Friday, March 6, 2009
I read many blogs these days about people who are growing their own food, and I want desperately for us to be those kinds of people. There's just one problem. We're not. In order to have a productive veggie patch, someone in the family has to be willing to do a whole lotta grunt work. I'm looking around and wondering, who's that gonna be?
Ten or fifteen years ago I fell madly in love with gardening, because it was a great creative outlet for me. I didn't particularly enjoy the back-breaking labor of digging and hauling, nor the never-ending tedium of trying to keep multiple huge beds watered and weed-free during long, hot Texas summers, but I put up with that facet because I was so desperately happy to be doing something creative.
John didn't fall in love with gardening. He fell in love with me being a gardener. He adored having a gorgeous view from every window in the house, taking his evening stroll along the pathways while smoking a cigar, visiting the fishies in his pond... But pruning? Weeding? Turning compost? Reading up on a plant to figure out how to keep it happy? Fuhgiddabouddit!
My biggest problem was that we kept moving. I'd spend several years landscaping our yard from scratch, get it just to the point where it was starting to fill in and look good, then we'd get transferred, and I'd have to walk away from it all and start again. That, coupled with encroaching age and arthritis, made it harder and harder to get motivated each time. Then, along came Seasonality - our house here in the Hill Country.
When we decided to buy it, we sold our house in the Houston burbs (the garden pictured here), rented a townhouse closer in, and spent every other weekend in Wimberley. I couldn't begin gardening here yet because I had no way to keep things watered, or protected from critters, between visits. So, for three years I was a woman without a garden, and had to be content with container gardening at the townhouse. I had my work as visual merchandiser to satisfy my creative urges, and since I no longer had to spend every spare moment weeding and watering, I was able to take up writing.
At last I am in the Hill Country full-time, but now I have more creative outlets than I know what to do with! Also, my body took a good bit of abuse during my years of lugging pottery and statues into groupings at the nursery, and I am extremely hesitant to do anything that might land me back in physical therapy, and have me referring to Vicodin as "my best friend". So, here's poor John, tapping his foot and wondering when I'm going to come to my senses and go back to being the gardener he once knew and loved - the one who was willing to unload and schlep an entire truckload of mulch singlehandedly. Well Dear, I have only one thing to say. Fuhgiddabouddit!
But wait! What is this I am seeing out the window? Why, someone just spent their entire weekend schlepping mulch to all our beds, without even being asked, and it wasn't me! By golly, there's hope for us yet!
Thursday, March 5, 2009
There was an article in our paper this week, proclaiming something on the order of "When the going gets tough, shop local!" It had nothing to do with the locavore movement. It was about supporting local businesses in an economic crisis. If you are like me, trying to make the pennies stretch as far as possible, your first thought is probably "Yeah, right - buy all my groceries at the local store, when I can get them in the city for a fraction of the cost." But, after I had time to mull it over a bit, I realized that those "savings" come at a price.
One question we should all be asking is, why is it that those big box stores can afford to sell their products for so much less than our local merchants? If you don't know the answer to this, then you need to watch this great little video, called The Story of Stuff (it deserves an oscar!).
Second, think about what happens when you spend your money in your local community, as opposed to leaving it with Mr. Big Box in the city, or Ms. Dot Com, on-line. You begin to cause those little "ripples" I've mentioned, don't you? As the money passes from one hand to another, it's saving local jobs, feeding local families, keeping local businesses afloat, giving you more local choices and helping to preserve everything unique about your little community - the very things that made you fall in love with it and want to move there.
Third, think about those things that an independent merchant has to offer you, that you just can't get from Big Box and Dot Com. For six years I worked at an unusual, independent garden center in Houston (pictured above). Time and time again I overheard customers telling our salespeople "I can get this same plant at Home Depot for a lot less," and that was true, they could. So why did those very same people keep coming back to shop in our store? Could it have been the excellent service they received there? Maybe they liked knowing that there would always be someone nearby to assist them and answer their questions. Perhaps it was the quality of our product. They had seen all the TLC that our plants received, while the one's at Big Box were pretty much ignored, then tossed in the trash when they started to look too bad (you can afford to do that when you only pay pennies per plant). Maybe they kept coming back because their gardening attempts were more successful when they shopped with us, since they weren't being sold plants that were inappropriate to the season and climate. Personally, I like to think they came to us for inspiration, since that was my job at the nursery. I hope that just wandering our pathways gave them so many ideas that they couldn't wait to get home and get started. How often has that happened to you at Big Box? I also knew of young moms from the neighborhood who took a daily walk around the place with one child in the stroller and another in a tummy pack, and who occasionally baked us cookies as a way of saying thank you. Can you do that at Dot Com? Isn't all this worth a few extra pennies?
Many of you have probably seen tee-shirts and bumper stickers sporting the logo "Keep Austin Weird", but have you ever leaned in close enough to read what's written below? If so, you know that it's actually a reminder to support local businesses, for they are what makes Austin unique. I am quite fond of that logo. I'm even more fond of the one pictured here, on the bumper of my own car, and I'd like to thank whoever wrote that newspaper article this week, for reminding me why I put it there in the first place.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Do you live anywhere in the Texas Hill Country? If so, you need to step outside for a minute, and suck in a big ol' breath. There...can you smell it? A sumptuous scent from your childhood should be filling your nostrils just about now. If you suddenly find yourself with an inexplicable craving for grape bubblegum or Kool-aid, blame it on this guy - Texas Mountain Laurel.
I thought I caught a faint whiff out on the upper porch earlier today, so I went downstairs to check a moment ago. Sure enough, the shrub by the front steps is just dripping with clusters that are about ready to burst. If it already smells this yummy, and the blooms aren't even open, imagine what it will be like in a couple of days! Poor John. It's my turn to spend the weekend with him in Houston, and by the time he gets here the following weekend, it will probably all be over with. So sad...
The amazing thing is, we didn't even plant this booger. They grow wild all over the place, and the drier and rockier it is, the happier they are. So don't you Yankees go feeling sorry for us, just because we can't grow your darn lilacs down here. We've got the Bubblegum Bush, by golly!
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
One good thing about the time I spent in Dallas playing nurse - it gave me lots of time to knit! I finally finished my very first project - this scarf, which I have worn the heck out of - then I went on to making dishcloths. They are a great, practical way to try out some new stitches. Now I am making another scarf, similar to the one above, as a surprise thank-you gift for a friend. Hers is out of a chunky, nubby yarn called Homespun, in yummy shades of chocolate, to match her eyes, with shots of denim blue, coral, turquoise and green, to match all the clothes she wears. Hope she likes it.
By the time I've finished with that, I'm hoping that my exciting find will have arrived from Australia, a pattern for the cutest tea cozy in the world (scroll down past the doll to see it)! I came across it when I started going back through the archives at Eyes of Wonder, before I even knew how to knit. She said a fellow blogger had sent it to her as a gift. Months later, while following a link from someone else, to a wonderfully crafty blog called Little Jenny Wren, it suddenly occurred to me that this was the same Jenny who made that darling cozy for Jewels! So, I sent her an email telling her that she was one of the reasons I learned to knit, and lo and behold, she offered to photocopy the pattern and mail it to me. I am ecstatic!
Last but not least, as I mentioned a while back, I am reverting to my old love of haunting flea markets, thrift stores, and antique shops. Number one on my wish list? Wonderful old knitting needles in a variety of sizes and materials. John and I went to this flea market in Kyle over the weekend. Didn't find anything I needed, but enjoyed the colorful eye-candy nonetheless. Plus, we discovered a great little Mexican cafe for lunch afterwards. On Sunday, after John left, I decided to browse the Goodwill store in San Marcos. What did I find there? An extra copy of the book I gave away yesterday, in perfect condition, for only $2.99! So, even though I didn't manage to pull my daughter's name from the hat, she's still getting a copy in the mail. How's that for synchronicity?
Monday, March 2, 2009
NICKI! (one of my e-mailed entrants) Now, Miss Nicki, if you will send me your mailing address, I will get your prizes in the post, posthaste. And just what is this "life-altering" book that Nicki has won? The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. Along with the book, she will receive a sketchpad, a large spiral notebook for her morning pages (a fancy journal is too intimidating - you feel you have to write something important in it. Since "morning pages" are supposed to be stream-of-consciousness ramblings, an ordinary notebook is best), and a smaller notebook to take with her on her "artist's dates."
So, who is Julia Cameron, and what are her creds? Just what was it that qualified her to teach countless others to unlock the door to their creativity? Well, she was a drunk. A very successful drunk, who'd managed to land an office on the Paramount lot, but who only knew how to write using alcohol as a prop. She told herself "if sobriety meant no creativity I did not want to be sober. Yet I recognized that drinking would kill me and the creativity. I needed to learn to write sober---or else give up writing entirely. Necessity, not virtue, was the beginning of my spirituality. I was forced to find a new creative path...I learned to turn my creativity over to the only god I could believe in, the god of creativity...I learned to get out of the way and let that creative force work through me. I learned to just show up at the page and write down what I heard." She let go of the drama of being a suffering artist, and by resigning as the self-conscious author, she wrote freely.
Julia never planned to be a teacher. She was only angry that she'd never had a teacher herself. Why did she have to learn what she learned the way she learned it: all by trial and error? But, as synchronicity would have it, the universe sent her a fellow blocked writer to work with, and then a painter. She discovered that the tools worked for visual artists, too. Then, before she realized what was happening, she was teaching at the New York Feminist Art Institute. As word of her successful techniques spread, she began sending out packets of materials world-round. Eventually, she put on the page what she had been putting into practice for a decade - a blueprint for do-it-yourself recovery. Each chapter includes essays, exercises, tasks, and a weekly check-in. Much of the "work" is actually quite fun, and should not take you more than one hour per day. "This modest commitment to using the tools can yield tremendous results within the twelve weeks of the course. The same tools, used over a longer period, can alter the trajectory of a lifetime." And it matters not whether you are already a writer or artist who has become blocked, or an ordinary person who wishes they were just the tiniest bit creative. Trust me.