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Wednesday evening, as we were getting ready for bed, a massive thunderstorm rumbled above. Fat rain drops smacked the metal roof, while lightning made a chaotic embroidery of the sky. It was a marvel, and the hubster and I darted from window to window and stood on the porch to admire it all. Flash back twenty-two years, to our first apartment on 11th and Lafayette in Denver, and that same storm would have had me hyperventilating and sobbing, wondering when it would all end. Isn’t it wonderful how time and experience show us a different way of seeing?

For the whole of my life, my sister has abused me*. As a child it was sometimes with words, mostly with fists, and once with a hot curling iron. When I complained to my parents about it, they would ask what I’d done to provoke her. Though I hated this response, for a long time it seemed legitimate, while also infusing me with a ridiculous sense of power. If I did something someone didn’t like, that person would have absolutely no control over their hands or words, and I should actually expect an onslaught of deserved abuse.

So when my mother-in-law started her bullying before Greg and I were even married, I went right along because I’d had such formidable training. Surely, I’d done something to provoke her, too. It was always my fault. Our society told me similar stories. I remember hearing about a woman whose husband murdered her because she was a nag and drove him to do it. Or the countless men, women, and children who are beaten, raped, and worse because of small slights, wearing the wrong clothes or appearing in the wrong place.

I thank the Me Too Movement and my own enlightened thinking nearly three years ago for changing this narrative. People do not ask for violence upon their bodies and souls. To say I forced anyone to harm me is an out and out lie, because that violence lies in the abuser and not the victim. It is the abuser’s choice to utter hurtful words. It is the abuser’s choice to do do physical harm. It is not, nor has it ever been, my choice to be on the receiving end. The abuse I suffered for having my own opinion, for saying no, for watching the wrong television show, for taking a long bath. Seriously! None of that is on me. None of it.

How sad I am that it took forty-five years to come to the realization, but what brilliant new light through old windows. How free it makes me!

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*In case you are wondering, I cut off all contact with her nearly three years ago after receiving hateful messages via Facebook. Otherwise, I suspect she would still be at it. Old habits…

 

Initially, I wanted to simply share a glimpse of our Sunday. How lucky I was to get Juniper to actually pose in front of the massive hollyhock – “Come. Sit. Stay…stay. Good girl!”

To tell you how nice it was on the patio, with Greg working on his laptop at the cafe table, and me lounging and skimming books and a magazine. Our new fountain babbling, soothing and brook-like.

To rejoice at how the Japanese honeysuckle is finally starting to climb in earnest,

and note the black raspberries are actually blackberries, with heaps of them, I daresay hundreds, showing their first hint of color.

Then show you the dwarf rosebush putting on its best show

while water reflected the sky…

and more blossoms in the form of fern bush, sedum, pineapple pokers, and one gorgeous sunflower shimmered. How perfect it all was. But then something happened, or rather a series of events, and I had to get them down, too.

As you hopefully know, Greg is the tech wonder of the marriage (and to my eyes, the WORLD!), working from home, hands at the keyboard firing off messages and writing code with such speed, I often laugh and call him the fake typist – 120 words a minute! I am grateful for his vast knowledge and ability. That said, it is not without fault, and my computer fell victim.

It was mid-meeting for him, and after some grumbling and a couple of f-bombs on my part, I decided that I’d do some photo editing while I waited for his help. Well, there was a piece of new hardware he’d kindly installed because the last, after much use, had failed. Long story short, there was another problem, and a few more f-bombs, and him worrying that I’d hurt my already injured knee and thusly dashing out of his meeting to make sure I was okay. Angry that I was foiled, yet again, by technology. Pissed that he said it would work and it clearly did not. Embarrassed for cursing and not being able to fix it myself, but definitely okay. Knee on the mend!

Why do I share this? To show an unvarnished look at our life. For the most part, it is wonderful, and pretty darn perfect. We have a delightful groove, can talk about anything (yes, really!), enjoy a most excellent spirit of cooperation, and know and love each other like no other. Of course, we are not without our problems, each behaving in ways that utterly madden the other.

I suffer from waves of crazy tidiness and sloth, have depression and am occasionally suicidal, which is not the least bit fun. I threatened to leave, to New Mexico, of course, because Greg refused, for twenty-five years (!), to defend me against his mom’s bullying. We argued and suffered many a hot tear before finally working it out. She is in his life but no longer in mine. Good gracious, I cannot even begin to express the relief.

Even more important, is how each event further strengthens our marriage. Both of us seeing past patterns and more quickly moving toward solutions, being more patient and forgiving. Every day proving we can survive anything!

 

A chickadee nest taken from our bird house, the majority of which, I believe, was made from Juniper’s fur. So cool!

pavement rose – an unfortunate name for a stellar scented shrub

lamb’s ear

traditional hyssop in blue and pink

Jupiter’s beard

dianthus

yarrow

showy milkweed

opuntia

pink evening primrose

callirhoe

rose that came with the house

purple cranesbill

Hiya! Welcome to more encouragement for turning a lawn into a xeriscaped oasis. First off, look at the variety of flowers currently blooming in the front yard. Do you notice a theme? I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed by color in either garden, so I chose to have only pink, white, purple, and blue out front; and red, orange, yellow, and white out back. Though there are a couple of aberrations, the opuntia (I thought it was pink) and the rose, which was one of the few plants that came with the house. Perfect in its imperfection.

So, aside from all the beauty and color, another great reason to consider a garden is the cost. If you’re lucky and have a well cared for lawn from the get-go, this may be of little interest. Since our back garden was such a mess of weeds, we would have needed a lot of pricey mediation to get it right. And at about 5,000 square feet, the minimum price to tear out the weeds, prep & grade the soil, and install a less thirsty sod would have cost about $25,000. Who knows how much it would cost to water, either. One neighbor said she pays about $200 a month. As our friend Sean would say, “That’s A LOT of cabbages!!”

Not to say we haven’t put a chunk of cash into the garden, about $10,000 for the front and back, but that is for everything – 15 tons of rock, hundreds of feet of edging, rental of the Bobcat, the cost of hauling away the old patio and associated garbage, more than 40 yards of mulch, and all the purdy plants, trees, and shrubs. But, as I mentioned in my last post, our maintenance costs are next to nothing.

I can’t imagine how much more we’d be paying to keep a lawn looking nice. All that crabbiness from moving the hose hither and yon surely would have led to a sprinkler system, which, for our large yard, would cost about $5,000 – 6,000, not counting annual maintenance. Maybe we’d upgrade to a riding mower ($1,200 – 2,500!) to cut down on the hour-long mow, too. So many cabbages!

So, yeah, we’re pretty happy with our choice to have flowers, shrubs, and trees over a lawn. It’s easy and pretty and so filled with life!

Illuminated skies over our little slice of Colorado Springs and the deluge that followed. I wish summer could always be this way, enough sun for life without sweaters, ethereal rises and sets, and enough rain to keep the earth damp and our two hearts aloft.

Oh, love…

crested white prickly poppy

orange horned poppy

red birds in a tree

feverfew

Japanese honeysuckle

black raspberry blossom

blackberry

red currant

lemon variegated thyme

It is frequently asked or plain assumed that our garden is more work than a lawn. All those plants – they must consume our days with backbreaking labor. Only the first half is true now. They do consume our days, in observation of spritely butterfly, bee, hummingbird, and sometimes wild romping dog in and amongst their blossoms. Our work is minimal, a few minutes here and there to pull errant weeds, a bit of water here and there when it is scorching.

It’s the real beauty of xeriscape. The work is mostly at the beginning, getting the groundwork laid, doing the planting, watering to get everyone happy and established. Had we chosen a lawn, we’d have so much more labor.

When we first bought the house and had a lawn out front and the giant weed patch in back, it took and hour and a half each week to mow and trim. Don’t get me started on all the time it took to move the sprinkler to and fro, getting every last square of turf, and the volume of water and fertilizer it required to keep it barely green. How crabby it made me! I LOVE green and crave it like mad when deep in the throes of winter, but I am wild about foliage and color and height, too. Grass simply cannot offer what a varied landscape can.

So, think of this as encouragement, for anyone considering a change of garden scene. Choose plants wisely, and do the hard work to get it going, and your garden will be more joy than care, too.

When we visited Santa Fe last year, I bought a Dryland Wilds Sagebrush Plantwater, so I could mist my face with one of my very favorite scents on the daily. After using it a short while, I wondered what other wonders I was missing. To my great luck, the lovely Robin Moore and Cebastien Rose make much more than plantwaters. They are high desert wild crafters, sustainably foraging native and invasive flowers, leaves, and resins, and harvest plants that would otherwise be discarded to make the most exquisitely intoxicating scents of New Mexico.

It’s no surprise I became a huge fan. In addition to the sagebrush, I purchased pinon plantwater, luxurious soaps, evening primrose and copper mallow lip balms, and beauty oils infused with willow and loosestrife, sagebrush and snakeweed, rosehip and thistle. Each is evocative, efficient, and positively uplifting!

Imagine my delight upon learning they offer a perfume making class. And what great luck to have the date correspond with our anniversary! So we planned our trip to Albuquerque around a Sunday afternoon. Cebastien is a fantastic teacher, educating about the various perfume notes, and encouraging us, via scent combining exercises, to try what would normally make us run for the hills. It culminates in the exciting creation of our own scented oil.

I call mine High Desert Morning. An infusion of ruby red grapefruit, balsam fir, honey mesquite, and labdanum. Initially, it only contained the first three, as I imagined peeling a grapefruit to the rhythm of the rising sun. It was lovely but lacking. So I pondered Cebastien’s teaching and decided to go for a run-for-the-hills essential oil. I tried the labdanum, and that drop on my perfume card made it all come together, for the missing element was Greg. Labdanum is on the musky side and reminiscent of his sweet bearded cheek. Crazy fantastic!

So if you need a reason to head to Albuquerque besides fabulous food and turquoise, treat yourself to a class. If you are less adventurous, try a soap, beauty oil, or plantwater, and inhale the magic of the high desert.

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