Monthly Archives: May 2018

Watching Plants Grow and Avoiding Murder

Annual Heirloom Plant Sale

For anyone not neck-deep in the hat-phantasmic hoopla surrounding the royal wedding, allow me to present a less drama-soaked alternative: watching plants grow!

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It occurs to me, that I have watched too many episodes of Midsomer Murders–a British television show on air since 1997 that refuses to die no matter how many casting changes occur.*

If you know the genre, there typically is a picturesque village holding a Medieval Faire with costumed residents oozing quaintness and exhibiting occasional homicidal tendencies.

If you are unfamiliar, I recommend a movie by Simon Pegg called “Hot Fuzz” that crystallizes the best and worst bits about the deceptively serene English countryside:

The thing that captures my attention more than the body count, is the number of community fêtes thrown. There’s like, what, one every episode? It makes me wonder if it is a national British pastime to dress in Ye Olde itchy togs and con people into playing cheesy parlor games for the sake of the church roof fund!

This brings me to today’s topic: American Block Parties.

Most block parties are an organized potluck gathering on barricaded side streets with no other function than to bring a community together to eat. Saturday gives me the opportunity to attend one that is equal parts British Fête Fundraiser and old-fashioned American street festival.

The occasion calls for a gathering of myriad talents to raise awareness and funds for the aptly named Wellhouse. The day’s event is the 6th Annual Heirloom Plant Sale.

Wellhouse is a community program that buys local houses, renovates dilapidated neighborhoods, and provides housing and skills training for formerly homeless residents. They also promote a ‘growing’ community with an emphasis on sustainable practices and energy conservation along with farm gardening.**

Wellhouse hosts a plant sale each year. You go for the plants. You stay for that little something extra you won’t find at your local greenhouse: community!

At first, I beeline to pick up the greenery I want to fill out the barren landscape choked with crabgrass and despair that is my backyard.

Community Plants
Sadly no one was dressed in a jester’s motley with tinkling bells on their pointy hat. On the upside, no one was murdered either.

Per usual, my teenage son has a trajectory of his own.

I keep dragging the man-child away from one table in particular. (I need to ogle flowers with exotic names like ‘Clemson’ and ‘Hyssop’, don’tcha know.)

Coco Renee Specialty Baking
Even better than they look. Seriously dangerous baked goods by Coco Reneé.

I promise my child a specialty cupcake just so I can plant shop. (Twist my arm.)

I don’t know how good the chocolate cupcake with chocolate whipped frosting was, I just know it took my son less time to inhale said cupcake than it took to remove the wrapper.

I pick the one with the raspberry garnish.

I have no regrets.

If you want more rib-sticking eats, you might hit up the royalty-hued catering provided by Purple Blaze, a hybrid of Southern and Ethiopian cooking.

Purple Blaze

Sadly, I have no time to sample their fare, mostly because the boy-child is pushing me to go, however, even I as a non-meat eater have to say the wafting odor of barbecue is positively mouth watering.

Purple Blaze BBQ
Smelled good enough to make me question my vegetarian leanings.

You wouldn’t think there is be more in store at the festivities, but you’d be wrong. The gray, overcast sky can’t put a damper on the upbeat spirits.

There are white-tented tables with various arts for sale. My arms are mostly full of greenery, but I stop to admire the selections.

There were some truly amazing prints to peruse courtesy of Red Hydrant Press.

Calligraphy Art
Putting the ‘Press’ back into printing.

And fabulous arts of the crafted clay variety provided by WMCAT or the West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology.

Here’s CC showing off her colorful floral-designed Pot:

CC - Clay Pot

Before long, my son is dragging me toward our Prius in a desperate bid for freedom, but I chat and take pictures as if this isn’t killing him slowly.

CC Alayna and Teacher
From left to right: Teacher Jo Nicholson with students, CC and Alayna, kindly posing for no reason or explanation at all. Really, they are lucky I’m not a serial killer.

Moving between lazy droplets of rain, it is possible to find your smile while listening to The Fabulous Vans.

The Fabulous Vans
From left to right: Ryan Gravelle (wearing the cat shirt his girlfriend gave him), Timmy Van on guitar, and daughter, Sierra Van, on ukelele and vocals.

As I am packing up my car to go, I chat with the guitarist who is setting up for a performance. We exchange brief biographies, the way strangers do.***

I point to my kid who is slumping, hang-dog, in the car since mommy isn’t hopping to like he hopes. Timmy points to his daughter, Sierra, still polishing off some ribs at a nearby picnic table. He brags about her musicality and involvement in local choirs.

You wouldn’t be biased about her talents at AlL?” I joke.

Her dad laughs and denies partiality, “Of course not.”

We talk about kids and music for a bit.

I bemoan my teenager’s rebellion against piano and ask whether he has to badger her to follow in her father’s footsteps? He assures me that she’s the one who wants sing.

He can’t say enough great things about her. Apparently, she’s even influenced the music they play.

“We usually play classic rock covers–like Led Zepplin’s “A Whole Lot of Love” but Sierra sings from some of her favorites: Twenty-One Pilots or One Republic.”

“I’m sorry,” I interrupt him. “Did you say Twenty-one Republics?”

He corrects me without laughing, much. By now, the rest of the band has loped over, and agrees to stage a picture for me. I hear them play as I drive away. Their enthusiasm isn’t in the least dampened by the drizzly venue.

*

I spent the rest of the day trying to plant things while simultaneously killing as many weeds as I can.

In the spirit that embodies fine British murder mystery programming, there’s been a summer fête, someone has to die!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnotes:

*Regarding Midsomer’s Suspicious Death Rate: I do wonder how a fictional hamlet apparently no bigger than Rhode Island can survive quadruple homicides on a weekly basis without running out of people?

**I totally stole the Wellhouse information from a flyer available at the front table.

***Even though we all know about serial killers, no one expects them. They are like the Spanish Inquisition this way.

 

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Keeping it Arboreal for Mother’s Day

If mothers were trees…would they be like these?

A speculative look at the similarity between maternal instinct and cultivated bonsai architecture.* 

Seeing the forest for the trees.

Forest for the Trees
Five. Five is the perfect number. No more. No Less. Unless you are speaking of children, and then five is just an insane amount. Any more than five is asking to be committed. (Ahem…Cousin C–I’m looking at you!)

Birch trees, with their snow-white bark always make me think of the Robert Frost poem–Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening–the last lines of which could be an anthem for motherhood:

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.”
I invite you to explore with me some leafy-themes of being a mom.
Into the woods we go…

Some mothers are worth-less.

Shaky Legs
“I feel like they’ve put me on a pedestal. But I’m one broken-string away from a complete collapse.”

It is very hard to know your own worth even when people are kind and reassuring.

Mom 1: “Of course jelly beans can fit up the nose–the manufacturers designed them that way. “

Mom 2: “Oh yeah. It’s a nose-picking conspiracy all right. The sugar syndicates are in cahoots with the emergency after-hours clinics, I’m sure of it.

Even with an abundance of fertilizer, it can be hard to feel like a properly formed fir.

It helps to surround yourself with like-minded trees.

Join a collective–be unique in a crowd

Collective 2
The kids may be driving us toward deciduous anarchy but we are firs. We stay green!  (Except for the one one in the yellow pot. But, don’t worry. She’ll be back, ready to tackle the seedlings in spring.)

Real friends let you know it’s okay to be a small tree in a big garden.

We grow at our own pace and, yeah, some of us have perky petals, but most of us are just clinging to our own mossy kingdom trying not to kick out the dirt holding us together.

 

Other mothers are hard to miss–always the belle of the ball.

Razzamataz
Look at me! See, I’m special and unique and you must admire me!

It’s hard not to compare yourself to the mom who looks like she’s got it all under control.

But maybe, she only let’s you see her when she is at her best.

I like to think this bonsai goes home to put on a pair of sweat pants and binge watch Dancing with the Stars while eating Chunky Monkey straight from the carton.

Lean into parenting sharp edges

Uncomfortable Balance
“Just one more load of laundry and then I can sleep….”

Sure, lean into the wind.

Face your battles.

But also, be willing to admit when you are unbalanced.

All work and no play makes mommy a crab apple.

Dwarfed by expectations

 

 

David and Goliath_Inked
“I am mighty…” said the tiny bonsai tree. 

I measure myself against an impossible standard: the mom I want to be versus the mom I am.

Sometimes, it’s okay to just be the cute-little-mom-that-could.

Be at peace with your adorable limitations.

Postage Stamp Bonsai
“I am Groot.”

The tiniest seed still blooms if you give it enough attention.

That rule applies to you as much as your children.

Fake it until the glazed pot fits!

Blue Bowl and Bonsai with Rock

You may feel like you are coming apart at the seams.

You need a solid foundation and a rock to lean upon.

That’s okay. Go do something nice for yourself.

Buy a glazed ceramic pot to squat in.

Sometimes, all it takes is a pretty package.

Never give up!

Never Give Up Never Surrender
“Is it chilly in here, or is it me?’

Just when you are suffering root rot…

That’s when it’s your time to find that inner strength to keep blooming.

Even when you feel dead from the crown down.

 

Moms meltdown too.

Burnt Bonsai
After a fire, the forest is reborn in the ashes.

It happens.

We all lose our cool.

Try not to burn any bridges while you blaze away.

Remember: Spring returns each year.

Floral and Rooted
Even when your roots are showing–there is still beauty there. Share the joy.

Whatever your parenting challenges…

If you just can’t pack one more lunch or pick up one more pair of underwear…

Those tangled roots that are tying you in knots and weigh you down?

They are also the ones that lift you up and make you an absolutely beautiful mom.

 

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Bonsai Parenting Archetypes–an excruciatingly root-bound analogy.

 

Bonsai Moms
To my very own Bonsai Mom. 

My mom agreed to join me at my favorite place on earth for mother’s day.

The bonsai show was such a nice surprise!

Mom admired the petite jardins–even if she was drawn to the biggest brutes on the lot!

Majestic Pine
Mom’s favorite dominated the competition. I wonder what that suggests about her bonsai traits?

 

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Thank you for joining me for a retrospective of the Mother’s Day bonsai bonanza at Meijer Gardens. I highly recommend you attend the special exhibits like these, or, failing that, stopping by to enjoy my obsessive photography habit.