Archive for the 'gardening' Category


January 31, 2016

I’ve been to a number of antique stores over the years, and I am aware that in some, the policy is “You break it, you bought it.”  Some high-end dealers don’t use that policy, some low-end dealers don’t — I haven’t noticed a pattern with regard to the financial part of the issue about who insists on compensation and who doesn’t.  (And no antique dealer I have ever known supported themselves from selling antiques, there has always been another source of income for every one.)

So what goes into the decision of how to handle breakage?  I don’t know.  Personality of the dealer?  As I said, I don’t know.

But I think the fact that there are different approaches to this issue in the context of something so tangible and concrete is interesting:  who bears the burden of the cost of damage?

Well, first issue is agreeing there is damage.  That’s why I started with the title “Convincing”: some people will try to convince you the antique was always cracked, that they did nothing to cause it or even contribute to its creation.  I suspect they convince themselves, but the usual Achilles heel of their argument is that their perspective is the only point of view.  In some cases, it is an assumption that everybody agrees that the norm is whatever it is they are claiming, say, that it’s okay to pull what you see as weeds out of stranger’s garden.  Never seems to occur to them that a gardener might prefer to have their space invaded by weeds rather than by other people, or that they might actually want that plant in there where it is.  This is why looking for internal guidance that does not come from the ego is so helpful — the content of such guidance provides neutral space for our behaviors to intersect with each other with less friction and damage.  With a cracked antique, this assumption might be expressed by saying it’s a cost of doing business that “stuff happens.”

Once there is damage — uprooted plant, cracked antique, bills unpaid when the income check bounced — who absorbs it?  I am wondering about how people decide this as a social matter, not as a matter of law.

I think it was in Maureen Dowd’s column this weekend about Donald Trump that suggested to me that rich and powerful people may feel they can get away with never having to absorb the damage at their end:  “’I’m really rich and successful,’ he replied. ‘I don’t have to make up with everyone.’”

On the other hand, some rich and successful people will want to buy that cracked antique, not just as a gesture to the dealer or in acknowledgement that the value of the item has been diminished by the damage, but because they will feel better about themselves in the long run, they feel the mishap brought the item to their attention and are curious to see how it might enhance their life, they feel that’s what is called for, perhaps through their internal guidance,etc.

An antiques dealer may just write the expense off like the expense of having paid too much for a piece that won’t sell in their area.  A browser may apologize profusely and buy a lesser item they can afford if they can’t afford what they damaged.  A dealer may not care about the money at all or may eventually close their business.

What I think is actually most important in determining the bearing of the cost of damage is the process of working it out to a mutually acceptable arrangement.  I suspect there are no “one size fits all” remedies.  But I think the problem is made worse by a unilateral attempt to leave the other person with the onus of absorbing the costs.  And I can see in this context too the lesson of the blind men needing to pool their respective experiences of the different parts of the elephant — the lesson may be about communication, not about the underlying damage.



Did I set this up?

July 21, 2015

I can’t remember whether I transplanted this day lily to the base of the stump on which my black Buddha sits because its colors reminded me of Buddhist monk clothing or because it seemed like a good spot in the yard to absorb yet another day lily.  I know I was searching for a place for it — my recollection is that I needed to remove the plant from where it was and couldn’t figure out where to put it.  But I don’t remember what the deciding factor was for choosing this spot.  I do know that one of my considerations was whether I would be creating, by where I planted it, yet another area I would have to mow around and not through — I already had to mow around the pear tree stump, so this spot did not add difficulty to that task.  And some other areas I was considering for the transplant had too many tree roots or early-spring flower bulbs to make them suitable locations in which to dig a hole.


The day lily didn’t flower last year, and maybe it didn’t flower even the year before, so I didn’t remember what it looked like.  When it bloomed this year, its first blossom opened at the same time I was reading a column on the NYTimes website about the Dalai Lama.  I think there was a picture of him included with the column online.  It made me happy to see his colors echoed in the flower.

Flower burst cont’d

July 4, 2015




More views of my flower burst.

Flower bursts

July 4, 2015

Don’t have my own fireworks for the Fourth of July, but nature has given me this:


It’s the flower that grew up out of the “hen” part of my Hens and Chicks plant.

Red, not so wild roses

June 20, 2015

I wrote about the wild roses that grow on my property as a kind of more interesting sort of weed.

I have also recently noticed a new red rose bush, of the sort one buys at the nursery, has sprouted up among the rosa rugosa planted along the edge of the back path.  It’s not a rugosa, which do spread, by runners, I think, but more like a floribunda, with bright shiny dark green leaves, more-discretely-placed thorns, and more-sharply-shaped petals.

This is the third red rose bush to pop up.  One I think was a stow-away transplant in a block of earth we moved years ago from the backyard to the front in order to transplant a pink azalea it contained.  The pink azalea I think was near a red rose bush the previous owners of this house had planted.  So when a red rose bush started growing out from the pink azalea we transplanted, we were surprised but we could trace how it probably got there.  One was new growth from root stock after the pink rose grafted onto it had died back one winter.  This third one must have started from whatever roses germinate from — pips?

This third red rose bush started itself among a group of rose bushes, in a small bed in which pink cone flowers and orange day lilies have also appeared of their own accord.  A landscaper I hired one year to replant grub-infested areas of the back lawn had mulched in between and around the rugosa, creating a flower bed where before there had been just individual plants.  When Joe performed carpentry repairs on my house last summer, he unearthed a bunch of rocks, and I distributed some of them as edging around the mulched area.

At some point during Joe’s repair work on the house, I got out an old photo of the area near the shed, in order to figure out something or other, I can’t exactly remember what it was now, maybe it was to see how high an old shed door had hung — and Jordan was struck by how bare the area of the yard looked then compared to how it looks now.

That’s probably how the unexpected plants strike me, as part of an increasingly lush development of vegetation.

Not everything has gone in that direction, of course — the summer sweet in the large garden has died back a bit after this winter, and the butterfly bush is regrowing from its roots, while its old branches still bare.

I knew a prize-winning gardener, who told me that a lot of gardening is determining which, and how much of, plants should grow where, that it’s not about, “This plant is good, that plant is a bad weed.”  She, of course, maintained more control over her gardens than I do, and could coax growth and flowers from plants that need more care.  (On the other hand, after she sold her house and moved, the new owners of her house ripped out her gardens there and sodded and paved over the areas.  Sic transit gloria mundi.)  Her point about having a looser way to think about garden growth I have found helpful.

My reaction upon first realizing that a red, more refined-looking rose bush was growing among the hardy and slightly wild-looking rugosa was that it had strength to emerge in such a context.  I suspect, though, that it, too, is hardy in its own way, as the other two red rose bushes that popped up are quite effusive in their own growth  —  although two of the previous house owners’ red rose bushes have, over the years, succumbed (to too much shade, mainly).  So maybe that will be my take-away, that hardiness, maybe I could even characterize it as spunkiness, may lurk in seemingly decorative or delicately growing plants.

Competing plants

March 3, 2015

Well, maybe they’re not competing, maybe they’re keeping each other company.  I was thinking about plants in the yard that are growing intertwined.  For example, an azalea and a rosebush, or a rosebush and a lilac, or a mock orange and a spirea.

I have policies about vines (honeysuckle or grape) growing up into trees and shrubs — I prune them out before they strangle the host.  I prune back two adjacent shrubs growing across the space between them and getting entangled with each other.  But two shrubs with roots in virtually the same spot I have trouble figuring out how to treat.  Do I prefer one shrub to another?  Do I rescue the weaker one from the stronger, let the stronger overcome the weaker, take into account how the situation developed in the first place?  I generally end up letting the whole thing go and seeing what happens, pruning back some of the shrubs involved for other reasons but not resolving the competition issue.

Of course, most of these plants are buried beneath piles of snow right now, and it’s snowing again tonight.  I think maybe I am looking forward to gardening and yard work being my concerns, instead of snow shoveling and ice dams, maybe I am impatient for spring.

Expelling the garden

September 1, 2014

There’s the story of being expelled from the Garden, and then there’s this other pattern, which keeps attracting my attention, so I thought I’d write about it to see if maybe writing about it will help me see why it catches my attention.

It’s when the garden gets expelled.

A neighbor I had been friendly with sold her house and moved almost a year ago, and the new owners of the house uprooted her robust and eye-catching front yard garden.  A similar use of front yard space was similarly removed from another house nearby, when it too changed hands.  In both cases, sod was put down, in one case a few rose bushes were planted as well.

Our house came with a large garden, which had been used to grow vegetables.  We knew we weren’t up to the task, so we had some friends help us out and plant perennial flowers in the garden bed instead, which we then added to as needed over the years.  Some time after Willy died, I reduced the size of what needed to be tended by planting some flowering ornamental shrubs in the back half of the garden, plants such as a butterfly bush and summer sweet.

Today I was on my way to walk in some woods on conservation land on the Lexington border with my town, and I passed a house which has had notable front yard gardening in the past.  In fact, the gardeners there I think competed with my erstwhile neighbor of the uprooted front yard garden, for gardening prizes in communal gardening space out in Lincoln, MA.  I’m not sure they got along with each other, but they all could garden up a storm.  Serious gardeners, serious gardening.

What had been lushly gardened was now just mulch.  No flowers, no cairns — and nothing in the entryway either, where there used to be artifacts from nature displayed in the windows.  Looked like the second floor of the house was vacant, too.  I guess they moved.  Whether they took their garden with them, I don’t know.  Perhaps the house is a two-family rental and the owner is responsible and cleaned out the gardened areas, perhaps the couple sold a condo, I have no idea.  But the garden is gone, lock, stock, and barrel.

I am also aware of the reverse pattern.  The backyard of my parents’ house was sunny and grassy, with a few trees, but pretty plain, and by now it has become shaded, mossy, and woodsy.  My yard used to be plainer and grassier, too, and now it has more plantings, flowers, and shrubs, some intentional, some courtesy of nature.  Those transformations happened over time, decades of years, in fact.

So I think it’s abruptness that gets my attention, and going from lush to plain, and also a transformation that seems to cover over something that came before  —  I think those are the elements that catch my attention.  Maybe they catch my attention because they seem to me, or to my imagination, to “hide” something, and something important.  That’s my best guess for now.


Flowering in the compost heap

July 18, 2014

I went out to the compost heap, which is in a back corner of my backyard and under the shade of a neighbor’s tree, so it’s kind of hard to see what’s going on in it from a distance.

I went to put some peach pits into it, and I noticed some burnt-orange-colored day lilies growing out of it.

The day lilies are probably from the bunch of invasive flowers that had taken over one of my gardens that I dug out (most of) a few weeks ago and replaced with some more interesting specimens of flowers.  But the day lilies, and those things that flower in purple clusters, were not flowering then.

So it’s kind of a nice surprise that the day lilies took in the compost heap and bloomed.

A kind of recycling, even if they didn’t actually go to dust first, before they revived.


May 29, 2014

My carpenter was on the phone with me last night about all the repairs he’s going to get to on my house today, most notably concerning the downstairs bathroom, now that he’s rebuilt what rotted underneath its outside corner.

This morning he texted me that he will be late, he’s going to mass this morning, because the cardinal will be there, at St. Agnes’s.

I hope the mass is great, is what I told him.

We had a brief discussion the other day about my Kwan Yin statue in the backyard near where he’s been working, whom he referred to as Mrs. Buddha.  I said I think Kwan Yin hears the cries of people, maybe like Mary does?  I’ve got Mary elsewhere in the backyard, next to a small seated Buddha near the door to the shed — where Joe’s been keeping his tools, so he’s probably seen her, too.

The statue of Kwan Yin I bought because it depicts her less elegantly than most statues do, and I like my spiritual helpers earthy.

So somehow there’s this strand of religion winding through my home repairs.

Maybe I should note that my garden statuary is not all religious, although there is also a young monk under a rose bush.  I’ve got a few rabbits and a turtle and a pig (who is now on its side and covered by leaves, not to mention that it had sprouted moss, last time I checked, so I think it may no longer be visible).  And then there’s this bird statue of Willy’s, I think it’s a turkey but it could be a peacock.  He came home with it once and I did not understand its attraction for him (he explained that it was on sale because it was damaged), but now I’ve kind of grown fond of it and I have it where I can see it from the dining room window, among the vinca.

Faith, color blindness, optical illusions, and doubt

May 24, 2014

Some people have what turns out to be a temporary willingness to believe in forces in the universe greater than themselves — God, if you prefer — and then lose the sense that such forces exist.  I’ve wondered how that loss of faith occurs.

My current thinking is that in some cases it is a matter of entertaining, however briefly, another way of looking at the situation, and hence the world, another “explanation” of what is going on, an explanation that is considerably less expansive and optimistic and encouraging.  You look at the phenomenon from another angle and all of a sudden you don’t see the colored numbers among the dots on the colorblindness test picture, you don’t see both ways of looking at one of those pictures that contains two images that can’t be viewed simultaneously but can be toggled between.

Here’s an example.  I have lots of flowers in my gardens and grass I didn’t plant, columbines, bleeding hearts, purple spikey things, black eyed susans, wild rose bushes, fuzzy pinkish half-spheres — a lot.  It can feel to me as if nature is helping me with my gardening.  I confess I can’t always keep up with doing my gardening myself and I am tickled when there are beautiful plants I didn’t plant.  I feel embraced and supported by the universe.

I could see the phenomenon instead in terms of a series of steps:  the scattering of seeds through the activity of birds, the scattering of seeds by the wind, what have you.  I don’t say these mechanisms don’t occur, but that “engineering” explanation falls flat for me.  I see the flowers and I am thrilled.  The flatness of the engineering explanation and my thrill don’t correspond.

In a way I think I have an attachment to the universe and its currents, just as I work on detachment from the world of human activity and its ups and downs.  I understand that some people do the opposite, are attached to the human activity part of life and detach from the currents of the universe.  Of course, some people are able to maintain helpful relationships with both the currents and the activity.

I think lack of faith, though, can be a real difficulty with recalling how to look at the world with trust in the universe beyond what we understand through the engineering explanations.  The failure of trust may occur, I am thinking, just from seeing the infrastructure.  I think it occurs when the competing explanation shuts out a basis for hope that there is always grace, always a spiritual safety net that may come into play when it serves.  I think it occurs when there is a sense from the competing explanation that there is something wrong — some unfairness because of others’ behavior or some cause for embarrassment or shame on account of one’s own — if the explanation implies something is wrong with the world, I think the perspective of faith may be difficult to maintain.

I have this difficulty with interpersonal relationships much more than I have it with my relationship with the universe at large.  Once trust has been undermined between me and another, the whole relationship tends to deflate.  I have difficulty going back to seeing the person and the attitude behind their behavior the way I did before; I have a hard time believing in them any longer.  If they do nothing to address that head on, the relationship kind goes into an agnostic category:  yes, I believe you might be involved with me, but no, I’m not all in anymore, I am holding something back, not necessarily because I’ve decided to, but because I have a sense of “fool me once, shame’s on you, fool me twice …” that is making that impossible for me to do.

I don’t do this with God.  I tend to figure it’s me and my not looking at the thing in the most helpful way, when I have trouble accepting something in my life.  I have found that when I’ve taken this approach in human social relations, I get taken advantage of.  It has been the rare situation in my experience to have a major falling out with someone and then be able to negotiate back to a close relationship (and not for want of trying) — the falling out usually turns out to be for good reason and one that will repeat if I give it a second or third opportunity to repeat.