Wednesday, January 11, 2017

After a long illness......

Virginia Woolf once wrote, ”Consider how common illness is how tremendous the spiritual change that it brings, how astonishing, when the lights of health go down, the undiscovered countries that are then disclosed what wastes and deserts of the soul a slight attack of influenza brings to view, what precipices and lawns sprinkled with bright flowers a little rise of temperature reveals, what ancient and obdurate oaks are uprooted in us by the act of sickness…..”

I have indeed been uprooted physically and emotionally by these past three months of back pain. Where is my old life?  When will I be able to garden again, pick up my grand-daughters, regain a sense of sustained vitality?  I have wondered,  is this the new normal, a new yet circumscribed life?  And then, the thought occurs, is this forced convalescence all bad?  The ability to sit silently, identify, and watch the birds at the fountain or at the feeder brings such joy and has much to recommend.  The time (before only stolen moments from endless days of busyness) to read and consider, write without hurry, to work with my hands and mind fully engaged, in essence to follow my inspiration and expands before me daily and I am soothed and uplifted.  Likewise, the Orinda oaks outside my window with their strong branches and deep roots, their strength and perseverance, and their ability to withstand sustained drought, strong winds, and beating rain, are a balm to my soul and provide a constant and quiet inspiration.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

On this Day........

 “ "The writer catches the changes of his mind on the hop.  Growth is exciting; growth is dynamic and alarming. Growth of the soul, growth of the mind."
 Vita Sackville-West

On this day, March 9, 1892 Vita Sackville-West was born.  She was a much published novelist and prolific poet.  Above all, she was a consummate gardener.  Over the past thirty years, I have been inspired by her writing, and the garden she created at Sissinghurst in Kent.  Through Vita, I discovered the deep joy in creating gardens.  Red hot pokers---Kniphofia---and also known as torch lily, were one of Vita's favorite herbaceous plants.  In honor of her dedication to the growth of the soul and growth of the mind.....A Red Hot Poker Birthday Bouquet.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

March Rain

“Then the weather; great bouncing gusts all set about in the rain soaking one.”
                                                                                                      Virginia Woolf

    Much needed March rains have arrived in my Orinda Garden.....soaking quickly into the ground.  The thirsty camellias, like this one, and the white, pink, and dusky rose rhododendrons are appreciating the deep soakings.  And I appreciate being driven indoors to spend time writing at my desk, no longer on my knees weeding.  The three new raised vegetable beds are in at last.  The artichokes, leeks, and kale transplanted, and new lettuce, brocollini, and spinach seedlings planted.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Bloomsbury Fall

  “I can only note that the past is beautiful because one ever realizes an emotion at the time.  It expands later, and thus we don’t have complete emotions about the present, only about the past.”
                                                                                                                                        Virginia Woolf

All during this current month of September, I've been remembering a beautiful past September in 2004. I was leaving my Silverado Canyon garden for England, and beginning a journey to research and write a book.  I was searching for Vanessa Bell.  Staying in the Bloomsbury area of London, I sought her everywhere...gazing out an upstairs window, crossing busy Bedford Place, taking tea in Russell Square.  She had moved to the same area one hundred years before, in 1904.  On my way to the British Library every morning, I walked past other leafy gardens and past 46 Gordon Square. I imagined her easel and paints among spare bedroom furnishings and light streaming in, onto white distempered walls.  I spent long days in the British Library, pouring over biographies, memoirs, art reviews and more.  I spent rainy afternoons in the dusty basement of the Courtauld puzzling over long ago and faded art exhibition catalogs.  I often wanted to ask her, why this blue, why that  line and composition, why the Matisse like high-keyed color there?  Virginia Woolf once wrote, "Mrs. Bell says nothing.  Mrs. Bell is as silent as the grave."  But, I beg to differ.  Woolf was wrong.  Vanessa Bell spoke to me. This enigmatic, resilient, and experimental painter captured my curiosity, my heart, and my imagination.  The book was published eleven years later in 2015.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

May Garden

“…At the moment it is divinely lovely here..."
                                               Virginia Woolf

My Orinda garden is divinely lovely in the early evenings,  after the sun has set and the lights come on. It casts an almost  magical spell. Everything it seems, is in bloom.  The dogs follow me about as I clip spent roses, pull a rogue weed here and there, and enjoy the last few hours of the day.  

Six tomato plants were planted last week, red and yellow bell peppers, and basil....always basil.  We are eager for the black mission figs to ripen and add a touch of sweetness to the end of a good meal.  I'm also considering making the fig pie mentioned in Jans Ondaatje Rolls The Bloomsbury Cookbook.  But what exactly is treacle?  And, will I be able to find it at any of my local markets?

Thursday, March 26, 2015

March Musings

“It’s lovely in the garden;….flowers suddenly light up in the evening.”
                                       Virginia Woolf

A gentle mid March rain has done wonders
      for the garden.  The rhododendrons, camellias, and lavenders are providing a blaze of color lighting up each evening.  The rain also provided an opportunity to work on an art project---cataloging five paintings by Vanessa Bell and then creating five art on be submitted to the 25th Annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf juried exhibition The Mark on the Wall. 
It's been a fascinating process; mentally  conceiving each piece, carefully selecting materials and colors, and arranging each piece.  I found the process remarkably similar to working with my hands to plant and grow a garden.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

December thoughts....


“…what has the deepest and most permanent effect upon oneself and one’s way of living is the house in which one lives.  The house determines the day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-to-minute quality, colour, atmosphere, pace of one’s life; it is the framework of what one does, of what one can do, and of one’s relations with people.”
                                                                                 Leonard Woolf


This quote.....not by Vita, Virginia, nor Vanessa.....but by Leonard Woolf eloquently captures how at home I've become in where I live; the bay area, my Orinda house, and my northern California garden.  My small Silverado house and surrounding garden had a profound effect on me. They taught me how to dwell on a small scale.  How to accommodate for towering canyon walls and limited sunshine in my garden for at least three months of each year.  How to weather the extremes of heat, fire, frost, and flood.  That experience, that environment,  and the memory of that wild and undomesticated space will live with me forever. 

But day-to-day, hour-to-hour, minute-by-minute, this unique Orinda house and unpredictable garden is providing a new framework for my life: for what I do (and won't do); for my continuing relationships with close family; for evolving experiences with my curious, creative and imaginative grand-daughters; for creating interesting life spaces for new friends; and for old friends......keeping them close to the heart in deep and abiding love and affection.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Fall in my Orinda garden......

  “Here’s the sun out ….and all the upper twigs of the trees as if dipped in fire; 
the trunks emerald green; even bark bright tinted, 
variable as the skin of a lizard.”
                                                                                             Virginia Woolf

Fall has arrived in the bay area ....
and my Orinda garden.  
The Acer's are aflame with fall colors 
and a joy to behold.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"...Then the positive delights also of flowers and trees and innumerable
unexpected sights and sounds keep one perpetually happy."
Vanessa Bell

After a morning of dead-heading
iceberg roses, planting a burgundy
dwarf loropetalum by the steps,
and a white solanum along the
back fence....this glorious
and unexpected sunset .......
over the Berkeley hills.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gathering at the Table

"When the last apple, the kitchen table, and the bread-knife have come together, it is felt to be a victory for the human spirit over matter. The milk-jug and the ginger-jar are transformed. These common objects are invested with the majesty of mountains and the melody of music."
Virginia Woolf

On Mother's Day Hannah, Jordan, Stella and Djuna gave me a common object---a book---but what a very special book...The Bloomsbury Cookbook: Receipes for Life, Love and Art by Jans Ondaatje Rolls. I am enchanted and transported by what I'm finding between the covers of this book. As readers, we are invited to gather at various Bloomsbury tables---simple but talk-fascinating breakfasts at Monk's House, leisurely lunches at Charleston Farmhouse, candlelit dinners at Gordon Square, and alfresco suppers at La Bergere in the south of France. This wonderful book is filled with over 300 recipes, quotations, letters, paintings, photographs and personal reminiscences of various Bloomsbury artists and writers. I'm of a mind to spend the next year inspired...reading through these pages and trying all the recipes. A heartfelt thanks to my family for discovering this gem and knowing me so well!

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Garden in Early May

“…there are plums, pears, figs, together
with all the vegetables. This is going to be
the pride of our hearts.” Virginia Woolf

Virginia and Leonard's Monk's House Garden, and the
wonderful Orinda sun exposure inspire me to try
different plants and different vegetables. Globe and baby
artichoke plants in the raised bed are beautiful. We had
our first steamed artichoke Saturday night. Also growing,
six varieties of tomatoes, zucchini, leeks, arugula, basil,
kale, spinach, broccoli, and red and yellow bell pepper.
A Japanese eggplant was planted, but disappeared. 
The local squirrel perhaps the culprit? The herb garden
is a delight, providing french tarragon, oregano, chives,
mint, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. The Eureka and
Myer trees are abundant with lemons and the Orange tree
is sending out the most heavenly scent in late evening
and early mornings. I am in agreement with Virginia.....
yes, our Orinda garden is going to be the pride of our hearts.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Garden in Early April

"The most noteworthy thing about gardeners is that they are always optimistic, always enterprising, and never satisfied. They always look forward to doing something better than they have ever done before." Vita Sackville-West........

Everything is so different here in Orinda
from my life and gardening in Silverado Canyon.
Different experiences, new acquaintances
(can I yet call them friends?), particular plants,
unique birds,micro climates, and yes....
frustratingly hard clay soil.

But what joy! I have apple, pear, plum, orange,
lemon and fig trees. I take absolute delight in the
extensive sun exposure and the opportunity to
succeed in growing tomatoes, spinach, kale, peas,
and so many herbs. I relish the cool shady places
to stop.............and rest.......... and listen to the birds.