Wednesday, April 21, 2010

some of my favorite songs have been made into car commercials

the last few days have been crazy. i don’t know what to write about right now, there’s too much--i want to get it all down before i forget, but i’m battling a case of fabulous-weather-induced brain dysfunction, feeling scattered and restless and inarticulate.

for weeks leading up to april 17th my calendar showed that saturday would be a veritable clusterfuck of awesomeness. again, excess--too many events to go to, classes and shows and whatnot, i knew i wouldn’t be able to make them all so i settled on the farmer’s market in the morning/afternoon, tranny roadshow in the evening (which deserves its own post, when i get to it), then a drag show/costume party at night (which i didn’t make because i was exhausted). i also missed out on a garden tour that i would’ve loved to go on, but i forced myself to prioritize.

in the hours between the farmer’s market and tranny roadshow i spent a long time wandering by the river taking pictures, then gardening, then taking a brief and disorienting nap. i screwed myself over energy-wise, getting up too early and not eating enough for the day’s activity level, so my mood was not where it should’ve been.

i spent most of sunday with katherine. we walked to the river, sat on the bank baking in the sun for a long time, then had a little tea party/seed exchange on her patio. she moved to a new place that has a cement and gravel-covered back yard so she’s doing an all-container garden this year, using old plastic garbage cans sawed in half (scavenged from the alleys where people abandoned them when the city adopted a new garbage bin system).

she very generously gave me all of her seeds that don’t grow well in containers...

including some incredible sunflower seeds. every sunflower variety i’ve grown has only produced one hugenormous flower per plant, but these produce multiple, smaller flowers on towering 8-foot stalks, which i prefer. katherine used to have a whole forest of them growing at her house on the bench.

sophie the cat desperately wanted to join the fun.

on monday boise flirted with 80-degree temperatures. not sure we made it all the way there, but it was close. i spent all day outside playing, reading, gardening. i took a bike ride and was so overwhelmed by the sights, sounds and smells that for a while i rode along with my eyes closed so i could focus on the latter two senses--i used the direction of the sun on my skin to steer, and luckily there was no car traffic whatsoever. i heard birds singing and frog choruses croaking their hearts out. i gorged myself on the scents of all the blooming trees and plants, sprinklers, grass, ladybugs.

at around 8:30 i took andy out on a walk. after sunset it was that bizarre lukewarm temperature where you can hardly feel the air around you, like you’re floating.

tuesday it was warm and sunny again so i spent more time gardening, went grocery shopping, then when i got home around 2pm the weather changed dramatically. suddenly these thick clouds rolled in and huge gusts of wind started fucking with everything, so i dashed around collecting container plants to bring them inside. i had just set out a basket of tomato plantlets to start hardening them off, and they took the brunt of it for a moment. no casualties, thank goodness.

speaking of container plants, i’ve started knitting potsox to cover some of the less-than-beautimous recycled containers i use for my seedlings. the above was knit in the round on size 5 dpns, worsted weight cotton yarn, about 50 stitches, 35 or so rows. it fits a stout soup tin perfectly.

you can also make these out of colorful socks--that’s how i saw it done on some blog somewhere that gave me the idea--and it’s a good way to repurpose worn-out socks, but i’d rather use mine for making stuffed animals.

this one i knit on regular needles, size 11, chunky yarn. it’s a super quick project, i might make more, even though i think of knitting as a cool weather sport.

yesterday evening i had a community education class. while i was driving there the storm hit, with tons of lightning and thunder, and so much rain i sometimes couldn’t see out my windshield. i didn’t want to go inside.

the class is a three-part series on spring and summer birds and critters of idaho. part one was mostly about the birds and animals that rely on dead trees. it was kind of funny/discomforting how worked up the instructor got about people cutting down dead trees...i see where she’s coming from and i understand why it’s so important to her, and i agree it’s very important, but you could tell she’s become rather bitter about human intervention. it’s dangerous for environmentalists to be bitter. once you mentally separate yourself from the rest of humanity it becomes hard to relate to others--you become a grotesque. not only that, but other people sense the separation and react to it, so the rift expands on both sides. it’s difficult to enact change on a larger-than-individual scale once you’re viewed as an extremist. not that there’s anything inherently wrong with being an’s just much more effective if you can remain on the side of love and positivity, retaining empathy and leading by example, rather than going negative. easier said than done, of course. damned if i don’t know that.

what i found most interesting about the lecture was the instructor’s skill for observation. she showed a long slideshow of stunning nature photos she’s taken over the years--the kind of bird and animal photos you’d see in national nature/science magazines. many of the pictures had no creatures, however, and were just close-ups of holes in trees, or bark and wood chips scattered around trees. she knows how to identify specific woodpeckers by the size of the wood chips and the way they’re scattered on the ground. she can also identify birds by the size and shape of the holes they create in trees, or the type of nest they build. she remembers exactly where and when every photo is taken, remembers the individual birds themselves and their particularities and social habits, and reminisces about her favorite old trees, scattered all throughout the state of idaho, many of them having since been cut down.

her talent for detecting and interpreting minutiae reminded me of one of my favorite passages in one of my favorite books, “pilgrim at tinker creek” by annie dillard. sometime i intend to compile all my favorite quotes from that book and maybe post them on here, but that will be a huge project, because there are so many. dillard devotes a whole chapter to “seeing.” i’ll close this post with the quote, which made me laugh out loud when i first read it. it’s comforting to know that even a brilliant observer like annie dillard struggles with seeing.

It’s all a matter of keeping my eyes open. Nature is like one of those line drawings of a tree that are puzzles for children: Can you find hidden in the leaves a duck, a house, a boy, a bucket, a zebra, and a boot? Specialists can find the most incredibly well-hidden things. A book I read when I was young recommended an easy way to find caterpillars to rear: you simply find some fresh caterpillar droppings, look up, and there’s your caterpillar. More recently an author advised me to set my mind at ease about those piles of cut stems on the ground in grassy fields. Field mice make them; they cut the grass down by degrees to reach the seeds at the head. It seems that when the grass is tightly packed, as in a field of ripe grain, the blade won’t topple at a single cut through the stem; instead, the cut stem simply drops vertically, held in the crush of grain. The mouse severs the bottom again and again, the stem keeps dropping an inch at a time, and finally the head is low enough for the mouse to reach the seeds. Meanwhile, the mouse is positively littering the field with its little piles of cut stems into which, presumably, the author of the book is constantly stumbling.


Jessica said...

I love Annie Dillard!

You have to tell us what variety of sunflowers those are. I have visions of sunflowers like those growing in my yard this summer...what kind are they?

I love the photos, as always, but especially the third from last (and the bees, of course).

Emily said...

i wish i could tell you what kind they are, but i have no idea. i think i remember katherine telling me she brought them back from romania, but there's a possibility it was from detroit, not quite as exotic...anyway she's been growing them for years and saving the seeds so i'm not sure she knows what they are either. it's funny to me that most people seem not to want multiple heads on their sunflowers. i did a bit of searching for them online and most of what i found was gardeners asking for advice in forums--"my sunflowers have multiple heads! what's wrong with them? how do i get a single head?"

JJ Beazley said...

Phew ,Em! This one has everything. Sumptuous pictures, sense and extremism, socks for the soup cans... Wonderful. We're hoping to approach 70 this weekend, and we're also hoping the nights will stay above freezing.