Sunday, April 20, 2014

spring without Finn

what's missing
of course
is my baby

Saturday, April 19, 2014

window bird

18 April 2014

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

Yesterday's slushy snow storm turned to ice over nice; it was like a layer of fondant over an earth cake this morning as I left for yoga. I love it when the sky is bright blue like this - there's always a window of time in the morning and again in the afternoon when the sky is like this, best when there are some clouds I can slowly capture swirling around in it. This morning it looked as if the blue was reflecting all around, off the shimmering layer of frozen snow, and Finn's bedroom window.
my shadow
and the Wild Thing tree shadow
on the April 18 snow
It's been seven months since he was born. He'd be crawling, getting licked by dogs, sharing toys with the dogs, ...I'd have him in little knit hats found on Etsy - bunny ones I had looked at but not bought yet. I probably would have him dressed like a carrot at some point. Photographed and over-shared.

Yoga was probably never better timed; in spite of the beautiful morning I needed some extra inner peace today, maybe a little extra inner strength. Robin's understanding of anatomy and recovery is making such a difference in the on-going healing from the infection of 2009 that played havoc on my nervous system, but she's also finding and fixing areas troubled by scar tissue - related even further back to the rough recovery from surgery after my c-section with Hannah's birth. She gives me hope that I could be looking at feeling, physically, a lot better - for the rest of my life. ...Which is so important - now more than ever.
There is a huge part of me that is forever broken, 
always in need of healing, therapy, help. 
I believe I will be fragile forever, 
so I have to work a little harder at being strong, 
and control what I can. 
Yoga makes me feel in control of a body that is wanting to fall apart. As I'm gently moving my breaths around, muscles stretching and contracting according to my mind's motions, I'm able to let go ...weep, but still breathe. Being able to feel both relaxed and strong at once in a posture is the perfect balance.
at the top of the Bay Street stairs
slush, snow, ice melting
in morning sun
The other day I said to Erinn, "Sometimes I think he gave me wings." I look at photos of Finn, utterly amazed at what I grew, who I made, how brave he was... Some people live a hundred years and do very little, he lived ten days and changed the world in so many ways - for so many people. I wish he was here, but he's not..., somehow I have to learn how to be grateful for the time I had, ...look for him in the sky, and feel him in the air around me. He's there.

one of my favourite books on yoga:

Yoga Anatomy
Leslie Kaminoff
ISBN-10: 0736062785
ISBN-13: 978-0736062787

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

growing a forest in the city

My little Emerald Ash Borer, Madge, and I attended the first class of the Citizen Pruner Program last night. By rare luck Rohan also happened to be in town (in fact his plane landed less than an hour before the start of class and I was there waiting with my boots on as he pulled into the driveway), so he also joined for the evening.
I am SO HAPPY I chose to do this. When I signed up I was literally sitting on my bathroom floor after long cry, sniffling and flipping through The Key when I saw the ad for this year's course. April seemed a long way away at the time, and I really wasn't sure if I would be up to being involved in ...anything...
I decided to sign up, on the off chance I'd feel like doing something by April.

Since that time...
....I've found myself back at work,
involved in other projects,
considering more..
So here I am in April, still crying, but back in it..., and loving this class. 

I've been wanting to learn more about trees. My knowledge of them is very book based and photography driven, but identification often escapes me and I didn't even realize how little I knew about their care until last night.
Many of the urban trees I've admired for years, photographed in seasons, are actually trees at risk, trees who haven't been properly pruned for life in the city. What we need to be striving for is to:
"grow a forest tree in the city." ~ Vince Rutter
Which means assisting trees to grow as they would in their natural forest setting, but in an urban jungle of concrete rivers and competitors for height. Trees in the forest grow tall, reaching their canopies to beyond one another. Urban trees don't compete for that sort of growth, height isn't their main concern.

Survival is really their only real motivation - sort of like grieving parents. Reach for the sky and reach for everything around you, hope for the best. 

The irony being that shortly before the class Madge and I admired some trees in famous Canadian paintings to get ourselves in "tree-mode".. 
Madge doesn't damage trees
she admires them in famous Canadian paintings
Very much in the theme of an earlier post about my desire for a "droopy spruce" for Finn's garden, in my mind I saw a White Pine in a forest - my favourite (with Tamaracks) ~ or something similar from a Tom Thomson painting when Vince spoke of those forest trees in the city. A tree as it should look, and what we admire as fine art. 

We don't have those kinds of trees in urban settings. Our city trees (with the exception of a few) are allowed to reach further than they grow tall. They find themselves developing extra limbs and unnatural growth - things that our human species would baulk at and insist on fixing immediately ... plastic surgeons make more $money$ than radiologists. Just sayin'. 

This class is going to help us take better care of all the trees in our new yard, and any new ones to be added. It has already taught me so much, and changed my perspective. I see trees with new eyes thanks to a few hours of an entertaining lecture ~ what can happen in another couple classes and some field work? A lot, I think. 

Madge, my rather incredible little bug, was hand crafted in clay by artist Heidi Hunter. Her creations are something intriguing, quirky, hilarious, sometimes a little grotesque (but I like that). I've been following her on Instagram, Twitter, and Etsy and enjoyed immensely the "construction" of the Emerald Ash Borers as she made them. She posted photos of their ceramic class anatomy being built from books of bugs - so gross but so interesting. Madge has all her little bug parts, she's a real EAB, just turned to stone and glazed pretty with sparkly eyes. 
Find Heidi by searching @elfguts

links to good stuff:

Vince asked us all to draw a tree at the beginning of class - what we thought what a "perfect tree" first drawing was similar to this, but without the roots. (and I added a bird's nest in my first tree) (can't find that drawing).. anyway, he suggested we try drawing another tree at the end of the class, and notice the differences.
In yoga, and during acupuncture I often visualise a tree - specifically the Oak in our front yard. I breathe through the roots, up the truck, through the branches, into the leaves reaching into the sky then back down through it all into the roots and into the earth. Why I left roots off my first drawing ...bothers me.. .My branches weren't as well "pruned" either - more like a city tree than a forest tree. These on my after-class tree may not be much better, it could be taller - with a better canopy.
I wonder what kind of tree I'll draw in a few months...

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

here comes the sun

James Taylor and Yo Yo Ma

Monday, April 14, 2014

Little Magical One ~ Finn's Garden

I hadn't thought about the garden bed in front of the house, I don't even remember looking at it much until now..., didn't even notice how pitiful it was.
It came to me in an instant as I walked up the path to the front door the other morning on my way home from yoga feeling good and clear for the first time in days. It's going to be Finn's garden ~ below his bedroom window overlooking the Lake.

As it is now a nearly dead, over sheared cedar stands nearest to the front door, anchoring that corner of the house. It just has to go, ...sorry, to the compost. Two leggy, confused mugo pines are also headed for the compost, with whatever mystery spindles are left. There's some sort of lime-leafed spirea in the middle that I'm not sure what to do with - let it stay? Find a new garden for it? I'm not sure yet.
The rest is just empty, full of rocks... .

Finn's garden will be filled with soothing scents, healing plants, blues, whites, yellows, and crimsons, with meaningful names, and messages in flowers. The plants I'm sure will change over time, but as our grief grows so will this garden.
I've kept the one mugo pine that seems to be in good health in the plan, but I've replaced the cedar with a Picea glauca 'Pendula'..which Cathy is kindly sourcing for me. Heather has a beautiful one growing in her front yard, which I've swooned over for years. Though they originate in France, I think they look like neat versions of trees in Group of Seven paintings. 'Droopy Spruce' is what I've called them for fun..., but seeing as a giant black spruce or white pine are a bit too big for the space (a lot too big), the 'Pendula' is a good substitute. 

Baby Millar's Lady's Mantle is going to be taken from Pearl soon, divided and planted all over our new gardens. It will grow and spread, be divided again, given to friends, growing on and on. It was given to us from Chops and Patti, who wanted to buy us a plant to remember our first loss, after that devastating miscarriage ~ which was such a sweet gesture. Chops couldn't believe what I chose, as I carried the unassuming three leafed perennial around the nursery (Bill Martin's ~ before I worked there)... Perennials often don't look like much in their nursery containers, and at the time I think Chops worried it was an insignificant gift. 
I'll never forget the look on his face two years later when they were over for a barbecue, when he saw how the little plant had grown.

Alchemilla mollis has been a favourite garden plant for as long as I can remember. I love how the dew pools on the leaves, and the lemon-lime flower sprays are perfect for cut flower bouquets - like baby's breath... gorgeous.  
Little Magical One (from 2 March 2008) Alchemilla has long been associated with healing and alchemists. From an Arabic word, alchemelych, meaning alchemy; the plant is named so for its "magical healing powers," with folklore suggesting that even dew collected from alchemilla leaves has healing properties.

Also for tea, chamomile (I like the little pointy daisy-like heads of the German chamomile Matricaria recutita), and two of the David Austin roses Winchester Cathedral (to have a little of my mother and father in Finn's garden) and Heathcliff, lemon balm, echinacea, feverfew, and lemon thyme.
For blue, I'll plant a cranesbill geranium ('Johnson's Blue' is the usual go-to around here, but newer varieties have come along that just as blue, longer flowering, and less, 'Rozanne' and another I can't remember by name right now..) and the purple leafed Geranium pratense 'Midnight Blue'..., also bluebells and forget-me-nots seeded beneath everything. 

The back border of the bed, with the chamomile and echinacea I'd like to plant so asters - so long as they don't get too crazy back there. Blue wood asters (A. cordifolius) and Heath Asters (A. ericoides) which will all bloom late in the summer, through Finn's birthday, my special September baby. 

For earlier in the season I've ordered some irises: 'White Wings' and 'Little Sighs', and I'm sure I'll find a few more. I haven't even started planning the tulip and daffodils that will begin each new year, but what I have in mind will be something special - from under the oak tree, across the yard and into Finn's garden I imagine a wave of early, mid, and late tulips surrounded by smiling daffodils.  

I'd like to include a lemony-buttery daylily - this may be the perfect spot for Double River Wye.., and some primrose (Miller's Crimson maybe). We'll see what sort of nursery finds follow me home this year.

Friday, April 11, 2014

surrounded by healers

I am surrounded by incredible healers.

It's no secret acupuncture - specifically acupuncture with Sarah - changed my life and my perspective of medicine years ago. The role she has played in these months since losing Finn have saved my life more than once. It's so much more than the magic she does with the needles, her understanding of Chinese medicine and ability to translate it as she works, the clear connections she can explain about anatomy, function, and emotions.
In my first weeks home after Finn died she would come over - I don't even know how many times a's all a blur, but I remember her there many times at the side of my bed gently doing what she does, letting me cry, helping me breathe. The point on my foot that she worked her acupressure on is forever tattooed in her handwriting 'foot over-looking tears'...because after a few minutes of that I would drift into a dreamless sleep and find some peace for a few hours.

I still see her twice a week and probably always will. When her and Carrie move into their new, beautiful clinic I'll probably see her even more. I'm believing in a little bit of divine intervention in this Year of the Horse that has brought us back to one of my favourite places - Andy's old apartment, the same house where we had Hannah's baby shower, our favourite stoop.
There's more going on here that I can't say out loud yet, but is so exciting - good things happening to good people, good friends ....all connecting back to this park, PACI, that favourite old apartment, down-town PA...our stomping ground.. The new-old connections are goose bump worthy. My text messages are full of people saying, "Giddy Up!"
Waverley Park at 8:46am
on my way to acupuncture

ruby rubber boots
at the top of the
Bay Street Stairs
Sarah suggested I see Robin Faye for restorative yoga. This connection is probably more life changing than I think now..., I've only seen her a handful of times, but very much like when I first started seeing Sarah, I leave each time with an undeniable feeling that something has changed, ..something has been fixed. After my first visit with Robin I struggled to get back up the Bay Street stairs - my lower abdomen and pelvis were still so fragile. This week I practically ran up the stairs without even noticing my accomplishment until I halfway through the park. My hips aren't even sore.

I marvel because it would seem like I don't really do much in these yoga sessions. I've spent most of the time laying on the floor breathing - doing nothing.., she positions me, sometimes comes along and changes the positions, moves my legs and ankles around - does stuff to my right arm (a weird problem area). ..I just lay there, sometimes fall asleep, sometimes cry..
Like Sarah, Robin has a very peaceful presence, it's easy to feel comfortable with her. Added with her knowledge of anatomy and muscles (a massage therapist as well), the kind of treatment she offers encompasses body, mind, and spirit - much like acupuncture, that has changed me so simply but so strongly.
Waverley Park at 5:49 pm
on my way home from seeing Rodney
Robin and Rodney speak the same language. Lots of anatomy, connective tissue talk, and all the muscle partners and groups that interplay all over the body. Sarah told me I should see Rodney Puumula the very first time I saw her. I didn't listen... I mean, I've known Rodney for years.., he a great guy.., but I've been sort of afraid of chiropractors for a long time. I believe in chiropractic care without a doubt, and it has helped me in the past, but since the infection of 2009 the idea of anything moving suddenly in my back sounded like torture.
Not that his myofascial treatments aren't torturous in their own way (I've cried) - and laughed at my crying..(which is about the extent of the emotional element of this treatment) I finally started seeing Rodney a few months ago, and though I worry a little about how excited he gets about poking the sorest areas of my muscles, he makes it worth it. He talks about bikes to distract me. 

Jessica Carfagnini has her own shelf in our kitchen. A routine of vitamins, tea, and foods that are gentle on our fragile systems might sound like a good idea for anyone any day, but there's more to it - and I'm not sure how to explain it. The Chinese herbal supplements are no different than the teas - all made up of stuff \I grow in our garden, or ..more naturally along roadways, in fields, and along streams all around us. 

tbay street art 
at 8:48am and again at 4:31pm 
(I call him 'hooray it's spring guy' this year)

Rodney aside, I wouldn't know any of these people if it weren't for Dr. Atwood, who sent me to Sarah in the first place, convinced acupuncture was going to be the key in ridding me of that infection., among other things. She was with us through all our losses, with thoughtful calls to home and hugs before science. She was with all through my pregnancy with Finn, and there for him when he was born. There again for us when he died. 
She's with us again as we hope to ...try again.. and understanding in ways I could never publish. 
sunset and the Giant
10 April 2014
Someone told Rohan to find Hugh Walker..., Rohan was talking about him before I was even released from the hospital after losing sweet baby Finn. We've seen him for grief counselling regularly since.. 
Hugh is a difficult subject - not just because our sessions with him are absolutely soul splitting, but because I don't even understand what happens in those sessions. We go in not knowing what to talk about, sort of wanting to talk about everything at once but unable to say the words out loud. He knows the words we need to say - doesn't say them for us, but some how knows how to help us get them out. Revealing, heartbreaking, ...I still can't believe we have to be there, talking about our broken hearts being the parents of loss. Hugh understands the disconnect, and is slowly and gently putting those connections a little closer together.
As much as we are going through this together, Rohan and I are dealing with very different feelings of grief. That can make even being together feel lonely and scary sometimes - I don't know how to help Rohan, he doesn't know how to help me... or so we think, sometimes... It's like treading water together, trying to keep each other afloat; somebody's always sinking, or.. we're both sinking. Hugh brings us back to a place were we can both touch ground, still hanging on to each other.  

Each of these people play roles in our lives that can't be expressed properly in words. It isn't just their specific field of medicine they offer us, a little something extraordinary comes with them. We'll never be "fixed" or "normal" again, there will always be a need for healers in our lives. I hope to keep all of these people close to me for as long as possible. 

...and this doesn't include all the healing friends - Heather, Marie and Fred, Edie, Erinn, Jenn, Sheri, Andy and Karen, Cathy, Lori and all of BMN, Caroline, Shelly, Tanya for her courage in healing of another kind, Michelle from TheBump, angel mum Starlette, ...and so, so many more who have made it so we never feel alone. 

Friday, April 4, 2014

baking... who knew..

In one of the many stories of infant loss that I've read lately a simple story about potatoes has stuck in my mind. I wish I could link to it, but I've lost the story in links - when I find it I will. This mother wrote about trying to make mashed potatoes some time after the death of her infant daughter..., she peeled the potatoes then stood there staring at them wondering what to do next.
That really summed it all up.. use it as an analogy if you like, something so simple as making mashed potatoes, and not 'forgetting' what to do..but just not even understanding what you're doing - in the middle of doing it.

We decided sometime in November that if we didn't host our Christmas party - which had been a hot topic since we bought the house..., well, since the last Christmas party... We couldn't imagine a quiet house over Christmas. The house was already too unusually quiet. It still bothers me if the kitchen radio isn't on 24/7.. silence makes me crazy. I feared if we didn't jump back in and do what we wanted to do.., that we never would. I think Rohan and I would have been okay with never participating in life again, but we couldn't do that to Hannah. 

I knew well enough not to take on cooking much. Erinn was contacted immediately for baking, Maltese for their awesome trays of everything, Rohan - all too eager to be distracted by cooking meat over fire, and me..., I thought I'd bake a bit. maybe make a pan of spanakopita. Which people might think I accomplished.. but, no... no, no. no...
The meltdowns in the kitchen the week prior were something off Jerry Springer. I could not for the life of me understand what 1/4 cup meant. Cup of what?!?! What the heck is a 1/4? It was like reading Chinese. Worse, these were recipes from my own blog, recipes I've done so many times that I've decided to record it.. (the foremost reason being for Hannah, her virtual cookbook of her family favourites, for when she moves away..which is coming sooner and quicker every day..)
I couldn't work my way through a sugar cookie recipe, I burned anything that got in the oven (I don't even know if any of the baking actually did - that was just dinner..).. Truffles. People might think truffles are challenging, but to any baker we know these things are actually stupid-easy: melt chocolate, cool chocolate, roll chocolate, dip chocolate... The failed attempts at this process are embarrassing, the successes were triumphant. No one ever knew of the tears that went into the 100 or so truffles that survived my shaking hand. 
I haven't followed a recipe for my 'standard pan o' spana' in years, but the night before the party there I was downloading recipes, not understanding, crying, ..and if it weren't for Rohan helping to translate we never would have had any of it. 

I used to love cooking, trying new recipes, trying my own experiments - in baking and cooking.. It's not something I've ever found difficult. Stressful sometimes, challenging in all the ways I love, but never difficult.

So to be stumped by a 1/4 cup was ...I still don't even know the right word. It's the closest I can come to understand someone with a brain injury - trying to re-learn a language.. How do you learn something you've known forever but have never seen before?

Since then I've had months of digestive upset, lack of appetite, lack of interest in food.. I've tried to cook - boiled down and burned chicken bones, burned sweet potatoes, burned toast, burned rice, ...I made pancakes one morning - messy by applauded for flavour... burned more toast... I've managed to heat frozen things, and I made banana bread once. That's about it.. 

Then come garden season, which (to me) ties in so closely with cooking. We're planning our vegetable beds, and the addition of a wood fired oven ...and with that came searches for bread recipes, and sour dough starters. Then I imagine the herbs we grow being added to those breads and baked in the backyard...and suddenly I'm reading as many recipes as I am garden blogs, 

and what comes of that..?!?!

Today, out of nowhere, I get the urge to bake, and a  Butter Pecan Cake and my favourite bread soon appear on my stovetop..neither of which I should consume right now with my tender system, but Hannah will enjoy them, (and R too...). 

The Butter Pecan Cake was posted by
Brule Creek Farms yesterday. 
Andrea's recipes are incredible...they're always successful, and full of flavour. I don't even want to eat cake right now, but this recipe make me want to bake cake. And I freaking did! I still can't believe it. Granted, it's still cooling on the stove, and it's a little toasty...but damn, I baked, and I didn't burn it to an inedible crisp. 
It was hard to not think of baking bread when reading the Brule Creek recipes. My sour dough starter will use their rye flour, so.. I made some bread. It hasn't been baked yet, so it could still be added to the burn list, but today's efforts are about the most I've accomplished in the kitchen in months, so I'm going to give the dough some hope.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Dear Garden Diary

I could go on without a computer, and I could even lose my camera, but I could never let go of a sharp pencil and a notebook. Long before digital photography and garden blogs I had my garden journals, and they are still where I do my best thinking. Drawing the landscape and doodling gardens is the best way to visualise plans...
...Photoshop works too. 

It's been hard for me to draw beds that I don't remember very well. I took some photos last year, but not enough - and not while I was thinking 'garden'. Not knowing how much space I have doesn't really matter right now..., they'e big enough beds and I think I can fill 'em (of course I can fill them)

Moving from Pearl (divided or taken whole): ligularia, all adopted daylilies (red, peach, yellow - unknown), geranium *Wargraves Pink, John Davis Explorer Rose, Therese Bugnet rose, Morden Blush rose, Morden Sunrise rose, rudbeckia, stronecrop *Autumn Fire, hostas (of course), tiarella, pulmonaria, irises, peonies x 2,, ..more...

To be added: roses (already mentioned), joe-pye weed, liatris x a few, cone flowers, heliopsis, annual butterfly weed & evening primrose (if they survive a few seasons hooray), heath aster (small white, various other asters, various stone crop, lemon trillium :), ...and who knows what else...

A bird's eye view of this bed is really what is needed to display the haphazardness of shrubs and marigolds - oh and some individually planted cosmos completely frail in the wind.. It's pretty much all going to go. The Oak tree (my favourite) deserves better company. 
Photoshop doodling, imagining those Hansa roses building a (maintained) hedgeline, a mix of sun a shade plants tolerating the changing light from morning to night, ....there are still bare spots in this doodle which are easy enough to fill..., I just wish I had a better sense of space right now.
I'd like to find a Double River Wye daylily (my favourite), which I had years ago, but for some reason never took with me..., or lost along the way.

All of this reminds me of the front garden transformation at Pearl. :)

The south facing side of the house is..., um, ...crazy. The Virginia Creeper has swallowed the house, and though it needs a good haircut it is also a giant birds' nest condominium. This needs to be done carefully. I have no idea how.
I don't want to lose the creeper, I like it..., I even like it swallowing the house. Maintenance is all that's needed. 

As for the two shrubs with a red x mark, ...sorry... they don't even understand what they're doing there. Random round green balls. 
The star marks line the new path we're considering putting in. It became apparent right away that people will always being walking around back to find us - in the shack or otherwise, especially in summer. Having a path added to the existing lockstone will al so enable us (Rohan) to clear it in winter. (Aussie man loves his snowblower...). I've given myself a few extra inches of garden bed against the path to allow for low growing perennials - oooo, and maybe some creeping thyme and smelly things to walk on. 

The first step, as with any garden..., is the soil.., and good grief the soil in these beds is horrible.
This is a view of the little kidney shaped bed outside the shack. Rocks, dandelions, marigold bundles, and a clump of cosmos. For all the efforts in renovating the house, this took me by surprise. Sigh. This garden needed me. 
I know I can't physically do the work, so I'm counting on Bill and the team to turn this over and top it up with some compost and manure mixes. Once the soil is taken care of in these beds (front under the Oak, along the south fence, front east-south face of the house, the weird kidney bed by the shack, ...and the small areas on the north side of the house... That - is what I'm going to tackle this year. That and planting a tree or two in the back (one bare spot)..

...should keep me busy..

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

photographs and found treasures

The last few boxes surrounding my desk in the basement are in the process of being unpacked. Finally.
Most of what's left are boxes of photos that need to be dealt with properly, organized, and put in albums - I've slowly been compiling everything for that project..., which I'm actually really looking forward to doing.
Family suddenly has a whole new context, and our photographed story from my father as a child in Holland, my mother as a kindergarten teacher, my sister and I growing up, our weddings, our children... is something worth telling properly.

This morning was spent sulking, feeling sorry for myself, emotional, unable to even look at Finn's photos. I miss him so much. Some times(days, hours, minutes, moments) I'm able to hold it together, others ..not so much. I think I'm learning when to take a step back... let the grief do what it has to do.

There are times I can't read other grief stories, I can't bear how much I relate to them.., other times I can't tear myself away. Today I found my way to Mitchell's Journey, unable to look away from his father's story.
He speaks and writes beautifully of his son, but most important to me is the photographic story - and what he says about the importance of being a "paparazzi" in your children's lives.

I felt terribly guilty for dangling my iPhone over Finn from the moment we were reunited after his birth. The convenience of being able to take decent photos with a gadget that fits in the palm of my hand was too easy, and even more easy to share instantly with family and friends. I kept telling myself to live in the moment and put the camera down, but I didn't.
How grateful am I now that I have dozens of photos of him - photos in every outfit, at every time of day - and night, in the sunshine, with the dogs, by the fire, outdoors, indoors..., I captured every minute I could. Without those photos now - where would I be? From his growth inside me, to his precious ten+ days, I have it all on digital files, saved forever.

(Due to the mother-daughter code photos shared of Hannah must be approved by her - and for the most part they haven't been since "teen" was added to her age. ...but that doesn't mean I don't take them, save them, and have them all at hand.)

Chris Jones' story is important for another reason - as a father's journey through grief. His words are poignant, thoughtful and not held back by any tough exterior. I think it's often hard for father's to express themselves; Rohan has said a number of times how difficult it is to 'be the man' in this situation, hold it all together.. ( those early days I don't know how he did it, while I lay motionless). So much of child loss and parental grief is focussed on mothers and how mothers cope. A father's perspective isn't something we've come across much, and certainly not one this beautiful.

Among the photographs and boxes of important things I don't know what to do with, I found some odds and ends of my mother's, some she intentionally left for me with messages scribbled on the envelopes, others just random things I ended up with - notes, drafts, notebooks she kept records in (she kept records of everything).
In a faded grey folder I came across a photocopy of pages from Dinah Shields & Edwina von Baeyer's book A Beginner's Guide to Gardening in Canada.

(von Baeyer's Rhetoric and Roses and Garden Voices being among my favourite garden reads..)

My mother's handwriting (in red pen - she must have been grading papers at the time) dates it 1992 ...
I know in the early 2000's she took a course or two in personal landscaping, hoping to do something pretty with her new construction home & garden - the work for which was put in me as hard labourer. She still didn't have a clue, but her determination was expressed clearly through likes and dislikes over my work. I am still being punished for planting purple (her least favourite colour) delphiniums in her front garden. (I thought they were blue..)
Though her enthusiasm for outdoor gardening may have been underwhelming, her indoor garden was always something spectacular. Also in the faded grey folder, a little pencil written note pulled from one of her many notebooks - on sprouting and growing avocados. My childhood memories of windowsills are not without a small glass of water with an avocado seed balanced on toothpicks half way in water, half exposed. I can't possibly imagine how many avocado plants she grew. I don't think any of them ever grew an avocado, but her plants were gorgeous.

Isn't it something that my mother the reluctant gardener was the first inspiration in my plans for our new garden.

Her Hansa rose will be among the first additions, but I've also just ordered some David Austin roses, a little tender here, but worth it even if for only one season. In my first garden I planted Winchester Cathedral - simply because I loved the fragrance of the blooms, even in the pot at the nursery. It wasn't until it was planted and I introduced it to my mother that she told me of how her and my father watched the changing of the bells at the real Winchester Cathedral while on a belated honeymoon (I think my dad was at a conference and my mother tagged along, but they called it a honeymoon... *academics*).
Ordered today is a new Winchester Cathedral, Golden CelebrationGraham ThomasJude the Obscure, and Lady of Shalott.
They're all of the hardier Davis Austin roses (famous for old world style and fragrance), but still considered somewhat tender here. I'm willing to take my chances. I'm eyeing up the sunny beds nearest the house for these, but that would involve the removal of boring shrubs..., which is a lot of work.

I see a lot of shuffling in our garden's future. The Reluctant Gardener pages my mother focused on were shrubs: flowering almonds, ninebark, burning bush... all of which are interesting, and worth considering for spots in this garden as well.

Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening, 1900-1930
Edwinna Von Baeyer 1984
ISBN-10: 0-88902-983-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-88902-983-5

Garden Voices: Two Centuries of Canadian Garden Writing
Edwina Von Gal, Edwinna Von Baeyer, Pleasance Crawford 1995
ISBN-10: 0-394-22428-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-394-22428-2

Reluctant Gardener: A Beginner's Guide To Gardening In Canada 
Hoel Cooper, Edwinna Von Baeyer, Dinah Shields 1992
ISBN-10: 0-394-22233-4
ISBN-13: 978-0-394-22233-2

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

grow your own chocolate?

Aside from Lawrence Badani claiming to be buying the Lyceum Theatre, this is the best April Fools Day joke I've seen yet this year. Thanks Mother Earth News.

Post by Mother Earth News Magazine.

back at it...

It didn't take long for me, once I smelled the soil and spotted the plug trays, to want to get to planting..., and the day it was set up us die-hards were there at the planting table. It's the only part of the greenhouse season I can't miss out on - the first in years being last year at this time, when my mother was in hospice. I feel disjointed if I don't plant.
I don't mind the cold temperatures of January and February because they usually come with bright sunny days, and crystal clear starry nights. March and April are often dreary, dirty, damp, cold, and generally miserable. To spend those two months surrounded by warm soil under a blue sky roof - who could complain?

The last thing I expected to do this year was be back at work. I knew I would plant, and "hang around".... but, commitment wasn't something I was entertaining. It turns out I just don't know how to sit still, no matter what is holding me down.
Euphorbia graminea ~ Diamond Frost
Grief - of this kind especially, is defeating. There isn't a day, a moment, a conversation, a thought, that passes without Finn heavily on my mind. As much as it weighs on me I've come to conclude it also gives me strength. In a strange sense, I've never felt more empowered. I'm all too aware that worse could happen, the tension in my gut won't let that go - but, there aren't too many lower lows than what I've experienced in the past year.

I'm still standing.

The clarity that comes with the energy of being in the greenhouse again has helped in so many ways. My focus on our new garden is pretty clear; I even know how we're going to solve the new-garden-no-vegetable-bed problem so that once outdoor planting weather finally arrives I'll have some place to get my seeds dirty. (stay tuned)

I've already decided to focus on the trees, learning about our new trees, pruning and disease concerns of our new trees, adding birdhouse and feeders to the yard, dividing/moving/transplanting favourite perennials from Pearl, moving/transplanting favourites from around the new garden beds, and the addition of rose bushes.

The rose bushes I add this year will fill our yard with my mother's favourite childhood scent thanks to the wind sweeping across the Port Arthur Ridge to and from Lake Superior. By autumn I hope the yard will display some sort of transformation from bland to beautiful, useful, prosperous, and fruitful.

My father's scientific mind, my mother's artful eye, and my precious son's energy are a part of everything I do now. They'll grow in ways their bodies couldn't, and my only hope is that what comes of it makes a positive impact on the small parts of this earth I can help.