Posts Tagged ‘moss’

The rare warm day

1 RiverFriendlyRiverWildOur family moved to North Dakota in January, not the month when you really want to move to North Dakota.  By the time the front and back doors had stood open for an entire day–so the movers could lug our furniture and books and other things inside–the poor furnace couldn’t possibly keep up and the house was completely chilly.  Not long after that, we met a couple who had moved from Nashville.  “It’s not how cold it gets here that bothers me,” our new friend said.  “What bothers me is how long winter lasts.”  That was never more true than the year of the big flood.  By April when the river overflowed the dikes, we were seeing no green.

Many years, May found snow on the tulips.

Here in Portland, though, we just had a gorgeous sunny warm day in February.  I loved poking around the garden to see what had survived the wet and chill of winter.  Would such a day feel so good if we hadn’t looked out on the puddles for so long?

???????????????????????????????This moss was so nice and bright when I put it in the garden.  Now it looks pretty scraggly and awful.  I can’t wait to see what more sun will do for it.  Meanwhile, I’m prying up pieces of true moss (this is sun moss) and putting them into this spot.  Some people spend a lot of time trying to get rid of moss, while I’m trying to get it to grow.

In Ethiopia, we had rainy season and dry season.  February here is a gorgeous time there–perhaps getting a bit crispy in spots, but in the southwest, where I grew up, we had green most of the year.  I remember running out into mist, thick and mysterious, trying to figure out what was happening to the plants and rocks and trees I felt so connected to.

GondarmistYears later, my breath caught as I looked down over the misty city of Gondar, the ancient capital, looking just as mysterious and fascinating as my childhood world.

Japan 027

Here in Portland, the newscasters have been talking this week about the fleeting thrill of cherry blossoms.  When I did an author visit in Japan, the people who showed us the blossoms always made the point that they stand for beauty especially poignant and heartbreaking because it’s so brief, such a flicker here and gone.

Norway 039This time several years ago, I was speaking in Norway.  The stark rocky landscape doesn’t strike anyone as a here-and-gone kind of place.  But of course rocks shift.  The earth splits and heaves here, too.

Oh for the words that rumble and stir our blood, that shake us and soothe us, that remind us of what’s here and what’s to come.


Goodbye garden, hello secret gardeners

The golden zucchini was starting to bear fruit.  I was on a hunt for pale plants that would set off the kind of dill that invited itself into the garden this spring, and that hunt was making me pay more attention to the weeds around my neighborhood.  The tomatoes were still small and green but looking promising.

And then I had to leave.


But it was a great year for me to be at the Vermont College MFA in children’s literature residency…among other reasons because this graduating class named itself after one of the books I most loved reading to my daughter, The Secret Garden.

Honestly, although I said a few weeks ago I felt like one of the girls from the Little House books when I was gardening this spring, I should have said I had entered the world of the secret garden.  Overgrown.  Rocky.  Bare patches of dirt.  A whole lot of ugliness.

But like Mary and the other kids who poke and pull and dig and coax the plants in that book, I found the gloriousness of watching the green flourish against the dirt.  Sometimes it bursts and explodes everywhere if it only has a chance.  Sometimes it creeps.

Moss creeps.

I like this patch I found in one part of the dirt, though, and I’ve been trying to figure out how to encourage it.  I also planted Scotch Moss and Irish Moss.  Just before I left for Vermont I got nervous because I started to read about mosses and thought, at first, I’d put those two plants in a way too sunny place.  Then I discovered they aren’t true moss.

Some of us have a damp, shady garden and some have sun to work with.  Some of us have deep, rich soil.  Some have rocks.  Clay.  Choking weeds.

As I was gathering the seeds for my lecture, I read this:  “I remember hearing an interview on NPR with some pianist, who played some little bit of some piano solo, and the interviewer commented, ‘I’d give anything to play like that!’  In response, the pianist asked, ‘Would you practice for 10 hours a day for 20 years?'”

Secret gardeners do the work.