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I'm a woman entering "the third chapter" and fascinated by the journey.

Monday, August 24, 2015

On beginning the last year of middle age

Yes, today is my fifty-ninth birthday--an odd age, not one recognized with special cards or generally celebrated with age-specific parties. The only time I remember the age ever being specifically mentioned is in Mary Doria Russell's The Sparrow (which I read for the first time in my forties), when Anne examines herself in the mirror and concludes that she is "not bad for an old bat" but too old (and too married) to seduce a gorgeous young(ish) priest. It's an in-between age, kind of like seventeen (for those of us old enough to remember the song, in which Janis Ian described learning the truth), but at a very different place on the life spectrum.To stop any speculation right now, fifty-nine is a much easier age than seventeen. I like it better and thoroughly expect to enjoy it more. Adolescence was rough, and I have no desire to go back (except maybe to have joints that don't complain, such things being a nuisance).

Fifty-nine is not, however, young, and to be honest, not in the middle of any ordinary human life span. Until recently, sixty was considered at least early old age by nearly everyone. To my knowledge, none of my relatives has lived to be a hundred and eighteen, or even a hundred. Ninety is the outer limit for most of us (and those who made it further retained very few marbles during their last few years), placing me at the last year before the last third of earthly existence. Oh. my.

So--watch out, world! Retirement from full-time paid employment is only a very few semesters off (barring some economic disaster--not impossible, and I'll be in good company if that happens and likely to still be enjoying the tormenting of
students), and my hours and days will be mine to structure. Activities will be those that seem to me a worthwhile expenditure of limited time.

Hmm...I wonder what the next adventure will be.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Long time no blog

This summer has not been one with a lot of time for gardening, between finishing up our move, selling two houses, spending time with a family member receiving Hospice care, and schlepping around Bulgaria and Ireland for two weeks with friends. (At some point, there will be pictures of and meditations regarding the European experience.)

The good news is that our urban space is proving to be a wildlife mecca--well, maybe not a mecca, but we have wildlife, sometimes in the most unlikely places. The potted "tropical garden" on the back patio draws hordes of bumblebees and the occasional hymmingbird

although the hummingbirds actually prefer the rose of sharon hedge separating our building from the yard next door. I would never have planted such a thing, given althea's desire to colonize the known universe, but the blossoms are evidently loaded with nectar.
A "pollinator pot" on the front wall is doing its job,

and we have more tufted titmice than anyplace else I have lived, sometimes half a dozen at a time going for the sunflower seed in the feeder. The mini-meadow in the lawn strip next to the street  has been attracting bees and butterflies, including the occasional monarch, for several months now despite its youth and pitiful raggedness.

The real excitement, though, was walking home from the library on a drizzly morning to find a pair of goldfinches busily scarfing down seeds from the lawn strip liatris. Looking forward to future develipments.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Another favorite

One of the delights of our new place is its location across from the city arboretum. The park (and it's an old one, dating from the town's founding in 1788) lost two dozen or so mature trees during the derecho of 1998, at which point the city council created an arboretum and began encouraging the planting of a variety of trees and shrubs. Many memorial trees have been planted, making a meander through the arboretum feel like a visit with now-departed friends and neighbors.

But today, I want to effuse over bottlebrush buckeye. Our old place boasted three young bottlebrushes, and leaving them did indeed cause a pang; however, this gorgeous plant is visible from our front patio.

Yes, that is a bottlebrush buckeye, nearly as large as all three of our specimens put together, and  loaded with its distinctive blooms.

Aesculus parviflora, though related to Ohio's state tree, is not technically native here, being found in the wild further south, but this indestructible shrub (and indestructibility does seem to be a feature of my favorite plants) seems to do well throughout most of the eastern US and into the Midwest. It greens up early, blooms for three weeks, turns bright yellow in the fall, and seems to have very few pests other than mildew. (This fact may be related to its poisonous nuts.) Best of all, its waving plumes attract butterflies and hummingbirds, as a glance at its tubular individual flowers would indicate.

With all its good qualities, one has to wonder why this lovely thing isn't as commonly planted as obnoxious invasives like privet and bush honeysuckle.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

More to love

Life has been too busy to allow much time for writing (no details forthcoming, but it's all good), but I must share a few more things to love about our new location. The interminable hanging-on of Tropical Storm Bill is not among them.

  • Mysterious paths just a few minutes' walk from the front door

  • Enthusiastic streetside gardens

    • Evening light over Harmar Hill
      • The river
      • Humor

Sunday, May 31, 2015

FInding their way

Slowly but surely, the critters are finding their way to the new place. The little pond (soon to be drained and cleaned) hosted spring peepers in noisy abundance (and probably mosquito larvae, hence the need for the cleanout). The neighborhood concert includes lots of starling music (and I have to confess that starlings amuse me), but we also have robins nesting next door, lots of cardinals, chickadees, and titmice, and a plethora of Little Brown Birds. Unidentified bird calls have led me to believe that we have had warblers nearby.

The bees are here. The torenia, of all weird, non-native porch plants, is quite popular with bumblebees, and smaller bees have started making appearances.

What we have not yet seen are the butterflies and hummingbirds. My hope is that the about-to-bloom monarda in the front yard and the ridiculously red Texas sage on the back patio work their hummer-attracting magic soon. Mittsy and I are becoming impatient.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Wind in the Trees

One of my favorite things about three of the seasons in our part of the world is the sound of wind blowing through leaves, and one of the benefits of a few days of forced inactivity (maybe the only good thing about getting the flu) is the opportunity to sit on the patio and not feel guilty about everything that needs doing. Mowing the lawn strip or carrying boxes up from the basement would, after all, violate the doctor's advice to get some rest.

Living across the street from the arboretum  as we now do, I get to enjoy not only the smallish trees directly in front of our place but also the venerable hundred-footers gracing our cherished public green space. Between the oaks, the various maples, the hollies, and the tulip poplars, we get quite the concert on a breezy afternoon. Best of all, this music is free, as is this song from one of my favorite (now-disbanded) bands, the Mayhaws. We'd best enjoy it now since, as the song reminds us, "The trees won't matter when you're dead" 
(apologies for having to sit through an ad).

Monday, May 18, 2015

Cornus kousa

The two mature cornus kousa (Asian dogwood) in the lawn strip are in full bloom right now, and while the trees are not something I would have planted, given my predilection for natives, they are showstoppers for anyone walking in the neighborhood. The original owner/designer of the garden we have inherited (and will one day get to work on more intensely--once we sell Chipmunk Ridge) wanted an Asian-inspired urban oasis, and given the view from the front patio, I would say that she got her wish.

This small tree (seldom more than 25 feet tall) has quite spectacular bracts surrounding tiny fertile flowers and takes over just about the time the last of our native dogwoods finishes blooming. The species has been widely planted in recent years because it seems immune to the anthracnose currently threatening cornus florida.

Its large blooms are, I have to admit, quite gorgeous and most welcome at a time when few other trees are flowering. (Apologies for a blurry shot taken during a rain shower.)

Alas, this Asian beauty has a downside. While its North American cousin hosts some 117 species of  moths and butterflies, none of our insects can eat kousa, and its fruits are too large to be eaten by any of our migrating songbirds. In its native regions, monkeys feast on the berries, but the Mid-Ohio Valley has a dearth of non-human primates. 

I have, however, read, that the fruits are tasty to humans and are a good smoothie ingredient. This summer may bring some culinary experimentation.