Tuesday, July 26, 2011


            As the final straw breaking the back of that undignified camel called July, poison ivy blisters dot my arms, neck and face, itching and oozing. Aah, it’s a lovely feeling; ooh, it’s a lovely sight. Feeling perversely relieved—the poison ivy rash marks the third bad thing, after heat exhaustion and food poisoning—I am drawing a line under the seventh month of 2011, bidding it good riddance with a series of random thoughts (and accompanying links), starting with the hectic and unpleasant and gradually mellowing out.

            My ‘Lemon Queen’ sunflowers did bloom on time for the Great Sunflower Project’s Great Bee Count of July 16. I participated, perspiring profusely as I stood beside the patch for a quarter-hour, and counted bees: to be exact, nine sweat bees, one each bumble and carpenter bee, and a reddish wasp I don’t know the name of. No honey bees. Tim forwarded me a snippet from Inhabitat with a possible suggestion as to why. Seems the ubiquitous cell phone plays a part in the demise of the species. How? Signals emitted by phones in use—and this includes text transmissions—confuse, dismay and disorient honey bees, prompting them to leave their hives and follow erratic paths to who-knows-where. Think about that the next time you can’t possibly wait one more second to share the excruciating minutiae of your life with someone as obliviously glued to their instant-communication device as you are.

            Sorry. Did I say that out loud?

The narrowing food tree graphic,
top half
            Okay, that’s it for cell-phone bashing (for the moment). On to my next favorite love-to-hate hobby-horse, Monsanto. Appears diversity in the seed world is getting quite a bit less, um, diverse, thanks to the proliferation of patented organisms and agricultural monocultures. Check out this graphic portrayal of a global tragedy in the making. Think it doesn’t matter that we’ve lost 516 varieties of cabbage? Better think again. Diversity is our only hedge against catastrophic crop failures.

            I did mention I was starting out hectic and unpleasant, didn’t I?

A jellyfish crafted
from beach garbage
            Do you recycle? The Fitzes do. Our two-person household produces only one 13-gallon Bio-Bag of garbage-garbage a week. Everything else we compost and recycle. I insist on using cloth or paper bags for groceries and sundries, reducing by a skillionth of a percent waste plastic slowly choking land and seas. Tim started out rolling his eyes a lot, but humored me. Now he participates of his own volition, even forwarding me an article entitled “Washed Ashore,” about artworks created entirely out of trash picked up on Oregon beaches. Now on exhibit at the Marine Mammal Center, Fort Cronkhite, Sausalito, California (through October 15, if you’re headed that way), the art makes any inconvenience involved in our “Reduce, reuse, recycle” lifestyle seem niggling indeed.

            For locals only: the Verizon Wireless Call Center at the corner of Shipyard and Independence Boulevards in Wilmington is collecting unwanted electronics and small appliances (coffee-makers, can openers, toasters, etc.) for recycling on Thursday, July 28. Don’t let all those devices sit around taking up space—dispose of them responsibly.

            Moving right along… Here are some thought-provoking statistics for you. In the June 2010 issue of American Nurseryman, Maria Zampini cites National Wildlife Federation’s Kevin Coyle’s presentation of “…some unbelievable—more like disturbing—figures about how kids spend their time nowadays:
·         unstructured outdoor play=30 to 50 minutes per week;
·         organized sports=four hours per week; and
·         indoor ‘screen’ time=53 hours per week.”

Do you read books?
You're in the minority.
Maria goes on to say that Kevin claims this lack of “face time” with other people creates children with stunted social and interpersonal skills. It also figures in the disconnect from nature afflicting youngsters that some schools are starting to address.

            Do a kid a favor: unplug whatever machine he’s currently staring at, and take him out in the garden with you.

            And, after perusing the “Who Reads Books?” factoids linked here, do the same kid another solid and take him to a library to check out a volume, even if it’s about electronics.

Joshua Bell and his Strad
              You’re a gardener, right? You appreciate beauty, and try to make some in your own space. But would you recognize beauty should you happen on it out of context? How about if, on your way to work one morning, you stumbled upon Joshua Bell playing Bach on his priceless violin in a subway station? Check out “Do You Have a Moment for Pure Genius?” to learn how 2000 Washington, D.C., commuters reacted. (Teaser: what little kids did is instructive.)

The mystical kneeling trees of Poland
           Okay, we’re rising out of the murk of July and heading for the unsullied possibility that is August. See these crooked trees? Aren’t they cool? No one knows why this particular patch of Polish pines does that kneeling thing. I’m not at all religious, but the trees make me think of the best part of church.

            Back in May, I started a post called “Penny Wisdom” (May 4, to be precise), about the folly of stinting on things that are good for your soul, with the story of Tim’s reluctance to buy himself the David Sorg easel he really wanted. Not too long ago, I found him (Tim, not David Sorg) on the floor in his studio, measuring a piece of tempered glass salvaged from our old refrigerator. “Whatcha doin’?” I asked. “My palette’s too small,” he says. “I’m going to find a Wal-Mart table to fit this glass on so I can mix colors on it. I’ll get one with drawers so I can lose that plastic kids-stuff bin I’ve been using.” “Uh-huh,” I reply. “Didn’t you mention a really nice taboret [see picture of smiling Tim] you found on the Internet a while back?” “Oh, I can’t get that. It’s too expensive.” “Look,” I urge him. “Order the damn taboret. You’ll jury-rig something that won’t do at all, and you’ll hate it. Just leave out the whole unsatisfying middle part, and order your taboret. Please. For me. Besides,” I said, “I like to sing it,” breaking into a chorus of “Life is a taboret, old chum, just buy the taboret!” (“Taboret” rhymes with “cabaret,” in case you didn’t know.)

Smiling Tim
in his elegantly equipped studio
(taboret at left)
             So, probably to stop me massacring the entire score of “Cabaret!” (“Money makes the taboret! The taboret! The taboret!”), he ordered it. His hand shook as he hit the “submit order” tab, but he did it. It’s a beautiful piece of honest-to-gosh hand-made furniture, and Tim hasn’t stopped smiling since it arrived. (For all the gardener/painters in the market for a primo piece of studio equipment out there, do go to Casey Childs’ website.)

            Why do I include this story? Because what lifts Tim’s spirits lifts mine, and, as I said, we’re rising into August.

The totally uplifting
gravity marimba
         Lastly, please take time to view this lovely video of a painstakingly constructed gravity marimba playing Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” as it wends its way through an ancient Japanese forest. Yeah, it’s a commercial, but remember about stopping to appreciate beauty in unexpected places.


            Thanks for helping me lift myself out of the gloom and drought of July to Zen serenity reborn. And thanks for dropping by.