Sunday, June 9, 2013

Courtesy of the Winds

Or Letting Go

The desert olives impress me most.  They have an actual strategy, and a long-term one at that.  The winds have been blowing here, you see—and blowing, and blowing:  the hard, buffeting winds of spring.  They are the real test of adaptation in these parts, and many exotics that fare well in drought and sun receive their last rites from the wind.

My oldest nephew gave me a book on wind a while back (Wind, it's called, by Jan DeBlieu), because he said it was such a leitmotif in my blog.  It does have force of character here in New Mexico, a personality you either learn to live with or—well, you just have to learn to live with it.  All across the world, of course, living things have learned in remarkable ways to cope with the wind.  Trees change shape to reduce the drag of it in their crowns, to keep the force of it from breaking them apart or knocking them down.  DeBlieu writes of different species rolling their leaves into tight cylinders or folding them in half, or even clumping together in masses:  all ways to reduce the force of wind in those top-heavy crowns.

Desert olives (Forestiera neomexicana)
The desert olives just let their leaves go.  They leaf out heavily in early spring, each twig and branch thick with apple green leaves on fragile stems.  While the days are lengthening, and the sun is still cool and pleasant, they photosynthesize like mad.  But as the seasonal winds rip through them, whole stems of delicate new growth get sheared away; the garden is littered with leaflets.  The dense shade beneath the trees begins to dapple.  By mid-June perhaps a third of the leaves are gone—mid-June, when the sun is reaching its strongest, and desert plants are ready for relief.  The olives will have harvested enough energy in spring to thrive, and in summer, thanks to the wind, they will have fewer tender surfaces that lose moisture, fewer that require it.  They use the spring winds to help them survive the summer sun.

Treating the wind as an asset, rather than something to be endured—other species have different tactics:  conifers and cottonwoods, maples and elms.  They all count on the wind to cast pollen, seed, and samara far and wide; the wind helps their kind survive.  Whole ecosystems rely on the wind.  DeBlieu writes of aeolian biomes in the extreme heights of the Himalayas, beyond the range of growing things.  Insects live there by scavenging pollens and seeds or bits of insect wing that have blown in on the wind.  I look at the ants hunting and gathering in the garden with renewed interest.  What exotic treats do they enjoy—or even depend on—courtesy of the winds?  Saguaro pollen from Tucson, perhaps, or microscopic mineral crystals from the great Salt Lake; a taste of the tropics from the Gulf of Mexico.  In the utter bareness of the Himalayas, the wind is the sole provider.  In the relative plenty of the high desert, it's harder to tell what needs might be met by the wind.  Perhaps none.  Perhaps many.

I've been thinking about aeolian biomes and windborne nutrients as the third anniversary of Microcosm has approached.  I am more astonished every year at what the winds of cyberspace bring us, and how they cast our words far and wide, scattering bits of our personalities around where they may take root or be enjoyed by others.  I'm especially astonished at the friendships and community those winds have blown into my life.  They have brought me beauty and kindness; they have made it possible to adapt to illness and thrive.  Now, though, as the winds of a New Mexico spring are fanning the fires of summer, I find that other aspects of my life are calling for attention.  I think it is time to let Microcosm go. 

I'm drafting this out on the patio, while the silky threadgrass ripples on the breeze.  The wind has been growing for a while now.  A gust almost knocks over the empty iced tea glass perched on the arm of the Adirondack chair.  It's strong enough to chase me inside, and from there I watch the desert olives twisting and bending.  A few leaflets blow onto the patio.  It seems a good moment to close—and to thank you for the gifts you've given so generously:  your readership and comments, your time and ideas, and most of all your friendship and caring.  You all mean the world to me.  May the winds of the world bring you many good things to savor.

And may you always discover the gifts they bring you.

Sunday, March 31, 2013


or L'Chaim

An old Taj Mahal song goes, "Remember the feeling as a child, when you woke up and morning smiled?"  I've always loved the song for that line, because I do remember feeling that way as a little girl—running to the window first thing in the morning and looking out, happy that it would be a good day just because the sky was blue. 

Mornings still smile fairly often, but I find that attitude and choice matter more these days than accidents of weather.  Not that blue skies hurt.  No, indeed.  The weather has been glorious lately, and morning, afternoon, and evening have been smiling their little hearts out.  When spring arrives in that spectacular way I always dig out my recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing "Blue Skies"—her incredible joy just goes with the joy of springtime.  Once she's done with the "business" of the first run-through and lets the words fall away, that song is one pure ray of shining light—a toast to life and its extravagant plenty.

Tulipa praestans, mid-March

I remember being stunned once by a critic of Fitzgerald's work; he said her singing lacked passion, because she avoided "deeper," more painful song subjects.  I couldn't believe it.  Since when is joy not a passion?  How can you listen to Fitzgerald and not be swept away with her in the thrill of mastery, of mind and voice and breath working to their utmost, the relish of give-and-take and getting lost in the flow of music, the exuberance of a perfect moment and the knowledge that you helped to create it, the equally awesome knowledge that you did not create it alone, the sheer gusto for that glorious groundswell of life, of NOW—  Good heavens.  Since when is that not passion?

'He Shi Ko' perennial bunching onion (Allium fistulosum)

I was thinking about that while wandering around the garden a couple of weeks ago.  Now, on the last day of March, joy and exuberance can be had for a song, with the muscari and tulips and scilla splashing color into all the corners of the garden, and the biggest sand cherry exploding into blossom while troupes of ipheion dance at its feet.  The cherry's fragrance fills the air, and the bees fly giddily from one of its thousands of flowers to the next.  Oh, yes.  It's hard not to find joy outside right now.

A couple of weeks ago, though, none of that energy had come out into the open yet.

Western sand cherry (Prunus besseyi), two weeks ago

It was still building in hidden places, a groundswell of growth happening behind closed doors.  But even then, when the world was still mostly a brown, dull place, the sheer diversity of Life could astonish:  the power of it, the extravagant, over-the-top, vibrant super-abundance of it.  What amazing variety is to be found as growth begins—the eggs of the sand cherry buds sitting in their cups; the new spring onion leaves contorting to break free of their protective sheaths; the nesting, armored scales of Carolina jessamine, gradually releasing the flower within; the eyes of the angelita daisies peeping through fringed lashes.

Angelita daisy (Tetraneuris/Hymenoxys acaulis)
And that's barely a beginning.  We haven't even gotten to the desert olive's knobbly bumps, or the fuzzy catkins blowing from aspen branches, or the boxwood flowers pretending to be leaves right up until the last minute, or the honey locust leaflets unclasping like hands—Well.  I could go on, but I won't.  You have your own spring (or autumn, depending) to wax rhapsodic about.  And if you don't now (I'm looking at you, northerners), have hope.  The day is coming very, very soon.

The day when that groundswell of energy spills out into action, taking you with it—if you let it.  The day when a moment of wonder grabs you and dances you around—if you consent.  The day when you open your eyes to the extravagant plenty on your doorstep and smile back at the morning.

Carolina jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens)

The day when you walk outside, lift your hands like a glass to the clear blue sky, and let mind and body shout, "L'chaim!"

Thursday, March 7, 2013


or The Graceful Art

Pretending to be a ribbon isn't all that easy.  I found that out when I was seven or eight and have never tried it again.

Crocus ancyrensis 'Golden Bunch'

I'd been reading a book, of course.  It may have been Caddie Woodlawn, or something like that—a tale of pioneer communities in the 19th century and the odd smatterings of Civilized Behavior that followed them from non-pioneering places.  One "civilized" thing the girls did was to practice fainting gracefully.*  They were supposed to pretend to be ribbons falling, and then in theory a graceful swoon was theirs for the asking.  I wasn't all that interested in swooning, but what with my parents refusing to buy me a horse or let me start a fire in the schoolhouse (only so I could help put it out, of course!), it was one of the more manageable feats in the book to try for myself.  Pretending to be a ribbon, though—I don't know.  Even on the shag carpeting that graced our home at the time, I mostly ended up feeling bruised and kind of stupid.  I guess you're either a swooner or you're not, and 20th-century girls are just mostly not.

Crocuses are like that, too.

Some of them are as sturdy as all get-out.  The 'Cream Beauty' Crocus chrysanthus that started blooming the first of February have just now faded away completely, a month later.  They withstood snow and wind and the neighbors' cats and looked beautiful for weeks without making a grand fuss about it.

The 'Golden Bunch' Crocus ancyrensis, on the other hand, for all their bold, vivacious coloring, are a lot more delicate.  They balked at blooming through a colder than average February; when they did bloom, they only opened their petals part way.  Dropping a camera on them (ahem) absolutely cr-r-r-rushed their spirits.  Their wounded looks chided me clear across the garden.  Compared to the other crocuses, the 'Golden Bunch' are less likely to come back from one year to the next, quicker to fade away once they bloom, and a lot more likely to


But don't they do it gracefully?

* Because that's a useful skill for farm women carving out homesteads on the open prairie.

I was doing a search on "how to swoon gracefully," as one does, and came across an actual set of swooning lessons.  As always, be sure to consult with your doctor before starting this or any new exercise program.

Thursday, February 28, 2013


or Coming to Terms (Again)

If you go back to its roots, a periphery is literally something that is "carried around."  Back in the 16th century (or the 14th, depending on your source), the word referred to the atmosphere around the earth.  I'd love to know what, in those long-ago days, people really meant by atmosphere.  Maybe they had something like the Belt of Venus in mind:  the pink glow carried around the horizon at dusk and dawn, at the point where light and dark merge—something visible and radiant with the vast unknown beyond it.

"Periphery" has long since lost that atmospheric shade of meaning, and even its literal one.  These days its primary definition is simpler:  the outer limit or margin of something.  It's a neutral word, describing plain facts.  Take the fine hairs on Sempervivum leaves, for example.  They grow on the leaves' peripheries, on their margins or outer edges.  That is a simple truth, and periphery sums up those little hairs' place in the world without question.

Something beautiful gets lost in the summation, though.  Even in the softness of shade, those delicate whiskers carry light around the periphery of the leaves and bring an atmosphere shining to life.  The edges are where light gathers and plays.  The periphery isn't a neutral place—it's where the magic happens.

Still, better a neutral meaning than a negative one.  The other definitions of periphery aren't so pleasant.  They're about relative position and status:  inside vs. outside; center vs. edge.  To be on the periphery is to be marginal, secondary, in a lesser or unimportant position.  It's to be like the second of the hens-and-chicks in the photo above—on the edge of your awareness, fuzzed out of focus.  Not central to anything, even though you might notice if it weren't there.  Just...not mattering all that much.

Is anything as fascinating as the periphery of a tulip leaf?  At least, until the tulips bloom.  Then the leaves become...peripheral.

I've been a little thoughtful about peripheries lately, a little pensive.  I've missed some activities that kind of broke my heart not to be a part of—an impromptu cello performance by my oldest nephew, some dear friends' son's bar mitzvah—because, even though I'm doing better than I have in years, I'm not well enough to participate fully.  CFIDS/ME really puts you on the periphery of your own life, because being in the thick of things is too disabling.  You make it work for you:  you find other avenues for life, like blogging and Facebook, and reveling in the small wonders in a small garden.  Over time, you kind of forget what "normal" life is like.  But then you have a sudden reminder of the everyday pleasures other people enjoy unthinkingly and realize how far out on the periphery you are.  You are a bit like Gomer Goldfish:

Except that I'm never that grumpy.  Obviously.

This really isn't a down-hearted or complaining post:  I know full well that being peripheral to activities does not make me peripheral in the hearts of those who love me.  There are so many things that I can do.  The things I miss out on do not diminish the value (or my enjoyment) of the "less important" things that come my way.  And I really like my sofa; you could not find a more comfortable sofa to lie on.  For hours on end. 

It is, however, a thoughtful post.  I've found myself wandering around the garden (in a non-strenuous way) looking at leaf edges, at boundaries and margins and outer limits, and wondering about them.  What does it mean to be on the periphery?  And if it means something unpleasant, what can I do to change it?  I can't change illness (so far).  It has set the limits.  So instead, what can I do to change the periphery?  To make it, not a place that's out of focus or on the edge of awareness, or even a place of neutral fact, but a place where light gathers and plays, a place that carries its own radiance around with it and has, maybe, just a bit of a pink glow?* 

On the periphery between shade and sun.

How can the periphery be a place where magic happens?

* Except that I'm not really all that fond of pink.

Thursday, February 21, 2013


or Joinery

Crocus chrysantha 'Cream Beauty'

Friends of mine who are woodworkers get a little tender about joinery—tender as in touchy, but also softhearted.  They will stew and fret (and quite possibly even curse) over a mortise and tenon that doesn't nest together just right.  If you don't notice their rabbets and dadoes they will be wounded to the core.  And their rough, scarred hands will touch a well-made dovetail as if it were a newborn baby.  End joints are well enough in their way, but to someone who loves wood for its own sake, they are poor substitutes for craftsmanship.  They lack the strength and grace of interlocking connections.

It's funny that we use the word dovetail for both joinery and transitions.  In joinery a dovetail brings two pieces of wood together firmly and permanently.  Separate things become one unit.  But a dovetail can also be fluid and ephemeral, the clean segue from one set of sounds or ideas or ways of doing things to the new ones that replace them.

When I worked in radio many years ago I loved the quest for the perfect segue, the transition that would make the pairing of two songs seem almost inevitable.  Words didn't do it.  The ideas they represent are too abstract to make strong links in a sonic art.  The bridge needs to be musical:  a shared timbre, a melodic riff, a rhythmic impulse that resonates between the old song and the new.  Important as it is, the segue only lasts for a few seconds before disappearing into the flow of the music, speeding on its way through time.

I've been thinking about dovetails and transitions lately.  I finished cleaning out the central bed, paring back the blue grama grass just as the crocuses came into their own.

Last year I wondered whether flowers that bloom halfway between the solstice and the equinox are really spring flowers or winter ones—whether they're signs of change on the horizon or just lovers of the cold, plain and simple.  This year I'm seeing the crocuses more as the transition between winter and spring, a bridge that spans them both.  Their timbre resonates with the straws and browns of last year's grasses and leaves, as well as with the warmth of a strengthening sun.  They are as china-thin as a brittle winter wind or a delicate dawn sky in spring.  Clean and spare, they fill the bare, spare places in the garden after the cutting back; clean and spare, they radiate freshness like the clean, fresh growth coming in.  Winter fades out; spring fades in, with the crocuses making a graceful dovetail between them.

I also find myself thinking about joinery, though, and the way things become inextricably bound together.  The sandhill cranes that winter along the Rio Grande are migrating, you see.  They arrive in October, their calls echoing against the garden walls, when the fall-blooming crocuses open.  When the spring crocuses bloom in February I know I will again hear a throaty purr above the garden and look up to see families and clans and nations of silvery, long-winged birds circling, wheeling, riding the thermals higher and higher, until with one mind they turn irrevocably to the north.  And then they're gone.  I miss them when they go.  So when the crocuses open, I feel a small pang of sorrow on the cranes' behalf, because crocuses and cranes—they just go together.

You'd think the link between them would be one of simple association—simultaneous impressions butting up against each other like an end joint, not something to get all tender about.  To my mind, though, the connection is stronger than that, more graceful, more finely crafted.  Those migrating birds and rooted bulbs share features that interlock them together, no matter how intangibly:  the way wings and petals both catch fire in the sun, turning translucent, iridescent; the way they cup themselves around the air.  The way their fragility is deceptive:  despite delicate bones and wings like china-thin petals the cranes will journey thousands of miles in the shadow of winter; the crocuses can endure biting winds and snow and still bloom at the next touch of sun.  They are not like the tulips, holding out for a little more warmth, or the hummingbirds, waiting for nectar to flow.  They respond to the changing season, the quickened pulse of the earth, the intensifying, vibrant message of the sun, with urgency—immediacy.  For them the time to move is now.  And the time is brief.  We will enjoy them for just a few short days before they're gone.

Before they disappear into the flow of a new season, speeding on its way through time.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Open and Shut

or A Change in the Weather

Some winds close you down, slam!  A cold, hard gust smacks into you, and suddenly you're huddled around yourself and sprinting indoors, with the door banging shut behind you.  Other winds open you up—the warm, wild winds that smell of freshness, and maybe rain.  They lure you outdoors to stand tall and stretch and breathe deeply, as if you were a fish in water, and your whole body were gills. Those are the adventure winds, the ones that make you wish you could sweep out into the world on their tails, rushing away over the desert and straight up the sides of the Sandias—and from there, who knows.

We've had a little of both this week, the opening up and closing down, stretching out and huddling in.  The weekend gave us a warm wind and a rainstorm, and clouds that scudded low and fast across the sky and came just shy of thundering.  It could almost have been spring.

Spring is an opener, too.  Even the thought of it can set you to adventuring and make a world of possibilities open wide in your imagination.  When the thought coincides with warm, fragrant air and a wind that feels pleasant through layers of fleece, you find your senses quickening, your spirit stretching out in new ways to life. 

When that happens in January, you start to wonder if you might be forgetting something, like February. 

I believe there may even be a bud on that front crocus...

So I was doubly glad to see those crocuses coming along.  The leaves have been up for a while, but they're beginning to open out in the sunshine, rather than staying huddled in a tight sheaf.  It's good to know that if I am mistaking a fluke of the weather for a Sign that gardening season (which is not really the same as Spring, but close enough) is at hand, I am not alone.  The garden seems outright convinced of it.  It's unfurling new leaves, and not all of them belong to crocuses.

Those are genuine raindrops!  (Also golden columbine, Aquilegia chrysantha v. chaplinei 'Little Treasure')

As the work week began the weather changed, with cold, slamming winds and a sudden drop in temperature outdoors, and a duck-your-head-and-work-to-the-deadlines end of January indoors.  A friend blew into town in the midst of it—a long-lost kindred spirit and her father, on their way from Texas to Oregon and then to Taiwan.  We enjoyed a whirlwind dinner before they swept back out into the world on their trip across the desert.  I've found myself looking up in wonder since then, remembering in the midst of a shutting-you-down sort of week that breath of fresh air.  

Now the weather is changing again, with beautiful timing, just as the weekend is...if not knocking at the door, at least coming up the walk.  It should be warm and springlike, with a good breeze blowing, maybe even an adventure wind. 

You can never really ride the tails of those winds, you know.  They just open you up to possibility, and suggest wild vistas to your imagination.  They make you itch for the adventures that stand before you.

Another raindrop!

Let the gardening begin.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Lost in Translation

or As Cheap as Dirt

Find an old adobe home in New Mexico's pinyon-juniper country.  Junipers planted along the north side of the property might offer a windbreak.  An elm or so to the southwest, close to the house, will extend shading arms.  Otherwise not a single thing will be growing near the house—not a lilac bush, not a weed.  The house will be surrounded by bare earth, hard-packed by the tires of pickup trucks and booted feet and the paws of the lanky mutts who come running to greet you.  Walk on that bare ground, and you won't raise a cloud of dust.  Walk on it barefoot, and you'll feel the give of the land and its gently uneven texture.  It may not be soft like grass, but it's friendly underfoot, more yielding than concrete or flagstone or brick.

Once upon a time, not that many years ago, my garden had earthen paths. 

January, 2008, right before the sand cherries and their pals took over. 

I liked walking on them barefoot on a hot summer's day, but I didn't think living with them long-term was a good plan.  When I lived in Vermont or in western New York, where Precipitation Happens, dirt all too often turned into mud.  Luther was a great tracker of mud on clean floors.  He was good at escaping from towels, running through multiple rooms, and then leaping onto the sofa to give himself a zealous grooming on the upholstery.

Luther T. Dog, Champion Dirt Tracker

In damp kinds of places—the kinds of places where gardening books almost all seem to be written (perhaps because they're good places to garden?)—hard-surfaced garden paths are useful.  Gravel, brick, pavers, bluestone, flagstone:  they all keep mud from your door, and give you stable footing over soft, wet ground.

Deserts, if I may keep stating the obvious, don't often have damp conditions.  When I started my garden here in Albuquerque, Luther tracked wet dirt—you couldn't really call it mud—into the house a good three, four times a year.  Even after a rain, the ground just doesn't stay damp for long.  Now Luther's gone, and nobody has to track dirt in at all.  If my shoes are wet, I can just slip them off and take awestruck photos of them at the door.

August, 2012

So why did I want brick-style pavers?  Probably because I was still in Soggy Northeastern Mode.  But also because pavers, or flagstone slabs or travertine tiles or whatever, stand for a kind of polish.  Their usefulness may not translate well to this climate, but they still have a certain social cachet.  Gardens in magazine photos do not have packed-dirt paths. 

It's a pity that I don't actually like the paved paths as much as I liked the bare earth.  Why, I'm not quite sure.  Maybe they add hardness in an urban environment where hardness already abounds.  Maybe they make the circle shape of the path too strong and obvious.  Maybe they seem a little too highfalutin for my low-key lifestyle (let alone this mostly very lowfalutin state).  Maybe not every hard surface in the garden has to be terra cotta-colored.

The pavers get hot underfoot in summer and shelter waterbugs under their cozy, sun-baked warmth in winter.  They glare in sunlight. 

(A not particularly xeric section of) the Albuquerque Botanic Garden, April 2012.
Even the crusher fines used here—a great choice for constant foot traffic—glare in the light.

It's that last bit that's pushing me to rebellion.  They glare in sunlight. 

Social cachet is such a silly thing.  It may have its genesis in usefulness, but once that usefulness has been sloughed off (by scorching desert winds), cachet does not get to trump comfort in my book.  And when that cachet is an idea you've imported from abroad, with no basis in the culture where you now (happily) reside, it's time to eat a bowl of green chile (or red, if you prefer) and get your perspective on straight.  So I'm about to throw polish to the winds.

Dirt paths are cheap.  No goods have been conspicuously consumed to create them.  No one will be impressed by their elegance.  But they go well with New Mexico's rough-and-tumble landscape and informal lifestyle, its long history of old adobes and haphazard coyote fencing, the rough shagginess of native plantings.  Sometimes you just have to observe, and think, and realize that people in old adobe homes did know what they were doing, and let social cachet and garden magazines be hanged.

An Albuquerque garden featured in the Native Plant Society's garden tour, August 2012.
To me the randomly placed flagstone shows how soft and comfortable the dirt paths really are.

I won't do anything radical yet—those pavers took six weekends of precious physical energy to put down, and I'm not in a hurry to pick them up again.  But they'd make a good sized raised bed on the patio by the kitchen door, just right for a cold frame of winter veggies.

Now that would be useful here.

Thursday, January 17, 2013


or Finding Magic in Unlikely Places
     (All the phrases in italics—except for this one—are direct quotes.)

"Microcosm" is not a useful blog.  It's a pleasant one, I hope, but not one that offers detailed plant profiles or gardening how-to's.  So when a comment comes along that says, "I have been surfing the internet for hours and have never seen such a useful blog," I can pretty well tell that it's spam, even before it invites me to visit a website on refrigerators.

Lately the spam has been coming fast and furiously.  Most of it is nonsense paragraphs:  phrases that have been scraped from who knows where and jumbled together, with words like blackjack or casino or pay-day loans thrown in at random.  The scraped phrases are repeated a couple of times in different ways, as if they get run through a synonym generator.  The result is a cryptic, would-be communication, with oddly hypnotic rhythms that lead gently into the suggestion that you "feel free to surf my blog."

For the last month or so I've spent a fair amount of time weeding spam out of various posts and have become immersed in its surreal world.  Just like when you really stop to look at an actual weed and pay attention to its form and flowers and seed pods, the irritatingly flawless health of the leaves, and all the bees buzzing around it, and realize that it isn't as bad as it's cracked up to be—when I've really stopped to look at the spam...well, it has its good points.

I don't just mean the wisdom found in the depths of those random phrases:  the stern advice to Get rid of any unscrupulous mortal, or the good, plain truth that Marathons can exclusively be improved traveling frontward.  Nor the general rules for a happy life:  Don't utilize the essential vice licenses.  Do not demand a fully-fledged eating house.  Ne'er address any meat without perspiring.  Pay the sum required or else.  Also, visit my blog post.

I mean the poetry and whimsy that glimmer in unexpected places, the opening of imagination that happens when words get twisted out of kilter.  For the brief moment before common sense re-asserts itself, you live in a world with telecasting salamander machines, where good work gets rewarded with oak trees (Quercus marilandica bonuses), and people ingest in agreement.  You live in a world where magic can happen between one thought and the next. 

It's a healthy thing, good for the soul, that stretching of the imagination.

          Inwardly (no recreation).      Plainly that's not decent.
          Within (no communication).       Patently that's not decent. 

For those few seconds that you play along, it gives you a mental vacation, like a brief walk in the woods (one 60 minutes unimprisoned).

I'm sure that you, voluntary kinspersons, all join me in loving a brief walk in the woods.   
          One can be rather well-chosen there.  One can be elated.
When your soul is feeling a cent threadbare, you can meander around beneath a pristine sky and gently waving tree-branches and recall What You Ought To Be.  It is good to escape from hard urban surfaces into nature's beauty.

          Why should I see Car piles?  
          Why Should I muse on Car heaps?  
                    That is an inconvenience.

The thing with nature's beauty, though, is that it's full of weeds.  Weeds have an impressive diligence to bounce up in the land.  In the right context, they're not actually weedy, just charming, admirable wild flowers and grasses.  When they're dormant their textures enrich the landscape.

O Sunflower, how eternal your druthers to exist!

You can shape the effect of the prevailing wind.

During the growing season these eager weeds, as healthy and as symptomless as your boat, give nourishment to countless wild things.  If they do run into difficulties or die off, we worry and mourn and do our best to help them.

The parcel of land does not suffer a laugh activity.

Some of them we love so well that we bring them into our own gardens.  Even now blue grama grass is blinking its "eyelash" seed heads at the breeze from my central garden bed; the angelita daisies are waiting for just the tiniest bit of warmth to burst into bloom again.  The sand cherries—weedy shrubs across western North America—are among my garden favorites.

You, a mere edible fruit.  And rightly so.
You, a specific point in time.  And rightly so.

(You can swear on this finicky treat.)

One weed—maybe scarlet hedgenettle? I never did identify it for sure—was such a spectacular performer in the summer garden and had such vibrant autumn color that I'm not convinced you could even call it a weed.

We probably aren't amply homely.

All to say, if I were interested in online gambling or hedge funds or a tireless man from OH, I would doubtless be thrilled at all the spam.  It's a pity that I'm not.  (Meaning no offense, Ohioans.)  Still, just as you can ooh and aah over an attractive weed right before you yank it mercilessly from the ground, I have enjoyed trawling the spam for little gems right before hitting the delete button.  I highly recommend it, if you don't otherwise have sufficient activity to de-mental strain yourselfIt is a peachy vice.

Also, have a look at my web log.


All quotes were found in spam comments this month.  I've deleted the obviously spammy words, tidied up the grammar, and put the paired phrases together.  Other than that, they are quoted as they appeared.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Snow Day

or Usefulness

The old year faded out in snow.

Not much snow, but enough to yield 3/100 of an inch of moisture, raising our grand total for 2012 to 5.46 inches.  I find it hard to believe that even a native plant finds a dusting of snow worthwhile, but what do I know?  Maybe having its toes tickled occasionally is icing on the cake to Mormon tea (Ephedra viridis)—an enrichment activity that makes its life in the desert all worthwhile.

Now, Colorado, that was another story.  Flying to Denver for Christmas along the front range of the Rockies, looking out the scratched airplane window and away beyond the wing, you could really see snow.  The fourteeners sparkled in the sun.  Even their vertical crags were caked with powder not yet scoured away by arctic winds.  Colorado doesn't have nearly as much snow as it should—snowpack is only about 60% of average—but some places have 30 or 40 inches so far.  Even if that isn't really enough, it's still useful snow.  Come spring, when it starts to melt, the streams and rivers will rise, and the reservoirs that give life to the west will fill with water.  (At least, that's the idea.) 

Half an inch of snow is not so useful.  It doesn't replenish the aquifer, deep inside the earth; it doesn't even water the garden.  It settles the dust; it enriches life a little, it offers a moment of refreshment, maybe even excitement, for those of us who are easily entertained—and then it goes away.  I'm not complaining, mind you.  I don't much like snow any more, and half an inch is plenty to give my soul all the cold, watery refreshment it needs. 

We have the luxury to enjoy "snow as enrichment" in Albuquerque because the useful stuff happens elsewhere.  For the most part, our water doesn't come from around here.  It comes from the Colorado River basin, way up yonder.  We cheer on the cold, deep, lingering, powdery, useful snows that happen in the high country.  They keep that basin flowing with life-giving water.  And we revel in the pleasant change of pace offered by our half-inch storm that goes away as soon as the sun comes out.

From the patio.  (With the zoom lens...)

I've been thinking some about usefulness and enrichment lately—about the pipes and pumps and tunnels and other marvels of engineering that let clean water flow from a tap in the desert; and about those less tangible, less obviously necessary things that offer pleasure and refreshment, that tickle your mental toes and then melt away.  The contrast between those ideas might be kind of a theme here off and on for a while.

If it isn't a useful exercise, it might (if we're lucky) at least be an interesting one...