Tuesday, October 30, 2012

NaNoWriMo, the Amateur Bot-ann-ist, and the PNW Coast

A few years back I made an attempt (or two) at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) but this year, with things in my life being much different, I plan to reach my goal. It will not be a garden novel, but it will be digging deeper into my past, into my heart and soul really, back to where it all began. 

It all started when I was a nature writer and reader. That's where I'm returning to, and oddly enough, it's where garden literature sprouted from as well—so I think it's quite fitting. 

I'm prepared to finish too, and that's a decent way to begin. 

There is also a fat carrot being dangled in front of my nose thanks to a dear old friend who knew me back at the beginning too, and she wants me to be the person I need to be again. 

We compromise so much of ourselves sometimes, especially when illness takes over and truly prevents us from being able to function. I was struck down before I'd even started but I have time now to change the rules a bit. 
Maurice the Cat last night performing his nightly viewing of a "cat friendly video" while I sat there wondering how to get my arm away from him without his noticing. 
My poor little laptop will make it through just so long as Maurice doesn't insist too often on "participating" with me. He really does not seem to understand why I can't keep typing while he snoozes on my arm. 

He also seems to think that the cushion in my chair belongs to him but he's learning quickly that it does not. 

I have been a writer. I have been a gardener. It's time now for me to be much more serious about being both and I plan to make that happen too. I have to since I don't know what else to do. 
Obviously, he enjoys having me there to lean on as he watches the same video for what feels like to me to be the 129th time. 
Blogging will continue as usual and I'll begin working on more plant stuff in the house. 

I will also be dashing off to the Coast a few times during the month of November to get some writing done. (I was there for several days this past weekend outlining the story and it was wonderful to get away.) 

The area will be included in the novel since it means so much to me and because Astoria is my favorite city in Oregon—other than Portland, of course!
Astoria is there on the right. Those tiny little white spots in the distance. 
Last month (on September 29th) I drove out to the area so that I could participate in the annual bridge walk/run at the mouth of the Columbia. With 2,999 other people I made the trek and it really deepened my sense for the place. The night I arrived there was a full moon and I dashed around taking photos I shared with friends on Facebook—many of whom miss home and live in other places now for various reasons.
I made it to the south jetty and watched the sunset too before heading back to get some rest before the big walk.
 The next day I walked and walked.
Entering Astoria on foot from the Washington side was truly an amazing experience. As I walked along, passing people here and there, it was clear from the stories I overheard how much they all love where they live.

Watching salmon fishermen as they waved to all of us from their boats in the river, they would stop to take pictures of us, and we'd all wave back at them.
Looking back over the bridge I was happy to see all the way to the other side where I usually stay at my parent's other house. Yes, I like Washington State too.
Me, last weekend in the backyard of my parent's coastal house. I'd spent hours watching the birds flying up and down behind the house, along the river, so I went down to see the salmon remains they were all feasting upon. It's always one of those magical moments in nature to see their white bones glowing along the riverbanks. Made me think of salmon fertilizer too and how much I love to use it in my garden.
I may have lost a lot this year, but that walk was an accomplishment that won't be taken away from me anytime soon. It was accomplishing a goal I'd long wanted to do but had been physically unable to do so.

So now comes a novel, and during the month of December I can celebrate the 1st Anniversary of being well after having been prescribed the special medication that's helped me so much. Then I have my Blogoversary too. (Check out the countdown up in the right-hand corner.) 

I think this is a nice way for a plant nerd to spend her autumn and winter, don't you? (Oh, just wait until I get to the surprise during the heart of winter. That should be fun for all of us.) 

Oh, and if you're wondering if there will be any plants, the answer is, "Yes." Just don't tell all of my friends because I know that SOME of them will writhe and groan a little bit. We cannot all have green thumbs and hearts.

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Plant / Music / Writing Room is Growing

Almost everything which matters to me now as a woman—and as a creative individual with an identity that I must nurture and respect so that I can be who I need to be—currently resides with me in this room. 

I've assembled this cocoon to incubate in as I prepare for the next stage in my life. It's like my own little Jiffy pod to germinate in and to begin growing my new taproot so that I can transplant myself when it's time to go. 

I am growing past just being a gardener. I am branching out and reaching for the sun.
Soon, I will be practicing the piano again and I will be thinking of the peace this instrument gave my Grandma Virginia for many years. She loved her piano and I want to honor that by finally enjoying it too. 

I hope the plants won't mind!
Oh, and speaking of plants, they are at the core of my specially arranged space and there will be more to come! This room will be stuffed with plants all winter. 
Soon the vine attached to this window screen will dieback for the winter. Then the winter sun will shine brighter and the walls will grow colder as the Eastern winds hit the back of the house.
I will keep the painting of Paris by my side at all times to remind me of what's to come.
This is the view looking back into the creative space from the dining room.
Monkey Puzzle Tree, Araucaria araucana
To get away from this space though—and from all of the work I've been doing around the house—I've vowed to get out of the house for at least one weekend each month.

This past weekend I went to my father's house just north of Astoria in a small community in southwestern Washington. I awoke to the sounds of chainsaws in the hills and when I walked into the kitchen each morning to make my morning coffee, I'd stand at the window and contemplate the Monkey Puzzle Tree while my coffee brewed.
In an effort to get some writing done, I also went to my father's house to be alone and to be inspired. 

For several days I watched the birds as they'd fly up and down the small coastal river behind the house. They were greedily picking at what remained of the salmon from the last run this season. The fish really do spawn and die and yet they still give back to the natural world until every last bone is picked clean.  
The day I left for the trip I went for a five-mile walk beforehand to a specialty grocery store in SE Portland to pick up some special gluten-free ingredients.

While strolling along, I saw this unusual garden ornament and I thought about how funny it was to see a doll in the garden. It tickled my inner goth girl.
But best of all, that day as I walked, before I took off to write, after I'd just finished nesting in my new creative space I saw what I can only call: The writing on the wall.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Behold! An Artist's Studio has Grown in the Garden

For the last month I've been working very hard to make this studio possible for a good friend of mine. Years ago when I first moved into this house I'd wanted this space very badly to be a writing studio. After I went through that phase, I'd hoped to clean it out and use it for my Etsy businesses, but like many things in life, it just didn't quite work out as I'd hoped.

I can say now (with complete certainty) that cleaning out that space taught me a great deal about myself and my divorce. In each and every object I could see and feel a memory or two and I'd find myself taking mental steps backwards, revisiting these memories, going deeper into my former life, and this allowed me to review repeatedly both my own unhappiness and the many arguments which had occurred. 

This was an incredible experience to say the least, and in a strange way, I'm very happy it took place. 
Mona—the youngest of the 3 black cats—trying her hardest to remain as feral as possible until she can no longer take the wet cold. At that point she'll move into the basement to remain toasty warm all winter. 
The garage/studio is now free of all of those objects and I'm free of their bad memories. The process truly had me working through some intense emotions and for weeks I was physically exhausted by that process. I'm finished with that for now—except for some ongoing trash removal—but otherwise, I've found a great deal of closure. 
Begonia hemsleyana from Cistus Nursery.
For the first time in months, I finally feel like I'm getting closer to my new life and this is an exciting time for me. I've turned the corner and have finally moved past the chaos and am back outside again in the garden.
Rhododendron sinogrande amongst little friends.
I enter there and find that my garden sanctuary is now covered in mysterious autumn mists with a sprinkling of yellow and red leaves that are lifted and spun around by the crisp, sharp winds that punctuate the rays of tilted October sunbeams. 
.Aspidistra elatior.
Often these brisk breezes take me completely by surprise—especially when I am somewhere in the shade.
Great creeping Coleus that I hope to overwinter indoors as a houseplant. Why not!
It has always amazed me how differently I feel about the shade at this time of the year. Whereas it was my friend just a few weeks ago, now it's become the dark alley I don't want to be caught in for fear of some unknown impending danger. (OK, for me that might just be some foot cramps and purple fingers but those can be at least a tiny bit irritating.)
Hardy Cylamen
During the last few weeks of summer I allowed myself to fully enjoy my back garden with many friends—both new and old. I'd never done this before and will always remember the late night conversations drinking wine beneath the stars. Like many other gardeners I'd made the space to be lived in, to be enjoyed, to laugh in, and to grow in—that finally happened for me, so now, as I move on (and possibly away from here), I can do so knowing I grew in this place. 

That is what is important to me. I grew. They grew. My friends and I all grew together. It may take a village to raise a child, but I think that growing together as a group of individuals makes something much more vibrant and alive—much like a natural ecosystem. We all have our part to play and are necessary to one another.

I grew as a woman and as a person in my garden this year and it's thanks to the plants I planted which supported us all as people searching out in the dark for meaning and substance.
Soon I will be posting more about the houseplants as they move indoors again.
As always, I'm returning more and more to my peacock sense of fashion.
Virginia Creeper, (Parthenocissus quinquefolia).
And this peacock gardener is enjoying the riot of autumn colors before they're gone. Sure, not everyone is a huge fan of Virginia Creeper but it does provide the most amazing fireworks-like finale in the garden.
I often sit out in the cold now with the little cat and she takes it all in with me.
The hummingbirds talk to us, and I am happy to have them since they also look at me through the back window in my music/plant/writing room on the mornings when I sit down to write.

More on my own creative indoor studio next time...

(And yes, more to come on indoor plant labor-i-tories soon!)

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Xera Nursery Fall Fundraiser and Open House

Sometimes one feels like a kid in a candy store. This was one of those times. 
The sale is over at Xera Plants but I made it at least. This isn't meant in a snarky way, I'm just surprised I had the energy to go! (September was quite an active month for me and I was really drained from all the activities.)

Sorry to have not posted anything about this pre-sale, but so it goes. (This is a wholesale nursery that's not frequently open to the public so whenever they open their doors it's quite a treat!)

Yes, I am posting this after the fact but at least this was something I attended within the last week! (Oh, just wait until my backlog begins to appear soon!)
Crepe Myrtle 'Wichita', (Lagerstroemia 'Wichita').
For a bit of a change I took my landscaper friend with me and we both enjoyed the break even though we were exhausted before we'd even left. 
Polka Dot Begonia, (Begonia maculata).
Introducing my friend to a few new contacts at the nursery was fun, and besides, who among us doesn't really just enjoy looking at plants?
Buddleja colvilei 'Kew Form'.
This form of Buddleja really surprised us both and the blooms were different. If it hadn't been for its leaves I'm not sure we would have been able to identify the shrub. That's what tags are for though...
An Arctostaphylos treated as a standard. 
And just look at the bark on this beautiful topiary! I could stare at it for days, months, years.
Parrot Plant, (Impatiens niamniamensis).
Ok, since I'm always bad about posting my purchases, I will do so this time. First up was a replacement Impatiens. Yes, I know it's getting cold out and that this plant won't be happy soon out in the cold but I should remind those of you who're new to this blog that I have a lot of plant lights and I spend all winter in a house filled with lights and plants. It's not such a horrible way to live and even people who don't garden as much as I do love to visit. 

I bought a Polka Dot Begonia and another Begonia luxurians too. The latter was also a replacement plant. (Yes, some plants were neglected during the separation and divorce process. I felt badly about this, but it has been worth it in the long run.)
Fig tree, (Ficus afghanistanica).
This little fig tree was a nice find. It's a compact form and quite cold hardy so it may end up living in a container although I plan to plant it before winter sets in around here. (If I do chose to move, this one is going with me.)
My sad fig situation this year. 
I was sad that my little fig tree wasn't very productive this year but our weather has been so strange. It's been sunny and warm for weeks now and we've had so little rain. It's October and I still have to water! I should be baking with apples right now!

(Yes, I would have bought more if I could have, but not knowing where I will be this time next year means that I have to really curtail my plant purchases to those which can be transported easily to wherever I land. I do love Xera Plants a lot though and I hope that in the future when I am more settled I will be able to add more of their special plants to my garden.)
The studio/garage. 
In other news, during my recent birthday party—while hanging out in the hammock—an old friend had a bright idea. Later that night he wrote to me and asked: "Have you ever thought about renting out your garage as an art studio?" I took a deep breath before writing back to let him know that when I first saw this house for sale online it was the detached semi-finished former garage space that excited me most. I very much wanted to make it into some kind of studio but we could never do so.

So, if my garden and I are going to grow on in time, it somehow seems quite fitting to let that initial thought I'd had so long ago—a little spark I'd sent out into the world—come full circle. I hope that allowing a gifted and very talented young artist to set fire to his own creativity back there with his brushes and imaginative energy will help to propel me forward. Besides, it means I get to add some plant life back into the space over the winter.

An artist needs inspiration, right? Let it be green...

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