DP Challenge

Hunter

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Pest protection at it’s best. One of my favorite predators stalking through the garden.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Silhouette

 

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The Nature of Texture

Texture is a feeling. Texture is an appearance. Texture is a consistency. Texture implies depth. Texture can be used to describe the look, sound, taste, or feeling of an object. Texture makes things interesting and delights the senses with contrast. There are so many competing textures in the world around us that sometimes they get lost in the sensory overload that is the modern experience, with all its immediacy and umbilical attachments to technology .

But one thing about texture is that it denotes a depth of experience that is best experienced in person, in three dimensions, and for that reason texture is difficult to convey on the flat surface of a video screen. But that will never stop us from trying.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Texture

See more garden textures HERE (on my dedicated garden photography blog)

Aloe Vera Love

aloe flowerI originally bought this little Aloe plant when I was a sophomore in college more than 20 years ago. I remember going down to the local Westside Santa Cruz Nursery and picking out two little succulent plants—a Euphorbia trigona that eventually grew about five feet tall (and I have no idea what happened to), and this little Aloe vera. I wanted to create an indoor plant haven in the breakfast nook area of the house my friends and I had just rented. Every plant placed in that space flourished wildly, and that sunny little breakfast nook soon became known as the jungle room. Every plant in the jungle room was so happy. I even had a coffee plant that flowered and produced about 20 coffee beans, something I’ve never been able to recreate.

Fast forward about five years. I was beating a hasty retreat, having purchased a van and dedicating myself to the lifestyle of a nomadic surf bum, I was finally moving out of that house and liquidating many of my assets. Not trusting this particular collection of roommates, I started giving away many of the plants in the house to responsible non-alcoholic types, including the enormous  Yucca I had brought to college with me.  I wanted to take the Euphorbia to live with me in my van, but its length and spines made it impractical in that small space. So I decided to take my Aloe vera with me instead. After about 2 weeks living in my van it became apparent that the environment was too extreme for the Aloe. It was not happy with the daily temperature swings, and a couple times it had baked in the direct midday sun, a definite no no for an Aloe vera. After only a couple weeks it already looked wilted and sad, shrinking a little everyday instead of growing. I realized I had to give it away if I wanted it to live, so I gave it to a friend that lived close to the Boardwalk. She planted it in sandy ground, in a protected little corner of her yard, and the plant grew with renewed vitality.

A couple years later, when I was no longer living in my van, I was presented with a gift from the same friend, a little Aloe vera pup she had dug out of her yard and potted. I have been doting over it carefully ever since, and it has grown large and impressive for an Aloe vera. It flowers 2-3 times a year, and usually produces about 7 seeds that never sprout. I have a large container full of frozen aloe leaves in my freezer, which has become my way of preserving the leaves broken off during the tumult of life.  I had loved something and let it go, and a little piece of it had made its way back to me.

I’d like to think it loves me too.

Posted for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

The Impermanence of Memory

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (via goodreads)

 

Back before the Fall

Back before the Fall

On a recent trip to the doctor my mom and sister were driving home and were stopped at a red light. Plastered on the bumper of the car in front of them was a bumper sticker declaring, Joy Comes From Within.

What do you think about that, Mom? Joy comes from within.”

I can almost hear the annoyed sigh my mom must have made. “Joy come from within, huh? Well, let me know when it comes out.”

This has become an inside joke amongst us as we battle for meaning in the face of my mom’s Alzheimer’s. We will remind ourselves that joy comes from within as we laugh in the face of the depression we feel. These are the memories I will hold on to. I don’t want to remember the tears, the confusion, the sad pleas for help. I want to remember the joy that comes from within.

I have accepted the fact that my mother is dying slowly, not unlike my father. Her path will be different, but the destination will be the same. In my father’s case his body went before the brain, while my mother’s descent will proceed in the opposite order, her mental state deteriorating until the body fails. I often wonder as I watch the Deer Hill Dinner Theatre which is preferable, to lose control of one’s mind or one’s body. When I struggled through those years watching my father battle his own body after his accident, many of his favorite things in life taken from him as a C-4 quadriplegic, I could imagine no greater tragedy than being confined to a wheelchair. But having seen my mother’s sad dive into dementia, I realize that there are so many important parts of life that stay unappreciated. How many people give thanks for the ability to walk, the ability to feed themselves, the ability to remember yesterday? How many people truly understand the significance such simple actions?

Seeing the people you love suffer is not easy, but the shock is somehow eased through the process of acceptance. In the case of Alzheimer’s, what is perhaps saddest is that my mother herself will never be able to reach this final plateau of the grief hierarchy, that she will never be able to embrace her condition and comprehend the trajectory. Not only is she unaware that she has a disease which will eventually destroy the part of her brain that controls the autonomic function of her internal organs, but she has no idea that she is even sick. Another cruel trick of fate. She still calls the disease old-timers, and considers her memory only slightly hindered. Sometimes she has a moment of lucidity and realizes that something is wrong with her, but cannot understand the implication of the reasons before the moment fades away. My father was well aware of the fate that eventually awaited him, and I’d like to think he was able to accept it and move on. I often wonder if that gave him closure.

Closure is another ambiguous term that gets thrown about when people discuss grief and loss. Is it coincidence that the fifth and final step of the standard lesson format most teachers learn in their training programs is called closure? Closure provides summary and context. Closure deepens understanding through scaffolding and connections with preexisting knowledge. Closure creates a bridge between what happened today and what will happen tomorrow. Closure is supposed to be the part where the other portions of the lesson introduced earlier come into focus, leading to deeper meaning and understanding. Closure is when everything gets wrapped up in a neat little package that students can take with them. It is considered the most important part of the lesson, and is also the hardest part to get right. Unfortunately not all lessons can be so easily wrapped up with a bow. Some lessons are open ended and ambiguous. Some lessons remain ongoing and aren’t ready to be closed. I felt that if I transcribed all these memories and saw them on paper, that meaningful closure would come to me. I am still searching for it. I know it must be here somewhere.

From all this I am reminded above all that I have lots to be thankful for, but in the tumult of daily life it is easy lose sight of this fact. It usually takes tragedy to remind us of these things we should be thankful for, which ironically is a tragedy in itself. Must we really have something taken away from us before we can appreciate it? Is it that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or can we never truly see that which is right in front of us? Are we destined to lament and covet what is missing rather than exalt and celebrate the amazing abilities and relationships we still possess?

These memories of my father and mother are the memories that have shaped me, and I hold on to these memories tight, afraid to let them go. Some even argue that our memories make us, that without our memories we would not be the same person. I’m not ready to tackle this debate, in truth. But in order to prevent forgetting I will continue to write them all down, everything that makes sense and especially everything that doesn’t. I will read it over and over and try to reach an understanding of what it means. Hopefully the act of writing it all down will prevent me from forgetting. Somewhere in this act I will find closure.

Understanding now that the persistence of memory is never guaranteed, I don’t want to lose these memories, no matter how painful, because if we don’t have our memories, what is left?


 

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

I had been working on this piece to publish this Wednesday, but decided to publish a little early for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

What do you think? Any feedback, advice, or constructive criticism is always welcome.

Zig Zag

“Nature abhors a straight line.” – William Kent (via)

While nature provides many shapes that are pleasing to the eye, such as the parabola, the spiral, and the ellipse, the straight line is far less common in the natural world. It is human’s folly to try to impose such rigid regularity onto our constructs and architecture.

The zig zag is also a pattern that is seen regularly in nature, and sometimes it seems like an attempt at at straight line before the invisible artist that shapes the universe changes it’s mind.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge – Zig Zag

Donne Sali

Nothing says summer like heat, whether it’s the atmosphere or the bounty from the garden. With this year’s bumper crop of hot chilies coming in extra spicy and all at once, its good to have a way to preserve that summer heat all year long. These photos are from last year’s crop. I had so many peppers last year that I still have a jar of this chili paste, even though I gave over half the chili paste away to anyone brave enough to take it. One of the biggest problems with growing hot chilies is that the peppers all ripen at the same time, and just one single pepper is way too much fire for one meal. This recipe involves no cooking and will help preserve that summer spice all year round, and you can add just as much at you need.


So you decided to grow hot peppers and now you have way too many. Solution: make donne. Donne is a chili paste made with spicy chilies and preserved with vinegar.

Ingredients:SONY DSC

Chilis, Garlic, Salt, Vinegar

  1. -Cut up chilies and garlic. Be cautious when cutting up very hot chilies. You may even want to use latex gloves.

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  2. -Place peppers and garlic in food processor. Add enough vinegar to allow the chilies to blend evenly. Sprinkle a small amount of salt on top.

  3. -Blend until an even consistency is reached. SONY DSC



  4. -Bottle and refrigerate.

 


The vinegar preserves the chilies and allows the paste to stay edible for up to a year. The flavor and potency will fade a little over time, but usually theSONY DSC paste is so spicy that  it is is barely noticeable.  Depending on how hot the peppers are, this stuff makes Sriracha taste like ketchup.

For this batch I had a bunch of Cherry Bomb peppers that were ripe, which have a very nice sweet flavor but are not overly spicy (I estimate ~2000-3000 Scoville units). To put a little more punch into it I added a couple ripe habaneros. Since this mix is ‘Sweet’, I used rice vinegar, though normally I used distilled white vinegar for a truer flavor.

I’ll be enjoying the peppers from my garden all year. Will you?

Read more about donne and the wild chilies of Guam click HERE.


Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin

 

Summer Suns

summer suns

To me nothing says summer like sunshine and sunflowers.

The living’s easy and the veggies are free.

Stay tuned for a recipe of what you can do with all those hot chilis you’re growing.

Posted for the DP Weekly Photo Challenge – Summer Lovin