Category Archives: nature

I busy myself with weeds.

Weeds are keeping me busy indeed — and I don’t mean with the hoe or on my hands and knees yanking them out of my garden. Now that I have inches of mulch covering the soil around the plants I do want, I have more leisure to merely study the weeds that manage to pop up.

It’s easy to get carried away with this project, and my blog material has swelled to the point of resembling the unwieldy piles of weeds I used to cart to the waste bin. I have been sorting pictures and choosing the best ones to show you, and poring over Weeds of the West. I asked my farmer friend Dick about one weed that did get away from me in the gravel utility yard, and he said he had it, too, and would find out what it was. But Pippin researched and we agreed it was sowthistle. Dick turned out to be amused that we would work so hard to find the name of something “only a weed!”

Yesterday was the Day of Rejoicing, and this year I went to all four cemeteries to sing to those waiting in their graves for the Resurrection. Two of the cemeteries have non-endowed sections where weeds are plentiful, and as we processed from one area to another I stopped to get a picture of some weeds/wildflowers (they can be the same plant!), explaining to my friend Tom who was behind me, “I am doing a sort of study of weeds….”

“Why would you do that?” he asked.

“Well, I like to learn about plants, and now in springtime weeds are bursting out everywhere… they are part of my world!”

There’s no time for philosophizing on this topic at the moment, though, because I have dozens more weeds to sort and investigate, so I thought I’d just tell you about one that I mis-identified in the past. When a friend saw my picture at the top of this post that I had elsewhere labeled “chamomile” she questioned, “Are you sure it isn’t Tripleurospermum maritimum?” Well, hmm… no…. But I have since learned that it isn’t either of those things, but a relation called pineappleweed, or Matricaria matricarioides (or Matricaria discoidea). On its blooms “ray flowers are lacking,” as Weeds of the West puts it. It has other common names: wild chamomile — so I wasn’t totally wrong — and disc mayweed.

Reading about Tripleurospermum maritimum is also interesting, but a bit confusing. I love that in Iceland and Scandinavia it is called Baldr’s eyelashes — or is it Baldr’s Brow? —  after the son of Odin:

“The second son of Odin is Baldr, and good things are to be said of him. He is best, and all praise him; he is so fair of feature, and so bright, that light shines from him. A certain herb is so white that it is likened to Baldr’s brow; of all grasses it is whitest, and by it thou mayest judge his fairness, both in hair and in body. He is the wisest of the Æsir, and the fairest-spoken and most gracious; and that quality attends him, that none may gainsay his judgments. He dwells in the place called Breidablik, which is in heaven; in that place may nothing unclean be.”

But is T.m. actually the same thing as Tripleurospermum  inodorum? And should it or they be called Matricaria perforata? Controversy surrounds this plant!  Are Icelanders looking at the same plant as the Swedes when they think of Baldr, or is theirs scentless mayweed? Is the plant — or if there are two, is one of them — truly scentless, or is it bad-smelling? This is not even a weed in my own world and look where it’s taken me!

But dear pineapple weed is fair, too, and has been part of my life for a long time. It likes to grow in places where people have packed the ground down by walking on it, and if on my everyday walk I cut the corner sharply enough turning on to the creek path, I will walk on it. I read that the leaves have a pleasant scent when crushed, so today I stopped and rubbed some between my finger and thumb, and yes, it caused a faint pineappley event, but not worth stomping on the furry greenery to accomplish.

Before I was certain of its identity I tried just to pick off a stem in the rain and a clump came up. So I brought it home and divided it into four which I planted in a pot. It will be interesting to see if it can be happy with no one walking on its territory.

Wouldn’t it be sweet, even scent-wise, if pineappleweed could invade sowthistle’s domain? It wouldn’t be the first time I have cultivated a weed in my garden. If I find the time, I might tell you about that. For now, I’ll be interested to hear if a few of my readers have any kind of chamomile or mayweed growing wild in your worlds, and I will get back to my own.

 

Walking in shining drizzles.

I haven’t walked in a downpour yet, but for a few days now I’ve been walking in drizzles and showers, and it has been a watering for my soul. When you live where there is perpetual drought, because it’s not the kind of environment that was ever suitable for this much population, it makes you grateful for every drop.

One day it was a cloud that wrapped me in dampness,
and made a pearly backdrop for Queen Anne’s lace still standing blackened from winter.

All of the plants and animals are happy, too. I saw two pair of mallards carrying on some kind of loud quacking communication, swimming toward each other in the creek, then away from each other… I wondered if they were arguing about who would be hosting whom for the better meal of bugs and polliwogs?

This morning that stream was high and deep from last night’s heavy rain. Frogs rejoiced.

All the blossoms are dripping and shining.

At home, euphorbia flowers were cups offering me baby sips, and the iris that opened in the night was like a canvas showcasing a multitude of raindrops in different sizes.

Now in the afternoon, the sun has come out,
and I’m considering taking a sunshiny walk to round out the day!
That would be a very Spring-y thing to do, wouldn’t it?

Weddings and Road Songs

Today is my wedding anniversary! It was sweet of God to arrange for me to attend a wedding last night, in the neighborhood where my late husband and I honeymooned so long ago. I drove down after church yesterday and listened on the way to Alexander Hamilton on Audible. I’m more than halfway through that book now, only 17 hours to go 🙂

The wedding stirred up memories of our own youthful idealism and exuberance. I often think about weddings Then and Now and will probably have enough material for a very irritating book before long, so I will leave that topic, except to say that I am comforted that there are still weddings happening, and that one still encounters couples who have a vision of what a marriage can be.

When we left the wedding hall in the Santa Cruz mountains the sky was cold and clear, and Orion and the Big Dipper were sparkling up there as huge and bright as could be. I had to be careful walking the 1/4 mile in the near dark to my car, hungrily craning my neck at the stars with an eye on the mudholes below. Then it was only five minutes back to a humble Airbnb room where I slept soundly in a good bed.

This morning I made use of the organic coffee in the fridge and a French press to brew it in… I indulged in carafe full. As I was packing my car and finishing my coffee I got a text from a cousin who lives just up the hill from where I had stayed. Yes, he said, we are home, please come.

The house that he shares with his wife is a mountain cabin only a few doors down from the little place where we newlyweds spent a few nights back then. This very cousin had been visiting his parents’ cabin while we were honeymooning and had stopped in to say hello one morning; I remember it vividly. Now here I was with them in that cabin that has been their home in retirement. It was almost as good as being with my children, to be with this man  who knew my husband long before I did and misses him, too. They gave me coffee that was even better than my first cups, and listened to as many honeymoon or deathbed stories as I wanted to tell them.

When I made a pit stop on my way out of town I tried to eat some sunflower seeds; my hand shook and I scattered them around in my car. Hmm, I thought, being this buzzy from coffee might be as bad for my driving as being drunk. I texted my friends and asked for prayers that angels would keep me, and calm me.

My whole eight weeks of traveling to Wisconsin and India, I felt that angels were carrying me on their wings, or God was keeping me wrapped in a protective cloud, or however He handles these matters. I had accidents, things went wrong, but no disasters… For decades I’ve believed that on the highways, heavenly hosts intervene constantly between all the hunks of metal barreling along, carrying tender flesh — otherwise all of our distractions would cause many more collisions than actually happen. So it was natural for me to count on angels to shield me from harming myself or others through my foolish coffee-drinking.

I didn’t listen to Hamilton at first, because I had to drive on Highway 17 from the coast to San Jose, which always feels like fast slalom course through the hills. I knew it would take all my concentration and I wouldn’t be able to pay attention to American history at the same time. So I let the music play through my phone as iTunes always insists on doing, and it began to shuffle through a hundred or more songs in one folder.

I’ve written before about how my husband had been the owner and manager of the iTunes account; in the last three years I have occasionally sorted through and weeded out, and added new songs. Mr. Glad had several songs by Fernando Ortega, and I heard one of them today. It reminded me of the last weeks of my husband’s life, and the many hours when, wanting to play music that was restful to him while not annoying to me, I settled on the songs of this gentle man.

Nowadays I only have one left in my playlists. It doesn’t come up very often, but when I was just getting in the groove of rapid steering wheel work on the curvy road, there he was singing “Road Song.” I’m sure some of you know this song — don’t you think he is singing about angels? I always do. By the way, I never felt the jitters at any time during the next two hours.

I let the music play, and thought about how the words of so many of the songs expressed my experiences of the last hours, or of my marriage, on this day of remembering it in particular. Gordon Lightfoot was singing about “Rainy Day People” and how “They don’t talk back, they just listen till they’ve heard it all.” That was my cousin and his wife whom I had just hugged good-bye.

Tom Petty sang, “We were built to last, on until forever. The world is changing fast, but our love was built to last.” Yes, the love between my husband and me was “built” by Christ Himself.

For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (I Cor. 13)

It was not a nature-study sort of trip I was on, but I did wish I might capture some of the colors around me on my way. Driving home I stopped at a rest area south of San Francisco, down the hill from this statue of Father Junipero Serra who in the 18th century founded first nine of 21 Spanish missions in California. I have seen the statue hundreds of times from the highway but never hiked up the hill before for a close encounter.

The friar had a string around his finger — was he trying to remember something? I stood directly under his pointer to get this view.

Ceanothus (California lilac) was at its peak of bloom right by my car,
and I even got a new bee-at-ceanothus pic (top of page).

California poppies also dotted the hillside, but my favorite display was farther up the road. When traffic came to a standstill on 19th Avenue in San Francisco, I saw out my window by the trolley tracks a crop of those orange flowers brightening that drab space.

Now I’m home again and just under the wire getting this short report done when it is still the today I began to write about. Tomorrow is another day, if God gives it to me, another morning when the mercies of God are new again. That has been my experience, and as long as I’m on this journey that will be my Road Song.

Happy Anniversary, Mr. Glad!