I buzzed through the arboretum before Betsy Clebsch, but I wasn't feeling particularly engaged.
Maybe that comes through in my pictures.
Or is it just the time of year?
Summer dormancy. You either get it, or you don't. I get it, but I can't explain it.
This is Judith Larner Lowry, from her book Gardening With a Wild Heart:
There comes a time in the landscape of California, even along the coast, when nothing much is growing. Summer dormancy, in those plants that employ that drought avoiding tactic, holds sway in the native garden. Wildflowers have gone to seed, grasses are semi-dormant, and some perennials have died down to their roots.
Slanting shadows of late summer and autumn afternoons, golden grasses, ripening acorns. A meditative, not lively, time. Newly arrived from the East Coast, I used to be impatient for the quickening of the rains... Depending on the year, this might last into January. I often found myself apologizing to visitors for the unspectacular state of my garden.
A century ago, Clarence King called summer dormancy "a fascinating repose...wealthy in yellows and russets and browns." I measure my true life as a Californian from the time that I stopped apologizing for a garden exquisite in its light and shadow, its still endurance. Reveling in shades of gold, blonde, palomino, gray, and muted greens, it seldom occurs to me to do so now.
A deepening into the season was required, a renewed acceptance of the solemn stillness of golden days, when grasses, perennials, and wildflowers have gone to seed, and shrub and tree seeds are still not ripe. I slide at this time into a kind of suspension, held in that same sensation of stored quiescent power I used to get in wintry woods back east... One may fall so entirely into this state of somnolent stillness that the onset of rain brings a sense of disruption rather than of relief. For just a moment, though, before the rains sweep it all away. Pounding or light, cold or warm, the sweet rains of California. How could anybody say there are no seasons here?
In fact, not everything dies down by summer's end. The Epilobium, for example, is just getting started.
I guess the nectar helps the hummingbirds wash down all the spiders they eat.
If none of this is working for you, there's always more anenome.
Or maybe we could go shopping together.
Actually, let's not. I don't have the right energy for a plant sale today. I'm not getting any closer than this.
Sometimes the sales are fun and relaxed, and sometimes they feel like Altamont, and I'm Grace Slick. "Easy, people. Eeeaassyyy."
I always suggest they define the sale space in a larger area, but noone listens. I think they secretly enjoy producing that cattle car effect that engenders shopper competition and gets the blood pumping. I know I spend more money when I'm under that spell.
On Sunday I went to a party at my neighbor's house across the street. Or as she introduced me to her guests, "This is Chuck from across the road." Guy opted to stay home and bond with the new kittens, so I went solo.
My neighbor is English, from the countryside, but she's been in San Francisco for 30 years. Let's call her S. We started talking only recently, but you'll be hearing a lot more about her in the near future because I'm going to help her with her garden.
In exchange, she's going to cook for Guy and I once in awhile.
S is a professional chef.
But her passion is painting. She's been so busy with catering jobs lately, there hasn't been much time left for painting, much less gardening. So I have my work cut out for me.
The party is fun and laid-back and the people are interesting. I think San Francisco is full of interesting people. The most interesting San Franciscans are often the ones who come from farthest away. I learn S once had a store in London next to Herrod's where she sold avant-garde children's clothes "before anyone else was doing that."
Now she lives in Bernal Heights with a wolfhound-sheppard mix and a talking parrot.
She fed the parrot a runner bean from my garden.
We're drinking French wine, the tennis game is muted on TV, and the Rolling Stones are playing somewhere. Hot Rocks 1964-1971. I know the flow of songs on this album like the back of my hand. The last five songs make up my favorite string of five songs on any album. Gimme Shelter, Midnight Rambler, You Can't Always Get What You Want, Brown Sugar, Wild Horses. Perfect.
The guests are a good 20 years older than I am, and much more interesting. Which is fine. As it happens, I've had a lot of practice at parties appearing more interesting than I really am, and I can turn that on when I need to.
You would be surprised how big a part being a scientist plays in that. Many people are both fascinated and bewildered by science, especially chemistry which is a subject most people don't understand. So I give them a little atomic theory or quantum mechanics, and voila! People are charmed. I've been doing it for years. The trick is to speak slowly in a low voice, and smile like you're telling them gossip.
But I didn't have to reach very deep this time. Instead, I merely elaborate on the difference between what is organic, and what is inorganic. Olive oil is organic, while table salt is inorganic.
The subject came up because apparently artisan salt is the big thing in food now. Silly me, I thought it was vinegar. Turns out vinegar was at least five years ago. Salt is the thing now.