Category Archives: nature

Thoughts on a walk

A collection from the last two weeks.

1. I don’t get how a dog can pass up a scratch behind the ears for a game of catch the ball.

2. Bad sign: I see something in the distance that can be one of two things: (a) A drift of snow that’s resisting the warm temperatures. (b) A drift of white plastic grocery bags that have come loose from the trash.

3. If I were the artist who designed that post-moderny, aluminum-ribbon lawn sculpture, I think I’d be upset that someone had strung Christmas lights on it.

4. My walk on Saturday:

Sonoma Coast State Beach, Calif. Temperatures in the low 60s.

5. My walk today:

Lake Park, Milwaukee, Wisc. Temperatures in the low 30s.

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Gardening notes: The difficult adolescent phase

Just home from the garden center, freshly potted. The cute and cuddly phase.

I fuss like a new mamma over my newly potted plants each spring. I cannot leave the house without watering and feeding them, fretting over any sign of trouble. If I could check in by phone during the day, I would. Plants are no different than pets. When you first bring them home they are cute little things — tender new shoots with the promise of young buds, staying picturesquely tucked into their clay plots. They are the equivalent of large-eyed kittens or tumbling puppies. Without the poop.

As the weeks wear on, of course you learn they won’t stay that way forever, and no matter what your hopes and dreams are for them they will go their own ways. For one thing, the world is a dangerous place. This year’s long and wet and cold spring was too much for the lobelia and begonia — two of my last hopes for flowering plants on a balcony that is increasingly shady (I am not an impatiens fan). I had to say goodbye. It was a simple ceremony by the dumpsters.  I find my own way to come to terms with these things.

Others go wild or disappoint in a variety of ways. Case in point: the cherry tomato plants. They were growing like crazy, giving off fabulous showy foliage, but where were the blossoms?  My experiment with Dusty Miller failed miserably. I gave myself over to coleus and vines to replace the drama that the flowers could not deliver. My herbs were true as ever, they never fail me.

The cherry tomato plant has gone all out of control on me.

By now, it is no longer cute-puppy time. My litter has become sensitive, brooding and demanding. They pout when, God forbid, I miss a morning watering. They’re messy, leaving stray leaves and dead blossoms all over the place. They’re still beautiful, some in a kind of sprawling, geeky way, and I still love them. But they require more patience. I must have faith that it will all be worth it. The cherry tomato plants are the worst, refusing to go where they’re told and instead wandering off to awkward places where I’ll never be able to reach their fruit — which, yes, has finally started coming forth (raging hormones — you know).

We’ll see how it works out. Soon, the tomatoes will ripen and sweet potato vine will mature lushly. Already, the basil is starting to look a little weary. Everyone’s roots are outgrowing their pots. I suppose there is a metaphor about going off to college somewhere about now. I’ll refrain. It’s just that — I saw a pile of leaves in the gutter on my walk today. Summer is on the wane. I’m getting wistful.

You know, it’s really OK that I have to sweep up after them now and then. It’ll seem so quiet and dull when they’re gone.

View through the screen door this morning.

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Filed under nature, Obsessions

Memo to Mother Nature Re: Earlier memo

Thank you for your response to my earlier memo. I apologize for the somewhat harsh tone, but I hope you understand that I had waited many weeks before issuing my complaint in hopes that your usual customer service patterns would emerge. When they did not, I felt compelled to speak up.

Since our last correspondence, I have been pleased with your staff’s prompt follow-up. Please pass along my thanks to the clouds for moving along (I hope they enjoy their new assignment), to the increasing performance of the temperatures, and the restraint the precipitation has exhibited. Very nice indeed.

Friends, family and colleagues report they are very pleased with my improved mood. Also, the tomatoes on my balcony that had been green for a month immediately began ripening. I’d love to share some with you, stop by any time and maybe we can patch things up. No hard feelings, I hope?

Please enjoy your holiday weekend as much as I am enjoying mine.

Sincere regards,


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Memo to Mother Nature: Really?

Despair: Nasty wind, sleet, etc. outside living room window.

When the seasons change kindly, our brains react in kind. We forget winter’s dark moods – the lack of sun, the unending steel-gray of the sky, the chipping of ice from our windshields as a knife-sharp wind slaps us silly, the interminable length of it all. Some years, I am amazed at how a spring day, a seedling in a pot, a bird singing on a branch outside my window can give me selective amnesia. It distills my memories into times when snow fell gently, sparkling and crunching as I walked; days when the sun bounced brilliantly off white rooftops; evenings when I’d stomp my boots, open my front door, and feel thankful for the simple warmth of home. All is forgiven. It’s behind us. Now let’s go out and play.

But when the seasons change badly, as they have – notoriously – this year, I could give a fuck.

Forgive my language, Mother Nature, but you know what I’m talking about.

I am writing this during one of the few consecutive 12 hours of sunlight I have experienced in 2011 (although I am basing this on today’s forecast, we’ll see). It is late June. Something is not right about this.

My logical self, usually so resolutely optimistic about The Weather (“It’s useless to complain I have chosen to live here I will make the best of it it always gets better just in time after all I could be living in Joplin”), has now embraced epic pessimism.

I have started thinking about the number of cold sunless days I have experienced not just during the past season, but during my lifetime. Instead of accepting the ebb and flow of the seasons as a natural balancing act that sets things straight on an annual basis, I am thinking darker thoughts. Much darker.

What if every gray, cold day has a cumulative effect on a person’s body? What if, for each cloudy day of my life, my eyes are getting more mole-like? For each day when I can expose only a portion of my face to the elements, my skin becomes more sensitive to air and light? For each day that things are frozen, muddy, drenched or dead, my nose is less tolerant of a garden’s smells? What if all of this is irreversible? What if I am actually adapting to bad weather and becoming physically intolerant of good weather?

And then I think — what is it doing to MY SOUL?

On the other hand, here is the scene outside my window right now:

Sun sparkling on the tree leaves as they quiver and rustle in the breeze. Clover and daisies in the meadow nodding their sweet little heads. Grasses rippling in the distant field. And yes, birds chirping.

(.  .  .  long pause while I think about this  .  .  .)

Why am I inside at a laptop complaining about Oct. 1 through June 25? It’s June 26. I’m in the country, and it’s the kind of day I have been dreaming of.

I won’t be afraid. I will find a hat to shield my little mole eyes, slather sunscreen on my white wimpy skin, pack my pockets full of Kleenex, and leave the house.

I’ll let you know how it goes with my soul.

Hope: Baby robin, fresh-hatched from a nest outside same window.

Note: This was written June 26 at the Bean House before I lost internet connection and while the sun was shining and did, as forecast, continue to shine through nightfall. Posted June 27, back home, foggy and about to rain. Soul status: iffy.

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An answer to a question I sometimes get

Sometimes when I’m in the passenger seat (and maybe a little when I’m not) I’ll hold my Flip camera up to the window. I’m fascinated by the motion of the landscape going by. Here’s my first attempt to edit a bunch of video into something. From two recent trips to southwest Wisconsin.

(Country driving isn’t the only time I hit the record button to collect random scenery. I posted something from PrideFest earlier this year.)


Filed under Going Driftless, Images, nature

5,500 plants. Ouch!

I spent my weekend in Door County helping put 5,500 plants into the ground. My dear friends Dennis and Deborah asked me to help, and of course I could not turn them down. I have enjoyed the blessing of their beautiful farm (I like to call it “Happy Acres”) as a guest many times, so an opportunity to donate a little sweat equity was appreciated.

I also agreed (happily) to document the event. Here’s a little sneak peek. Not the most polished video I’ve done (wait, have I ever done one of those?), but I wanted to get something up quickly to share with my fellow planters. More later!

(P.S. Yes, my butt and legs are really sore today.)

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