Friday, March 5, 2010

Thirty Things We Love About Our Daughter

March 4, 1980 Katherine Ruth Gentry arrived on the scene and in our hearts. Life as we knew it before that date was forever changed!

  1. You were born – we could just stop there, as it pretty much says it all.
  2. You were born on your maternal grandmother’s birthday –providing the perfect gift for years to come.
  3. You are kind and thoughtful.
  4. You still take trips with us.
  5. You have a great dog.
  6. You continue to play in an orchestra and invite your mother to come to your concerts.
  7. You married Micaiah.
  8. You are “coming home” to the PNW in July.
  9. You know how to handle a fly rod.
  10. You can keep a secret – unless it is something about your dad that you think your mom ought to know!
  11. You only wrecked one car.
  12. You like to go fishing “for a very long time.”
  13. You can play good basket ball defense on the home court.
  14. You can climb 5.7.
  15. You are a good scuba diver, who dives deep and doesn’t use much air or need much weight.
  16. You eat everything – except tree nuts.
  17. You never whine – and don’t cut any slack to folks who do.
  18. You were number one in your high school graduating class and Phi Beta Kappa at Haverford and we are humbled to be in your gene pool.
  19. You started skiing before you were two and still enjoy it.
  20. You’ve only had one temper tantrum “of record.”
  21. You didn’t turn us in to CPS for not taking you to Disney Land.
  22. You got engaged at the cabin.
  23. You and Fr. George still play “Home on the Range” for gramps.
  24. You always carry your share on back packing trips.
  25. You like to ride your bike to work.
  26. You are tough, beautiful, and funny.
  27. You’re not afraid to be wrong or ask a question.
  28. You are a good Candy Land player but not so hot at Monopoly. (An attribute from my perspective!mom)
  29. You’re unflappable and the person everyone looks to when things go sideways.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

The Sentimental Gardener

Generally speaking, I like to think that most of the decisions I make in life are somehow grounded in reason. At least I give lip service to that notion. Nonetheless, despite a full shelf of gardening books and a devotion to articles and radio talk shows dealing with all things related to the garden, when it comes to choosing plants, I am a sucker for anything that I was introduced to as a child.

This time of year when I am poking around in my perennial bed my mind drifts back to the garden I grew up in. Columbine, bearded iris, Shasta daisies grew in profusion in a large bed, against a backdrop of bridal wreath. In May lilacs were the crown jewels of both the front and back yards – white, pink, purple and of course, lilac in hue, they were lush and fragrant. Lilies of the Valley carpeted their feet and bleeding hearts created a petticoat in between.

By early July, oriental poppies, orange and pink with inky black centers flourished in front of a thicket of sapphire globe thistles. I kept my distance from both of these as the poppies left tell tale spots on fingers and clothing and the thistles were prickly to the touch. Fragrant Snowball Viburnum, weigela, flowering almond provided a fragrant and varied hedge, separating the yard from the sheep pasture. Climbing roses mixed in with clematis wound their way up trellises located on either side of the front door and strategically placed by windows around the house.

A hedge row of peonies lined our driveway – a few double ruffle pink plants were mixed in with the predominately red and white stalwart varieties. A few were fragrant and I learned early on to check before I thrust my nose into the center of the blossom as more often than not a bee had beat me to the perfume. Peonies, lilacs, and bridal wreath, clematis, bleeding heart, and iris – these are the plants that I crave for my garden, irrespective of their suitability to my clay soil, wet winters, and predominantly damp shade.

I came to gardening late in life – well, later than I should if I were going to benefit from any of mother’s expertise. Forty plus years ago when we bought our home, it was enough for me to continue the former owners’ practice of planting lemon drop marigolds along the drive way and buying salmon colored geraniums for the two planters at the back door. When the one area that might have been devoted to a flower bed was usurped by Fred for his rhododendrons, I breathed a sigh of relief.

But somewhere along the way my horticultural sensibilities were aroused and I started spending more and more of my non working waking hours in the garden. The more intense my professional life became, the more I treasured the rewards the garden had to offer. Where else can you find work that fires up your creativity, galvanizes your energy and leaves you happily exhausted at the end of the day? It can take all of your free time along with an embarrassing amount of your money, and still leave you smiling. Most importantly, it is not nearly as serious as the rest of life and work tend to be. If a plant dies, well it dies and it is too bad, and maybe you kick yourself for spending too much money on something unsuited to your soil or that you forgot to water it at the right time, but so what? What’s left of the plant goes into the compost and helps a new plant to grow. We should all hope to come to such a beneficent end.

Still, my sentimental attachment to certain plants often leaves me feeling bereft when I discover that I’ve lost one. A case in point. For years a lovely flowering red currant was the focal point outside my window. It was there gracing my view whenever I looked up from the computer or my book. Pendent scarlet flowers in early spring, attractive maple like foliage in the summer and fall, and a “stopping place” on their way to the feeder for chickadees and juncos throughout the year. One hot dry summer I lost it and so I replaced it. Then last summer I lost its replacement as well.

My garden book says that currants are hardy. That they are not really fussy about soil and are considered drought resistant. So, what went wrong? Maybe it was me. I know that the sensible thing to do is to forget about it and let the salal move in. But, I already told you that sensible I am not. Spring is flirting and I miss its lovely color, the way it brightened that spot in the yard. Surely the birds share my grief. So, it’s fair to say that before the week is out, I will be nursery bound to secure yet another red currant to gaze upon.

Sometimes when I am working in my perennial bed and worrying over my plants, I feel guilty that I didn’t spend more time with my mother in her garden. I could have learned so much from her. She understood plants – the fussy ones as well as the more reliable varieties. And she knew the scientific names of everything – family, genus, and species; maybe if I had learned the names at an earlier age they would be with me now. As it is, I am often hard pressed to produce the common name let alone the botanical one.

So here I am poking around in a solitary fashion in my perennial bed lost in thought and transported by remembrance. I clear away some leaves only to discover that the clematis that I thought I killed by cutting it back too much too late, has sent up new growth. I raise my eyes - my mother smiles. I fret about the iris that I neglected to divide last fall- mother shrugs and tells me that they’ll be fine. Another year you can divide. And when I am frustrated because I can’t remember the name of a plant, she laughs and tells me that it doesn’t really matter. What matters, I guess, is simply being there, digging in the dirt, reflecting on the past and anticipating the future. A singular solace for a sentimental gardener.