Hello good friends and fine gardeners, or those who I do not personally know at this moment with whom I might someday ultimately become good friends. I am easy.
Let me tell you what I am seeing. This is a good exercise for me, as I am currently attempting to finish a book (Making Heronswood, yes, indeed). It is nearly finished. My cerebrum needs refreshment for I am as bound by words and memories as an aged inactive hen. Thus, I welcome you here to see what it is that I see for a moment or two.
For those lacking a good sense of direction, this is how the scene will unfold; starting at my lap currently pressed into the banquette near the window of our kitchen and ending at the southern horizon far in the distance.
Our obdurate and endearing Springer Spaniel, Collé, is asleep with her head on my right thigh, her silky mocha ears unfurled across my right leg. I strive not to move too much while I type this missive as I do not wish to disturb her. I do this because she is so obliging at night while I attempt to sleep, when she inserts her paw into my right inner brain and then shortly thereafter, barks in my left ear to be let out for a midnight pee. It is obvious this evening that she did not have a good night’s sleep so I must not move while I type this to tell you what it is that I am seeing.
On the table in front of me is a disheveled, scratched-upon-with-red-ink manuscript. There is hardly a more fearful cyclops than a manuscript ready to be condemned by one’s editor. I have found, much to my delight, this manuscript becomes increasingly more tolerable, in fact even quite witty, when it is placed next to, as it is now (for the record at 5:05pm) a very large goblet of white wine. It has a good viscosity, this wine, that is–not the manuscript–and dribbles down this goblet like syrup. It’s color, in this light, on this table tonight, is the same as a very old sepia photograph. In this aging photograph I see an upside-down Madrona (Arbutus menziesii), with hints of cinnamon bark refracted from the bluff beyond this table. This brings to mind ‘whine prose’ found in pretentious wine lists: “Possessing an evaporative sepia moment of cinnamon-skinned Arbutus with lingering hints of inner dog ear.”
Slightly to my left is a large birdcage (correct, we are not yet beyond the window, you are SO smart). Here, the newest inhabitant of our household, a male canary we have called Flap, is feeding Zoe, our female canary whom we have nurtured for three years. Her indulged Highness is sitting on three eggs and demands to be fed by her new mate.
Directly outside the window in full frontal view are the fingery fronds of Chamerops humils, commonly called the Mediterranean Fan Palm. It is very hardy (for us, too bad for you). I like what it does with its leaves in the wind, vibrating like the hands of Jack Nicholson wearing white gloves, overacting, in Batman Returns.
The digits of this palm, from my vantage, seemingly hold aloft the outside bird feeder. In three years, with an ample garden replacing the bleached sterility of lawn, our bird population has erupted to biblical proportions, if bird populations indeed come in that size. It is, in short, staggering. On the feeder, at this moment, is, starting from the left, a black-headed Grosbeak, jumping to the far right, a hairy woodpecker, and crowning the top, a California Quail with its own crown of treble-cleft plumage. This congregate of birds momentarily pause and quiet themselves as a slicing shadow passes across the landscape. I have come to recognize this governing, gliding shade. It will immediately reveal itself as the bald eagle sailing towards its aerie just beyond the west of our house (two eaglets have been noted in the nest as of 5/11/07).
Cantering slightly to the right, an absurdly blue moment has been concocted by Ceanothus ‘Dark Star’. This is a surreal blue, sucking dry the blue of the sky and sea in one breath while in full blossom. It takes audacity to use such a shrub in the garden, in a garden that has a paucity of blue in the sea and sky at this time of year, which is often bleached to silver and gray by a belligerent sky.
On the left, directly on the bluff edge, is an old-growth campanile of Abies grandis or the Grand Fir. Grand it is, enduring gales this winter beyond the call of duty, and, with only half a foothold, remained resolute. This champion is answered on the right by a grove of Madrona, Arbutus menziesii, growing in its precise niche and, in so doing, preserving the integrity of our escarpment. This is what was refracted in my glass of wine, which, incidentally, needs to be refilled. Its cinnamoned skin has now greatly diminished in my glass of spirit, all while the lowering western sun puts its shards of translucent coppery skin to flame.
Between these two monoliths extends a lay of agitated water whose facets dash the brilliance of sunlight in a magical gyrate of light. This avenue of dancing diamonds narrows, as avenues of dancing diamonds are known to do upon water, leading to the mother of volcanoes, Rainier, rising glacier clad in arctic blue to almost three miles above the skyline of Seattle.
At the top of this mountain is discovered the end of this lengthy optic journey. In every direction from my line of view exists the vibrant distraction of life that we as gardeners strive to invite to our landscapes and, too often, do not pause long enough to marvel in. I hope that I can find the time, this year, to explore more fully the peripherals of my vision.