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. 


  1. The blooms are really lovely and would make you second guess your decision. Your acer was a great decision though, it's beautiful!
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. Cher, I have always chosen blues and whites for the flowers in my garden but the peach tree predates my purchase of the house and those pink blossoms really are breathtaking. My wife, who is normally ambivalent about the yard, will even stop to admire them. I just wish I could take credit for how great they look this time of year.

  2. We'll take your rain! It's ridiculously warm/dry here. Columbine are beautiful, tough plants that will gently reseed. Monomaniacal is a great word that brings to mind Napoleon and various dictators. I prefer obsessed for my garden, although I do tell my students that I am a benevolent dictator in class. :o) Your peach blossoms are beautiful!!

    1. Yes, I've been watching the national weather reports and it's been a little amusing to see that the rest of the country has been experiencing unusually warm weather while the west coast has been unseasonably cold and wet. I keep thinking about something a guy said on the radio recently: "Climate is what you expect but weather is what you get."

  3. Well, better bad nautical puns than a long post on the anatomy of a sperm whale. The blue columbines always make me think of hikes in the Colorado mountains as a kid--coming across a patch of them always made the whole hike worthwhile, as if it wouldn't have been anyway. Hope they thrive for you.

    1. Stacy, I couldn't agree more. Puns are a whale of a good time compared to this actual quote from Moby Dick related to the anatomy of a whale:

      "The grounds upon which Linnaeus would fain have banished the whales from the waters, he stats as follows: 'On account of their warm bilocular heart, their lungs, their movable eyelids, their hollow ears, penem intrantem feminam mammis lactantem,' and finally, 'ex lege naturae jur meritoque.'"


      At any rate, I'm a little worried that the columbines won't like the heat this summer but they look great now. I can only imagine the joy of stumbling upon them out in the mountains . . .

  4. We only have 2 peach trees in the orchard, and they're the only pink blossoms on the entire slope. They really are the most stunning though, I can understand wanting more of them. I think half of ours have been knocked off with this rain. I just hope they set at least a little fruit this year.

    1. After years of more production than we could consume on our own, we failed to harvest even a single peach last year. I wish I knew why. We did have to battle peach leaf curl last year but to some degree that's been true every year so I don't know why last year was any different.

      Were your peach trees too young to set fruit last year or did you have other problems that led to not having anything to harvest?

  5. nice word to remember this spring.

  6. All hands on deck -- this was an excellent post, puns and all. Just don't be too monomaniacal with the squirrels. If my memory is correct, it didn't work so well for Ahab.

  7. I really enjoyed your post and all the words you learned from Moby Dick. You can send some rain this way. We are up here in 80° weather dry as a bone. I guess the squirrels are really a pain in your butt.