Archives for October 2012

On Not Discussing the Government

Display, Davy Crockett Homeplace

The thought of having to make a speech made my knees feel mighty weak, and set my heart to fluttering almost as bad as my first love scrape with the Quaker’s niece. But as good luck would have it, these big candidates spoke nearly all day, and when they quit, the people were worn out with fatigue, which afforded me a good apology for not discussing the government.  — David Crockett, 1786 -1836.

Growing up in western North Carolina, I heard a lot about Davy Crockett. He was an icon in southern Appalachia — frontiersman, soldier, congressman, advocate for the poor. He was a complex man, but became almost a caricature when Disney Corporation did a series of television programs about him in the 1950’s. By the end of the series, every child in the southern mountains knew about coonskin caps and buckskin and could sing every lyric about the man who was “born on a mountain top in Tennessee” and “killed him a bear when he was only three.”

I visited Davy’s homeplace in Limestone, Tennessee last fall. It’s not on a mountain top. And I don’t know how a three-year old could possibly kill a bear. The truth about Mr. Crockett lies somewhere beyond the image created by television producers, storytellers, and his fellow politicians. I guess that’s the case for anyone who ever became famous or ran for office.

If Davy was around today, I hope he’d use his humor and clout to remind political candidates, “You’re wearing out the people. Don’t talk about the  government all day!” And with the holidays coming up, maybe Davy could tell the people, in turn“Best not to bring up politics at family gatherings. It can set the heart to fluttering.”

Why So Busy? Rest. The House Can Wait.

Autumn Light, In Sharp Focus

This past year has been a blur of busy-ness, much of it related to home upkeep: roofing, painting, plumbing, replacing boards destroyed by carpenter bees and woodpeckers, doing the planning to make all these projects happen.

This has been a year of re-evaluation, too: Questioning the wisdom of expending so much life energy and resources on the maintenance of property. Thinking about The American Dream of owning a home and immersing oneself in overseeing it, insuring it, paying taxes on it. Thinking about shelter as a concept and about people who are homeless, or displaced from their homes, in places throughout the world. Realizing, on a personal level, that there are important things to do in life, and that time — and energy –are not as infinite as they used to be.

Sometimes, all this pondering is too much, and a seemingly minor event interrupts the whirling excesses of the brain. This time it was in the form of an unexpected beam of autumn light.

This summer, I put two small, wire chairs out near the creek, in order to work on a writing project (or something). I sat by the creek, not paying much attention to my surroundings. I went back inside. The season passed, and I used the chairs a few more times, mainly as a convenient surface to hold pots or garden tools while I was on my way somewhere else. Then, fall came, and with it, unexpected patterns of light and reflection.

One day,  I looked out the window and saw the light focused on my chairs as if to say, “Here’s where you need to be. Slow down. Listen to the sounds of the water. Rest, just for a while.” Resting is not something I do very well. Idleness was not considered a virtue when I was growing up. So now I’m going back to that little girl and gently suggesting that she doesn’t have to be working, or busy, every second of the day. She’ll be glad to hear that, I think.

By the Creek

This is my wish for you, and for myself : Some time to rest. A soothing spot in Nature. Peace of mind. And no housing worries, whatsoever.

Gold Heart Ivy: Promises to Robin

Memories of May

Dear Robin,

Remember how we admired that pretty clump of variegated English ivy (Hedera helix ‘Gold Heart’) along this shady path in Asheville?  And remember how I told you I had that same ivy at home and would send you some cuttings?

You may have noticed that four months have gone by and you still don’t have your ivy. And while I know a few sprigs of Gold Heart won’t make or break your garden, I still want to explain what happened or else you’ll think, “That woman just makes reckless promises and goes on her merry way!”

I took your cuttings in June during the start of that horrible heat wave. (That in itself was a poor choice, horticulturally-speaking). The major portion of the ivy was attached to the west-facing side of a big stone slab, which got extremely hot during those intense summer days. Usually the ivy is fairly blemish-free, but this May most of the plant developed crinkly, brown spots. I did take your cuttings from relatively undamaged new growth — what little there was of it.

Hedera helix ‘Gold Heart’ : heat damage

I watched over the cuttings, but they gradually turned brown and died in the container. The same thing happened the second time around. I usually have a greenish-thumb, but this time: no luck. For one thing, this particular ivy has stems that are more woody than herbaceous; I should have put the cuttings in rooting medium, not water.  Also, I think the plant’s very cellular structure had been compromised — i.e. toasted in hundred degree heat. Gold Heart is not a vigorous grower anyway. That attribute, plus the coloration and pattern, is why I like having it in my garden. English ivyas a general rule, is my nemesis — we continually have to beat it back or else the house would be enveloped by it.

So that is my long, belated explanation of what happened to your ivy.  Ms. “Liar, Liar, Pants On Fire” will sign off now, hoping that all is forgiven, and wishing you glorious days of gardening ahead.


Hedera helix  ‘Gold Heart’ – Recovering