Sunday, January 20, 2008


There's only a minor bit of yard debris left from the big storms of a couple of weeks ago: a wayward plum tree listing toward the overhead wires in the front, a big mass of Cecil Bruner rose thicket that fell down in the back. These are all things that need to be pruned away in any case. January is a month of trimming back.

On days when it's just too cold to work outside --even if bright and inviting -- the pruning takes place inside, where it is known as de-cluttering. Closets, drawers, corners, backs and undersides of everything that can be reached. I wonder if the Goodwill and Salvation Army are aware of this seasonal compulsion and put on extra staff to receive the booty of everyone's compulsive clearing away of personal debris?

They must be aware of the cycle, because the retail outlets certainly are. Festive paraphernalia of December gets replaced overnight with sales on storage bins and tools of household organization. Do New Year's resolutions arise from some primeval urge to get rid of what weighs us down, to get in shape for the quickening that is coming?

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Storm #2

The second storm came through today -- as promised. Wind, water, weather. Falling trees, major highways closed, major bridge closed. I got a phone call from work this morning not to come in -- no power and dubious road conditions.

So it was a peaceful home day hunkered down inside until late afternoon when the skies cleared. I took a walk and found that lots of homebound ladies had had the same idea at the same time. We were all out taking the air.

The daily inspection of the back yard showed a new layer of leaves cast down by the winds. Some old branches of the climbing roses had fallen down on the walkway. It's all looking pretty scruffy, but that's normal for this time of year.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Talking Rain

I love the voices of the rain. Right now it's a medley of soft whisperings, millions of windblown droplets lightly hitting the varied surfaces of our little urban homestead -- each surface yielding a different tonality. The percussion section of this watery symphony comes from the gutters, sharp poc poc poc sounds lending a gentle backbeat. And the wind itself sings the harmonies, louder, softer, dying down, surging up again.

There are three Pacific storms careening down the west coast in a line. This is the first and the least worrisome. The next two come with warnings -- high surf, coastal flooding, gusting winds. B., who likes big weather systems, explains that even though the storms are coming from the northwest, the winds are coming from the southeast because of the way the big atmospheric whirlpools, swirling counterclockwise, strike the coastline and move overhead.

For myself, I prefer the cozy closed in pastime of listening to the raindrops.

I did manage to get out to the backyard during a lull, right when I got home from work and there was still enough light to see -- just barely. Did the rain and wind of the long wet day do any damage to the garden? Nope. So far, so good.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Nightime Foray

It's a small domestic adventure to go out at night to pick a few greens for the soup. The cats trail along companionably, as they always do whenever I show enough good sense to spend some time in the yard -- and in the dark to boot, an unexpected bonus! They are ready for whatever comes. The flashlight beam darkens the night around it, and the plants that are spotlighted look strange and alien -- grey-green, contorted.

I snip some leaves -- no more than three or four -- from the sturdy little kale plant that is in its second winter. It's the only survivor of a group of seedlings set out in the fall of 2006; now it's crowded into the corner of a bed, towered over by tall, bolting arugula. Last summer, a kale-loving, non-gardening friend was given the go-ahead to pick some leaves -- not knowing the protocol she cropped it to a nub. I thought it was a goner; but here it is, a greyish bouquet of curly fronds, crisp and upstanding in the cold air.

A few snips from the chard (not too many; we've been hitting it hard lately and we do know the protocol), a few more from the parsley, and back I go to the house. The cats dart ahead and sit down directly in my path. What's your rush? they imply; the night is young.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The Turning of the Year

The backyard at dawn on New Year's morning: a lone crow flies north against the pink and blue sky, a waning crescent moon hangs like a forgotten Christmas ornament. The winter garden is a bedraggled assortment of blackened vines left over from summer and a few fecund patches of greens that have been producing daily salads and vegetable side dishes for weeks on end. The blackened vines are still hosting a few wizened tomatoes that have made it through the heavy frosts.

We also have some pale tomatoes ripening artistically on a plate on the dining room table, and a pile of scraggly branches stashed in the garage with some green globes still clinging. Last year we had tomatoes for Christmas and for New Year's. This year we may well have tomatoes for Valentine's Day! (Probably not.)

No dramatic seasonal changes in these parts -- always something dying, something sprouting, something ready to harvest. You have to look close to see the small shifts that mark the turning of the year.

Today we throw out the old calendars and the boxes of our days will be presided over by new themes -- Japanese prints this year rather than dramatic photos of Yosemite (last year's gift from a friend superceded by this year's gift from a different friend). Like millions of others, I quietly decide to start afresh, turn a new page, in some small area of life. This blog, for instance -- a place to write down the little revelations of the day in order to see them more clearly and see more of them.

In the garden the year turned about ten days ago -- the earth began tilting back toward the sun, lengthening the solar path across the heavens. The season of light. Actually, the season of the return of light. Cause for celebration since ancient days.

And always room for new beginnings in these endless turnings.