See and Tell

Pay attention         Be astonished        Tell about it       ~Mary Oliver

Small children often have a practice at school called show and tell.  That seems to be kin to Mary Oliver’s words.  First you have to notice, to really see before you can choose something to show or have its description to tell about.  I grow a great many herbs in my garden.  Each has unique characteristics of growth and appearance and fragrance. Part of the joy of tending this garden is in seeing and knowing the differences.

This Cuban Oregano is one of my favorites for its beauty – softly variegated colors on aromatic velvet leaves that I love to touch. I like the way it leans into our weathered wood fence as if to press its restoring oil into the splintered plank.  When I water the plants around it, I look for it, I pay it attention.  I am rewarded with fresh amazement at the loveliness of growing things, surviving the heat of summer and thriving.

“Seeing is of course very much a matter of verbalization.  Unless I call my attention to what passes before my eyes, I simply won’t see it.  It is, as Ruskin says, ‘not merely unnoticed, but in the full, clear sense of the word, unseen.’  I have to say the words, describe what I’m seeing…But if I want to notice the lesser cataclysms of valley life, I have to maintain in my head a running description of the present.”   ~ Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Not Always What it Seems

From Where You’re Standing
“What you see and what you hear depends a great deal on where you are standing.  It also depends on what sort of person you are.”   C.S. Lewis, The Magician’s Nephew
Most call it a weed
But it declares itself
Determined to reclaim territory
in grassy lawns, between flagstones, under a rose bush
Native Texas Plant?
Field green when found in a bag at the store?
Its highest purpose blooms
in feathery puffs –
bane of gardener
delight of every child
who holds it up to make a wish
blowing away a cloud of laughter

Beyond First Sight

Our pomegranate harvest won’t win any beauty contests.  Most of the smallish globes that make the thin tree branches droop down don’t look at all like those available in supermarkets.  No luscious rounds of rouged skin here.  I am not sure what it is, but some blight attacked the trees and left these dark freckles on the skin of all our fruit. But I learned a long time ago that it is not what’s on the outside that counts with pomegranates and people.  I cut the tough skin, submerged the pieces in a bowl of water to break apart the arils inside, and look at the scarlet, glistening, juicy results!

Now comes the reward!  A handful of these seeds drips intense flavor and power packed nutrition!  I love the sweet yet tart pop of juice each tiny aril provides. We like them for snacks, but I will also use them to top salads, make salad dressings, and squeeze some for juice to freeze.

My garden as always teaches me truth – take time to look beyond the exterior. Soon it will be time to harvest the Meyer lemons.  I think their lesson is going to be “don’t give up!” It took a few years for this tree to have more than a few lemons but this year there are too many to count.  Don’t worry, I have a list of “100 things to do with Meyer Lemons!”

After the Bloom

I will repeat myself:  I love Magnolia trees. Just over a year ago, in May, 2011, I photographed Magnolia blooms from our tree, and posted them here with words about their beauty and my admiration of them.

We emphasize the fresh beauty of the flowers of so many plants in their seasonal displays of new life and color.  Rightly so, for it is in the flowering that many growing things are the most lovely and appealing.  We even use the term “gone to seed” to apply to things that are past this stage and  are not well kept or have declined to become rundown and useless. Indeed, the annuals in our gardens will run their course, finish their blooming, and wither with the first frost to die, be uprooted by the gardener, and replaced with new, young plants come Spring.

But oh my, what we miss if we enjoy only the blooming of the Magnolia.

Once the creamy flower petals have become leathery and caramelized, they fall off, leaving a center cone that swells with seed. Early on, it resembles some exotic fruit, a blushing tufted pillow covered with velvet.

Left on the tree, the tufted pods begin to burst, revealing treasure inside: shiny scarlet seeds holding on with a single silken thread.

Songbirds love these seeds. Coveted by those who craft holiday wreaths and decorations, the vivid cones and seeds often get harvested by eager hands. If left alone, the seeds turn black and fall to the ground.  I think I love Magnolias even better after the bloom.