Friday, May 17, 2013

Of writing, memories and magic time

Hey, what happened to my blog? I used to write about gardening, canning, cooking and things here. I suppose I wrote about them because there were so few others who were too. But today the web is thick with full time talented bloggers taking gorgeous photos of their food, crafting wonderful recipes, gardening every day and writing plenty of how-tos. I love reading them. I think blogging has been a way for me to document my own learning and discovery, and I refer to my own blog when I'm trying to find a favorite recipe. Like spinach enchiladas. Or scones. But the newness has settled, I suppose: it isn't 2005 anymore.

Writing my monthly column over at PQ Monthly has helped me focus my editorial voice a bit, while growing to include my work with personal essays. And that's where my heart's at. This tapping into my inner voice, and allowing it to flow through my fingers onto the screen. I journey through memories of scent, feelings, explorations and emotions. I love when the stories come easily, but respect that it's not all of the time. When they do come, it's early in the morning, when the world is quiet, and my foggy brain from sleeping begins to awaken with a cup of coffee. It's before I do my to-do list, or speak a single word that day, or venture out into the world. I'm most in touch with my inner voice then, and perhaps my dreaming mind. I wonder if it's a transition from slumber to alert that makes for these times.

Whatever it is, I respect it. It was in this time I wrote my most recent column, joining memories of a childhood place with current explorations in the forests of Oregon. And a haunting photo of a conejo—rabbit—being rescued from a wildfire in Southern California. You can read it here. 

2600 elevation climb to this view of the gorge. We are so lucky to live in this land.

Dripping moss wall

Good morning

Furry trees I like to pet #oregon

Monday, May 06, 2013

Quick fix gardening

Is there such as thing as a quick fix when it comes to gardening? A friend was lamenting last night to me about weeds growing in and among river rock. We determined they're experiencing both deep rooted weeds growing from underneath the river rock, and annual weeds blown in by seed atop the surface area. It's a messy situation with no easy answer. I'm not fond of delivering that news. But it's something I've come to realize the more I garden.

It's the same with the ab buster or thigh master. If you want a six pack or thighs of steel, it's going to take hard work, not a gimmick.

And thus my latest column over at PQ Monthly is out and about, themed this month about tools and items that are must-haves in the garden, and those that are a big waste of money and time. You can read it here.

Save your money, and invest in time spent in the garden. It delivers more than any quick fix. It's also good for your soul, mind and body. Remind me I said that as I curse the sneaky blackberry that returns year after year in the far corner part of the garden, okay?

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The crotchety gardener, Pinterest, and me

I love Pinterest. I hate Pinterest. Anyone else feel this same duality? Pinterest is filled with images of ridiculous overly twee crafting/recipes/nail art, while delivering visual loads of ideas and eye candy for fashion, design, gardening and the like. Love/hate. I suppose it's really about curation, a word I have come to love more and more.

I'm finding the negative voice inside of me when viewing many gardening images on Pinterest. The reality of things, and what may look lovely for a photo op, in reality, is ridiculous to maintain, impossible to obtain in the first place, or completely wrong for the climate I live in. It's making me roll my eyes and guffaw out loud at the screen.

Not wanting to be a negative ninny, I never comment like this on Pinterest. Instead, I'm saving it all for here on my blog. You are welcome.

Let's get to my crotchety gardener review of Pinterest garden-tagged items, shall we?

How to turn stairs into a death trap:

Now imagine the reality. After one month, the sedums grow above the step and you break them off every time you descend and ascend the stairs. Aunt Matilda trips on one and breaks a hip, and you spend hours carefully tugging out the weedy clover, popweed and even grass that like to grow in there as well.

Palette gardening and the living wall:
See those tiny areas of soil between the water loving planks of wood? See the plants plucked in there all twee and sweet? Fast forward to a hot, dry summer and you tied to a hose every single ding dong day frantically trying to keep them alive. Don't even think of going away for a few days or you'll return to an UNLIVING wall of dried up, sad plants.

Color coordinating your clothing/tools/flowers:
I've filed this one under Fakegardening.This cannot be real. You want real? Let's take a photo in my garden...hold on while I take off my mismatched muddy gloves and grab my neon orange handled trowel to dig out that bright yellow dandelion growing right there at the base of my hydrangea. And yes, I see that dead branch in there. I'm getting to it!

Oh wait. Here's a photo from Pinterest of a typical workday in my garden. Yours looks like this, right?

This is a perennial "gardening" favorite on Pinterest:
 I think it would look great next to this:
Oh no wait. This one:
I love alliums, and the fun form and playfulness they bring to a garden:
Hey kid! Hands off the alliums!

Nothing says I Love to Garden!!! like a dirty pink bra:

What would Pinterest be without words plastered on walls, clothing, or on pots?
Okay okay. I'll stop. You get the picture. Aren't you glad you're not here when I'm on Pinterest? Good news, I'm mainly using it as a place to curate things I see from around the web. Feel free to guffaw at my boards here. Oh Pinterest. You crack me up. Not really.

Friday, February 15, 2013

What do you see? A dreary grey day or a scene filled with lush moss and lichen?

My friend, Moss #pdx #oregon #moss
I realize I haven't shared much in the way of my thoughts for the new year, yet alone my word for the new year. I have been writing about them, just not here on my blog. For the past year, I've been writing a monthly column called, Cultivating Life, over at PQ Monthly. This past month, I wrote about gratitude, and the powerful force of training your brain to practice it.
If I’m to add a new practice to my day, this year it will be the act of practicing gratitude, and I’m doing that by picking up my camera. Not my iPhone camera, but my digital camera. The day of the Newtown shootings, I turned off all media, shut down my social media, and picked up my camera. I carried it with me and looked at the world in a different way that day. It helped me see beauty in little things — like a bright blue sky, the pattern of my leggings combined with the tile floor, and how the steam curls from a freshly poured cup of hot tea. It took my eyes, and my brain, to a different place when it would have been so easy to have been overcome with grief and shock, and I learned that contemplating life, composition, pattern, and the world around me is a form of meditation when using my camera.
You can read the whole thing here, and about what happened the year I decided to say "no." It was transformative, and enlightening.

The rare glow of winter sunshine

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

What kind of gardener am I? I'm not going to any garden shows this year.

I know. Can you believe it? No garden shows for me. Not the Seattle show, not the San Francisco show, and I didn't go to the Portland garden show either. Instead, I'm reading all of my fellow bloggers reviews and take-aways from their own time there (thank you for that!). But I have to admit.  I have no desire for a fountain made from three Weber grills.

What I did instead? Actually worked in my own garden. There's so much to be done out there, and with a stretch of days without rain, we seized the opportunity and got to work.

This may not look like much, but it was a big difference:
Spring clean up in the garden this weekend, before and after. This is one of about 8 beds we cleaned up. #gardening

We probably cleared 7 or so beds this size, and filled the back of a pick up with yard debris.

There's still much to do, including several more beds in the front of the house to clear. Wisteria to prune, bushes to prune, and roses to hack. But damn it feels good to be out there. I'm getting a jumpstart on the garden this year. Let's hope the weeds aren't too.

Monday, February 04, 2013

February is the cruelest month

I've often felt February is the cruelest month. Short, dark, grey, cold and dreary. We often see little if any of the sun during February in Portland, Oregon. The winter greys weigh heavily on my shoulders, and I do have an arsenal to combat the tough month. My tools:
  • exercise—cardio boosts my mood, and combined with blaring of my favorite music while doing cardio is even better
  • vitamins—multi vitamin plus Vitamin D, fish oil, and calcium
  • lightbox—I use the the small GoLite for 20 minutes early in the morning while checking e mail, my calendar, and schedule for the day.
  • escape—to Mexico, Hawaii, or even Southern California. Go to the sun if it isn't coming to me.
  • give in—hibernate in blankets, escape into a TV series (hello Downton Abbey)
But most importantly, get outside as much as possible. I'm not a fan of walking in the rain. I'm just not. I've been a Portlander for 20 years now, and I haven't given in that much. I mean getting out during bouts of non-rain. And if a moment of sunshine occurs, by god, do whatever you can to be out in it.

This is what it feels like to Portlanders when the sun comes out in February:

Oh my god the sun is out in Portland

We are but moles who are blinded by the glowing orb in the sky.

We've been doing a lot of walking and running lately. (Winter carb craving requires exercise.) And Saturday began with fog that then emerged to brilliant blue skies and sunshine. We ventured to a favorite park for our regular loop, and the sun did two things. 1. I could barely open my eyes in the brightness of it all; and 2. I was filled with a happiness of such great proportion that I verged on the edge of crying with gratitude and joy. Gratitude and joy to simply be healthy, out in the world, with the person I love most in the world, experiencing a brilliant day. We did two loops through Cathedral Park, instead of one, weaving under and around the glorious St Johns bridge.

This may sound very silly to people who don't live in the darkness of winters like we do here. A recent Portlandia episode captured it perfectly.

And so it was this Saturday: we were living inside a Portlandia episode. The thrill of sunshine, the brightness of it all, the awakening of our lives from the blue air and dark grey.

I'm going to get through this winter thanks to moments like these, and my arsenal listed above. I'm also counting down the days to Maui.