Truth and Beauty

May 5, 2013 § 2 Comments

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”-Anais Nin

I’m writing to recall the atypical heat and sun of early May in San Francisco. To remember the bright flowers that reached for the rays, and the early blueberries forming.

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To see the arugula and red lettuce that self-seeded from last year and have pushed their way through the dirt again.

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To see skinny asparagus forests populate our vegetable bed when no one is around to cut and eat the young spears.

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While I miss California, having to be away for a month or more at a time has allowed me to find something new in the garden each time I return. Two and a half years ago, I wrote about artichokes. With our garden renovation and our move to NYC, I didn’t have time to plant artichokes until this past winter. But five months later, the plants have produced a fountain of silvery foliage. On this last trip west, a deep purple artichoke was emerging. And I realized in that moment of finding what “truth and beauty” means — that true beauty, the kind that delights, is often unexpectedly discovered.

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Joy Returns on a NYC Rooftop

August 19, 2012 § 7 Comments

A little over a year ago, my husband and I left San Francisco — our renovated garden, the eucalyptus-scented air, the freezing summers — to create a second home in NYC.

During the winter in NYC, we worked on our plans to renovate our apartment, overcoming the various hurdles required when you change anything in a landmarked building. We escaped the chilled concrete to tromp through snow at Blue Hill at Stone Barns.

Tractor in snow, Blue Hill at Stone Barns

I missed San Francisco, deeply. I got to visit my garden in San Francisco a few times. Beyond the herbs, like this bushy sage, the edibles mostly fed the chirping birds or ran wild and spindly in a chilly, windy spring.

Sage

But the ornamentals thrived.

Camellia blossom

Shadow and light, spring garden

And as sunshine, longer days and warm weather emerged on the east coast, I began to experiment, growing a garden in pots on our tar-paper roof atop our apartment-in-renovation. In anticipation for The Farm that we’ll build eight stories up in the sky, I wanted to see what I could cultivate.

It turns out, a heck of a lot more than in our San Francisco garden. While I always knew this in my head, seeing the evidence of heat and sun has made me feel a joy I wasn’t sure I’d feel living in NYC.

Tomatoes and cityscape

Tomatoes actually grow. Despite erratic watering and life amidst a construction zone, my plants produced juicy, sweet, delicious tomatoes…nothing like the sad, moldy cherry tomato plants I struggled to keep alive in San Francisco. More on the zen I learned from that experience here.

I’d always read that growing basil near tomatoes would keep insects away and make the tomatoes tastier. Perhaps this thriving basil is, indeed, doing its job. It makes a delicious basil lemonade (recipe here). And it delights visitors to the roof with its scent.

Basil and sunlight

The half a dozen shallots I planted from this past spring’s harvest — just to see what would happen — have grown faster in two months than they did in four in San Francisco.

A mop head of shallot greens

Of great delight is the eggplant experiment. We picked up a couple of seedlings at a nursery en route from Maryland to NYC one weekend. The beautiful, fuzzy plants thrived on the roof, surviving even a violent thunderstorm that bested our apartment pipes but left the plants with just a few leaf holes.

Eggplant injuries

And this week — the first few fruits have emerged from the lavender, parasol-shaped flowers with yellow centers. Tiny, purple. Perfect.

Emergent eggplant

Transforming Difficulties Into Inspirations: What I Learned in the Garden

December 17, 2010 § 10 Comments

“Our limited perspective, our hopes and fears, become our measure of life, and when circumstances don’t fit our ideas they become our difficulties.”–Benjamin Franklin

My yoga teacher gave us that quote after kicking our butts in a class that left me soaked in sweat and bone-tired, but in that good way where your arms feel so tired you can barely raise them to wash your hair in the shower, so you know you had a fantastic workout.

And, through this particular yoga practice, I experienced how to take what Benjamin Franklin said and flip it on its head (quite literally, at certain points in the class!). I was able to transform those difficulties into inspirations. I’ve always struggled with balance, but by breathing into it, I was able to rise up from the ground straight into tree pose less wobbly than I’ve ever been. Even though my mind said “heck no,” my body somehow jumped back into a one-legged downward dog when my teacher invited us to do so.

So I thought, why not apply this concept to other areas of my life? For instance, the rainy, chilly weather we’ve been having lately has been bumming me out. Every morning I’d get up, make my cup of tea, and be itching to go outside and garden, but the drizzle would dissuade me.

The other day, though, when there was a lull in the downpour, I decided to get over it. I thought the soil may have dried out just enough for me to get the garlic and favas in the ground, so I grabbed my trowel and tromped outside.

I was able to plant the garlic and favas. But the thing that was even more exciting was seeing that the rain had painted beauty in the garden. Fat water droplets hung on the bronze fennel, decorating it into something reminiscent of a Christmas tree (highly appropriate for this time of year).

Bronze fennel frond

The sage I planted recently in our potted herb garden on our patio (for easy access from the kitchen) seems to have settled in happily with the rain, unfurling fuzzy new leaves from its deep purple stems.

The sage

The cyclamen’s color intensified against a backdrop of black pots slick with wet and the misty air.

Cold-weather cyclamen

The shallots and mustards must be loving the moistness, because they’ve exploded with growth. (I need to figure out some good mustard greens recipes for next week’s dinners!)

Shallots and mustards

Experiencing this day in the garden brought what I believe Franklin’s point was home for me. We each have the power to transform circumstances that can seem difficult, irritating, depressing (or whatever) into something easier, fun, or inspiring. We just have to change our perspectives: turn upside down, push ourselves outside, and see the world just a little bit differently.

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