One of the most common comments people make when they learn I grow cut flowers is, "Your yard must be lovely." This is a myth. My commercial gardens are nothing like show gardens. Yet there are some lovely moments.
These are my garden helpers. They eat bugs, slugs and my veggies. I'm going to have to build an ugly pen around the bean bed to keep them out of the green beans. They ate all my asparagus this year. I don't have bugs in my garden. They also mix poop with their straw bedding, which is wonderful fertilizer for roses, if I can keep hubby from spreading it around the fruit trees.
I need a better camera. This is a red dragon fly sitting on the beak of a heron sculpture by the pond. I was afraid to try to get closer and get a better angle. I've been watching this dragonfly. This is his favorite perch. I may get a better picture yet. It is just cool to see him perched on the heron's beak. The heron sculpture is attractive but it's function was supposed to be to keep the wild blue herons from eating the fish in my pond. The wild blue heron likes the sculpture and rests beside him between snacking in the pond.
This is another heavily scented English rose. Before I sell these, I trim off the spent blooms and tidy up each bud by taking off the guard petals. I take the leaves off to give them better vase life. I also clip the tip off of each thorn. Roses are a little labor intensive, but my heavy scented roses fill the whole garden with fragrance.
Here is a close up of the pink foxglove from the previous picture. I wait until they are two thirds bloomed out before harvesting. The bigger ones will go in wedding or church arrangements. Note in the background you can see my deer fence. It's eight feet tall. We just replaced this section this past winter. Unfortunately deer don't eat foxglove. They do decimate roses and fruit trees.
I grow multiple plants in the same space. This is one of my favorite irises with feverfew. The feverfew volunteers. Iris are tricky as a cut flower because the blooms dissolve as they age. The spent blooms need to be picked off as they wilt. I sell my iris when they have a second bloom ready to replace the first.
My yellow daisies, sunshine, are just coming on. This plant will be a mound of color just before I harvest. It is growing next to Lemon Balm, which I use as a cut green. I also use Lemon Balm in pot pourrii to keep flies and spiders out of the house and greenhouse. Using my pot pourrii, I don't have pests in my greenhouse.
This was taken about six in the morning with the sun peaking through the trees. The soft colors and textures seemed to flow into each other. From here I have a ground cover rose getting ready to bloom. It will be used as a filler. The lime green evergreen is used for foliage year round, especially for Christmas. Going farther back I have a honeysuckle on an arbor and beyond that roses on an arch. The enchanted forest, full of hungry deer, lurks just outside the fence.
Little Orphant Annie
James Whitcomb Riley, 1849 - 1916
Little Orphant Annie’s come to our house to stay,
An’ wash the cups an’ saucers up, an’ brush the crumbs away,
An’ shoo the chickens off the porch, an’ dust the hearth, an’ sweep,
An’ make the fire, an’ bake the bread, an’ earn her board-an’-keep;
An’ all us other childern, when the supper things is done,
We set around the kitchen fire an’ has the mostest fun
A-list’nin’ to the witch-tales ‘at Annie tells about,
An’ the Gobble-uns ‘at gits you
Little Orphant Annie was one of my favorite poems as a child, probably partially because of my child’s horror of being an orphan. My mom assured me that there were no such things as goblins or gobble-uns.
The poem had value in the teaching what is make-believe from what is real. We can play with the things that might frighten us and thus have power over them. We don’t need to be afraid of gobble-uns.
There’s a funny thing about poetry. It’s timeless. Now, some may not like Riley’s rhymes as being unsophisticated. Others may not like the morality of this poem. However, curiously Riley seems to have hit our contemporary messages right on the head whether he meant to or not. The second verse is about a little boy who wouldn’t say his prayers, and he disappeared. The twist to the poem is that this is all make-believe. There are no gobble-uns.
As adults looking at our current political situation, it behooves us to remember, gobble-uns are make believe. Those who don’t say their prayers are not going to be snatched away in the night, never to be seen again. There are no gobble-uns, just people.
People are pretty much the same. We need food, clean water, clean air and shelter. Beyond that we need love. Even those who some consider gobble-uns need these same basic things. We may have different ideas about how to solve problems. We may have different ideas about what our problems really are, but at the end of the day, people are just people, not gobble-uns.
It’s okay to listen to scary stories about what this gobble-un person or that is going to do, but we all need to remember, those scary stories are make-believe. We need need to focus on what is. What really did happen today? The things that are happening are our challenges, not the should’ve, could’ve, might or maybes. As children reading scary stories we learned to distinguish make-believe from reality. As adults we need to exercise those skills when we hear a scary story. Did this really happen? Who caused this to happen? Why? Is it likely to happen again and is this something that I need to take action on?
Remember gobble-uns are only make-believe and people are people.
On Tuesdays, I start harvesting flowers to sell on Thursday. I’d scrubbed out a bright orange plastic bucket and filled it half way with hot water. I found my flower cutting scissors and started wandering the yard searching for green. Most of my plants inside the deer fence were still too tender. I’d have to get salal and huckleberry from the woods.
I call my small woodland The Enchanted Forest. Most days I think that is just a charming name. Other days, I wonder about that forest. Sometimes out of the corner of my eye, I see shadows where they shouldn’t be. I slipped out the side gate and into the woods.
Carrying my bucket on my arm I started cutting a mix of huckleberry and salal. I occasionally found a salmon berry with bright magenta flowers. These I put carefully in my bucket, detesting their sneaky little thorns.
The wind blew cold as I worked my way among the tall evergreens. As it whispered though the treetops, I thought I heard music. Perhaps it was only the wind chimes on eves of the house.
“You, can’t bring that bucket with you here.” I thought my over-active imagination spoke to me.
Maybe it was a trick of the gust of wind that seemed to speak to me. “Let me put it on the bench.”
I closed my eyes against the wind that blew fir needles and cones out of the trees. The wind fell. The ground seemed smooth beneath my feet. I looked down to find myself standing on a wooden deck.
A strange man held out his hand. “Come, we can take the trolley into the city.”
I blinked. Behind me stood a wooden building, painted red with gold and black trim. An open wooden trolley stood on tracks in front of me. Beyond the trolley, I saw a marsh full of reeds, cattails and small willows. Hills rose up beyond the marsh. I felt a bit dizzy and confused. Everything seemed familiar but distant. I took a good look at the man who was holding out his hand to assist me onto the trolley. He seemed personable enough with a light red beard and reddish brown hair. He had dark eyes set in a swarthy complexion. “Do I know you.”
“We’ve seen each other before. We’re neighbors. This is where I live. Come see my town. I guess you’d call it a village, but it’s very beautiful.”
My curiosity and sense of familiarity with the man overcame my sense of disorientation. I stepped onto the trolley and sat on one of the wood slat seats. Glancing at the other passengers, I saw an older woman wrapped in a heavy wool cape with a basket on her lap. Two boys in wool pants and shirts chased each other around brass posts that ran down the middle of the aisle to the back of the car.
The trolley lurched forward. My new friend grabbed the aisle post where he stood and said to the driver, “Take it easy Knute. My lady friend here isn’t used to your wild driving and such speed.”
I looked out the window to hide my smile at this comment. As compared to driving the freeway the swaying trolley seemed tame at maybe ten miles an hour.
We rounded an outcropping of rock and buildings sprung up on both sides of the trolley. I saw bales of hay or straw on a wooden platform with an unpainted wood warehouse behind. We rolled past a couple small vacant buildings, then past a bar. I caught a glimpse of men sitting alone at tables before we passed a building painted white. After a faded blue building and one of red brick we slowed to a stop beside another red station with its gold and black trim. I heard the sound of running water as soon as the screech and rattle of the trolly subsided.
My new friend grabbed my hand. “Come, this is the best stop for us. You’ll have to walk a bit to get to the shops, but you can see more of the town this way.”
I followed my friend off of the trolley and entered the station. “Where does the trolley go from here?”
“Upriver. It’s mostly residential out there.”
We exited the station onto a wide boardwalk between rows of buildings. Peeking through open doors and windows, I saw metal objects I took to be farm equipment in one building and sacks full of something piled in neat rows in another.
“We’re coming to the tanners. Better cover your nose.”
“Huh?” A stench of rot, urine and char assaulted my nose. I pinched my nose closed with my fingers. My eyes stung and watered.
Beside me the man quickened his footsteps and I hurried to keep up. We passed a couple more buildings that appeared to be one story on my right, but glancing down, I could see they backed into a hillside, and I was seeing the second floor with another floor below and the glint of water beyond the first floor.
“River is down there. Those buildings open onto it. Come, we’ll go uphill here.
He led me to a set of wood stairs that climbed the hillside beside a row of unkempt bushes. I felt mist on my face and looked up to see a waterfall cascading down above us. We turned away from the waterfall and climbed stone steps along the face of the hill. Occasionally a building rose up on the downhill side. Soon the buildings grew closer together and had balconies over the stairs. Finally, we passed through a tunnel formed by a building that stood on both sides of our path with skybridge above the path. We turned a corner and stood at the end of a long street lined with both painted and red brick buildings. I saw several pocket parks. Behind me a waterfall tumbled down the face of the cliff in a hundred little cascades. Beside me stood the brick facade of a bank.
“Come, this is mostly offices and commercial buildings on this end of town.”
We walked for another ten minutes before we came to a set of shops with goods set up along the edge of the broad road. The grocery with odd round fruits and leafy vegetables was easily recognizable. I pinched my nose again when we walked past the butcher.
“Don’t you have a scented handkerchief?” My guide asked.
“No. I’ve never owned such a thing.” I wanted to smile at the look of surprise on his face. I chose to explain. “Where I live, we have smelly things, but they’re kept away from where people walk and live. Our meat doesn’t smell because we keep it cold all the time.”
I paused to finger balls of wool in baskets beside the door to what I thought of as a knitting store although it had a big loom in the back.
The people we passed looked much as the passengers on the trolley. They dressed in wool. Some wore long coats. I saw a few capes. Many of the women wore wool shawls.
We paused at a pocket park where another waterfall dropped from a rock overhang above. The falling water had hallowed out a basin under it. The basin was full of clothing. I stood and stared as a woman with her wool skirt kilted up above her knees waded into the pool and pulled at a piece of clothing with a hooked stick. She pulled a pair of wool pants out of the water and spread them over a bush and returned to retrieve another article of clothing from basin.
"Huh, must be the local laundromat.” I blinked several times and surveyed the shrubbery adorned with clothing before my guide urged me forward.
The paved road, or perhaps I should call it a promenade because there were no vehicles here, began to rise again. We crossed a wooden bridge over a stream that tumbled as it rolled and splashed down the side of the hill. From the bridge I could look up and see five waterfalls on the hillside above the town.
The promenade split and we kept to the left climbing steeper up the hill on a switchback. The walk led us behind the waterfall above the stream we’d crossed on the bridge. The promenade opened before us on the far side of the waterfall. Here, the shops were all made from a light granite with seams of quartz running through.
“This is the shop you need.” The man paused outside a door and I entered the shop.
“I quickly restrained myself. The shop was full of lacy things. I wanted to finger them all. I saw a table runner I just had to touch. It felt like silk. A ruffled baby gown hung from clothes pins on a line along the wall.” I suddenly became aware of my own gardening coat and jeans as being out of place among so many beautiful things.
A woman in a wool dress stood beside a table, folding lace tablecloths or maybe they were bedspreads.
“Katrina, the lady needs a handkerchief.” My friend gave the woman a kiss on the cheek. With their heads close together, I guessed these two to be close relatives.
Katrina’s hair had more red in it, but something about her eyes and nose was a feminine version of his. She glanced at me then back to him and raised her eyebrows.
“Just get on with it. She’s our neighbor from the other side.”
Katrina smiled at me and led me to a table covered with handkerchiefs. She had, maybe fifty, small delicate pieces of cloth with lace edges or colored flowers embroidered into the corner.
I fingered them. I thought they must be wool, but wool so fine it felt more like silk or the finest cotton. I gasped as I picked up one edged in lace with little white flowers embroidered in the corner. I turned it over examining the workmanship. This small scrap of cloth was a work of art. I stared, examining each perfect stitch. “This is lovely. I’ve never seen such beautiful stitching.”
Katrina smiled at the man behind me. “Here, I’ll wrap it up.” She took the handkerchief. “I wrap them in paper scented with flowers. Do you prefer rosemary or lavender?”
“Lavender. Don’t you sprinkle the scent right on them?”
“No that would stain them. I scent the paper, wrap the handkerchiefs in it, and they pick up the smell without staining.” She wrapped the handkerchief and handed me the small packet.
“But I don’t have any money with me.” I suddenly became aware of myself again.
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll take care of that.” The man took the packet and put it in my pocket. “We need to get on our way.”
We walked past a few shops then entered what could only be a bakery judging from the smell of baked goods wafting out the door. The man led me through the bakery and out to an open-air terrace dotted with tables and benches for seating.
He pulled out a bench for me to sit. “Enjoy the view. I’ll order.”
Off to one end of the terrace, a waterfall crashed down among rocks, then bounced back up in a mist that covered everything with a sheen of moisture. In front of me the scene opened up over a river valley. I could see for miles in either direction up and down the valley. The river wove in and out among islands of grass and willow. The hills on the far side were blue in the misty air. I stood so I could peer over the edge of the terrace to the roofs of the buildings below me. From above, I saw that the buildings flowed down the hill in rows from one story to the one below. The rows of buildings were punctuated by rows of shrubbery and waterfalls.
The man returned, carrying a tray, biscuits, cups, and a teapot. Behind him two women carrying trays turned toward the table farthest from the waterfall. My eyes followed the bone china cups on their tray. One cup had stripes of flowers in shades of blue and the other rows of green leaves with gold leaf around the edge. I thought the cups were particularly pretty. Our teacups were plain white with small white flowers and silver leaf around the the rim. I didn’t say anything about those cups but glanced suspiciously at the ones on the other table.
Our little lunch distracted me. I hadn’t realized I was hungry. We had something that must be made much like a scone with seeds and berries in it. We had honey for our scones. I would call our tea lavender-spice with honey.
As I sat licking the honey off of my fingers and still eyeing those teacups, an older man leaned out the door to the kitchen. “Omath, the riverboat is coming.”
My friend jumped to his feet. “Come, it’s time to go.” He grabbed the sleeve of my coat and hurried me toward the door.
“Where are we going?”
“You’ll take the riverboat home. It’s the fastest way.” He led me at a brisk trot down stairs, past the wye where we’d turned uphill. We went down a switchback and into a square squat white building with gingerbread trim on the front.
A man behind a counter called to us. “Hurry, the boat’s almost here. It can’t wait long.”
We picked up our pace as we raced down a flight of stairs and out onto a landing beside the water. Looking left, I followed the water to see a two story building drifting toward us. Men on the landing ran toward the riverboat and caught at the ropes tossed from its deck.
Omath led me toward the edge of the landing. “I’ll help you on the boat. Get off at the same trolley stop, go through the station from the river side and that should get you home. I hope you liked my city.”
“It’s beautiful and fascinating, but where is this place we’re at.”
He took a deep breath and let it out. “Almost next door.” He turned and watched the boat glide into place. “Here you go. Watch your step.”
The boat didn’t have a gang plank or anything so fancy. I merely stepped over the crack between the landing and the drifting boat. I looked down and saw inky black water below me. As soon as I was aboard, the boat moved forward again.
A man in a black uniform with silver braid held a door for me. “Sit on this side of the boat. It’s dryer and you can see your trolley stop. I’ll come make sure you get off at the right landing.
Riverboat is a bit of a misnomer for this boat. Carnival ride would be a closer description. I’d just sat down at the open window when the boat dropped straight down. I grabbed one of the bars across the window. The boat surged forward. I saw buildings flash by then the green of shrubbery followed by the mist of a waterfall. The boat slowed and drifted toward another landing.
We’d almost come to a stop. I watched as a group of small children dressed in wool hats and capes surged onto the boat. Each child carried a heavy looking bag over one shoulder. School children, I thought. I watched them scramble for seats on the far side of the boat.
We dropped and surged forward again then slowed. A noise as if we were entering a huge rainstorm drew my attention forward. On my side of the boat I saw us approach a rock wall with ferns growing among the rocks. The boat tipped and water poured over the far side. The children squealed and held out their hands toward the waterfall as we passed under. We drifted toward another landing.
We picked up more people, mostly laborers, I guessed from their worn and patched clothing. I tried to be inconspicuous as I held my nose. The boat dropped and surged forward. By now I guessed the boat was moving through a series of locks. I couldn’t hear the sound of a motor and wondered if the boat had one and how they got it to the top of the hill again.
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed the children grow quiet. I looked at the passing buildings, noting they were growing more rough and farther apart. I tried not to smile as the children began to point and stare at me in my jeans and synthetic coat. I must look quite outlandish to them.
The boat slowed almost to a stand still and I looked for another landing, hoping to see the red and black of my trolley station. The other passengers grew quiet. The uniformed man I’d met earlier leaned over my shoulder. “Best hold on tight to something.”
I looked at the far side of the boat. The children were gripping railings with one hand and their bags with the other. The laborers braced their feet and held onto rails. I took a firm grip on the rail along the window and another across the seat in front of me just as the boat almost stood on its front end. We flew forward with boiling water surging up beside us. A great wave met us when we reached the bottom of the falls. It poured over the boat and ran across the deck. The boat raced forward at a good clip. We were in the main channel of the river now.
Outside my window I recognized the marshy area near the trolley stop. The boat slowed and hung to the starboard bank. The children moaned and glared in my direction.
I looked out the far window. We’d left the main channel and were drifting down a canal. The boat slowed again. I felt as if we were standing still. I watched as my stop drifted toward me. I double checked the hills and marshy area to be sure this was the same station where I arrived. I stood as the station floated closer.
The uniformed man appeared beside me. “I’ll help you Ma’am. Now Omath always goes through the station from this side. That’s important if you want to get home.”
The boat slowed to where I could step ashore. Yellow footsteps painted on the wooden dock led me into the station. I pushed the door open and passed through. I felt the cold wind on my face, and my stomach turned over. The grass was littered with pinecones. I shook my head and wondered why my orange flower bucket was on the bench.
Scowling over having gotten so involved in one of my daydreams, I attacked the salal, cutting it back until I had three dozen stems in my bucket. While I worked, I scolded myself. I’m going to have to pay more attention to the here and now. That fantasy seems so real, it’s almost as if it was an hallucination. It felt good though—so fascinating.
I looked at the clock when I came in. How was it that I’d only been outside ten minutes and cut so much greenery? I felt chilled and my clothes were damp. I think I’ll change into something warm and dry.
I felt the pull of my recent daydream compelling me to examine my china cabinet. Telling myself that a reality check would help dispel the compulsion of the daydream, I approached the glass cabinet. My eyes traveled to the middle shelf. I stared at the empty saucers where my blue flowered saucer sat without it’s matching teacup and beside it the green leaved saucer sat empty. I stood frozen in my place. After a minute or maybe two passed, I forced myself to reach into my pocket. I pulled out a packet of paper and sniffed the lavender smell. I unfolded the paper packaging and examined the exquisite handkerchief. I stared. I could hear inside my head the man saying we’re neighbors. Perhaps so. Neighbors but how and where?
Jane woke up from uneasy dreams with that sense of almost grasping a truth that dissipates with the morning light.
Jane often wondered about her dreams. She had bought dream books to help her analyze them, but found that she never dreamt about bears, or losing her teeth. She dreamt about people she knew, or people she didn't know, but recognized in her dream to be her father, her sister, a long lost love.
Jane felt that reality was not meant to be understood rationally. It was a symbol system, meant to be decoded, to be interpreted. Reality is fundamentally surreal, and the best method to understand your own mind and the intentions you hide from yourself is to analyze your dreams.
People spend their lives learning how to lie to themselves. But dreams cannot lie.
Jane kept a dream journal, in which she wrote the details of her dreams, anything with emotional salience that remained in her mind after waking. On rereading it, she found that she could recall all the details again of what otherwise would have been forgotten, but gained no deeper understanding of her own mind. She felt like a teenager in school, trying to read works of literature that were a bit too deep for her to understand and required a well of experience that she was lacking.
Once a week, she went to Cafe Luna to reread the week's journal entries, and to try to make sense of her thoughts. The journal itself was large and covered in tissue paper in various shades of blue, suggestive of an ocean scene. On it in bold letters she had written “Dream Journal” to distinguish it from her poetry journal.
One morning, likely a Monday, when dreams are all that remain of the weekend, she was perusing it, taking notes of elements that appeared frequently that week: a dog barking, a stuffed orca whale, a sea shell that broke in her hands. A woman passed her by, and, without saying a word, dropped a business card in front of her. The card was glossy and contained a picture of a woman in a diaphanous robe with flowing hair, out in a forest somewhere. Not an actual forest of overgrown brambles and conifers, but an enchanted English forest that looked more like a meadow infested with fairies.
The card said: Madame Olga – Symbologist
The back listed her services, from dream interpretation to marital counseling.
Jane called Madame Olga that day and asked her for help. She made an appointment for Tuesday night, and arrived with her dream journal.
Madame Olga read through it, nodded knowingly, then said, “The trouble with interpreting someone else's dreams is that every individual has an idiosyncratic symbol system. A whale to you means something wholly different than what a whale means to me. To be able to truly decipher the meaning of your dreams, I must first learn your system of symbology.”
“How can you do that?” asked Jane.
“I follow you around, taking notes on your surroundings, on the items and moments that carry emotional weight for you. Then, I apply what I've learned about you to the interpretation of your dreams.”
Jane stood in line at the grocery store. Behind her stood Madame Olga, not buying anything, notebook in hand. Jane looked over the plastic candy tubes, the plastic games wrapped in plastic shells, the glossy magazines touting who had recently had plastic surgery. She sighed. Olga double underlined something in her journal. Jane went to peek, but Olga pulled the notebook close to her chest. Like any good mystic, she had read some popular physics books, and didn't dare add the observer effect to her work.
On the car ride home, Jane got distracted for a second by a horse running along a fence by the side of the road. She realized just in time that the car before her had stopped, and slammed on the brakes. Olga, after clutching her heart, took note.
Back in the kitchen with her groceries, Jane began organizing. She went to put her pasta sauce away only to discover that she already had two in the cupboard. She dumped all her fruit in the fruit bin. She pulled out the greens and vegetables she had bought for salad, but left them out on the counter in favor of a popsicle. She sat down on her rocking chair in front of the bay window overlooking Puget Sound.
In the distance Jane saw a glimmer on the water that she wanted to interpret as a spray. “I always hope to see orcas here,” she said. “But so far I never have.”
After giving Olga ample time to note the view out her window, she headed to the beach. The weather was cool, and it was the perfect time of day to find shells.
The tide was low and the smell of fish and seaweed hung in the air. Jane picked up a rock and skipped it. She went looking for shells with holes in them. There's a certain type of snail that bores a whole in shells, about a centimeter from the edge, making them perfect for tying together and hanging up as decoration. Once Jane had filler her sandcastle-shaped bucket with such shells, she returned home.
Jane spent an hour tying shells together with twine, then hanging them up on her porch. They gave the place a sweet fishy smell that faded with the afternoon breeze.
The next morning Jane headed to Madame Olga's, dream journal in hand. She had faithfully noted every detail she could remember, and used a system of marks that Olga had taught her: a plus sign when she was certain of the accuracy of a description, a minus sign when she was unsure, and a star for bits that were emotionally salient.
Olga offered her coffee and began reading the journal. It read as such:
Standing on the beach with someone. She has the face of a celebrity, but I don't know which one. I feel like I might know her. I approach and it's my sister. She hands me a shell. The shell has a little hole, and she apologizes for it. “I couldn't find a complete one,” she says. I tell her I like them this way, but then the shell breaks in my hand. I apologize to her. She looks distraught. I know I've done something wrong. It's bad to reject or break a gift. She looks away from me and out over the ocean. “There's a whale out there,” she says, but it's only driftwood. We start walking up the beach when a horse comes racing toward us. We jump out of the way just in time. I wake up full of adrenaline.
Jane was disappointed in herself for having such a banal dream.
Madame Olga read it a few times, making some notes.
“You are disappointed in yourself,” she said. “You want to please others. Even when you know their happiness is out of your control, you want to try to make them happy. You fear that the failings of your personality, which everyone has, I'm not calling you a failure, lead to others' unhappiness, and to misfortune. You also feel that your family doesn't know you well. They think you seek perfection, when really you seek comfort.
“And the whales,” added Madame Olga, “are your wishes.”
“But I've never seen a whale,” Jane said.
“Exactly,” said Madame Olga.
Wednesday morning I sat proofing the manuscript for my latest novel, Lucy. At precisely ten eighteen, movement behind me distracted me from my search for errant commas. Oh. Oh. Here comes that cat to get between me and the computer. The movement continued toward the front door. I glanced up over my right shoulder.
I very clearly saw a man-figure wearing a blue plaid shirt heading toward the front door. He had dark curly hair, not quite black, but dark. His general build was what I’d call athletic, well muscled and trim without being bulky. I looked through him to see the front door was closed. I’m dreaming. I thought. My eyes took in his form down to his knees where his legs ended a good thirty inches above the floor. I stared as he drifted through the front door.
Good Lord, I’m hallucinating. Somewhat panicked, I muttered, “Our Father in Heaven, Hallowed be thy…” as I stood up and stumbled toward the the kitchen for water. I fell against the kitchen door jam and paused to rub my shoulder where I hit it. “…Kingdom and power. Forever. Amen.” Okay, what was that? A dream? An hallucination? My writer’s imagination? I turned on the tap and looked at the water coming out. Is there something wrong with our well water? Am I poisoned?
I got a glass and stood with my back to the sink and the window above it as I sipped my water, trying to calm myself. To tell the complete truth, I didn’t want to see if there was anything outside the house. I gripped the edge of the hard countertop behind me, liking the feel of the hard surface. “Okay ground myself.” I spoke the instruction out loud to force myself to gain control over my imagination. “I see the refrigerator, I see the toaster,” I scowled. “I see where someone splashed something dark, possibly wine, down the front of the cupboard.” I grabbed my spray bottle of bleach water and the dish rag from the sink, crossed the room and sprayed down the front of the cabinet, then wiped it clean with the rag, kneeling down to wipe up the few dribbles on the floor.
I stood up again and looked around. I took a deep breath and let it out. I must have half drifted off going over that manuscript for the hundredth time. It was just a dream. Maybe I need a nice cup of tea. I plugged in the electric kettle, and looked around the kitchen again. Still talking to myself, I said, “Okay girl, get your ass back to work. Discipline yourself. You don’t want to tell Suzanne you still aren’t ready for her to proof.”
I settled myself on the sofa, picked up my computer, and set to work. Delete that comma because that’s a phrase behind it.
I heard a bump, then the front door opened. I looked up and my eyes flew open wide. The ends of some very solid looking two by four lumber drifted forward on the blue clad shoulder. The man gave me a lopsided grin as he nodded. His skin was dark. His dark eyes were almost almond shaped above sharp cheek bones. His lower half had disappeared up to his hips. His torso drifted along with his head reaching almost six feet from the floor. His movement looked as if he was walking, but…no feet.
I sat frozen as he came toward me with the lumber on his shoulder.
The wood hit the window beside me with a loud crash and tinkle of breaking glass. I threw myself forward onto the floor and rolled. Looking up from the floor, I watched the man pass through the now-broken window. The lumber still on his shoulder.
Still on the floor, I pulled a sweater off of the chair beside me and covered my head. I curled into a ball and cried, grieving for my lost sanity. I lost all sense of time and place and have no memory of how the day passed.
The light had almost left the room when I heard the sliding glass door open. “I’m home. Honey, are you okay?” I heard something heavy hit the floor as my husband dropped his briefcase. I felt his hand on my shoulder, then the sweater lifted off of my face. “Can you hear me?”
“I don’t know. It could have been a hallucination-a serious one. Maybe I had a stroke.”
He looked over his shoulder toward the window. “How did the window get broken?”
I tried to pull myself into a sitting position with my hand on my husband’s nice solid shoulder. I glanced toward the window. “It’s broken.”
“Yes, it’s broken. I’m calling the paramedics for you.” He ran his hands over my head. “Do you hurt anywhere? Did someone hit you? Do you remember what happened?”
I glanced toward the broken window and shook my head. No way was I telling anybody that a transparent man with no lower half walked through my house.
In due course, the paramedics arrived, helped me from the floor to a chair and wrapped me in a blanket from the sofa. They strapped their monitors on me and talked to each other as they took measurements. “Oxygen ninety-eight percent. BP one twenty over eighty…” Then they began with the questions. “What is your name? Who is president.” I answered the questions correctly, then began with the neurological exam. The police arrived and examined the broken window. I passed the neurological exam. The lead paramedic stood while his partner packed up equipment. “I can’t find anything wrong. I think you were just startled by the window breaking. Could be something about the breaking glass disrupted your inner ear function. I don’t see any need to transport.
The local sheriff finally pulled up his belt and announced, “The window was broken from the inside. We can’t find any object that broke it. My guess is that it wasn’t installed correctly or the house has shifted creating pressure on the window until it blew out.” He knelt beside my chair. “I can understand why that would frighten you. It would scare the hell out of me too.”
“Thank you. The whole thing just happened out of nowhere. I’d dozed off while working. The break just kinda slid into my dream, and I was afraid I’d been hallucinating. It feels really good to have other people assure me the window is really broken and there is a rational, scientific reason for it to break.”
The officer patted my hand. “I understand. Are you going to be okay now?”
I nodded and forced a little laugh. “I feel much better knowing that it wasn’t my imagination. The dream seemed so real and mundane, just someone walking around with lumber over his shoulder, then the window kinda exploded.”
The officer patted my hand and stood.
My husband handed me some hot soup. “Eat this. Your blood sugar may be low. That’s probably why you thought you hallucinated.”
Saturday morning I sat in my favorite spot by the newly repaired window. I pulled my computer into my lap. My husband opened the front door and came inside. “Do you have any idea what happened to some of those two by fours for the new fence? I’ve counted them twice, and I’m missing six.”
The most common comment I hear about my flower business is that my gardens must be beautiful. They are, in a way that others may not expect. Floating row cover over seedlings isn't particularly pretty. Bare stems where I've harvested are boring. Still, some things are lovely and serendipity often produces stunning vignettes.
This is Clematis Montana. It likes to sprawl and eat buildings. It's most common pest is men with pruners. On a good year this clematis hangs down over the pergola forming a fantastic curtain of pink along the edge of the patio. Sadly, it suffered a bad attack of man-with-pruners year before last and hasn't recovered to its full glory.
Volunteers have move into our woodland garden. These small white flowers are slowly spreading. I have no idea where they came from or what they are. They form small clumps under the trees. The deer don't eat them. They're pretty. I haven't had to spend any energy on them. Sounds like the perfect combo to me.
My herb garden. I keep promising to pay attention to this bed that has been taken over by the sweet bay, at the back of the photo, trailing blackberry, fern and rosemary. The rosemary keeps getting cut back for arrangements and has grown into a bit of an odd shaped plant. We use a chainsaw to try to control the bay. I sell tons of the bay as a green and give it away as a culinary herb. It just bloomed with small yellow flowers that have turned mostly brown. The birds will love the trailing blackberry just before the berries get ripe enough for people.
I am the representative payee for my former foster daughter, who is now in her mid forties. She was born with multiple disabilities, so she is on Social Security, and she receives Section 8 housing support. Years ago, she was in low income housing, but the manager kept walking into her apartment unannounced. Once he walked in on her when she’d just gotten out of the bath and was naked. Several times he came in before she was up in the morning. We moved her to another apartment.
The new apartment worked until new neighbors moved in and harassed her and complained to the management because they had to walk past her apartment to get to their stairs and sometimes she sat on her porch. They complained because she put a blanket on the lawn and lay there to read. Okay, we moved her to a house we were renovating.
Eight years ago we moved her into an apartment building we owned. About four years ago we sold our interest in the building. After we sold the building, she started telling us how her unit needed repairs because it didn’t pass its Section 8 inspection. We would thank God that we sold the building and watch to see that the repairs were made.
I pay the rent quarterly so it is always paid in advance. A couple years ago the rent was raised and nobody told me. I thought I got the problem solved, but was still confused about how the amount they told me I owed equaled the raise in rent. I thought we still had a credit balance from when we paid a deposit for her to have a dog, and the dog didn’t work out.
Once, I took the rent check in three weeks early and was told in no uncertain terms, “Well this will have to be marked as past due.”
I answered, “This is her third quarter rent. The third quarter doesn’t start for three weeks yet.”
Several other tenants were standing around and heard this exchange. They made a big deal over the transaction-making jokes about the third quarter. The manager conceded that the rent wasn’t late.
Several months ago the carpet started getting wet. After several walk-throughs, maintenance came in, extracted the water, and pronounced the carpet dry. I’m glad they told Jamie the carpet was dry because she wouldn’t have figured that out from her own inspection.
A couple weeks ago, she complained to me about the carpet being wet again. I told her to call maintenance. She said they agreed to come in. I expected the Section 8 inspectors to be out within a week for their annual inspection which was a little overdue.
This brings us up to the weekend when another former foster daughter’s daughter got married out of town. We got Jamie a hotel room next to ours, and we had a lovely time at the wedding.
After being gone for 24 hours, we returned Jamie to her home, and I went up to the apartment to be sure everything was acceptable for her part of the Section 8 inspection. I walked into the apartment wearing my dress-shoes and long dress. Water in the carpet splashed on my legs, and hem, and soaked my good shoes.
This was Saturday night and Jamie was tired, she said she could step over the puddle, and she just wanted to fix dinner and go to bed. I let her stay there. The next day, maintenance walked through and said they’d do something about it Monday.
By Tuesday nothing had been done and Jamie wasn’t feeling well. The floor was spongy wet the whole length of the apartment. I called her renter’s insurance company, and they agreed to set her up in a hotel. I called our contractor to look at the problem. By the time our contractor got there, the floor was damp but not spongey wet. The insurance company called the apartment manager, and she told them nothing was wrong with the apartment and that Jamie had just slopped water on the floor because she shakes.
So the insurance company wasn’t happy with me and refused to pay the hotel bill and the floor in the apartment was still wet despite the fact that Jamie wasn’t staying there. The management manager shrugged and said there are no leaky pipes in her unit, but she can have a unit on the second floor while they find out what is wrong with this unit.
I started talking to the housing authority. We have to terminate our lease on the first floor to get the unit on the second floor. Fine. Now, that the housing authority is involved, the manager says, “Oh I was going to tell you. You have a $2,000 credit balance, because there was a billing error.”
We started the paperwork for making the move, which involved an initiation of terminating her lease. Can she now move into the apartment upstairs? No. They’ve agreed to terminate her lease, but not sign a new lease and any complaints we make about the unit being unlivable are because she spilled water. As the situation stands, the rent is paid through June 30. The apartment owner has a $2000 of her money and no obligation to provide her with housing. The apartment manager won’t return the $2000 because she says Jamie was the one to break the lease.
The local housing authority that was supposed to have inspected the first apartment weeks ago told me they didn’t inspect because they are underfunded and don’t have the staff to inspect every unit every year..
Folks, there are three sane people with master’s degrees working to keep Jamie in an apartment, and we got duped, thinking people were telling us the truth. We trusted the housing authority, which is probably under pressure to reduce their case load so they didn’t do inspections. Now, after telling us to get a signed termination notice and they would give us a same day appointment, they are not returning calls. We trusted the apartment manager to tell the truth about letting Jamie rent the second floor apartment.
The inability of the housing authority to do its job is what the majority of the people in this country voted for. This level of duplicity from the apartment management is what has become the norm, profits before people.
This is why people who can’t defend themselves become homeless and are judged as having made poor life choices. It isn’t the tenant. Our daughter doesn't have any choices. Currently, she is sofa surfing because we don’t have an empty bedroom for her.
I find a certain irony in Steven Hawking’s death at this time. I enjoyed his books and am sad that he will not be writing more. He opened up vast universes of possibilities for us to explore. He explained complicated ideas in a manner that made them clear to lesser minds. He was a great scientist and other scientists will miss his insight and contributions to our understanding of creation.
Much of the world will not have a clue who he was or what he did. He was a great scientist, and scientists are not particularly respected in our world. Measurement, data based decision making, and scientific knowledge are not popular right now. They have retreated into the halls of academia, perhaps even locking themselves in the janitor’s closet to avoid attacks from the outside world. In a reality that is focused on how to extract the most money out of our resources, scientific discovery becomes worthless when it doesn’t yield immediate lucrative results. Who wants data when desire, fantasy and prejudice are more economically productive?
The demise of respect for scientific measurement has produced a fantasy world in which it is impossible to learn the truth. People seem to have forgotten how and where to find truth and this shifting reality permeates our interactions daily.
I recently entered two business situations where the truth was clearly available, but nobody bothered to measure. Our neighbor to the east decided to sell a piece of property. The driveway for that property lies on the south border of our property but it isn’t developed. The owners arrived in my yard with workers and their real estate agent and blocked my driveway. I went out and pointed out where they could park and where the boundary lines are. That did no good. They continued to walk through my property, tromp on flowers and drove their vehicles through my flowerbed. They dumped litter on my walking path. When confronted they insisted that they had not encroached because they owned twenty-feet on my side of the other neighbor’s fence. At this time they were about forty feet from the fence in question. The flowerbed they used as a driveway is forty-six feet from the fence they claim as a boundary. They never bothered to measure. They felt that they were on their own property and they were right-end of discussion. They got snooty with me and left in a huff.
The second problem I came up against is a Shrodinger’s Cat problem. All possibilities are equal until measured. Nobody seems inclined to measure. I ordered new kitchen countertops. I signed a contract and the representative from the company came and measured, then he disappeared. After three weeks I called to see if I could get a date for when the countertops could be installed. At that time, the representative told me:
“The material you selected was a limited offer that is no longer produced and we don’t have it in the warehouse.” Since I couldn’t get the material I ordered I cancelled my order.
Next, I was told they did, in fact, have the material in their warehouse.
Next, The material was not in the warehouse and not available.
After that, I learned that the material is in California but cannot be shipped.
Finally, maybe the material could be shipped from California but nobody knows when.
Perhaps one of the above statements is true. They can’t all be true. If someone bothered to look, they might find the material in the warehouse. I bet the manufacturer in California could give them a shipping date, if they bothered to ask.
I’m doing business with people who have lost the ability to use observation and measurement to determine their relationship to our space and time. Perhaps this is some evolutionary adaption to living in a quantum world, but even in quantum physics measurement is possible and necessary. Simple scientific measurement is necessary for the community to work, yet it does not occur to people to measure and observe. We will miss you Steven Hawking. We will miss you scientific observation.
Being a social scientist, I'm fascinated with Archeology. Being a fan of Indiana Jones added fuel to my interests. I've visited many old sites in England. You can hardly avoid them in England. I've been looking for old sites in North America so was delighted to visit Casa Grande.
We haven't preserved many of our pre-Columbian sites in North America and our climate combined with native building materials have worked to destroy much of what was here before Columbus. However, enough is left at Casa Grande to give an idea of how people lived here during what was called the Middle-Ages in Europe.
Casa Grande in Arizona, about an hour south-east of Phoenix, is well worth a visit. The site was abandoned by the native peoples around 1400 as they moved onto farms outside the village, dispersing as far west as California.
This village was surrounded by a seven food wall surrounding the homes, gardens and civic center. Archeologists say the wall was most likely not for protection against other people. They didn't find signs of war in the area. I'm inclined to think the wall was erected to keep out the rattlesnakes and perhaps provide some shade. It would be hard to grow squash, corn and beans in the relentless Sonoran sun. Most modern gardeners agree that getting down on the ground and digging out rocks in rattlesnake country is creepy. My Arizona friends build walls around their gardens, maybe the old people did too.
This is the back wall of the main building. That is my hubby in the red shirt. In the upper right of the picture there is a square hole near the top of the building and if you look closely you can see another square hole in the upper left. These are calendar holes. One captures the summer solstice and the other captures the full moon on an 18 year cycle. Nobody knows why these people built the moon calendar the way they did. Maybe they just wanted a window in their building.
More of the village looking west. We saw some of the outer wall from the highway. At the point where we could see it, it was about 200 yards from the outer edge of the village. In other places it was much farther. Our docent assured us that the wall was out there but too far to see from the village.
Inside the museum at Casa Grande we saw some ancient tools and some huge pots that had survived the elements by being buried in the ground. We saw one of the balls they use in games. It was a rock covered with a latex type substance. The museum had a map showing all the known pre-Columbian ball fields in the Phoenix area. They had more ball fields near Phoenix before Columbus arrived in the Americas than they do now. Judging by what the early explorers found, the teams played against other teams.
While Hubby was excited about the ball games, I was fascinated with the farming and irrigation systems. These communities had elaborate irrigation systems. The main canals were 20 feet wide and 20 feet deep, There were over 200 miles of these canals serving the peoples in the Casa Grande area. The canals started in the mountains, diverting water from the Gila River and the Salt River, which flows through Phoenix.
When I was in high school, I learned a valuable lesson about leadership. The leaders in any community are those who do the actual work of meeting the basic needs of the community-promoting social justice, promoting the health and well being of the community, and facilitating peaceful interactions with other communities. I watched my high school class as the popular kids got elected to class offices, and then I saw my friends organizing the senior events, planning the pep rallies, participating in student exchanges and taking the leadership role in being welcoming. The leaders we elected did little more than snub those doing the work.
The same pattern has held true in the workplace, church, social clubs and community planning. There are those who enjoy attending meetings, making rules for others to follow and generally strutting about, but they may not be the ones who make the phone calls, organize the fund raiser, spend hours listening, and come up with the creative solutions to road blocks. In fact, those who prefer to get things done are often inclined to think meetings are a huge waste of time and more can be done with a few emails.
In Sociology classes my observation was validated as we studied research on how groups actually function as compared to how they are described as functioning. I still have my Sociology 101 book because it was such a great cure for insomnia. Over the years I have come to respect that boring volume for it’s meticulous documentation of how the stated goals of the official leadership come into conflict with the unstated goals of the rest of the community. In this case, they talked about the employers’ needs for productivity as compared to the workers’ needs for job security, companionship, and health and safety. The goal in many of my sociology classes was in how to identify and work with the real leadership in any community. Basically, those who provide social services and promote social justice are the true leaders.
On a national scale, we’ve seen this pattern of secondary leadership structures developing to fill in the gaps where the acknowledged power structure fails. The black church historically has been more likely to provide social services to their community than the state government. Gangs as much as we are horrified by the very word, are more into meeting the basic needs of their members for food housing and companionship than our official government. Terrorist cells fill in the vacuum left when the official government fails to meet the needs of the community. Unfortunately, these alternate governments are not always benign to the surrounding community. On the other hand, some alternate governments like the little old lady who started making sack lunches for students who don’t have lunches are beneficial to the whole community, while being an example for others to follow.
So, what can we expect as our official government cuts back their role in providing social services and refuses to act to enforce minimum standards of social justice and safety for communities? We can expect more participation in cults, stronger gang affiliations, domestic terrorist cells. This may not sound nice but people will do what they have to do to meet their basic needs.
As responsible citizens, what can we do? Step one is to admit that the official government has abdicated their role in providing an environment where the basic needs of individuals are met. Next, look for the people with the ideas. Look for the helpers-the people who are unloading the truck for the food-bank. Who is giving food to the food bank? Who provides medical services? Who offers words of encouragement? It doesn’t really matter why or how our official government removed itself from the social services/social justice arena. Our job is to survive by identifying who is doing the work of holding society together and give them our support.
Delinda McCann is a social psychologist, author, avid organic gardener and amateur musician.