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26 May 2009

Denver Flower and Garden Examiner

Photo by Quincy Benton

I have to tell you, I think this is the most romantic and appropriate title I've ever had in my entire career: Denver Flower and Garden Examiner.

I've been a staff writer, a contributing writer, a ghost writer, a columnist, a would-be novelist, an editor, a creative director, a public relations director, an associate secretary of communications, a creative writing instructor, a freelance writer, a copywriter, a copy editor, and have held other random titles, but I like this one best.

Even above lifeguard!

If you click on this link to my page, you will find entries similar in style and tone to the posts here. Plus, some wonderful photographs of garden life. I'll get back to blogging more as the garden season progresses a bit, and I'm not running around like a red squirrel.

Thanks for dropping by my Denver Flower and Gardener Examiner page. And if you have a gardening tip or question or comment, I'd love to hear from you.


25 May 2009

Happy Memorial Day

Photo by Quincy Benton

Happy Memorial Day. Here's a link to my page, where you'll find a thoughtful piece I just posted on cemetery flowers and gardens. Remember the dead and celebrate life!

I'm happy to report that my new gig as Denver Flower and Garden Examiner is energizing and entertaining and entirely fascinating. My page is popular. Almost immediately, my page went to the top five list of all the Home and Living pages in the U.S. and stayed there. Yesterday, for the first time, my page broke into the top 5 in Denver, where almost 470 Examiners are posting. (Denver was one of the original five test cities for As of today, my page ranks second nationally in Home and Living and fourth in Denver. Currently, as of 10:15 this morning, I have 134 hits on my page while the average number of hits in Denver is 8, and the average number of Home and Living hits is 6.

This update drives my Type A personality, but here's my plan: Make entries now, while gardening season is hot. I'm posting like a madwoman right now. I put up my 100th entry yesterday, after only, I think, nine days. I have only one subscriber, and no comments. It's curious to me that so many people hit on these sites, but nobody comments. I know I'd be less inclined to comment if I had to register or do anything like that. And I do realize that not everybody is a compulsive communicator.

Last week, a young woman who has been doing some illustrations for a newsletter that I edit joined us here at (Boot) Camp Colleen. Her name is Quincy Benton, and she did her first photo shoot of my gardens last week. If you visit the site, you'll see a lot of her work. I hope you will enjoy her images as much as I do. Quincy will do some illustrations for the page, too. Her first one is of beautiful beets.

At any rate, I invite you to visit my site. Thanks for reading. I can't think of anything I'd rather be writing about, right now.

P.S. Please pass along my page to anybody who enjoys flowers and gardening. Thanks!


21 May 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Friends see our rough drafts

My friend Logan and I met when I was a freshman and she was a sophomore in college. We were English majors and had major fun playing Scrabble at the laundromat. In this photo, we're skiing Vail, where she makes her home with her family. She's recovering from an ACL repair, but we plan to be on the slopes together again next season. Logan sent me this touching quote today, and I wanted to share it with you.

“What do we affect during our lifetime? What, ultimately, is our legacy? I believe, in most cases, our legacy is our friends. We write our history onto them, and they walk with us through our days like time capsules, filled with our mutual past, the fragments of our hearts and minds. Our friends get our uncensored questions and our yet-to-be-reasoned opinions. Our friends grant us the chance to make our grand, embarrassing, contradictory pronouncements about the world. They get the very best, and are stuck with the absolute worst, we have to offer. Our friends get our rough drafts. Over time, they both open our eyes and break our hearts.

“Emerson wrote, ‘Make yourself necessary to someone.’ In a chaotic world, friendship is the most elegant, the most lasting way to be useful. We are, each of us, a living testament to our friends’ compassion and tolerance, humor and wisdom, patience and grit. Friendship, not technology, is the only thing capable of showing us the enormity of the world.”
Steven Dietz, Playwright


20 May 2009

GARDENGATE: Please visit me at

Photo by James Baca

Have you missed me? I--believe it or not--have missed blogging, too! For me, the blog took the place of journaling, which I once did with daily devotion.

I'm elsewhere online: I recently was hired by and given this exciting title: Denver Flower and Garden Examiner. Given that gardening is now underway in the Mile High City, I'm focused on writing pieces for The Denver Post's Grow section, Colorado Expression, Architecture & Design of the West, and now building my page.

Please visit me at my flower and garden page. Even if you're not a gardener, if you enjoy this Bluestocking blog, you likely will enjoy my page, too. You'll find lovely photos and thoughtful essays, along with profiles of plants, gardeners, gardening tips and other treasures.
If you care to leave a comment or subscribe, that will thrill me, too.
I'll be back to Bluestocking blog as soon as I finish planting. I've got a few things that still need to go into the ground.
Please check in again soon.
Thanks for reading. Happy gardening.

16 May 2009

WELL BEING: The Friendship of Trees

Redwoods tower over an enchanting forest road near California's Sonoma Coast.

"Friendship is a sheltering tree."

-- Samuel Taylor Coleridge

And oftentimes, trees are sheltering friends.


THE ARTS: Lend Arts a Hand

When Denver Art Museum opened the new Hamilton Building, a campaign collected donations from arts enthusiasts asked to trace their hand and provide their signature. Top center in this image, my hand print hangs with hundreds of others individuals and organizations that invested in art.

In this economy, many arts organizations struggle. Precisely when we all need a booser shot of beauty and inspiration, people tend to cut back on concerts, exhibitions, tickets to plays and other performances. When you purchase tickets to arts events, you invest in visionaries.

Even if your budget won't allow splurging on front and center seats for the symphony or Broadway plays, take advantage of free concerts and city-sponsored days at museums and galleries. Your presence supports artists, too.

And, by the way, did you realize that when you go to the movies, you're supporting not only cinemas, but also newspapers? That's right. Revenues generated by advertisements for movies help keep newspapers solvent. So if you're somebody bemoaning American newspapers' rapid disappearing act, catch a flick and help support a flack and a hack. (In case you don't know, "flack" is an old term for a press agent; "hack" is a word for a writer or reporter paid to knock out copy quickly. At various times in my career, I've been both.)


15 May 2009

WELL BEING: "How much is that doggie in the window?"

A lighthearted moment that made me smile, and might make you smile, too.

While walking through a parking lot at a garden center last weekend, I saw this dog wearing goggles. I happened to have my iPhone, so couldn't resist a photo. When I closed in on the car with my camera raised, this little blondie climbed over the back seat, introduced her dog, and without promting, posed for a photo.

I'm not sure whether the pooch sported the shades to protect an eye problem or whether this little ragamuffin accessorized her furry friend.


GARDENGATE: Fruit of the Blog

A lot of people looked at me sideways when I mentioned I'd started blogging. I know; I know: I resisted it, too. For starters, "blog" and "blogging" are horrible words. Add to that the idea of all the unedited writing, and the fact that anybody can write anything. But I decided to hop on the bandwagon and see if I could manage without a train wreck, to mix my metaphors.

Happy news: The blog bore fruit! I just began as the Denver Flower and Garden Examiner at Lots to learn. This technology stupefies me. I'm thrilled to have another avenue for articulating the joys of the garden and sharing what I've learned--sometimes the hard way--in my own gardens.

Here's a link to my page.
Or, if you are interested you can find it this way:
Click on"Denver"
Click on "Plant and Gardener Examiner"

I'm just getting started there, but have posted four pieces and have 4,000-some ideas.


13 May 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: The New Yorker Reviews Biography of Slang-Whanger William Hazlitt

THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS feels like a European building.
I jumped through hoops to be granted a researcher's library card and hope to return soon when I have more time to spend in the reading room and get my gloved hands on some of the rare books.

Of all my literature courses in college, probably my favorite was Romantic British literature. The Romantics have surfaced for me again, of late. Last week, I went to hear the poet David Whyte at the Boulder Bookstore. Whyte, about whom I'd written for The Denver Post, recited part of Wordsworth's Prelude. I swooned.
This evening, I read in the 18 May issue of The New Yorker a fascinating and fabulously written review by Arthur Krystal of a book titled "William Hazlitt: The First Modern Man" (Oxford $45) The book, written by Duncan Wu, includes cameo appearances by Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Keats. Prolific, Hazlitt resisted pidgeon-holing; he wrote everything from book reviews to biographies to philosophy to essays to political manifestos.
Krystal, the magazine notes, is at work on a book on F. Scott Fitzgerald. His review is an informative and entertaining read. Google "The New Yorker Slang-Whanger" if you don't have a subscription.


THE WRITTEN WORD: Shaw on Miracles

National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., shot in early April.

“A miracle is an event
which creates faith.
That is the purpose
and nature of miracles.”
-- George Bernard Shaw


AND ECOJUSTICE FOR ALL: Climate Change and Economies

Spotted this poster and was sobered by this quote from Paul Volcker, Former Chairman of the Federal Reserve:
“If we don’t take action on climate change, you can be sure that our economies will go down the drain in the next 30 years…What may happen to the dollar, and what may happen to growth in China or whatever, will pale into insignificance compared with the question of what will happen to this planet over the next 30 or 40 years if no action is taken.”

Take action! Nobody can do everything; but everybody can do something.


12 May 2009

WELL BEING: Make Peace More Than a Symbol

On April 4, 2009, the peace sign turned 51 years old. Peace remains as elusive as ever, but--with the nation in at least two wars and styles of the Sixties and Seventies enjoying a resurgence--the peace symbol shows up everywhere: clothing, jewelry, home decor, tatoos, stickers, and stationary. Recently, I even saw ice cube trays with peace symbols; and Vail’s tony jewelry shop, The Golden Bear, added to their catalog a tasteful peace symbol pendant.

British designer Gerald Holtom designed the pictogram.
“I drew myself…a man in despair…put a circle around it to represent the world; Planet Earth with one little man in despair in it. The problem in justifying this symbol was resolved when I began to analyze the origin of the despair gesture…perhaps such gestures pre-dated alphabets? Obviously, I turned to semaphore signals and found that this gesture stood for N (Negative) and that the vertical stood for D (Divide). So here I had the justification for the symbol Nuclear Disarmament.”

Images show, at top, Archbishop Desmond Tutu on a poster I shot in Chicago last summer. Center, a Bonnie MacLean-designed rock-and-roll concert poster from “Psychedelic Experiment,” now exhibited at Denver Art Museum. (Sorry for the fuzzy photo.) The DAM's gift shop currently carries a T-shirt titled “The Art of Peace” with riffs on the peace symbol in the style of six artists: DaVinici, Picasso, Warhol, Van Gogh, Pissarro, and Mondrian.

Peace be with you.


11 May 2009

GARDENGATE: Snow Crab Survivor Blossoms

Earlier this Spring, I posted about the four little snow crab trees planted the last two seasons in my little corner of the world. I bemoaned the early, unseasonably warm temperatures that enticed the buds, which--as I feared--got coldcocked by a late snow storm.
Blossoms are not guaranteed
—especially here in Denver—which, I suppose, makes them all the more special when variables align so that blossoms do appear. Over the weekend, while working around the yard, I noticed that one valiant snow crab had produced one survivor blossom--well, okay, two blossoms, as you can see in this image at top. Precious! The image also shows what happened to most of the browned blooms and leaves. Roots are resilient, though. And there's always next Spring with it's eternal hope.

The other photo shows three of the four snow crabs in 2008, their first spring, their tree "training wheels" still in place.

The secret garden's venerable old crab apple in the back yard got zapped, too. No pink blossoms, which means no petals to sweep up later this spring, no little apples to rake up come autumn, but also means no food for the robins and squirrels. Gardening, like life, has its trade-offs.


10 May 2009

THE ARTS: Far Out Groovy Rock Posters

Denver Art Museum’s current exhibit “The Psychedelic Experience: Rock Posters from the San Francisco Bay Area 1965-71” draws a crowd of people who might not otherwise darken the doors of a stuffy art museum. Rock music from the era sets the tone in the normally hushed galleries.

The exhibit includes the interactive Psychedelic Side Trip, where visitors can make their own posters, create light shows, and watch videos of rock concerts. Groovy! Interestingly, in A NEW EARTH, Echardt Tolle credits the hippies with bringing in a heightened consciousness for all humanity: peace, love, and understanding.

I turned nine the Summer of Love. One of my older sisters, Karen, strung a necklace of love beads for me. After seeing the vibrant posters at the DAM, I remembered my joy in the box of crayons containing fluorescent colors introduced sometime in the Sixties. I thought the hippies were cool: the music, the clothes, the freewheeling ways. A wanna-be flower child, I let my hair grow long; wore hip-hugging bell bottoms and embroidered gauze shirts—that is, when I wasn’t forced to wear my plaid pleated Catholic school jumper. I really had no clue what was going on, and I never knew any real hippies, but I had my aspirations to go to San Francisco and wear flowers in my hair.

Make art, not war

These images feature posters by Bonnie MacLean, in the second shot, and in the third and fourth shots, by Victor Moscoso, who studied color theory at Yale. Moscoso went on to break orthodox graphic arts rules by combining vibrating colors and creating practically illegible type. More than being read, the posters were deciphered.


GUEST BLOG: "Mothering Ourselves..."

My dear friend Tama granted permission to publish one of her pieces, a perfect post for
Mother's Day. She's a gifted writer/speaker/coach with a loving message.

Her book, cover depicted, is her story of "How One Harvard Lawyer Left It All To Have It All."

Tama's Musings

Mothering Ourselves: Nurturing Yourself, Your
Dreams, and the World

I have had to learn how to mother myself in this lifetime. I love my mother, more so these days than ever before, but for many years I felt like I got the short end of the umbilical cord. Like many of us, I didn't get the movie mother in this lifetime, the tireless cheerleader, the fierce cub-protector, or the one who listened deeply to all my secret places and saw colors in me, I had yet to see. That mother was on back order when I was placing my cosmic selection. Instead, I got someone who hadn't exactly read the manual, and I know now, deserved and needed a mother herself.

But I have become a great mother to myself.

"...nothing has changed and never will."

"It's taken years mind you. At first, I took the sad track to the broken amusement park ride of "It's Not Fair." But you can only ride that ride for so long before you realize that nothing has changed and never will. Yes, I'd wince when I met someone who had a mother that was their best friend, or someone they aspired to be like. I'd avert my eyes from that glow like seeing something so beautiful and private, something I could never have, something not meant for me.

But it was meant for me. It was meant for all of us. Even if you have a great mother, it's important and life-changing to become that nurturing presence for yourself. It's a practice. You can get better at chess or yoga. And you can get better at being there for yourself in ways that rock your soul.

"a fierce advocate for my joy"

I have learned to become a fierce advocate for my joy. I am still work on becoming a resourceful presence for my pain. Here's some of what I practice: I tell myself, "you can tell me anything," and I mean it. I no longer punish myself for feeling helpless, angry, jealous or stuck, and I'm willing to fill a thousand journals with my feelings. I buy myself tokens and totems to celebrate achievements, large and very, very small. I whisper to myself in the crevices of emptiness between my bones, "I'm proud of you. I'm proud of you. I have so much faith in you."

"self-kindness as a matter of pragmatism"

I used to think it was sad to have to be nice to myself, since I didn't have a "real person" to do it. Then I thought it could even be destructive, as though the worst parts of me, liberated from criticism and threats, could grow like spores, live on pizza, and let reality T.V. replace reality. But it turns out that I'm not reckless when loved; I'm soothed and healed. Turns out that when I don't have to protect myself from my own self judgment I'm really not all that interested in indulgence and escapism. And lately, I see self-kindness as a matter of pragmatism and responsibility. I am called to be a steward of the abilities and gifts that only I have, to represent the sacred love that comes through me, to tend my fire, keep it burning, creating one more source of light and warmth in our world. And as I take care of myself, I am one less broken soul, one more capable being on the front lines ready to tend the wounded.

Mothers are everywhere

"I've learned how to mother myself from many sources, for which I am so grateful. I've learned from the forgiving eyes of therapists how to listen to myself with less judgment and attack. I've learned from the tender gestures of friends and lovers how to buy myself grapefruit juice, treasure my impish smile, and to say "oh honey," in the hard times. I've also been amazed by the spontaneous mothering I've experienced in life from total strangers, people who saw me leaning against a wall like a wild rose bush, and who gently tucked a trellis underneath my leaves and helped me find a stable way to grow. I have been saved, redeemed, and taught by the kindness of brief acquaintances who may have offered something basic to them, but who loosened a dark primeval knot inside my soul. I've felt safer in this life knowing that mothers, beings of nurturing and kindness, support and love are everywhere and that I do not have to be related to be deeply connected.

I've also learned so much from different wisdom paths such as Buddhism and A Course in Miracles. I've learned to become a loving witness for others and in so doing I've become that witness for myself. I've learned to discover and listen to a sweet beloved inner voice that is mother, father, lover, creator and an original intelligence with the power of ten thousand waterfalls, the softness of a puppy's breath. I continue to learn that I am never alone and infinitely loved, though love may come from a line in a book or the fragrance of a garden.

Since I have committed to following my dreams in this lifetime, I deliberately set out to become my own advocate and cheerleader. I knew there would be cut glass upon the path, abandoned markers, questions and locked doors. I have consciously created a voice of encouragement within myself, one who sees how brave I am just for daring, one who doesn't care about results, but cares about the efforts. It's this voice that keeps me warm with praise, and puts cotton in my ears when dark stories are told. It's this voice that keeps lists of encouraging signs, scraps of evidence in my favor. It is this voice that will scream from the bleachers when I die, "Way to go dear one, you gave it everything you had. It's been a great ride!"

"my mother, a rag tag child herself"

The beautiful thing about becoming this presence to myself is how much it's enabled me to gift others with this love, to be that generous stranger for another, to be that lightning rod for my friends, family, clients and students. I've turned some of my private ache into public service. I have even learned to mother my mother, a rag tag child herself, lost at sea in judgments and opinions and injuries I will never know of. Sometimes I do not feel appreciated or seen by her. But that's okay now. Because I am always appreciated and seen by me.

"Nurture yourself"

This month, I'd like you to think of nurturing yourself as your responsibility. Do something truly kind for yourself. Can you buy yourself a small gift or token of gratitude and support? Also, are there people in your life that you would like to thank for their tenderness or example of kindness? The world is full of dynamite mothers, and some of them are men and some of them are dogs and cats.

©Copyright 2009 Tama J. Kieves. All rights reserved.

Tama J. Kieves is an honors graduate of Harvard Law School who left her practice with a large corporate law firm to write and to embolden others to live their most fulfilling lives. She is the bestselling author of THIS TIME I DANCE! Creating the Work You Love and is a sought-after speaker and career coach who has helped thousands world-wide to discover and live their creative dreams. Visit her at www.ThisTimeIDance and sign up for free inspiration and support through her monthly e-newsletter. Want to find your calling? Get Tama’s Free Report right now on “Finding Your Calling” at www.

Happy Mother's Day to mothers of all stripes, and especially to my mother, too long dead, yet very much alive in me.


09 May 2009

THE ARTS: Two Flicks on the Fourth Estate

I shot this detail of Renoir's painting, part of the collection at Chicago Institute of Art.
Will newspapers go the way of camera film? If you care about the fourth estate, support your local newspapers.

"Before dawn every morning, about 600 newspapers from around the world transmit their front pages electronically to the Newseum." Regretably, I never made it inside the Newseum, but my friend Andrea and I--inadvertently reflected in the sign--found the front pages displayed in front of the building fascinating. Log on to for more information.

This weekend, I saw both "The Soloist" and "State of Play," two solid journalism movies. "The Soloist" gets high marks for being based on a true story, for pointing out the sad fact that greater Los Angeles has 90,000 homeless people, and for the scene depicting synesthesia. (Seeing colors while hearing music is one example of synesthesia.)

"State of Play" won me over with the journalists' witty dialogue that rang true, and for shedding light on the newspaper world's problems. Some good, snarky lines about blogs vs newspapers. Amazing to see the presses running and to wonder whether they will go the way of the telegraph before too long.

One recent horror story in the ongoing saga of newspapers: Some reporters in Baltimore were on assignment covering a baseball game when they got a phone call informing them that they were being laid off. Now that's crass. I suppose they still had to file their stories.

Coincidentally, in both movies, the leading men--journalists for daily newspapers--drove Saabs.


08 May 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Robinson Jeffers Sundial Near Santa Barbara

Photo by James Baca

As Santa Barbara burns, I recalled this curious sundial, which includes a car, dice, and oil barrells. James and I happened upon this sundial in an oceanside park outside Santa Barbara; and I was bowled over by the inscription:

“The tides are in our veins,
We still mirror the stars,
Life is your child,
But there is in me older and harder than life and more impartial,
The eye that watched before there was an ocean.”
-- Robinson Jeffers



07 May 2009

GARDEN GATE: The Understated Elegance of White Flowers

The other night, walking home from yoga, the white flowers in front of my house held their own in the moonlight. Lovely and lacy, the white blossoms seemed to glow, while other colors tend to disappear in darkness.

At the nurseries and greenhouses, I'm tempted by all the juicy colors, yet I'm fairly obsessed right now with white flowers. Some years ago, I got the bug for an all-white garden. I didn't yet have the discipline to blanche the entire landscape, but in the secret garden I did experiment with a circle of creamy white roses and boxwood ringing the bird bath. I loved the rich simplicity of the palette, so I pursued the vision.

In the last couple growing seasons, I've gravitated more and more toward plants with white blossoms. Of course, due to all the foliage, it's not really an all-white garden, but more a green and white garden. Since the brick of my house is so dark, the white flowers really pop in contrast. The beds in the front include the following white-flowered plants: pansies, tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, coneflowers, shasta daisies, candytuft, Buck roses. At the moment, the cherry tree blooms, too. Today, standing beneath it, getting a love-apple-growing lesson from my neighbor Darrell the Tomato Master, the cherry tree showered us with white confetti petals.

White flowers go with everything. Like a crisp white shirt, they make everything seem fresher. The green and white soothe, and the discerning eye can examine the different colors of white. Rather than the big burst of color impact, I've come to appreciate the forms and textures of the white flowers.

And the fragrance. Though the hyacinths have come and gone for this season, fragrant white Buck roses and a white peony are on deck.

Yesterday, while working in my garden, a young man stopped. He was dressed in spattered painter's clothes. He introduced himself and said he'd noticed my garden, and drove around the block to see it again. Then he asked if he could pick one of the tall, showy, white tulips in front of my house "for a very special female" in his life. How could I resist such a romantic impulse?

A garden isn't only for the delight of the gardener, but for all who pass and appreciate its beauty.


06 May 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: Britain's First Female Poet Laureate

NOT AN ONION, she's presenting in this painting. More like a 4-leafed clover. Sorry I do not know the artist. Shot this image at Cherry Creek Arts Festival last year.

Britain, for the first time in the literary tradition’s 341 years, named a woman poet laureate: Carol Ann Duffy.

“I give you an onion.
Its fierce kiss will stay on your lips,
possessive and faithful
as we are,
for as long as we are.”

– Carol Ann Duffy
“Valentine” from Duffy’s 2005 collection “Rapture”

(Excerpted in Sunday New York Times)


Pass it on!