Friday, July 24, 2009

Amaryllis Belladonna

Has anyone noticed the rain managed to beat the garden to death? Granted it was welcome, but does it have to have a velocity that pounds the good soil to well below the blow sand? The trusty hoe and garden tiller are the best tools of the trade for this week as it will take quite an effort to invigorate the flattened and hardened crust left behind by last week’s rain.

The lovely Amaryllis Belladonna has made her arrival at the garden party this week. Commonly called ‘Naked Ladies they appear from a leafless base and are also called ‘Surprise Flowers’ for their overnight appearance in the garden from a barren spot. The stunning Naked Lady comes from a clump forming bulb. Each year the bulb will increase in size and the flowers will appear at the outermost edge so over the years one bulb becomes a mass of exquisite flowers. 

The foliage appears in the garden in the very early spring and looks at first like jonquil leaves. Very soon however the foliage out-grows everything around it and begins to collapse early in the season requiring binding or staking to keep it from overshadowing its neighbors. The foliage dies away and is easily removed as debris by late May. The spot in the garden now appears quite bare until mid-July when suddenly the flowers begin to appear.

A tall sturdy stem supports a mass of with six to twelve flowers which have a heady and intoxicating fragrance. This wonderful plant seems undisturbed by severe growing conditions and will bloom faithfully in shade or sun regardless of the heat. The ease of these ‘Ladies’ growing habits makes even a novice gardener joyful and will add beauty and grace to any garden setting. Often planted with Shasta daisies to cover the bare base, they bloom at the same time allowing for a visual garden bouquet.

As with so many of our lovely flowers this one is originally from South America where it grows in wild abandon in dry and dusty sites.   
Mine arrived in my garden quite by accident. When my father died in July of 1994. I was distraught and could not be comforted. I was walking in my garden the day after his funeral when miraculously before my eyes was the most beautiful flower I had ever seen. It was the first of 12 Naked Ladies to arrive, one each day for 12 days, each in an odd place in my garden. Since no one planted them my family has long been convinced my father sent them to me. These flowers will always seem special to me and each time I see them I think of my father and thank him for sending them to me.

Thoughts on Death and Dying

Thoughts on Death and Dying

I was very ill as a young girl and died at one point when I was twelve. As I died, I was lifted, floating upwards. I saw my bed with my body in it as small as a match box, my parents on either side of it weeping. I felt no pain and there was a lightness about me as I went higher and higher until I was called back by my parents. Suddenly, I was back in my body to fulfill my life’s destiny.

Michael had undiagnosed peritonitis years ago when our children were young. Surgery had been delayed and his chances of survival were less than 2%. As he lay there, hearing all that was said in his conscious/unconscious presence, he felt no pain but could hear his moans. He knew that passing over would be such a small step. He could hear my voice asking him not to leave and in the darkness of the second night I saw a shimmering blue/white light appear and slowly travel up his body. It was the holy light of healing so he was able to come back and fulfill his life’s destiny.

A few years ago I attended a 49, the Cheyenne ceremonies honoring the living warriors who returned from battle. As the evening deepened and the drum beat mesmerized, I had a trance-like vision and my astral body traveled beyond the building, beyond the forest, the mountains, the sky and further still into the universe. Along the path, I heard the drum beat, which echoed my heartbeat, which echoed the heartbeat of all of it... a continuum which connects all things. I saw it all with awe and when I came back I felt peace, perfect peace, for three days. I have never felt such an emotion as I did then.

I have not been afraid to die since that time for I know that the energy that is “us” unites with the universal energy of the whole. It is so far beyond earthly imagination of a heaven with golden streets or unification with loved ones. None of those human emotions are necessary... for uniting with the whole of everything is beyond earthly comprehension.

Point being: Death is not some awful unknown to be feared, it is part of the journey… and it is such a small step over.

A Reckoning

A Reckoning

I believe that the planet is in distress because all of the spiritual ’points’ on it have been compromised. I always believed that there were special places that kept the planet in order. The meanings of the Eqyptian Pyramids, the Inca’s Machu Picchu, and Stonehedge have been lost. Nepal and the Acoma Mesa have been compromised and gambling is set up in those locations. Could the source of the natural disasters we are seeing be that the healing, guiding ’points’ of balance are gone? The Hopi believed that mankind’s thoughts and actions balanced the planet, but I think it was possibly these points.

The planet is a living being. Just like any entity, its health depends upon every part working in harmony. Disrupt that harmony and you have sickness. I believe the Ancients understood this and many of the astonishing works they created were placed at sensitive parts of the planet to channel the energy of the sun and moon for the benefit and well being of Mother Earth. Caring for the earth that gave of her bounty to sustain human life was the first and overriding duty of mankind.
And of course the earth was tangible. People could see and feel when the planet was out of harmony and made efforts to do something to correct this imbalance. But as the human race grew in intellect and complexity, they looked for something even more complex and inexplicable to worship and ceased to care for Mother Earth through the ancient sites.

They came up with God. God, an overarching, all embracing entity that encompasses all things, all worlds, all universes is not a singularity. Our planet is part of God. Standing in a church or mosque singing praises to an ultimate being is not the way to worship. First and foremost we should worship by caring for the planet on which we live.

Sadly, the world has lost sight of this in the dogma, bureaucracy and self interest of modern religions. Add to this the selfish, money orientated society in which we live and you have an impossible situation. Are we at the edge of apocalypse? Will Mother Earth no longer stand for the injuries inflicted on her…the taking of everything and giving nothing back? Possibly we are due a reckoning.

Monday, July 13, 2009

To Everyone Enduring Life Under the Heat Dome.

It is impossible to watch the wilting garden without wincing lately. The arrival of the ‘heat dome’ is extremely depressing for those who enjoy outdoor activities. The heat dome is part of a summer weather pattern wherein a large high-pressure system… essentially a huge mound of stagnant hot air… arrives to park itself over at least one region of the country and the South Central region is the most popular for it. This hot air keeps out the rain and allows for a slow broil underneath it.
The last memorable heat dome was in the year 2001 in which we had day after day of searing temperatures over a 100 degrees. We were caught on the North Canadian Bridge in an accident that year. Michael had stopped to take a dead cat off the road or we would’ve been the people hit by a diesel truck barreling down on a red Jeep. It had been reported for erratic driving for over two hundred miles before the accident and the Jeep was hanging perilously half on half off the bridge as we saw it. The kids who were in it were okay, but the diesel had spilled everywhere. It took four hours for the cleanup and the bridge was loaded with cars… all heating up as the drivers of the 18 wheelers kept cool and the rest of us boiled. The temperatures was 105 that day but reached 123 on the bridge. As we waited the boom of the adjacent gang bangers CD mirrored my heartbeat, a lady had a panic attack then one had a heart attack.. it was entirely too hot and we were trapped! I finally left Michael to fend for himself, got my umbrella out of the trunk and walked ½ mile off the damn bridge where I flagged down a pickup to drive me the two miles back home. I stripped in the yard and flew to the horse tank to immerse myself in the cool water. It took hours for me to finally cool down! For the next three years whenever the temperatures got above 98.3 (body temp) I would get spacey and oddly, I didn’t sweat anymore. I still don’t do over 105 degrees well. Last Friday Oklahoma had the dubious honor of mention on the National News as Ada reached 117 degrees beating out Death Valley for the record.
As the hot and humid conditions prevail, the National Weather Service has issued numerous heat advisories which are indicative of a ‘heat storm’ and should be taken as seriously as a tornado watch. I believe that anytime the outdoor conditions are above average human body temperature of 98.3, extended exposure is extremely dangerous. If a person’s body temperature reaches over 106 degrees, they may become comatose so this kind of heat may cause higher than average fatalities, therefore basic safety rules must be followed. Statistically in a normal year an average of 175 people will succumb to summer heat waves in the United States, but any given year can vary dramatically from the norm. For example, one of the worst periods on record was the disastrous heat wave of 1980 which claimed more than 1,200 lives. Equally devastating was the summer of 1995 during which more than 1,000 people died of heat-related causes.
To protect yourself you should:
Stay indoors (preferably in air conditioned space) as much as possible.
Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.
Drink plenty of water and natural juices.
Avoid alcohol and beverages with caffeine which could increase dehydration. Eat small, light meals.
Avoid strenuous activities or at least reschedule them for early morning or late evening hours.
To protect others you should:
Never leave children or pets in a closed vehicle where temperatures could soar to 190 degrees in less than 10 minutes.
Check on elderly neighbors.
Always protect small children from the sun.
Provide shade and cool water for pets.
*If one begins to feel faint or light-headed, immediately get into a cool place and possibly cool water to quickly lower the body’s core temperature.

With the proper precautions we can beat this heat and look forward to Fall… whatever survives in the garden this year deserves a cheer! And may my Pyracantha that died yesterday RIP.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Dining in the Garden

In the Garden
By Catherine Dougherty
High summer in the garden is the perfect place to dine. If one remembers to brush a little catnip over exposed skin, the mosquitoes will not be a bother for the entire evening and there is nothing quite as magical as this time of year. Besides the plus of gathering with friends while the sun sets and the frogs and crickets begin their song, collecting from the garden to prepare a meal is a joyful experience.
Like the proverbial Easter egg hunt, searching the garden then planning the menu can depend on what can be found just outside. A summer menu may consist of freshly picked green beans, snapped and cooked, simmered to a perfection. Corn may wrapped in foil and cooked on the grill. Squash may be steamed or sliced, bushed with butter, broiled and sprinkled with a dusting of Parmesian cheese for zing. Glazed carrots, a salad using your own tomatoes and cucumbers, and potatoes cooked with rosemary are wonderful with grilled chicken or beef.
The new potatoes are still being harvested now so dig a batch and enjoy their delicious flavor. Wash them then cut in quarters. Add a handful of fresh Rosemary, a thinly sliced large onion, salt, pepper, and toss with a stick of butter. Cover the whole mess with foil to bake for an hour.
Latvian salad, aptly named for Olga Prancan who introduced it, is delicious! Freshly picked cucumbers, unpeeled and quartered then sliced to bite size are added to tomatoes, thinly sliced and diced onions or scallions, all of which is liberally sprinkled with fresh dill. Add sour cream then allow it an hour to chill before serving. Collect then slice carrots very thinly, about pencil sized. Cook until they are still firm but done, drain and then glazed with a stick (or two) of diced butter and a handful of brown sugar, all of which is tossed about. Guaranteed anyone who hates vegetables will find them irresistible. The two sticks of melted butter in the above recipes are not an issue when one realizes the produce is so ultimately fat free!
After collecting the fresh produce, the herbs, and grilling the meat, it is delightful to sit back and enjoy a delightful summer evening. The obvious delight of all of the guests who receive such a fresh and healthful culinary treat is worth the effort.