Bzzzz May 29th, 2007

This time of year all I can think about is being outdoors. Between my own obsession and my recent reading, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about dogged pursuits.

Mine is the garden. But it is curious to me how people choose the lists they wish to check off or accomplishments they wish to pursue in life. I’m not talking about goals at work or academic degrees or such. I’m talking about the often innocuous passions that people pursue in their off hours when they could otherwise be socializing with friends, drinking beer, watching television, napping or reading a book.

I recently read the story of a fellow, one of a dedicated set of birders, who is intent on seeing every species of the 10,000 or so birds on the planet. I now am reading a book by a woman who set out to cook ALL OF THE RECIPES in the original Julie Childs cookbook. The $64 Tomato is the story of a guy who becomes OBSESSED with his garden and spends extraordinary amounts of money and hard work at the effort. Harry tells me about pilots who keep elaborate lists of all the airplanes that they fly. Some railroad fans (also derided as by U.S. rail workers as “foamers”—because they supposedly foam at the mouth—or, crudely, FRN for “f*%*^& rail nuts”) keep elaborate records of all the railroad equipment they can spot.

Some obsessions are completely unique to individuals, particularly collections, I think. Like the guy who collects airline airsickness bags. I used to go to a mechanic who had collected for years those two-quart 7-11 Big Gulp cups, stacking them inside of each other and lining the wall of his garage. Weird.

I am not a talented social talker at events such as cocktail parties and such. But a while back, I learned a few little tricks to deal with my discomfort. The one question that always produces the most surprising responses is, “I’ve been talking to people lately about what they collect. It seems that almost everyone collects—or wants to collect—something. Are you a collector of anything?”

In addition to the usual collections (stamps, coins, etc.) I have met people who collect buttons, 1950s nostalgia, beer cans, antique cars, orchids, paperweights, postcards. Amazing. And the interesting thing is that otherwise morose conversationalists actually LIGHT UP when you ask this question. People are passionate about the oddest things! Their dogged pursuits!

Perhaps these listers, collectors and hobbyists of all types don’t choose the pursuits so much as the pursuits catch them. What is it about a person who feels the compulsion to doggedly pursue an accomplishment that has value other than having done it?

I suspect that a subset of these folks is suffering from a socially acceptable outlet for an obsession compulsive disorder. Not all of us, of course. I think others were inspired by some event that created an epiphany that they seek to recreate. I have my own inspirations that I’ll share at some point when I can gather my wits about me enough to write coherently.

But for now, just be assured that I’m pursuing my own dogged pursuits.

This Memorial Day weekend was a big gardening weekend. I was lucky enough to have my 16-year-old play yard boy and accompany me to the local garden center where we left with THREE BIG CARTS of loot in addition to all the mulch they had to load in the stockyard. Then Harry (husband) took pity on me that afternoon and offered to help move plants from their nursery pots into the ground.

Happy day!

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Bzzzz May 25th, 2007

It has been such a dry summer so far that most of my time in the garden during the week is spent just keeping everything watered.

That has left little time for weeding or other chores, like putting all these plants that are sitting around in pots into permanent homes. I am desperate to get that completed this weekend and intend to press the two men in this family into service with some shovels. I will especially need their help this weekend because I’m still suffering from a wretched case of poison ivy. The doctor loaded me up with helpful drugs, but it’s still a matter of waiting it out. Miserable.

perennial -- and weed -- border may 25 07.jpg

The perennial borders are starting to look more mature. These are some fabulous peonies I transplanted from the other side of the garden to this spot last year and some foxglove. That’s sedum sandwiched in between. Don’t look too closely because there are also some nicely established weeds I’m going to have to do battle with tomorrow.

You can’t see it in this photo, but that’s yet another strawberry pot of hens and chickens. I’ve been pulling out the babies and plopping them into the ground under the bench when I’m sitting there. By the end of the summer there should be a nice hens and chickens bed under there.

Oh, and that’s the house in the background (House #4) where our bluebird family is living.

I’m really going to have to discipline myself with whatever new plants I drag home because I’m simply running out of room inside the Colonial Garden. Happily, I’m discovering all sorts of new shade plants that I can use to fill up the shade garden I’m putting next to the turnaround. I’ve even been flirting with getting some more container roses from Antique Rose Emporium, but, sadly, they’re out of the Cecil Bruner rose that I want.

henryi clematis may 25 07.jpg

This is one of two clematis that I have. Pruning clematis is tricky, so if you ever buy one, make sure you make a note about what kind it is so you can look up to see if it is in the A, B or C category. Each of them require a very different pruning method.

I’ve started reading Dominique Browning’s Paths of Desire, about her time in her suburban garden. Browning is editor of House and Garden magazine. Her writing style is very calming, so it’s just what I need right now.

I see an early bedtime ahead.

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