I satisfied my herb search today at my local nursery, Shannon Florist, and supported a new-ish and innovative local business, Brooklyn Commune, and a non-profit organization that fosters urban growing, Project EATS at their plant and seedling sale. I came home with basil, a couple heirloom tomato plants (insurance in case my seeds don’t germinate and an opportunity to expand my varieties). I also brought home a couple small cucumber plants because I got wrapped up in a moment of gushing gardeners. The purple kale is because the lady from Project EATS (pictured below) was, wisely, offering sample tastes. I also compared notes with several other visitors to the stand on what’s the best way to grow beets in Brooklyn (I was relieved to know I’m not the only one who has struggled to get them to grow, container or ground). A lovely woman who I learned is a neighbor gave me a suggestion for using an empty kitty litter container for cucumbers. (Ironically, the reason I’m looking to raise them off the ground is that there is a stray cat who prowls the yard so I want to keep them up, up and away but I don’t have much trellis space). The sale started in the morning. I got there around noon, and it still had a few hours to go. I left with hands, but not arms, full. I was proud of myself for the restraint, given that I really wanted to snatch up every single one of those plants and soak in hours of the casual chatter, brimming with advice and anecdotes. But I left with just enough, and no more than I needed.
Nina Simone sings “you know how I feel,” as I see the branches off my mystery bushes out back come down, one painful snip at a time. My partner takes the long handled clippers we bought last year to trim back the wild rose bushes in the front yard that inevitably grew over into my neighbor’s yard (I saw a statistic recently that the average space between Brooklyn homes is around 25 inches. Roses do not care).
We have made the difficult decision to bring these curious two grand bushes up out of the ground in the back yard. I did a little research last year on what they were (no conclusion there), and whether I might be able to transplant them somewhere (no takers). They were a birthday present from a dear friend of mine several years ago to help me put up more of a barrier than the wire fence that separated my yard from my neighbors when neighbors were moving into the house that had been empty since I moved in. I put up the bushes, and later a wooden fence. Good fences do make good neighbors, but an aging, sagging chain link fence with a couple new twiggy bushes in front of them, did not make a good fence. So a fence roughly 6 feet tall now separates my mystery bushes in the backyard from my neighbors’ often wandering squash. The squash still crawls up the phone post and, once a year, she knocks gently on the door and tiptoes gingerly through the house to climb a ladder and hack them down with the most wicked and destructive pair of gardening shears I’ve ever seen. That’s always around Ramadan, and I can usually count on a plate piled high with fish with tiny white bones (which, while a bit of a nuisance, are well worth the flavor they bring), resting on a bed of softly wilted rich green squash leaves, soaking up the salty juice surrounding the fish.
Now that I’ve lived next to the neighbor for some five years, share recipes with her, bring her dishes I’ve made when I think they won’t tempt her strict Halal diet, and always attend each others’ family birthday parties, the triple-layer chain link, wooden, and bush fence are no longer need. And down the bushes come to make room for small feet, small paws, maybe some plants. And, as I watch my partner finish his tedious work, I think back on the time I’ve had with these bushes which I have variously called dogwood or elderberry, though no positive identification ever could be made. Most of my time with them was spent realizing I’d missed the very small window of time to pick the berries (which of course would be a good thing if it turned out they were dogwood, some of which a small contingent claims are poisonous, though it’s hotly debated). Some of the time was spent admiring their pretty spray of white flowers but that’s a very short period of time later in the summer. More time was spent trying to keep the top leaves off the bottom of my clothes drying on the clothesline. So, all in all, I will miss them but I think it’s time they go and therefore time for me to let them go.
This is a good practice, anyway, to occasionally let things go to make room for new and better things to come into your life. It took me a long time to learn this but I did with about a year in clutterbusting therapy (which I highly recommend to anyone and everyone).
In the meantime, I watch the last of the big branches fall as Dianne Reeves sings in her bluest velvety voice, “Don’t cry. There’ll be another spring. I know our hearts will dance again. And sing again. So wait for me till then.” Good-bye mystery bush. Thanks for the helping me welcome in the springtimes.
I hope it’s not bad luck to do this on St. Patty’s Day.
Before I left for work this morning, I turned away when I caught a surprising splash of bright orange-yellow in the corners of my yard. I knew what it meant, but didn’t want to look. Last year, I watched them day after day. I willed them to spread their graceful long stems into arabesque, and don the season’s latest.
It’s been a hellish week, only two days in. The work day was long but not as unbearable as I thought it might be, after staying up way past my bedtime to get all my other work done. I logged about 1.2 hours on my sleep machine. As irony is iron clad, right around quitting time today, I had a fourth or fifth or sixth wind, and kept plugging along. The last colleague on my floor bid me good-night after transforming from stuffy Wall Street attire to a tight white t-shirt and jeans that crinkled in all the right places (“dinner date” was the quick explanation for the superhero-style switch). Seeing as this colleague is not my persuasion, not my partner, and notably older, the admiration was an innocent one … a fleeting thought, really, that I could stand to exercise more than I do, and there’s hope it would pay off. I kept at the grind till my phone rang moments later. It was my coworker, calling to tell me the elevators weren’t working and the ground floor was flooded with firefighters. I’m sure the words weren’t quite that, but that’s what I heard as I grabbed the items off my desk, mentally kicking myself for not wearing sensible (or even all that fashionable) shoes, and saw my rare burst of dedication go up in imagined flames. I got the to ground floor on the one elevator that was working, and there were about two firefighters for every several people. The lobby was mostly empty. Smart people had left to enjoy the rare weather.
After work, I went to the wine store to buy a celebratory bottle of something with a touch of fizz to celebrate finishing a brief in what has been a long painful litigation, and to (maybe?) celebrate this uncharacteristically balmy weather. The clerk in my favorite bottle store in Park Slope joked that he has no problem with global warming. “I’m thinking about spraying some aerosol cans in the air,” he said with a cajoled glee. I (road weary and fully obliterated by the abhorent hours I’ve been keeping), chimed in “in honor of the weather.” He corrected me, “to keep it coming.”
“Bring it on, global warming.”
I ha-ha’d, grabbed my bottles (I don’t go often, so I stocked up on two), and left. Walking down the block to my house, I felt like a bit part in the first twenty minutes of a seventies sci-fi made-for-tv movie. I couldn’t help but stare near slack jawed at the flowers in full bloom in the little plots of plants they put in a few years ago in front of the apartment complex at 40. By the time I hit 60, I had to stop and ask the Chinese man who was crouched on his feet and working furiously with his hands what it was he was planting. I’ve been beyond impressed with how various plants pop up in that well (but not fussily) manicured front yard, and are whisked away to some unknown outpost, while a vast variety of new ones quickly replace them throughout the growing season. He didn’t understand my question, or was too busy to engage. He worked with such intention, though I couldn’t determine its method. I wondered if there were some secret he had that I did not know but should want (e.g., get the plants in the ground quickly early in the season, lull and lollygag for warmer weather plantings). He did not pay serious attention to me until I asked him “too cold?,” and pointed to the plants in his hands, wondering whether there’s still the risk of a cold spell wiping them out. He pointed to the plants that were already in the ground, and have been there all year long, just waiting for new neighbors to join them. He pointed to a hosta-like plant with sturdier leaves and said, “No.” “These strong.” “Ooooh, okay,” I said as if I’d just learned something but wondered to myself what all he knew and was not saying. I carried on my breezy but slightly paranoid way.
Around 80, I almost stopped dead in my tracks. The tree that usually does not show its bloom till mid April (at an earliest) had magically transformed in the hours I sat behind my cold and sturdy desk, face to face with the eight hour glow of my screen, from a naked branched lady in a dressing room, to a gently clad bride, waiting for the first dance. So young. These things can destroy them, you know (the whispers of the sturdy old gals down at 60 floated our way).
Then I really caught myself in the midst of this bad movie, shook it off, skipped on down to my own yard, knowing what I had to face. There they were, just as I’d left them this morning, but a touch taller, more definite, more mature, more determined that Mother Nature had their dance card. The little lady daffodils, so eager to make their long awaited entrance, could wait no more.
Kids these days. They don’t know that it pays to be fashionably late.
These little buggers appeared next to some beets I have growing in a wooden box. Note the leaves of grass growing right next to/within the beet leaves. Like I said, unless they pose a take-over threat, I generally leave them alone. These guys were growing so close to the beets that pulling them out risked damaging the beets themselves. Voila! Weed problem solved!