« December 2009 | Main | February 2010 »

January 26, 2010

An Essay on My Garden Written for My Writing Group

I gaze down into the garden from my living room window on this gray, drizzly January day. For some quirky reason, there are tomatoes still attached to the vine. I wonder just how long a rotten tomato can continue to grasp so tenaciously. The fallen fruit on the ground still appear plump and round from this distance. All the other plants have withered and died, but the tomatoes still stand, propped up on their wire holders a little like a ninety-year-old held upright by a sturdy walker. I have half a mind to walk downstairs right now and poke my finger in the side of those proud tomatoes to feel the squish as they give up the ghost. But, it’s warm and cozy inside the house, and I’m too lazy to brave the elements. Besides, I tell myself, it is a study of tenacity. I’m just watching from afar to see how many more months those tomatoes will hang on.
Every time I gaze from my second story window at the garden I experience another pang of guilt for failing once again to prepare the vegetable beds for winter. Having suffered a lame leg this summer, I paid to have a teenager clear my front yard in October and plant the tulip and daffodil bulbs which came in a big box in August that said, “Plant immediately.” My grass never had its final mowing, but it has greened up with the rain and actually looks presentable. However, the raised beds in the side yard were left to their demise untouched by human hands since the middle of September. I say human because they are vulnerable to the deer that might have feasted on the greenery once or twice in the fall without my knowledge. Obviously the deer hated the rotting tomatoes since they still hang in all their glory.
The deer that roam these hills looking for succulent food seem to find my garden every so often. They must visit different neighborhoods on different years because I hadn’t had a visit for ages which tends to make one a bit careless. On a warm July morning, I went outside intending to be a cheering section for the budding roses and the blossoming squash as well as to pull a weed or two, when I realize that overnight everything had been stripped clean. It is a devastating moment to realize that you were robbed of the promise of fruition. The deer had once again found me. Of course they love my raised beds since they hardly have to bend over. They simply put one hoof in the bed and lean a little. They must not like tomato blossoms. Everything else was gone.
I’m actually a haphazard gardener. I have friends who are Masters at their craft and raise prize winning Dahlias or have nary a weed amongst their little soldier plants – well chosen and obedient to their wishes. My garden rambles and is not very tidy. I don’t know any Latin names. The extent of my interest can be summed up in two words – sun or shade. Since I have a fondness for annual color, my beds have to be completely redone every year. I believe that someday I might just take the time and energy to plant some perennials, but then I’d have to remember not to pull them up and throw them away after they bloom. I do plant vegetables – but only what I like to eat and they have to like me enough to actually complete their life span. For some reason, tomatoes and I get along just fine.
I’m not neglectful. I mow my lawn once a week. I treat my plants as friends and have lovely conversations with them while they are growing. I water daily during the summer and weed now and then when there’s enough sun to warm my back. I have a few inside plants get watered every Saturday morning of the year. Those that like weekly watering do very well in my house. I guess you could call me a sporadic gardener, one that does fairly well following rules but not one that gets excited about climate zones or genus or species. I do have lots of gardening books, but I mostly enjoy the pictures.
Sometimes I have magnificent luck and my garden looks wonderful. When that happens, I try to remember what I have done right. But, not every year works exactly the same. Sometimes I lose the plants that I like and feel very sad. This year, the promise of growing my own ratatouille was sacrificed to the deer. I guess they have to eat, too. I remain in awe of my sturdy tomatoes who braved the deer and thrive despite their gardener. Perhaps that is why I allow them to hang on to life so tenaciously. Somehow they make me feel better about myself.


Posted by Marilyn at 11:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 23, 2010

Still Stuffy

This feels like a cold that never really bloomed - still in the state of limbo. I'm a bit under the weather with congestion, but not that head full of liquid like Dani is experiencing. I keep thinking that the Vitamin C I'm scarfing down is controlling the progress, but who knows. In any case, we both escaped to the tea room yesterday when Nico's babysitter came so we could drown our woes in hot tea and quiche. AmySue came along to commiserate, and we laughed enough to feel better. The biggest problem is that I am tossing and turning at night which makes me dull and drab all day. Oh well, this, too, will pass. I do so want to go to church tomorrow to hear our new pastor on his first day.

I finished getting my New Year's letters ready to mail - that was an accomplishment. I almost gave it up, but decided to press on because I had gone to the trouble of writing it. I took it to Kinko's to be copied back-to-back on their color machine. I love this older (like my age) guy who works there helping customers. He looked at my manuscript and said, "Come to me when you finish. Only one side is colored, so I will refund half the money on your card." I'm glad I began talking to him - or it would not have happened. I then remembered that he did the same thing for me last year. I wanted to stand at the machine and tell people not to copy things without checking with him. I always like to pass on my good fortune.

I have just about finished all of the cataloguing of Don's books. I'm in the process of donating or getting rid of the first layer of books - those that have little or no value. I have sold some to the bookstores in town, to Powells Online, taken some to church for the library, to Sharry for her office and Christian Education rooms, and donated the rest. Now, I'm about to go to the second (of three) piles - those that have some nominal value. So far I've made about $36.00. I'm keeping it all in a separate fund - because I'm just having a bit of fun. I'm not really expecting to make much, but I am trying to decide if I want to sell the more valuable ones online myself through one of the major bookselling venues - like Alibris. I've never ever done anything like that, so it would be an adventure. I opened a PayPal account for Powells. I guess I'll decide as I go along.

Yesterday I wrote a note to the library at Don's seminary because I found some books that are related to Berkeley and the history of the school. I don't know, maybe I'll make a complete list of the more valuable books and send it to the seminary or to an antiquarian book dealer. I'm open to suggestions. I scanned a book the other day that came up over $200 on both Amazon and Book Finder. That was fun. I wonder how much it is really worth. One thing for sure, I am hooked on this process. It is the best mystery on my shelf these days.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2010

Oh No! I Have A Cold!

I'm under the weather today - first time in a long time that I have caught a cold. It isn't huge or completely devastating, just enough to keep me laid up and pampering myself. I guess I'll let myself be a bit miserable for a few hours. I'm counting on Vitamin C to keep it short and sweet. We'll see. I was supposed to go out to Ferndale and observe an intern doing a group, but I called it off. No sense in pushing myself when I have such a lovely excuse to stay put. Kinsey is curled up at my feet, and I managed to get myself tea and toast before settling in for the morning with my computer and my new Ruth Rendell (Wexford series).

I had a lovely dinner party last night for Eulalah's birthday. She instructed me on the menu (the things I make that she likes - clam chowder, Christmas salad ) and I added a few more items. Marilyn G. brought a flourless dessert and Keith made flourless bread. She also decided upon the guests so I invited five of her friends. It was a very nice evening of chatting around the table. Fortunately, I felt pretty good although I suspected a cold was on the back burner along with the chowder. This morning while making tea and toast, I cleared the first dishwasher load and put in the rest of the dirty dishes left after the party. I do miss Don at these times. He always did the dishes after a dinner party. I worked before. He worked after -- boy do I miss him!

I'm still cataloguing Don's books - up to 500. It's fun to run into books that I think someone particular would like. I keep finding books for Sharry who coordinates the Christian Education at church. I found one on special sayings of Mr. Rogers. When I gave it to her, she pulled out a tiny tape recorder from her desk which played Mr. Rogers Neighborhood song. We laughed at the coincidence - actually, no coincidence. I knew Sharry would love the book.

This next Sunday our new pastor, Kent, takes the helm. We have all been very excited and pleased to finally have someone permanent. Everyone was so impressed with his first visit and his candidating sermon. He seems well grounded and very wise. He's not so bad to look at either! I am pleased with the choice and have great hopes that he is another keeper who will be here a long time.

That's all for now - my poor brain is a little soppy this morning.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:57 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2010

January in the Northwest

It is strangely warm outside. I don't know what happened to the chilly weather, but this is downright balmy for January. We've even had some lovely sunny days. All this while much of the country is freezing. If I had to choose, I can say that I'll stay right here, thank you very much.

Life has returned slowly to a more normal rhythm. Charles has disappeared back into Hong Kong, James is home from school with pink eye, I'm trying to get into the mood to paint my living room, Dani has taken up Pilates, at least half my family is trying new diets, and I'm back to supervising my interns. The best news is that Kinsey is delighted that I'm able to take a few doggy walks morning and night. I can go a few blocks without straining or getting sore. I attribute that not just to normal healing, but to my exercise bike which erases the stiffness in my leg.

I've embarked upon the project that I've avoided since Don died. I'm going through all of his books. Using Delicious Library on my Mac, I'm cataloguing every book and checking on its potential value, then separating them into piles. It is so easy, so fast, and so much fun. I never paid attention to his library much. I've never been into theological discourse. But, he has an absolutely fascinating library and exquisite taste. My decision to go through the books before disposing of them was smart. Partly because of the enjoyment, partly because of the discoveries.

He has, for instance, many old and interesting books he got from Elmer Erickson, a retired pastor who was a church member when we first arrived in Bellingham. And, some from Vince Crane, the pastor of our church before Don. They are books from the earliest part of this century by important theologians. Then, I found a book from his old friend John Rogers. In the flyleaf it said, "Don't you dare forget to return this." I don't actually know if he was talking to Don, but I sent it back to John anyway after emailing him and making his day.

This is such a nifty program. I can use the bar code scanner or the ISBN number for a quick find. However, since so many of his books were published before 1960, I have to write in the full title. Then, the program brings up the original selling price and the current value based on someone who is trying to sell it on Amazon. So, it isn't the real value, only what someone thinks they can get. If that is over $10.00, I look at Bookfinder and see if others are selling it for at least the same value if not more. If so, I put it aside in one pile. The second pile is anything valued over a couple of bucks. Then, I have a discard pile of those not worth anything. A friend has told me of a program to ship churchy type books to Alaska - maybe I'll do that with the discards. But, does that mean that the outer village Alaskans will be getting their theology in books that others have declared obsolete and worthless? That doesn't seem something I want to encourage. Maybe it is what elected Sarah Palin in the first place. Perhaps I should send them some of the juicier items - those that have a bit more liberal thought.

I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do with the first two piles. I've not gone that far but I'm getting lots of good advice from friends and offspring. I'm now at 218 volumes, have five more book boxes to go through plus two bookcases full of library. That doesn't count the volumes in the closet and the fact that I have put all his Bibles into several boxes as well as all of his hymnals. It does seem like those two items should be kept separate and given or donated as a group which makes them more valuable to someone. We'll see.

The purpose of Don's library is to dispose of it. But, I can hardly wait to get to my roomful of mysteries. That will be the whipped cream on the Sundae, the icing on the cake, Then the fun will really begin!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:33 AM | Comments (2)