St Louis Road Trip

A little over a week ago, John and I took a long weekend and traveled to St. Louis. It’s the kind of trip that we always say we should take more often. It’s always so good to make ourselves take a break from work and get away for some time together. Then we come home, get sucked into work, and another year passes without a simple weekend away.

This time we went to St. Louis. On Friday, we met up with our friends Ruth and Jesse who live in Kansas City. For years we’ve all said we should meet halfway and see each other in St. Louis. Finally we did it!

It’s very good to spend time with old friends. We met for lunch, then went to Citygarden. It’s a great little sculpture park in the center of the city. From there we walked to the arch and soaked up some sun.

Then Ruth decided she felt like ice cream. A Google search resulted in an intriguing ice cream shop: Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery. The ice cream there was amazing. The “naughty” part was the section of the ice cream case devoted to flavors that incorporated alcoholic beverages. The two flavors I chose were “Cup of Sunshine” with turmeric, ginger, and tea flavoring (among others) and “Lion’s Tooth” with Dandelion Liqueur. The ice cream was so good John and I went back the next day to try different flavors.

John and I also checked out the St. Louis Graffiti Wall. It’s a flood wall against the Mississippi River, it’s more than a mile long, and it’s covered in graffiti. It was fun to see, and it managed to make our new little car look cool. It didn’t really make me look any cooler, though.

I also had the fun of being a guerrilla photographer for an engagement that happened in a park near the ice cream shop. John and I were walking around, and a group of people asked me if I planned to be in the park for a little while.

I cautiously said that, yes, I was, and they explained that they were hiding in the bushes because a man they knew was about to propose to his girlfriend. [I realized that that explained why they were lurking in the same spot next to some bushes.] They were hoping that I would take one of their cell phones and photograph the proposal as it happened. If I did it, they could remain hidden in the bushes and the girlfriend would suspect nothing.

It sounded fun, as long as I didn’t spend all night waiting for the guy to arrive, so I agreed. They fussed way too much about which phone to give me. The guy’s mom was afraid the girlfriend would recognize the phone case. She didn’t believe me when I said I was a totally random person and the girlfriend would never connect “my” phone to anyone she knew.

Then they got a text from the man in question that said he and his girlfriend were about five minutes away. The family gave me a description–the couple was walking a golden retriever and the guy was balding and wearing a pink shirt. John and I got in position by the gazebo where the magical moment would occur, and we waited.

John spotted the couple first. They rounded a building and headed our way. I held up the phone. We were no one. We didn’t matter, and that was perfect. The guy got down on one knee, the woman said yes, they kissed, and the dog did jumping jacks behind them because he was so excited. The family cheered and jumped out of the bushes, and I passed the phone off to them before disappearing into the park. The guy and his new fiancee never knew I was there. As John and I headed off, we heard champagne corks pop.

As an added bonus, the guy’s family handed me $10 in tips as I handed off the cell phone. Later, I considered starting a new business of secret wedding proposal photography as I sipped a $10 cocktail.

The next day, John and I went to the Missouri Botanical Garden. It couldn’t have been a more perfect time for a visit. The trees were all in full bloom as were the majority of the spring bulbs. The weather was warm but not too hot, and the sky was blue.

We wandered through several of the gardens before arriving in the formal Victorian garden with studding tulips surrounding a sculpture of Juno. It was clearly the spot to get your picture taken! Actually, the botanical garden was understandably packed with guests. It was a fun challenge to get photos that highlighted the plants and landscapes and not the random people walking through them.

We also stopped in the Climatron on the way to the restroom. The Chihuly glass in one of the ponds was definitely some garden art goals to which I could aspire!

 

In the middle of taking photos of all the tulips, daffodils, fritillaries, flowering trees, and Persian buttercups, John and I ran across the iris display garden. I began to photograph my favorite blooms. Then we started reading the names of each variety and it got really fun. I overheard a garden staff member telling another visitor that the people developing the different varieties of iris had weird senses of humor.

There were quite a few of the irises that weren’t blooming yet, and their names really made me curious what they might look like. Some of the names that struck me included:

  • Troublemaker
  • Fission Chips
  • Gag Gift
  • Gnuz Spread
  • Force Field
  • It’s Amazing
  • Honey Money
  • Outspoken
  • Enoch
  • Cat’s Eye
  • Cliche
  • Exotic Blend
  • Done Me Wrong
  • Cuddle Up
  • Lady Friend
  • Devoted
  • Photon
  • Honey Cat
  • Naughty Nights
  • Sammie’s Jammies
  • Dusky He-Man
  • Spiderman
  • Grindelwald
  • Ninja Turtles
  • Somewhat Quirky
  • Quite Quirky

Later in the morning, we made our way through a woodland area to arrive at the Japanese garden. The views all along the way were spectacular, but it was in the Japanese garden that the variations in color in the trees and bushes were absolutely stunning. There could not have been a better day to visit!

If You Don’t Like the Weather in Indiana…

So much has been changing in my garden and it’s doing it so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Then the weather changes dramatically around it. One day I see an interesting leaf pattern or color combination. The next day it has changed and developed in a new and interesting way. All this makes it a time of every-changing beauty.

I haven’t been able to keep up.

At this point, my garden is now through the mid-spring blooms. The magnolia has put on its brilliant show, though it was a little muted by cold-damaged petals. Still, there was beauty in their brown freckles and spots. The peony has stretched its tentacles up and out of the ground. Soon it will look like a pretty unassuming green, leafy plant. My many varieties of daffodils have bloomed. So have my favorites, the fritillaries and epimedium. And the ferns have unpacked themselves, uncoiling cell upon cell.

Then an April snow fell on it all. Then rain. Then sun.

It’s a beautiful time of year.

Second Chances

I sit outdoors on the second step

and watch this cat eat his food.

He is not my cat

and cannot be my cat,

so he has no bowl and eats

from a folded silver square of aluminum.

The air is close and heavy in our lungs.

The neighbor’s air conditioner

slams to life. Mine echos

a moment later and their rusty

fans spin hard into the gathering dusk.

In this moment, the world

is as thin as the piece of foil

that crinkles lightly at each pass

of the cat’s tongue.

Everything bends along with it.

Lost. Found.

Thin kindness. Sanctuary.

The balance of a life starting over.

Perhaps.

I look down at the cat

as we spin through this darkening universe,

and I am left to answer:

How will we sustain

this small and insignificant life?

 

                                             –Amy Rich

An Update for the Cat Fans

The Ladies Ygraine and Morgaine continue to be absolutely lovely and delightful.

One of their favorite pastimes is to watch the birds at the feeders outside. In January, I got them a bird feeder that would attach directly to the window, and finally the birds have found it. The birds will put up with the cats, but they prefer to eat at the other feeders that are not within paw’s reach. So, this feeder only gets busy when the other feeders are empty.

Sometimes Lady Ygraine gets so excited she hops up on the ledge formed by the top of the lower window. She balances there for a surprisingly long time before hopping down again.

It’s meditative to watch their tails wave as they concentrate on their birdwatching.


Meanwhile, we continue to work with Squire Percival. We’re trying hard to teach him how to be a better cat and how to communicate with us without using his teeth. He’s making incremental progress, and we’re starting to understand him a little better, too. Still, it promises to be a long process.

We continue to try to take him on walks. We think he enjoys them–at least he is agreeable when we’re putting his walking jacket on him–but he gets overstimulated quickly and starts hissing and growling at the world as he’s exploring it. He can only be out for so long before he starts getting too foul-mouthed and attacking us.

We also continue to do the clicker training. His skills now include sit, stay (kind of), touch, weave (between beer bottles), go in (his carrier), mat (as in, sit on it with all 4 paws), go through (a tunnel), and jump. A lot depends his mood.

When he’s doing well, he can be super sweet and goofy. You can get a sense of that in the videos below where he’s doing his usual greeting at the window and when he’s running after his favorite sparkle poof toy.

 

 

Catching Up Again

Our computer is finally up and running after about two months of a busted hard drive. So here I am, catching up on over a month. It’s still early in the gardening year, so the pace has still been slower. Highlights include:

  • My orchids did not disappoint this year. There were a couple fewer bloom stalks than last year, but I still got an impressive show. Three different varieties were blooming at once!
  • My many varieties of crocus put on a colorful show scattered across the lawn. Most years I’ve added a few new colors and I love all the variety that I have now.
  • The hellebores are blooming. They are really interesting as they emerge from the ground. I first got them because I thought the name was interesting, but now I love them for their complex flowers.
  • Snow! I love the way the snow looks on the daffodils and crocuses. It’s such a pretty combination. The flowers are tough, though, and pop back after the snow melts.
  • Everywhere there are signs that spring is well on its way.
  • The poor magnolia has been waiting and waiting for the perfect blooming weather. It’s been holding back on a full bloom for weeks now. Today it started a halfhearted bloom in the middle of a swampy, rainy day. I miss its usual magnificence.
  • I have some beautiful tomato plants that are eager to get in the ground! It’s the best looking set of seedlings I’ve had since I lost access to a greenhouse. This year I found grow lights at Lowe’s. I should have bought some sooner. These are cheaply made, but that also makes them really light and portable, so I tucked them away in a corner of our upstairs bedroom.

So there you are, caught up on my garden at least. I’ve got a whole bunch of cat pictures, too, though they will have to go in another post.

 

Catching Up

For the last month my computer has been on the fritz, and it’s really cramping my style. With it out of commission, I don’t have my photo file organizer or my photo editing software. Normally I take a lot of photos, download them to my computer, sort and organize them there, and edit each one–even if it’s only to reduce the file size to help keep me within my allotted online storage space. I’ve not been able to do any of that for a while.

Luckily it’s the slower time of the year for garden photos. Below is an assortment to update you on my garden in the last month. It’s Southern Indiana, so the weather has swung from cold and icy to a balmy 70 degrees last week. However, because it’s been mostly colder this time around, my first crocus blooms have been a little later. The first one opened on Feb 8. Then with the warm day, others exploded across my lawn. I’m always glad to see their reminder that the seasons are slowly changing.

The warm day also meant that the Ladies could survey their domain from the back door and Perry could try out his new walking jacket. I hope that walks will offer him another positive activity to keep him occupied. I’m still not sure what he thinks.

And finally, the squirrels found the little bird feeder I’d put up for the Ladies. It was full of the good seed, too! I came home from work at lunch on Friday and the base was off the feeder. I had some suspects at the time, and my suspicions were confirmed today when there was a sudden skittering going up the window screen and the Ladies went on full alert. Stupid squirrel!

A Round of Robins Eating

We’ve seen them before but from inside the building. There’s one day every winter when we look out the main office window and comment, “Wow. There are a bunch of robins out there. The holly berries must be ready to eat.” It’s impressive, with robins filling the trees and bumping into the windows. I thought I’d truly appreciated the spectacle, but last week I experienced it from the center of a robin tornado. It was pretty intense.

I was walking back to work after lunch when I realized that the holly tree in front of Patchwork was flapping and fluttering. It looked like a monster. It was full of hundreds of robins and hundreds more were waiting in the trees. They’d dive in, flap their way to some berries, and then they would explode out again whenever a car drove by or they were otherwise startled. I wouldn’t say I was afraid of birds, but it was creepy getting close to the tree.

Holly berries have to go through a series of freezes and thaws before birds can eat them, and apparently they were finally ready to eat. Just prior to that, they’d made really lovely photos in the snow! As the birds ate, holly leaves fell all over the ground. Eventually there was a thick blanket of them that other birds picked through to make sure no valuable nutrition was left behind. When the birds were gone, so were all the berries.