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Bleeding Heart, End of March

Friday, March 30, 2007

It is time to weed.
The grass has grown silently all winter
Sent white roots through daylily and columbine
Infiltrating, choking.

I lift it with a fork
And tear the roots from the soil.
Shake it free of earth and fling it
To the side, on the lawn.
Grass, I can slow down.

And there, red, unholy strong,
Comes the bleeding heart
Pushing up through damp earth
Curled and thick
Turgid spring, uncoiling.

I plant things around it
They always die.
Coralbells rot.
Columbines too.
Geranium “Happy Thought:”
Mush at the first frost.
And the bleeding heart carries on.

Why should this plant
Smother the butterfly weed
The lupine I loved so much
Drinking their water, stealing their light?
They’re gone, no trace of root or leaf.

I could dig it up
Banish it from my garden
But I've nothing to replace it with.
Without it, there would be a space.

In the perfection of its own vigor
It pushes upward.
Stand clear.



Sludge and Taxes

Thursday, March 29, 2007


I worked my a--sorry, shapely posterior-- off today. Started in on taxes in the morning, 10 AM. Finished tallying all my deductions by about 4:30 PM. My gosh. Columns and columns of numbers. Drifts and piles and glaciers of receipts. The joy of self-employment. I can’t believe how much I spend on materials and postage. Not to mention camera, lenses, accessories and new laptop. Phew. It should be interesting to apply all that to what I earned last year.

The carrot for working on stuff I hate all day was the chance to do some more weeding. Pathetic, I know. Most people would have a bottle of wine or a six of beer or a whole bag of Milano cookies waiting as an incentive. Me, I just like to dig weeds, and make places to plant all the stuff crowding my greenhouse.
With the mild winter, there is a tremendous overgrowth of lawn grass in my flower beds. I’ve protected them with plastic edging and raised blocks, but it still gets in. There’s a horrid little white-flowered exotic mustard that came in with a load of sand that is EVERYWHERE. Yuck. I pull it and pull it and, being a self-seeding annual, it just smirks at me and comes back. It’s already setting seed, in March. Cursed stuff. The lawn is solid with it, a never-ending seed source. Pull, cuss, pull. Dig, grunt, dig.

So I worked and worked and put dinner in the oven and went out to weed. Finished one bed, did another, and then did the stone stairs, where I plant portulaca every year. Yeah. Looks good. Exposed soil where there was sod.
My back was already complaining but I went on to wrestle with my pond filter, replacing the lid clips that had frozen off in the winter. The mild winter snuck up on me; I kept the fountain going into December, and didn’t even have to put a heater in until February. And then it froze solid and froze the clips on my external pond filter. They snapped off when I opened it for the first time to clean it. RRRR! Ordered more, thankful for the Internet; waited for them to arrive; fixed the lid (lots of cussing and grunting), then vacuumed the pond with a siphon. First, I palmed the gooky plant material off the bottom with my hands, cringing as horny American toads bumped and fondled my hands in the green murky depths. Eeeeech! It takes courage to stick your hands into two feet of cold water and fish poo.. There’s something unholy about being grabbed by a toad you can’t see, even for a nature woman.
I siphoned the pond, crawling lizardlike around its perimeter on my stomach, did a 10% water change, added dechlorinator, coaxed the tired old pump into starting, rearranged some rocks in the fountain, and was rewarded for my back-breaking effort by a sudden ejaculation of fetid muck from the fountain pipe, right in the face. At that point I could only laugh helplessly. Such is life. You do the best you can, and sometimes your reward is a faceful of sludge.

But tonight, the fountain is burbling, even though the water in the pond is green and smelly. It’ll clear up in time. (Update: you can see all the way to the bottom and it's running crystal clear. Time to rinse the filter, no doubt!) I’ve got a fresh barley bale in there. Decomposing barley straw kills algae. And American toads are making their way to its siren song from every quarter of the yard. They plap across the cement patio, heading for certain sex. I’ll go to sleep to their love song, and the gentle splash of water on rock. I miss Bill. I wish he'd find his way home.

Beautiful Stone

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

To come to Boston is to see beautiful stone. The Swedenborg Church in Cambridge is so sweet. It’s a functioning church, but there are a lot of weddings there, too. The Busch Reisinger Museum is beautiful, and so is its shadow on the not-so-beautiful William James Hall.
The witch hazel was in bloom, smelling wonderfully of fresh mimeo paper. Mmmm. My kids don’t even know what a mimeograph is. My father bought a used mimeograph machine when every public school in the world was offloading them. He put it in the master bedroom and ran it from time to time. About the only thing he needed it for was letters to the family. So there was a rush of letters there for awhile, until he ran out of mimeo fluid. And then it was a piano-sized doorstop.
Kris and I made a pilgrimage to Mount Auburn Cemetery, which celebrates its 175th anniversary this year. My old stomping grounds, the place where I saw most of my life songbirds. There are so many great monuments here, and you see more every time you visit. The Argonaut stone. Reminds me of a chapter in Gift from the Sea, an odd little book whose gentle but searing truth makes me weep uncontrollably. Kris commented that this was probably a huge departure for a headstone in the late 1800’s, probably caused lots of controversy in the family. It just made me think of an argonaut drifting free on the ocean's cradle, a lovely thought for a headstone.
A Celtic knot cross. Wow. How would you keep all those ins and outs straight with a chisel as a tool? I couldn't even do it with a pencil. And each knot panel is different. Wow, wow. The whole affair, about ten feet high. Is anyone committing such artistry to stone any more?
A Civil War era tomb. I would imagine it’s tough to carve stone ribbons. Very nice hat, too. It had weathered a bit in the acid rain, but was still lovely. Once again, a lost art, frozen in stone.
This picture is blurry because as I was shooting it, Kris commented, “Somebody’s gettin’ a wedgie.”
The faithful dog. I am a sucker for faithful dog monuments. Maybe I'll put a little stone Baker over my grave, or wherever they scatter me. I wouldn't mind fertilizing a good tree, maybe a sycamore, from inside a thin pine box. Not much on the embalming/casket thing. Blecch.
Mount Auburn saved my life when I was living in Cambridge. Here, I could see something resembling woodland. I retreated there again and again. Such a beautiful place, so well cared for and well loved.
Afterward, Kris and I dug into an egg and homefries breakfast at the Watertown Diner. It doesn’t get any better than that. Thank you, dearest Hodge, for our time together.

New England Flower Show

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The New England Flower show is something, I think, that’s timed to get Bostonians through that last and in some ways cruelest part of the winter: after the official First Day of Spring, when it’s STILL freezing cold and sometimes snowing. It’s mighty fine to see delphiniums abloom, Japanese maples all leafed out, and smell wet mulch and hear trickling water that time of year. Lisa White and I went to take in the sights and smells. There were many fine plants, like this succulent whose name I didn’t catch,
And some over the top ones, such as these Paphiopedalums (lady-slipper orchids) that might just be a wee teeny bit overbred for my taste. OK, a lot overbred. This is the Pekingese of orchids. Yap, yap.

I absolutely cannot look at, much less photograph, those “modern” formal flower arrangements that involve giant heliconias, banana leaves, slabs of metal, chicken wire and/or Plexiglas. Those arrangements that are trapped forever in the 1960’s, that people keep doing for reasons I don’t understand. Flower arrangements that are intended to evoke space travel and technology. Whaa? What does any of that have to do with flowers? Instead, I am drawn to the Dutch style arrangements, like this one. Just an old fashioned girl, I guess. We had very similar arrangements at our wedding. Mmmmm. Pause for extended reverie. Big sigh. Oh. The post.

When I was little, I used to daydream about having a house with real moss carpet and a stream running through the living room. Here is a garden powder room. The chair would be handy if you were incontinent, I would think. Very absorbent. Kind of a drag after a rainstorm, though.

I was not expecting to see a Temminck's tragopan at the flower show. A tragopan is a short-tailed pheasant that comes in exotic colors like cinnamon, blueberry and Rootin' Tootin' Raspberry. Simply amazing birds. Shy mountain edibles, rare as all get out, vanishing like the guans I've been posting about; the same story only in Asia. Some people keep them as ornamental pets. Other people hunt them to eat them.

I apologize for this picture. No way around the crop netting that kept him from scurrying through the hall. His electric-blue wattles were so striking that every time he turned around to face the crowd, everyone gasped aloud. So he kept his back to us the whole time. Poor guy. This wouldn't happen to him in the Himalayas. I'm still trying to figure out how you get electric-blue skin. Mandrills have the secret, too, only they have electric-blue butts. Yeah! See my BUTT? Now, why would you need a neon butt? But I digress.

This is a garden-themed baby. There were strawberries on his little shoes. They didn't have shoes like this when my kids were babies, or I'd have used them.

I found the garden structure I want. It's NOT a gazebo. I do not long for a gazebo. I do long for a pagodoid structure. I don't know where we'd put it but it would be cool to have something to keep the sun from beating down on us as we sipped our martoonis in the evening, Lovey. Flower shows make you fantasize that you have all this leisure time to hang out in gazebos and pagodas and stare into koi ponds. Maybe that's part of their allure. That, and the smell of wet mulch and narcissus.

Gomer at the Four Seasons

Monday, March 26, 2007


I hope I get to work with Houghton Mifflin again. If I didn’t already love my editor and designer and publicists, just the hotel is incentive enough. My goodness. As you might have inferred from the previous post, I do not habitually stay at the Four Seasons. I’m far more used to the Comfort Inn. That’s not to say I couldn’t get used to the Four Seasons real fast. I had to suppress a Gomer Pyle style “Gawww-leee!” when I walked in the front lobby and saw hundreds of real pink daffodils and callas in glass block vases on every table.
I felt kind of bad. There were two plasma TV’s in my room and I never turned either one on. There was a spa and a health club that I never used. The hot stone massage sounded fine, but I think Houghton would have noticed the $140 charge. I liked the hotel staff a lot. They were really young and friendly and helpful. Maybe too helpful. When I left my room for as little as two hours, I’d come back and all the lights I’d turned off were blazing again. The Kleenex and apple core I’d thrown in the trash can were gone. The washcloth I’d used was replaced with a clean one. The end of the toilet paper was refolded into a little V. In the evening, a pair of slippers would magically appear at my bedside, and all the lights would be blazing when I’d come back to my room.
I don’t know how they do that. I think they have spies. I think they take a picture of you with a hidden camera when you check in and then their spies, dressed as maids and bellhops, report back on you when you leave the room. That’s probably why they ask you where you’re going, so they can see if they have time to empty the trash and refold the TP.
Some panties and a T-shirt I left on the floor were folded and put on a shelf when I came back. Now, that’s going a little far. Maybe I wanted my clothes in a little heap. Maybe I like coming back to a dark room. If I stayed there too much longer I’d probably say something to them about wasting energy.

I was bemused to note that Internet access was still an extra $10 a day. Has anybody else noticed this immense scam going on all over the world? I mean, once you’ve put it in and paid for it, should it really cost $10 a day to get online? It’s free at the Comfort Inn. Pffft. Nice place to blog from, though. Boston weather being what it is, before I went out I’d feel the window glass, then check to see what people were wearing on the street, to see which coat I should take. You can’t go by what teen-agers are wearing. They run around in T-shirts and shorts when it’s 28 degrees. No, you have to check the forty-somethings who’ve learned how to dress for cold.

This room had everything. But I got out of the shower and couldn’t find the hairdryer. There had to be a hairdryer. The bathroom looked like a place Marie Antoinette would be comfortable. She wouldn’t bat an eye: no anachronisms here. Obviously, an ugly plastic hairdryer perched on the wall by the sink was out of the question. I rooted around and finally found it, concealed in a little cloth drawstring bag on a glass table. Staying at this hotel, I felt like I had enrolled in a crash course in good taste.
One-bazillion count Egyptian cotton sheets do feel better than poly cotton 10-count sheets. Thirsty Egyptian terry cloth towels dry your hair better than crispy K-mart towels. The differences are slight but noticeable. I can understand why, given money and exposure to such luxuries, people get to thinking they can’t live without such things. I’m a long way from that point, but I do enjoy pretending. So pass me my martooni, Lovey, and let’s chat about our day, shall we? Let’s!

Country Goes to City

Sunday, March 25, 2007

I am amazed at the things you can eat in Boston. I don't realize how limited my choices are in Marietta until I come to a place like this. Started the day with an almond croissant from Au Bon Pain, an indulgence from my youth. They had a little computer in the restaurant that told you the "nutrition information" (I use that term advisedly with almond croissants) contained in your breakfast choice. 500 calories, 150 grams of fat, and 50 carbs. Yoww! Now, why would they be telling you that? And the dopey thing is: I never eat stuff like that, and I was hungry again--ravenous--by 10:30 AM, when at home I can gulp down a protein shake at 8 AM and be good until 1:30.
While Kris and I were walking, we happened upon Formaggio, a cheese shop I remembered well from college days. It's like a glimpse of old Europe. I have to suppress a huge sigh of nostalgia and longing when I walk into any of these shops. Not that I'd trade skunk tracks in the snow for them, you know, but still...I was ravenous, and it was Sample Day. Oh, I hope they don't notice that I took two little knife fulls of this Stilton and this runny ol' Brie and this divinely goaty whatever-it-is...I could have happily devoured each wheel. Can you tell I'm stuck in a hotel room at 10:16 pm with nothing to eat? Hotel hungry is a different kind of hungry. It's got a special desperation to it. I mean, I could open the little personal snack bar and raid the Godiva chocolates, but the frugal Midwesterner in me just ... can' do they do that?
On to more healthful choices. Backing away from the cheese bar, I forged on to Brattle Street's lovely flower shop. Ohhh. A tonic for the winter-weary soul. Bunches of calla lilies

and roses

and orchids and just everything and all smelling of heaven, except for these kind of silly gerberas all lined up like soldiers in their box.As much as I loved the flowers, I loved the message/memo board at Brattle St. Florist even more. There were notes here so old that the writing had faded clean off of them and they were as crispy as potato chips. I bet some of those notes persisted from when I was buying freesias here as a 20-year-old. Love it, love it, love it. Disorder, messiness---this is how you know there are humans running this place.

Just a few yards further up Brattle was a shoe store that had my two brands: Keen and Picolino. Picolinos are made in Spain and happen to be the most beautiful and highly coveted shoes in my world. Little matter that I have seven pairs: there were variations here I had never seen. Go-oo-leee. Buy one, get the second pair half off. Theme for this post: Backing away from temptation. I didn't get any shoes, and I Isn't there a Dairy Queen around here somewhere? Should I go out on the streets of Boston alone at night looking for soft serve ice cream? Call room service and have them send up a sundae? Perish the thought. Finally I dig in my backpack until I find a crummy South Beach Diet 100 Calorie Snack Bar left over from our trip to Guatemala. It's squashed, and about as appetizing as a piece of styrofoam dipped in Hershey syrup (you know when they call it Chocolate Delight that it's anything BUT), but it does the trick. Gahh. I am such a loser. In my next life I will order room service, raid the snack bar, eat almond croissants every morning, and be buried in a piano case, clutching a fistful of cut orchids and wearing the prettiest of my 100 pairs of Picolinos.

Important Trees of Cambridge

Friday, March 23, 2007

Hi all! I'm a little bit behind here because I've been too busy taking in Cambridge and Boston to blog. That's a good thing for me, probably a little dull for you to keep seeing Cayuga Lake popping up. I had such a wonderful time with Kris that I want to show you some of the things she showed me. I am having the most wonderful trip, not wasting a moment of what's been granted. So far, it's been solid, 100% fun, sprinkled with work. I'm speaking tonight (Friday) at Drumlin Farm in Lincoln, MA. Back to the tour:
Here's where Henry Wadsworth Longfellow lived. His house still has the only unobstructed view of the Charles River on that whole stretch.
Nearby, there's a private residence (!). Kris says she would not want to live in this house, because where would you take in the groceries? I agreed. This would be an inconvenience that would be a deal breaker for me.
Here's a nice beech tree, against a house where the MA governor once lived. The house needs to be painted now.
Kris' favorite beech tree is a huge copper beech that has softly and silently taken over the entire front yard of a brick house. She stands under it in summer. She says from the outside, the leaves are copper, but from the inside, when you look up through them to the sky, they're green. How does that work? As you can imagine, I was beside myself to be given a walking tour that featured things like this beech tree. Two of its immense looping branches had melded together into a torso. If you look carefully at this picture many intriguing things will reveal themselves. Many of the beech branches loop down and touch the ground, before swooping back up toward the sky. I would imagine they are impossible to mow around. Kris and I love the fact that anyone who has owned that house over the decades (century plus) this tree has dominated it has accepted that the copper beech comes with the house, and is not to be harmed.
I noticed these lovely espaliered fruit trees on a low green wooden wall and commented on them. Kris told me that behind that wall stands architect Philip Johnson's senior project, a house made entirely of glass. Brrrrr! I started to laugh when we rounded the corner and I realized that we would not be permitted so much as a glimpse of this masterpiece, if masterpiece it be. Kris says there are no closets in it, and I got to thinking that there might be privacy issues (hence the wall). So then, we wondered, what is the point of having a glass house if you have to put a privacy wall around it that keeps anyone from seeing in, but also keeps you from seeing out? You'd have about the same view of the world that a box turtle does, kept in a shoebox. It was all I could do not to try to throw myself at the wall and scale it, just enough to peek over and see this thing. Aggh!
Kris, standing in front of Julia Child's house. I used to know a guy who lived in an apartment next door and two floors up. One evening I looked down into Julia's window and watched her and Paul fix supper. They moved around each other like dancers. I remember the kitchen being turquoise blue. Kris says the entire kitchen is now in a museum, maybe the Smithsonian?
My last, and favorite: The Center for High Energy Metaphysics. That's how I knew I was back in Cambridge.
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