The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peggy’s Purple Periwinkles

It’s perhaps strange that even though I tend to be drawn to fairly unique plants, one of my favorite plants is an ordinary periwinkle variety given to me by a neighbor several years ago.  I call it ‘Peggy’s Purple Periwinkle’ because while she didn’t develop it, she has certainly done her share to populate the world with it.  And her name is Peggy.  And I like alliteration.  These particular  periwinkles would reseed vigorously and escape from the areas she wanted them to inhabit, so she would simply reach down and pull out a handful while we were visiting and hand them to me.  I would think to myself that that’s what I do with weeds, but I would take them home and pot them up, and you know, they would just thrive.  I started thinking, “Hmmm, this is a plant I need in my life.”  It is a lovely shade of purple, which I love.  It often compensated for the flower failures I had, mostly due to either choosing a variety unsuited to my climate area, or unsuited to the uneven, shallow-soiled, shady area I had for planting.

Anyway, when we moved away from there, I made certain I had potted up some plants of that periwinkle to take with us, and then the following spring seedlings also emerged from pots I had brought with me.  We spent that spring and summer installing flower beds in the new place, so the periwinkles had to stay in pots that year, but just in case no seedlings reappeared the next spring, I took cuttings because while periwinkle is an annual in our area and in most of the country, it’s actually a tender perennial, and so I thought, “why not try?”  Those cuttings did well, for the most part, and I have planted new plants in several areas, hoping for a plant generosity such as Peggy experienced.  Well, what with weather conditions and other factors, I’ve only been moderately successful so far.  I only ended up with two seedling plants this summer, but the plant started from a cutting last fall bloomed all winter in a cool garden room, unheated except by a simple electric heater to prevent a freeze, and now that plant is blooming and growing in 100+ heat and so I hope for many progeny from it next spring.  I always hope.

But I won’t take any chances.  I’ll be taking several cuttings and potting them up and visiting them all winter with encouragement.  If I knew what specific variety this plant was, of course I’d be glad to buy some new plants each spring, or several packets of seeds, but while there are wonderful offerings of periwinkles every spring in the nurseries, I’ve never seen anything to compare.  Besides, I kind of enjoy the experience.  I’ve learned a lot about appreciating a plant which is very ordinary (except of course for its stamina), and also about trying experiments, such as rooting a cutting of a plant to see if I can.   And doesn’t that pretty well sum up gardening?  Appreciating all plants for their qualities, and asking one’s self ‘what if I tried …’?

Where are we going with all this?

The thought of the word ‘rant’ is what goes through my mind at various times.  For instance, when I’m waiting in the dentist’s reception room, and someone walks in with their phone to their ear and converses as if they’re in their home or car or office, as if anyone else in the room cares a fiddle for what they have to say.  And I want to tell them that, but of course I don’t.

Or you goes to a checkout lane that is indicated as open, at a store, and there are employees nearby, but no one comes, for awhile.  Then when someone comes, they were involved in the nearby conversation, no doubt personal, and fully aware there was a customer waiting.  Or you are at the store, shopping, and sees a clerk sitting on the floor, supposedly stocking, but actually carrying on a personal conversation.  Or, to put it another way, stealing from their employer.  And I want to tell them that, but of course I don’t.

It is so curious and so sad to see the steadily progressing detachment from their fellow humans that is occurring while people drive, shop, walk, eat, watch football games, watch movies, whatever they wish, while also engaged in phone conversation or texting or whatever electronic device is occupying their vision and their minds and therefore their attention.  We are starting to see signs at school crossings, “School zone – are you on the phone?”  But the irony is that if passersby are on the phone, they won’t notice the signs.   And I want to tell these people that they are missing possible hazards in traffic, or the subtleties of a good movie, or the satisfaction of doing their job well, or the pleasure of their meal, or the chance for a real conversation with their companion, or just a beautiful sunset or a flowering tree they are passing.  And I want to tell them all that, but of course they would never hear.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Thyme and time

So this morning I am watering my pots of thyme, and I notice that one thyme has grown several shoots, and that one shoot has grown over into the other pot of a different variety of thyme, and it occurred to me that that is the way thyme is – it jumps.  And then it occurred to me that that is what happens with time, too – it jumps.  Of course, thyme the plant only grows out and about, but time seems sometimes to jump forward and backward because of our memories and thoughts.  One moment something triggers a memory of our childhood, next we’re planning what to have for lunch, or what to do next week, or next year.  What about our next vacation?  What about the troubled parts of the world, what can we do?  What will we plant in the garden this fall?  Next spring?    A graph of our individual thoughts comprising memories and thoughts of now and then and forward, is impossible to envision, although artistically it might be kind of pretty.

But all of that leads me to wonder about the effects of thyme/time jumping.  Oh, I know exactly what happens when thyme the plant jumps.  If left long enough where it has reached out, it roots at the tips and either joins the adjacent pot or the adjacent area until it spreads generously.  Just why it chooses a particular direction is entirely random, entirely accidental.  Do you suppose that all of life is accidental, and all that happens in life is simply luck, good or bad? 

 Or does thyme the plant send its runners out because of forces of nature such as light and even gravity, forces not noticed by we human folk.  And does our perspective of time change in relation to forces of nature we are not always aware of?  And further still, is what we perceive as luck simply the result of other forces of nature too complex or too subtle for us mere humans to comprehend?   It's a mystery.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Blah, blah, blah

When my mother was in her later years (she lived to be almost ninety-eight!), and something came along to frustrate her, she would say, “Blah, blah, blah.”   It turned out to be a very usable expression, far better and certainly far more descriptive than common expletives, which of course my mother would never ever have used in the first place.  For us, her family, it told us she wasn’t particularly thrilled with a situation, but that on the other hand, she wasn’t unbearably disappointed.  When she would make an inconsistent statement, for instance, such as that she no longer liked lemon yogurt when that had been her favorite for years and we had just brought some for her, and we would say, “But Mother ….”, then “blah, blah, blah” pretty well covered it for her.   It meant, “don’t worry about it,” or “it’s not important”, or “never mind”, or “let’s change the subject.”

Now, I find that it is an often-useful expression for minor upsets or frustrations or disappointments for my own self.  We go shopping for an ordinary product that we’ve used many times before, only to find it’s no longer stocked … anywhere.  “Well, blah, blah, blah.”

Such as when our beloved Pepsi One simply disappeared, and we contacted the company, and actually got an e-mail back that said indeed it was no longer being made.  Or when we hoped to see a recently-announced comet appearance, with all those ‘shooting stars’, only to find in the wee hours that clouds had moved in.  No rain, mind, just clouds.  To block the comet.

Okay, it’s not unusual to get the blahs.  Everyone gets the blahs at one time or another.  They are especially common during periods of extreme weather, or extreme Congressional stupidity, or extreme anything.  But think about it and you may find it as useful as we now do, to simply announce – well, you know.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Lots of Help

So I am absolutely one of the very, very many who found out from a friend about a book entitled The Help, read it with great appreciation, urged others to read it, and then, when I found out there was to be a movie, waited with both excitement and trepidation, looking forward to seeing a good story with great characters come to life and terrified that the movie industry would mess it up, intentionally or unintentionally.

Well, I am delighted to report that the movie is just wonderful, thank you very much, and judging from the box office reports, lots of other folks think so, too.  I had to call to account a local movie reviewer who decided to write a really long full-page review, and yet managed to miss one of the most important elements of the story.  He decided that The Help was patronizing, that it showed that a ‘white’ person, Skeeter, was there to ‘help’ the ‘black people.’  Well, anyone who read the book could see that it was those beautiful souls, the maids, who all the while dealing with sometimes nasty employers and personal grief and meanness from some of the dregs of the human race, also gave Skeeter their trust, their honesty, and eventually a chance at a future. 

What so many pseudo sophisticates, you know, the ones who pounce on books and movies because if they’re popular with the masses, they can’t be worthy, what those pseudos don’t realize is that readers know when a story rings true.  And there are a lot of us who remember what those times were like, those in The Help.  You don’t have to have lived in Jackson, Mississippi, or to have been a servant, or to have had a servant, to remember what it was like where you lived in the South.  To remember the terrible headlines and the terrible photographs in the newspapers.   It took the South a long time to realize that just because things had been that way for a very long time didn’t mean those things were right.  It took us in the South too long, because many things still aren’t right.  But some things are just right, and The Help is one of them.  Go see that movie.  It’s about courage.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A few thoughts to share

In this time of multiple points of view (and don’t get me wrong, we need different points of view), I thought, “Heck, why don’t I throw a few thoughts into the mix?”  So here goes. 

One of my pet peeves, and they are many, is that the word ‘Congress’ is generally applied to the House of Representatives, but in fact Congress is made up of two (2) bodies, the House and the Senate.  So why has ‘Congress’ come to mean ‘House’?  I don’t know, but how hard is it to say ‘House’ instead of ‘Congress’ when one means ‘House’?

The next peeve is that The President, whoever he is at any given time, simply has no vote in Congress (only those two bodies, get it?).  A brief search on the Net will tell anyone what the rights and privileges of Congress are and there’s not a thing in there about The President having a vote.  Not even one.  So that brings me to another thought I had:  “The President proposes, but Congress disposes.”

And that of course leads to the question:  If Congress only can make and pass laws and the President can only veto a law, after which the law must go back to Congress and then Congress can then override the veto, how in the Sam Hill is everything the Prez’s fault?  You know, there are some people for whom everything is everyone else’s fault.  They get a hangnail and it’s somebody else’s fault.    We have a multi-trillion dollar deficit entirely approved by Congress but it’s not their fault! 

So here’s my final thought, this time around:  No leader is successful without the support of those he leads.  So if the President is accused of being a ‘weak leader’, what does that say about us?

And here’s my final, final thought:  Some people want lots of government, some want some government, some want very little government, and some want no government whatsoever.  But if everyone stopped to think about it, most of us simply want good government, that’s honest, simple, affordable, effective, and most of all, belongs not to unknown entities, but to us.  You know.   We, the People.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Nutsedge has no nuts

Nutsedge, the so-called purple kind, Cyperus rotundus, isn’t purple and it doesn’t produce nuts, but it makes nuts, or crazy people, out of otherwise normal gardeners.  In fact, in this part of the world, most gardeners refer to it as nutgrass, presumably because it drives gardeners crazy.   I thought it had driven me to the limits of gardening endurance last year, when I spent days patiently and impatiently rooting out nutsedge plants from amongst my beloved daylilies.  My eyes became trained to spot a nutsedge in the middle of a lush and green daylily, whose leaves the nutsedge closely resemble.  In fact, I hoped that I had, with great patience and perseverance, eradicated the ****** stuff (insert your own preferred expletive).

But no.  Here we are in the throes of an horrendous period of bitter heat and bitter drought, and even though we have poured water into our garden area to try to save our great tall oaks, the beloved daylilies have simply gone dormant (I hope dormant, rather than dead) because of the relentless temperatures, and all the other really tough plants are either dead, dormant, or pretty pitiful, ah, but not the nutsedge.  In fact, it is so remarkably green that it is easily spotted.  It is so remarkably green that I am semi-seriously considering transplanting some into a pot.  It is so ***** green (same preferred expletive here) that if I knew the way to bring the subject up to horticulturists and plant scientists, I would suggest a hybrid crossing nutsedge with something edible such as corn or wheat or one of those other sorts of grains that are nourishing, and then, dear readers, we would stamp out hunger, truly.  Because it’s sure and certain we’re not gonna stamp out nutsedge!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dadgum, dadburn possum

So here’s the thing:  while I’m not all that wild about wild animals, most of the more common ones, such as possums, are relatively harmless.  And even though we live in a very urban area, very near a freeway, there are patches of woods around, and therefore there have been foxes and possibly coyotes, and certainly possums.  And with the current drought those creatures are coming closer at times to their natural enemies, us, because they’re desperate.  The other morning, I looked out into the garden very early, and there was a small grey animal, which I at first took for a cat, drinking water out of the saucer underneath the pot of mint on the patio.  I stepped out and said, “well, what are you doing here?” only to see, when the creature turned its face toward me after moving further away, that it was actually a possum.  And not a particularly frightened possum at that.  It ambled on toward the north fence, and then toward the northeast corner, I blinked, and then it was up on the top of the fence and moving away.  Well, I had a tender feeling for the poor thing, obviously desperate for water, and merely shrugged and went on about my day.  I did mention it to my family, because we’ve been having to vent our garage doors due to the bitter and oppressive heat, and I wanted to be sure that everyone knew we needed to lower those garage doors in the late evening so as not to be hosting that possum or another sort of creature over night.  Squirrels are particularly anxious, this time of year, to find a place to store nuts, and a couple of years ago while cleaning the garage, we found a couple of nests of leaves and nuts in the corners.  Don’t mind squirrels as long as they keep their place, which is outside.  But possums are generally harmless, their soft hands don’t dig holes in the pots and flower beds like squirrels do, so I didn’t worry that much about it.

Then there was yesterday, when I looked out the front door, to find a possum, probably the same small, nonchalant one, ambling across the front side walk and then across the bed of ajuga there, stopping to eat an acorn along the way, and in no hurry whatsoever.  Then later I looked at my pot of prized sedum sieboldii, which is wonderful and which I have been nurturing for three years and fully hoped to have lovely fragrant pink blooms of this fall, only to find that something, and we all know who I suspect, had been curling up in that pot and had squashed the heck out of my plant.  It was not only squashed but many if not most of the leaves were broken off, sedum having brittle stems.  Well, I found a handy plant stand and placed it on top of the pot, after gently lifting up the remaining branches of my poor benighted plant, but while I was doing so I was thinking hard, hard thoughts about that possum.  There are all sorts of areas where that possum could recline, but no, it chose the one place that would break my heart with its weight.  Well, my heart is tough, and hopefully the sedum sieboldii will prove to be so, as well.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

So what the heck is going on in the garden?

One would think that years and years of practice would give one a certain amount of confidence in one’s hobbies, and that may be true, for instance, if one paints or photographs, or rides a bicycle cross-country, but when it comes to gardening, all I have found lately is surprise and uncertainty.

For an example, what will thrive where we live?  We’re supposed to be in Zone 8 and there should be certain minimum to maximum heat and cold ranges.  Right?  Well, for the last two winters, we have had extraordinarily low temperatures, so it has been a pure wonder when anything came up and bloomed in the spring, since a lot of plants commonly grown around here don’t expect things to get that cold.  Potted plants not only had to be brought inside but sometimes protected by an electric space heater.  So then, one would think that really cold winters might indicate a shift to a cooler clime, and the summers would be milder.  Wrong.  Last summer was miserable and I spent a fair amount of time looking out the window at the garden wondering why I bothered with it all since we obviously couldn’t use the space for outdoor living. 

This year, the summer has been even worse.  Nearly everything is dormant or dead, such as the tuberoses, the purple coneflower, and even the coreopsis and the chrysanthemums.  And don’t let’s mention the tomatoes.  Except (thank goodness for that word, ‘except’) for the blessed crape myrtles and a tough shrub or two such as spirea, and the plants of delight, the bougainvillea, the ixoras and the plumbagos, tropical plants all.  And all bought on whims at the garden center.  They all live in pots, they all get taken in during the bitter part of the winter, but they all seem to thrive in the heat and humidity.  Of course they are all carefully potted in large pots, and the pots are mulched.  And they are hand-watered every other day or so, which is very therapeutic for me as well as the plants.  

I’ve always maintained a tremendous amount of gratitude that we cannot know the future, so that I can enjoy planning to shoe-horn in some more narcissus bulbs, and imagine that next spring will be the best ever, and even hold on to the fantasy that the drought will end soon and the heat will moderate.  Whether that spring will happen and my fantasy about rain will materialize – well, we don’t know, do we?  Because we cannot know the future.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The summer of our discontent

It seems to me that in the jobs I’ve had from teen-age candy girl to running an elevator to working with fairly complex government software, my understood and undertaken responsibility was to do what I was paid to do.  Occasionally my thoughts or opinions were sought, but certainly not always.  Usually the assignment was given and I was expected to complete it, in the manner described, in the time allotted, and with the desired results.  Period.

On the other hand, our national Congress has acquired members who have their own agenda, and while there seems to be no lack of willingness to accept payment for their positions, they have decided to pursue what only a part of their constituents wish.  Obviously none of these newest representatives, certainly none of the other members of the House of Representatives or the Senate, achieved their positions with a 100% vote from the areas they ostensibly represent.  So now we have members of both parties, in both houses of Congress, who are making choices and decisions that many of their electorate do not like, or are even extremely upset about, all the while insisting they are doing what they were elected to do.  Huh-uh.

So instead of listening to serious debate and gathering facts and trying to find common-sense solutions, many of them on both sides of the aisles are blaming the President, the economy, Europe, and their electorate for their choices and behavior.  Amazing.  I wouldn’t have been allowed to behave in that way as a fourteen-year-old candy girl in a neighborhood movie theater.  The element which is ferociously defending the tax rates for the wealthiest among us from paying approximately $30 for every $1000 earned above $250,000 are trying to persuade everyone who will listen that levying those particular taxes (or actually merely rolling the rates back to the nineties, those golden years when there were surpluses) would destroy jobs.  To which I would disagree by pointing out that Walmart didn’t become successful because of the patronage of wealthy men. Walmart, Dollar General, and other similar shopping destinations are where unemployment benefits and Social Security benefits and military pay checks are spent buying groceries and school supplies and clothing.   I know because that’s where I shop and I’ve never, ever encountered a millionaire or billionaire there, nor seen a Rolls, a Mercedes or a Beamer in their parking lots.

So I plan to fire up the old printer and send letters to every senator and representative I can, to the effect that I have a list of concerns, at the top of which is the request that they should do their jobs without embarrassing us, put our country first, and remember what their mothers hopefully told them:  “Be nice.”

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The old game of gossip

Most everyone knows about the old children’s game of gossip.  Children sit in a row and start at one end and whisper into the ear of the one next to them, and what is said is then repeated in whispers down the row, and when the whisper has reached the other end of the group, it is spoken out loud and resembles nothing like the original whisper.

Since the advent of the internet and e-mail, this game seems to have been taken over by apparent adults.    While we were busy with family and jobs, we were fairly oblivious to this phenomenon, but in the past decade, having the free time to spend on the computer, and finding it often an excellent way to keep in touch with family and friends, we now too often experience what is familiar to everyone on the e-mail circuit now:  we don’t get e-mail from friends, we get garbage.   Oh, occasionally we get a how-my-day-went communication, or we get an actually funny story or joke, but the greatest majority of what we get from friends and acquaintances is junk.  Is either recycled ‘stuff’ that has been forwarded so many times that it’s a hazard, or, what is infinitely worse, we get mean, ugly, vitriolic rumor and hearsay that makes us apprehensive of the mental health of the sender.  A case in point:  we recently received, from an old ‘friend’, an ‘absolutely true statement straight from Snopes’ about the birthplace of our president.  Again.  Now we are staunch supporters of Mr. Obama and make no bones about it, but we don’t require that all our friends and acquaintances feel the same way.  What we do require, and what we are now taking a firm stand about, is that what is sent as ‘fact’  be accurate, and the most immediate way to determine that it is not the truth is that it is either a re-dredging of issues long settled, or that it contains the statement that it has been verified by Snopes.   Snopes is a decently reliable site, but it has been abused by garbage writers more than is imaginable and when it is cited, the sender usually figures that no one will check. 

But here is where the true horror comes in.  The particular ‘friend’ who sends this trash pretends to be an honorable person, a religious person, and yet is sending out gossip that is unverified, and, knowing our position, is obviously sending material designed to provoke.  Along with disparaging remarks designed to hurt.  Us.  Over and over.  What that comes down to is lack of respect for the recipient.  What that comes down to is the end of friendship.  That’s only one of the horrors of gossip.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The pooper scooper

There are  little baby elephants in the Republican environs in Washington D.C.  They gathered there after some strange people in three-pointy hats elected them, under the impression that government is a bad, bad thing.  Regardless of chronological age, these baby elephants are very young in their naivete, but not as naive as those who put them there.  And like all very young creatures, these little  baby elephants emit a lot of poop.  They are simply following in the tradition of the big elephants in D.C., although they do not know that.

There is always one person in a circus who trudges behind the elephants when the elephants march, in a parade through town or across the circus rings.  The duty of this person following the elephants is to scoop up the elephant poop.  This individual is therefore the elephant pooper scooper.  

Back in the early 2000's, the big elephants passed the Bush tax cuts without bothering to figure out how to pay for them:  a big pile.  Then they supported a prescription drug program, a good idea in and of itself, but without thought of how to pay for it.  Then they supported the prosecution of two wars, again without thought of payment:  more big piles.  These same big elephants voted several times to increase the national debt, again without thought of payment.  Until now.   Now they are all, big and little, entirely consumed by two thoughts:  how to pay for all this debt they helped to incur, without inconveniencing their owners (and everyone knows who those are); and how to blame their pooper scooper.  How to blame anyone except themselves.  Poor little elephants.  Poor us.