The Wearin’ o’ the Green

There is, of course, one overriding, excellent reason that Ireland should celebrate the remembrance of her patron saint with a vivid display of everything-green. Ireland is the Emerald Isle. I’m not Irish, but I suppose I can pretend to a certain level of affinity on the strength of two excellent reasons of my own, the first being that my Viking ancestors (if any of my Norse forebears were actually so intrepid and aggressive) had a pretty good chance of crossing paths somewhere along the line with their counterparts in the British Isles, Norwegians having gone on various exploratory and marauding forays in that direction. My patronymic (Wold), after all, sounds suspiciously more Anglo than Nordic to me, no matter how many in Norway do share the name.

The second and far kindlier tie I feel to Ireland is because I was born in the Emerald City (Seattle’s nickname) in the Evergreen State (Washington’s), surrounded by every known flavor of green and a few yet undiscovered, and I think it was anything but coincidental that on my one visit to Ireland thus far I felt remarkably at home even in the middle of the winter, when the chill and snow still couldn’t entirely subdue the exquisite greenness of the land. It may not have hurt this sense of connection that some of the locals on that trip asked me what part of Ireland I came from, given that my accent apparently wasn’t heard by them as being wildly different from some in the UK. In any event, as green and growing things resonate so deeply in my heart and soul, I can’t help but celebrate the beauty of Green while millions are wearing, spending, planting and drinking it, and otherwise rejoicing in the character seen as protector of the great green land of Eire on this most Irish of days.photoHere in this Emerald Land

Because there is no sapling in the earth

But that springs out when water wakes its seed

And sunlight calls it up in urgent need,

I think the rain and sun of equal worth–

Yet all the riches of a blooming world

No greater shine than that most humble weed

Whose leaf invites the passing deer to feed

Because its banners, sweetly green, unfurled–

No flower can surpass, exotic bloom

Outdo green’s living beauty or exceed

Its life-affirming sweetness when we heed

The subtler potency of its perfume–

And so I bow my head, ecstatic–sing

The joys of every green and living thing.photoMuch as I adore sunshine, I am willing, too, to be showered with the rain, for it slakes the thirsty earth and brings forth all of its green glories.

Rain Dances

It dances across my imagination, rain. It is flowing and musical and magical and, most of all, it catalyzes cleanliness and growth that reawakens the graces of the living world in ways that very few other things can possibly do.photoIt is what I think of as the soundtrack to my dreams, rain. The softly bubbling, rippling, tuneful and prayerful sound of rain in the background, after even the slightest dry spell, is as lovely in its way as a kindly lullaby, as the warbling of some exotic winged thing in a  woodland on a magical evening, perhaps even as a gentle reminder that the creative spirit of the universe weeps both with sorrow and with joy in harmony with all her creatures.photoOn every greensward, in every park in Spring, the land smiles with contentment even while the rain still falls, when rain is in its right place. This is a gift happily awaited by all who thirst–every creature and all the sweet, sweet growing things that fill our garden world. Whether it is thought of as saving for a rainy day or being saved by a rainy day, as much as I bask in the sun at every opportunity, there will always be a part of me that relishes and desires the generous presence of a kindly rainfall.

(I’m pleased to say that it has been raining here for the last number of hours. Life is good.)

Getting in Touch with (My) Nature

I’m sorry to say I’m not cut out to be the savior of the planet. I’m not even very good at saving coupons or saving your reverence. There are lots of saints and superheroes better suited than I am to rescuing goodness, health and happiness. I’m just pleased with myself if I can get the recycling out on time for pickup, fix the wiggly leg on a chair so I don’t have to get a whole new chair to replace it, pull up about six weeds about twice a week. My part in world betterment will always be a smallish one.

But I do have a part in it. I’m ready and willing to play it. One little thing that is on my list of preferred universe-improvement techniques is to work on gradually including a bit less in my daily eating habits and freeing up those calories for people who actually need them more. Ideally, I’d like to find a few ways to see that those people who actually need them get them as well, whether it’s because I feed them myself with my cooking or my modest attempts at micro-mini-farming (I expect to successfully grow up to eighteen vegetables in this season alone), or because I support causes that are better equipped to feed them through charitable or communal means.

Another dainty little improvement I am willing and possibly even able to make in the condition of the quality of life as it exists on this planet is to find more ways to make less waste. I am researching how to capture both the rainwater falling on and the grey-water produced in my house for reuse and distribution in the garden. In Texas, that’s not just a potential money-saver but if drought conditions like last summer’s return or persist, a potential life-saver. But it shouldn’t be too terribly hard. The water’s there. It just needs to be corralled and redirected to where it can be most useful. It’s a natural adjunct to the aforementioned dinky farm-let of a garden with pint-sized patches of vegetables, plus a greater devotion to native, drought-resistant and wildlife friendly plantings that should, over time, reduce the whole yard’s dependence on additional water, provide a bit more natural cover and food for the local bugs and beasts and birds, and ultimately, require less maintenance and far less artificial or chemical intervention to preserve it all in vigorous health and beauty.

My self-improvement plot is mighty simple by comparison even to these extremely modest proposals. I’m just going to try to give in to my less-than-ideal motives and personality quirks less frequently than is my native inclination. I’m going to push myself to consciously and conscientiously do more of the nicer and better and more productive things I am capable of doing, more of the time. Beyond this I’m not certain I can go–but my plans being undersized as they are, I hope that I have just that much more chance of making my individual pin-prick of a difference for the better in my portion of creation, however puny, circumscribed or insignificant it may be. Better by far than not making the attempt. Reality is overwhelming and bemusing enough. Why not work on tweaking it one sweet, precious atom, if I can?

graphite drawing

This is where I landed. Where can I fly from here?

Tree Hugging Hippie


Holy Tree Trunks, Batman! It's public housing for critters!

We got the good news yesterday: we’re expecting! No, come down off the ceiling you guys, this is not a midlife-crisis pregnancy I’m talking about. I’m not having any obstetrics and ultrasounds–will gladly leave that to much better suited (and -aged) women, thankyouverymuch–and I haven’t got a pretty heifer on hand and headed for calving either, like Celi’s beautiful bossy Daisy (she is rather independent-minded, that cow).

We’re having a baby tree.

Our city has a pretty nifty organization dedicated to ecological soundness and progress, and they sponsor an annual tree giveaway, a free young sapling to any homeowner in the city. They give away hundreds a year to first-come-first-served applicants who can choose between a handful of varieties each time and hope they asked early enough to get their first choice. Last year we had just moved into our house and were delighted to be granted a five-foot redbud “stick” in a three gallon pot, a baby that as I’m looking out the window now has about three slender branches starting to give it a little less strictly vertical look, and big heart-shaped leaves fluttering in the midday breeze.

This year I’m happy to learn we get our first choice again and will become proud parents of a Mexican Plum sapling. I’m going to add it to our front yard along with the redbud, where I hope that the two modest flowering trees will grow in to eventually be mature enough to together fill the gap that will inevitably be left when the big, beautiful flowering pear out there gives up the ghost, as I’m told they tend to do in a rather moderate lifespan of 25 or 30 years (this one, given its size and the age of the house, may well have about 20 years under its bark already). Then I’ll still have blooming trees to complement the fabulous old Post Oaks in the front garden.

Can you tell we’re big fans of trees here? When you know that both my husband and I grew up in the Evergreen State, surrounded by Douglas firs and a kazillion other varieties of trees, and that we moved to a state we knew full well would have hot summers (though we couldn’t have guessed quite how relentlessly and blisteringly hot this year), you can’t be surprised to hear that we house-hunted by tree. That is, houses without sufficient trees around them were instantly crossed off our list, while even a so-so prospect as a building might get a go at least temporarily if it ‘gave great tree’. So we were over the moon at finding a nice place set among three old oaks (the one in the back is a Red Oak) and two mature flowering Bradford pears, and fronting a small ravine that is packed with a mix of wonderful trees. Not only do we get the heat-and-light filtering of these beauties, but we get a constant stream of birds and all of the other creatures to which the trees offer shelter and food and comfort.

This summer was extraordinarily stressful for the trees around here, and many, even in our mostly automated watering neighborhood, died. It’s inevitable but a heartrending sight, a rusty brown pine amid the hardier green oaks, letting its long silky needles stiffen and hang lower and lower as if in mourning for its own loss. A big magnolia and oak, standing side by side with their branches now utterly winter-bare and their bark peeling back and pulling away from the trunks that can no longer feed themselves. It’s a bitter thing, dying, for an ancient tree as well as for all of the birds and beasts and bugs that suffer for its loss. And for the people who lose just that much more fresh, filtered air, that spot of shade, that green-roofed place of peace.

So I am doubly happy when I hear we’re getting this new tree. A different kind than those I’ve known, a little adventure in seeing and growing something out of my ordinary ken. One that will show us that it’s spring with a splash of bloom as it grows up, even if the Texas weather trends forbid that we should figure out it’s spring in other ways. One that will someday set fruit fit for jam or juice, or maybe just bejeweled gifts for the birds and beasts and bugs that celebrate the finding of another tree.

I love that despite the sometimes arid and definitely less plant-diverse region here than what I used to know, my home’s embraced by such a wealth of trees. Oaks of many kinds, ornamental pears, a soapberry sapling that I hope will also rise up into a great feeding station for the birds, magnolias and mulberries and pines around the block; trees that make me think for just a moment that even a place of drought remembers its fecundity and grace give me a kind of nourishment that all the birds and beasts and bugs can take for granted but I hope that I do not. An infant human is a lovely thing, to be sure, as is a newborn calf. But for me, for now, nothing is better news than that I’ll soon have another tree to plant and someday sit beneath.

Worth more than its weight in gold