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Archive for the ‘Flowers’ Category

There is a great deal to be said about an early September day when it arrives in the latter part of July. Yesterday we were bombarded by rain and an F2 tornado that struck not too far from here, but today…today has brought with it sunshine, white puffy clouds, and air so dry you can create static electricity by walking across the grass in your bare feet. Not such a morning as this has struck and been cause for celebration in many a moon.

I arose early this morning. Although all of the windows were closed and the air conditioning was in a lull, there was something that had permeated the house, giving it a fresh feel that fairly screamed, “Wake up and celebrate this morning…get up dammit, get up!” Never one to disobey a ‘fresh feel,’ I dragged my weary bones – getting less weary by the second, I might add – and let Widget, our Cairn terrier out to perform her morning ablutions. Even opening the back door, I could feel the beckoning call of cool – not cold or warm – breezes telling me to get out of the house and enjoy…which I did.

Now, I must describe our backyard to you. As you step out onto the concrete patio, you are assaulted by the smell of flowers…roses of many kinds, poppies, petunias, hibiscus, and heaven only knows what else assault your senses with wonderful aromas. Flowers in window boxes; flowers in pots; flowers in beds; flowers just about everywhere; well everywhere that there aren’t tomatoes, jalapeno peppers, strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries. Yes, our backyard is a multiplicity of gardens. Fear not, however, for there is a pathway to the lava rock patio surrounding an eighteen by thirty-six foot irregularly shaped swimming pool. I say that the patio is lava rock not because of its color, but because no matter how hot it gets, this patio never gets above 72o..

As Widget took off a) sniffing to see what wild animals had been in the yard last night; and b) at some point getting to the pee and poop part of her day, I headed for my favorite chair. This is no ordinary chair I want you to know; this is my ‘special’ chair! When I sit in this chair, I am magically transported; my entire focus on life changes. I sit and the chair begins to surround me; I lay back and the chair lays back with me until I see my toes – ugly little suckers – and I can stare at the sky. This morning, with the cool air and puffy clouds, it was my idea of perfection. The blue of the sky; the blue of the water, the cool breeze…everything combined to release every bit of tension from me. I was more relaxed and more at ease than any time since my “gym incident” of a couple of weeks ago.

This may all sound like a bunch of hooey to you – bullshit, if you want to get downright crass about it – but this morning was beyond beautiful. We happen, at times, on a flight approach to Logan International Airport in Boston. We can easily identify what airline is flying in and sometimes even those flying out. At the height at which we see them, they aren’t all that noisy and this morning, they merely looked like huge silver birds. In addition, a flock – or whatever one calls them – of Canada geese flew over silently. Have to tell you that I’m not all that crazy about those birds. They’re as bad as turkeys in terms of leaving deposits that let you know they’ve been around your area. Usually in flight, I hear the damn things honking to beat the band, but these were so silent and so low, you could hear the flapping of their wings…hot dam!

I lay there from shortly after six until darn near 7:30. Widget did her thing as I stared at the sky. At some point, I must have drifted off, only to be awakened by a harsh dog bark. Widget seems to take exception to joggers as they go by…either that or it’s her form of greeting…yeah, right.

It’s now 11:30 in the morning. The sun has risen above the pine trees and is now shedding light on the pool. The temperature has risen, although it’s only supposed to be in the seventies today. I do believe that this is too beautiful a day to waste. It seems to me that the wisest course of action to pursue is to take a hot shower, jump into a bathing suit, grab a quick lunch, take my Kindle in hand, and head back to my chair. Will I take a dip in the pool? Who knows, but on a day like this, anything is possible. Gotta love this day and cherish every one like it!

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Counting one’s blessings is a wonderful way to get through life.

It is particularly important if one lives in a relatively suburban environment, but works in an urban setting. One of your blessings might be that you have nearby access to public transportation, whether that be bus or train service…or even a helicopter. If you do not have any of these marvelous modes of moving yourself from point A, commonly known as “the house” to point “B,” often referred to as that @#$%&* job, you have no blessing for which to account. You are the dreaded “car commuter,” a species fraught with the dangers attendant to that particular group. You are the spawn of urban sprawl and the victim of the “I need more space” syndrome. Therefore, you rush through breakfast with, perhaps, a piece of toast – cold because the kids ate first and it’s actually leftover toast – and a sip of espresso or your favorite single serving whatever from the little cup brewmaster. You jump in the car; jump back out of the car and run to get what you forgot that you need today; run back to the car which now puts you five minutes behind your normal leave time. Those five minutes mean that you will now require an additional 30-45 minutes to arrive at work.  It is that bad…and God forbid there’s a fender bender along the way…you are now ‘screwed in abundance.’  As a consequence of all of this, you are now allowed to become a political activist in your suburban community, climb on the soap box and demand better bus and rail service. It’s either that, take a sedative with that sip of espresso, or become a raving lunatic. Ah, but there is a blessing. Despite the fools who are talking on the phone, texting against the law, reading the newspaper or slurping their morning coffee [must have a spare top at work, eh?), you have the answer. You are a bibliophile; a connoisseur of fine literature, a.k.a., you go to the library and get books on tape or disc. You can peacefully drive along as you listen to the latest adventures of Alex Cross, Lucas Davenport, Dirk Pitt, or Jack Reacher. Should your literati tastes differ, you might prefer the first two of Ken Follett’s latest trilogy or whatever suits your fancy. The blessing is that you can enhance your knowledge while stuttering along in traffic. Viewed from that perspective, I suppose you could call traffic a blessing…no kidding, you could!

Perhaps the most important blessing of all is that you wake up, sit up, and put your feet on the floor. There are a whole pile of people who would give almost anything to be able to do that. There’s another group who don’t wake up at all. Some would say that’s the ultimate blessing. Perhaps my faith isn’t strong enough yet, but I do like throwing the blankets off, heading to the bathroom, and then getting ready for the gym. Coming home from the gym is how I know about that traffic thingie I mentioned before. I cross over a main commuter road on the way home and that five-minute difference in time seems to make all the difference in the world as to how crowded that road is. That’s another one of my blessings by the way. I don’t have to get in that mess anymore. It’s just another gift of retirement, along with the sciatica, arthritis, heart problems, and the rest of the medical crap that comes with old age.

All kidding aside, you and I are blessed. We live in a country that has its share of problems, but we can still get in the car; we can get gas at prices that are far lower than most countries abroad; we can go from state to state without showing papers; for the most part, we don’t have to worry about being shot at or running over an IED in our travels. We have magnificent national parks and beautiful places to visit that have not been reduced to rubble by rocket grenades or bombs. Those are blessings, and all too few of us understand that.

I’ve only traveled across this country three times. Twice I’ve flown and once the trip was by car. You can certainly see a great deal more from the ground. You can take side trips that open your eyes to unending marvels. You can explore caves and stick your finger – very quickly – into a hot spring. You can drive along endless stretches without seeing a house. You can climb mountains or drive to their top. Ground travel is a wonderful experience. You can marvel even more at the pioneers who traveled this distance on horseback or in covered wagon. Traveling across America by plane can also excite your mind and allow you to realize how diverse the US landscape is. The Grand Canyon from the air is absolutely breathtaking.

Maybe you can do those things. Maybe you’ve done more; maybe less. Whatever your life, you have blessings to count. Just watching the rebirth of spring after a long cold winter is a blessing we should all cherish. Trees that were so bare and barren sprout their buds and then leaves. Ground that was frozen solid becomes green with new grass. Gardens that have lain dormant begin to flower and once more send their fragrance into the air. Okay, you have allergies; so have I…and they’re tough, but if you can see through them to the beauty that surrounds us, we “shure got us a whole bunch” of blessings that we can call our own. Why doncha take a minute to count ‘em sometime. It might make you a bit more thankful for what you do have, rather than whatcha don’t.

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I am a killer!

“Wow; he’s admitting that in writing,” you ponder to yourself. “A killer? Really?”

Yep, that’s me, Killer Dick, The Big Bad….Person!”

“Who do you kill?” you ask.

“Aha,” I reply, “You’ve been watching too much CSI, NCIS, Dateline Discovery ID, and all those other gory programs. Therefore, you believe me to be a murderer of who, not what…and it is what that I kill on a regular basis.”

My late wife was not a killer. She was more what I would call an involuntary ‘manslaugherist.’ You see, we together could kill things that if others tried to kill, they would be unable to do so. Take philodendron, for example. Philodendron is extremely difficult to kill. For us…no problem. Going away for vacation and need someone to kill your plants while you’re gone? Call me; I can do it in a week. Hell, I walk into a room and plants quake. Most of them begin to write out their leafy wills the moment they spot me. It’s a gift.

I had two cacti sitting on the ledge of the bow window in the front room. One of them had belonged to Joan’s mother. After her death, my late wife took care of it. This means that cactus had nearly 30 years of careful tending by the involuntary manslaughterist and she didn’t kill it. Frankly, I think it was a record; either that or she hired someone behind my back to tend to it. I finally gave in and bought her another cactus plant to care for. Even that one survived while she was still alive.

The other day, my girlfriend brought the two cactus plants into the office where I was working – I call it an office, but it’s actually a spare bedroom where we put the computer…no big deal. She confronted me with two wizened cactus plants. “You know,” she began – she’s a plant person, but we keep the front drapes closed so I don’t think she’d ever seen the ‘cactii.’ “You know, even in the desert they have flash floods.” Long pause as she stared at the two plants. I said nothing. She broke first. “You killed these,” she uttered. What could I say? It was true enough. I had left them in the front window; in the face of the broiling afternoon sun…with no access to water other than what I probably should have given them once every month or so. I had claimed two more plants; nothing but a couple more notches in the plant stand. I know that I should have been ashamed [or something], but I felt no pain. I have to admit that I am heartless when it comes to house plants…live, die, do your own thing, whatevah!

My attitude was fine as Joan had my back, but she’s not here. She would have kept the cactus alive, but she’s not here. Instead, they were left in the hands of a killer. However, now comes a new problem. The lady who now lives with me, whom I love and loves me, not only has a green thumb; she’s green all over.
She can make a rock grow flowers…beautiful flowers. She has transformed our back and front yards into floral paradises. In addition to the floral beauty of the yard which began with the crocuses blooming through the snow in January of last year, we had fresh fruit and vegetables all summer. She tends to her plants and to me the way a new mother tends to her newborn. Now that she’s found out I’m a killer, I have to watch myself very carefully. There are three plants in the office. When she comes in, she doesn’t look at me first; oh, no, the first place her gaze falls is on the plants. I can hear her mind churning: “Has he tried to kill you guys yet? Don’t worry; as long as I’m around, he won’t get the chance.” It’s terrifying; I go to bed at night, wondering if I’ll awaken with an amaryllis protruding from my chest. Shades of the Alien movies when the little monster pops out of the guy’s shirt!

I think we’ve worked something out, however. I stay away from the plants – even the ones in the office – and she leaves one of the dead cactus plants where I can see it every time I walk into the office. It’s sort of a “Don’t you touch anything killer, or it’ll be the last thing you touch.” It’s just a bit intimidating, but what the hell, as long as she keeps creating the beauty both in the house and around it, I’m just going to sit back an enjoy.

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She came from out of the west…the gardener.

She came East to take care of an old man; no reason; just came East…the gardener

“Your backyard is a mess,” she told him, but he didn’t seem to mind, even when she told him that she was…the gardener.

She was right, of course. The backyard hadn’t seen much care since his wife had died just a little over two years ago. He’d sorta lost interest in a whole pile of things until she showed up…the gardener.

“It’s too late to do much this year,” she told him, but they went searching for bulbs and plants and fencing and funny cloth hoses and such. He didn’t think much about it; after all, it was her money that was being spent. All he had to do was stand around and watch…and shake his head…and think to himself that maybe she was just a little bit ‘off.’ But, he figured she knew what she was doing…the gardener.

Late one fall afternoon, after the sun was down and it was dark, he looked out the front window. The lamp in the front yard was on; she’d dug up a circle around the lamp and put some kind of a rubber or plastic liner around it. Seemed kind of funny that she’d be putting wire all over the spot but, he wasn’t going to question her; after all, she was…the gardener .When she came in the house that evening, she announced, “Well, that’s the last of them.”

“How many?” he asked.

“Seven hundred sixty-three,” she replied.

“That’s a hell of a lot of flower bulbs” he thought, but then, she was…the gardener. New England winters can be really bad. If the cold weather didn’t get the bulbs, he was certain that the squirrels and/or the skunks and/or a whole slew of other critters would dig through the chicken wire and eat the bulbs so’s not to go hungry over the winter. Critters are like that. “She is going to be so pissed,” he thought, “particularly since she worked so hard.”

The winter was a particularly bad one. Seemed to be one storm after another, each one depositing more snow than the one before. Flat roofs collapsed in several places; they even talked about trying to shovel the snow of a part of their roof, but both were too damned old to climb a ladder to do so. The kids across the street were so busy with their plowing business, the only thing they had time for when they got home was to grab a bite, a few hours of sleep and then get back on the road.

She kept staring out the big windows in the family room. The three of them stretched floor to ceiling, and you could watch the birds, those who were damned fool enough to stick around and not fly south; they’d attack both of the feeders with gusto. We’d throw out some critter food for the squirrels and chipmunks. They couldn’t get to the feeders. In fact, it was funny to watch the squirrels climb up the pole supporting one of the feeders. The feeder was a vertical tube that hung from a hook. It was called the “Yankee Flipper,” a name applied all too well. We’d watch the squirrels climb the pool with such ease and jump down to the top of the feeder. Unfortunately for these critters, the food was dispensed from four feeding holes near the bottom of the feeder. Birds would sit on a ring and gorge themselves. When the squirrels tried to stand on the ring, their weight would be enough to trigger the ring into a merry-go-round motion, but at a much greater speed than the old carnival attraction. Zoon, zoom, zoom, would go the squirrels, often attempting to hold on with one paw. They could not stay on and would get flipped off into the snow. Were they hurt? Evidently not, because most of them would clamber out of the snow and try it again, only learning after three or four flips that it probably wasn’t worth the effort.

When the snow began to melt, she purchased bags of “critter food,” and would toss it on the small patio outside the big windows. Day after day, the ‘critters’ would be fed. Finally, I couldn’t stand it. “Why are you feeding the squirrels and chipmunks?” I asked.

“So they will know where to come for food and stay the hell away from my garden,” she responded…the gardener…thinking ahead.

As April turned into May, I noticed that the ‘Florida room,’ – read as a porch converted to a nine-month room to sit in – more and more seedlings began to fill up the place. Chairs were bunched together and large pieces of wood placed across them to hold more and more small pots of this and that. Tomatoes or many varieties – Romas, Black Crims, Yellow Brandywines, etc. – summer squash, beans – both yellow and green – peas, beets, red, white, and yellow onions, and Lord only knows what else…the gardener was on the prowl, all the time cursing under her breath, “How the hell can you grow a garden if you can’t plant until after Memorial Day.”

Suddenly – it seemed to take place overnight, which I’m certain it did not – the bulbs that had been planted the preceding fall were shooting up flowers of purples and gold and red and more colors than the rainbow. The backyard had been transformed into myriad colors…the gardener.

Thanks to Loews, Ocean State Job Lot, and Home Depot, nearly the entire yard was filled with flowers and vegetables. Next thing we knew we were harvesting peas and beans; then came the tomatoes, the squash, the cucumbers, the strawberries, and flowers, always flowers; flowers dying and others taking their place. The yard was a festival of flowers and a buffet of vegetables. “Do you want salad with dinner,” became a catch phrase of the late afternoon, along with do you want Romaine, summer crisp, or iceberg lettuce…the gardener.

My life has changed. My easting is healthier. Watching seeds turn into seedling and becoming food for the table; watching tiny bulbs, planted a fall before burst into beautiful color…all of this has given me another life experience. If you’ve never seen your property transformed; if you have transformed it yourself into a thing of beauty, you can fully comprehend when I simply say…the gardener.

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