We’ve Had Rain


May is generally good to us, rain-wise. 

Sometimes a little too good, as when flash floods sweep away cars and houses and people. But this year the rains were just right.




It was some time in the first week of June that summer arrived. Without warning the sun at noon burned the skin; I let Travis out early one morning to find that it was hot. All the gardens have to be checked several times a day for news.

Last winter at a family lunch my daughter handed me a paper bag labeled larkspur. In it were a nest of fine twigs with seed pods attaches. Amazingly I remembered to toss them here and there as spring approached. Then I had to look up larkspur so I’d know it when it arrived. I may be unruly, but I do have some manners even if I cannot remember your name.

Fortunately larkspur is a good sport.


Travis is working on being a good sport also. He’s been very generous about letting Marco and Lucy take over his water dish and his bed, but has only in the past few days tolerated actual contact. I keep telling him that the kittens don’t want to hurt him, and he keeps telling me I have no idea what kittens are about.


I know they like to watch birds, however. The kitty condo is right by my desk behind the couch, and we spend time every morning spying on visitors to the feeders. This week an entire family of cardinals were in and out of the back yard several times a day, and I spotted a nest in the yaupon beside the driveway.


Even the doves, which I typically regard as being a few tacos short of a combination plate, are unexpectedly pretty when I take a moment to look.


Mary sent me a card once that reads, It is a fine thing to do nothing…and rest afterward. I’ve found myself doing a whole lot of nothing in these weeks without school, drifting from one internet site to another, one part of the house to another, off on another walk, thinking about actually going somewhere and doing something and then changing my mind and staying on course with the indolence program.

Flowers don’t do much either, unless you count making our life on earth possible while filling it with prettiness we in no way deserve not doing much.

I’ve been unaccountably happy to see bachelor’s buttons in the array of wildflowers I sowed this year. (More about bachelor’s buttons from LA in my next post.) They are among the earliest flowers I ever noticed; a clutch of them returned each year to one corner of our tiny front yard at the beach. Anything that can thrive in a sandy patch of dirt bathed in sea salt is my kind of plant.


I really should look up more names. I really should do a lot of things. But who can think of homework when there are photos to be taken between bursts of what’s been a very lively wind?


On one walkabout I spied a very pretty cluster of what seem to be a blanket flower variant:


Oh, they could be cauliflowers for all I know. Someone once wrote something about a rose by any name, and as an English major I have absolutely earned permission to adopt such an attitude. There are people in the world whose job it is to come up with names for things. Why not call flowers whatever we like?

Now my mind goes straight to the nursery, where workers must be patient enough to help customers find, You know, that yellow flower with the dark things around the middle part. There must be an iPhone app that will identify flowers from a photo. Must find.

Such are the ramblings of the summer mind, especially one that purposefully seeks distraction from the current political news. I’ve been so hungry for distraction that I’ve even been reading some books on paper. (Most of my reading this past year has been provided by Audible, which most recently has run along the lines of the Bernie Madoff scandal. Who knows what you’ll pick when you’re browsing at four in the morning?)

Among the books is one I selected on a whim based on a recommendation mentioned in a biography. Such a provenance!

It was in my second biography of Elizabeth David that I found a reference to her sister Felicite’s work in a London book shop, and how she could charm people into walking out with a complete set of the Miss Mapp series. Well. Let’s type that in and see what we find.


Well, I don’t know how you could resist. Turns out the Mapp and Lucia series is an array of lightly comical satirical novels about the people in a certain English village in the 1920s and 30s. Aspiration, posturing, competing for status – you know. The back cover of my Vintage Classics paperback reads, Benson’s series revolves around two unforgettable characters, both forceful and irrepressible women who will eventually end up at war with each other.

Will Queen Lucia be first to break the news about who is about to move into the Old Place? Or will she be scooped by friends and those who pose as friends until someone more interesting comes along? So much has changed since the village’s beloved guru was discovered to be nothing more than a London curry cook who drank brandy by the gallon and fled the village of Riseholme with a satchel full of stolen treasures.

That’s about as political as I care to be these days.

But I digress.


The Mexican rock rose appears to be as generous as all the rock roses in its willingness to sprout up here and there all on its own. Swoon. We had a series of cloudy days as May moved toward June, making it much easier to snap photos all day long. A flower as delicately colored as the Mexican rock rose easily washes out into white nothingness in a daytime photograph. Soon, however, Travis and I will be walking much earlier than is our current habit. The sun will be hotter for one thing, and summer school mornings will be here before I know it.

I don’t have much butterfly weed this year, but wherever it does show up it creates a bright little spray of orange.


I think this is one of the most appealing aspects of a wild and native garden: every year a different array of flowers will arrive, dominate, then recede. Some of the flowers are self-seeding annuals, some biennial in their blooming. While there are plenty of perennials to anchor each bed, the wildflowers provide a constantly changing palette.


Once these wildflowers have gone to seed, a number of lantana in various colors will fill this space for the rest of the year. By then it will be too hot to plant anything and I won’t be in much of a mood to nurse new members of a sweltering landscape anyway.

I’ll be doing much more nothing and resting a whole lot afterward.






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