Too Close To The Sun

Equilibrium. Hubris. Do these  terms go together? Should they go together?  If they seem to go together  has one actually achieved equilibrium? These questions are the basis for today’s highly intellectual discourse. Or they may be the basis for the explanation of what the last couple of weeks have been like for me.

A thrilling aspect of magpie-ness is the speed at which we explore and delight in stimulating thoughts, ideas and activities, and usually more than one at a time. Life is continually rich. Lately I have enjoyed a superb “lineup” of shininess in travel. gardening, starting this blog, literature, history,… and I’ll stop right there. You get the idea. And while I have been investing time in these projects, other projects have been  waiting in the wings: sewing, knitting, cooking,… I’ll stop right there. You get the idea.

At the same time that  all this personal fulfillment has been going on, my professional life has been productive but draining. I found my appointment book overfilled ( a situation only I can cause to happen) and myself spending time outside client hours to catch up on phone calls and documentation. I went in a little early. I stayed a little late.

Unbelievably, I told myself I was handling it ALL.  SUPERBLY. Because I wanted to handle it all. My energy was boundless. I could meet a personal trainer, see seven clients in a row, have company for dinner, and start over the next day. What I told myself was equilibrium was in fact hubris. I thought I had become a superhuman. Or Super Magpie, if you will.

You may know where this is going. As I approached the Memorial Day weekend, I knew I was tired, but I thought it was because I had been so busy. And I had lots and lots of weekend magpie plans which I won’t even go into. You get the idea. I didn’t do anything I had planned  to do because I was sick.

Blah allergy stuff invaded me.  If any of you have allergies and are prone to sinusitis you are familiar with the unsettling sensation of waking up in the morning feeling already exhausted.  I had no energy to plant anything, or to do anything outside since the temperature was above 90 degrees. And my brain was too foggy to do anything that required accuracy or… thought.

So much for my scintillating blog entries. So much for repotting my gourd vines. So much for any interesting food and the artsy pictures I would have taken to record my efforts.  All I cared about was ice water with lemon, berries and crackers. When I get this way there is nothing to do but accept the situation, to do nothing, and to trust that my energy will return. When would it return, I wailed to myself, in a storm of  impatience and self pity.

Late in the day Memorial Day, having been earlier in the day to  to  a walk in clinic for an antibiotic , I woke from a nap feeling just a smidgen  like myself. I didn’t have enough energy to go to yoga, but I did have enough energy to put on my bathing suit and and perform a vital scientific experiment involving an ice bucket and two bottles of beer. I just knew the bucket would make an excellent floating cooler, so much more elegant than those big red  plastic floating things. “It won’t float”, remarked my husband, who loves to thwart my ideas. “Oh yeah?” I responded. “Let’s find out!”

As I gathered the materials for the experiment I felt the familiar surge of  delight in life returning. When there is no energy there is no capacity to enjoy the absurd. And who wants to be without that?

OK, so the experiment in fact did NOT work, but that was not the point. The point was, I was on my way back, maybe more slowly than I would have wanted, but I’m not proud. I’ve become quite humble in fact. I’ll take what I can get.

Thanks for stopping by!

Dinner By The Pool

I think I have said I live in the South. Where it is hot. And humid. Spring around here is a fleeting thing, to be be marveled over and treasured while it lasts. We have had some hot days already, with temperatures in the 90s, but also some downright pleasant days and nights.  I hope my writing about one if those  unexpectedly  delightful evenings will not jolt our weather into what we have come to expect down here: unrelenting, steamy humidity and lows in the mid 90s.  This is when whatever you need to do outside should be done before 7:00 A.M. and after….. well, sometimes not in the evening at all. We all have to find ways to cope with trying to arrive at work without having sweated clean through our clothes. With even having to wear work clothes at all, when clearly a muu muu would be the only comfortable  form of attire. I know  those days are coming; I just don’t want to hasten them.

But about last night. Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, and we had planned our usual low key celebration. The birthday boy’s menu selection for the evening was not unexpectedly, a filet mignon grilled by himself, with an enormous baked potato, and fresh green beans to add color to the plate. While he was grilling, we both noticed how,  well, … nice it seemed outside. The temperature had cooled, and a nifty little breeze replaced the choking humidity of earlier in the day. I looked at him, and he looked at me. Could this actually be one of the five summer a nights a year when one could actually eat dinner outside  With no bugs? Rain was forecast for later that night, so chances were this nice little breeze might kick up into something more unpleasant, but what the heck. we had to try it.

In a trice I set up a little card table with a lacy  bridge tablecloth. My husband plated the steaks and brought them outside. I did have more luxurious linens and place settings, but time was of the essence. And spontaneity is just lots of fun.

We enjoyed a delicious dinner under the stars and still  it didn’t rain. That meant we could just linger under the trees, enjoying the night sounds. Of course I did not pass up an opportunity to remark upon what a perfect night it would be for camping. Since my husband is absolutely positively opposed to camping, he can always be counted upon to refute my statements about the night’s suitability for such an activity. Not that I would really know much about camping; I merely take perverse pleasure in bringing it up.

And we had other topics  to address in a leisurely manner, such as how many people could fit in house for a family reunion, and where to plant the new white caladiums  I had just bought.

The topics don’t matter. But the process of an unhurried evening definitely does matter. So seldom do we have such an opportunity to go such a short distance from home yet feel so free of responsibility. As we finally rose to take our things inside the house my husband remarked that there was nowhere else we could have gone in this city tonight where could have found anything better than this dinner in these surroundings. I just love it when he says things like that.

Sweet St. Louis

This is a post about meeting in St. Louis. But I just couldn’t name the post “Meet Me In St. Louis.” Magpies cannot stoop to such banality. Yet I did meet. And it was very sweet. So that’s it! Sweet St. Louis.

This past weekend my husband and I drove to St. Louis to spend the day with our darling daughter and precious son in law who were visiting  his lovely parents a couple of hours away. See how sweet this is going to be? My daughter and son in law were due to fly out of St. Louis on Sunday, and  plans worked out so that his parents brought the child- oops, young married couple into town and graciously spent part of the day with us. Of the six of us, none had spent much time in St. Louis since the children were very young. That really had us scratching our heads. Why hadn’t we spent more time in St. Louis when it has so much to offer?

I don’t know about any of the other travelers, but I have to admit I hadn’t considered St. Louis much of a destination in recent years, As a fairly new member of the empty nester club, I have sought out more exotic locales.  Whenever I thought of St. Louis  I could only  picture of  all those free things you take the children to, such as the Science Museum and the Zoo. And the things that are NOT free such as Six Flags and the Arch.  And sticky Ted Drewe’s cups in every cup holder of our van. Somehow these associations didn’t match my new idea of myself as a cosmopolitan jet setter. But, lured by the best of bribes, an opportunity to see the above mentioned couple, and his parents , I decided to give St. Louis another try.

Our first stop was The Loop on Delmar Street, an entertainment and shopping district, so named because trolleys used to “loop” around there in the 1800s. The area has undergone a revitalization, and has been named one of America’s 10 Best Streets. The trolley line is to be revived in the near future. I particularly enjoyed the Walk of Fame, which provides information on famous people with a connection to St. Louis. Whenever I return I’m going to walk the street once just to be able to concentrate on the star plaques.

Charles EamesBut on this day we only had time for one meandering of the street, window shopping, and admiring the local landmarks.

Second stop: the Central West End, an upscale neighborhood adjacent to Forest Park. The residential sections we saw were full of handsome architecture, manicured lawns, and private drives. The Cathedral Basilica St. Louis is in the area. I found all of that, plus just the cuteness  of the area very appropriate. After all, shouldn’t all independent bookstores be surrounded by lovely walkable neighborhoods?

This was my first rendezvous in the Central West End. I can’t tell you how I got in there, or I’d have to silence you. Now I have the first two volumes of a new detective series to peruse.

Aaaah, and The Left Bank Bookstore! I could have spent all day in this little gem. My town is so starved for independent bookstores. The store seemed to exude an aura of love for books, offering a thoughtful selection of new works, and a sweet ( there I go again) little used section downstairs. While downstairs I bumped into the store cat who was no doubt checking the inventory. My other downstairs find was a STACK of Barbara Pym novels. I may already have them, but that is no matter. When one sees Barbara Pym in paperback, one must, pardon me cat, pounce.

After all these meanderings there was nothing to do but refresh ourselves with custard from Ted Drewe’s in Dutchtown. This area, once the hub of German culture in St. Louis, has definitely seen better days. A little bit of police action was happening across the street while we were there, but everyone was very friendly and the custard line was short.  Reading the menu was just no help at all. After staring at it for a few moments I decided to go with my old favorite: pistachio.   As I swirled my plastic spoon through the heavenly green confection I reassured myself that I would never be able to eat all of this. I was wrong.

It was by now after 4:00 P.M. By our reckoning there was still time to explore the Soulard Farmer’s market which was open until 5:00 P.M. 

Yes. This young lady is standing on the table.

In a few minutes we were at the market, but unfortunately many vendors had already left. We of course poked our heads in a few shops which were open, and made a note to ourselves to come earlier next time.

Close by Soulard was the Lafayette  Square neighborhood, a historic area of French style homes anchored by Lafayette Park. The park provided us with some serene moments as the afternoon waned.

Please tell me that by now your feet would be aching! Because mine certainly were. Imagine my relief when I learned  that not one of my fellow travelers wanted to see ONE MORE NEIGHBORHOOD that day! I do love harmony.

Suddenly the time was right to repair to our hotel to enjoy a cold preprandial beverage and share our impressions of the day.  And prop up our throbbing toes on crisp white hotel pillows.We had no more concrete plans. Would we want dinner after all that custard? Would I be able to put on shoes again that day in order to have dinner? We did, and I did.

All too quickly  it was Sunday morning, and time to bid our reluctant adieus. My daughter and  son in law were soon borne thousands of miles away, while my husband and I motored the several hours home. As we left St. Louis my husband asked me if I felt sad. I thought a moment and realized I was not. Instead I just felt so grateful to have had the chance to spend this short time with people I love so much and make new memories I will savor for a long time. And that’s pretty sweet!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sequential Joys

I have just returned from my early morning stealth mission to the garden, making rounds of my plants, hoping to experience what May Sarton called the “sequential joys” of gardening, and I was not disappointed. The time of year has arrived when changes can be seen every day, or even every few hours  in the garden. After all the toils of preparing the soil, and nurturing little seedlings along, exciting things are happening. This morning there may be one sweet  pea blossom,  by tomorrow three or four, and in a few weeks, actual peas ready to harvest. Each new development leads to another. And though I know what should come next at each stage, the wonder it inspires  in me is new each time.

While my own record as a gardener has been trial and error and hit or miss, with emphasis on the errors and misses, my enjoyment in the practice and rewards of gardening has been nothing but a success. My efforts are repaid many times over by the sight of a jaunty squash blossom peeking out from under the vine, the whiff of a creamy white magnolia blossom, or the regal sway of a lavender hydrangea bloom  in the breeze. Flowers are magic. And if I cannot become one, I will surround myself with them.

I think I realized the  not-being able-to become-a-flower aspect   when as a small child I went through a short lived phase of drawing people with flowers growing out of the tops of their heads. Why did all the neighborhood chidren laugh ? I thought they were perfectly lovely! But it was clear to me that if I were to suddenly sprout flowers out of the top of my head that I would surely be a laughingstock.

I make no claim to being a knowledgeable gardener, only an ardent one  with lots of appreciation for the forgiving nature of the hobby. Growing up in the suburbs, we had lawns, shrubs, and flowerbeds. Not tomato plants. The Daddies typically mowed the grass while the Mommies ironed clothes in the house, and some unlucky children such as myself were required to rake and sweep. Since I am extremely allergic to newly mown grass, these chores did not endear me to the natural world. Achoo!

However,  as an adult  I have discovered that I simply must grow things to enjoy and to incorporate into my life. Each season, wherever I have lived  I have tried to increase my arable land, which now consists of  part of a small back yard and some flower beds. Here is a brief visual history of the journey of the mostly vegetable and herb section in recent years.

Part one, 2009

Part Two

The same area, 2012

Gardening gives  me so much more than I could ever put in. Besides the obvious and not inconsiderable gifts of flowers, herbs, and food, gardening nourishes me in other ways. It helps me laugh at myself. It teaches me patience. It shows how to value old friends, such as rosemary and coneflower, and how to gracefully deal with overeager ones such as primrose and bee balm. It makes me a part of the circle of life. It makes me feel a kinship with others who appreciate the beauties of the garden. It grounds me to the realities of life.

The late poet and author May Sarton,  one of my favorite garden writers, was  not a deliberate garden writer. But  her  journals,  which chronicle her creative journey as she aged, have  many references to the joy she took in flowers and plants, and their meaning in her life. I read her journals again and again for her honest insights and lovely prose. You are correct. May, in your assessment of the sequential joys of the garden. Here is more she had to say,

“Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace.”