Raising arms against a sea of troubles

For twenty points, define "egregious".

For twenty points, define “egregious”.

For the month of July, during the minister’s vacation, several of us took turns presiding on Sunday mornings, featuring special themes and bribing the rest of the congregants into coming by providing lemonade and cookies in the narthex after each show service. This past Sunday being the final one of these special services, maybe the air was abuzz with the relief of teamwork well done, or more likely it’s just the way I am, but I got pretty silly.

First, Merrilee made her way to me through the crowd, smiling as she chided me, “Oh, there’s Dandyknife! I suppose you’ll want a hug?”

“At least I know enough to ask you for the favour,” I returned, taking her in my arms. “Now, Howard here, I can just fling myself into his arms anytime!” And I proceeded to demonstrate.

Howard lifted me until I was balancing on the ball of one foot. I have made it my practice, ever since I learned he has back problems, not to let Howard lift me off the ground anymore. He must have caught the giddiness of the mood too, because this time he wouldn’t set me down.

“Carlton! Help!” I squealed. Carlton pretended to deny my pleas, but of course as soon as Howard set me down, Carlton demanded a ransom of his own hug from me.

A few minutes later, E.g. was speaking with my third regular male Embraceable, Danni’s husband Greg. E.g., who had hosted this morning’s service, thanked him for coming, and hugged him.

As she moved on, I told Greg how privileged he was since E.g. rarely bothers to hug anybody. Then I grinned broadly and said, “Me — I’m just a tramp!” Fling.

Howard, Carlton, and Greg each have a child my age. They’re all physically bigger — taller, broader — than my biological father, and unlike him, they don’t drink. Every step into their arms helps to heal the emotionally emaciated little girl that still cowers in a corner of my soul.

16th-Century, literally "standing out from the flock". Originally complimentary, the term quickly became used in an ironic sense to mean "shocking, appalling, outrageous."

16th-Century, literally “standing out from the flock”. Originally complimentary, the term quickly became used in an ironic sense to mean “shocking, appalling, outrageous.”

Some of the Household Rules I grew up with are as follows:

Do everything yourself. Asking for help demonstrates weakness.
Get everything right.
Get everything right the first time.
Never admit you made a mistake. Always give reasons, never offer apologies.
Never love anyone unless they deserve it.
Don’t expect anyone to love you, because you don’t deserve it.

I have a memory of standing, at the age of 11, on the front verandah of the Archdeacon who had buried my brother the year before. I don’t remember how I even came to be standing there — it was 100 miles from my new home — but I know my parents hadn’t come down with me. As I was saying goodbye after an hour’s visit, the Archdeacon’s wife reached out and hugged me, and I didn’t know what to do. My arms hung rigid against my sides. I wonder if the Archdeacon’s wife ached as much for that little girl then, as I do now?

Redone. Put to rights.

Redone. Put to rights.

This summer, I spent over a month reflecting on how I had offended someone I look up to the way I looked up to my seventh-grade English teacher. At every turn I found more reasons for that person to dislike me. How obvious it all was, when I thought about it! I was heartsick.

Then, one day, I broke the Rules. Using very few words, without explaining, without rationalizing, I simply apologized.

And apparently the person I look up to doesn’t even know the Rules, because I had gotten it wrong — the first, third, thirty-ninth time — but I was forgiven anyway.

And standing there alone in my kitchen, I raised my arms, and knew I could soar.

A Stroll With Fay

Dear Fay,

With the better weather finally arriving, I’ve been remembering your visit last summer, and wishing you were able to see the garden again. Then one day, I thought of a way you could.

Today’s post is for you. Let’s go for a walk!

Fresh grape hyacinths, fading pasque flowers, and ever-present johnny jump-ups.

Fresh grape hyacinths, fading pasque flowers, and ever-present johnny jump-ups.

Here’s Cuca to welcome you. I’m glad you could make it today, since the parking-pad bed has just hit its seasonal peak. Let’s head along the public sidewalk and down the gravel driveway.

Corner of public walk and driveway.

Corner of public walk and driveway.

Those pockets of greenery paralleling the alyssum are this year’s snapdragons. The bigger clump beside the stepping stone is saponaria from your garden. Oh, and if you peer through the forsythia canes, you’ll see the word “welcome” on the froggy sign you brought us last year. Some climbing nasturtium seedlings at its feet are eyeing it with high hopes. But I bet what you really want a closer look at is…

She must've known you were coming.

She must’ve known you were coming.

…the aubretia. The tag says her name is Audrey. Isn’t she gorgeous? And the colour combination of her and the basket-of-gold is just fab.

Not much else to see in the driveway; the flowers surrounding the rain barrel won’t kick in till late summer, the next bed displays only sprinkled seeds and a gooseberry sprig, and the herb garden is boring. So let’s go through the side picket gate and start down the path beside the garage.

Oak with pearl necklace.

Oak with pearl necklace.

Last year’s flat of impatiens lining the garage-side path succeeded so well that I’ve repeated it. This time, though, I edged wider, and encircled all those hostas that Grace gave me last fall with stones, effectively removing a strip of slope-side grass. Likewise, the two smaller hosta beds claiming their own slope sections have finally reached the upper lawn, thanks to some blue-green thinnings that Danni gave me last week. I love the fringe benefits of gardening for other choir members!



Here we are at the bottom of the property. Don’t bother turning around, there’s only compost and construction debris back there. This faux-wicker seat is a favourite shady spot on warm afternoons.

The shad is in bloom.

The shad is in bloom.

The lower garden is starting to fill out. Umm, I hope you like hostas, ’cause there’s more of ‘em here…

The other plants have been making a decent effort as well. That happy mound of bachelor’s buttons at your feet came here two years ago as three skinny plants from your next-door neighbour’s.

And if you step over here, you’ll see…

They, too, caught wind of your arrival.

They, too, caught wind of your arrival.

Yes, they are, aren’t they? I’m glad you do. Me, too.

Up the rock steps we go.

So that's what's in there.

So that’s what’s in there.

This is “Dandyknife’s School For Wayward Purple Violets”. They were dug out of the lawn at Danni’s place last week. The fencing is to keep Cai and Fergus from running them over. Finally, I’ve got violet-coloured violets!

White-capped waves of green.

White-capped waves of green.

Meanwhile, the well-established white violets are in bloom. Have a seat here, while I remove my breakfast cup and put on a fresh pot for us both. Off to your left, the purple finches and goldfinches and song sparrows will perform a comical skit at the bird feeder.

Well, it’s been wonderful having you. The rest of the walk, along the boundary fence and out the front picket gate to the silver maple again, is mostly green at this time, with only two things of any note:

Best friends with the rhubarb.

Best friends with the rhubarb.

A very happy bleeding-heart…

Dart's Dash. Appropriately named.

Dart’s Dash. Appropriately named.

…and the first bud-break of this year’s rose display. Somehow that feels like a hopeful ending, doesn’t it?

Thanks again for coming, Fay. I promise to be over someday soon and let you do the talking.

Eight Feet Of Trouble

Slug-chewed now, but the teeth marks were clear on the morning of The Crime.

Slug-chewed now, but the teeth marks were clear on the morning of The Crime.

…or, The Best-laid Plans o’ Hogs an’ Dogs Gang Aft Agley.

Last Wednesday, I took 45 photos of my garden beds. Just walked around, snapping away, until everyone was represented. Then I used a photo program to write the names of all the plants right on the photos so that next year I won’t be scratching my head and wondering, “Is that a perennial or a weed?”

The photo labeling took all day. The app has an interesting habit of crashing when one has finished marking it up and hits the Save button. A fifteen per cent failure rate.

No matter. E.g. had a suggestion for a different app I could try the following week which, suddenly, means today.

Of course I wanted to show off the progress of my gardening prowess, or the prowess of my progress… A rain-spattered list of sixteen more things to do was sure to be checked off, and then today’s photos would indicate the Dramatic Difference.

But that was before the groundhog showed up.

Yesterday afternoon, while I was outside weeding, Fergus started barking in an unusual way, and wouldn’t come when I called him to go in the house. When I headed down behind the garage to scold, I found a groundhog with a bleeding shoulder and blood on its lip, and Fergus with a spatter of blood across his neck and chest.

Cuca signs off on my work.

Cuca signs off on my work.

Have you ever witnessed a pet dog with a groundhog? If so, you’ll know that groundhogs are STUPID. Instead of retreating they stand their ground, and by golly if they go down they’ll take that dratted dog with them.


To his credit, Fergus lunged only once more towards Mr Stoopidhead Groundhog — who lunged twice at Fergus — before coming with me. Then the little dog, who dislikes rain and swimming, sat on the porch and submitted to a hosing down.

Luckily, none of the blood was Fergus’s. But after towelling him down and leaving him indoors, I had to listen to the whistles of a Groundhog In Pain as I resumed weeding.

Now, did I mention that groundhogs are stoopidheads?

Six o’clock this morning, being careful not to wake E.g. who had picked up her parents at the airport at midnight, I began my usual routine: let Fergus out, feed Cuca his wet food, nuke some watery milk for tea.

Nothing doing. The cat was still waiting when couch-potato Cai raised the alarm. I stepped out into the drizzle in my housecoat and cloth slippers to see Fergus bounding across the Not-Good Neighbours’ yard after… three guesses…

So I spent the day costing hardware cloth et cetera instead of getting along on my chore list. By the time I remembered to take this week’s photos I was thoroughly discouraged.

Elegant, unobtrusive, and effective.

Elegant, unobtrusive, and effective.

Finally, I decided there was no way to keep critters out but at least we could keep the dogs in, so at 3 pm I wired together three tomato cages to each other and the fence at the sideways gap to the left of the poplar, and placed two cement blocks and a couple of rocks at the under-fence gap to the right of the poplar.

And that is this week’s gardening report.

Wait, wait! Postscript.

FOUR days ago, I planted three native bluebell plants — Mertensia virginiana — in the poplar shade of the upper garden. The next day, I found the leaves of one plant all bitten and broken off, lying next to their hapless stub of a host stem.

Damn dogs, I thought.


Chomp, chomp.

Chomp, chomp.

This is not Goodbye, but only See You Less Frequently.

Since Friday, four of my gardening clients have called. Gardening season is finally upon us!

That means I’m going to have Far Less Time On My Hands. Gardening wins. Practising the recorder wins. Walking the dogs wins. Stamping and numbering the choir music wins. Going to the gym might occasionally win. Once into July, when E.g. goes back to work, full-time cooking wins.

Blogging…well… I love you, dear readers, all three of you, but…

I’ll try to post once a week. And really, with the warm weather finally arriving, you’ve got better things to do than read this drivel. To quote Three Well Beings’s granddaughter, GO OUTSIDE AND FIND SOME NATURE!

The Envelope, Please

E.g. invokes the Internet gods.

E.g. invokes the Internet gods.

If you don’t like lists — maybe they remind you of work or something — please leave now. come back on Friday and comment then.

As promised, here are Dandyknife’s three lists concerning Oregon: Best Of, Worst Of, and Birds Of.

Except not in that order. I will start with birds, and leave the terriblest list for last.

Save your breakfast napkin to practise origami; you won't need it here.

Save your breakfast napkin to practise origami; you won’t need it here.

I. Oregonian Birds I Have Met And Loved.

This list does not include birds I heard but didn’t see (e.g. Red-shafted Flicker), birds I saw in captivity (e.g. auklet and puffin), birds E.g. saw but I didn’t (e.g. oystercatcher), birds I was later told had been right in front of my nose (e.g. Murres on Haystack Rock), or birds that might possibly have been other birds (e.g. the robin that might have been a Lazuli Bunting had I worn sunglasses).

Birds in bold print were new to me.

Hi, I'm Randy, I'll be your Barred Owl for this evening. Fresh mouse to start?

Hi, I’m Randy, I’ll be your Barred Owl for this evening. Fresh mouse to start?

1. Escaped white domestic goose. 2. Escaped brown domestic goose. 3. Regular ol’ Canada Goose. 4. Starling. 5. American Robin. 6. Bald Eagle. 7. Crow. 8. Turkey Vulture. 9. Bufflehead. 10. House Sparrow. 11. American Coot. 12. Glaucous-winged Gull. 13. Caspian Tern. 14. Surf Scoter. 15. Common Loon. 16. Horned Grebe. 17. Raven. 18. White-crowned Sparrow. 19. Oregon Junco. 20. Kildeer. 21. Western Gull. 22. Steller’s Jay. 23. Song Sparrow. 24. Anna’s Hummingbird. 25. Varied Thrush. 26. Winter Wren. 27. Golden-crowned Sparrow. 28. Brown Pelican. 29. Pelagic Cormorant. 30. Barred Owl. 31. Brandt’s Cormorant. 32. Yellow Warbler. 33. Peregrine Falcon. 34. African Collared Dove. 35. Rock Pigeon. 36. Mallard. 37. Savannah Sparrow. 38. Pigeon Guillemot. 39. Dusky Canada Goose. 40. Osprey. 41. Blue Heron. 42. Shoveler. 43. Violet-Green Swallow. 44. Belted Kingfisher. 45. Mountain Bluebird. 46. Mourning Dove. 47. Brewer’s Blackbird. 48. Yellow-rumped Warbler. 49. Barn Swallow. 50. House Finch. 51. White-breasted Nuthatch. 52. Magpie. 53. Western Kingbird. 54. Ring-necked Duck. 55. White-throated Swift. 56. Cliff Swallow. 57. Black-capped Chickadee. 58. Golden Eagle. 59. Red-winged Blackbird. 60. Western Meadowlark. 61. Red-tailed Hawk. 62. Western Scrub-Jay. 63. Chestnut-backed Chickadee. 64. Western Tanager. 65. American Dipper. 66. Brown-headed Cowbird. 67. American Goldfinch. 68. Rufous Hummingbird. 69. Pileated Woodpecker. 70. Bullock’s Oriole. 71. Spotted Towhee.

II. The Ten Best Things About Oregon.

These are in no particular order, and listed by a tourist and stranger in these parts.

In the presence of greatness.

In the presence of greatness.

1. It’s very dog-friendly. Accommodations personnel assume you’re traveling with your pet. Pet boutiques, doggy-doo pickup stations, and drinking fountains with dog-height basins abound.

2. There are drinking fountains.

3. You can buy organic coffee cream (half-and-half) containing cream and milk and NOTHING ELSE. No mono- or poly- or sodium-anything added.

4. The birds know if you’re a birder, and if you are, they jump out in front of your binoculars with a welcoming grin on their beaks.

5. The roads have no potholes.

6. The parks are beautifully kept. Everything is clean, well signed, and up to date.

7. Restrooms are abundant, clean, stocked with paper, and not waiting for Victoria Day weekend to be unlocked.

8. You can visit half-a-dozen eco-regions in under two weeks. We did.

9. The espresso vies with the microbrews for a great excuse to go for a walk.

10. The Portland International Airport has seating — tables! — unaffiliated with any of the shops.

III. The Ten Worst Things About Oregon.

1. WiFi connections are lousy.

2. Oregon isn’t in Canada.

3. Um…

4. Er…

5. Ah…

PDX. They treat you right.

PDX. They treat you right.