Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Paying it forward

Planted four more tomato plants today as an experiment to determine how the first five plants planted on May 15 do in comparison to the second four, planted today, which proceeded the first six planted way too early and all of which died a horrible death a few weeks ago during one of our May frosts.
What a strange, cold spring. But beautiful. I love the unexpected rain showers, the clouds, the breezes that keep it cool. But a few warm days would do wonders for the peas languishing against the fences. A few vines have flowers, but the plants are tiny.
Also planted a jalepeno today and eight marigolds, that always brighten the garden.
Collards went in yesterday as well.
Neighbor Scott got excited over his first sprouted pumpkin seed.
"A sign of life," he said.
I found out that he was jealous last year when we were harvesting and he wasn't.
Also found out that Forest and Vivian, the previous owners, had dug up the dirt in the garden and replaced it with good dirt.
I have had success in the garden due to their gift that keeps on giving.
I hope that Ben and I will pay it forward when we sell this house. Planting of perennials, the new patio and rock garden, for starters.

Planted four new tomato plants amongst the mesclun, which is bitter. Another view of the garden, which is puny yet.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The finest of cloth

Yesterday I photographed more Iris. They are unfortunately not in my yard, but I will work on having some Iris for next year. They are exquisite, and I love to turn them black and white. The leaves look like the finest of cloth, draped from a patterned stem, with plumes for added decoration.

Snow, sleet, hail, rain, sunshine--all in one day.

I exaggerate. There wasn't snow, until the hail coated the ground white...I call that snow. And it wasn't really sleet, because the hail had formed half-pea-sized pellets that coated everything the ground.
I texted my gardening friend, Sue, who had insisted we plant our tomatoes this past week. She promised to "watch the weather," and take "full responsibility" for the tomatoes. I  laughed when I sent her a photo of the "snow" on the ground, and she texted back, "Don't let it hurt our tomatoes." I responded with a "HA."
I've been reading gardening blogs, feeling discouraged about my gardening knowledge, given that I've gardened over the past 30 years. Unfortunately, it wasn't continuous, which  means that I've had 30 gardens in my mind, but only six in real life, and a few of those were not much to brag about.
I'm reading a gardening blog, A Way to Garden, by Margaret Roach. She has been writing for 30 years about gardening.
She said, "Don't plant tomatoes early." But it is a good learning experience for me as well, to see how tomatoes do when confronted with sleet, hail, rain and then hopefully some sunshine soon.
I will go out and buy some more tomato plants to plant, just in case, to see how they do in comparison.
Not as a "told you so," but as a gardening experiment.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Tulips and Iris

He wins, I win.

Yesterday Ben and I went to look at a used riding lawn mower for sale. I would rather sit down to mow instead of using the walk-behind power mower that used to be self-propelled. It broke, which made it impossible to push. But now Ben tells me that it is fixed, but I would still like a sit-down mower for our acre.
Before we left to look at the mower, he said he'd rather get a new barbeque. He has been wanting one for years (but not as long as I've wanted a riding lawn mower)...good lord do we sound suburban or what.
Even though we decided that Ben gets his barbeque, I had a feeling there was a reason to go meet the mower owners.
Pam and Roger live on a hill in Selah looking east to the hills and the desert. The house was built in 1929 and is surrounded with enormous old cedars. It's where Pam grew up, watching her father farm and her mother plant rose bushes and peonies under the cedars.
Ben and Roger talked lawnmowers and fishing and who knows what else and Pam and I got to talking about our mothers and plants.
Pam lost her mother in January. Her mother had a stroke in 1995, and Pam, one of four siblings in the area, was the designated caregiver. At one point she and Roger came to live with Pam's mother on the hilltop in Selah. Then her mother went to a nursing home for four years and Pam was her advocate, which means she went to visit almost every day. Pam and Roger eventually bought the home from Pam's mother. The last year and a half of her mother's life, Pam was the primary caregiver in their home.  Her sisters came once a month for an hour or two.
I asked Pam how she felt now that her mother was gone. Did she feel relieved? Was she grieving?
She said she felt numb.
As I questioned her more I discovered that she didn't have a close relationship with her mother, but took care of her anyway. And now that she is gone, Pam is wondering why she isn't grieving. She said she was sorting through a lot of feelings, including being angry at her siblings for not being there for their mother.
I asked her if she felt guilty.
We agreed that unless you've taken care of a parent the way she has, in the way I have, people don't get it. It's understandable. We aren't good about walking in another person's moccasins.
And even though I can wrap my mind around some  of her experience, I have a hard time comprehending how she spent 15 years, similar to the time I've spent being there for mom, in caretaking a person who had a stroke and was in and out of nursing homes and then in their home for a year and a half.
Mom has had strokes, but nothing that debilitated her indefinitely. At 101 you would never know she had the strokes.
Pam said the first day after her mother died she went to town and felt at loose ends knowing that she didn't have to run home, or run an errand for her mother.  I can relate, even though I'm not there yet.
She said she was tired still, and wondered why. I said, it takes awhile.
Ben and I left after an hour and Pam and I agreed we'd be seeing each other again.
And sometime this week Ben and I will go shopping for the barbeque as a four-year anniversary present.
He gets his barbeque. And he'll do the mowing. A win-win.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day in the mountains

A salmon fish ladder constructed in 1987 to help the salmon up the river. So we were trying to figure out who was directing traffic. How were they supposed to know that a human had erected steps upon which they might climb up the river, rather than going up the rapids like they had done for how many millennia. Just a question.

We came into a meadow and about two hundred yards (it really could have been 100 or 300 I don't know) down at the end of the meadow were six elk cows. Yes, they are called cows, I checked wikipedia. And they all ran away as we walked out into the meadow. But it was very cool to see them.

I call this skunk cabbage, but it is more accurately corn lily, and more accurately than that, False Hellebore. It grows everywhere in the cascades where there is water...as in streams or in meadows where there is early spring moisture.

We drove about an hour and a half into the mountains. Nearly reached a junction of the Pacific Crest Trail. One of my goals is to hike it for at least ten or 15 miles. Not a huge task, I wouldn't think. Just need to do it. 

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Mom's Day

It is a day to speak of the great things about my mother.
She taught me about the beauty of words, and although she drove me nuts most of my life correcting my pronouns, I will be forever grateful. She would have made a fabulous newspaper editor.
She taught me about the beauty of the world. She used to throw her hands in the air and exclaim, "oh, look how beautiful."
She always loved the ocean, but learned to love the barren beauty of the Yakima Valley, the light on the hills, the clouds, the open sky.
She taught me perseverance. Has she ever!
Her motto is "Never, ever give up." And she has demonstrated that with a toughness and tenacity to be admired.
Mom has always been generous and in these last years as her finances have gotten tighter, she is frustrated she can't give more.
At 101 she continues to strive to be a better person, asking forgiveness for her wrongs, wanting to better, kinder, more forgiving of others.
Mom has a faith that brings her peace when she isn't peaceful, trust when all seems like it is going to hell.
Mom used to be more acerbic at times, but it was only because she had a profound impatience with ignorance or bureaucracy that makes no sense. I get that.
She has always had a good sense of humor. Because of poor hearing she can no longer appreciate humor like she used to, but her self-deprecating sense of humor has grown stronger. We laugh over silly things. She laughs at herself.
My mother still pats me on the leg when I'm tired or discouraged and tells me, "It will all work out," even when she has no idea what needs to get worked out. And then she says, "Do you want chocolate?"
My mother and I have had a complicated journey together, but I love her deeply and will honor her on Mother's Day with flowers, a card,
and with one of those interminable dinners that almost send me screaming from the dining room.
But I will do it for her.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Kate's photos

Today my neighbor, Kate, came over to use my camera to take some photos for a contest at school. She is 12. I gave her one minute of instruction on my Fuji camera. She took this beautiful photo as well as some below.


A thunderstorm was moving in that gave everything a bath.

Mother Nature doesn't give a hoot

The tomato plants we planted Saturday froze Tuesday night. The potato plants, which had just started to poke through the dirt, look questionable. I knew better than to plant the tomatoes. But did anyway. Sue wants things in...and I'm respecting that. She says it's her rebellious nature. I get it. But regardless how rebellious we are, Mother Nature has her way. Yakima is renowned for its late frosts. A rule of thumb for vegetable gardeners is no warm weather crops until after Mother's Day. The onions, mesclun, peas and tiny broccoli shoots seem okay, though. I've never planted this early, except for peas, so it has been a good, not too expensive experiment.  I will plant more lettuce today.

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Life is such...

and getting sucher." 
Mom said that was something my grandmother, Florence Mildred Rice Tyler used to say.
Grannyma was always cheerful, but didn't have it easy.
That's another story.
Maybe she meant, Life sucks, and is getting suckier.
But they didn't use the word "suck" in that way back then.
She just meant...it's hard. And maybe getting harder.
I don't know.

Today when I visited mom, taking care of bills and other incidentals, I sat down on the couch to visit with her like I always do when the chores are done.
She seemed out of sorts. She asked me if I had heard from Jim, her favorite nephew. She is concerned that she didn't hear from him for her birthday.
When I pursued it with her she said she was confused, that she "didn't know what was going on,..."
She said she didn't know how to do the things I knew how to do, like Facebook!
I reminded her that most of the people on Facebook are 25.
Then she just said she had a hard time keeping her spirits up. 
"It's just hard," she said.
I said it was hard keeping my spirits up and I'm not 101.
She laughed at that, and then wanted to know why.
I told her that I wasn't being as productive as I would like and she told me I diminish my talents.
I forget sometimes how caring she really is.
It's not all narcissism, and if she knew I felt the way I do sometimes, it would break her heart in two.
I told her it was hard to watch her struggle, to know she didn't want to be here.
She said, "If it wasn't for you, I'd give up," and patted my leg.
But then she said, "I don't know how I'd give up. I wouldn't commit suicide, but sometimes I feel like."
And that breaks my heart.

On a lighter note: Lilacs in full glory

I read on a gardening blog this morning that when the lilacs bloom that's the signal to plant warm weather crops. I think I'll wait a few days, however, since the wind is gusting at 60 mph today with expected lows in the 20s midweek.

The neighbors unpruned apple trees are spectacular and fragrant. But after today's tornado 
it will be interesting to see how many blossoms will be left

The optimist's garden. Planted tomato plants on Saturday (upper left), but they are covered now until the winds die down and the weather warms a bit, which is expected by the end of the week.

Saturday, May 1, 2010


Today I sabotaged a piece of writing I had posted a few days ago because a friend who read it told me I sounded bitter. I backed down. I deleted what I had written. Of course, I don't want to sound bitter, or unforgiving, or unkind, or disrespectful.
But then how do I tell my truth if I censor myself, deleting anything that is not "appropriate." 
Sue Monk Kidd, in her book, The Dissident Daughter, says on the first page, "The hardest thing about being a writer is telling the truth."
She has that right.
I had also received two online comments about my post. My friend, Joy, said it was "honest," and "beautifully messy," like life.
My brother-in-law, Jay, posted a thought-provoking comment about absolution, the title of the piece, and that some betrayals may be unforgiveable, although understandable in the light of "they did the best they could." He said he had no trouble with evil thoughts, something I chastise myself for regularly.
When I told Ben today that I had deleted the piece, he was angry. 
Then tonight I had a flashback to more than 30 years ago. I was learning to weave on a table loom and had created a small piece. But I became disillusioned with my creation and in a fit of pique, I "deleted" it...I cut it up. My roommate came home and seeing what I had done, was angry. 
I realized that I have to move off the self-censoring critic that lives within me. Courage, not censor. No more will I delete my creations, no matter how beautifully messy.
What I wrote is filled with paradox, pain, and love. 
It is also my truth, as hard as it is to tell.
It is only a small window into a part of my journey with my mother.
Here it is again, sans comments from Joy and Jay. 

We honored mom's 101st birthday this week. Stan and Annie came up for four days and Jared and Kiersten came on Sunday for a celebration that included an hour sitting outside on the "new" patio in the sunshine drinking beer, eating chips and hummus and homemade salsa. All the efforts Ben put out to get the house painted and the patio almost complete paid off.
We visited and laughed, mom joining in as she could, stealing my beer because I hadn't offered her one.
Jared and Kiersten's presence added life and delight to our gathering.
It felt whole.
Jared and Kiersten left Sunday evening.
Then Monday, we celebrated mom's real birthday by going to lunch at Orchard Park. The food was terrible, the wait for it interminable, watching mom eat annoying.
There were moments I wanted to arise from the table and run screaming from the dining room.
All the old people would stop and look, "Oh dear, what happened to Sybil's daughter? Did she finally crack?"
I'm not sure if it's the fear that I will one day end up in a similar place, or the frustration at being there before it's time.
It's not time.
I chafe at the interminable wait for change, for something to happen, for her to decide it's time. My thoughts plague me. I made a comment at dinner last night at the McCracken's about mom.
Twelve-year-old Kate asked, "Do you want your mother to die?"
Well, yes, Kate, as a matter of fact I do.
Then 14-year-old Molly chimed in, "There's a difference in wanting her to die, and wanting her to have peace."
That's it, Molly, thanks.
There are those moments when mom talks without clearing her throat. It gurgles and grates on me like fingernails on a blackboard.
Sometimes I tell her, "Mom, clear your throat!" Then I wake in the morning sounding as if phlegm lives in my throat. I cough and hack and clear my throat and can't have a conversation until noon.
When she talks with food in her mouth and food falls out of her mouth, I'm embarrassed. I reach over her like a mother with a two-year-old, clearing the crumbs from her lap, cleaning up after her. It's okay. I'm glad I'm there for her.
But I get angry for stupid reasons.
After I picked Stan and Annie up at the airport on Friday, we went to mom's apartment to pick her up. Getting into the car takes five minutes. She grasps for the handle above the window, hoping to find a grip, something to brace her. She can't get her bearings, and it's difficult to help her. So finally I, or whoever is helping her, leans against her as she plops into the seat.
She gets seated, finally. And says to me, "I know how hard this is for you."
No, you don't! I want to yell. She's trying to read my mind, telling me how I feel.
I'm glad Stan and Annie are here, but yes, it is hard, but don't try to read my mind and feel sorry and project your own weakness on to me.
Next thought: But isn't it just a mother concerned for her daughter?
Next thought: I know that once she is gone, no one will ever care for me the way she has.
Next thought: Is it true? I wonder if her caring has been self-serving and narcissistic.
And then, guilt for my wicked thoughts. Sadness that I'm the one with no peace.
Tuesday afternoon I took a nap. When I woke I could hear Annie and mom talking in the living room. Mom was "confessing" that she had made a mistake marrying my step-father, Sam. I'm not sure I ever heard her say those words to me....that it was a mistake. For years she defended him: "But he was so good to me."
She said that she had asked our forgiveness, but I'm not sure she has ever said, "Will you forgive me?" and then accepted our forgiveness. 
She told Annie that "things happened," and that she drank too much. But I'm not sure I ever heard her say to me, "I drank too much." 
Her confession has taken 60 years. She gave it to Annie.
But I'm the one who has been waiting for the confession.
She wants absolution.
I am willing. I am willing.
I have tried.
When I'm not impatient and angry, I am patient and kind and loving.
I tweeze her "feathers," shop for incidentals, clean her sink, pay her bills, clean her eye-glasses, take her to the doctor, minister to her. Love her. Listen to her stories, listen to her memories to the point that I don't want to hear them any longer.
And then I wait for the phone call. The final call, when someone has found her, and I can say whatever it is I'm going to say in that last moment that I have a mother on this earth.