Wednesday, December 18, 2013

"Don't Touch Me Aspidistra"

When I was a teen living in England I worked at the Ardley Kennels near Bicester.  The owner, Mrs. Beril Kelland would have me in for tea.  While it was being prepared I would sit back and enjoy the beauty of her Victorian home.  The detailing of both house and furnishings amazed me,  and I remember thinking that some day I was going to live in something similar.  The Victorian era enthralled me and even at that young age I would go to antique shops in Oxford and make little purchases of items to go in my future home.  With a big love of flora in or out of doors I fell in love with all of Mrs. Kellands plant stands and one in particular held a very large and ancient Aspidistra in a beautiful Victorian planter passed down to her from a family member of that era.  I was just lightly touching the detail of the pot when she came into the room "Don't touch me Aspidistra" she called out in her shrill voice.  I jumped in surprise and she started to laugh telling me that was a quote from one of her favorite comedies on BBC and can't help screeching it when she gets the opportunity.  Comedy aside, I inquired if she knew anything about the Aspidistra.  "No, it is just one of those plants that never dies."  Truly the Aspidistra elatior is known as the Cast Iron plant for a reason, it can withstand all sorts of neglect, harsh temperatures, smoke, dust  and many other bad conditions.  Because of this ability to withstand those conditions it was very popular in Victorian homes.  Later that summer while on a family vacation in Spain, I spotted the perfect ceramic pot for an Aspidistra.  My mother told me it was too large as with two adults and four children space was a premium in the family car.  I pleaded with her and promised to carry it on my lap all the way back home to England, she gave me a rye smile of "Bet you can't do it", and I made the purchase.  Stubbornness prevailed and the pot remained on my lap the rest of the trip.

I have had this plant since 1971 when we settled here in Portland
The corner it sits in is almost devoid of natural light because of the heavy draperies just as in the Victorian homes,  and the brown tips on the leaves are due to neglectful watering.  Hey, "Do as the Victorians do....or did!"

Monday, December 16, 2013

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder

My dear mother was a “Craft Queen” extraordinaire.  I grew up in a house filled with those pictures of vases done in shimmering beads or better yet painted seeds.  She frequently drove us all out of the house while heating her latest plastic flower craft creation in the oven.  She loved her creations and it showed because the house and the family cabin were filled with them.  So the other day when our long time bestest of the best friend Jan came to the house with a large paper Christmas wreath,  I did a double take and if she had not been so quick to enter I would have erected my craft free zone sign on the front door.  But alas, she was standing in the front room with lots of witnesses so I couldn’t very well have ejected her.  There was some dribble about some other friend who made it for her but when she saw that it was made of sheet music she just knew we would love it.  Jan is a minimalist of sorts, her house is clutter free and right out of “House Beautiful”.  There are empty drawers in every room! Unlike our motto of drawers are made to be filled.  I shall never have to purchase another dress shirt ever again as a steadfast rule of Jan’s is that when her husband Brian comes home with three new shirts, then three must vacate their place in his closet.  I have forty winter dress shirts and close to that amount in summer shirts.  But wait a minute here we were talking about that big hideous wreath stuffed full of sheet music that she just unloaded on us………
"Wait…..wait why are you taking down my peony painting (also given to us by Jan years ago)…..oh no you can’t really want that hung there????"
"…….hmm? Well yes that really looks quite nice there.  You know it looks as though it was made for that spot."

Thanks Jan, we love it… any more cool stuff?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Golden Leaves and Silver Trees

Besides watering in the greenhouse there is little time spent in the gardens.  The pond has been frozen for the last week which has sent the koi into hybernation mode, so nothing to do there except keeping the intakes on the pumps clear of leaves.  The last time I spent any great deal of time gardening was about three weeks ago and most of that was sweeping up the masses of leaves from the wisteria.  I was amazed by the intense color of my little dwarf ginkgo "Chi Chi" that sits at pond edge just under the wisteria arbor.  I quickly took a picture of it, the first since I planted it in 2008, as it usually drops its leaves when I think to get the camera.

I would fill my tub with leaves and carry them out to the compost barrel and on one of my trips I noticed a very unusual sight......

.......Raspberries in the last week of November?  I was told by MeMa that they were quite delicious as she sucked them down quicker than a hoover on a dust ball.  This week all that is gone, there are no more raspberies or golden ginkgo leaves.  Everything has a layer of ice on it, when I walk the ground gives a frozen crunch under my weight.  I don't last long outdoors, there is no joy in this frozen land.  Inside, MeMa has turned Menagerie Manor into a Christmas wonderland.  Furniture moved about to accommodate such things as the aluminum tree which needed to go in front of the windows because I was able to find the color wheel at an antique shop in perfect running order and in the original box.  When viewed from outdoors the silver tree slowly changes from green, yellow, blue and red -  a real treat from the 1950's.

 MeMa has a real skill for decorating this old house, me not so much but I follow direction if you get what I mean.  She asked if I would like to arrange the large collection of Santa's on the mantle, I looked at her with disbelief as I know MeMa has a penchant for order.

So while she set up the manger on the top of the old player piano I slowly started unpacking the many Santa's, keeping in mind height and material of each figure.  Last Santa figure placed, I stood back and gazed at my handy work........and so......after MeMa redecorated I poured us both a glass of wine and we sat and listened to Christmas piano rolls.

 Do you know what goes good with a glass of wine while listening to piano music????  
Fresh picked raspberries....or so I've heard!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Psychology Of A Dream

The psychology of dreams is something that I never usually think about for one reason only, I don't have dreams, at least any that I can remember by the time I rise from a sleep.  When I awake I am thinking of what will be going on in my day.  I generally sleep very soundly and fortunately straight through the night without having to get up in the middle of the night like most men have to at my age. However the other morning I woke with quite a start, I don't like calling it a nightmare as it involved my late mother.  I was sitting at their dining room table and my mother approached me, sitting a jar in front of me and saying "Here, I'm giving this to you, I know you would want it."  At that point I gasped and sat bolt upright in bed.
Many years ago when I was a small child I remember visiting my grandparents, the big old house were my mother was born and raised had a very large old kitchen and on the back side was a sun porch were my grandmother would do the laundry and there was a large chest freezer.  On the wall behind the freezer was a wide shelf that was filled with miniature trinkets from Cracker Jacks, odds and ends of glass trinkets. 

Many of them had been found while working in the large garden and orchard behind the house.  I was fascinated with my grandmothers miniature collection but I was told that I could only "Look at them, not touch."  While we were away in Europe the old kitchen was remodeled and the old sun porch was removed.  On our return to the US, I asked my grandmother what had happened to her miniature collection.  She told me she still had them all but they were put away.  When my grandmother passed away her daughters divided the contents of the family possessions among the four sisters.  A few weeks later I was sitting at my parents dining room table as I had been in my recent dream, my mother was going through a box of things from my grandmother's house and to my delight she pulled out a jar filled with my grandmother's miniature treasure.  I was very excited and said, "Lets look through it." But my mother was tired and simply put it back in the box and said, "Perhaps another day."  As anyone knows going through the loss of a loved one's belongings and the memories that such things can conjure up is quite exhausting so I said no more about the jar and soon it was totally forgotten until the other morning when I sat bolt upright with the shock of my late mother handing me the jar in my dream.  I called my sister and told her about the dream and asked if she remembered Mom lifting the jar out of the box that night long ago?  She said yes but had no idea what had become of it since then.  I was determined to find out so I stopped by my fathers house to look.  I decided that since she came in from the garage in my dream that the cupboards there might be a place to look and to my surprise the first door I opened there was the jar sitting there at eye level.
The jar, it might as well be filled with gold coins because after that dream it is just as valuable.

I swallowed hard and thanked my mother out loud, and with a trembling hand I firmly grasped the jar and closed the door.  After living all these years with our house ghost Lucy pulling shenanigans at Menagerie Manor, I am not surprised by such things.  But when your own late mother comes to you in a dream and hands you a jar of treasures you were denied in the past, then I have to admit I was a bit unnerved by this whole episode.  Thanks Mom, I will treasure it always and promise to "look but not touch".