Vacation travels took Dean and I to the east coast in historic Charleston, South Carolina this past week. We relished the art, culture, history, and summer foliage that the city offers. We captured some unforgettable vignettes with alcoves, alleys, doors, windows, churches, homes, blooms, and green gardens galore. Its great to admire the gardens of other people, but always good to bring that admiration back to the home base despite the imperfections.
I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us. My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship. I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like. A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today. Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law. This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes. But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart. So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are. Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.
Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days. We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing. Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with. Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life, I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week. And those delectable garden peas! I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn. The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring. The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon. Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots. I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!
Simplicity. “In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity,” Price Pritchett is quoted. The simplicity of a garden is one place I find peace in this troubled world. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific one. I love creating an ambiance with green life. The fragrances of fresh herbs after a soaking rain or while harvesting feed my culinary imagination for Dean and I’s next meal, cucumber salad with snippets of cilantro to cool the heat of the summer day. The beauty of August’s blooms set in a simple vase uplifts the day no matter the bad news. “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” Audrey Hepburn once said. It takes faith. “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step,” artist Joni Eareckson Tada tells us. So I take one step at a time, one seed at a time. “Faith as a mustard seed can move mountains” as the Bible encourages us. I believe one simple step of love leads to another and then another. Those mountains of hatred will move. Make one simple step towards peace this very evening.
After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same. The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s. Plants are resilient, as new growth is coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.
An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.
I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.
“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout
In my last post I shared some French influence in the culinary arts. That same evening I threw together an overnight blueberry french toast which turned out deliciously, and we have eaten on this dish the past couple of mornings. The kitchen is not the only room where the arts have a French flavor. The artistic style of the French poet and painter Jules Breton now resides in Dean and I’s bedroom. Last year Dean gave me a print of Breton’s painting “The Wounded Seagull”, a replica of my favorite painting at the St. Louis Art Museum. A thoughtful gift. The original was created in 1878 when the World’s Fair was held in Paris. We had this print matted and framed, and now resides over our headboard. When Breton painted it, this was a time in history when “naturalism” was replacing “romanticism” in the arts, artists portraying the daily lives of everyday people. It is thought that Breton romanticized a common peasant girl in this painting. The wounded seagull looks up to her while she appears to be in a far away thought. Sea life was not easy, for the seagull or the girl. I think this painting tells the story of so many I know and love. We care and love each other a mist turmoil. The conflict and contrast continue.
“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” ~ Francois de La Rochefoucauld, French author wrote. This author lived an exquisite lifestyle in his French chateau in the 1600’s. And the one and only saucy “The French Chef” herself, Julia Child was an American chef who brought the French cuisine to the everyday American in the mid to late 1900’s. This “mindful, purposeful eating” is an art almost lost, but has been resurrected once again with the farm-to-table restaurants and crafted foods and spirits in today’s food culture. The term “slow food” was coined in Europe in the 1980’s, and has come to the United States full swing.
Locavorism is encouraged. Niche farmers, gardeners, and chefs bring fresh meats, fruit, vegetables, and herbs to their plates and that of their community. The Bent Pig and Hannahway Farms in Farmington and Chef Jack MacMurray at Chandler Hill Vineyards in Defiance are such people. Farmer’s markets will open this month with their early crops. An American diner such as Ethyl’s in O’Fallon, Missouri has their crafted meats, slowly smoked which fills the neighborhood with a mouth-watering aroma. After work one evening this week I devoured their pork sandwich served with a heaping dollop of coleslaw between the bun and sweet, smoky BBQ pork, Carolina-style. I slowly savored every bite. Local does not always mean the best as my stop at a small cafe for a warm bite before my doctor’s appointment yesterday morning reminded me of that. A “Popeye omelet” described on the menu said bits of bacon with spinach and Swiss cheese. But mine had chunks of bacon fat that resembled the Swiss cheese. Gross! I could not finish it! The smell of bacon turned my stomach tonight when I came home to my daughter preparing a “brinner ” menu for her family. See how long it takes me to get over the bacon phobia. I usually love the leaner slices! Tonight I created an overnight french toast using leftovers: day old raisin bread bargain bought at a local bakery soaked in an egg-milk mixture laced with some of my home brew vanilla extract, and then topped with leftover reduced-fat cream cheese spread and fresh blueberry sauce. Tell you how it turned out on my next post.
So go back to my original quote “to eat intelligently is an art”… it means to eat within a set budget as well as “lean, clean, and green”. It takes some planning and improvisation. My health goal this year was to lose at least 20 lbs. Patronizing those farmer’s markets, growing my own veggies and herbs, and eating more plant foods will help me achieve that goal. Based on this week’s visit to the doctor’s, I have lost. As long as I do not eat too many slices of that french toast, and keep to veggie omelets, I will do accomplish my goal tastefully.
Hand-crafted art speaks the soul of the artist and craftsman. “… in order for them to have a soul, they have to be designed by something that’s connected to a soul—a human hand.” Stephen Frei, owner of a stained glass company in Kirkwood is quoted in a recent MissouriLife article. – See more at: http://www.missourilife.com/life/stories-stained-in-glass/. Frei speaks of his stained glass, an art passed from one generation to the next in his family. His craft trumps all modern computer programs in quality. Quantity is not the aim. See the beautiful stained glass in our church, built over 150 years ago. These glass masterpieces have recently undergone methodical cleaning and restoration. As I write I hear All Saints’ bells ring.
The restoration of our home is painstakingly coming along. The walls are all painted. See the lovely shade in the living room. I love a calming green. We had the solid pine wood doors delivered to our home this past week. Custom made for our house. These are being hand-stained by a seasoned painter with a tinge of cherry in the stain. What a warm feel these wooden pieces of art give to our home. Cannot wait for them to be hung as well as the laminate flooring laid. Dean and I are aiming for the last weekend in February to be back home to stay.
My husband, Dean called me “vintage trouble” yesterday morning while in route to work. The word “vintage” suggests “the best of a past season”. I am the double nickel today, so I took this new name as a compliment as he said I “still have it”. Vintage stock. What I have is an aging body, but a spark, spunk for life that God gave me, and a sassiness to embrace all God has for me.
There is so much to do in this world, help make it a better place for those that surround me, God’s creations. I know who God says I am, and this is all that counts. I am too old to worry about what others think of me, so I will go ahead and say my vintage thoughts …
Criticism and pettiness paints life’s mural gray and black. Such negativism. Why the “accuser of the brethren”? We don’t need the devil to ruin another’s life as people do a good enough job at it. Who needs an enemy when you have family and friends like that. How about seeing one ounce of good in someone, and maybe you will see a pound of it. I would rather spend time alone than with someone who gossips and murmurs about others especially about their family and friends. That constant drip is annoying, and I avoid it. At church a couple of Sundays ago, Father Don talked about living “simply”. No prejudice thoughts or premeditated plans and gossip towards the stranger, neighbor, friend or family member. Simply put, live a simple life. Care for self and those who God has place you with. Vintage heart.
So onto more pleasant thoughts … Dean and I are the midst of a vintage project, resurrecting a childhood dream of mine. We happened upon it this summer. Dean has embraced this dream, and sees its investment advantages well into retirement, our autumn and winter years. It is a bit early to share the details, but it will be shared soon enough on Deanna Greens And Garden Art’s Word Press blog. And another blog will extend from this one. Stay tuned … more to come.