Sunday, January 19, 2014

Winter gardening? Not a lot of action...but some fun.

The resident wildlife enjoying his own shadow as he strolls past the cold frame.
I've been fixated on Africa posts, because, as you may have noticed, I gathered so much richness so quickly that I've  focused on digesting the African experiences with words and photos. I'm not finished. But ordinary life does intrude, and it is the predominant reality, and so it goes. While in Africa the lions prowl, the giraffes gambol, the elephants lumber, the springboks bok, and in Southern Oregon the gardeners twiddle their thumbs, mostly.
The January garden looks sad, even on a sunny day. There's no sense in working it until late February or early March. If then. The white cloth near the back protects overwintered chard. Sorta.
But time moves on, and my attention turns, briefly, to the garden. We've had a cold dry winter, despite one storm that blanketed everything with snow then slicked roads with ice for a couple weeks. Still, the seed catalogs arrive in their seasonal flurry and seeds planted in early fall are struggling in the cold frame.
Spinach, lettuce and kale in the cold frame are sulking. At least they survived our unusual single-digit winter temps.We'll be harvesting out of the cold frame in February. The shadow? The cat.

One garden chore that can be tackled in January is digging and separating leek bulbs. Somehow I like the mindlessness, the Zen, of crumbling dirt and pulling apart the bulbs, laying out the plants and separating into bunches, some to replant, most to give away. The earth's heady fragrance, the warmth of the winter sun, the chirruping of the birds at the feeders. All good. All these little starts came from one clump. I'll end up with enough to plant the whole garden in leeks, should I be foolish enough to do so. Separating and replanting the bulbs is tedious but I know what happens in June that makes the work worthwhile.

Here it is. Leeks in action! We eat few leeks, because onions are so much easier, but leek flowers?
They're major bee magnets plus they make great dried and cut flowers and are stunning three-foot tall additions to the garden. I know they're coming back. I can't wait.
In the meanwhile, we consider travel to South America and boogieing at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We also think about a new roof and replacing a deteriorating living-room rug. And also about leaving resources for our children and theirs. After 40 years of marriage, purchasing a headboard and a dresser for our bedroom also rears up. How boring. How to spend money when it is limited? Always a question, but I'm tending toward South America and away from a new living room rug. But on to January gardening.

  A geranium that loves winter. I almost threw this 15? year-old plant onto the compost, but I'm glad to have it as a mood booster. It is great to having something that loves winter. It lives in the solarium of our semi-solar abode. And we live in in our home of umpteen years in a semi-nomadic mood. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Serendipity then and now

Serendipity officially means accidental good fortune. When I started this post, I intended to write about January gardening. That took me, somehow, to Africa and travel, and then to discontent with my ordinary life and then to childrearing, marriage, and the march of time. And back again. You'll find no gardening here.

 Serendipity—a pleasurable outcome of  brain exploration translated to fingers on the keyboard.  Writing.

 Ever since returning from Africa in mid-October, I've been discontented with ordinary life. No one is cooking for me. No one is driving me around. No one is concerned minute-to-minute with my entertainment. (Thank you, Kara Blackmore and TIA.) There are no giraffes, elephants, lions, gorillas, rhinos, impalas, springboks, cape buffalos, chimps, hippos, exotic birds or even crocodiles parading or posing for my enjoyment.
Oops. Forgot to mention zebras, who seemed eager to have their picture taken.
There's also a terrible absence of drifts of exotic flowers, and forests consisting of what look like giant houseplants. 
Pincushion proteas, indigenous to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town, South Africa, is among 7,000 species thriving in one of the world's great botanic gardens. We spent nearly four hours exploring the eye-blasting magic at the foot of the famous Table Mountain.
Sometimes in Uganda or in South Africa—which I haven't blogged about yet —you can't decide where to look. There's so much to see, so much to do. And the people. Suffice it to say that ordinary life for most Ugandans is different from mine. Their realities make me embarrassed about the luxuries of my privileged never-had-to-think-about-food-or-water ordinary blue-eyed life. Also makes me ponder, what do we really need?
This beautiful Ugandan teenager is making her fifth one-mile round trip from her home to the Nile River balancing 50 pounds of water, which must be boiled at least an hour to be potable. Note that her balance is so good the jerry can lacks a plug. Such are the skills necessary for survival. 
Back in rural Southern Oregon in the dead of winter, I am having to work at being delighted, excited, awed or inspired, as if those are the states-of-being I expect or, more importantly, deserve. That's what Africa did to me. I got accustomed to daily delight, excitement, awe and inspiration. I can tell you, it's not a bad way to live.

Except for a couple spectacular days at the Oregon coast in mid-December, (photos here), dullsville is where I'm at now.  Usually, when returning from a "holiday" as vacations are called in South Africa, I am ready to be home. This time, not. I'm restless, resurrecting that irresistible urge to be on the move that spurred me back in the early 1970s, before babies and jobs and house payments tethered us.

 I say "us" because I've been partners with the same man for going on 41 years. We have our own early histories, but at this point, our shared time predominates. We've been together a couple decades longer than the ages we were when we met. Who knows when you commit to someone that this can happen? If you're lucky, it does.
In Mexico 2006

When our first child arrived in 1977, the itchy feet gave way to nesting and to kid-loving to the center of my being and back. The reason most parents can put up with sleepless nights and toddlers screaming in the grocery store, is that kid-love consumes them.

Chris, left, and Quinn Korbulic, 1999
I love our adult sons, but not as viscerally as when they were babies, toddlers, young children, and even despicable (sometimes) teenagers. They're cut loose and my oh my, who they have become pleases me so. How I adore them still. We won't even get into the grandchildren. Another time.

Back in the day, and besotted with kid-love, I was content with camping and rafting and the occasional two-week summer vacation along with the pleasure and pain of raising children, sustaining a marriage, developing a writing/editing career, and getting acquainted with the Earth in our backyard: the garden, the Rogue River and environs.

I often told myself, and others who would listen, that there's more than one way to travel. Explore your life and journey philosophically, if you can't get out there into the world geography. Having two kids, two jobs, little money, and two or three weeks vacation per annum, I embraced the philosophy route. Time flew. It flapped its wings and dive bombed year after year, pecking me on the head, "You're another year older!"

Now time is pecking me in the eyes, dammit. Get away! Slow the hell down!

Still, I don't regret any of it. I would never give up having raised our sons because both are gifts that keep on giving. And life has come full circle with me being the touchstone for my 98-year-old mom who is in assisted living one mile away.

However. I'm now thinking ours would be a great place to be coming back to. Someday. In the meantime, I will continue to appreciate the small things, and large, that have made this piece of ground home for more than 40 years. It won't be long before we'll be on road longterm and so glad to have a piece of the Earth to settle back into, as birds returning from migration.

Ironically, as I was working on this post, I excavated, from the bottom of a trunk, a diary from 1972. Here's something I wrote August 24 of that year... I was 28 years old.
Driving over the Big Horn Mountains. Stoned. Looking at cows through binoculars and talking about time. A little poem:  
I'll travel til there's no wind left in my soul. Then I'll be old
Well, now I AM old, so I'll say the same thing today except for one word:

I'll travel til there's no wind left in my soul.

 Then I'll be dead

Leeks in all their glory in our garden. What you can't see or hear are the bees. The bees. Hundreds of bees. Maybe as many bees as there are in all of Africa. Right in my own backyard. Just in case.