THE FIRST IRISES

 

Friday night the irises were still pointy buds the shape of miniature mummies, tightly wrapped in parchment sarcophoguses. Saturday morning when we opened the front door, there they were, deep purple and yellow blossoms fluttering in the breeze, triangular centers blazing their arrival.

The first irises always remind me of my friend L., who loves the sight and scent of them. Yesterday, I sent her a close-up photo of what she loves.

Like all of us of a certain age, L. has lived through adversities and emerged a beauty, inside and out. When I see the iris, I think of how L. and her sister S. built a literary journal from scratch, one that is now nationally respected, one that literary contests pull their prize selections from year after year.

L. and S. researched for more than a year how to put a literary journal together. At first, they had their detractors. One of them was a columnist who wrote that they were doomed to failure because they didn’t work from the bottom up, i.e. sucking up to every literary persona in town who might one day be a player in their venture, and because of all things, at their opening party, they giggled a lot.

I hope they are giggling still, two decades later, being nationally renowned and all. These sisters continue to meet their goal while remaining kind and generous. They’ve featured years of good writers, some of them beginners, and brought many to national prominence. Quarterly, they also produce a bulletin of solid writing advice. Having done what they intended to do from the beginning, one step at a time, working hard, ignoring harsh words from large egos, they’ve persevered.

Persevered, like the first irises every spring that weather winters’ storms with the intention of bringing joy just by being. As I gaze at their purple, lavender and yellow blossoms, I imagine them giggling a lot.

THE LOVE TOUR

THE LOVE TOUR

January is a most depressing month, and February follows right on its heels. Here on the coast everything is dripping wet, soggy and marshlike. The prominent color of the sky is some variation of Payne’s gray, from “dark ominous” to “continual dusk” to “shiny steel.” Lest you think growing things are all dead, though, when you see brown, slime, and mold, I’m here to tell you plenty is going on underneath the leaves, twigs, branches and mulch. Even if it’s spitting rain, I suggest you take a hopeful walk around your garden. Make what I call the Love Tour.

Today, I asked myself, “What can I see that I love?” I started out from the front door, where our porch is decorated with primroses my husband bought at the store, with the joy of their color in mind. We love seeing them every time we go in or out of our home. We didn’t grow them, but I think they count anyway.

Next, I noticed all the nubbins—bulbs arising in either sidewalk bed. Some early daffodils are ready to bloom, but the later bulbs are slowly undressing. Besides daffodils, I saw the arms of narcissus, crocus, snowbells, hyacinth, muscari, tulips and Scilla siberica, all reaching for the light.

Around the corner, two clumps of heather are in bloom. I love the happy pinks. If I clip some stems, they fit perfectly in a teeny blue glass vase and will dry and retain their color for a couple of months on a counter or table.

Some yarrow is greening, promising its work as a bouquet filler and a medicinal in herbal concoctions. The rose campion and foxglove rosettes haven’t frozen and neither has the hollyhock, which means we may have their colorful blooms earlier than usual. I love that!

The rosemary is green and blooming. I squeeze and rub the leaves and smell my hand. Heavenly!

Green ferns are out of the ground. So is the German chamomile. More green.

The red-twigged dogwood pops color where there are no blooms. I saw buds on the lilacs, forsythia, flowering quince, and pussy willow. I love seeing their promise!

Without leaves blocking the view, I noticed the structural elements I put in place last summer, such as the graveled patio space I dug and laid for the red table and chairs, and the paving stone foundation for the red bench. I love that it’s all ready when the time comes. I also made a list of the places that need work and the pruning that needs done as soon as the weather is more forgiving, because right now they are more noticeable.

After my circuit of our house through the flower beds, looking for things I love, I reached my front porch in a much happier frame of mind, grateful for nature and my connection to it. We can’t always get away to sunnier climes, but we can always take ten minutes out of our day to make the Love Tour. I recommend it.

Civil Disputes

IMG_6746Today is January 2, 2016. This photo tells a story. The temperature on our front porch is 27.9 degrees. See the frozen rugosa roses in the background? The naked, shivering tree limbs dreaming of leaves, squeezing out buds? The chairs, loving servants, blown over to the doorway, reminding us they are ready for service anytime we are. Note the muddy swipes all over the bottom of the glass in both doors. The paw painting goes as high as Winston, our neighbor’s cat, can reach. Miss Emma waits on the rug for his surprise attack. Then they will both jump up on two legs, swat on their respective sides of the glass, yelling and hollering at each other. When they tire of this doorway, they move on to the window next to the door, then the dining room widows, where Miss Emma mounts her condo and Winston hangs from the outside window screens. Holes in the screens now reach as high as Winston’s paws. They breathe hard in retreat and then they move to the dining room door where Winston hangs on the doorway screen and remounts his assault. Miss Emma gives as good as she gets on her side of the glass. Sometimes this performance plays out three or four times a day, morning, bedtime when lights are out, and in the wee hours of morning. Sometimes Winston comes and is disappointed because Miss Emma has taken to her bed and doesn’t know he’s encroaching on her territory. She needs her beauty sleep to gather her energy for another battle. Recently, because of the frozen deck and landscape, I presume, we haven’t seen Winston as often. We miss his sweet face. We sneak him treats when Miss Emma is abed. That may be the reason for their difference of opinion. Today I may wash the windows outside; give them a clean slate for the next battle–the best kind, where no one gets hurt but everyone gets heard.

THE WILSON

THE WILSON

Green as an alligator

the Wilson River

chomps whatever stands

in its swollen path.

Trees bow down,

a kind of surrender,

in the wake of

these mighty jaws.

Kayaks bob along

from scaly bump

to scaly bump.

Bridges quake

at the thwack of its tail,

waters rushing at

their abutments.

This is no placid swamp,

no stagnant pond.

No, this green monster

thrashes headlong

creating its own purpose,

mashing whatever

appears in its path,

emptying its gullet

into the sea.

 

2009 award[#TheWilsonRiver]

Home Grown Thanksgiving

Bountiful Table
Bountiful Table

As my family—my sister, my mother, and my husband–made way to eat Thanksgiving dinner, my sister Anita surveyed the table and said, “Wow! Just look. Most of everything here we either grew, canned, or froze. That’s awesome!”

And true. She grew the potatoes she mashed and the green beans. She grew the butternut squash she candied. She didn’t make the marshmallows, but maybe next year. The turkey and gravy were not grown by us, it’s true. However, when I was in the 7th grade, my mother grew turkeys on our farm, so that year, we could definitely say we grew the turkey we ate. That was the only year we could say that, though, because the turkeys were so stupid and time-consuming they about did my mother in, so she went on to focus on chickens, who at least have a brain.

The gravy came from McCormick’s, gluten-free, and we hadn’t grown the kinds of plants used to assemble the gravy mix. Give my sister time, okay?

The anti-pasto plate was yummy and due to our joint summertime efforts. My sister grew the cucumbers she pickled. We grew the green beans, carrots, cauliflower, cucumbers and peppers for the vegetable mixture I pickled. The apples I wedged and candied came from our apple trees. My sister grew the beets she pickled. The olives, bless their finger-tipping hearts, my sister withdrew from a can she opened and drained. She could have planted an olive tree, picked and preserved her own olives, mind you, but alas, she’s allergic to olive trees.

All of us have grown the carrots, cauliflower, and cucumber sticks on the appetizer plate.

My sister grew the loganberries, blackberries, raspberries, and marionberries in the berry delight for dessert. She bought the ice cream, but in the past we’ve milked the cow, separated the milk, and churned the ice cream. My sister Susie still makes ice cream the good, old-fashioned way, by hand. It’s one reason I will drive eight hours to visit her in the summer.

At the head of the table sat the major reason my sisters and I know how to do all this—our mother. Looking at our well-provisioned table, we were all grateful for what our parents passed on to us.

Growing up, my siblings and I learned from our father and mother how to grow, can, and preserve. My husband learned from his parents as well. I say we were lucky to have grown up in rural areas where people could live off the land and have the foresight to teach their offspring how to do the same. My sisters and I have never forgotten the lessons we learned and when we are able, we provide for ourselves. It warms my heart that many of my young friends are discovering anew these skills, if not from their elders, then from 4-H classes, the Extension Service, and from each other. They are making sure their children learn the skills as well, especially since many schools have opted out of teaching the home skills.

Self-sufficiency feels good, especially when you know that what you’ve grown is organic, without harmful chemicals, and truly tasty. Besides, you’ve kept in better shape working for it! Our whole neighborhood shares produce, techniques, recipes, and canned goods. Nothing better than that!

This Thanksgiving, among other things, I was grateful for the bounty at our table, the family members seated around it, especially our mother, and for the lessons we’ve learned and put into action.

Grownups

Grown-ups are reading my journal!  I think I know why.  They want to see if my sixth grade was anything like their sixth grade.  I’ll bet it was.  Well, maybe not EVERYTHING.  Their mother might not have dated their teacher, and they didn’t have Melvin Porter trying to kiss them all the time.  Ick!  But probably they had to think about how people treat other people, how we get accused of stuff we didn’t do, or how we wish we would have not done something because of how it turned out. They might have solved mysteries and they might have had a dog. Maybe they even had a teacher with a big behind.  Hahahaha!

I hope if they like Sally Jo Survives Sixth Grade: A Journal, that they tell readers in grades 4-6 all about it.  And I hope they answer the journal question after every chapter and share what they wrote with the kids they know.

Whatever the grown-ups do, I hope they keep reading and writing about the changes we all go through in life.

Sally Jo says hello!

Sally Jo says hello!

Hello everyone!  I am so glad to be able to meet you all and invite you to read my journal.  You will find out my life was like in the sixth grade–how my friend Eddo and I solved mysteries; how the new kid Melvin kept bugging me, how my mom and my teacher fell in love, and how all of us lost someone we loved. You will get to read the column Eddo and I wrote for our school newspaper and follow the recipe I gave you for growing something monstrous under your bed. Best of all, after every one of my journal entries, you will get to write your own answer to a question I ask you about your own life.  It’s best if you have a trusted grown up in your life answer the questions, too, and then share your answers with each other.  You will begin to see how we all had to survive the same things in the sixth grade.

Here’s the link for my journal:http://www.amazon.com/SALLY-SURVIVES-SIXTH-GRADE-ebook/dp/B00A0V52ES/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1352427942&sr=1-1&keywords=sally+jo+survives+sixth+grade