"She refused to be bored, chiefly because she wasn't boring." Zelda Fitzgerald

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Consciousness and Vegetable Death

The tomato vines have fallen on their faces, sprawling out of the beds and making their gangling way onto the cement patio, as if they were reaching for the back door of our home. Frost will not come here so watching the hot weather crops time themselves out is a totally new process for me. Its a gruesome spectator sport. There's no sudden icy morning to put them out of their misery so instead things go on blossoming at one end and turning slowly brown at the other, growing more and more thin and leggy, finally flopping in exhausted, ridiculous length like the cosmos that just fell over after growing taller than our garage, the neck of each new bloom absurdly lengthened like some overdone body shaping competition. The squash continued fruiting manically while also deteriorating into the most impressive mass of powdery mildew I have ever seen. Its a strange new way to switch growing modes. The swiss chard produced so heavily that I honestly lost sight of ever keeping up with eating it. Everyone received bouquets of big crinkled leaves and sunrise colored stalks but it kept coming and coming....finally I all but abandoned it ("Swiss chard boys?" *crickets*) and such a horde of aphids descended that it looked like black mold, growing all over each stalk and eventually creeping up and covering the leaves. I ended up sawing them all off at the ground to be humane. Its so different to grow here.

 I have grown plants my whole life and yet, BAM.....new biome and I feel totally new, floundering and astonished. A asks me all the time "What's that tree? What do you think that flower is?" and mostly my answers are just a lot of, "I have no idea." Its intimidating if I allow it to suck the air out of the room for a second...but if I just reach for my curiosity and desire to never be jaded and love of learning and excitement then suddenly its means something good. I keep trying to figure out the next thing, be grateful for the questions and stumped moments that keep me scratching my head and practice letting go of my anxiety, my need to be right, my choking expertism and my soul killing perfectionism.

One of the things that's so helpful about newness is that it forces actual conscious experience. So much of what we "know" isn't even actually absorbed or seen or focused on....let alone mulled over and considered. All the things are amazing and shocking and weird if seen from the right angle, newness is a great way to make it happen. It reminds of the phenomenon of seeing a word that you have known all your life and for some reason suddenly being unsure if it "looks right" because you just really see it for some unknown reason and it looks so odd, so whimsical, so bizarre...."Is that really how it goes?" Even though you've seen it your whole life and written and read it countless times, there it is, looking so conscious and oddly impressive. Its how people learning English feel when they see the word for the first time too, and you just got a freak glimpse of it like some odd wrinkle in time. That's me, in California. Although....I guess, its less a freak glimpse and more "learning English." Learn on!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Seasons In California

End of the plane ride....Mama losing it a little.
We had a wonderful visit back to Michigan with our two families, and were part of my youngest sister Song's wedding to Jack, the newest uncle in the tribe. Its a hard gig, suddenly finding yourself in ownership of "uncle-ing" my four wild boys and I have to say, Jack rises to the challenge. We have been quite lucky in both of the last two uncle acquisitions. My sisters know how to pick playful dudes with love of action figures, roughhousing and silly jokes...all the important things. Its an unspoken thing,  evaluating potential spouses of your siblings for the kind of uncles or aunts they will be to your kids. Never heard anybody talk about that before but it sure is important to me. You don't get to pick your own kids aunts and uncles and you sure don't get to select them when you are the kid but its  a pretty important role. I have looked up to my aunts and uncles a lot as I grew up and sometimes they have been sources of advice or assistance and more and more as I get older, they are part of my network of emotional warmth and love. There's no underrating the role that you can have in a child's life as a peripheral adult in their family who cares and is around and willing to "get" them. Determined to "aunt" more actively this year and make sure my nieces and nephews know that I care. 

The leaves on my crown here are from Michigan when we were there last week, the maples were just before peak, turning red and orange everywhere on the edges of the woods. We have many fewer maples by variety and by volume here in Northern California. I miss the trees I know well, mostly in the way one misses old friends, not because they are the only lovely trees on the planet but just because they are my "known" faces. I miss my childhood trees for familiarity and comfort, but I love all the trees I am getting to know out here. A eucalyptus or pepper tree are graceful beauties that I never knew before. I do have to share that for the amount of griping and disparaging I hear from locals about the "lack of seasons" in California (No autumn at all, so goes the rumor.) I thought the fall color was beautiful! We don't have the same ecosystem so there aren't big sweeps of maple forests which give the "hills are alive" kind of color that Michigan and Connecticut have in the fall. Most of our autumn color is out in the vineyards which all turn gold in the fall, or in the cities. There are beautiful street trees that are all turning color here, apparently unseen, because nobody points them out or talks about them much. I'm puzzled about why! The leaves on the sweet gum trees are just beginning to blush red around town now. They turn the most spectacular scarlet and so do the Japanese maples, the red maples, and the crepe myrtles. One of my favorites in fall is the ginkgo which will puts on one of the most uniform and brightly gold glow, pretty much every single leaf on the tree will turn a glowing yellow.    Here there are lots of new friends however, I love the sweet gum trees, the pepper trees, the crepe myrtles and so many more. The persimmons in our backyard will turn a dark lipsticky red too around Thanksgiving. Fall foliage is later here....coming more in November and even December than September and October and much slower and gradually. We get chilly mornings and evenings, albeit without frost and eventually after color is over the leaves will fall all over town too. We have a lot of persistant foliage too so its doesn't look as bare, but if you which streets to go down, the big leaf maple, sweet gum and sycamores leave big, unseen swathes of leaves for kicking through. Secret Autumn in Norcal.

 I harvested the first hydrangea heads to put up on the mantle today, a few of them had blown down in the first rains (the rainy season is here and starting to turn sunny days into a rarer sighting). I put a few on the front porch with our pumpkins and squashes too. Lovely to have my own decorations growing in the backyard. I have considered spray painting some gold just for subtle shimmer. Might be beautiful or might be tacky, hard to say.

The kale is still appreciating the recent trimming that I gave it and is putting out a new flush of delicious leaves. Strange to realize that there is no real point in putting it away in the freezer for winter as winter here means kale in the garden, fresh at hand. Still wrapping my mind around all that each season means. 

One of my next big projects will be making a NorCal Wheel of Seasons....with painted reminders of what things signify the changing seasons here, I'm so annoyed with everyone saying that there are none. All the world has seasons and change, we just don't all live in a Tasha Tudor book.....the world is more diverse and interesting than that. Who made New England seasons the heartbeat of what change in the natural world world means? It reminds me of the ridiculous obsession homeowners have with keeping up an green English lawn, even when it doesn't make any sense in their ecosystem. There is more than one way to enjoy a front yard or to mark the changing of the year. 

That's our cute little Orange Blossom Cottage, with the kitchen light glowing as the sun goes down. Hello to all of you, from Cali!