The Wrong Lilies

The Wrong Lilies

Saturday, October 22, 2011


While rambling in the garden this morning, I was enjoying the fall amaryllis (Rhodophiala) that are blooming in red and pink.  The pink, particularly, are fairly unusual and striking.  The summer has been so horrific and the garden looks so poorly that anything that is blooming is so very welcome.  I recalled seeing some for sale on one of my favorite bulb web-sites, and considered maybe ordering some more, even though the few I started out with are multiplying readily, and even though my planting spaces are starting to fill up.  But that old acquisition gene that most of us humans and some of the so-called lower species share tried to kick in (more about squirrels later).  OK, so I have these, but maybe I could/should/would get more!  I reined in the thought in time to prevent myself from getting more!  At least this time.

“But,” I tell myself, “I do love bulbs so.”   “Yes,” I remind myself, “but you already have some bulbs ordered to plant this fall.”  “Ok,” the dialog continues, “but these would be more pink ones.   And those are extra special.”  “Aren’t they all,” I retort to me.  And so it goes. 

The internet has made it so simple to order clothing or household items or books or music or movies or bulbs, all of which are my particular weaknesses.  But I have plenty of clothes just now, nothing fancy, but enough.  And as to household items, the cabinets and closets are full, thank you very much.  Ditto the shelves which hold books and CD’s and movies.  And those bulbs already on order?  I made myself plan exactly where they could be placed before I ordered them.  Well, mostly.

There’s not a thing wrong with acquiring items we need.  Or even really, really, really want.  And there are those of us in true need for whom anything would be useful and fill a need.  But for those of us who have enough, or maybe too much already, of baubles, bangles, beads and bulbs, surely a good way to proceed is to be thankful for what we have.   And, wild idea, use the resources for helping those without, instead of getting ‘more’ for ourselves.

I don’t know the sources for these two wonderful quotations but they pretty well sum it up:  “It’s not having less but wanting more that makes us feel poor;” and “Gratitude makes what we have enough.”  

Wednesday, October 19, 2011


Along main avenues in many parts of our country, where the streets are wide and divided, local communities plant whatever is local and therefore usually tough and reliable, in the median areas which divide the lanes. 

Today while we were running errands in an area unfamiliar to us, I was particularly impressed and delighted to see, thriving in the median, several small mesquite trees.  Now for those unfamiliar with these plants, mesquite trees don’t grow exceptionally large, anyway.  And many who are familiar with mesquite trees quite despise them.  They have thorns that probably inspired cowboys to wear chaps to protect their legs from being raked when chasing a cow out of a mesquite patch (I always wondered what protected the poor horses).  Mesquites survive because they put down deep tap roots, which some think dry out the land too much (although this isn't proven).  On the other hand, it is said that just about every part of a mesquite tree can be used:  the leaves and bean pods have been used in past times for medicine and food; where there is nothing else around, the mesquites provide a bit of shade; the flowers attract bees and their nectar is said to make very special honey; and the wood is beautiful and tough enough to give woodworkers' chain saws a run for their money.  I read somewhere that mesquite thorns were used by early Native Americans as needles.  And after all that, mesquite wood is considered gourmet for grilling meats.

And while all that is nice, I like mesquites because I think they are lovely.  Even in the summer, and in stupefying heat, the lacy green leaves are deceptively delicate and fresh-looking.  Yet as we have driven around our area I have seen whole stands of mesquite paved over for parking lots or housing developments or all the other elements of progress in our world today.  I have often fantasized about becoming magically wealthy and buying an area containing mesquite and just keeping it all natural.  So it is understandable that when I saw those mesquite trees, preserved in the median for now, as if they were precious ornamentals, I thought, “Well, it’s about time.”

Saturday, October 15, 2011

How many massacres will we need?

It really seems that every day, or at least way too frequently, someone in this country becomes distraught, or angry, or tips over the edge into mental illness, and picks up one or more guns, and does something really terrible.

We’ve had children do so such at Columbine and several other schools across the country.  We’ve had parents kill their children and vice versa, or spouse to spouse destruction.  We’ve had people fire into vehicles full of strangers on freeways.  We’ve had snipers fire from bridges and buildings and probably trees onto freeways.  And then there was a shopping center in Tucson.  And now a hair salon in a small town in California.  The list just goes on and on and on.

And every time this happens the gun lovers get defensive and quote amendment rights and choose to disregard certain facts.  Certain facts such as that assault weapons are hardly necessary for shooting game.  Facts such as that there is little or no provision for checking eligibility for purchases at gun shows.  Facts such as that there is no valid need for an AK-47 in ordinary lives, hunting or otherwise.  Facts such as that handguns are designed for one thing only:  killing humans.  Facts such as that the true danger of guns is not when guns are in the hands of the police or in the hands of careful, sensible citizens, but when they are so easily acquired by criminals, the angry and the ill.

Every political season or so, it is hoped by many of us that the President and/or Congress will ‘do something’; pass meaningful and serious laws designed to allow lawful gun ownership and protect our society from those who should not possess such weapons of mass destruction.  But we never seem to remember that the President has no vote in Congress, and Congress itself is dysfunctional and incapable of its most basic tasks at this point in time.  So eventually we are going to have to realize, as a society, that it is up to us as individuals to see that local and state laws are put into place that will prevent or at least minimize these events.  Or we are going to have to resign ourselves to wearing combat armor in everyday life, being fearful of danger when we go to get a haircut or buy groceries, and prepare ourselves to attend many, many funerals, one of which may be our own.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Small beauties

There’s a lot to be said about trees and shrubs in a garden.  I’ve seen many where shades of green and contrasting textures of leaves have created beauty and harmony and an atmosphere of peace.

On the other hand, there are those of us who are enamored of flowering plants and the more the merrier.  Alas, I am one of those.  And while there are many (some would say too many) flowering plants that I must have around me, such as hemerocallis and chrysanthemums and pansies, some of the most amazing plants to which I am addicted are bulbs:  daffodils, amaryllis, grape hyacinths and Dutch hyacinths, Dutch iris, sternbergia, rhodophiala,  and even tulips, although tulips seldom repeat in my part of the world. 

And here is one of the most wonderful aspects of bulbs, to me.  One holds a bulb that usually has not a bit of a sign of life, with a few dried roots at the bottom and dry onion-looking skin, and with the only encouragement a sense of weight and firmness, if one is lucky.  One plants it in the earth, gives it a bit of a drink, and depending on the variety, will not see anything of it for months.   It will be buried under earth, mulch, and sometimes snow or ice, and then when the time is right, when warmth and rain and length of days all meet, shoots will emerge and buds and then flowers, all out of that dried-looking lump.  And oh, the colors and scents and variety of size and type.

And it’s no use to say that one has no flower bed and can’t grow bulbs.  Hah!  Because most bulbs, certainly hyacinths, daffodils and tulips and amaryllis, are very easily grown in pots.  So all one needs is a suitably sized pot, some store-bought potting soil, and a suitable bulb, and one can plant according to directions, put the pot away in the dark of a closet for awhile, and then in a sunny window or doorway for awhile, and voila, there is beauty.  Or if one is simply too intimidated to do that, buy a potted, about to bloom, bulb, at the grocery store.  Enjoy it every day.  Learn about what happens when it fades and goes dormant.  And remember the old Persian proverb, “If I had two loaves of bread, I would sell one and buy hyacinths, and they would feed my soul.”

Monday, October 10, 2011

How's that government working for ya?

That’s a variation on a popular TV doctor’s question and this particular question keeps running through my mind.

This blog is entitled ‘Flowers and Philosophy’, because I’m both intensely interested and still learning about both subjects.  But it has occurred to me, during this political season, that philosophy covers a really wide area of exploration.  And politics as a subject surely comes within that area of exploration.  So we are reading and studying and trying to understand.

Although there are obviously certain unifying themes that bind our two large parties into their respective groups, it also seems that each party, Democratic or Republican, has a number of factions, so that one could also say that each party has conservative, moderate and liberal strata, and that makes a count of six.  Then there is the Libertarian Party, and probably a number of others of which I am blissfully unaware.  I can’t seem to count the Tea Party as a fully-formed entity, since it appears, at least to me, to be a group encapsulated within the Republican Party, and containing the very most extreme right elements of that party.  It’s interesting that the Libertarian Party seems, at least on the surface, to contain many of the same elements.  Down with government and all that.

But here’s the thing:  parties and platforms and slogans and signs are all well and good, but what, if anything, do they have to do with government?   To which one could also respond, “What government?”  Is all of this folderol all that’s left?   Is the lawmaking body of our government going to forever be preoccupied with election and then re-election and vilifying the opposition, while our economy and we who live within that economy dwindle and dwindle until there is no more optimism, no more invention and innovation, no more good old American pushiness?   On the one hand, one reads that small businesses are the lifeblood of the American economic machine.  On the other hand, one hears that large corporations are vital for growth, so that large corporations are being protected at the expense of small businesses.  Or we hear that corporations are people.  I always thought people were people.

Surely the major programs which have stabilized our country, including Social Security and Medicare and student loans and unemployment and such, have evolved since they were introduced.  Surely introducing new programs such as the Jobs Act and other proposals that create a triumvirate between educational institutions and government and the private sector could be tried and then perhaps adjusted to maximize their benefits.   And surely, if we never try, we’ll never know.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Open Letter to Congress

We beg, plead and implore you to support the President’s Jobs Bill, and to try to persuade your colleagues that this is the right thing to do and the right time to do it.

Every problem America is facing right now can be attributed to one single factor:  Americans need jobs.  To think that in this country, in this century, Americans are begging for jobs is almost unbelievable.  Except that it is happening.  And happening all across our country.

It is simply no use to blame the president or indeed to blame anyone except the members of Congress, both houses, both parties.  It is no use to blame the people who find it important to demonstrate.  They are actually crying to their government:  “Help us.”

We won’t go further into causes or blame or anything else.   What good would that do?   What we hope to direct your attention to is what can be done.

It would be shameful beyond any power to describe if the Congress (both houses, both parties) failed to support this bill, and give some encouragement and some forward momentum, in the mistaken belief that Mr. Obama is the problem and that it is an appropriate tactic to allow our country to suffer in an effort to oust him or to further any other agenda.

We are not worried about Mr. Obama’s re-election; he has many supporters.  We are not worried about ourselves; we are retired.  We are worried about our country and all our fellow Americans:  all the young people who cannot find employment, all the middle-aged people who have lost their jobs and cannot find replacements.  All the families who are losing their homes, not because they got a stupidly excessive mortgage from a stupidly excessive industry, but because they have lost their jobs and have children to support and perhaps parents to assist and are desperate.

Desperation is a terrible thing and leads to terrible events.  Please, please, please help our country.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

A Personal Political Story

The most recent issue of TIME magazine has the following quotation from Elizabeth Warren:  “There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own.”   This is the most simple, most coherent and succinct clarification I’ve ever read of why and how people get rich and what they then owe to those who helped them to do so.  Think of it.  Sam Walton had a great idea for his Walmarts, but it was the banks who helped him with financing and the customers who shopped with him who made him successful.  Henry Ford jump-started the American auto industry, but it was those workers on the assembly line who made it work.   Neither Warren Buffett nor Bill Gates nor any of the other incredibly successful entrepreneurs of our country did anything by themselves.  Not a one.

In fact, if you get right down to it, none of us really does anything on our own.  We all need support and encouragement, or even, in one of those worst-case scenarios, where nothing is available but doubt and discouragement, achievers use those negatives as catalysts for moving forward, for success.

Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard professor, a wife and mother, and for awhile, the nominee by Mr. Obama to head the new Consumer Protection Agency that would prevent the kind of garbage in Wall Street that contributed to the financial mess our whole country is in.   But she is so intelligent AND so independent of lobbyists that the GOP worked tooth and nail and blocked her from the position.  Indeed the GOP have completely blocked any funding for the CPA, can you guess why?

Now Elizabeth Warren is running for the Senate from Massachusetts.  Why are we, deeply planted Texas residents, interested in a senate seat from Massachusetts?  Look Elizabeth Warren up on Wikipedia.  And then if you would so kindly go to and check out the website, you would see why.   We just think it would be a great idea to have as many members of Congress as possible, House and Senate, who know the difference between good government and bad government, and what to do about problems.

We have heard this woman speak, we have read her writings, and we admire her a lot. But because she is intelligent, articulate, and not attached to millionaires and billionaires, she'll have a time of it.  And that's all of the story for now!