Monday, February 16, 2015

Forcing spring

Magnolia salicifolia
Anise Magnolia

I've forced forsythia branches.

I've even dug up lily of the valley pips during a January thaw

But magnolia was an unknown.

While the snow continues to pile up,
warmth and water and several weeks of patience...

...reveal the unfurling of petals
of a cut branch of magnolia.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

My Valentine, remembered

The year of our courtship was 1988, 

before home emails, Skype, 
inexpensive international calling, text messaging, 
and all the rest of the advances in communications technology 
that today smooth the way for long distance romances.

We did have email at the global firm where we were employed 
(on different sides of the Atlantic), 
but it was cumbersome and, 
in Gerrit's case, was managed by his secretary.
Before we announced our engagement, 
our courtship was kept secret from our workmates and families.
So we developed a secret code when communicating by business email:
any use of a superlative meant "I love you."
His secretary would send the emails he composed:
"The meeting yesterday with the client was excellent."
And I and the other addressees on the email 
would know that it was an excellent meeting,
but only I would know that Gerrit loved me.

At the time, the Netherlands phone system was a monopoly, 
and the cost of a long distance phone call was about four times the price 
if he called me instead of me calling him. 
So if he wanted to talk, he called and we immediately hung up
so I could call him back.
This was also before the five cent a minute international calls,
so it was still a very expensive communications tool.
But oh so appreciated.

Letter writing comprised much of our correspondence; 
I'm grateful to be able to hold in my hand all the letters he wrote.

I wrote the post below in 2008, 
four years into Gerrit's diagnosis of vascular dementia
and four and a half years before he died.
I wouldn't wish him another minute of the very compromised life
he had been reduced to, but I miss him very much.


February 14, 2008
Ours was a long distance courtship.
We lived in different countries.
He wrote from wherever he was traveling.

Our phone bills were astronomical.

We wrote to each other a lot.

I looked forward to seeing her smiling face in my mailbox.

Included in the letters was G’s first attempt at a Valentine.
He was on a business trip to Portugal.

“No Valentines to be found anywhere over here,” he wrote.

“Personally I have no experience
with this piece of American culture.”

“I don’t know whether such cards should be
funny or romantic or what?”

“I hope that you will forgive me sending you
most probably
the most misplaced Valentine card ever,
but remember it comes straight from my heart.”

How could I resist?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Kids' Crafts

This one entertained the thirty-somethings on Christmas Eve.

An IKEA kit for the house, 
and royal icing made from scratch, 
plus a raid on the pantry that produced the candies, sprinkles,
and pretzel squares.

All ready for the rest of the arriving family this morning.

We were impressed!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Mission accomplished

The annual wreath 
constructed by my dad 
from greens gathered from the yard 
by my mom and me, 
hung on the chimney with care.

Aren't they cute?

Aren't I lucky?

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Adding élan

My mom and I decided one of the gardens needed 
something extra.

For a new garden, it's doing pretty well with mostly transplants 
from family members' gardens:
Shasta daisies, 
another daisy that flowers early and then self seeds like crazy, 
purple loosestrife, 
tradescantia, wood aster, chives,
garlic chives, 
which also self seed like crazy,
 blue columbine and a number of different  hostas.

And a couple of purchased plants: 
a Knock Out Rose that sometimes gets eaten by the deer 
(but so far so good this year) 
and some heuchera that don't have much to show
in the way of flowers.

We were in town this morning, going to the library's book sale, 
and saw a great display of Russian sage in the library's garden.

I told my mom - that would be a great addition to our garden, 
and the deer don't like it.

Late this afternoon we went to the local nursery 
to buy a Russian sage. 
As we got out of the car, 
we passed a woman pulling a wagon full of plants. 
One of the plants stopped us in our tracks: 
a yellow coneflower.

So guess what we came home with.

Makes a nice pairing, don't you think?

We also bought a daylily called Cosmopolitan.  
There were several with blooms, 
but the pot that had the most plant in it 
(which we figured we could divide into 3 when transplanting)
had no blooms, so I don't have a flower to show you.

But here's the description:
miniature, rosy-red round blooms, 
excellent bud count, 
very floriferous,
a bit of fragrance and reblooming.

Very floriferous!
Doesn't that make your heart sing?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Closing days

 It's almost time to go back to reality - 
vacation is nearly over.
Not that this isn't reality, too.

Just a more beautiful, relaxed form of it.

Oscar and I sat on the pier
watching a small plane soar overhead...

And swallows darting and swooping
over the water.

The occasional speedboat would set Oscar barking.
(He barks at noisy machines.)

I missed taking a picture of him:
at the edge of the pier, legs braced,
barking until the speedboat faded from view.

I decided I'd get a picture of the next encounter.

But when the next boat went by, there was no barking.

Camera ready, I looked around.
Oscar, where are you?

He'd had enough of the pier.
He's afraid of stairs, so could only go so far
and was waiting patiently for me to carry him up to shore.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Flora. Fauna.

We planted milkweed in our native garden in Wisconsin,
not because we love the plant particularly,
but to provide habitat for Monarch butterflies.

The first year of the garden, we observed Monarch caterpillars
feasting on the leaves of the plant early in the summer,
leaving  just stalks behind.

Several years went by without a repeat performance.
But the plants survived, so that was good.

This afternoon my mom paused in her garden work
to call over to where I was weeding:
"A Monarch!"

I came over to look  
and debated whether I should run inside for my camera.

She (he?) was all by herself.
Lighting on one bloom, 
then flying away to another part of the garden 
before coming back to another bloom.

While waiting for her to come back, 
I took pictures of a bumble bee

and a golden dragonfly (a color I haven't seen before).

Twenty pictures later, 
she opened her wings just long enough for me to catch her 
before she was off again.