Sunday, August 18, 2013

No Man's Land

There's a spider in the yard, he-he-he...not even close...a gazillion bazillion spiders in the yard might be a little nearer to the truth of arachnids on the move or just hanging out in these abundant gardens.  Daylight roamers and spinners real estate is visible to the clever eye, and makes head-on and under-foot collisions a seldom occurrence; but those nighttime fly byes on silken threads and the industrialist orb weavers attaching anchors across vast reaches of space and connecting it all, at amazing speed, with many circles of death...mesmerizing!

With flashlight in hand, I watched the creation of such an orb web early one night and again before daylight I watched the same spider take the entire web down and hide under a leaf at the dawn of the new day.  The greatest teacher of life is life itself, and one of the greatest lessons I've learned of this eight legged eight eyed little beastie is STAY OUT OF THE YARD AT NIGHT if you don't relish sharing the territory on your face with it.  It's no man's land out there after the sun sinks below the horizon.

Hibiscus moscheutos
Rose Mallow

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Luminescence - Chapter 1

She caught his attention the moment that terrier ran across her lap, and bolted out the car door dragging its retractable leash.  The dog was running in all directions as she reeled him in and cupped his chin between her slender hands, saying something that immediately froze the terrier in place. He wondered what it was.  She looked to the left, sighed, and scanned to the right as her lips pouted a bit at the lack of options, he thought, until she was looking towards her right shoulder and straight into his eyes.  Her face softened as those gray green eyes looked at him a bit too long.  He wondered if she was as pretty as he thought she was behind all that peppered silver hair the wind was blowing across her face. She smiled so briefly that it almost wasn't a smile and began to walk away towards the far end of the footpath, but he could still feel the warmth of that slight acknowledgement that seemed to wrap around him with the strangle hold of a thousand feet of duct tape.  He was hooked. 

Her distance from his was widening to the point of not even trying, but he was determined.  He rushed from the bench, but was jolted to a stop by the yelp of his pup as it was catapulted off the bench into midair and dropped onto its side with a thud.  Smothering it with apologies, he scooped up his trembling pup, tucking it under his unzipped jacket with it's leash dragging across the ground.  He glanced back down the path and saw her standing there, facing him, and watching.  He felt like he was on fire as he stared back at that inquisitive face for the shortest time that seemed forever, and then began to follow in her footsteps.  He wondered if she was going to wait until he reached her, or if she would turn her back to him and continue on...his mystery woman, her dog, and him not by her side.

The wind picked up in errant gusts across the lake cutting through her jacket like it wasn't even there.  She knew if she was shivering, her dog was freezing.  She glanced down at him and sighed knowing she had made the wrong decision. Tired of the guilt caused from ignoring her own dog, she convinced herself that a cold day was much better than no day at the park, but this guilt of extreme cruelty she was now experiencing was suffocating her.  She glanced at that empty bench, at the unpretentious man clumsily tucking his whimpering pup inside his jacket under his arm like a bag of potatoes, and wondered for half a second if the pup was indeed okay.  She looked back down at her own thin skinned cowering terrier, and knew if she didn't hurry up and get moving, she would be doomed to carrying him in her arms also.  She zipped her jacket the rest of the way up, and began walking as fast as she could to put the nightmare as far behind her as possible.

He pretended he was the epitome of ruggedness with a shadow of stubble he was too lazy to shave this morning, and dirty jeans he forgot to wash last night.  The left side of his jacket wrapped securely around his half-pint pup was warm, but the right side was flapping wildly in the wind as he trampled down that lonely path with all the vigor and determination of a person trying not to freeze to death.  He sighed and imagined he probably looked quite bad.  He glanced up and stopped.  His face abandoned all semblance of hope and almost became one with the dark side.  Rapidly scanning the parameter of his surroundings suggested the area was his alone, but that couldn't be true, could it?  Time had to be in his favor.  She couldn't have doubled back that quickly, could she?

She was out of breath and only half way up the hill to that building at the top and shelter.  She knew she should have just walked back the way she came, but she was determined to not ever meet up with that bum who should never been allowed to own a dog in the first place.  She was breathing so hard that her throat felt parched, and the cold air she was sucking in made it hurt.  All she could think in her misery was she should have peddled her exercise bike more often.  Who was she kidding?  She hadn't peddled her exercise bike for months.  She became bored with it all and gave up.  The leash tightened around her legs and she was falling against the cold hard ground as the thought of broken teeth caused her to lift up her head and land hard on her side. Her abrupt outcry vanished instantly from her numb lips, swallowed up by the cold, gusty wind.

He turned to face the ridge to his right and hastily looked up the grassy incline to above the stand of trees where he caught sight of his mystery woman sitting on the ground resting.  Man, she's a tough cookie, he thought.  The closed visitor's center was above her at the top of the hill.  At least he thought it was closed.  It was mostly glass, but the glass always revealed only a few displays that lived in a room whose lights were always turned off and whose doors were always locked.  He was guessing it was her destination.  His nose was beginning to numb, and he was cursing himself that he had nothing to stop it dripping except his shirt collar. He sighed, clinched his teeth, and started up that grassy incline; but he was straining with his puppy throwing him off balance.  He let go of the pup, and as it eagerly worked its little legs up the hill, barking and tugging at the leash for him to keep up, he began to wonder just what in the hell did he think he was doing.  She was a mystery.  He might never catch up with her and she'll remain a mystery forever.  Then again, he might catch up with her and wished he hadn't. He might later regret the entire day.  Crap!  What the hell was wrong with him?  They didn't even have a relationship and she was already driving him crazy.

She couldn't stop shaking.  The cold was too intense for her to linger any longer.  She tried to stand up and found herself on all fours without anything to push herself up except her aching knees.  She wanted to collapse in a defeated heap, but the puppy man she didn't care to meet was zigzagging up the incline towards her at alarming speed.  She wondered just how crazy he really was.  He seemed to be following her, but she knew it was only an illusion.  There was nothing about her that would excite any man, absolutely nothing. The pain made her feel like her hip was on fire as she stood up, then painfully made her way towards the top of the hill. She was aware her dog was no longer with her.  She didn't care.

He knew he had been bent over with his hands clasping his knees for too long trying to catch his breath, as his pup and the terrier kept tugging on their leashes and whimpering incessantly.  He admitted to himself that no pretty woman in her right mind would ever look at him even once if she had a choice.  He wished he had stayed home and slept in, but he hadn't, and now he had an extra dog on his hands.  He slowly straightened up to a view of the empty parking area and was alarmed at the heavy darkness of the noon day sky. Drops of icy rain were stinging his face, as he scooped up his pup and hurriedly followed the terrier's unreeled leash to the sheltered entrance.  He knew the stupid place would be closed and he hadn't been disappointed.

Pressed against the wall with his eyes shut, he leaned his head back with a sigh.  His eyes flew open as the leash reel was ripped out of his hand pulling him forward and into the hypnotic power of those gray green eyes, those beautiful gray green eyes that stared at him like cold liquid glass.  He wanted so desperately to say something clever, something that would make her smile, but no words formed on his lips. He wondered how long he could stare at her before she decided to escape to her car, but she just stood there.  Was she going to open those bare lips and say words he wanted to hear, or crush all his hopes dead.  He could see her face mellow as she looked to the ground, then back up at his face. He thought it was over when all that managed to escape from his lips was "Hi.  I'm Josh", and hugging his curly, black pup to his face, "And this is Lucifer."  She relaxed and continued to stare at that sort of handsome wrinkled face and wondered, who in the hell names their pup Lucifer?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Gardening Guru

With little time to spare, a pocket full of moths, and an inquisitive, chaotic mind; I did what any workaholic would do to themselves.  I signed up for the Master Gardener's class the agriculture extension was teaching that year.  Not satisfied with just deleting another relaxing evening of house cleaning in my week, I dragged husband along wiping out another relaxing evening of tv watching in his week.  Wahoo!

Looking forward to rubbing elbows with gardeners of like skills, I dreamed of becoming an official expert...a know-it-all in the universe of plants.  Learning nothing I hadn't already taught myself since acquiring a home and yard, the classes became excruciating, except when I dosed off a time or two.

With certificate well-earned for enduring hours of teachings that weren't options for my situation, I was an official expert of the green.  A black cloud instantly mushroomed over my noggin, and I swear lightning was crackling throughout it, when I discovered advice given in the master gardener capacity, had to be recommendations the master gardener's program accepted; including pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, and herbicides.  Finally, after a long powwow with my inner self, I agreed to be a trader to my cause and get on with being a nifty master of gardening.

The master gardener meeting each month was packed with wonderful people, exciting presentations and programs, and always a potluck dinner which agreed 100% with a husband whose only mastering skill after all those classes and certificate in hand was pulling pesky weeds and a few of the good guys. His credibility as a guru of the green never came into question. He was the best little weed picking picker this side of the Mississippi.

A competitive climb to the top of the ladder type of anal retentive person, I soon latched onto the president of the group.  She was ancient, a bonafied master, and the most interesting person I had ever met.  Tucking me under her wing, she became my cherished mentor.  She requested a look at the records I kept of my gardens that were in their early stages of being native organic.  I had a detailed map of front and back gardens with every plant and hardscape detail drawn to scale ( doesn't everyone do this?), and booklets that were created to hand out to inquiring minds of my obsession.

This little gray haired lady who thought purple the only color worth having, pushed me to excel.  I swear she had a whip snapping behind us whenever we slowed down a bit with all that dag gum nabbit weed extracting week after week.  Whatever happened to just sitting in the extension office answering all those inquiring phone calls?  I was perturbed that the position most people saw me in was with my sweaty head just short of being tucked in-between my legs and my patootie stuck up in the air.

The next spring, uninterested in another weed picking massacre, I was hoodwinked into accepting the vacated tree chairperson post. Okay, perhaps I hadn't mastered everything in my quest to be the wisest of instructors.  The two sick apple trees that came with my yard were mysteriously murdered (who? me???), and I'd never planted a tree in my life except the peach tree I blasted to smithereens when I couldn't keep up with the black rot patrol. No matter, she said, you'll learn as you go, he he!

Among the masters, competition was fierce to win that coveted document declaring one to be the best of all the rest in a given month.  Personally, I swear there were a few skunks in that group padding their hours of service, cause I worked mucho quadrupled excessive hours each week and only received one of those worthless documents.  Of course, I felt elated in my ten seconds of glory when my name was shouted out.

Soon acquiring some expertise at the hoodwinking game myself, I managed to sweet talk the ag center city arborist into working with me and my tree gang.  We were in charge of two tree inventories for two different historical gardens striving to become arboretums.  He took my rather large group (surprised even myself on my effectiveness in recruiting), and spent too many days of his short lived summer dragging us from one tree to another until we knew everything there was to know about classifying trees.  And here I thought a tree was just a tree...dummy me!

Lucked out on the tour of Vanderbilt University Arboretum. Managed to con them out of seven guide booklets for my group, but bummed out in that my group was three times that size, so the seven fifty per book for the rest of the group left me teary eyed poor.  No matter...we all were one large family that day, and we stuck around for hours with the help of one lady's husband who unofficially became our knowledgeable guide.

I kept my group and husband active all summer, a blast from the first spring flower to the fall of the first snowflake; but I was running on empty, and all that planning and executing was burning me to a cinder faster than a starving tick running out of options.  I was still pulling all those blasted weeds, attending meeting after meeting, working fair ground garden shows, prepping and displaying my yard in the garden tours, cleaning house, working yard, 8 to 5 job, caring for pet dog on her last leg...then snap crackle POP!!! it was time to escape to a life of my own.

Husband wasn't too keen on sticking around with all those masters of the herd without this burnt out chick along for the ride.  Blamed for ruining his weed picking  green thumb adventure as a cool master of the gardens, I moved on with life in my own little seventh heaven, while he vegetated once again in front of his beloved tv.  So there you have it...two peas in a pod...struggling through a great gardening adventure with a smidgen of disappointment thrown in.    

Welcome to the veggie patch, where the rain never ends until one has no time to water; wild critters line up for two pieces of the pie; and misbehaving plants forget to read the fine print on the back of their seed packs.

Corn and runner beans
on a mission to reach the moon

Left to right...Radishes and Petunias,
Leaf Lettuce, Carrots, Basil Plants, and Cucumber

Cucumbers after half of stems cut off.
Yikes! I wonder how many cukes one can actually eat in any given day.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Just Another August Day

Bottlebrush Grass

Hosta Halcyon

Cardinal Flower & Joe Pye Weed

Lovely Belladonna Lily

Wild Coneflower from Back Yard

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