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Archive for the ‘Inspiration’ Category

Behind the garage is goldenrod, blue cornflowers and red clover. They grew up on their own, seeds dispersed by the wind or planted by some former resident. I planted pink dianthus, orange-red marigolds and some carnations from seed. No rhyme or reason. No theme. There is even a pot of white snapdragons just because they were on sale in the store.

Behind the garage is an unsettled area. Every hard rain reveals bits of old thick glass … recently I’ve been finding marbles … what stories do they have to tell? … and cement chunks from some demolition that took place not too long ago. One has to be careful where one walks.

Behind the garage there is the remnant of an old apple tree, its bark overgrown around what must have been a chain link fence at some point. Pieces of metal still stick out. Animals parade through. It is an avenue. I’ve seen possum, raccoons, cats, squirrels and lots of rabbits. I can only imagine what else might meander through in the dead of the night when I am not looking.

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… and it is beautiful.

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from the garden

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petunias in the garden

I photographed the petunias in the garden today but I don’t have any petunia stories except that my mother used to plant them in the raised beds my father built for her in Virginia. Beds maybe 1′ or 2′ by 4′ or 5′. Nothing fancy. Plants purchased from the farmers market in downtown Lynchburg. Straightforward colors of red, purple and white come to mind. Although I do remember in later years when I returned home after college the selections had expanded and there were striped and maybe spotted petunias in the beds. As a child, in the early evening hours when the sun (and therefore heat) was low, I remember my mom and I would go out and pick the dead flowers to encourage new growth. It came across as something calming for my mother. My dad’s domain was the vegetable garden. The flowers were my mother’s and I think she cherished it.

Even after I moved from home I often managed to garden though I was not drawn to petunias. I have a growing fondness for them and an appreciation of how they fill in a container and complement other plants. As a child I didn’t appreciate them at all except as an opportunity to stick my hands in the dirt to help plant them and an opportunity to hang out with my mom as she took care of them. I was completely clueless as she included me in this process of caretaking and nurturing. I’m still not great at it with petunias. I try to find new varieties that need no deadheading. I seek out colors that complement the “main” plants I have growing in a container. And yet as seasons continue to pass I find myself planting more of those things from my childhood that I took for granted like petunias, scarlet sage and sweet william. Spring is near done and summer approaches. We’ll see what growing opportunities, prompted by the past or by the current moment, present themselves.

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my super eclectic 2×5 raised garden bed

I have to admit it has been mostly people of color who have been most vocal in their curiosity. “Do you live here?” “Nice neighborhood. What’s your rent like?” And if they see Steve standing about with his silvery beard and walking stick, some venture to inquire, “Are you a home health aid?” These are Uber drivers. The White drivers tend to pull up, look at the house and then at me, curious clearly, but leaving the questions unasked.

It is a 1920s wood frame two family house with good bones that need some work. Stuff like fixing holes in walls, replacing plumbing, updating the 1970s washer and dryer in the rental unit and so on and so forth and ,ah, the learnings! One small brick porch was recently repaired while the larger brick porch had to be replaced completely because, as Steve thought based on his tapping his walking stick on the bricks, the interior bricks had crumbled and there was a disaster in the making. That had to be fixed and it looks good. The exterior painting that’s clearly needed? So long as we don’t look too shabby that’s getting pushed out into the far future. I did not realize owning a home was so expensive. But as Steve likes to remind me, we really don’t own the home. The bank owns it until we pay off the mortgage. 🙂

There was an incident on the street recently and the police arrived. I went outside by myself to inquire what was happening. In short during the course of the conversation I informed the officer I was not a tenant, I was the landlord. There followed that moment of silence and that too-familiar look on his face. I was treated with respect but the curiosity remained clear in his face, the Black officer, and later on the face of a White officer.

There are times of late on the Uber ride home, especially after a long day in Boston, and I see the question(s) forming, I am tempted to make up a story. “Yes, I’m a home health care aid. That’s why my bags are filled with groceries and flowers, so that I can take care of the people inside.” “Yes, I’ve been renting for years and luckily the landlord hasn’t raised the rent. Indeed it is a nice neighborhood and I am lucky to be able to afford it.”

I do not think of the queries and reactions as necessarily racist. I think of them as unintentionally or unknowingly biased. There is a perception of me by people of different races and backgrounds that kicks in when they see me, a small brown woman who may look a bit younger than I actually am, standing in front of a multifamily home. Is it so rare that a Black person owns a home in the Greater Boston area?

Yes, it is.

There has been much research on the subject and there is continuing work by people at many levels to fix the inequity in home ownership that has evolved over many many many decades.

I am by trade a storyteller but I will ignore urges to make up a story about our home and my presence in it. It serves no purpose to lie except to perpetuate a misconception. I am simply reminded of my research, and the research of so many scholars, with regard to systemic racism and the seeds that are implanted in the minds of people of all backgrounds as to who Black people are and what they are capable of.

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I am being overrun by pansies …

… some of which I am 99% sure I didn’t plant.

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Usually, in the morning, I let … I mean that I empower … Steve to roll out of bed, make coffee and cook me, I mean us, eggs over easy. Always one egg on one piece of toast and maybe some fruit on the side. Kind of spartan but it works. But in recent times I noticed the number of eggs in the fridge were diminishing at a faster rate. Now Steve’s tai chi instructor Jon makes occasional house visits because it can be a bit of a trek for Steve to make it to the dojo. Jon can come in the mornings usually after I’ve left for work. One day I called home to ask Steve if Jon had shown up. He said, “Yes. I cooked him breakfast.” I did a double take. “Aren’t we paying him to come over and give you a workout?” “Yes, but I asked if he was hungry and he said yes and so …”

Now what I remember from ages ago, after Steve’s surgeries and he could appear and was indeed pooped all of the time, is that for a visit with company customers he pulled together (without me being present as sous chef) an amazing fruit and cheese grazing platter BEFORE they all went out to dinner and THEN returned to our place for a nightcap that he orchestrated. He was in heaven. When I described this scene to his PCP she nodded sagely and said, “Some people are energized by being hospitable.”

And so this morning as I raced out of bed (alarms didn’t go off) and raced about to make coffee and check the egg situation … well, there were three eggs. I knew Jon was coming by for class. If Steve and I had one each that would leave just one for Jon. So I put the container back in the fridge and decided we were having smoked salmon and cream cheese on toast. Steve, without even knowing the egg situation, said that would be just fine.

When I returned home, I looked in the fridge. One egg in the case. I asked Steve, who was in another room, and already knowing the answer, “Did you fix Jon breakfast?” “Yes,” he shouted back. “He said thank you before we went outside to practice with the kendo sword.” 

I smiled and closed the refrigerator door. Gotta buy some more eggs this weekend.

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daffodils

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oxalis on the windowsill

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