Garden variety

We live on an average sized lot in the city. I wander around the yard with the camera and I'm astounded by the variety of color, texture, shape and fragrance that surrounds us. Some are bold and brash, some are subtle, some complex. Here's a sampler from a Saturday stroll. (Click on the images for an expanded view.)


Contorted catoneaster

Clematis petals

Center of a clematis - the symmetry is stunning

We don't remember what this flower is; here's a closeup of a petal

Bee balm

Coral bells or rock geranium (call the media! there's one in the shape of Buddha! oh...never mind.)

Irises are such shocking flowers.

Lilac - intoxicating scent



Daisy (this is a tiny flower scattered through the lawn).
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The Sunday Salon: Short Stories #3

The Sunday (I realized it's a little incongruous to see the title "Short Stories" followed by a cover of War and Peace!)

My big reading news this week: I finally finished War and Peace! Put a notch in my belt! I find it impossible to review a book like this. I've never read any other translations, so I can't compare this new Pevear-Volokhonsky translation to earlier ones; and the book is so long and complex that I wouldn't even know where to begin. Suffice it to say, it is wonderful; it is challenging; it is funny, frustrating, exciting, short, it is many things. I did have some "issues" and did not give it a 5 star rating. But I'm so glad I read it; I loved the characters and most of the story. I wearied of Tolstoy stepping out of the narrator role and ranting about Napoleon and historians (though he did insist it was not a novel). Now I need to move away from the Russian tomes for awhile.

LibraryThing member laytonwoman3rd sent me this cartoon:

On to my short stories for the day. Of course, this is just an excuse to crack open the new Jhumpa Lahiri collection, Unaccustomed Earth.

  • "Quality Time" from Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver. I am crazy about Kingsolver's writing and had read everything she's written except this collection of short stories, which I stumbled onto in a used bookstore recently. In this story, Miriam, a single mom of a precocious five year old daughter, Rennie, wrestles with the everyday chores of working and raising a child, in addition to the Big Questions and the What Ifs - such as how would she handle guardianship of her three nieces and nephews if her sister should die? What ensues is a delightful and realistic conversation between mother and daughter about where Rennie would live if anything happened to Miriam. Kingsolver is as skilled at the short story as she is at essays, nonfiction and novels.
  • "The Bad News" from Moral Disorder and Other Stories by Margaret Atwood. Another great used bookstore find. Like me, the female protagonist cannot bear to hear the news first thing in the morning, before the coffee and the toast. Her husband, Tig, needs to "download" the bad news first thing, to purge it by sharing it. Atwood does an interesting bit on relationships in terms of past, present and future tenses: 'back then, still and not yet.' It's the 'not yet' that's mildly disturbing:
    Communication hasn't failed us, not yet. 'Not yet' is aspirated, like the 'h' in 'honour.' It's the silent 'not yet.' We don't say it out loud.
    Atwood's character then does a time trip and transports the breakfast conversation in her mind to the south of France, 3rd century CE. She finds many parallels, politically and personally.
  • Another couple of stories from Cheating at Canasta by William Trevor: "A Perfect Relationship" and "Men of Ireland." I didn't find these as compelling as the title story, which I read a few weeks ago. Still, he's a wonderful writer and I was happy to stumble onto his short novel, The Story of Lucy Gault at, you guessed it, that same used bookstore. I look forward to reading this highly recommended novel and finishing up his book of short stories.
  • And saving for the last:
    Even the book's cover draws me like a magnet. The danger of starting this collection is that I won't want to put it down, and I have two Early Review books I need to read and review soon. I've been looking forward to Lahiri's new book since I heard about it a couple of months ago, and I've read nothing but rave reviews about it. So, gathering all the discipline I can muster, I'm reading one story this morning, "Hell-Heaven." I'll report in next Sunday's salon how successful I am at depriving myself of the rest until my ER obligation is met.
Here's to a week of wonderful reading. I'm fantasizing about being at the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in Wales this week. Hope my friends are having fun there! Maybe one day....
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Future fruit and other garden goodies

The strawberries are starting to look like...strawberries.

I expect a Munchkin to pop out of this one.


...and cherries. The race is on! Which will ripen first?

This clematis was a surprise as I wandered around to the back fence.


Cabbage is starting to furl.

The first pea!

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Evolution of an artichoke

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Tuesday Thingers May 20

This week's Early Reviewer Tuesday Thingers discussion topic is: discussion groups -- how many do you belong to, how much do you participate....

Oh, this is so going to feel like a confessional. I was on LibraryThing (LT) for a couple of months before I ventured into any of the talk groups. I've been in some discussion groups on other websites, and inevitably there is some controversy or uproar or just plain obnoxious posters who tend to spoil things. So I was a little hesitant to get involved in any of the LT talk groups. But happily, my experience has been nothing but positive. I "belong to" about half a dozen talk groups on LT - some much busier than others and some I participate in more than others. I also monitor a few other groups and "star" posts that I particularly want to track.

I've had amazing experiences with a couple of LT private talk groups - levels of sharing and trust develop that are impossible to achieve within open groups. I spend an embarrassing amount of time in these groups.

I'm fascinated by the new communications existing in the world today -- that I can nurture genuine close friendships with people who live in a different state or on a different continent without ever meeting them face-to-face (though that happens too, at group meet-ups). I have pondered the consequences of such communication -- are we forgetting how to communicate face to face? or are we expanding our abilities to communicate? I think both things can be true - like anything else, I can get obsessive about online communicating to the exclusion of other kinds of connections. But I'm also aware of how much I'm writing and learning and being creative, which have been goals.

On LT, I mostly view the communications as very positive -- I've learned an incredible amount about literature and have been introduced to authors and books I may have never run across otherwise. And meeting interesting and wonderful people is a bonus I hadn't counted on. I just wanted to catalog my books! Read More!

Guess the plant #1

Can you guess what this plant is? It's blooming right now in our yard in the Pacific Northwest. (You can click on it for a little bigger view.) Hint: it's a member of a family of edibles.

The reveal: Allium (member of the same family as onions and garlic).

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The Sunday Salon - Garden Reads

The Sunday
I have lots of gardening books on the shelves. Some are how-to guides: how to grow organic carrots, when to plant tomato seeds, where to grow pumpkins; and some are meditations and essays on the art and love of gardening.

It's been hot here in Portland the last few days - too hot to work in the garden beyond the morning watering. So I pulled out a stack of garden essay books, poured a cool drink and set to work gleaning wisdom and inspiration from gardeners who write.

  • This book drew me in as soon as I saw the cover and read the title: Gardening at the Dragon's Gate: at Work in the Wild and Cultivated World by Wendy Johnson. The author is a Buddhist meditation teacher and gardener who writes beautifully about such subjects as the sacredness of compost and soil, the Zen of weeds, the principles of diversity, acceptance, inviting the unknown and the generosity of harvest. I've just dipped into this beautiful book and look forward to reading more of it.
  • Voices from the Earth: a Year in the Life of a Garden by William Longgood. This is a book I stumbled across on a library shelf years ago - one of those books that calls "Yoo Hoo! Take me home with you NOW!" I love this book and spent a good bit of time tracking down a copy to own. Longgood was a journalist in New York before retiring to Cape Cod. He goes season by season in this book and explores garden successes and failures, the creatures (welcome and unwelcome) that visit, and garden philosophy. I love this bit of advice: need a chair for successful gardening. How else you going to see what's going on?
  • Virago Book of Women Gardeners edited by Deborah Kellaway. A delicious collection of garden writing by such notables as Alice B. Toklas, Vita Sackville-West, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Colette, Emily Dickinson, Edith Wharton, Germaine Greer, Sylvia Plath. From essays to anecdotes, poetry to advice, this is a great one to sit with under the apple tree on a hot afternoon.

Other reading this week found me finishing Small Island by Andrea Levy (winner of the Orange and Whitbread prizes in 2004) - what an incredible book. This one is sure to make it to the best of '08 for me. Rich characterization, wonderful story, great pacing and revealing of the characters and plot.

This week I WILL finish War and Peace and do a little required reading - two Early Reviewer books via LibraryThing. Must be disciplined.... Read More!

More yum in the garden

Here's a pictorial tour of what's happening in the garden today. Native iris at left.

(Click on photos for a larger view.)


Future blueberries

Future peas

False Solomon seal

Crimson clover


Walnut tree in the morning light
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