Tuesday, June 26, 2012

In Search of Water Lilies


         I want to do a detailed drawing of lily pads. The people who’ve assigned flowers to each month attributed the lily for July—my birth month. Maybe that’s why those flowers fascinate me. It’s kismet.
          I load up the canoe—my glasses, a Bristol pad, two pencils, a canteen of water, two paddles—“for insurance” I tell my husband, and an anchor, so I can sit relatively still among the lilies.  I fasten on my required life preserver and cast off.
          Immediately the canoe’s prow turns north, exactly opposite to where I want to go. I paddle as hard as I can to turn the boat against the strong wind and current from the south end of the lake. After 50 yards in the wrong direction, I manage to face the canoe into the wind. It’s a fight just to keep it straight and bring it back to our own dock. The wind insists it will only let me progress if I go north.
          Guess the lilies will have to wait till the wind changes its mind.

                A steady wind blew all Monday and Tuesday. Today it seems to have died down a bit. I stow my gear on the canoe and set out again. This time I’m able to paddle upwind — south.  I get half way down the lake, almost to the lily pads when the wind picks up and with it, the waves. They force the canoe broadside and I’m pushed back 100 yards. In spite of my best efforts to turn the prow south, all I turn is circles. I see no one on the lake or shore, but if anyone is watching, they must be laughing.

          I waited two days to get this close to the water lilies. I refuse to give up. I paddle as hard as I can, switching quickly from side to side and make slow progress south. Fighting the wind all the way, I finally arrive amidst the lily pads and drop anchor.

          If I thought the lily pads would lie still and pose for my sketch, I was very mistaken. Of course each grouping I concentrate on ripples with the water and too often I spin right over the lilies. After forty-five minutes I decide I have enough of a drawing to work on back home. Besides, I fear I’ll become seasick if I spin around much more.

          I yank on the anchor but it doesn’t budge. I settle into the bottom of the canoe and pull again. Nothing. The anchor is twisted about a grouping of lilies. I certainly don’t want to destroy my subject by uprooting them—but that doesn’t seem possible anyway. I consider leaving the anchor. Without a knife I can’t cut the thick rope and hate to leave anchor and eight yards of good rope—most of which sits coiled in the canoe, the lake’s no more than eight feet deep here—at the bottom of the lake. I pull the canoe directly over the tangled lilies and unwind the rope in the direction opposite the tangle. Then, after the third tug, I feel the anchor begin to lift. What a relief!

          There’s little need to paddle now; I merely have to keep the canoe facing north to let the wind and current bring me home. Someday, when the lake is like glass, I’ll try again. Maybe the water lilies will hold a pose then.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Rainbow Weather

A family across the street generously invited everyone on the block to a potluck pool party last Sunday to welcome two new families who moved onto our block this spring. The party began at 3:00.  At 3:15 it began to rain. Adults rushed to get the food from the exposed table to one on the patio, under an awning. Children reluctantly left the pool at the insistence of parents when thunder accompanied a harder rain.

Our spirits were not the least bit dampened. If anything, the party was a bit more cozy for all the neighbors packed onto the patio.

Then the sun returned—sort of, because it kept on drizzling. I jumped off the patio to get an eastward view. One neighbor, Mara, was already standing in the sunlight.

“You’re another rainbow chaser,” I said to her. “This is rainbow weather.”
“It is!” she agreed.

Two years ago, when the sun had burst through clouds during a shower, both Mara and I had rushed into the street looking for a rainbow. And we had found it at the east end of the block, arching over the park. But now there was no rainbow in sight.

“There should be,” said Mara.

The party over, I returned home and kicked off my wet sandals. The phone rang almost immediately.
“There’s a rainbow,” said Mara’s voice.
“Wow! See you outside.”
We met in the middle of the street—both of us barefoot. And there, at the eastern end of the block was a rainbow, arching over the park.
Definitely rainbow weather.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Growing Wild

I need a good recipe for weeds.  They are growing better than the vegetables in my garden. Using weeds for food would be sustainable and easier than digging them all up repeatedly. In truth, I do have a terrific recipe for one weed, dill; it’s cucumber soup with dill weed.  But if I let the dill grow everywhere it chooses there won’t be any room for the cucumbers. And dill is far from the only offender.  There’s a small succulent weed that has returned to may garden every year in spite of my never allowing it to flower or go to seed.
                Other unwelcome things are growing rapidly. I have frightening thoughts that if I neglected my garden one year, we’d need a bush whacker to enter the backyard. Suddenly there’s a hedge plant growing up—ten feet high—through the middle of a rosa multiflora bush. That bush itself has branched out in every direction. I spent 45 minutes trimming back only half of it and have numerous scratches to prove it.  
                The flowering quince, which had behaved itself for 20 years, tripled in size this spring.  That’s another recipe I need—some way to use quince.  My neighbor tried to make jam with them a few years ago and reported that she had to use so much sugar that it wasn’t worth it. That plant is the first to blossom each spring. Its short-lived beauty is worth it.