Buh-Bye May, Hallo June!

So, May sort of came, beat up everybody, and left. It feels like it should still be April 17th.

But it’s not. It’s the first of June.

In 2019.

How’d that happen?

I didn’t get as much done this year as I’d hoped by now, certainly not bookwise – I know, I know, the books still aren’t up. Good gravy, that’s been a learning process. The two biggest things I learned are: stress interferes with our creative processes, and social media steals time.

So rather than wax eloquent about writing, I figured I’d write an update post to you, Dear Reader, and see where we go from here.

Our dog, Coyote, died on the Tuesday after Memorial Day. Man, that’s been hard. We had to take her to the vet to be put to sleep, because she was sick all weekend. I don’t really want to talk about it, but I figured it’s important news so I should share.

My coauthor and partner Rachel came in for a visit earlier in May, but Murphy’s Law prevailed and pretty much everything that could go wrong, did go wrong. That was the Vacation That Wasn’t, and again, I don’t really want to talk about it.

But as it turns out, stress has an effect on creativity. In preparing some pictures for today, I noticed that I never finished the A to Z Challenge in April, and I still have pictures that I took for it. I’m not sure if I have any wisdom to share about not posting them, other than to say, sometimes, life gets in the way of our creative plans and we need to honor that. The only way I’ve found to get back on the page is to, well, get back on the page. Hence today’s post.

Another thing I’ve observed and talked about in the past is using other creative outlets when one is blocked in a particular one. For me, that’s typically been knitting. Over the last few months of job upheaval, and particularly at the end of last year when I was in the thick of it, I wasn’t able to even knit. I just didn’t have the heart for it. In January and February, I was able to play with my pin loom and learn some pin loom weaving, but it wasn’t “real” creative work. It was solely creative play. I finally got back to the semi-circular shawl I’d started designing in January, and am now about half done.

I think that’s a critical distinction, this difference between creative work and creative play. I don’t know that I have any answers yet, but I’m learning there is definitely a difference for me. Creative work is goal oriented: “get Burning Bright up on Draft2Digital and upload it to retailers and my website,” which requires me to learn Draft2Digital, Amazon ebook and Amazon paper book uploads, Draft2Digital interface for the other retailers (non-Amazon), and learn MyBookTable, which is a WordPress widget that lets me build a bookstore on the website (I use WordPress to run this and my other sites). Creative play is also critical, to me being happy and contented as an artist. And in order to feel like working on any kind of play, I’ve found I need to feel grounded, which is why the work-related bullshit was so disruptive to my life.

On the other hand, my husband and I have had some true breakthroughs this last two or three months. We finally opened a local bank account (which is something on our task list since we moved here last year) at a local credit union, got our taxes sorted out (which is huge since we owe an arm and a leg to Uncle Sam from financing the move with premature retirement distributions). We’ve been culling our stuff, still, which is honestly a little surprising because I thought we’d done all that when we moved. Nope. We culled about 15 or 20 paper grocery bags of books, a portable heater, two bookcases, and a copper fire pit last weekend. We completely reconfigured our home office, which really opened up the space. It’s startling how much of a difference that makes.

My new employer allows me the privilege of working from home two days a week, and that’s been a real adjustment. It took a while for me to settle into that new routine, but I’m finding I really like it. I’m an extrovert, and I thought I’d hate it to pieces because it’s just me and the animals at home. But in fact, I’m really liking the peace and quiet, and it really lets me hear myself think in relation to my work and that’s allowed me to be more strategic and intentional. And that’s surprisingly fun.

So like I said, May was a pretty intense month. I’m looking forward to June. The weather is brightening up and we have some hiking planned and a weekend vacation to the Oregon coast later in the month. And yes, I promise, I’m working on uploading the books. And finishing the knitting. And doing the weaving.

In short, I’m practicing being in the moment and following my bliss. And that is surprisingly easy and hard, all at the same time.

I hope you have a lovely weekend, Dear Reader. And if you’d like, I’d love to hear about your Spring in the comments, and what excites you about Summer – or, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere, your Autumn and Winter.

Big love,


N Is For No! I Doan Wanna! Which Is For All Us Wiff Colds…

Dear Reader, I hate being sick. I hate it so much that I’m a horrible patient. I have been better, in recent years, about practicing good self care like going to bed when I’m sick and eating good stuffs.

So good, in fact, that I realized something: I haven’t been sick since moving to Washington last February (that’s February of 2018). Sure, I’ve had it where my body’s kicked off germies, and felt less than a hundred percent. But pure full on snot factory? Nope.

So my boss goes to Mexico. And he brings back the gunk. And I begin two paragraphs in a row with the word, “So;” thereby annoying all my editor friends.

Tough. I’m sick. I can deal with the gunk, you can deal with the so’s. KTHXBI.

I know I’m behind, but I have a handy-dandy little prioritized daily task list, and on that prioritized daily task list is the task, catch up on the A to Z Challenge, because my Dear Readers are lonely and in need of something new to read.

New. ALSO begins with N. Huh. Imagine that.

So I, Dear Reader, am hopped up on coffee and cold medicine (always such a pleasant mix of flavors, eh?), and shall catch up. I promise.

But for now, you shall have to content yourself with one of my favorite gifs on the internet: the octopus of Nope.

Or, as I like to refer to them, octopeople.

But that, after all, is a word beginning with O, and today is for words beginning with N; so I shall leave you with this: Never turn your back on an angry octopus, never turn down a gift from a friend, and never neglect being grateful for all the abundance that is yours. Big love, Dear Reader; more tomorrow.


J Is For Joie de Vivre, Which Is French for Birds Feeding

Okay, it’s not really French for birds feeding; please my French speaking readers, don’t converge on me. And if you don’t speak French, joie de vivre is translated to English as, keen enjoyment of life, as in, “they were filled with joie de vivre.”

Well, here: you watch.

I couldn’t get them to come back to the seed, because I was standing too close, but I didn’t want to step back or I would have been in the street. But I think they’re adorable. I have such mixed feelings about feeding wild birds; everything I’ve read from a conservation point of view advises against it because it interferes with their natural food-gathering and/or hunting habits. But I confess, I love watching them when there’s a feeder to hand.

And more on the “J” theme, even though it’s not AT the botanical gardens, here is a very lovely rhodi, “Just because:”

Isn’t she lovely? The centers are a deep, blushing pink, but the blooms are a warm, creamy white.

Here’s another one where you can see mostly the blooms; I’m astounded that such a deep reddish pink turns white when they open!

I Is For Ivy, That Covers and Hides; The Groundcover of All Things, It Moves Like the Tides…

I have a confession to make: I adore ivy. When I lived in Chicago, I moved into a brick “three-flat,” which is Chicagoan for a brownstone with four apartments. No, that doesn’t make sense; this is because the basement apartment was added in the 1960’s or so in an illegally-made addition done with, get this, plywood. But no matter; I called that little tiny place home for nearly 15 years. In front of our building lay a bedraggled mess that, I’m sure, the former owners intended to be a lawn, but due to the two enormous, stately Norway maples in front of it, ended up as a sun-choked home for weeds and the occasional beetle.

My landlady and I were friends, and I lived in that building for one year shy of two decades. In that time, one of my first projects and what ended up as my longest-lasting one was to install a garden. We called them “The Beehive Gardens,” named for the building (the Beehive) and the gardens (plural because there was more than one tiny weed patch). Besides. The Beehive Gardens sounds so much better than “that little tiny garden that you stuffed in between the concrete sidewalks.” And when you put your mind to it, you can get quite a bit of gardening done in a very small space.

So into that front yard that had been a sad attempt at a village green went three things: English ground ivy, vinca vine (variegated and plain), and Creeping Charlie. “But those are weeds!” you might exclaim and, Dear Reader, you’d be right: but what is a weed but simply a plant growing where you don’t want it to? And one thing all three of those so-called weeds do is spread.

Unlike the grass, you understand.

Now this challenge is for the Bellevue Botanical Garden’s A to Z, but as I mentioned in my “N” post, I’ve got a cold – so I’m actually writing this “I” post on the 16th of April and back-dating it, thanks to the wonders of modern technology. But this further means that these photos weren’t snapped at the Bellevue Gardens but along my walk today at lunch (“today” being Tuesday and not last Wednesday). There is plenty of ivy on my walk, and ivy gets everywhere – including under this juniper bush! – ooh, lookatthat. A “J” picture. Maybe I’ll post that tomorrow… which is to say, for last Thursday.

And now that I’ve totally lost you, and just at that point in my walk where I was wondering if I’d really need all these pictures of ivy, I came across this lovely spot:

I wonder who is living in that little shady abode, eh? Spiders and moles, voles and mice, maybe the odd raccoon or duck? Looks like a good place for a nap, but that might just be the cold medicine talking.

And just as I was thinking enough is enough, I saw this:

Now I don’t know about you, Dear Reader, but I watch quite a bit of British murder mystery fiction. And I’ve watched American and Swedish ones for good measure, and even the odd French and Norwegian one thrown into the mix.

Does this not, Dear Reader, look like the owner of this apartment complex might have buried an unhelpful tenant under a bed of ground ivy?

I shall run back to my nice, warm desk and hide for the rest of the day, because after all, one can never spot a serial killer because they could look like everyone else.

I don’t know that I like that ivy all that much now… ~shudder~

H Is For Horticulture, the Science of Plants

This is a long view, just down from the Tateuchi Viewing Pavilion, toward the Ravine Experience. The piece in the distance looks like a high-backed faerie throne. The water goes under the walkway; I stood on a pathway bridge to take this shot.

Which got me thinking: what is horticulture? How is it different from gardening?

My husband and I, as geeks often do, talked about it yesterday and ruminated on the Latin origins of the word, “horticulture.” It’s composed of two Latinate words, “horto,” for garden, and “culture,” for… something. Probably culture, one would assume; but we already know from other studies that sound-based etymology is bad linguistics. We also know that the motto of the city of Chicago is “Urbs in horto,” or “City in a garden.” So we know horto and garden are connected. But where does “culture” fit in? Does it refer to the culture of gardening? Probably not, since vermiculture is the cultivation and care of worms, and agriculture is the cultivation and science of agri-stuffs, or crops. Which are growing things, just like hortos.

Aside from the pleasant mental gymnastics of our conversation, we decided that alas, to Auntie Google we must go. “Google, what is horticulture?”

“The word horticulture comes from two Latin words which mean ‘garden’ and ‘culture.’ Horticulture is the art and science of growing and handling fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs, flowers, foliage plants, woody ornamentals, and turf.” From Extension: Issues, Innovation, Impact; “What Is Horticulture?” accessed from the following link, here.

What’s the difference between horticulture and gardening? Ian Graham, self-identified “Craft Gardener,” has this to say on Quora: “Horticulture is the production of plants for a purpose – food, ornamental, forestry, medicines, fuel etc. Horticulture is a science, using scientific research and the scientific method to produce ‘better’ and more productive plants. Gardening is a personal or community pursuit to produce environments (personal or public) of beauty and functionality, using plants (ornamental and food), water, and ‘stone’. Gardening also includes personal food production, ie veggie patches.” Accessed from the following link, here.

I like Mr. Graham’s distinction, “production of plants for a purpose:” aside from the pleasing alliteration, which, less face it, I’m all for that, I think it defines the science a little more. But “science,” in the old days, simply meant applying the scientific method: create a hypothesis, try it, record the results, try again. In gardening, that could be “I’ll try planting tomatoes in this pot.” Then record the results. “Well, that worked, but they need more sun so I’ll try that spot over there in Spring.” Lather, rinse, repeat.

So in some ways, I think horticulture is just a fancy way of saying gardening, a way to legitimize and sciencify something we humans have been doing for generations. But I’ll note this: they’re called Botanical Gardens, not Horticultural Exhibits. Though now that I say that, I suspect there probably are horticultural exhibits. This is one of the things that makes English so difficult, is its propensity for stealing from other languages and calling it English. 🙂 I think, on balance, that shall remain, as did Galadriel, myself; a gardener.

Next up is the Letter I like Iowa. But there aren’t any plants like Iowa, are there?

You’ll have to check back, Dear Reader; you’ll have to check back. Cheers!

G Is For Gators, Gardeners’ Friends; and G Is For Glens, Full of Rhododendrons; and G Is For Goldfish, Swimming in Ponds – Yes, It’s An A to Z Challenge Post! Welcome, Good Friend!

As I wandered onto the Botanical Garden grounds today, I mulled over my choices for “G.” I mean, Garden seemed too easy. Right?

I came around a corner in the path and seriously, THIS was sitting there.

Waiting for me.

Dear Reader, it was hard.

But I didn’t get in and drive it around.

Though I was tempted, Dear Reader; sorely tempted.

Besides. Dude was around there somewhere, with a loud machine, blowing botanical materials around.

Now, I confess, I don’t really grok the meaning behind using a leaf blower in a botanical garden. I mean, what are you planning to do, blow the leaves all the way out of the gardens? And then what? Your neighbors will get tired of a dirty great pile of blown leaves in front of the gardens.

But oddly, there weren’t any piles of leaves.

Maybe he was just dusting?

Gosh, this garden, for the letter G or not, sure is gorgeous, isn’t it?

But that brings me to my favorite discovery since moving to the PNW, or to those of us who aren’t yet in on the native lingo, “The Pacific Northwest:” rhododendrons! The place is lousy with them! Locals are, get this, even tired of them! (???)

Not me. This, then, without further gilding the lily (another G word, lookatthat!), is the Rhododendron Glen:

These are just the early bloomers, too! They bloom from early, early Spring (one of the ones in my apartment complex bloomed mid-March!) clear through June.

I know it’s not the same thing, but you know how when a cat is showing you their foot pads and you say, “What cute toe beans!”? Well, I had that exact same instinct when I saw these flowers!

Not actually a hundred percent sure this is a rhodi, but it’s in the glen, so I snapped its picture.

Same here. I must have walked around this one four times before I satisfied myself I was actually IN the rhododendron glen. So I guess this is a rhodi too? It’s sure pretty – the leaf ends are colored, AND there are flowers. LOFF!

I call this one “Potential.”

(Does this mean I’m a ‘budding photographer’? ~hides~)

Sadly, the lighting was even worse this morning than the last time I went, and it makes photographing the fish next to impossible – which is a shame, as I adore koi. Or, as they’re known today, Goldfish.

They’re all congregating together. If they were mammals, I’d say it was to stay warm on an overcast, rainy day. But they’re fish. So I’m not sure. Maybe just gabbing together? Gathering? Garnering support? ~grin~

All right, Dear Reader, all right; enough of G. Next up is H – which will be less about the pictures and more about the philosophy and science of gardening.

If you’re participating in the challenge, please leave me a link to your blog in the comments so I can come visit you! And if you’ve already commented but I’ve been absent, please forgive me, I’m a bit behind in my visiting but I will catch up between now and the weekend. Real Life has a way of getting in the way.

But hey – we can always visit a garden to relax, yes?

F Is For Frog: Me-Deep, Me-Deep

And so, Dear Reader, we come to the granddaddy of all frogs, the mammoth of Bellevue, the wart-encrusted bronze of doom, the ohmygoshwhatisthat of my morning stroll: this, then, would be the frog.

Or toad, but today’s the F day, and therefore, it’s a frog. Besides. No placard announced its identity, not even an artist attribution – of course, that could be more due to my state of shock as this monstrosity is sitting right there, out in front of dog and everybody, on a corner of a patio-like structure that I don’t think is really meant to be a patio since there is a distinct lack of seating there.

And so, my lonely frog and I confront the solitary condition of man after coffee but before work in his search for meaning.

Dude. I have a Humanities degree. I take these little digressions from time to time. They make me happy.

And it postpones the inevitable, which is this: I chose a topic for the A to Z Challenge, a challenge based on the beginning letter of words and words have specific meanings, and my topic is a topic about which I know few topic-specific words.

It’s like this, Dear Reader: there are two kinds of lady gardeners, according to the inestimable Sarah Ban Breathnach, of Simple Abundance: the first kind is the one with the pretty floppy hat and lovely gardening attire, gardening gloves and neat, well-oiled shears, who goes into her garden to maintain it and knows the Latin binomial of every plant and weed that dares step root in her loam. And then, there’s the second kind, the kind to which I owe my allegiance, the ones with dirt speckling the sweat on our face and the leaves in our hair who proclaim exuberantly, “I like that purple flower over there! No, not that one, that other one! The purply speckled one!”

Which makes it awfully hard, Dear Reader, without a lot of research, to post Garden posts past F is for Flower because one, by necessity, much know the proper name of said flower so that one can allot it to its proper day. Not unlike that lofty first club of Lady Gardeners to which, one day, I may claim some small allegiance but for today, whom I must displease with my exuberant shout of, “Ooh! Pretty! Look, flowers!”


But wait, one more precinct heard from… As I was driving off to work, I saw my two duck friends (well, it may not be the two that live at my complex, but I like to think they joined me at the Garden today with convivial neighborliness) and I’m pleased to say, they are environmentally Friendly (F is for Friendly) parkers! Look!

And that’s all for this week, Dear Reader. Sundays are off for the A to Z, but rest assured, I shall return on Monday with G is for…

Oh, come now. Would I be as banal as to say G Is For Garden?

You’d better come on back to find out, now, hadn’t you?


E Is For Entrance, and Comings and Goings – and, a Poem for David Bridger

Welcome to the Bellevue Botanical Garden and today’s letter for the A to Z Challenge, E Is For Entrance! Believe it or not, the Garden is host to a variety of majestic entrance points. In Asian garden philosophy, and in particular the ones with which I’m most familiar, that of Japan and that of Guangzhou, China, doorways and entrance points are given much thought. So, too, are windows and other vantage points from which to view something the garden designer wishes you to see.

This is deceptive, as it’s actually a view of the exit: I merely walked in and turned around, to show you the sunrise and the parking lot. The car entrance to the Garden is circuitous: first you arrive at the passenger drop-off, then you swing around to the left to the first row of parking places. Then around to the right, then again to the left, then up and around to get off the Garden’s demesnes.

Oh, come on. I just had to use demesnes in a sentence.

Moving right along then…

I love water features: fountains, bird baths, fish and koi points, rivers, streams, waterfalls – you know, water featured in a water feature.

And this, Dear Reader, is a water wall. It’s sort of a fountain, with a little pond at the bottom, fed by a stream at the top that’s in a channel created by an artist that, in turn, comes from a fountain.

In short, this sucker pushes ALL my buttons.

And it’s a nice place at which to meet other people in order to tour the Garden, if you’re an extrovert.

Like me, say.

But I digress.

Apparently, I’m not the only one on a Friday morning before work who wants to gain entrance into the garden. All forward movement counts, my friends; all forward movement counts.

To My Friend, David Bridger

I thought of you in the dawn
My friend, like the sun setting
Fire to the world.
The burdens you carry are not
Ones I can take from you
And you are, like the sun,
Untouchable. Your words warm
Me, like that selfsame sun
Because I know you long
For Fenrir to catch you and
Take you into the West.
I grieve that day just as I
Watch the dawn of this
For I know the cycle turns
Whether we will it or not.
And so, like Orpheus, I stare
Into the sun and let its
radiance hide that my tears
Are not due to its radiance, but yours.

D Is For the Scariest Predator of the Garden

The life of an amateur photographer is fraught with difficulties: not getting hit by a car when taking pictures of the trees along a lane (nevermind that the lane is one of four on a major thoroughfare) or chased by the neighbor dog when trying to snap a shot of a particular flower (which really shouldn’t be called trespass, don’t you agree?).

And then there’s this. We wandered down around the waterfall and I saw him – the terror of the terrace, the devil of the developed garden, the predator of … something beginning with a p. He stood up tall and fixed me with a dour eye (a word also beginning with a d, as luck would have it) and I put my camera up to take the lovely shot of Mr. Duck Surveying the Fish.

I didn’t realize until just now, as I’m doing my posting, that the slippery bugger ducked down (pun intended) behind a rock and left me naught but a picture of his ample duck body and orange feet.

And so, Dear Reader, I give to you two more pictures of birds, though they match yesterday’s post better since they start with C for Crane:

Tomorrow, Dear Reader, check back to see what I’ve chosen for E. I have a lovely G, and a terrific R, but E… E. What shall I pick for E?

Your guess is as good as mine, Dear Reader; your guess is as good as mine.