Friday, April 29, 2011

Square Roots

Do you know Zephirine Droughin?
A beautiful, lipstick pink climbing rose with few thorns, a preference to not be fussed with and, amazingly,  shade loving?
Yep, a beautiful, robust, blooming, climbing, grows-in-the-shade rose. I have three of them. They were presents from my mother.

My mother's gardens have always been anchored by beautiful roses. I did not get her rose thumb although I have done fine in other gardening categories. Here at the Pond, my mother would look around and say,
 "Fishy, where are the roses?"
" In a vase Mama, in a vase".
Having roses in vases is ALWAYS a welcome sight and scent in any proper Southern home.
Having a garden without roses is, apparently, unacceptable.

So, about a decade ago, when Mama was here, she went forth in search of roses which could defeat my no-rose talents. This is  how the Zephirine's came to be blooming next to the hammock under the big oak tree in the back yard. I do give them a season long fertilizer every  Spring and a quick spray with a product which promises to keep fungi and insects away from roses. I do sometimes remember to water them when God has not, but not always. Every Spring the Zephirines show their appreciation for my neglect by blooming  in big generous bouquets.

Today, I went out there to lie in the hammock and say my gratitudes the feared tornado spawning horror storm skipped our little patch as it crossed the state. The images on the media today have been grim so there is MUCH to be gratefully said. I was peacefully swinging in the hammock, smelling the roses and listening to the newly fledged family of Cardinals find their voices. A rare afternoon delight.

I think I frightened the fledgelings when I started laughing aloud. I rarely make it through a Spring without remembering the day the Zephirines got planted. The day I saw my mother and my husband go to war. On that day I was not laughing as I was sick with the horror of the conflict.  In her younger years my mother was quite well known for her caustic tongue with a  quick fire temper to boot.  Blowfish, as I have mentioned before, did not get the temper gene in his dna package. He did get the I-will-irritate-you-beyond-all-rationality gene.  And he is stubborn.

My Mom was intent on supervising the placement and the installation of the Zephirines. Clearly a daughter without roses was not to be tolerated. Mom had Blowfish  tote and organize roses, soil ammendments ,  a hose and various general gardening implements to the selected location. Before the first shovelful got turned over Mom was carefullly explaining the importance of the size and depth of the hole, the importance of  the placement of the roots.  The key to becoming a successful rosarian. Roses do not have a single tap root or a root ball, they have sort of a multi-pronged root spray below the grafted base stem.  When planting, it is crucial to have a pyramid of loose dirt to support this root system. Once this core support has happened  all the roots  sprays  are then layed out like a circle skirt. No folding, crimping, cutting or  encircling is allowed.

Once the rose planting 101 instructions had been reviewed multiple times, Blowfish suggested we "girls" go inside for some lemonade. He would call us back out once the shovel work was done and the planting could actually commence.  We did just that. Which was perhaps a seriously bad idea. When we returned to the rose planting area there were three perfectly spaced holes in the earth at the perfect depth.
Each had a mound of loose dirt alongside, each had a rose bush  standing at the ready in the nursery container, the  hose was on with a proper control nozzle. Perfect.

As we approached I called out,
"Wow Blowfish! this is great".
I barely caught a glimpse of my mother's glare while receiving Bloowfish's response which was about getting the roses in the ground so we could all have a beer. Eventually it dawned on me my usually  chatty mother was speechless. I turned to observe her standing still as Stonehenge , frowning at the holes in the ground. Uh-oh. Blowfish  stepped forward a bit and said,
" Okay Mom, which one do you want to plant first?"
" I am not your Mother."
Yep, that response caught my attention. Actually it was the tone of voice more than the words which struck terror to my heart. I took a good look at Mom and realized she was beyond annoyed. I looked at Blowfish, still smiling but looking a tad confused. My stomach started doing gymnastics on it's own.
I stepped forward saying in a cheery tone,
" Okay, lets see if I can get the hang of becoming a Rosarian. Mom, what do I do first?"
My Mother, stepping carefully with her cane over uneven ground moved closer to the holes in the ground, studied them a bit  then pointing with the cane asked Blowfish,
 " Do you see these holes are square?"
" Yes ma'am"
" Do you think roses come or grow in squares?"
"No Ma'am.  The holes are the  size and depth you asked me to dig".
" You do know  squares do not have diameters?"
Oh God! I knew that tone of voice. I knew that slight change in Blowfish's  chin position.
The  stomach gymnastics were getting robust and, creeping into my psyche was a never before experienced type of anxiety. Definitely there was no laughter. Trying again to  prevent any furthur or,
God spare me, escalation of conflict, I tried to intercede by saying,
" Blowfish, why don't you go get a beer while Mom and I start the planting".
It was hopeless. Mom again pointed to the ground saying,
" Explain this!"
" Explain what?"
" Stop with the passive agressive responses and answer my question"
" You didn't ask a question. You issued a command."
I was falling down the rose hole to hell.
" Did you or did you not understand the importance of the supporting pyramid and the spreading of the roots when planting a rose?"
" Yes ma'am"
" Then why did you dig square holes"
" I was using a square shovel".
I am not sure but I may have whimpered aloud at this point. The absolute worst aspects of my mother's character and my husbands were about to have a full on collision.
" Did you think it a good idea to put round pegs in square holes too?"
" I like to think outside the circle"
" STOP! Both of you. This is crazy. Mom, can't you be  at least civil if not actually grateful? Blowfish, you absolutely have lost your mind if you think I am  going to stand here and watch you bait my mother. Now Mom, tell me how to get these things properly planted."
I was not heard by either war lord.
I fled into the house.
The roses got planted.
There was an uneasy truce around the dinner table.
Over time, " square holes"  became family code for unresolved conflict.
Over time my mother and my husband laughed together over this memory.
It took me longer.
But today as I lay in the hammock listening to the fledgelings bait each other I thought about how
time changes  your response if not your perspective. I can lay in the hammock, smelling the Zephirines and leave the bickering to the birds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Haiku Monday: The Visual Chicken

Peter's denial:

Three times he disowned
Jesus, fearing through the night;
weeping by cock's crow


counter-balanced skeleton
defines this raptor


Frida, renew'd by
chickens colorful wisdom,
laid life without grief

One comic artist/
chicken strip author for
syndicated wealth!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Spring Blessings!

I received this photo from a client who spent 3 hours last evening watching this family of Wrens move. He says both parent birds participate in the relocation.

The "residence" in this photo is a decoration which hangs  on the Porch wall just left of their front door.
For several weeks now they have required guests to either walk around  to the back or come in through the garage. They put a barrier across the sidewalk so no delivery person would disturb the Wrens.
I love, love, love there are people who understand we share the planet.  

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Haiku Monday: Clothes


Do clothes make the man?
Can an Emperor fool rule?
The jesters have won!

Dress Impeccably:

Fashion's finest architect,
Fabulous Channel.

Chickory's Genius:

Clothed by artist's eye
Textural genius implies
Natures  world order

No visuals please:

Hot climate attire
Women wearing cellulite
NO visual delight

For Moi:

Figleaf fashions? No!
Snakeskin dyed pink for Moi's sole
Because, Eve was framed

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mission Statements

Molly came on down the  back drive for a chatty visit while I was working in the yard.  She is an occasional companion on my exercise walks but on those days not much chatting  happens.
I am too busy trying to keep everything properly oxygenated to expend the O2 on chat. At 14, Molly does not have that problem.  She can power up hill and chat. I can listen, nod, smile, but chatting is beyond me on the uphills. Some days Molly needs more interaction than the walks accord.

I fixed her some lemonade and handed her a pair of gloves.
This last bit she questioned with a tilt of eyebrows in that especially irritating way only teens have.
I countered with one of those don't cross that line Mother looks and resumed weeding. Molly smiled.
She likes it when I  "act like a Mom".

Molly is the grand daughter of a neighbor. She and her Dad are staying there, for now, while her Dad is seeking a career change. Molly's mother "was called to Heaven" when she was just 9. All of their worldly goods are sitting in a PODS container in the grandparents driveway. Becase there are so many unknowns, Molly was not enrolled in the local middle school. Instead she is being home schooled by her Dad and a laptop. It seems you can be home schooled online now.  Because she has never lived in this town, she does not have a circle of friends other than the church youths she encounters on Wednesdays and Sundays.  This is a tough reality for a gregarious teen.

Once we were settled into the weeding and the generalities had all been spoken Molly asked,

" Do you have a personal mission statement? "

I smiled at her and asked a question of my own,
 " Are you studying Steven Covey?"

" Sort of. Not really. But I do have an assignment to write my personal mission statement."

I wondered if I had a personal mission statement when I was 14. That was back in the days when I went for early morning joy rides in my moms 500, when learning the latest dance steps seemed important and when a new zit was the emotional  equivalent of a  disfiguring plague all over my face.

" Are you seeking to define a mission statement for yourself? Or just to meet the criteria of the assignment?"

        Clearly this very question was why Molly had mosied down the driveway. I suspect she has a seed of awareness that her Dad may have never had a clear path. That he responded to life as it arrived at his doorstep but did not have a master plan.  My guess is he is the middle son who always did what was expected of him and never defined what he wanted or expected for himself. In fact, here in mid life, I think he is just arriving  at that recognition. As the home schooling parent this may actually be the reason Molly was given this assignment.  To spare her the same reality. Go Dad!

After an increase in the pace of weeding and a lengthy pause Molly said,
" It's a mess! If your Dad and your grandparents are your teacher how do you write a mission they might not like? What if it isn't noble?"

" Noble?"

" Yeah!
Like I am suppose to give my life over to pink ribbons and breast cancer research because of my Mom."

" Is that what you want to do?"

" No! And to tell you the truth I already have been started on the annual testing to see if I need to have all my girl parts removed . I know my reality. All of my years with a mother were ruled by cancer. I watched her die year by year. I hate the disease. I hate the subject. And I really hate the idea of it ruling the rest of my life too".

I looked at this pretty child, sitting in my garden trying to struggle her way through tough, tough issues.
I marveled at her bravery. To put into words that which was hugely painful and suffocating.

" Molly, is there some not noble thing you really want to do?"

I saw a shrug, caught part of a mumble  and then Molly said,

" I really want to know if you have a mission statement and if you do what it is."

So we chatted a bit about what a mission statement actually is. Is it a map? A vow?  A promise? A purpose. A statement of intent? I told Molly I could remember promising to do my best to always follow the 10 commandments before making my first communion. A sacrement . So yes, I do think that was a  mission statement.  I also took a vow when I married Blowfish and that too was a mission statement.
I made a promise to myself when I started on the path to a career in design. That too was a type of mission.  Becoming a parent is a mission.  Opening a business is a mission. Being honorable in all things is a mission.

Molly asked what I had taught Mermaid on this issue.
I told her Mermaid had taken an elective course on the Covey approach to life management.
An entire semester in the 9th grade. I thought it had been a fine thing for her. But Molly pressed a bit to ask again what had I done, as a mother, to guide Mermaid in making a mission statement or life map.

I do not remember ever telling Mermaid she needed to define a mission statement for self. I do know I tried to provide guidance by teaching her to love truth. Even hard truths. I did write on our family message board/ calendar things like, " The difference between a dream and a goal are: a timeline and an action plan".
We did have discussions on having a dream and having a purpose. You might dream of one day being a great chef but first you have to cry your way through peeling and chopping quite a few onions. You cannot become a great chef just  by reading cookbooks. At some point you have to get in a Kitchen . It is necessary to  be purposeful about acquiring the skills and knowledge of a great chef. It is necessary,on any chosen path, to always pursue more.  Stagnation is always foul.

I told Molly that upstairs in Mermaid's bathroom there was a message written in marker on glass. It's been there for a decade. It says,
"In order to 'live your dream' you must first prepare for the dream of your own choosing".
After reflecting Molly asked,

 " Is that all?"

I did explain that in order to prepare for your chosen dream you had to first define it. Once it was defined then real plans and timelines could be applied. It was never sufficient to say " I want to have a good life".
You have to define what, for you, would make a good life. You cannot plan to win the lottery,  travel the globe in your personal yacht and dance in the moonlight of the Greek Isles. You can plan on  going to engineering school as a foundation for your desires to be an inventor with the goal of one day earning your way to the Greek moonlight.  I explained many a life started out with the  dream of becoming a great inventor but the reality was the life was lived as a successful engineer. Is this a failure or a success?

Molly still looked dissatisfied.

" I'm asking you again. Do you have a mission statement?"

" I actually like the one for the Army. You know, 'Be all that you can be',  is more than a jingle on a recruiting commercial. It is a fine concept. We should all be striving to be all we can. When I was a child my third grade teacher encouraged me to ' use fully and share generously the gifts with which I have been blessed'.  I have tried to always do that."

" Mrs. Fishy! Do. You. Have. A. Mission. Statement?"

" Don't get lost".

" What??????"

" Don't get lost"

." Don't get lost? That's your mission statement !!!!!!!!"

" Are you judging me Molly?"

" Well duh, it doesn't sound too exciting"

I would not have thought so either at 14. From my current age, it seems pretty challenging. I know now how easy it is to  get separated from self. How hard it is to sometimes live an authentic life of your own choosing.  To live a life in truth. To live a life which honors all vows and promises to self as well as to others. To live 'happily ever after' or to 'live the dream' .  How even with maps and gps people still  get lost.  How all your  personal resources can be expended meeting the needs of others.  How it is damn difficult to make a joyful noise or be creative on demand when your life is diverted by  a broken body or an unstable heart or a dying loved one or a crashed economy or  a need to seek order in chaos by doing laundry.  Or maybe because your mom died or your Dad has lost his way or you live with your grandparents and stare at your life in a PODS unit.

" Maybe not,  but this is what I have written on the mirror in my bathroom:
'There are only two reasons dreams are abandoned .. the first is because it might be realized, the second is because it might not... without the dream you are lost'.  I do try Molly, to not get lost."

Molly shrugged, put down her glass, shucked off the gloves,
 " I better be going now".
As I watched her trudge up the driveway I felt regret. I had failed to give Molly information she could use.
Maybe one day our converstaion would rebound in her memory and do some good. I could pray. Then I heard a loud " Hey!" and watched Molly reverse her steps and head back down the drive. As she got closer she walked faster until she was close enough to grab my hand  and stare into my eyes to ask,

 " If I want to be a fashionista, live my life for me and all the girls who want to feel beautiful and alive, and  not in service to my mother's death or disease is that not getting lost ?!?!?!?!?!?!!!"

Go Molly!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Haiku Monday: Nature

 Thank you!

Spring's glorious green
Indescribable color!
Nurturing by God.


Wasp's nest underfoot
Shock and awe reality
BITES my attitude


One clovered acre
white tracery smiles by threes
not a fourth in sight