on a needy flower bed.  It was kind of shocking to discover how much water is used to wash salad greens twice, or strawberries or any other fruits and vegetables.  We’re talking a gallon here, a gallon there.  The point is that helping to save the planet might be as simple as the way we drain lettuce.