No rain again today and the garden is starting to feel badly for it. I turn on all three hoses, laying the back yard hose by the first of three hydrangeas, connecting the side hose to the soaker hose in the vegetable garden and putting the front hose on one of the two hydrangeas. I did not know hydrangeas were such water hogs. I have already promised them I will do better next year.

I set a timer.

The turtle is now down to a lop-sided spit, as leaves and algae start to get the better of the pumps. The waterfall drips. The gurgler is the only thing still pumping full force and it effects the sound of the pond. Instead of a medley of splashes and tinkles, the only sound is almost that of a faucet splashing into a sink or tub. The melody is gone.

The peas have begun to sprout, barely showing new-green heads under the mulch of dry grass. The beans are tall and healthy. The tomatoes continue to ripen and the brussel sprouts confuse me. They are not yet large enough to harvest, but have been growing since May. I do see some real difference in the stalks, so perhaps this is the same kind of growth as the sedum. The sedum is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring, putting little flat paddles of green in rosettes out into the sunshine. They are one of the last plants to bloom, and they last well into fall and the beginning of winter.

There are pops of color in surprising places. Not only has the purple clematis given us two beautiful blooms, completely unexpected and untimely, but a coneflower suddenly seems to think it’s July and has put out buds, blooms and new blossoms. A zinnia has come from out of nowhere and given me three fresh-faced bright pink flowers, like buttons all in a row. The red hibiscus exploded with one more hurrah, a bright red umbrella.

A red dragonfly buzzes past me in the back, hovering, zipping, hovering and zipping away. The milkweed bugs are scarce, only three on a milkweed pod that sits in the very bright sun.

The sun itself is different now. The angle to the earth is different, which means that suddenly, the trees in the parkway cast shadows on the front beds. Those trees are turning yellow, dropping leaves that float to the ground. The honey locust shed small brown leaves that curl into a bowl, and those are like confetti. They are everywhere, sticking to shoes and dog paws and tracking into the house at an alarming rate.

Coming along the weglia path, I notice a huge, giant, out-of-this-world spider. The nearest identification I can get is an orb spider. This sucker (get it?) is enormous. Her body is easily the size of my thumbnail, and with legs spread she could span a quarter. The web is a chaotic mass of silk, an orb weaver inebriated. She has sadly attached this web to our garbage can, so Miss Spider will only keep her home until Friday morning, when that can is wheeled to the sidewalk. I wonder if she will consider that a temporary loss and come back to rebuild in the same spot.

There is also another monster in a web built within the dried stalk of a hosta and a container on the berm. This resident is much shyer and bounces along the web to curl into a ball on the stalk, now seemingly invisible to me.

When the timer goes off, a raucous car horn, I am momentarily confused. For a split second, I’m not quite sure why it’s set. What was I supposed to do again? I remember, move the hoses and set it for another twenty minutes. And then I do it once more.

After that final alarm, I turn off the hoses and roll them up. Then I walk around the house one more time, to make sure I really remembered them all.

A Glimpse of What’s To Come

September 28, 2010

Driving down St. Francis Road toward LaGrange this morning and I was floored by a grove of trees decked out in orange and red and green. It’s the first time I really noticed a color change, the first time fall has been front and center. Now I am getting truly geeked for it.

Every fall for the past twenty years, we have visited an apple orchard, picked pumpkins and ate cinnamon doughnuts – somewhere. Last year, Tony and I went alone, driving out to County Line Orchard in Indiana while Dominic and Eliza slept in. While we ate the doughnuts hot and crispy at the Orchard, they had theirs later, cooled and packaged. It was not the same.

When we first started traveling to that orchard, it was about 18 years ago and I was pregnant with Eliza. We rode on the tractor, picked pumpkins, propped Dominic in amongst the heap of orange and made photographs. He helped pick apples, riding on Tony’s shoulder – life was such a happy adventure, everything was interesting and amazing. The orchard was homey, cozy, with a small shop with a bakery and apples in baskets, bags and bins. Older ladies cut up apples for tasting and the girls at the check-out knew how the orchard-made asparagus guacomole tasted. There was fudge.

Now, the orchard is a commercial enterprise, with two huge barns filled with people eating pulled pork sandwiches, fried potatoes and lemon shake-ups. There are wandering mariachi bands and advertisements for rock and roll shows in the evening. The check-outs are working furiously, ringing up coloring books, toys made in China and food items from all around the country. It is a great deal more expensive. It is not nearly as much fun, but there is still fudge.

We should have seen the writing on the wall years ago when they eliminated the honey house to make room for a weighing station. We really should have noticed when the parking lot went from grass to asphalt. When they added on to that original small shop, we should have known that things would not remain the same.

I understand that it’s good for the family that owns the property. They are making substantially more money with all these “fall fest” types of activities. They are employing more people, generating more sales tax to benefit their schools.

But we really miss that small feeling, that feeling of something untouched and real. It is now just another generic place, filled with plastic pumpkins, plastic toys, plastic people and a plastic character. The specialness is gone, and I feel sorry for the folks who visit now and get a Disneyfied version of an apple orchard.

I will buy my apples at the grocery store this year. But we will miss the cinnamon doughnuts.

Planning For Next Year

September 26, 2010

I should not be allowed a trowel after September 1.

In transplanting the squirrel tail grass, I dug up daffodils. In transplanting a pathetic barberry bush (should really call it a stick), I sliced into the cache of red lily bulbs next to the patio. How is it that even when I stop dead in my tracks and try to replant it all, there always seems to be too much to put back in the hole and I’m left with bulb corpses? Is there some force of nature that instantly swells the dirt and does not allow replanting?

My goal this fall is to get the Neither Here Nor There bed organized and replanted. On the way over there this afternoon, of course I was sidetracked by the weeds in the front lawn and pulled about a dozen dandelions. Most of the roots just snapped, so I’m sure they’ll be back bigger and stronger than ever next spring. I trimmed the chives in the front bed and pulled a few more cinnamon-fern-that-aren’t.

I got around the corner (finally) and started pulling the mint I planted a few years ago, which has turned out to be aggressively invasive. While it does emit a clean scent, like chewing gum, when stepped upon, it is starting to move into the grass, under the spyria and all around that bed. It needs to be nipped now.

I dug up the hostas that I had originally planted in a fluid sort of curve throughout the bed. That curve was a nice concept, but really didn’t work out as the evergreens have grown much faster than anticipated. Most of the time, the hostas disappear behind a bush or tree. After thumping the hosta bunches against the house to break off clods of dirt, I cut them carefully apart with my trowel. While I usually screw up at least a quarter of them, breaking them off at the base and leaving no root to plant with the green, this time I didn’t mess up a one. Each and every section had roots and green and was able to be planted. The edge is now about 2/3 of the way finished, with the hostas lining the boundary of the bed. I can see it already next year in my mind; after the Damn Rabbits have finally left them alone, they’ll make a green and white bounce of leaves along the side of the house, hemming in those evergreens of all shapes and sizes.

The coral bells in that bed have just run rampant and I stopped at the rim of that group, to think again and come back another day to finish. Do I want to separate those coral bells? Do I want to dig out the ones closest to the edge of the bed to continue the hostas, or have that break to mix things up a bit, add some more color and texture and shape with a bit of surprise in the middle of the border? Won’t that be pretty next year?

The grass is growing in those blank spots. It is almost filled in completely.

I checked the vegetable garden and found one bright red tomato – with blossom rot on the end. We should have enough spinach for salads by the end of this week and the beans are tall, tall, tall. I hesitate to have hope for the beans, as the warm weather has indeed slammed shut, and they will need some heat to bloom. The warmest day predicted this week will only be 70. No sign of the peas yet. I’ll need to water tomorrow – and set a timer.

I notice a fuzz of spiderweb on the milkweed, but realize it’s dragonfly wings upon closer inspection. He does not move when I make photographs. I wonder if the cold air has made him sluggish, or if this is truly a corpse.

A northern harrier, majestic and grey, swoops low over my head and through the yard. The compost bin is now left open to soak up rain and sun. I haven’t seen Francine or Clarence so I’m hoping they moved out from the new lack of privacy or were picked off by the predator birds. Really, hoping they were picked off by the birds. That would be a nice Permanent Solution to the problem.

On my way around the corner, I am charmed by a colorful surprise – orange mums growing under the pampas grass, tucked right alongside and visible only if you’re paying attention.

The pond is beginning to be choked with leaves and branches, so I ordered bird netting today from Amazon. Amazingly enough, it told me that I ordered that same product in September of 09. I am apparently a creature of habit and a brand loyalist. Next weekend, I hope to get the pond closed, cattails cut and netting spread. That will be the “putting to bed” of the garden, when lawn chairs are put away, hammock rolled up, all the tchotchkes and artwork stored in the attic.

Yesterday was senior Homecoming for Eliza and also a visit to ISU, planning for her own next year. We drove up to the bridge and she said, “I love this place!” We walked the campus with the tour guide and heard someone shouting loudly in cow-like tones and she said “I love this place!” We talked with Matt Black who told her the library’s entire sixth floor is devoted to the theatre – with its own librarian – and she said “I love this place!” Later, she was sparkling and oh so effervescent, dressed in green with silver shoes, ready to dance her last Homecoming night away.

If we hadn’t tied a string to her feet, we would have lost her in sky, floating above us with joy.


September 22, 2010

Yesterday was the last day of summer, hot and stuffy and turn-the-air-on weather. Today is the first day of fall, chilly, wet and slow.

It seems that very year, the arrival of fall is clean, the thump of the equinox almost resounding in the air. Where springs slowly arrives, creeping tentatively and hesitantly, warmer weather mixed with blizzards, fall weather just turns, like the slamming of a door. While we may have some warm days left, there will always be that edge, that evening chill, the nighttime frosts.

I am halfway through. I have just two more seasons to explore in the garden and then this project will be finished. It does not seem like it’s been six months. There has been no moment of “gosh, what can I possibly write about?” There has been so much that I’ve learned. So much has come and gone. We are in the dying season now and I wonder how it will be to document the garden during the winter months. Will there be new adventures? Will there still be amazing surprises and gifts from those garden gods?

Looking out at the garden, I think of all the flowers that have been and are no more – just a blaze of glory and then gone. It is rather like friendships. When you think of the span of your life, you remember those people that were just so important in your life when you were 8, 16, 20, 32 – and now they are gone – moved on. Perhaps their life situation no longer matches yours, perhaps you just don’t live nearby anymore, no longer work at the same company. They were that beautiful blaze and now they’ve disappeared.

The autumn clematis is already browning, smelling sweeter and tangier every day. It rained this morning and now the brussel sprouts hold in their leaves crystal clear pools of water, gentle cups pure and crisp. They reflect the indirect light and throw shades of grey and bursts of white, like perfect paintings.

The impatiens are still going and growing, leggy and mounded, pink and orange and purple. They won’t fully realize what’s coming until they are hit with a killing frost and that might not be for many weeks yet. More and more and more acorns, more and more and more squirrels. They sit in the tree, in the nest and hoarsely bark all day – in a pattern – which quite frankly starts to get on my nerves after awhile. With each bark, the tail twitches.

Fall means Homecoming which means toilet paper. The Fitz’s trees, bushes and yard were hanging with it, drapes and ropes, rolls and rolls unfurled, looking like a ticker tape parade. You can always tell who has a high school student in Tinley Park during Homecoming week. Ryan was happily pulling it down with a hockey stick, but yards of it floated into our yard too, spreading the celebration.

I notice that we have another accidental pine tree near the pond and am pleased by two deep purple clematis blooms, well past the time for buds and blooms. The garden gods have smiled.

The milkweed is yellowing, the coneflower leaves turning into a camouflage of green and black. The sunflowers lose their yellow petals and their brown faces droop toward the ground, almost as if they are embarrassed of their deteriorating condition. I watch a red ant run speedily up and down the sunflower stem, intent on his mission. The pampas grass is enormous, tall and full with blossoms spreading, like arms opening to receive the sun.

I heard a different call today, a raucous loud note, something I haven’t heard yet this year. It is a very uncommon visitor, specially for me to celebrate this first day of fall. It is a big bluejay, bright and garish, that decides to sit in the pin oak’s low branches and take a very quick dip in the pond. He is gone quickly, but leaves me feeling like there are still many wonderful things to come in this year.

A Really Lovely Afternoon

September 20, 2010

Kristin and Maeve came for a visit today. I met Kristin, a teacher at Andrew, through Eliza and she became interested in this project – my garden. Maeve is her daughter, a tiny little doll, at the magic age of smiles, endless, sunny “hi”s and baby tricks. She is perfectly aware of where her belly is and will happily show you.

It is so satisfying to see my garden through new eyes. There is always amazement when I relate that our backyard was all grass B.M. (Before Me) and I love that the changes I wrought are appreciated.

Kristin was a most satisfying person to take on a tour of my garden.

She asked about the different plants and listened to the answers. She agreed that hydrangeas are overblown and needy, loved the majesty of the pampas grass. When buffalo roamed and the deer and the antelope played, pampas grass grew everywhere, thick and clean and pure. I love that I can bring a bit of that to my backyard and I really enjoyed the way Kristin liked it too. She walked through the bed to breathe in the autumn clematis. She was charmed by the Accidental Acorn Squash too.

We wandered to the front, Tony having so much fun with Maeve, walking around the house, into the house, up and down the stairs, out the front door, back down the drivewalk, playing a laughing peeking game in the lacrosse net. I love to watch this little girl, her hair in crooked pigtails (“the daycare did her hair, not me!” says Kristin), her rear waggling as she walks. She is a happy baby, outgoing and sociable. She is also at the perfect age for baby fun – I couldn’t give in to what I’d really like to do, which is squeeze her up, read books, play trains, sing songs and color and really not pay much attention to the adults in the room. While I can do that with family babies, it’s a little strange – and terribly rude – with friends and I have to restrain myself harshly.

I felt the need to apologize for the downward trend of the garden and we talked about vegetables and how growing watermelon is really a disappointment. She asked how long the beans had been planted and replied, “wow!” when I said it was only a few weeks. When I pointed out the spinach, she laughed at how much it really did look like spinach. We both marveled at the weirdness of brussel sprouts.

She remarked how our yard is an oasis and I agreed. It is a paradise of my own making; everyone should feel this way about their home. Hopefully, I can see her garden which she says is a real mess right now. The funny thing is that I feel the same way about mine; I see so many things that need to be trimmed and cut back and thinned and transplanted. Kristen seems to have hopes and ambitions for her plot and I in turn hope they come true.

She told me a story about visiting her childhood home and about how powerful that had been for her. She is truly tapped into her emotions and not afraid to be human, be open and be honest. She has a keen sense of enjoyment, an admiration of the little things in life. She enjoys this little person who is her daughter so much.

This was a lovely afternoon, with a lovely woman who sees the world through such wondering and appreciative eyes, a poet at heart.

I pulled on my shoes, but didn’t change into working clothes because I was just going to pull a few weeds and clean the turtle. Oh, how foolish I am.

The front bed, where that iris is now planted, was the perfect place to start. I wanted to get rid of those volunteers from that “cinnamon” plant (that really isn’t) but ended up thinking about how much prettier it will be next year if the drift of coneflower reaches all the way to the drive. So I headed to the butterfly bed to dig up the coneflower that crowded out the scabiosa this summer. When I started to dig in the perfect spot near the irises, I did what I do every fall and then curse myself for immediately – I dug up a cache of daffodil bulbs. SIGH. Did I get them all back in correctly and happily? We won’t know until spring now!

A single milkweed bug watched me while those cinnamon volunteers were dug up, cut out and the broken roots sprayed with vinegar. I asked where his friends were but he did not answer (For that, I’m actually grateful). I’m hoping all this pulling is going to eliminate this cinnamon plant, but I have a feeling I’ll be digging the blasted things up next summer and the summer after that. Years ago, I planted perennial dusty miller, a gift from someone, and it spread like wildfire, choking out everything else and not being attractive into the bargain. Just greyish green toothed leaves. I’ve pulled and pulled and pulled for years since, and even found another plant this year, right on the berm. Those invasive plants just don’t give up or give in. They are the herpes of the garden.

I began feeling the urge to  cut down the balloon flower, just one pink bloom left, divide it and transplant it around this new iris bed but fought it back. Today was not the day. I also fought the urge to do the same with the gaillardia. I gave in to getting a few clumps of coreopsis planted at the corner of the bed.

I trimmed around the elevated bed and hear the tick of leaves as grasshoppers moved out of my way. One of them, a very massive hopper had only one leg. I told him I hoped he finds it comfortable and safe in my butterfly bed as he moved slowly and awkwardly into the zinnia. Again, I got no answer.

I called Dominic to move the 40 lb bag of dirt over to the side of the house. He let Griffey out, brought the bag over, then ran after the dog near the Fitzgerald’s fence. Their dogs were out, huge labradors; Griffey is the size of their heads. A frenzied bark fest ensued, with Dominic picking up Griffey and bringing him home to end it. I spread the dirt over the grassless circles left by stepping stones removed last year and then scattered grass seed over the dirt. It’s supposed to germinate in 5-28 days and they are calling for rain most of this week, so I might just have some grass success.

I pulled out the chives in the peony/hydrangea bed and stood by the Neither Here Nor There bed for some time, trying to decide where to plant them. A million things went through my mind, including the shape of the new beds by the fence, moving the hostas into a border, dividing the coral bells and in general just ripping up that side of the yard. I am proud to say I resisted and threw the chives into the compost bin.

My goal was to pull some of the weeds out of the flagstone path, but I found myself trimming along the edges, making it neat and clean and clear. As I dumped the bucket of weeds into the compost bin, I saw not one but two mice, literally dancing on top of the compost. I drew back in alarm and they jumped into the air, like it was a party in this black box and they were rocking the mosh pit, then scurried out of sight down the sides. I got the hose and started running water into the bin.

Nature is lovely and all, but mice?  No thank you.

I took down the panels on the veggie garden and trimmed around the bricks, ripping out the long grass. Then I ripped all the runner beans off the support, finding a good handful left on the vines, hidden by the brussel sprouts. I did not eat them, as the last batch I picked was tough and chewy when cooked. I  dug two trenches about 1″ deep and unearthed 3 potatoes the size of marbles. Just adorable.  I sprinkled the pea seeds (amazingly, they look just like peas!) into the trenches, covered them with the dirt and then sprinkled the grass trimmings on top for mulch and water retention. I made sure the soaker hose sat along those trenches, adjusted it around the brussel sprouts, now about 2-1/2 feet high. Putting the panels back into place, I gave some thought to redoing those hooks for next year, using one hook for two panels, making them easier to take apart and reassemble. Yep, for next year.

When I turned around, I saw the hose had fallen out of the compost bin (really? what is it with me and watering?) so I held it above the bin and soaked the whole top until I saw brown compost tea trickle out of the bottom. I then grabbed my pitchfork and turned the top layer, slicing into the rotting mass, trying to disturb those mice and scare them out of the bin.

I cleaned the turtle and the brass sprayer nozzle kept shooting off of the hose. One more thing to look at next weekend when I really get into the garden (are you laughing? because I am). Naturally, now that the turtle is working, the waterfall was reduced to a trickle. These two have nothing to do with each other, they merely sit next to each other under the bridge. I could hear something rattling in the fall pump, maybe a small acorn now caught inside. Yes, I should take it apart and really give it a thorough cleaning, but it’s coming out for the season in a week or two, so now is not the time.

There is an acorn perfectly suspended in a spider’s web above the edge of the pond.

I picked some green pepper for dinner and then picked up the acorn squash for a little festive decoration inside the house. Throwing the vine into the compost bin, Francine and Clarence were there again, seemingly less afraid, even after the deluge and the aggressive piercings. Perhaps they were celebrating their recent triumph over water and steel, thumbing their pointy little pink noses at death or disbursement.

Tony and I talked about the Mouse Issue. His immediate thought was to get rid of the bin entirely. No mouse around the house for Tony. The song “I Don’t Like Spiders and Snakes” could be his theme song. I talked him down and explained how we’ll need to get metal, closely meshed wire. We’ll have to empty the bin (gawd, what a mess that will be!), spray it out, caulk it all together and then line the inside of the box with the wire.

When I went to the compost bin to throw in dinner vegetable peelings, I banged loudly many times, which struck me as very ironic. Why am I knocking on the door of my own bin? Then a great thought! Seeing as they love to dance on top of the pile, I left the top open, thinking that this will be a great opportunity for neighborhood hawks (are you singing “The Circle of Life? because I am!). If they see these cocky little mice, prancing and dancing in bacchanalian delight, they’ll fix their wagon. Imagine the sudden dive, the shadow of death (better than my pitchfork), the squeak! Imagine the mousefree compost bin!

I have a feeling Tony won’t be taking out the compost until we have this solved.

A beautiful, sunny, gorgeous summer day, with hints of fall all around me. When I walked around the corner of the house, I literally ran into a wall of fragrance from the sweet autumn clematis. It was shocking, astonishing and delightful, an invisible surprise that made me react physically. It is already getting past its prime; the honey is now tinged with a bite of cinnamon. (Makes me want toast.) The middle of the blossoms pucker up, like lips ready to kiss the sunshine.

There are fewer and fewer milkweed bugs, no babies anywhere to be seen. I’m learning that they have a natural antifreeze in their bodies to help them hibernate through the winter months, so we’ll see them again next summer, happy, healthy and frequently copulating.

Spider webs everywhere again – big ones in the veggie garden and on window sills, medium size webs between the bricks and between drying stems, teeny tiny two- and three-threaded webs between seeds on drying blooms. A huge bonus today for watching and observing; a miniscule red spider, so small that I wouldn’t have noticed it had I not been making multiple exposures of the same clematis seed head. She ran up and down each prong, starting at the bottom and continuing all the way around, like a Spirograph. She was smaller than the head of a pin, about the size of a pencil dot. How amazing that she is mostly unseen, unnoticed, but places a role in the garden, even if it’s just randomly running around a clematis seed head.

The ajuga is wilting like spinach in a hot pan, getting ready to disappear for the winter. There are hundreds of acorns scattered throughout the beds, and more ticking to the ground every day. They crunch underfoot on the bridge and drop into the pond, drawing the goldfish.

A Dion Skipper lands on a foxglove leaf and poses for a photograph. The leaves on the trees in the parkway yellow and fall, the honey locust sheds and the lily of the valley forms the orange fruit which is very poisonous. I’m thinking to plant some on the berm later this fall; it is happy in the shade and under the pin oak we certainly have shade. The weglia on top of the berm is very much in need of a good trim and shaping. I wanted it to get established before I whacked at it, but it certainly needs a whack now. It in branchy and thin, pointing every which way with no shape or attractive form.

The beans are happily growing and the spinach is thriving. No sign of the lettuce. I’m thinking we’ll have some fried green tomatoes this weekend.

Waiting For The Rain

September 16, 2010

I waited for rain today. The forecasters said rain at midnight, followed by a day of rain today and it looked that way, with temperatures dropping and the smell of a storm in the air. I foresaw sodden earth, shiny puddles and happy plants.

So I didn’t water the hydrangeas. I waited for the rain.

The window was open in my office today to let in that nibble of cool air, bracing and mind-clearing. The clematis just feet from the window perfumed my space all day and when breezes blew, I got a renewed gust of fragrance, heavy with honey. The clematis hangs seemingly airy and diaphanous on the arbor; in reality it is substantial and momentous. It reminds me of a bridal train – white and shining and effortless while being huge and heavy.

The impatiens are leggy now, with flowers at the very top and bare stems running to the ground. Leggy impatiens remind me of Twiggy. They also scold me about my lack of pinching. There are two schools of thought. Do you pinch back to get a bushier bunch, or just let them rip and get the huge, tall mounds? I like the huge tall mounds. Bigger show and, really, less work! Very soon, they’ll need to be cut down, ripped out and thrown in the compost bin to rot there all winter instead of in the flower beds. In the bin, they’ll be beneficial. In the beds, they can cause disease.

The gaillardia is well and truly gone, the party over, with nothing but ecru tissue petals and wilted leaves left behind. It is fast becoming sticks instead of a bush, but I hope to divide this to move some of it to the front between the newly planted iris. I have Division Angst about this; you just never know how it’s going to go down next spring. Will the original plant recover and still give you the show you had last year, or will it lose its momentum and be just ordinary?

A burst of rain at about 10 o’clock gave me hope for a good soak and for happy hydrangeas. When it ceased in 10 minutes, the ground barely damp, I became cynical.

The eupatorium are just a hot mess, looking burned out, dried up and just ragged. I grow these because they are a native plant, not so much for astonishing beauty. They look very much like weeds, or what we consider to be weeds. The blooms are full and pink, like a young debutante, but they fade quickly, like a Jane Austen governess and you’re left with a bitter-looking frump that still dominates the garden (insert your own mental reference here – a relative or neighbor perhaps?)

Speaking of debs and frumps, those perky garlic chives, once the youngster of the garden, a burst of new among the already established, are now drooping, falling across each other and losing their starry eyes. The phlox have just a few bits of pink still left, like afterthoughts of confetti.

The sedum is glorious both in front and in back, softball sized clusters of pink stars drawing bees and smaller butterflies.

The sky is slate, clouds so heavy and dark that it seems you can almost reach out and hold all that water, chilly and solid in your hand. The hydrangeas still slump and droop, causing me more worry than a newborn baby, and it is late afternoon. I am still waiting for rain.

The peppers still bloom and form, bigger and sweeter all the time. The tomatoes continue to grow, but with a forecast of cooler weather continuing well into next week, I think we’ll be having fried green tomatoes instead of summer salad. Damn that zucchini. The brussel sprouts are confusing me. They’ve been in this bed since May and are just now growing any edible size head. My neighbor mentioned he doesn’t plant his until later in the season, to get a little more crisp into the taste. Well, how late are these things going to grow? I’m seeing that you should get a harvest in 3 months and it’s been at least a month longer than that and I certainly can’t harvest anything yet. Damn watermelon.

I have learned alot about leaf size of neighboring plants in the veggie garden this year.

I’m becoming a horror story of watering. Monday night, I turned on the soaker hose in the veggie garden. Tuesday morning at 6 am, I sat straight up in bed, ran down the stairs and out the door in my pajamas to turn the hose off. Maybe that’s why the peppers are doing so well. And my neighbor’s grass.

We lived in Harvey when I was growing up and our property abutted an alley. My mother had the most gorgeous rose garden that grew in the backyard, purple and red and white and yellow and pink. Beautiful, high-maintenance princesses that needed a tangy-smelling white powder sprinkled, very careful and strategic pruning and watering at the roots only. They didn’t like wet leaves. One summer, there was a substantial span of days when the alley was always soaked, just puddles and puddles and inches of water when it hadn’t rained for awhile. “Hmm….” said my parents on the first day. “That’s weird.” The second day seemed stranger and so did the third. I think it was the fourth day that my mom finally realized she had left the hose running.

It runs (get it?) in the family.

I waited and waited, but we got no rain. I turned the hose onto the hydrangea. And then I set a very loud timer.

On Edge…

September 15, 2010

The hydrangeas are once again wilting and drooping. I can almost hear them rasp, begging for water.

It’s supposed to rain at midnight so I’m waiting it out.

But I’m racked with guilt.

What if it doesn’t????

Shooting Stars

September 13, 2010

Yesterday afternoon, I watched a grass spider run in and out, in and out of the crevice in the bricks, nervous about my presence but very committed to eating the dinner in the funnel of her web. I think she was afraid I’d take a bite myself. She was fast as lightning and couldn’t make up her mind whether I was friend or foe, which made photographing her somewhat of a challenge. I went through about a dozen exposures to end up with one that was merely acceptable.

When it was dark, Dominic and I sat on the hammock “the wrong way” as he says, sitting in it together and swinging back and forth like a – well, like a swing. We could smell the sweet autumn clematis and I saw a shooting star. It blazed through the leaves of the honey locust for a brief second and then was gone, a flash of arcing white light. Dominic didn’t see it and questioned my veracity first and then my sanity. Because it had been so brief, I began to question it myself. Seeing a shooting star is a rare and unexpected event, always on the edge of “did I just imagine that?” You have a difficult time believing you were that lucky, to be in the right place at the right time and looking in exactly the right spot.

Today was Tony’s 50th birthday. Most people would go out on a tear, have a party, go to Vegas. We celebrated by taking the day off and going to Lake Katherine to walk 5 miles. It was glorious today, in the 80’s and brightly sunny. We wandered around the lake twice, stopping for photographs, inspecting the butterfly garden and the herb garden and climbing the waterfall. Then we got serious and clipped around the path, getting our hearts pumping and becoming hot and sweaty in the process. The turtles were out, the cattails lush and prolific. The ducks barely noticed us.

Later, I tried to dig up some of that invasive plant in the butterfly bed but was distracted by a pair of new visitors to the garden. They were buckeyes, bigger butterflies with violet eyes on their wings. They feed with those wings spread wide open, and once they got used to my presence – and my shadow didn’t fall on them – it very easy to make literally dozens of exposures and to actually get several good ones. I wonder how long they’ll be here as I know we are merely a stop on the way back south. Y’all.

In the great scheme of things, isn’t everything like a shooting star? Tony has been here 50 years which seemed like a long time, until Dominic said, “Dad, you’ve got half your life in front of you.” People work and build and create, and it’s all really just a drop in the bucket. While the earth has been here for 4.54 billion years (give or take a millennium or two), people have been here for just a cosmic blink of an eye, a fraction of a moment, the blaze of a shooting star. And with all of our environmental mischief-making, who knows how much longer people will be here?

Maybe we are more like shooting stars than we realize, arcing into darkness.