Tiny Stories, Tiny Tales

Potting up and other stories

The book said "bleach your possibly disease ridden pots." So I bleached my possibly disease ridden pots. The book said, "put down pebbles in the bottoms of your pots." So, I put down pebbles in the bottom of my pots. Then the book said, "mix sand with your potting soil." and that's where I stopped. There's always a limit to everything. A limit to getting things done, a limit to details, there's just a limit. Mixing sand with potting soil was my limit. Bleaching the pots and actually having pebbles from a past project was stellar in my book. The sand would be for a time when I had sand around.

I'm not a detail sort of girl so I was pretty damn proud over my neat rows of potted bulbs. They're for later this next year, about January and Februrary when many of us go stark raving mad for color, please God, color. Some of us around then need something different from glaring white or the washed out hues of brown and yellow. These little pots hold gems of color and I trust they will not let me down. I'm going to do it right this year and monitor them like people with hard hats monitor nuclear plants. That's right. That's monitoring.

Last winter was a financial failure. I got my pots, my soil, my bulbs and with very limited information, I planted and stored the bulbs away. I watered faithfully but come around January, something was horribly wrong. Nothing grew, nothing came out of the soil. I was in a funk with the failure of it but steeled myself. Next year, I vowed, next year, I would arm myself with intel and get these little things to bloom.

And yes, oh yes, we have the intel. I picked up a discounted book on bulb forcing from Smith and Hawken in the late Spring when the sting of forced bulb failure was low. I read the book and realized all the terrible mistakes I had made. They were terrible. And then I put the book away and went through the summer, languishing in the heat, picking up on the cooler days. Just having your basic summer.

Today, I followed the book- almost absolutely. My bulbs and their pots are tucked into the garage. I have written down dates in my date book (take out pots to be warmed in cool room, etc, etc). I have figured out how to deal with the garage freezing (put the pots in old stryofoam coolers! Go figure!). I have labeled them. They are a small army but they will succeed.

Now sitting here, reading a bit more on forcing, having laid out the dates of when to do this and that, I settle into the couch and think, wow, the taste of doing something well tastes very good indeed. This rarely happens because I tend to jump steps in my haste or do something by myself without stopping to get info. This time I didn't. And it's all over. They're all settling in, getting ready to sprout their roots. And thinking about this leaves a good taste in the mouth. I am pleased with my work. And that's no small thing for a hasty perfectionist to say.

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Tides of Snow and Ice

This winter has been a continuous series of freezes and thaws: it’s the warmest winter on record, the tenth one in a row. A more usual winter starts with a deep freeze and then stays cold for months. Instead, snow falls, piles up and vanishes; rises up again and retreats, now falling as rain, swelling rivers and creeks. Rain and snow mingle together until everything runs with water; hillsides and flat-sides are coated in a deep, dark mud.

I stopped on my walk today, halted by a sudden flash of gold. The sunset rays were falling into a tiny puddle spanning the space between the root and trunk of a maple. The puddle reflected gold and silver on top and below was dark mud, black and brown, full of microorganisms and other tiny creatures unseen by the human eye. I briefly considered putting my hand to the shining surface. It beckoned, winking like a diamond, but pull of my walk was irresistible and I continued forward. 

Mud is for March and April, mud so thick and heavy that it can pull shoes off and make them disappear like a magic trick beneath the solemn and still brown. Mud in February is a strange slight, an awakening that shouldn’t be occurring yet. It’s all the more cruel because even though the temperatures rise, they inevitably dip into the single digits and everything freezes solid. Many times I’ve spotted squirrels and tiny birds on the creek’s ice, searching for openings to drink from.

During this particular thaw, the creek casts off ice, it’s center opening like a dark cut. The water sings as it cascades over the rocks, proclaiming it’s momentarily relief from the grip of winter. In Scandinavian folklore, there is a belief that given the proper offerings, a creek could teach a human how to play the most bewitching music. I crouch down near the creek, record a video of it singing on my phone and replay its music in the evening while lying on the couch. I should give something in return for the pleasure of its song and I consider. Perhaps some lavender buds I have stored away for a certain recipe, or a small pinecone I keep on a shelf to admire, or birch bark I retrieved from a favorite tree cut down years ago. 

The next day I return, and after waiting for a few dogs and their owners to pass by, I crouch next the side of the creek and sprinkle lavender buds into the small, clear stream. The buds vanish as soon as I drop them into the water– as if they never existed. I drop some more in and the same occurs; they’re gone before I can blink. The current flows by, washing over stones, fleeting by banks of mud, until it vanishes around the bend where the pine trees tower overhead.

As I gaze at the water, first downstream and then upstream, my own self quiets, stills, and momentarily dissolves into the landscape. The relief, though short, is palpable. Alone becomes together and perhaps that is what’s this practice of thanking the creek has been about all along.

Winter in the Time of Climate Change

There is a stream near my home and I walk along it nearly every day; I know its moods and seasons nearly as well as I know my own. We are family and our connections are pure: we’re both made of water.

Every day brings more distressing news about the environment. Big changes need to happen but whatever change that does happen is so slow. Global warming is now being felt by everyone, some more than others. I go out and walk along the stream when the news and all the unfortunate future unknowns press in too hard. Right now, it is running fast. This winter has been a series of freezes and thaws. November hit hard with a heavy, deep freeze and I expected this to lead to a  white Christmas but instead, it’s been a muddy, wet winter, full of more temperate days than frosty ones. The thermometer rides up and down, every day propelled by a bouncing ball rather than a steady progression of tiny fluctuations.

The stream locks and then unlocks. It accepts each freeze and thaw with inestimable grace. After reading the news, it is hard to know what is near or far, here and up in the sky, in the mind or in the present moment. But the stream is always present, it knows no other moment. It lives in eternity; as David Hockney said, “It’s always now. It’s now that’s eternal.”

The creek is still here, I think to myself whenever I see it, it is still living. It runs forward through this strange January, sometimes under the ice and sometimes not. Patches of green moss dot the banks nearby, beyond that the nearby plants are broken, brown, and dried. They are asleep, listening to things I cannot hear, dreaming of things I barely know of.