LOOKS LIKE ANOTHER DAY WITHOUT SNOW, RAIN OR SLEET


Paper Narcissus (1)
“Paper Narcissus” original watercolor by kayti sweetland rasmussen

I don’t know why it is surprising to see sunshine–other than a few drops to wash off the dust yesterday, sunshine is a cash crop here in California. There is no negotiating with Nature. My motto, adopted from baseball player Ernie Banks, former shortstop for the Chicago Cubs is, “The whole theory of my life is sunshine, and today the sun is shining.”

The rain did bring these lovely narcissus though and they look nice showing off in front of the antique Chinese robe. I have a love of artistry and of things made by hand, and the robe is embroidered with thousands of tiny stitches said to have been made by blind nuns. I heard a phrase that Pope Francis said which seems appropriate: “There are some realities that you can only see through eyes that have been cleansed by tears.”

I don’t remember deciding to become a writer. You decide to become a dentist or a postman or woman. I always defined myself as a sculptor if I ever thought about it. I have a sign which says so, which hangs in my garage along with other things formerly important only in my imagination. In my chrysalis days in art shows and street fairs, it hung beside my table, directing potential customers.

As writers our eyes and ears are always open for snippets of something to expand upon. Today’s snippet came from my good friend Bill and it deals with the cleaning of an old oil painting.

Bill is a connoisseur of antiquities, and came by an old and dirty painting by way of a relative. I had restored a couple of old paintings for him some time ago, but he took it upon himself to do this one himself. He was chuckling while he told me that he was cleaning it with spit. This is a skill you may need to know some day and it will take awhile, but courtesy of Canadian Jaqueline Mabey this is how to do it:

As far as I know this only works on oil paintings, though possibly also on acrylic. “The chemicals in saliva are like the perfect gentle cleanser; they break down the dirt and dust that builds up on the surface without damaging the paint. You’ll need little sticks, a roll of sterilized cotton, and patience4. You can’t really rush the process. It will take the time it takes.

Wrap a small amount of cotton from the roll around the tip of the stick. Stick the cottony end of the stick in your mouth between your tongue and your cheek. Roll it around getting the cotton wet, but not saturated. Remove from mouth and slowly brush the surface of the painting. Make your way slowly across the work.”

Well there you have it.

THE SECRET LIFE OF DAISIES


garden gate 3

When I heard that daisies have a secret life, I decided to set out immediately to discover what it is. How dare this common garden dweller have a “secret life”? I soon found out that daisies never tell. Not to be discouraged, I proceeded at once to retrace my steps and lift a few stones along the way.

Through the garden gate to the little haus in the bottom of the garden, I peeked inside to see if there were any trace of a daisy. On my way I found marigolds, geraniums, pelargoniums, roses both prim and not, but not a daisy.

Little House

Painters, sculptors, poets and writers from all over the world have celebrated the garden’s beauty, mystery and frustration it can bring.
red winged blackbird 2
The robin’s song at daybreak
Is a clarion call to me. Get up and get out in the garden
For the morning hours flee.

I cannot resist the summons,
What earnest gardener could?
For the golden hours of morning
Get into the gardener’s blood.

The magic spell is upon me,
I’m glad that I did not wait;
For life’s at its best in the morning,
As you pass through the garden gate.

I peeked inside and found sunflowers, pots of ivy, mementos from a misspent youth, a few ragtag animal pictures, but not a daisy in sight.

little haus2
This little corner of pleasure bringing comfort to a tired gardener is where I ponder the important chores of my day.

little haus

Out the door, I see the trees are budding, and Spring is nearly upon us. Charlie lounges comfortably on the warm brick, unaware of daisies and their secrets.

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Flowers don’t worry about how they’re going to bloom, they just open up and turn toward the light, and that makes them beautiful. Jim Carrey

Gardens heighten nature’s wild language by simplifying it, by sieving its complex messages to extract a choice kernel; a subtle flow of time; a boundary that is and yet isn’t; a balance born of imbalances. We amplify natures messages when we build a garden and in turn the garden awakens us with those thoughts. Sitting and reflecting, drawn into the garden and out of ourselves, we find we are aware of familiar things in ways we weren’t before, granted, if only for a brief moment.

A pleasant hour spent in this garden with its scent of sweet alyssum and roses, laughing at the flight of angry hummingbirds fighting over a single feeder and at the end, not a daisy in sight. Daisies really DO have a secret life.

OUTWITTING HENRY


crows 2 I knew life was going all too smoothly around here. When the last invasion of feathered rats departed, I thought life would return to normal. We again claimed the garden as our own; a peaceful co-existence with the birds and the bees. And then Henry appeared out of nowhere.

He came silently, treading gently on the red brick patio, gazing unhurriedly from front and then side to side as he made his way to the bird bath which is centered amongst pink pelargoniums just reaching full summer bloom.

I had to admit that his glossy black feathers looked like someone had polished him up with some carnauba wax, and he was making the most of it. He actually strutted across the yard with a smug and arrogant look on his face. When he had assured himself that all was safe and he was alone, he flew up and jumped into the bird bath. He drank and bathed and generally looked pretty cute. So I named him Henry. It seemed fitting. Rather like Henry VII; he wanted it so he took it.

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The next day while watering the pots, I began to fill the bird bath, only to see it all slimy and fogged up. When I called Dr. Advice to take a look, he told me that Henry washes his food in it. Well, that’s OK I thought. In fact it’s rather nice to know that we have such a persnickety visitor, as long as he gets his food elsewhere.

That was Monday. By Tuesday he was bringing large hunks of bread over to wash, and I could see this might be the ruination of my cute little bird bath. On Wednesday I discovered several small offerings he had brought me submerged in the murky depths. There were several small pieces of walnut shell, a marble, and a large shiny screw. On Thursday, he decided to throw a party, and several of the black freeloaders showed up for dinner. Well, you know how fast a party can get out of hand when the parents aren’t at home.

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Up until this time Charlie, our Jack Russell Terrorist, had not roused himself enough to notice the new visitors. However, when they all landed up on the roof and began a loud drumming session, Charlie went berserk. There are not too many things louder or more insistent than a Jack Russell in full pursuit of prey. The sound and the fury is unimaginable. The crow population was in grave danger.

Temptations of dog cookies will do no good in a case like this. Threats of kennel imprisonment are neither heard nor obeyed when the hunt is on.

Again Dr. Advice calmly came to our rescue, solving the situation quickly and without the angst Charlie and I were putting into it. He simply went out and emptied the bird bath. Problem solved, and Henry and his loud partying pals have moved on for the time being.

Charlie has resumed his usual position, stretched out in relaxed comfort on an old Indian blanket, head on pillow, but eyes open, ever alert for trouble.