Smoke, blooms, books

August 20, 2018 @ 6:05 pm | Filed under: , ,

(I wrote much of this last week, didn’t post it, and then the air quality improved. I went on an hour-long ramble yesterday evening and it felt marvelous. But today: hazy skies and burning throats again.)

The air quality is terrible here in Portland this week: fires in so many directions. We’re stuck indoors and there is a lot of bouncing off the walls going on. Quite literally, in Huck’s case. But all of us, really! I miss my walks. I’m an addict now, that’s become clear. Morning nature walk with the kids; long evening ramble on my own or with Scott or both. How many blossoms are opening and closing while I’m closeted in the cool house, breathing the filtered air?

It’s only been a few days. I’ll survive. 😉 The fires—far away from us but so fierce we’re inhaling them across the miles—the weeks of dry season still ahead. The warming planet, the denialism—the campaign against reality being waged with fearful success in certain quarters. These things are much more concerning than my missed nature walks.

I think sometimes about our friend Tracy, the hospital social worker, telling me all those years ago when Jane was beginning chemo that some parents of patients are ‘monitors’ and some are ‘blockers.’ Monitors feel less anxious when they have lots of information. Blockers feel more anxious by information overload and prefer to leave the in-the-weeds details to the experts. (I was told I’m the most monitory monitor they ever met. This because I was begging—in those pre-Wifi days—medical textbooks so I could fully understand about pluripotent stem cells and what was happening in my baby’s bone marrow.) This distinction wasn’t a value judgment; it was meant to help terrified parents cope with the ordeal: a child with cancer. An awareness of what relieves or inflames your anxiety is powerful knowledge. But I’ve come to believe that being a blocker is only safe if you can utterly trust the experts in question. And the voices who turned climate change into a political issue—framing it as politics instead of a set of facts supported by abundant data—those voices are not trustworthy. We’ve all got to become monitors now.

Oof. Do you know I thought I was coming here to write about sourdough starter? That’s one of the ways we entertained ourselves indoors this morning: we got a starter going two weeks ago, and today* we tested it out on a batch of pancakes. (Too hot to bake bread.) The pancakes were delicious; the starter is strong. Rilla handles most of the care and feeding (and she keeps a log book with daily updates about status and hydration level), and Huck flipped all the pancakes. And Jane…got on a plane and went back to California to start her new job. (Sniffle. No, I’m excited for her, truly!)

*Last Wednesday, that was. From here on is new today, Monday.

Since I can’t spend much time in the garden, I’m obsessing over my houseplants, and they have rewarded me with surprising blooms.

Nearly a year after I bought it, my Aeschynanthus is blooming and I’m over the moon. I used to grow these beauties (commonly called lipstick flower) by the half dozen back in pre-baby days, along with Nematanthus and other gems. We left nearly all our plants behind when we moved to Portland last summer, but a few months after our arrival Scott and I were en route to buy a card table (for jigsaw puzzles) from a Craigslist seller and we passed a Very Large Sign emblazoned with one of the nicest phrases in the English language: PLANT SALE. Of course I had to pop in *just for a look*. It turned out to be the annual sale of the PDX chapter of the Gesneriad Society—an organization I belonged to myself, back in the day. (Some of you longtime readers may recall a post I wrote about that chapter of my life ages ago.) Anyway, I spent five dollars at that plant sale last summer and have been enjoying the trailing foliage of my Aeschynanthus and Nematanthus all year. That five bucks also bought me a Streptocarpus (Cape Primrose), whose pink blossoms made me giddy…while they lasted. I never could keep a Streptocarpus alive.

It was clear the Aeschynanthus was happy with its spot near the east-facing window of my studio—gorgeous, abundant foliage—but no blooms. Until HELLO, suddenly it’s a Revlon commercial in that corner. These flowers are bonkers. And it’s bursting with them. Talk about a makeover!

And then! And then! The very same day I lamented on Instagram that I missed my old goldfish flower (the aforementioned Nematanthus)—we met friends for a drink in the evening, and there was a small nursery next to the alehouse, and GUESS WHAT I FOUND. A bitty little $2.50 goldfish flower in full bloom. Of course I had to adopt it.

What I’m reading:

My Mary Stewart kick continues. Over the weekend I reread Thornyhold (far and away my favorite of her books so far) and Rose Cottage (second fave), and now I’m a couple of chapters into Thunder on the Right (bit of a slow start, but picking up). Many of her books can be had for $1.99 on Kindle at the moment, including Touch Not the Cat (I loved this one), The Ivy Tree (suspenseful, moody), and Madam, Will You Talk?

This Rough Magic is an extra dollar, but it’s Tempest-inspired! Probably #3 in my rankings so far, but I have several other novels to go. Including The Moon-Spinners—remember the Hayley Mills film?


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6 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Lise McGuinness says:

    Glad to see you back here! So scary, those fires…and the deniers; I find them here around me, even in the liberal bubble I live in.

    Glad your houseplants brightened the smoky days.

    I’ve been reading book after book lately, previewing and choosing for our Arrow book club this year. I finally read “Prairie Thief,” and loved it. I know my girls will love it, too, and am excited for our book club (coming in October).

    You’ve got me wanting to check out Mary Stewart. I know I’ve got something by her somewhere on the shelves…

  2. Penny says:

    I just finished Touch Not the Cat (I mean, who could resist that title?) and enjoyed it very much. I’ll try Thornyhold next, since you told me to (smile).

    I hope relief comes soon, for the fires and for well, everything else. I’m glad you brighten your world, and then ours, with plants. You have some really interesting ones!

    Take care – xo

  3. Penelope says:

    Phew, the wildfires haze has been wretched, tho’ we are far from them …. Last night’s excitement here was and is the flooding rainstorms: 8-13inches here in our town and environs! Climate madness, and yet they are rolling back even more protections ….

    Mary Stewart! I haven’t read her books in, I want to say, decades … I’ve been rereading dear Anne, intermixed with loads of nonfiction.

  4. Emily says:

    My columbine plant was like that….I planted it, watered it, thought I killed it, because NO BLOOMS, when, BEHOLD! The next spring it bloomed! So now I’ve learned, oh, duh, Emily, it’s an early spring bloomer. This year the squirrels dug at the roots so I had to replant, but I now have abundant leaves and am hoping for lovely blooms in March/April!

    never read Mary Stewart. Am I going to have to add her to my list now? 🙂

  5. Martina Hellmann says:

    Mary Stewart is really an interesting author, but I rather prefer talking about you…
    There are several reasons, I love reading your books; since childhood, I watched the *little house * films on TV, even in Germany, and I found translations, earlier, in our local bibliography,but I’d been interested in everything about pioneers, and therefore I went discovering Scotland, when I was still younger.
    Your Charlotte writings are really worth to read about, but Martha and all of her inquired stories are absolutely great for me.
    I visited Scotland, which meant Isle of Sky, Scairngorms, and later The Lowlands, for several times, and since nowadays, the Lakes and Yorkshire dales are my favourites for my holidays.
    Wasn’t it for Brexit, I would have bought some smaller accommodation near Grange over Sands last year r this right now, because my life assurance is due in a few months.
    I visited the USA, but beside of the New England States, sorry, really sorry, there wasn’t any more attractive thing, to lure me , I’d rather watch something like Grand Canyon on TV, because you couldn’t see most of those, excuse me, really spectacular things on your own behalf|foot, or whatever you may call it,,,
    I learned quite a lot of botanical terms reading your Martha Books, though I had to use translation books, or even apps: but I learned, you wouldn’t fill the gap between the first Charlotte year and the last Martha book.
    I consider it really a shame, but you have probably your reasons, so I can’t really accuse you…
    But just another voice, and I am German, and older than you, but your books were one reason to try another choice on reading English/American and I somehow got it right now…

  6. Elliesee says:

    This post made me think of you as it convinced me to read poetry like nothing ever did
    You couldn’t be more different, but you’re both mothers, writers and homeschoolers.