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potager portrait

July 27, 2016

July, 2016


From the kitchen, I step onto the balcony through a glass door. Directly ahead, beyond and below, is a circle of pavement. Within the circle, a crape myrtle, flowering hot pink with green leaves; at her feet, spiraea bushes, purplish flowers buzzing with bees, yellow-green leaves. At the edges of the circle, benches, more crape myrtles, and some Euonymus bushes, mostly green leaves, starting to go pink at the center.

Back to our balcony.

To my immediate left, a pile of stuff: an empty windowbox; empty flowerpots; what’s left of a bag of potting soil; sticks I’ve picked up at various times.

Walking widdershins, Spouse’s water shoes.

Where the railing begins, our compost bucket, now containing coffee grounds, leaves from a previous storm, and a green walnut.

Beyond the railing, rooted in the ground, Drabhu, a Norway maple, whose green leaves and pinkish fruits often dance in the breeze with me as I spend time on the balcony late at night.

Windowbox #1 (empty)

Windowbox #2, with dead plant structures from previous years. A bottle cap water feature. Transplanted oxalis and white clover, both of which are doing well.

A piece of multicolored slate.

A large craggy rock (approximately a cubic foot), with bands of black, red, and sparkly stone; 5 years ago, I rescued it from a former field that was being converted into a subdivision.

A small terracotta pot with dried flowers. Two terracotta dishes with rocks as perches, refilled with water every day in summer.

A rectangular ceramic tile I made, stamped with birch leaves, and glazed emerald green.

Turning the corner, a small round glazed-ceramic pot with a feathery marigold plant, grown from last year’s seeds.

A dark teal ceramic bowl containing a reddish rock from New Mexico and a golden rock from Maryland, amidst water, replenished frequently.

Windowbox #3, with a ‘hairy’ clump of narrow leaves (dead) from a previous year. Tall stems with round green leaves nodding in the breeze. (Not from seeds or transplants, so I don’t know what it is.)

Turning again, at the other glass doors, I encounter windowbox #4 in the shade of the cerulean-with-white-floral-patterned lawn chair. The moss from last year that died. Various transplants from this year, including creeping jenny, oxalis, some type of grass, and others.

= = =


1 bat, then 2 bats, last night.

A tiger swallowtail comes almost every day, even though there are no flowers blooming.

Various hymenopterans (bees and wasps). There seems to be a wasp bolthole in part of the metal railing. In late spring, we see bumblebees hovering almost every day — it’s probably too hot for them now.

Something that looks like a large bumblebee (black body), but with wings that are black and transparent. It’s friendly, it often buzzes me hello.

A few days ago, a sparrow-like bird perched on the rocks in the teal bowl, drinking the water.

Some time ago, I discovered a bug that fell backwards into one of the water dishes. I fished it out, set it upright on a rock so its wings could dry out.

On the railings, I occasionally see spiderlines, but so far only tiny spiders scurrying across concrete. (No webs.)

Including last night, I occasionally see lightning bugs below Drabhu’s branches.

On the sidewalk, especially at night: human beings walking dogs, ferrying children. Cats. Once, an opossum.

Often, teeny tiny dark brown toads; medium sized tan toads.

Last summer, from the kitchen window I saw a neighborhood cat up to mischief with a wild critter. I rushed downstairs and staved the cat off, saving what turned out to be a garter snake.

Definitely outside the open-ended area I think of as our garden (in the back of the apartment), but for the last 2 days, we’ve had an imperial moth stationed near our front door: large yellow creature, with brown blotches, and dark speckles. Very pretty.

Our fledged barnswallows (from the eaves, where their parents built their second nest of the year) haven’t visited our garden, but sometimes I hear them chirping, and see them amongst lamps under the skylight windows. They’re difficult to catch on film unless they’re perched.

= = =

These past few years (2014–Present), my garden’s been teaching me patience and stillness and looking closely at whatever I can see or photograph, noticing changes over time. No flowers this year, and yet… I spend more time on the balcony, or looking at the balcony, than any place besides the bedroom (where I am, now, writing). (The bedroom receives very pretty afternoon light, without being too bright or too hot.)

= = =

Back in 2014 when I was seeing P, my former therapist, she had me make a list of both “inner resources” and “outer resources” that I could draw upon. I asked for clarification about what divided them: she said it should be fairly obvious: “Inner is inside of you; outside is outside of you”.

I went ahead and made a third list that I called “liminal resources”, for things like my potager. Technically, to some people, I guess a garden is “outer”, but these plants are my friends, and… part of my household. Similar to my studio (which also contains plants). In fact, I thinkfeel of my studio like I’ve read Navajo weavers thinkfeel about their looms: their weavings depict the state of the weaver’s soul. My studio and my potager are part of my identity — how can that be definitively “outer”?

= = =

Last night, I was reading a book of Tomas Tranströmer’s poems, in which (poet) David Wojahn asserted that TT’s great theme is liminality, that everything he wrote was about borders of one sort or another.

As I sat on the balcony in the wee hours of this morning, I mused on lines in Swedish and lines translated into English. Was Tranströmer’s poetry, for those moments, part of my potager? If not, why not?

One Comment


  1. Creative Year in Review ~ 2016 | dreaming fish

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