Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Messy life


Apparently it is Mental Health Awareness Week and while I try to be very honest on this blog the temptation is to write about the nice things so that life seems good to anyone looking in. I know that social media generally is guilty of people presenting a glossy image of themselves, which mostly serves to make others feel inadequate. Life is messy. Here is my messy life. Monkey is stressed about her Japanese oral exam this morning so we were sitting watching the cat catch fungus gnats (more on that later) and just looking at the dumping ground that is our front room, now dominated by a Lollipop that Tish bought recently, but also full of volleyball nets and random floor cushions that we never sit on.
The back living room is just a tip too, but you know what, I don't beat myself up about the fact that it needs a good tidy and a hoover. I feel bad that I threw out the cat castle this morning, but she had lost interest in it and it was just taking up space.

My joys are small these days and this gave me joy today. While we were sitting I looked up and found this rainbow cast in the ceiling by the window screens that refract the light:

So, anyway, back to the fungus gnats. They had become endemic in the kitchen, and it was time to tackle them. All the babies have been potted up and the old compost put in the compost bin. All the new compost has had the diatomaceous earth added, and I put more in all the other plants around (mainly the avocado trees), this kills the grubs as they hatch apparently:
The drosera capensis was so well fed that we swapped it with the one upstairs (look close you can see how smothered in gnat corpses it is):
and we added new and extra gnat traps (which I would recommend, they have been very effective and cheap):
This morning there was nary a one flying in the kitchen, so I call that a job well done.

Monkey just came down the stairs and said 'your friend Nick is on the news', and so he is. Here is one of his videos that he makes about sea kayaking, including a recent magical encounter with dolphins:

Stay safe. Be kind. Find small joys (and share them).

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

Things growing

Right now the slugs seem to be biding their time. I have done a slug patrol a couple of times and only found a few tiny ones. A few of the rocket seedlings were slightly nibbled.
Everything is coming along well, and enjoying the rain and blustery weather.
Bunch onions that Julie gave me last week: 

The cornflower and wildflower seedlings:

The oak trees, having spent the winter as tiny twigs, are coming back into leaf:

The spinach is looking vigorous, and I thought I should probably plant more:

I stole the seeds for this lovely blue/green grass when we went to Chester Zoo last summer and it was a tiny sprig over the winter. I know it's just a clump of grass but I love it:

Stay safe, Be kind. Love the green stuff.

Sunday, 25 April 2021

Killing my babies


So I went searching to try and find out why some of my seedlings were not thriving as I might hope. They get sunshine, they get water, they get my daily encouragement. One suggestion was that they might be overcrowded. I have felt that every seed that comes up should be given a fair chance, which is why I have more tomato seedlings than I have room for, but I decided that a gentle cull could well be the answer. I went round the whole house and garden tweaking out the smaller sprouts and leaving space for the others to grow. I feel as if I am killing my babies. I have loved and nurtured them and now they are worm food. Oh well, I can see I will have to be less sentimental.

Sitting outside with Monkey this afternoon she noticed that the Choisya Aztec Pearl had come into flower:

and I am excited about the spinach, which has popped up this week, my first foray into growing greens:

Stay safe. Be kind. Eat your greens.

Saturday, 24 April 2021

New growth


I got an email from the Wildlife Trusts the other day, inviting me to join 30 Days Wild again, so even though it doesn't start for another five weeks you can anticipate lots (by that I mean even more) post about the garden, and probably ospreys too. On the first day of the challenge last year I went out and chopped down the bay bush that started a summer of growing stuff and getting very excited about my garden. It is nice to look back at the photos of how empty it was, and see how much it has changed. I will wait for everything to leaf out and flower up before putting them side by side. One thing that hasn't changed is how impatient I am for things to grow.  I went out this morning to take out the seedlings and was so excited to find the plum tree has several actual new branches. 

Also, more poetry, just because:

Stay safe. Be kind. Admire a tree.

Thursday, 22 April 2021

Tree joy


Rode home from Dunk's this morning and realised my tree was in leaf.
I had barely been noticing it, even though I was waiting for it.
Too much watching the seedlings at home I guess.
Spring has officially sprung.
Planted cucamelon seeds this morning, are they not just adorable:
Off to work now.
Stay safe. Be kind. Stay human.

Wednesday, 21 April 2021

Briefly Gorgeous

'On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous' by Ocean Vuong. This was a gorgeous book; beautiful writing telling a sometimes harrowing tale. Little Dog is writing to his mother, even though he knows she cannot read. But she can tell stories, as does his grandmother Lan. His life is full of stories, some of which are true, but you are often not sure which. The story of Trevor is true, and it is a love story in the most intense and sensuous way, it is as if being loved like that allows him to love himself in the face of everything. (From the very end of the book):

"I felt this sudden surge of tenderness for him right then, a feeling so rare in me it felt like I was being displaced by it. Until Trevor pulled me back. 'Hey,' he said, half-asleep, 'what were you before you met me?' 'I think I was drowning.' A pause. 'And what are you now?' he whispered, sinking. I thought for a second. 'Water.' " (p.237-8)

Little Dog tells the story of their family history, back to his mother. He thinks of himself as a product of the Vietnam War, someone who exists because of it. His grandmother is sinking into old age dementia, but she tries to protect him from his mother's uncontrollable rages. In spite of everything the bond between them is unbreakable:

"It's true that, in Vietnamese, we rarely say I love you, and when we do, it is almost always in English. Care and love, for us, are pronounced clearest through service: plucking white hairs, pressing yourself on your son to absorb a plane's turbulence and, therefore, his fear. Or now - as Lan called to me, 'Little Dog, get over here and help me help your mother.' And we knelt on each side of you, rolling out the hardened cords of your upper arms, then down to your wrists, your fingers. For a moment almost too brief to matter, this made sense - that three people on the floor, connected to each other by touch, made something like the word family." (p.33)

Mostly the story is about them, but the comment the mother makes to him on leaving the house sums up their experience of life in America, 'don't draw attention to yourself. You're already Vietnamese.' He does not talk about overt racism, though he describes his mother being harassed and assaulted as a child for being the daughter of an American, but what he does do is describe how it felt. This passage talks about the relationship between manicurist and client:

"The most common English word spoken in the nail salon was sorry. It was the one refrain for what it meant to work in the service of beauty. Again and again, I watched as the manicurists, bowed over a hand or foot of a client, some as young as seven, say, 'I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so, so sorry,' when they had done nothing wrong. I have seen workers, you included, apologize dozens of times throughout a forty-five-minute manicure, hoping to gain warm traction that would lead to the ultimate goal, a tip - only to say sorry anyway when none was given.
In the nail salon, sorry is a tool one uses to pander until the word itself becomes currency. It no longer merely apologises, but insists, reminds: I'm here, right here, beneath you. It is the lowering of oneself so that the client feels right, superior, and charitable. In the nail salon, one's definition of sorry is deranged into a new word entirely, one that's charged and reused as both power and defacement at once. Being sorry pays, being sorry even, or especially, when one has no fault, is worth every self-depreciating syllable the mouth allows. Because the mouth must eat." (p.91-2)

The more I flick back through the book the more I realise it is two love stories. In spite of everything his love for his mother remains overwhelming, and he wants things from her that she is too exhausted to give. She is his connection to Vietnam and that huge part of how he thinks of himself. It is a true son's love because he essentially forgives her for her failings, does not blame for her for things beyond her control. This quote, because I love it when books teach me new words, and it is a beautiful notion:

"There's a word that Trevor once told me about, one he learned from Burford, who serves in the navy in Hawaii during the Korean War: kipuka. The piece of land that's spared after a lava flow runs down the slope of a hill - an island formed from what survives the smallest apocalypse. Before the lava descended, scorching the moss along the hill, that piece of land was insignificant, just another scrap in an endless mass of green. Only by enduring does it earn its name. Lying on the mat with you, I cannot help but want us to be our own kipuka, our own aftermath, visible. But I know better." (p.171)

The whole book is intensely descriptive, often of mundane things around him, but that added together allow you to picture his world so vividly. Altogether a sublime book. I sometimes worry that I get to the end of a book and find I can't remember 'what happened' but am just left with feelings. But mostly they are the books that I am glad I discovered.

Stay safe. Be kind. Read a book.

Monday, 19 April 2021

the meaning of it all


Etienne Leopold Trouvelot

Brainpickings brought me today a reminder that we are all headed 'back to the void' and in the short space between our emergence from it and our return it is in the nature of human beings to try and find some meaning. So she shared this image and this poem:

Kiss of the sun by Mary Ruefle

If, as they say, poetry is a sign of something
among people, then let this be prearranged now,
between us, while we are still peoples: that
at the end of time, which is also the end of poetry
(and wheat and evil and insects and love),
when the entire human race gathers in the flesh,
reconstituted down to the infant’s tiniest fold
and littlest nail, I will be standing at the edge
of that fathomless crowd with an orange for you,
reconstituted down to its innermost seed protected
by white thread, in case you are thirsty, which
does not at this time seem like such a wild guess,
and though there will be no poetry between us then,
at the end of time, the geese all gone with the seas,
I hope you will take it, and remember on earth
I did not know how to touch it it was all so raw,
and if by chance there is no edge to the crowd
or anything else so that I am of it,
I will take the orange and toss it as high as I can.

In return I share this, since it is what is giving my life so much meaning, purpose and joy (foxglove seedlings):

Stay safe. Be kind. Find meaning and share it.


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