Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Language of Plants

(Solomon's Seal- Clearly an appreciation for Judaism even in the garden.)

It's been raining the last few days, so I haven't had a chance to get out and take a photograph of the progress. Chris made headway with an uplifting (literally) set of stairs that encircle a willowy crepe myrtle.

I did run out and get some plants for the patio, including: Solomon's Seal, Japanese Painted Fern, Autumn Fern, Coral Bells, and hardy begonia. For outside of the patio, a few azaleas, white ones in particular that remind me of the bush that create outside my bedroom window as a girl. We'll see how they take to our little space. I need to get some humus to enrich and lighten the heavy clay soil. If only I were born with a green thumb, this wouldn't be Chinese.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Afterglow of a Patio

(Hardly hopscotch, more like a game of chess.)

It's funny to think about, but I lived in a space the size of this 500 sf patio in London. I was 23 and things like lumpy beds, shared kitchens, and cubbyhole-sized bathrooms did not phase me. I was too busy reading Oscar Wilde, feeling so glamorous in his words that I never noticed the shabbiness around me.

Five hundred square feet is a lot of space to fill with stone though. In this case, we hauled stone, shoveled dirt, and set stones with the help of three friends over the course of a weekend. Then on Sunday, when our shaky arms and legs could take no more, we declared the patio part of the project complete. It happened fast.

As I hunched over the earth collecting small stones to fill the gaps between larger ones, a rush of warmth, the kind I'd feel when my sister would brush my hair, came over me. On this very ground, all our closest friends and family would be gathering to celebrate our partnership.

I also thought, too, of the patio that inspired the patio I was standing on. The other I never had the opportunity to experience completed. When I left, it was only partially finished, surrounded with summer blooms and long grasses. It became a quiet metaphor for unrequited love and left a heavy mark on my heart and aspirations. I moved on, but still I dreamed of that patio.

Whether it is a job in a museum (got it) or bookstore (got it) or a piece of chocolate (got it many times over), my heart gets what it wants. I've always believed this and I believe it now even more than ever. It's the same with the patio, and although it took a little inspiration and cajoling on my part, Chris and I can stand on it at the end of the day and commend our work together.

Oddly, I have never addressed the patio space in the course of BPFASH, and I believe some background information on their history would be helpful. However, for now, I'm still soaking in the aftermath of completing something we set out to do, and recovering -- I'll admit -- from it.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Gift For You, Dear Reader

Sadly, I put all of my poetry collection in a place only accessible with a chair. Perhaps, a most egregious error.

Fall always makes me think of Jack Gilbert and his earth-scented poems that recall the past. He often writes to his wife Michiko, who is now dead; but in particular, it is his poems about partnership, the kind driven by romance, that I adore.

So here, for a Thursday in fall is his poem, "The Great Fires":

The Great Fires

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its special odor
so we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

Jack Gilbert

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

New Paths on Old Property

We retraced our steps from last summer, only this time there are less weeds and more dog paths twisting around the trees. (And there are more holes thanks to a pretty lemon beagle that likes to dig.) I spent the morning picking flag and stack stone to begin the first phase of the landscaping project. We decided on a mix of gray and brown to pick up the natural granite on the property and the red Georgia clay.

We want to create a few terraces throughout the property and envision our nuptials in the backmost part of the lot, in a grove that forms an almost perfect rectangle. I think we'll mulch the area just for the wedding, but that's a way off. We spent all afternoon a few months ago mulching the front lawn, and I ended up with blistered hands and a bright red sunburn. Trenching for the patio begins this weekend. I'll be wearing gloves.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Never the ____________, Always the ____________

(The enchanted forest when men were boys.)

On more than one occasion I have said that if women spent as much time setting and achieving personal goals as we did planning our weddings, we'd be a lot happier. So here I am, planning a wedding, and of course there's a twist.

The short version of how we find ourselves here: A few weeks ago Chris took me to a favorite spot of ours - the enchanted bamboo forest - and he got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. He dug up a split of champagne after I produced the requisite "yes" and we toasted to climbing the next plateau - because relationships are really less like a mountain and more an intense incline that levels for a while until the hike up. Being unapologetically sappy, it was dreamy and perfect. In our jeans, walking our dogs, taking a few minutes to salute our friendship.

We have been enjoying being engaged for the moment, but I couldn't help but think how and were we would say "I do" when it finally dawned on me that we must do it at home, and in our back yard, in particular. How quaint, you are thinking, but how practical, I was thinking. Instead of dumping all our resources and energy into a space I have little connection to - there are, after all, few places where we could be feasibly publicly marry that move me - why not prepare the house for our nuptials and invite all our friends to christen the new chapter of our lives together.

There's something else. According to a 1985 study entitled "Materialism in the Home: The Impact of Artifacts on Dyadic Communication", the objects in our home, e.g. the furniture and its arrangement, pictures we hang, plants we display, etc. are "messages about ourselves that we want to convey back to ourselves, and to the few intimates that we invite into our house." Identity, the study highlights, is "achieved through artifacts." But what about the abstract, say a wedding. The study identified the artifacts as being either historical, ancestral, fraternal, or developmental. A wedding would be all these things. Could a wedding become artifact?

The philosopher Marx W. Wartofsky would say yes. He distinguished a handful of types of artifacts, among them secondary artifacts, which is essentially a representation of actions embodied in socially shared practices. Heady, I know, but this view reinforces - and maybe reassures me - that the location is perfect. So join me as I explore our home in the context of of an impending marriage. It just might get messy...with dirt, of course.