Thinking

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Once, lying in bed in Portland, I waxed poetic on the unpredictability of life, more specifically, how we could die literally at ANY moment. Greg balked at the notion, stressing that we were safely tucked under a heap of warm blankets. I countered with the story of a woman and her infant child killed when a fighter jet malfunctioned and crashed, leaving nothing but a shock of smoldering embers where their house once was. One moment safe and sound the next simply gone.

My Grandfather Herbie, when he was only a young father himself, died in a horrific motorcycle wreck. He’d survived his plane crashing in the throes of World War II, the associated gun shot wounds, mile upon mile of the Bataan Death March, making due on virtually non-existent rations and cock roaches in prison camp, even tuberculosis! Then a doctor, blind in one eye and wholly unseeing, took his ninth life, mere days before my Dad’s seventh birthday. A tragedy.

Our dear friends’ son nearly died in a car crash last month. A bright, kind, super talented spark of teenage boyishness saved from a frighteningly smashed Toyota. He’s made great strides, but a long road to recovery remains ahead, a new normal of scars with stories to tell.

My Uncle has terminal brain cancer. The last I saw him was at his grand daughter’s eighth birthday party. All was cheery and copacetic, until it wasn’t. He’s seemingly lost all ability to form new memories. His life, in how brief a span, will be just that, memories?

I write of all this, not to be gloomy, but to flesh out the transient nature of life, the constant reminders of fragility and change and my utter befuddlement and wonder. What a lack of rhyme or reason! How impossibly out of our hands. The universe reminding us, to surrender, to ride the waves, to truly appreciate each end every moment, and cease grasping for control. We are mere passengers, intent on our destinations, yet completely subject to the capriciousness of the road.

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.

Life is a bit claustrophobic with all the lying on the couch I am doing, every moment an attempt to keep my foot from throbbing with pain. My mind is a circus: what I have been able to do, what I can do now, what I will be able to do once fully healed. I watch a lot of television, movies mostly. I’m reading a little, more to come because I finally found a book I like – such a picky reader.

I am praying a lot, not for me, I am fine, I think. It might depend on who you ask, however, definitely. The prayers are for a friend, who is far younger than I and in critical condition. Scary to the point of tears: for her family, for her wee children. I have never spoken such fervent words to God, the universe, whatever and whomever is out there. Space aliens? I believe I am being heard. I pray the answer will be YES.

The new year is here. I have a resolution, of sorts, to eat as low carb and high veg as possible for the month of January, though if I can sustain it longer, I am not going to argue with my willpower. My sweets to protein to vegetable ratio the past month as far from ideal or tummy soothing as is mathematically possible, so it seems. Math, however, is not my strongest subject.

This is not a resolution, but I am happy to report that I’ve exercised every day since my surgery and continue to be amazed at what works my entire body without causing my left foot too much anguish. On that front, it is healing rather nicely! My surgically modified toes are rock-hard with swelling but better than before. My foot previously doing it’s best imitation of a Frankenstein stitched balloon. Not great.

And this before I go – Juniper’s shoes! They light up! To see her walk in them is positively chuckle inducing. I am super keen for the day we walk together in the snow, maybe in a month or so? Yes, please.

Misty

A lovely Portland morning, me and Juni B. up and roaming, every sound hushed under the weight of the mist. Every scent heightened, the new leaves, the dry flaxen grass, the unfortunate rabbit killed under the tree of the top photo, forefoot and tail and fluff in the underbrush and Juniper whimpering to please investigate. Never have I felt more observed by the animals, seen and unseen, wing beats and calls, rustles and thumps. Crows, jays, towhees, and coyote, perhaps?

Today is a big day for us. After thirteen years to to-ing and fro-ing in a Mini Cooper, from one side of the country to the other, we are reuniting with our first love. A Subaru. The toll of a low clearance vehicle, scrape, scrape, scrape, and what now seems like an impossibly small space having finally, oddly, gotten to us. Our 50’s era garage is just wide enough and plenty long for what, in comparison, will be akin to driving a school bus.

Like most of what I have left behind in this life, I will not miss it. We had our good times and our stellar fuel economy (goodbye 42 MPG on the highway!) and fun zips around winding bending roads, but it’s time to move forward. It’s time for adventures on bumpy back roads without worry (or at least far less) of getting stuck. It’s time for car camping with our favorite canine, lying flat as a pancake in the back. It’s time for having more than one human passenger, save that of a child. It’s time for car loads of plants and other miscellany that need not be carefully balanced and protruding, clown-like, out the front windows of the car. Oh boy, oh boy, it is time.

Let’s go!

 

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