Thursday, March 15, 2012


Last month I mentioned that I was reading “Moby Dick” and I tried to draw a comparison between Captain Ahab’s desire to seek out and kill the white whale that had maliciously devoured his leg and my personal issues with the grey squirrels that maliciously devour my seeds.    

Common flowers? Yes.  But colorful? Aye!

Well, I have now finished Moby Dick (finally) and in so doing, my head has been filled with a couple things: a nearly-encyclopedic and worthless knowledge of the anatomy of a sperm whale and a new lexicon of nautical and American romantic terms like “avast”,“hast”, and “doubloon.”  But the word that really got stuck in the riggings of my mind is “monomaniacal”.  It was the one adjective that Melville used to describe Ahab.      

My new Acer palmatum 'Murasaki Kiyohime' under
planted with dwarf mondo grass and a fern. 
The fern might have to be removed if it gets much bigger.

Now, monomaniacal is not a word you hear every day but it’s pretty easy to figure out what it means.  We don’t hear it every day because it is “no longer in technical use” as a way to describe a “psychosis characterized by thoughts confined to one idea or group of ideas.”

Close up of the Murasaki Kiyohime's spring leaves.  It's a dainty dwarf that does not take afternoon sun at all.

These days we probably just hear the word “obsessed.”  Obsessed is fine, but monomaniacal is more fun to say out loud.  Go ahead and say it. 

I’ll wait.  See?

Mexican Feather Grass, or Stipa tenuissima if you speak botanical.

Anyhow, given that it has been raining here in Sacramento all week and the gutters are filling up like it was the fourth day of Noah’s flood, a little fun is what I needed since I have not been able to do anything related to my monomaniacal desire to putter around the garden.    

The peach blossoms are getting ready to paddle off into memory.
I don't have a lot of pinks or reds in the yard.  These blossoms always make me second guess that decision.

Until today.  There was a brief reprieve in the typhoon this afternoon, okay, it's really just a light rain, so I went out and took these pictures in my back yard.  It might just have been enough to tide me over (nautical pun intended) until the next time the sun breaks through.  And when it does, I might have to fight back the urge to hail the sun with a hearty “Thar she glows!”  

I'm leaving the bird feeder empty for now.  It attracts too many of those damn squirrels.
Same picture but with a different focal point.

If you hate bad puns, I’m very very sorry for this post.  Please don’t make me walk the plank.    

I purchased these columbines this weekend.  I've never grown them before. 

Monday, March 5, 2012


Time cover, September 8, 1947
I give a lot of thought to why I enjoy gardening as much as I do.  Although I’ve acknowledged in the past that I garden to find some quiet or to help create a space that reminds me of being a kid, I don’t believe I have ever touched on the reason gardening currently makes me happy: wanting.

C.S. Lewis wrote “our best havings are wantings.”  I believe this.  It is why the time before Christmas is filled with more magic than the days immediately after.  It is why thirsting for a glass of wine is a more satisfying feeling than the headache that comes from having consumed the entire bottle. 

Although the things that Lewis wrote about wanting had to do with his yearing to be in heaven (or paradise), I do not think his desire is all that different from my desire to want things for the garden.  After all, there is something spiritual about creating, tending, and perfecting a garden.  There is something holy about the posture of being on your knees whether your eyes are closed in prayer or open and fixed on a single purpose. 

There is something about the quality of wanting that keeps us going.  Wanting means that there is something about tomorrow worth waiting for.  Wanting keeps us warm through the winter months when we want for color or the sound of water over rock or when we want for a still moment in the sun.  Wanting helps us to wake up and get dressed when spring mornings are still chilly and wet.  Wanting urges us to plan ahead and sow seeds, save money, prepare the earth and prepare our lives for change.  Wanting keeps things fresh.  It renews us. 

Blue morning glory and iris

I want privacy in my garden.  I want fall color.  I want sentiment attached to objects.  I want a place that feels clean and green and that smells like dirt.  I want the sound of wind chimes.  I want friends to sit on the patio and say "this is really nice".  I want my daughter to soak up some of my love for these things. I want shade when it is hot and sun when I am cold.  I want the color blue in the morning and the purest white in the gloaming hours.     

White star jasmine and iceberg climbing rose

And I'll tell you something: all these wantings means that I am having a great time.