A Pitiful Reality

Coming back from my two-mile walk in my backyard, not that my backyard is two miles long, it’s not, but I walk back and forth for two miles, I realized what a pitiful sight I am. If anyone were to see me in my sweatpants, T-shirt, no make-up – what for the birds? – they’d say I needed a respite in the local psyche ward. I have forgotten to dress normally, bathe daily, and wear something colorful. Is this what retirement looks like? No, this is what being cooped up at home without the possibility of parole looks like during the pandemic. When restrictions get lifted I will need training in how to be a human being again and a functioning member of society. I will have to wear a bra again! That thought revolts me. I will need to be pleasing, kind and thoughtful to others. I’ve had a vacation from that. And eight hours in an office again when I’ve enjoyed squirrels, birds and flowers as my office, I can’t bear the thought.

Not everything about the lockdown has been nasty as the media wants you to believe. It’s been peaceful. The air has never been fresher. The quiet of the streets allows me to hear the honking of overhead geese, the barking of dogs on a walk, the clamoring of the garbage truck on its pickup runs. We’re making more garbage than ever before. We’re buying and cooking and eating and throwing away. Just today I saw my neighbor throw out his prized flamingo.

Calvin says, “You’re nuts alright. Flamingo? That was a pink elephant.”

 

 

Resuscitation

I spent some quality time in my garden this weekend, soaking up the sun and appreciating my flowers. That’s when I noticed it.

“I haven’t been watering it,” Alf said.

“Why not?” I asked.

“It didn’t appeal to me.”

“But we paid money for it.”

“I know.” 

“You know? You’re the one who makes sure we use the things we buy.”

“It doesn’t make sense. I neglected it. It wasn’t speaking to me.”

Since then, I have been watering the plant and sure enough green leaves are popping up all over it.

“That’s looking pretty good,” Alf said.

“What some water will do,” I said.

I began to look for more neglected plants in the garden. I saw another one. A low creepy crawler that was barely breathing. I began watering it too. It has sprouted purple flowers.

“I’m going to call you PP,” Alf said.

“PP?”

“Plant Paramedic.”

Calvin says, “There’s a third plant that’s gone brown. I peed once too many times on it. It didn’t resonate with me either.” 

 

Shared Greenery

“It’s time to cut the lawn,” our neighbor told us today. We agreed it was looking a bit furry, but we thought it gave the front of the house some character. Plus it looked like we do, two months without a haircut.

“Let’s wait til May,” Alf said.

“By then you’ll need to hack your way to the front door,” he said.

“Come on, it won’t be that bad,” Alf said.

“Yes it will, it’s all the watering you do every morning that’s causing the jungle to spring up.”

Truth is our neighbor keeps his lawn as short as a barber’s haircut and ours was irritating him.

So after a lot of back and forth, Alf allowed the mower to come across our driveway and into the front lawn.

Our neighbor did a fine job of hair cutting. The equipment made all the right rumbling noies and the blower whined throughout the neighborhood. It was done in less than fifteen minutes.

He was satisfied with the results and took his mower back to his house, went inside and we won’t see him for another month.

We guess this is his way of coping with the lockdown. Every leaf has to be a certain height and no higher. He turns on a fountain every day with a yellow rubber ducky bobbing on the surface. The basket of flowers at his front door are artificial and look grey around the edges. Everything else is real, including a rhododendron tree that explodes with purple flowers every spring.

Three fig trees line up tall between his property and ours. He doesn’t like figs so we get the harvest. I love them. We in turn give him oranges and lemons from our trees. A polite exchange.

Calvin says, “How can he not like figs? I like figs, and that’s crazy because beagles hate fruit.”

Coexistence

The orange tree in our backyard is bursting with blossoms. As I walk by it, I hear the happy sounds of our humming bees wiggle in and out of the blossoms. The tree is alive with activity and noise. What surprises me are the hummingbirds. They too are flitting in and out of the blossoms, drinking in their elixir. They are intoxicated. They stop frequently to rest, look around, chirp with the others, and then resume their feeding. They don’t seem to skirt the bees. Nor are they cautious around them. Both bees and hummers co-exist in one tree.

Now the squirrels are another story. Those nasty critters are pulling off our oranges, taking a big bite out of them, and throwing the rest of the fruit on the ground. I notice they don’t touch the lemons or the grapefruit. They like sweet. They have good taste, but in an indulgent and thoughtless way.

Yesterday morning I noticed a tight bud on a geranium bush, and by late afternoon it had flowered. Had I know it would happen this fast, I would have pulled up a chair to watch it, like a time-lapse video.

I’m waiting for the blue jays to pop in anytime soon. They are nuisances. They wait on the roof top for bee activity and then swoop in and grab one in their beaks and swallow it whole. I wonder if the bee, in its last moments of life, stings the bird’s gullet all the way down to its stomach.

Calvin says, “Beware of those bees. I’ve had a few land on my nose and it’s terrifying. I shake them off and then run inside the house and howl.”

 

Add a Heart

I hate it when a warehouse store moves its shelves around and I can’t find the items I typically buy. It’s torture. It adds extra minutes to my shopping. I walk my 10,000 steps just trying to find the peanut butter. They should pay me for confusing me and making me go around in circles.

Being the day before Valentine’s Day, vendors were parked at every aisle handing out chocolates, cheese, and ravioli bites. Perfect ingredients for your loved one. How come there’s never any samples of bagels, lox and cream cheese? Or champagne and lobster tails for that special someone? But there’s always the man with the high-powered blender ready to make you a green smoothie.

I’ve noticed the book aisle is now shoved by the back wall where you can’t find it. I guess books are not money makers even if you are James Patterson and Clive Custler.

The clerk at the check-out told me a story of a family with a six-year old daughter. It was the child’s birthday and nobody showed up to celebrate it. So the family scooped her up and brought her to the store for pizza and cake. I wondered how many miles they had to walk to find those items. They were moved to make way for buckets of roses and heart-shaped cookies.

Calvin says, “The stuff you fret over. What’s wrong with a bone and a snuggle?”

 

More Than Dirt

Alf and I got tired of the lunar look of our backyard, with its deep ruts and crevices and dead everything. We used to have steady visitors of cats and squirrels and noisy ravens, but lately even the butterflies do fly-overs instead of landing. So with the help of a longtime neighbor, who builds commercial nurseries for plants, we are working on a new garden together. photo (47)

I quickly sketched my idea of an English garden with pathways and gravel and flowering plants. Something that Alice in Wonderland would choose as she read and conversed with the Cheshire Cat.

I didn’t want a lawn. I was convinced of the versatility and beauty of drought-tolerant plants. I’m a survivor of too many droughts and didn’t want the demands of water guzzling green things anymore. They remind me of crying infants when they’re hungry. I don’t have time to invest in pruning, trimming and talking to them either. I hardly have time to do this with Alf.

I’ve been learning a few things about myself through this. I’m impatient. I thought the re-design would take a month. In my mind it was a simple idea without a lot of fuss. Dig up the dead lawn, and then stick some Woolly Bluecurls, Tree Anemones, and Sticky Monkey-flowers in there, and let them duke it out. I was wrong. I have no understanding of soil, bricks and greenery and what it takes to put all three together in an artful way. It’s taken all summer.

Another problem arose. My neighbor’s taste and mine are not in sync. It’s an act of high level diplomacy every time we disagree. We compromise. We change things. We discard stuff. Always smiling. It’s like a marriage. I’m sure he goes home muttering under his breath. But through it all, a glorious garden is coming into view, and the best part is we haven’t filed divorce papers. That’s the important thing. It may not be ready for the fall, and by winter it will be too cold for tea parties, but then there’s next year. The plants will be settled and feeling good about their new home. And maybe the squirrels and ravens will return chattering and cawing their approval.

When the project is complete, I expect my neighbor to be over many times, showcasing me as his still-friend and my garden to future drought-tolerant fans.

Calvin says, “I’m not so stinking happy. You took away my favorite pee spots.” beagle

Coming Up Spring

Alf surprised me with daffodils and purple flowers that are popping up this spring. My azalea is bursting red so the garden is draped in the primary colors these days. My garden has never looked so colorful. It makes me smile.
We have the worst soil on the planet. The Mojave has more chances of sprouting flowers than my front and backyards. It’s hard clay, and when broken up with toil and sweat, it winks at you for a moment, and then scampers back to form its impenetrable layer of steel. No matter how much rich soil and delicious nutrients you pour down its black hole of a gullet, it regurgitates the clay. I’m convinced the clay runs deep to the core of the planet.
It’s a wonder Alf is succeeding where I haven’t. IMG_0173 (1)
“What’s your secret?” I asked.
“Patience,” he said.
“That’s never worked for me,” I said.
“Maybe it’s the rain. That helps.”
We used to have a rainy season, but that was so long ago. I had given up on it.
“It must be the rain,” I said.
“And not my green thumb?”
“You don’t have one. You’re from New York,” I said.
“How do you think Central Park came into being then?”
I checked Wikipedia.
“Not by New Yorkers. The two landscape architects were from England and Connecticut respectively. It proves my point. Brits know a thing or two about gardens.”
“Then we should import one and really go mad,” Alf said.
Calvin says, “I love our clay soil. I like hearing the splashing sound my pee makes on it. Kills all things green. Adds character to the command, ‘Go potty!'”   beagle