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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The Willows Converse Among Themselves

I look across the river and catch sight of the willows, lost in their own world. They have no regard for me. They are speaking to each other in whispers so I hear nothing clearly but I see their long golden-yellow chains wavering over the water. It reflects their light.

There are presences in this world that are not human but sometimes, a human being comes across one of these presences and this is when poetry happens—when we interact with the strange divinity that moves through the world.

I caught sight of the willows and so complete were they within themselves, so beautiful to behold, that my mind stopped dead in its tracks and my heart eased. In the presence of an Other, human commotion becomes impossibly silly and pointless. The past and future converge into the present and there is only now.

I exhale the stress I’ve held this morning as I watch them. The willows, their long hair hanging over their faces, disregard me totally and completely and talk in their slow tree way, something to do with the air, water, and earth. I cannot hear much but what I do hear makes me recall there were other beings on this earth other than myself, older than myself. They exist in this time, in many times, living, dying, always reappearing. The willows hang their hair over the water as they have done for centuries, listening to the currents and moving with the breezes and eddies of the wind.

With a gratefully diminished self, I thank the universe for the ancient poetry that is the willow tree and move forward, reborn, into the bright day.

 

茶の煙柳と共にそよぐ也

the tea smoke

and the willow

together trembling

Issa

(Trans. David G. Lanoue)

Beautiful Dirty Summer

The thick green groves of cup-plants (silphium perfoliatumare) stand eight feet tall and are in their late summer glory. I look up at their bright yellow ray flowers and shield my eyes, the bright flowers sway so high and run so close to the sun. When I squint, the flowers darken into forms without color like the outline of the sun beating through closed eyelids.

I take a step nearer and peer into the leaves. Tiny pools of still water collect where the thick cup leaves meet the stems. It has not rained in the last few weeks and I’m surprised there is any water here at all. For leaves that are not broken or rotted, thimblefuls of water weigh without movement, rimmed with the detritus of summer: a fly’s wing, a wad of spider web, bits of dead grass and portions of pollen.

These tiny pools are water for goldfinches, tiny birds that flash by like rays of light. It hasn’t rained for weeks and this is left, tiny pools of water full of dirty summer. I consider drinking it. With one quick gulp, I’d drink the essence of a passing summer, imbibe what August means, and taste the bitter part of the growing season. This is living but rotting part that underlines all our lives but that no one likes to see, much less taste.

I shift my weight from foot to foot. The sun beats heavily down. The yellow flowers tumble in overhead breezes and the goldfinches live nearby, finding water where they can as the dry weeks pass. My hands drop to my sides and I pass back through the grass, ready for the shade. Perhaps when it rains and all the cup plants are full, I’ll take my drink along with the many others.