Monthly Archives: May 2013

Not so different

Beth and I are the two youngest in a family with six kids. Two years and three days apart in age, one might think that we’d be alike. Some people even think we are. We think they’re mistaken. We live together, so we should know, right? But ever since we were little, we were just soooo different.
Beth tends toward introversion; me, not so much. She is a slow and methodical worker who likes a fixed schedule. Me: not so much. Our whole ongoing garden experience can be quite challenging. She wants to discuss (endlessly, it sometimes seems to me) exactly where things should be planted and when we’re going to plant them (do we have to do it together all the time??) and what is the best method for fertilizing and blah blah blah…. I’m more like “Helloooo bees, how are you? Oh! There’s that plant that’s been sitting there for a minute (or a day or three weeks), I guess I’ll go stick it in somewhere right this very minute.” And since I can be restless and impatient and, okay, yeah, bitchy, and Beth is calm and measured and is usually only crabby when she’s hungry, but she can get her feelings hurt and be, um, a little sensitive, our disparate styles can slam together like opponents in a roller derby.

And speaking of style: I wear mostly black though I’m working towards allowing more jewel tones, but I usually avoid patterns, and actually can be alarmingly monochromatic. Beth gravitates toward muted colors, and she loves patterns. I tend to show a bit more, she is conservative. In fact, just this morning as we suited up to go do yard and garden work, I was struck again by how very different we are. Beth was wearing socks and tennis shoes, old faded jeans, a soft blue over-sized t-shirt and a sun-protection hat that completely covers her short hair, frames her face and falls down over her upper back and shoulders. I had twisted my long, curly red hair into a messy bush on the back of my head, was wearing a bright bikini top, black stretch capris, and spangled black flip-flops. The contrast between us struck me as hilarious, so I got my camera, followed Beth outside, and made her stand with her back to me so I could take a picture of her and she could retain her anonymity. Then I had her take a picture of my back. I was going to post them on a blog about how different we are.

I told her my great idea. She looked at the picture of her backside and, well, let’s just say she wasn’t a fan of the whole thing. “It’ll be great!” I coerced. “No one will ever know who you are; they can’t see your face! It’s all about the contrast! It’s all about how different we are! See, my picture doesn’t look so great either.”

Hmmm. Note the absence of pictures. Maybe we’re not so different after all.

A WoW! kind of day

Yesterday was full of email and text interruptions from two photographers and a graphic designer, all focused on producing the book covers I have pictured inside my head. One photographer is taking gorgeous, mystic sea pictures for the cover of Deeper than the Deep Blue Sea, and I’m hoping to line up the other for the fun and funky cover I have in mind for How to be a Redhead. My goal is to have both of these books published by the end of summer (read: goal, not promise!)
As if that all wasn’t enough excitement, I got a download from a musician friend today. Some time ago I’d given her a copy of a poem from Deeper, and asked if she could write a haunting sea-type melody for it (I want to be ready when Hollywood comes calling…). The song arrived in my inbox this morning. Already I am weaving my voice with hers, throbbing a wavelike throb of emotional longing, playing with the back of my throat to produce different timbres, leaning into the push and pull of the tide with my body as well as my voice. I’m remembering other times, other achingly beautiful songs I’ve sung, and this song, which is meant to convey intense longing, is succeeding almost too well. This first incarnation of the song is too, too short for the extensive playing I want to do, so I’m kind of scorching the repeat button. Oh, well, all in a good cause.

I leave tomorrow, ridiculously early I might add, for a two-week trip back home. I will no doubt be far too busy catching up with family and friends in two states, not to mention I’m the maid of honor at a wedding. However I still seem to believe I’ll have plenty of time to get down to long-delayed editing. I’ve packed a red-lined copy of Redhead to take with me on the plane, and both manuscripts have been carefully loaded onto my laptop. Just in case.

It’s going to be tough leaving my garden and my bees, even for just two weeks. They are doing so well, and this is an exciting time for both. Beth will have all the fun with them while I go gallivanting. Maybe she’ll take pictures….

Bees: One Week Out

Meet The Smoker, a beekeepers best friend, and the beekeeper, J, our new best friend. They arrived this morning, bright and (a little too) early, for our ladies’ one week checkup.

Our bees, perfectly suited to their new environment (read: Beth and me), like to sleep in. At 8:30 on a cool morning, they are just beginning to wake up, clearly in need of coffee, just like us. We have been eagerly awaiting this moment, when we will learn whether or not our queen has survived the transition and become the Queen Mother she was destined to be. Our mission: see if there are eggs in the hive. Secondarily, see everything else possible without getting stung.
I know it’s early, and we have the smoker going, but I still find it interesting that our bees remain so completely mellow. We disturb them, yet they are not disturbed (another lesson I could learn from them). I am so excited! I don’t really know what I’m looking at or looking for, but I’m excited as all heck anyway.
 The bees have spread out over several frames, and as I peer closely (as closely as I dare) I can see beautiful fresh honeycomb, and, glory be! Honey! But what I really need to see are eggs: is the queen laying? If not, we will need to replace her, and the sooner the better for the health of the hive.
I wish my camera would record what I see, but between it and me, no can do. The new comb is irregular,  rising and falling across the frames like waves. There are different colors, from pale yellow to deep brownish-gold. Yes, I can see honey in places, and I’m so proud of our bees. They’ve done so much work in one short week! Unfortunately, I don’t have the expertise to spot the queen, though she is gone from her plastic palace. Neither can I tell if there are, in fact, eggs. However, J assures me that all is well, our queen is doing exactly as she should.
What with my camera’s batteries needing replacement and my head constantly getting in J’s way (maybe I should get a suit and veil of my own if I’m going to insist on getting between J and the bees all the time), the hive has been open for maybe 15 minutes. Only one little bee has started to show stress, raising her stinger-end high. Still, one is enough. It’s time to leave them in peace. And, clearly, they don’t need us at all.

Pac-man Pants and Wiggle Butt

I have a friend who is a little older than I am, a little more sophisticated than I am, about a foot taller than I am. He’s a lawyer I met when I was a massage therapist. He’s the kind of guy who goes to golf outing benefits. I’m the kind of woman who works at them. By the time he got up from my massage chair on that bright day, we’d successfully cobbled together the beginnings of a friendship.
G has season tickets to Berkeley Rep. (!) For those of you who are closer to my side of the culture-coin, Berkeley Rep is a very highly acclaimed theatre, where they do a lot of plays that are a little more “cutting edge” than the average Broadway- or Shakespeare-style venue. For several months now I’ve been the beneficiary of his largess (you have to talk like this when you’re hanging out with a lawyer), and have accompanied him to some wonderfully performed shows.

Recently I rode BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit for all you non-Californians) to Oakland, hung out in a great little used bookstore long enough to find a new bee book, and then met G for some amazing curry followed by an unusual and funny performance of “Pericles, Prince of Tyre”.

It was as we were leaving the restaurant that my friend looked down the street and said loudly, “Pac-man pants and wiggle butt!”

I looked around wildly, saw nothing at all to warrant such an outburst, and said something brilliant and erudite like, “huh?” I couldn’t believe my ears, so I didn’t. But he was happy to repeat himself, several times, in fact, until I really could not doubt that he had in fact said, “Pac-man pants and wiggle butt!” 

He seemed to think he’d seen something worthy of such bizarre proclamations. I looked high and low, doing my best to find something, anything at all that would justify it. I did catch a brief glimpse of a pair of brilliant yellow pants moving away far down the block, but really?

In the end, I thought it best not to make a fuss. He is, as I have said, a foot taller than I. And a lawyer.

Bee Well?

There is a thing known medically as the Herxheimer Reaction. (My extremely unprofessional explanation is) this is when a body is detoxing, and the toxins are leaving the system and sometimes microscopic critters are dying off in the body and all that gunk moving around causes things like headaches, upset stomach, fever and other flu-like symptoms. The symptoms can last for a few hours or a few days or, in the case of heavy-metal poisoning, years. But once the process is completed, the human is healthier than it was before.
In alternative medicine, or in the metaphysical realms, this reaction is sometimes called a Healing Event. In those philosophies, some people think that a Healing Event can occur not just during times of physical detox/healing, but also when emotional healing is happening. My current philosophy concurs. In fact, I think I have experienced such Healing Events on more than one occasion. I can’t prove that I’m actually better off after such an event, but I choose to believe that I am, and so far, that works for me. And over the years as I have made changes in my life to improve my physical health, I have definitely experienced them.

I find it fascinating that, the day after we brought home our bees, both my sister and I had headaches. I do get them from time to time, but these days it’s pretty rare for Beth. More interesting still, Beth’s lasted into the second day, and mine was still bothering me and my stomach on the third day. 

Now I imagine that most people wouldn’t see any correlation between these things. But my mind latches onto such coincidences, and I wonder. I wonder what wonderful healing we have invited into our lives by hosting bees, which are generally gentle creatures that do more good for the world than most people realize, and who are now in serious danger worldwide. Whatever it is, I welcome it.

Happy May!


I love California! Back home in Michigan, or back even further to Ohio, you aren’t even supposed to plant your garden until Memorial Day. That used to make me absolutely cra-a-azy! Not to mention, I could never wait that long anyway. But here it is, the first of May, and look what I’ve got going on! Contrary to what the name implies, this little darlin’, Persimmon, is a tomato. Obviously.


And that isn’t the only fruit I’ve got going on in the tomato bed. I’ve got me a peach, too, a Wapsipinicon Peach! 

Now I know that purists will tell you that tomatoes aren’t truly vegetables anyway, that they actually are fruit already. But, really, have you ever heard of a peach named Wapsipinicon Tomato? 

Our tomatoes this year are giving us no end of fun, and they haven’t even started blooming yet, let alone setting fruit.  We’ve not only got an orchard going in the tomato beds, we’ve also got a Pink Hairy Boar and, wait for it, the perfect combination of fruit and pork: the ever popular Pineapple Pig!

And, just in case that isn’t excitement enough, we’ve got Grinch Cherries. After all, everybody can’t be happy all the time.

Now lest you think we’re some kind of crazy tomato radicals who won’t grow anything else, let me reassure you that we’ve been intrigued by other never-before-heard-of items. For example, a few weeks ago I was reading a *charming British novel in which a very young girl had a marrow whom she introduces like this: “I have a marrow this big!… He’s called Monty and he’s in bed with a cold” Well, what the heck is a marrow? I looked it up and, low and behold, it’s a a big orange squash! So I immediately check with one of my favorite **organic seed places, and sure enough, they sell marrow seeds! So exciting! And while I’m on their site anyway, I just happen to, um, you know, see some other kind of weirdo squash I’ve never heard of before, and both the marrows and the Sibley squash are reported as being “good keepers,” and who wouldn’t want to be eating their own fresh produce deep into the dark winter months, right? So I ordered both. Of course.

* This is the book, The French Gardener by Santa Montefiore, with the marrow with a cold. I liked this book maybe four stars; I didn’t love it, but it did keep me interested.

** is Baker Heirloom Seeds, the company where I buy a lot of my rare and/or exotic seeds. Browsing here is a delight for me!