Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Green and Lively Maryland

old and young feet

We've been living in the Maryland countryside for two weeks now, and only today did I have enough time to start a post here, time to even think of writing more than a shopping list.

We're taking care of four grandchildren while Pearl and Nate are abroad. They are energetic and happy-family-robust kids between the ages of  eight and fifteen, who should help me stay young if they didn't make me feel so old and tired by comparison.

The heat and humidity are enervating as well, though today when I was driving (alone, for the first time) a road that curves along under tall leafed-out trees and with lush bushes and vines on the borders, I was able to contemplate the agricultural resources of heat and humidity and summer rains. I stopped along the way at one of the numerous produce stands to buy big peaches and some squash, and drove into the driveway past the neighbors' hibiscus with dinner-plate blooms.

a Natchez berry
Last week in preparation for Mr. Glad's birthday we all went to the berry farm to pick giant thornless blackberries in stark contrast to the little wild things we usually have to pick for hours to make a couple of pies. We had more than enough berries in about twenty minutes, but it didn't feel right to us, to pay with so little time, so we picked some more, and ended up with more than enough for three big pies that I spent most of the next day baking.

Mr. Glad fell in love with a German striped tomato at the farm store, so we brought it home for the dinner.

It filled two bowls and served the whole family deliciously.

That day Aunt Kate and Uncle Soldier came to celebrate with us, and their youthful energy was very welcome. Some of that energy went into making sushi for the birthday guy.

Lots of things are different here in the East from what we see on the West coast. A groundhog wandered across the lawn yesterday, a huge creature that we had only seen in "Groundhog Day." And Mr. Glad found a large butterfly that was new to us. Fireflies and cicadas liven up the back yard in the evenings, when the temperature drops a little and we can actually stand to be outside with them.

Neither of us had been on the sort of Atlantic beach where people play and swim in the summertime, so we made the effort of a long drive to Fenwick Island State Park in Delaware and the grandchildren loved it. It had been a while since their last experience of the ocean and some of them had listened to many scary jellyfish stories in the meantime. The lifeguard told us that those unpleasant creatures aren't a problem until the ocean water has been warm for a few weeks, usually not until mid-August.

We also loved being able to really relax in the warmth of the sand and sun -- nothing like our local beaches back home. We wished we had more time for playing in the waves and watching the exuberant and laughing body-surfers we had brought with us.

The children are off in four different directions today, one of them with his grandpa down in Washington, DC checking out the sights there. It's the first day I have had time alone other than a few minutes before falling asleep at night, and it's been the most healthful thing. I feel like an olive tree that's been getting a little too much fertilizer for about two weeks, and suddenly has a day with just water and sunlight. I may be old for a tomato, but olive trees live on and on.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sorting lentils and words and....

A Woman Cleaning Lentils

A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a lentil, a stone.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black. A stone.
A lentil, a lentil, a stone, a lentil, a lentil, a word.
Suddenly a word. A lentil.
A lentil, a word, a word next to another word. A sentence.
A word, a word, a word, a nonsense speech.
Then an old song.
Then an old dream.
A life, another life, a hard life. A lentil. A life.
An easy life. A hard life, Why easy? Why hard?
Lives next to each other. A life. A word. A lentil.
A green one, a black one, a green one, a black one, pain.
A green song, a green lentil, a black one, a stone.
A lentil, a stone, a stone, a lentil.  

— Zahrad

I found this provocative poem on this blog post, and have been keeping it in the back of my mind until today when I read a comment by Celeste on this blog post, about her own need to "re-sort."

The household and garden chores that I pile up around me every day, the practical love for husband and children and grandchildren, the worship of God in His Church such as I enjoyed this morning, the good books and blogs I read, the writing I am compelled to do -- they all seem to be represented and connected for me in the images of these lines.

Here I am, once again in the middle of trying-not-to-be-frantic trip preparations, but God gave me an extra hour this afternoon, which meant I could eat some leftover frittata and read a comment on a blog, and look what happened! More sorting of thoughts and realities, with the unspoken urge to order my affections aright and find His peace and strength for the next few hours and days.

Suddenly a word. 

A life.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Grandma didn't make pesto.

My grandma of renown was no slacker, and she was the person who taught me by example how to prepare for a trip. When my sisters and I stayed with her in summertime, we usually went with Grandma and Grandpa on a week's outing to a cabin or camp in the mountains.

Everything was ship-shape on the home front when we drove off early enough in the morning to have breakfast at the Tracy Inn on the way. There was not a speck of dust on the furniture, and the beds had been made up with fresh sheets as soon as we were out of them. Certainly Grandma would have made sure that Grandpa deadheaded his prizewinning flowers.

Liam, whom I'll see tomorrow!
But Grandma would never have thought to drive down the state to visit one grandchild for a few nights, and then turn around to fly across the country the very next week to sojourn with a passel of other grandchildren for more than two weeks. The way I am doing. I have to keep reminding myself that in a myriad of ways I am not Grandma.

I am blessed to the point of unbelief having so many grandchildren, and Grandma only had a few of us whom she saw twice a year. Grandma didn't do the gardening, and she didn't write any blog posts, though I daresay the wonderful letters she wrote are worth more per hour invested than what I put out.

If there had been basil growing in the back yard, I know she would have arranged things so that the pesto was made at least a couple of days before departure, giving her time to sweep and mop the kitchen and get to bed at a reasonable hour the night before. She wouldn't be complaining, because she liked traveling and had Everything Under Control.

Not me. I have mostly been whining about everything, including the reality of all the work undone and how I hate leaving home. I was standing at the sink this afternoon whimpering as I pulled leaves off stems, when it hit me that making pesto is one of my most favorite things to do. How wonderful is it that I have a garden that grows basil, from which a woman can create one of the wonders of the culinary world?

And the people in my life -- oh, my! Preparing for and going on trips with my grandma was one of the happiest activities of my childhood. She was so good to provide that for us. Hugging and holding my children and grandchildren is necessary food for the maintenance of cup-running-over happiness. Right now I don't really care if the floor is still dirty and the bed unmade (and a hundred other negatives I won't waste time listing even to myself) when I drive off tomorrow morning. What do you know -- I'm not Grandma!

If Grandma had been washing basil and found a Japanese beetle in the sink, she'd have said, "Tch, tch!" with disgust, but I saw it as a photo opportunity. I could feel this way because this summer I'm not growing green beans. Japanese beetles have ravaged many a crop of green beans here, and in the past I developed a quickness in squishing them between my fingers.

Grandma would not have written a letter or recipe or anything the night before a trip. But writing is also one of my favorite things to do. So here I am.

I see that I blogged about pesto three years ago without giving my recipe, so I will put it up this time:


3 cups packed basil leaves
2 large cloves garlic
1/3 cup pine nuts or walnuts 
1/3 to 1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Mix in the food processor, adding the oil and cheese at the last. Add more salt if you like, or more oil if you need it to be runnier. I've had this keep for weeks in the fridge, and years in the freezer, and still be flavorful.

It's probably easy to guess what is another favorite activity I will indulge in before the sun goes down: gardening. I need to spread some manure around where I thinned the perennials yesterday. Maybe I will run out of energy to clean up all the basil-tinged oil smeared around the kitchen before I fall into bed, but it's very comforting to have a few little tubs of that tasty stuff in the freezer when we haven't even got to August.

Grandma wouldn't understand my style of housekeeping, but she would love me anyway.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

flower surprise

I've had this cactus or succulent growing in the same pot as the red sedum for years, but this is the first time it has sent up a shoot on which to grow a starry flower.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Busy as Bees

Bumblebee on Hot Lips salvia

Tonight at dusk when I was sprinkling the basil through the hose nozzle, I saw a couple of bumblebees frantically getting their last drops of nectar from the Hot Lips salvia bush. It was really hard to get a picture of this one because he was in such a hurry floating and buzzing from one bloom to the next.

Pippin was sitting on the swing with me this week and she noticed as I had, that the honeybees favor the lavender, while the big black bumbles stick to the salvia. Or maybe it is that there are so many honeybees that they get first pick of the bushes, and the few bumblebees segregate to whatever is left over.

The honeybees like the lambs ears, too. I am thrilled to have so many bushes near my swing where I can see hardworking creatures fulfilling their purposes. I put this one in the shadow of my head to get a good shot.

Two lavenders and Hot Lips
Mr. Glad and I have been as busy as bees ourselves. For four days we took care of little Scout again; he keeps us running up and down the stairs and all over the garden, and sometimes we take walks through the neighborhood along the bike path. I showed him the wild fennel and how the young shoots especially are tender for munching and taste like licorice.

wild fennel and blackberry bloom

He's a quite friendly fellow, and as we were standing on the side of the path nibbling our greens he was lucky to see some people walking a dog. He held up the fennel frond and called to them, "We're having a picnic!"  It's only been about three weeks since I was dreaming about picnics I might make happen Someday. That fennel picnic happened with so little effort and no planning at all.

PomPom was just writing about picnics this week and pointed out that our Lord's feeding of the 5,000 was a blessed picnic indeed. I'm pleased to see that my grandson has a good start on appreciating how substantial are the little things God has growing along the path of life.

Last week I was buzzing with joy, flying down the state a ways to greet the new grandson "Liam." A couple of days after that, Mr. Glad and I went to a Giants baseball game, which is pretty much an all-day commitment. It was fun to see our team beat L.A.

Then there were the several days with Scout and his mama. And no sooner had they departed for home than we were sent on three errands of mercy in one day. My mister had to drive a distance for the last one of these and isn't home yet.

Back in April in the Prologue of Ohrid I noticed a couple of references to saints whom St. Nikolai compared to honeybees flying about carrying honey, or laboring diligently at the work for which they were created. Just watching the bees as I rest on my swing makes me happy, and the sight of them reminds me that after a short break I need to be up and at my work again.

I'd like to be more like the honeybees. When the last bumblebee was anxiously trying to get more salvia nectar, all the honeybees had gone from the lavender. They knew enough to give up for the day and go to bed. And so shall I.