Archive for March, 2005

making our gardens

I had to leave the office and take a walk. Bad news is like a booster rocket. It propels you into space. So I’m walking the streets of Oakland trying to find some balance, some solace. There’s not much. Downtown has its charms and agreeable architecture but the best of it still reeks of the landscape architect’s municipal template. Still, it is better to be outside where the mid-March plane trees wave bare limbs against a cool blue sky.
I walk and think about my life. I try to figure out the ways I might have deceived myself, been blind, erred, and otherwise created the mess I have found myself in. It is not really obvious. But I know in my heart that at the heart of my troubles is my own failure to see or do something I needed to see or do.
I’m back at Frank Ogawa Plaza now, in front of City Hall, a big white wedding cake of Beaux Arts stone frillery. There are newly potted flowers at the foot of the great bronze entry doors. Primroses. Perfectly symmetric dots of carnival color in colorless cement basins. Perfectly hideous, I think, drawn out of my self-musings by the startlingly ugly sight of them.
And at that I knew something. We make our gardens. They do not get made by nature or fate or god but by our own intent. How that comes out isn’t always what we imagined and sometimes isn’t to our liking. Efforts are rewarded–sometimes with true beauty. Sometimes with primroses in cement.

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call of the wild

It’s the scary season here. The weeds are wildly propagating–English daisies, dandylions, and bristly oxtongue. The grass is two feet tall. Chlorophyll manufacture is in high gear. Plant biomass is booming. And this before a single leaf has popped out on the birch, mimosa or scarlet oak trees. The late and abundant rain stopped for a few days and nature is on a roll. The air is dense with the aroma of spring. A whiff of damp earth, a draft of plum blossom, and the pungent undertones of grasses.
In my little patch of native habitat along the sidewalk, the California lilac is fading and the “little apples” of the manzanita are begining to swell from the spent flower clusters. But the eriogonum/wild buckwheat is just putting out new stems and the Sonoma sage is a fragrant gray-green mass with flower spikes of pale lavender. A few orange poppies have popped open along with the freesias–not native, but loving the sunny spot.
Scary and exciting. The Fremontodendron is swelling with bud. And the fledgling California buckeye, still surrounded by its protective tomato cage, has unfurled like a Japanese fan its impossibly chartreuse leaves.
Sunday morning I step out the front door to pick up the paper–and never return. Winter has vanished like a flock of whistling waxwings. The cozy fug of warm blankets and dark mornings swept out the window on an insect-laden breeze. Bees hum. Robins strut. I hang from the top of a ladder with Felcos in hand. I forget the gloves, the hat, the sunscreen in my feverous urge to be in the fray of spring.

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