Wednesday Vignette – tension

Happy February, Everyone! I noticed on my way to work this morning that it started getting light before I made it there. It made me ridiculously happy! There are longer, lighter, brighter days ahead, my friends! I was instantly filled with garden dreams – new projects I’m going to start, old un-finished projects I’m finally going to finish, new successes, and new failures.

Last year and beyond, my garden was my savior, my escape. It still is, but this year I’m promising myself that I’m going to BE in my garden for the sake of just BEING – not for the sake of escaping.

It feels like a great calm has settled over chaos in the last week, and although lies still run rampant, theatrics are abundant, and tensions are still high, it’s all somehow muted. I detect a new hum in the Universe, the wheels of a functioning government starting to slowly turn again. I’m looking forward to a time where all is not lost if I forget to think about the news for a day or two. Where it’s okay to relax a little. Battered and weary, we made it this far. I think we all deserve some peace, don’t you? The kind of peace one can enjoy under a lot less pressure.

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Wednesday Vignette – all the options

Last summer, something odd happened. My big, beautiful Edgeworthia suddenly collapsed. Just like that. For a while, I simply let it be, made sure it got some water here and there – just to see if it would bounce back. For the most part, it didn’t, so one weekend not too long ago, I ventured out there and started cutting it back, starting with the most dead-looking branches. One by one, the shrub shrunk. I soon realized that I didn’t even really need to cut most of them – they just broke off at the base with minimal prompting. – it had rotted. So, I kept breaking them off, until there were only two big, still healthy branches left. They had nice, fat flower buds, so I let them be. Three are already blooming – something I noticed today of all days – on the day we got this winter’s first snow.

This photo is from September. Here you can see the collapse on full display – or should I say full splay? I have no idea what caused the collapse to happen, but heard that several others had the same thing happen to theirs, too. Probably some kind of environmental change it didn’t like, we were guessing, as none of us had made any real changes in treatment or care. It just up and died.

Anyway, until my rough treatment of its spready girth, this was a big shrub. In summer, its blue green, oval leaves made a perfect privacy screen for my hammock. Not having it there will no doubt make next summer’s lounging experience far less protected unless I fill that hole quick. But with what? I’m leaning toward moving my Shefflera delavayi into this spot. Or, I could put a Mahonia eurybracteata there. I have one in a pot I have been nursing along for a while. My only worry is that it might not get enough sun to be happy there. (It gets some filtered southern light, but is also shaded from above by a windmill palm.) Besides, the Shefflera is bigger, and would provide a more instant gratification.

Another available option is a Sarcococca orientalis – which may not sound all that exciting, but I like its skinny, pointed leaves. Plus, it’s not overly happy where it currently is, and it’s fragrant. I also have a somewhat suffering Kiringeshoma that might enjoy that spot. Except, it’s not evergreen. Moving an Abutilon or a Fuchsia into that spot is another deciduous option that might work too – except deciduous. Either sure would look fab spilling over the wall… As would a really, really big fern. Ferns look good anywhere. What would your choice be? A combo of some of the above? Or something completely different? I’m getting lost in all the fabulous potential…

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Wednesday Vignette – flipping the bird

I’m tired, and feeling just about as blurred as the bird in this photo, skillfully evading my every attempt at focusing my lens. January 20 is a big day – one that will hopefully emerge with clearly outlined purpose, high energy, and minimal blur. I’m hoping for contrast to what has transpired – rich, exuberant contrast.

Are you celebrating, or just cautiously optimistic? Or neither? Neighbors up and down our block will gather in the street after work, for a suitable beverage and some socially distant rejoicing, to ring in the long-awaited changing of the guards. Whether this bird will join us remains to be seen, but if it comes, I will regard it as a good omen. I think we’re all relieved. Four years are finally over , and it’s time for a new beginning. Don’t know about you, but we’re flipping the old, and welcoming the new.

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Wednesday Vignette – a happy anniversary?

What a week, huh? Good thing I can go outside and ground myself – it restores faith in so many things.

The Creative Flux

As I logged on to write my weekly little ditty, WordPress pinged me with a celebratory message that I started blogging 10 years ago. Oh my! That sure went fast! Though not what I intended to write about today, I suppose it’s worth mentioning – as a personal bright spot in one of the most crazy-ass weeks I think the US has seen in its young life as a nation. I was sad and astounded at how prescient I turned out to be a week ago, when I wrote that the orcs were attacking from all angles. This week they actually did.

I spend as much time as I can outside in the garden these days. You all know why – you are all in on the well known secret of the palpable grounding qualities and benevolent, healing powers of immersing yourselves with plants in the garden. No matter if…

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Wednesday Vignette – a happy anniversary?

As I logged on to write my weekly little ditty, WordPress pinged me with a celebratory message that I started blogging 10 years ago. Oh my! That sure went fast! Though not what I intended to write about today, I suppose it’s worth mentioning – as a personal bright spot in one of the most crazy-ass weeks I think the US has seen in its young life as a nation. I was sad and astounded at how prescient I turned out to be a week ago, when I wrote that the orcs were attacking from all angles. This week they actually did.

I spend as much time as I can outside in the garden these days. You all know why – you are all in on the well known secret of the palpable grounding qualities and benevolent, healing powers of immersing yourselves with plants in the garden. No matter if it’s cold and wet, spending time out there STILL makes me feel better. As dusk fades to dark, the solar spots placed around the yard light up, and that was going to be my point tonight; there is light in the midst of darkness. Trust me, there really is.

Shefflera taiwanense basking in the light.

Since it’s an anniversary, I should probably acknowledge that blogging itself has been a major bright spot for me this past decade. On it, I have questioned, I have learned, and it has caused me to meet wonderful people – both in the blogosphere and in person. It has enriched my life greatly in ways I never imagined. Today, I saw in the WordPress notifications that someone had liked a post that was written almost to the day, a year ago. I was curious as to what the allure was, so I took a peek and re-read what I wrote back then. For all the shock, disgust, humbleness, and national embarrassment we have all been experiencing in the last few days, the truth is that – not counting a ravaging pandemic – we are in a far better place right now than we were back then. Look at us now – we did it! We voted a lot of these ogres out in the last election, and our friends in Georgia did what almost no one saw as even a possibility – they flipped the Senate! (Not to mention the several effective vaccines produced in record time.) Things are indeed looking up!

I wonder where I’ll be another 10 years from now… I hope I will still be writing – because even if it’s rarely very substantial, it’s still one of my favorite things to do. Like my garden, it keeps me sane. Stay hopeful, dear friends – the light is on its way. We’re going to have to dig in and work hard for it, but it will come. I can feel it!

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Wednesday Vignette – Epiphany

Well, it’s finally 2021! How do you like it, so far? It’s Epiphany, and that means I can tick off another year here in the US. On January 6th, 1987 I moved here for the first time. (I took a 5-year break somewhere in the middle, so I’ve moved here twice.) Hard to believe that was 34 years ago…

Every year, I mark the day, but this year, the air is different. This year, there is a stirring of sorts – it feels as if people have somehow been through enough to have begun having their own epiphanies. They are starting to realize that what we have is worth the effort it will take to keep it. They are still counting votes in Georgia as I write this and, especially in one instance, it’s awfully close, but it feels like the gears are shifting, and it feels like hope. Amazing that it took this long, but hey – I’ll take it.

Screenshot from Merriam Webster
Photo from the Peninsula Park Rose Garden, taken on a walk this past weekend.

It’s exhilarating to see wheels finally starting to turn, offering an actual possibility that they will take hold and engage. It is a long way back to the top. Hopefully the results of the Georgia runoffs will mean that we won’t have to linger so long on each step that the ideas and advances start to grow moss. (Even though you all know how much I love moss.) Thank you Georgia for turning out! Regardless of the outcome, it’s close enough to offer gobs of hope for the future. A promising start to the new year.

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Wednesday Vignette – frost

Though the light is officially on its way back, we still have a few months of winter left. Down in the city, here in our part of the world, that usually means buckets of rain – not necessarily the kind of glittery, glorious, shiny white expanses that make my heart sing on a well spent bluebird day on the mountain. But, the past couple of days have been dry, and the mornings especially cold and frosty. We took advantage of the good weather, and spent three days inventorying the stock fields at work, finishing up today – the day before New Years Eve.

Lots of shrubs looked fantastic in their frosted glory, but the absolutely Best in Show went to our very own Oregon Grape which was hauntingly beautiful with its sugar coated edges. I figured this prickly beast could serve as a good closeout shot of a – for so many – very prickly year. As I’ve said before, I’m one of the lucky ones. But my fragile sense of wellbeing is punctured by witnessing the misfortunes of so many around me – be they friends or strangers. I’m definitely ready to turn the page on 2020.

May 2021 be a good one for all of us, with lots more sugarcoating than offered by this brutal year. I’m casting blessings, good thoughts and karma into the world, in hopes they will find someone who can benefit from them. Please add your own and pass them on. Let 2021 be the year we all sail a little higher, come hell or high water. Peace out!

Mahonia aquifolium ‘Compacta’ with fabulous, frosty edges.
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Wednesday Vignette – holiday bling

How’re you all holding up? Are you ready for the Holidays? We’re not. For as much as I usually enjoy all the lights and the pretty tree, honest to Dog, it feels like way too much work. I told everyone in the family that they were more than welcome to take charge this year. I would happily show them where the boxes of stuff are. Nobody took me up on my generous offer, and I’m entirely fine with that. I’m not sure of the exact origins of this year’s particular laziness, but really – I don’t have it in me to care. From our house, we can see the festive trees of two neighbors. They are beautiful, and I’m enjoying the sparkling glimpses without any effort whatsoever.

There is also so much to see when traipsing through the neighborhood. Shrubs with berries, and Persimmon trees with fabulous orange fruit. Hummingbirds are diving for the fuchsia, mahonia and abutilon which are still blooming. My grevillea has fat buds promising an extended show. Such simple things bring me so much joy, and this year I just don’t have the patience for all that other, extra work. I know this year is different, and a lot of people have a hard time reconciling the reality of spending the Holidays in lonely confinement, but that aspect doesn’t seem to bother me all that much either. I try to think of it as just one year out of a lifetime of years, so in the grand scheme of things….. I’ll get to see my people eventually, hopefully before too long. Buckling down and staying safe has rarely been more important, and I know removing ourselves from the pandemic exponential equation is an act that counts.

However noble that solitary ambition, I’m not perfect, and I did break down. I went to my hairdresser and got myself a nice COVID haircut. My hair guy specializes in color work, and me, being nearly completely disinterested in my appearance, usually let him have fun with me, and do what he wants. “I’m going for broke”, he said, and turned me into a flaming redhead. I like it! My blazing mane sparkles and shines in the pale light of the December sun. And that, my friends, is as far as I’ll go with the Christmas bling this year. I wish you all peace, health, love and contentment, however you choose to celebrate this Solstice derived holiday. I’ll catch you on the flip side. Don’t forget – brighter days are ahead, and are coming to a neighborhood near you – very soon.

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Wednesday Vignette – fiery, lit, and finally enlightened

How are you all holding up? We’re still mostly isolating ourselves at home which offers plenty of time to do all kinds of things. For a while now, I’ve wanted to improve my cooking skills using variations of both capsicum and legumes, so I started actually reading some of the cookbooks on the shelf – primarily a book on Indian cuisine, a recently acquired one on Peruvian cooking, and another one on chili peppers. Suddenly I learned something that is so painfully obvious that I feel like I should have known this for at least as long as I’ve been a gardener.

Green tomatoes on the vine

Couldn’t find a shot of a pepper, but here are close cousins – green tomatoes, ripening on the vine.

You know the nightshade family – Solanaceae? In particular, the members of the subfamily Solanoideae; potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.? I think it’s fairly common knowledge that those all came from South America – right? And yet, it totally blew my mind to learn that ALL of the world cuisines as we know them today, have the Portuguese to thank for the global spread of the members of the Solanaceae family, and the Capsicum genus. That’s right – before that fateful October day when Cristóbal Colón cast anchor off the east coast of the Americas, no other part of our planet had anything remotely like a chili pepper!!! A hundred years or so later, it was EVERYWHERE!! Wow… I can’t even imagine Ethiopian, Thai or Indian food without it. What a gigantic, historic, culinary watershed moment!

As plants and growers are wont to do, over the next 5 – 600 years the various peppers mutated, were crossbred and further hybridized. Now, there are varieties that we consider typical for the various regions – piri piri in East Africa and birdseye peppers in Southeast Asia, to name a couple. This might explain how I had so completely missed making this connection, but holy crap – what a life altering revelation!! Not to forget the other three major staples either – what would the Swedes and the Irish be without potatoes, the Chinese without the eggplant, and the Italians without the tomato? I’m stunned! And also very, very grateful I picked up that book.

Stay well, everyone!


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Exquisite Creatures, exquisite world

Currently showing at OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry) is this fantastic exhibit we all owe it to ourselves to see. It is the work of Christopher Marley, showcasing the immense beauty of the other creatures in the world around us. You can follow him on Instagram @phermone_christophermarley .

Blue stair 2

‘Exquisite Creatures’ – don’t miss it!

As an avid gardener, plant lover, skier, etc., I already profess to being an avid Biophiliac. Whether in wild or curated form, Nature is my escape. It soothes me, it distracts me, it chases the demons out of my head, and restores my sanity and ability to deal with life. But of course landscapes and plants are only part of the Great Existential Mystery. This exhibits lifts the animals onto center stage. It is a gorgeous, gorgeous exhibit. I took some pictures, but if you are within a day trip of Portland, Oregon, I highly recommend you go see it for yourself if you haven’t already. The whole thing is just drippingly stunning and delicious! You have until February 17 (which is great, because it gives me a chance to return. I tried my best, but am sure I missed half of it. Give yourself time…)

Blue butterflies circle

One of the first works you see as you enter. That iridescence is spellbinding. So very beautiful!

Bird green

My first reaction to seeing the headless bird was – well, not that. I was so fascinated by the flawless form and the amazing coloration that I almost forgot what it was, beyond perfection personified. The second I realized, I have to say I was kind of relieved the head was missing. Nothing wrong with heads, but omitting it also somehow omitted the expression of death.

Parrots whole

See what I mean? Further along in the exhibit were these parrots displayed, heads intact. They too were beautiful, but more than anything else, they were a reminder for the urgency of protecting and conserving the thousands of species that are on the brink of extinction in our overheating, overpopulated world.

Parrot death certificate

Each animal used in these artworks come from various sources after they have died. I’m not sure what this label says, but I think it gives you the details of from where and when it came.

Insect mosaic 2

There were stunning jewel-like mosaics of insects, showing a baffling range of diversity. Each insect is a work of art—which is the main point of the exhibit. Christopher Marley wants you to truly *see* our fellow co-inhabitants of this planet. It is a humbling proposition, to view their incredible variation, and knowing that so many are being crushed under the boot of ever-encroaching humanity. It’s sobering indeed.

Beetle color study 3

Color is a main component of this exhibit, and variation within each specie. Seeing them side by side like this is quite mind blowing…  A long time ago, I learned that iridescence is a result of so called structural color, which “…is manifested in its inherent physical surface geometries rather than as a separately applied layer of pigment…”(Linked to an old post of mine, but halfway down it explains the phenomenon of iridescence, if you’re interested.)

Color study 1

When you see them like this, it can be hard to unhinge your eyes from the pattern, and focus your appreciation the individual components. I was astounded how well preserved all these marvelous insects were. Each one was perfectly intact.

Mamba tail

The reptiles were just sumptuous in their mounted elegance. This is the tail of a Mamba – I think. Those who know me know that I have a totally irrational fear of snakes. It has gotten better over the years (I have worked hard on it), but these snakes were fantastic!

Whip snake 2

The wreath of Whip snakes was incredibly slick…

Turtle spiral

… as was this spiral made up of turtle shells of varying sizes. Just fabulous!

Horned insect wreath

The smooth color gradation of this wreath of stag beetles (I think) is lovely!

Beetle gemstone mandala full

I love how color intensity and pattern definition draws your eye into the center of this beetle mandala. They look good enough to eat!

Bird beetle butterfly mandala

This composite bird/stag beetle/butterfly/etc. mandala was one of my favorites. There’s that headless bird again, with the rack of a stag beetle added for effect. Such a fantastic creature! I must mention how incredible impressed I am by the kind of skill that must have gone into the preservation of all these different species. I’m flabbergasted – not a fiber was out of place – anywhere! Absolutely glorious work!

Bird beetle butterfly mandala detail

Better detail here!

Bird butterfly mandala

Here is another favorite. Actually, I had about fifty favorites, so that word really doesn’t mean much in this setting. It’s as impossible to choose as naming a favorite plant. Maybe a favorite genus, but that’s as far as I’ll commit.

Bird butterfly egg mandala detail

Here is a closer detail. That tiny, purple beetle between the wings is a nice touch, and I appreciate the use of eggs.

We were shown a short film before entering the exhibit, where the artist explained his work. Apparently, he was crazy about reptiles growing up, and asked us viewers to try to find out which animals we were most drawn to. My ever-evolving list includes beetles and butterflies, octopus, birds, lizards, and crustaceans.

Octopus mandala

The octopuses are crazy cool!

Octopus with insect

I feel like a broken record, but damn –  they are fantastic! This one is holding some sort of  insect.

Octopus with insect detail

Curiosity is related to intelligence, and Octopuses are highly intelligent animals. Good thing they don’t have thumbs, or us dumb humans would be in trouble…

Purple glittery dragon flies 3

The Dragonflies are pretty awesome, too. I love how their shadows becomes part of the pattern.

Crabs galore

Can you believe the variety in crabs? Such amazing creatures!

Two headed snake 2

This poor fella lived out his life with two heads. I managed to cut his head off in the IG post, so will add it here instead. Such a fascinating mutation, I didn’t want you to miss it.

Sand dollars 2

This Sand dollar display was all the more interesting because of the cut-out rectangle in the center. It added dimensional depth.

Chameleon walk 1

The receding sizes of these Chameleons create the illusion that they are climbing downward. Clever…

Lizard green black

I’ve always loved lizards. All the animals so artfully displayed looked so alive and vibrant, it was as if they would be able to dart, slither, or flutter out of view at any moment. Below is a striking study in monochrome with snake, feathers and fish.

Butterfly mandala red orange yellow white

I’ll finish with a few more mandalas. This is another one of my fifty or so favorites.

Beetle mandala red green blueButterfly black green mandala kaleidoscopeLizard mandalaButterfly black white mandala

You can see why it’s hard to choose a favorite, right? You really need to take some time out and go see this—I promise, you won’t regret it! It’s a glorious display of what marvels still dwell on this planet we call home, but it is also a call for action. With the Australian continent on fire, and the reported “billions of animals” perished in the bushfires, for as gorgeous as this is, it should help lighting a much needed fire under our own asses. The insect apocalypse is already here, and our bird populations are rapidly declining  –  and not only because birds need insects to sustain themselves. Homo sapiens is the only specie I know of that is steadily and alarmingly increasing. (Well, maybe certain types of toxic algae, too… ) Anyway, you get the point. Beauty is everywhere we look, around the world… until it isn’t. Exquisite Creatures is great inspiration to protect our exquisite home, and a celebration of the glorious biological diversity that we are all a part of. Peace out!


PS. One thing that made me giggle a little…. Most displays had signage, listing the Latin and common names, geographical detail, etc., of all these fabulous creatures. That is, until I came to a section of carefully mounted pitcher plants, or Sarracenias (you know the insect eating kinds). Some of them were quite unusual, and it would have been nice to learn what they were. But, they were all listed as ‘Sarracenia sp.’


I get it—we all have our favorites, and honestly—I know very little zoological Latin, and maybe they ran out of time. But, by comparison, I thought it was kind of cute. 🙂

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