Yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, almost 70 degrees. There was a breeze, but it was warm and gentle and one could go about with a light jacket and feel just right.
I hadn’t been up to Shaw in a long time because of the road construction on I-44. The state is adding an extra lane all the way to Gray Summit, and in the process the lanes are narrow and the road surface uneven. The speed limit is supposed to be 50, but I’ve yet to see anyone follow this. Well, other than myself. A Ford Focus handles beautifully on country roads, gravel, in the city and what not, but it does not do well on uneven roads.
At Shaw I debated on taking the forest path to the wet land, or the country road behind the back. I had my iPod in its new heavy duty Belkin leather case, and it was fun just walking along the road, listening to Bond; taking the ear buds out from time to time to listen to the wind through the trees and the birds singing.
I also took along my camera because, though Shaw is in the middle of its dormant stage, you never know when something will pop up that might be fun to photograph. Such was the case yesterday when I came across piles of cut Eastern redcedar.
Eastern redcedar is really a juniper tree, but it still has a beautiful grain and smell. The photography gave me an excuse to get close to the wood and breath in the scent. I noticed that the trees must have been fresh cut, as they were still ‘bleeding’ from the cuts.
A couple of folks came along and seemed dismayed to see what looked like healthy young trees cut down. After all, this is a Nature Center, what could be more natural than trees? Especially when the Center replaces the stands of trees with what looked like fields of weed. However, this effort is part of the the ongoing effort to remove invasive species all across the park; restoring native wetland and prairie, as well as stands of hickory and oak, which are more natural for this area.
Environments are delicate, and the health of a particular environment is not necessarily obvious in the eye of the beholder. Though a vast empty prairie may look like ruin, and a forest of cedar look richly healthy, the opposite can be and often is in true–prairies are alive with many species of plants and animals that may be difficult to spot, while eastern redcedar forests may contain just that: big redcedar trees and nothing else.
At one time, Shaw was prairie and wetland, but people came along and plowed it under into farmland. When the farms were abandoned and the ground lay fallow, rather than be reclaimed by what was natural wildflowers and grasses, seeds contained in berries eaten by birds made their way to the fertile ground and honeysuckle and eastern redcedar thrived. Unfortunately, redcedar needles contain a high level of acidity, unpalatable to other plants. Both species choke out others by overrunning the ground as well as providing a canopy preventing young plants from getting enough sun.
Like many other areas in the Midwest, work is underway to pull up these invasive plants, and replant native species in their place. Until this is finished, every winter the park is a mass of pulled and destroyed honeysuckle vine and redcedar trees in addition to the marks of controlled burns.
I left the road half way around to take the forest path past the prairie. The park had added a new bench overlooking the hills in a nice place to sit and enjoy the view of the grassland and the sod house on the hill.
I liked the inscription on the bench: He was in love with this world.
The roses at the Missouri Botanical Garden are in full bloom, and unlike last year, I haven’t missed the early show. I spent yesterday afternoon taking photos and just walking about, enjoying the brilliant color and delicate scent.
As I was walking past the Lilypad pond on the way to the experimental rose garden, two mallard ducks swam towards me, the female hopping up on a circulation pipe, the male on the pond wall. I don’t normally pay much attention to mallards, since they’re so common. Yesterday, though, I notice how colorful the bird seemed in the bright afternoon sun.
The male has such a brilliant emerald green head, and that azure band on its wings stands out sharply against the subtle browns, blacks, and whites. The female isn’t as colorful, but does share the blue band, and the warm, dark eyes.
I started taking photos of the birds, getting close enough to pick out the intricate detail of their feathers. When was the last time I had looked closely at a mallard duck’s feathers? To notice the lacy patterns and subtle coloring, made richer by the bright, swatches of color?
Last night, as I was going through the pictures, I thought about a friend of mine who would have passed the ducks, as if they weren’t there. Chances are, though, he would also ignore the roses, the trees, the squirrels and most other things around him. He is a man who is so tightly focused on his immediate environment–his family, work, and his communication with others through the internet–that I’m not sure when the last time was he saw a rose, or really looked at a mallard.
As I uploaded the mallard photos to Flickr, I wondered if I had captured the beauty and the grace of the birds well enough to attract appreciation for their uniqueness; or would they only rate a glance and dismissal as just ducks–probably garnering more attention if they were dressed of their feathers and cooked in a delicate apricot-brandy sauce.
There are so many beautiful photos uploaded to Flickr, it’s a wonder that any photo stands out. A picture of a rose that might have drawn exclamations of delight a few years back becomes just one of many in a continuous stream of images. I’ve found that among my photos those that grab attention tend to be ones where the images are small and odd enough to not be easily identifiable. I don’t have any photos of naked people to test the hypothesis that these generate the most attention.
Speaking of which, since my ducks were preening their chest feathers, I was tempted to label the images with the tag ‘breasts’. I still might.
I’ve spent too much time on the computer today. Sometimes when I’m tired and have been staring at my computer monitor for a long time, spending hours looking at dark print on white, I’ll look up and everything in the room seems sharper, more colorful, and richer. The effect lasts only a moment, and I hold my eyes open as long as I can–until they tear. Yet I can stare at my room or out my window for hours and it will never sharpen or enhance what’s on the screen.
Not even my ducks. I showed these photos to my roommate and he said, “Uh huh. Nice. Ducks” Ducks becomes both a verb and a noun, not to mention a warning: this way there be ducks.
“What did you write about?”
“I wrote about ducks.”
“Uh huh. Nice. Ducks.”
Now when I wrote on the commonplace, the ordinary, and the benign, I’ll ‘tag’ it ducks. Who says I don’t understand how tagging works.
I have a secret fetish for gardens and anytime I’m feeling stressed, I spend time out at the Botanical Gardens, Tower Grove, or Shaw. However, when I’m constrained to the house by weather or heat or the need to finish work, I make do with garden weblogs. I’m not sure why, but these weblogs almost invariably sooth and relax me; whether they’re showing photos of a new flower, or talking about pest control–human or insect, doesn’t matter.
It’s easy to find garden weblogs thanks to Sheila Lennon’s list of garden weblogs. But don’t stop there–Sheila also links the most unusual and interesting material weekly, such as this idea for what I can do with Zoë, my cute furball, when she goes on to her rewards.
Cute doesn’t always come furry, though; Bill from Prairie Point has been posting photos of flowers from his garden, including some lovely lantana but I’m more partial to his new armadillo. I don’t know why, but I adore armadillos. Probably make a lousy pillow.
Could make a good lunchbox. Great place to put my BLTs for hiking trips.
Of course BLTs (my favorite sandwich) require tomatoes. Don from Hands in the Dirt and I have been talking about tomatoes and the unfortunate fact that the only tomatoes I have access to here in St. Louis are those I buy in the supermarket. My budget did not allow for the necessary expenditure of pots to start my patio garden, so this year, tomatoes come in baggies.
There’s a haiku in that, I think:
framed in plastic sheet
Peel off small label
The Bookish Gardener writes about a Japanese garden in Illinois I hope to visit in the near future, since it’s only about 4 hours away. In the same post, she lists some sites that provide garden photos for people to annotate with haiku, providing several photos of her own for those who indulge in the muse.
I can’t do haiku to save my soul, but I liked the following from the photo/haiku site:
there is no answer
There is something about a summer garden, especially at night that is intoxicating — sober up, indeed. I wouldn’t marry a man for his money, but I might for his garden.
Actually, I could be easily seduced in a garden at night, especially if plied with fresh tomatoes. No, better yet: fresh peaches. You bite into the fruit still warm from the day’s sun, and the juice drips delicately over your soft summer frock. You notice the spots, and pull it down from your shoulder to wash the sticky juice from the light, gauzy fabric; using the water at the fountain that plays oh so softly in the background. As you’re focused on the cool water, flowing like champagne across your fingers, arms slip up from behind and…
Whoa! Where did that come from! Think of tech, Shelley. Think of tech.
I don’t have any fresh garden photos, but I do have some of Zoë, the once and future pillow, helping me make the bed; I’m posting them in case you might be inspired to write some haiku. No prizes for best effort, though.
Well, okay: you’ll get a copy of one of my books, autographed by yours truly, with its own RDF-inspired haiku in the front. You’ll have to pay for shipping, though.
No, you can’t have a Zoë pillow.
Speaking of making your pet into a pillow, Christine at Big Pink Cookie points to a Target illustration of how to perfectly fold a fitted sheet. I was moved to demonstrate my own sheet folding technique as follows:
To better understand the complexity of this fold, you also need to see the reverse side:
If you are so moved in your quest for one of my books with genuine hand lettered, barely legible RDF haiku inside, you may also use the photos of the sheets as inspiration.
When placed into the linen closet in the hallway, said sheets are then shoved towards the back, using brute force, among the bunches of equally folded towels. Luckily, there is no photo of this arrangement, as there is a line drawn between what I will and will not put into a weblog entry–and pictures of my linen closet most assuredly fit into ‘not weblog’.
Speaking of which, Stephanie Klein wrote a post To Blog or Not that began with:
Reasons not to blog:
* Stalkers who love you
* Stalkers who hate you
* Bi-polar stalkers who can’t make up their minds but stalk you just the same
Though not a stalker, over at Feministe, Lauren opened her weblog to a new permanent co-blogger, Jill Filipovic. Even though Jill doesn’t like donuts–how can you not like donuts? I mean woman, Krispy Kremes!–I’m looking forward to reading her posts.
An interesting move of Lauren’s: to bring in a permanent co-blogger for what is, or was, a personal weblog. I couldn’t do it with Burningbird–this weblog is probably the most personal thing I still have in my life. It would be like sharing my toothbrush with another person. Or having a threesome.
On the other hand…
Think of tech, Shelley. Focus on tech.
Gardens on a summer night and hidden bowers scented with lavender and peach…and Zoë the once and future pillow, helping me make the bed with my perfectly folded, flower-accented sheets, as I tell her dirty jokes.
There’s this farmer’s daughter and a traveling weblogger who wants to show her his podcast…
I haven’t been in much of a mood for cooking lately, usually making do with soup, eggs or rice and vegetables, and cottage cheese and fruit. Inspired by Joe’s recent writing, though, I decided that the roommate and I needed a really decent meal tonight.
At the store, sirloin steak and sour cream were on sale, so that set the main dish: beef stroganoff, with lots of sweet Vidalia onion, and mushrooms. The baby greens also looked good, and I picked up a radicchio, as well as a curly endive and Belgium endive. To complete the salad fixings, I added vine ripened tomatoes and snow peas.
I can’t do a good vinaigrette to save my life, so I also added a bottle of Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette.
At home I made a lemon cake, which seemed a nice desert on a rainy day. While it was cooling, I browned the steak and then sautéd the onions and mushrooms before adding water, dry sherry, and tomato juice. While these simmered for two hours, I crisped the greens, and frosted the cake with cream cheese frosting.
Just before dinner, I sautéed the snowpeas in olive oil and a small bit of garlic, until they were bright green and still slightly crisp. I tore the small lettuces into pieces, added the snowpeas and sliced tomatoes, some small, crusty pieces of french bread, and then tossed it with the vinaigrette.
I served the stroganoff over egg noodles, with the salad on the side, cake for desert. I think my roommate liked it, if him going back for thirds is any indication. I had more restraint–I only went back for thirds on the salad. Zoë, however, was a real pig and had four helpings of the baby greens.