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19 October 2009

TREBLE CLEF: Will Write for Music!

"Isn't it always love?"

-- Karla Bonoff

Sometimes, the tides turn in our favor.

This is one of those stories of serendipity, karma, or coinkydink: Whatever you call the web of life when happenings unfold in a mysteriously and uncannily connected manner.

James Baca, my photographer partner snapped this photo of me last month in Santa Barbara. We were winding down our 12th year of work there. Of the coastline drive, Thousand Steps is a touchstone spot for us in Santa Barbara--but that's another story. I only bring it up because Santa Barbara is significant in this story, in a roundabout way.

ON ASSIGNMENT: Santa Barbara sundown Photo by James Baca

Last fall, while flying home to Denver from the charming little open-air airport at Santa Barbara, James and I sat across the aisle from folk-rockers Karla Bonoff and Kenny Edwards. I'm a huge fan, have seen them in concert half a dozen times--initially when a freshman in college--so I thought I recognized the musicians. I noted that they were sharing a Rolling Stone. Then Kenny pulled out his Bose headphones, so I ventured a guess and I passed a note to Kenny: "Are you two musicians?" I jotted, "Because you like like Karla Bonoff and Kenny."

Kenny smiled and nodded. We both turned off our iPhone iPods, and we had a brief conversation. Turns out the musicians live in the Santa Barbara vicinity. Before we landed, I jotted down my email address and asked Kenny to keep me posted about Denver appearances because I would love to write a piece about them for
The Denver Post, where I for many years have contributed regularly and have begun writing more and more music pieces.

Subsequently, Kenny and I exchanged a couple of email messages, but did not quite make the connection.

We tried again before the show last Saturday at Swallow Hill. Karla was interested in doing an interview, but, alas, the Post was already filled. Freelancers tend to get caught in the middle: Sometimes the newspaper is willing, but the artist is not. Other times, vice versa.

On an upbeat note, however, Ricardo Baca invited me to join his roster of bloggers for Reverb,
The Post's online music blog. My maiden voyage into the Reverb waters was the Karla Bonoff concert. So all's well that ends well.
Here's a link to Reverb, which is a cool blog for music junkies. To check out my Karla Bonoff review, reviews of various genres, and lots of concert photo essays, too, just click here now.

And then go dig out your Karla Bonoff CDs and give them a whirl. And if you don't have her music in your collection, here's a link that allows you to order autographed copies at no extra cost. The website has her tour schedule, all her lyrics, info about Kenny Edwards' new solo CD et cetera. For Karla Bonoff's home page, just click here now.


11 October 2009

THE ARTS: Terrarium as art form

If you saw the terrarium I designed by request as part of "Cabinet of Curiousity" at Museum of Outdoor Arts, you might have logged on looking for instructions about how to create a terrarium.
Please click on this link to go to my page. Scroll down or search "terrarium" to find an entry titled "Terrarium as art form." You'll see a photo similar to this one. That post includes more details and links.

Photo by James Baca

If you're in the Denver area, don't miss the whimsical wonders at Cabinet of Curiousities" now showing at Museum of Outdoor Arts. This is art for everybody. Make a point to stop by the museum's indoor galleries housed in Englewood Civic Center. Your inner child will thank you, and so will the part of you that secrets away little items of nostalgic, nature or sentiment. MOA opens its doors free of charge.

"Support the arts,
and the arts will support you."

I'll conduct some more research on terrariums and will try to find more links.
Once I get the photos of the little terrarium from the exhibition's fun opening last night, I'll post them here, too. Meanwhile, for the exhibit, here's the label copy I wrote:

The roots of the terrarium

As early as 500 B.C., ancient Greeks grew and displayed plants in closed, transparent containers; but terrariums have their true roots in London. In 1827, London physician Dr. Nathaniel Ward discovered the scientific principle of terrariums.

Studying a moth emerging from a cocoon in moist soil, Dr. Ward noticed tiny ferns and grass growing in the earth contained in the jar. These plants, to the good doctor’s surprise, grew for years inside the jar without watering because the mini-greenhouse formed a miniature, self-sustained ecosystem complete with a water cycle.

Also known as Wardian Cases, terrariums allowed botanists to transport tropical plants safely from one continent to another, aiding the development of botany.

Ornately decorated terrariums grew in popularity as household decorations in Victorian times in the United States.

Today, all you need is a clear glass or plastic container to build your own terrarium, creating your own miniature ecosystem.


09 October 2009

NAMASTE': Meeting Baron Baptiste at His Yoga Immersion Day in Denver

Here's a thrill from my yoga mat:
That's me sharing a laugh and a high-five with yoga master Baron Baptiste, who founded Baptiste Power Vinyasa Yoga--one of three yogic traditions I've studied and practiced. I just opened my 18th year of practicing, and marked the milestone with the honor of meeting Baron last weekend when about 300 yogis joined him for a Baptiste Power Yoga immersion in Denver. My friend Lori and I unintentionally arrived very early and so we unrolled our mats in the very front row! We had just finished 3.5 hours of vinyasa. Whew. While Baron had us practicing headstands, I took the liberty of introducing myself since the two of us had talked at length on the phone during an interview for a piece I wrote about him for
fitness section of The Denver Post, which provided this photo. More on this later. I've been promising several friends I would post some comparing and contrasting of the three forms of yoga I've studied: Iyengar, Bikram, and Baptiste Power. Soon! But for now, namaste'.

05 October 2009

GARDEN GATE: Gardens Grow Communities--Three Anecdotes of Strangers in my Gardens

Many people as they walk or run or push a stroller past,
praise my gardens. (Thanks, in large part, to Mike Eagleton who designed much of my landscape, and to my crew that helps keeps it well tended.) But from time to time I have extended exchanges with strangers in my gardens.

Photo by Quincy Benton

Strangers In My Gardens

The other day, for the third time this growing season, I had a satisfying exchange with a stranger in my garden.
I had walked home slowly from yoga class, appreciative of the precious slant of warm midmorning autumn sunlight. When I had walked to class earlier that day at 7:45 a.m., I’d worn a ski cap and gloves, but when I made my way home at about 10 a.m., the day had grown warm and summery. I had plenty of work to do, but these balmy days of autumn seem almost as intoxicating as the first warm days of spring. Call it Autumn Fever.
It takes an optimist to plant this late in the season. I suppose I am mostly optimistic, but I know from experience that pansies are tough. Flowering kale, too, looks lacy and delicate, but in fact likes a bit of ice in its veins. So I’d made a sortie mission to Home Depot for a pair of pumpkins and a flat of pansies and five one-gallon pots of flowering kale.
When I should have been working at my laptop, I decided—given the beauty of the day—to work in the garden instead. I needed a gardening fix. I’d been on assignment and then had contracted a cold or flu or some such virus that had sapped me, yet I marshalled on and on, under the weather in Southern California. I had not been in my garden in nearly two weeks for any time to speak of--and both of us had suffered the separation, my garden and I.
My garden heals me. Grounds me. When I spend time in my garden, I cultivate something of my soul. Problems and concerns and other creative endeavors—words and images and ideas—simmer on the back burner. Gardening affords an incubation period. Drawn into the senses—the spicy smell of the roses, the paint box colors of the pansies, the prickle of the cosmos seeds as I collect some to share with a friend.

Pilfering memorial hollyhock seeds

So having contracted Autumn Fever, I hung out the "Gone Gardening" shingle and played hooky out of doors. I hustled from my secret garden to my front garden, schlepping my flat of pansies and replacing burgundy mums with ‘Frost Prince’ flowering kale in the ornamental concrete urns at the top of the first set of stairs in front. These urns were a gift to me many years ago. They have weathered well, and the urns stand as hybrid architectural and horticultural sentinels of my front stoop. I change out the plants in these urns several times over the season. In spring, pansies. In summer, succulents. In autumn, flowering kale, which I'd just planted and needed to water. As I walked down the stairs and headed to my spigot and garden hose on the side of my house, I spotted a scooter. The sporty thing parked just outside my porch, down the bank, in the middle of the sidewalk, looked like a joke of some kind. The scooter was definitely a girl scooter, painted the color of grape sherbet, but metallic, the color of chic lipstick or nail enamel.
I live along a busy one-way thoroughfare in a historic district of central Denver. Twice over 20 years, cars have veered off the avenue and careened through the gardens I've grown on the right-of-way alongside my house. But I’d never seen a scooter parked in the middle of my sidewalk. Curious, I looked around to see if somebody was having trouble.
Then, like a ghost appearing from a mist, a woman walked out from behind the tall pink hollyhocks of a plot I call Avenue Garden West for sake of naming a territory so as to somehow understand it and map it.
The first thing I noticed about this woman is that she held in one hand a Ziploc baggie and in the other hand a pair of scissors. Initially, I felt territorial. How dare she happen along and help herself to seeds from my garden without bothering to ask permission? I huffed a smidge, my feathers puffing, hackles up. Then, I chilled, remembering that gardeners are peaceable people, and realizing that I was flattered she was ransacking my garden for seeds. I felt profoundly appreciative, really, that somebody would want seeds from my garden enough to actually come collect them. She looked friendly enough. About my age, perhaps a bit older, she was attractive and funkily dressed with an aging-hippie-meets-urban-cool vibe.
“I’m collecting seeds to plant in a park,” she said, no apology.
I just said, “Oh.” I thought about asking whether she’d considered asking permission.
But before I could, she asked me about my hollyhocks.
I asked her about her park. She mentioned the name, a park I’d not heard of, which is not unusual since Denver has so many parks. I think the park had the name "Baca" in it. I asked her where it was. Somewhere in LoDo, she explained.
"A friend of mine committed suicide in that park a year ago in August," she said.
I cluck my tongue. “Awww,” I said, shocked, compassion rising in my throat. I was so glad I had not run her off my property earlier when I first discovered her snipping seeds sans permission. “I’m so sorry," I said. And I was.
“He was a flower guy,” the woman said matter-of-factly. “So I spent all this money putting in all these things. Tulips. All kinds of things. And nothing grew.”
“What a beautiful gesture for a memorial,” I said to her.

“Nobody has a black thumb”

She said, “I have a black thumb.”
“Nobody has a black thumb,” I said. “These hollyhocks? They're tough. They'll make it. You watch and see. And take some cosmos seeds, too.”
“Which ones are cosmos?”
“The purple ones,” I pointed to the bank behind her.
And she walked over to a sizable lavender shrub and touched a late bloom. “That’s lavender,” I said and touched one of the thistle-colored cosmos blooms. “The lavender won’t seed, but cosmos will. The seeds are prickly, so be careful when you gather them. These are prolific. They might take over the place. Just sprinkle them. They’ll self-seed. The hollyhocks, too. And maybe take some of the gallardia. Blanket flower,” I said, pointing to the corner crowded with flowers that exactly resemble the inside of a nectarine cut in half.
“I’m funny,” the lady said. “I don’t like yellow.”
“Well, some people don’t,” I said.
Again, I might have copped a "beggars can't be choosers" attitude, but I didn't. I noticed again the metallic mauve of her scooter. I did not try to talk her into any yellow. Who am I to cajole? I’ve been obsessing over an all-white garden, for goodness sake. I can relate to color quirks.
Suddenly, I grew self-conscious, aware of all the weeds poking up in the flower bed where she went after the little dried wheels of hollyhock seeds. “I need to get out here and weed,” I said.
“I don’t see weeds,"
the woman said, "I see flowers. These hollyhocks look ancient. How long have you lived here?”
“About 20 years,” I said. “The cosmos came from my mother’s garden. Help yourself. And good luck.”
“Thank you so much,” she said with sincerity; and I left her to collect her mourning seeds.

Inspiring beauty along the parkway

The second episode with strangers in my gardens happened a few weeks ago. I was working in my garden when a man and a boy stopped by on their bikes. The man introduced himself and his son. They lived a few blocks away, he said.
“I’ve been admiring your garden.”
I beamed. “I like it, too,” I said, proud as any parent.
He explained that he wanted to plant the right of way at the end of his block along our busy central Denver, one-way avenue. He asked about which plants would do well. I showed him some low water, low maintenance plants. I warned about planting things that would grow too high, interfering with sight lines along the trafficked avenue. (The way my hollyhocks unfortunately do.) I
applauded his idea, encouraged him to pursue his beautification plan, even offered to help if he needed more assistance.
I showed his young son the seeds of several plants, explaining that they’d all started from tiny seeds.
When I showed him one hollyhock seed and then showed him the towering, thick-stemmed hollyhocks with all the colorful little hoop skirt blossoms, the boy's eyes went round. He said, “Wwwwwwow!"
My sentiments exactly.

Begging a flower for a lover

And the first heart-warming incident in this string of encounters with strangers in my gardens happened last spring. While working in my garden, a young man stopped by. He, too, had been admiring my garden. He was formal, polite, enthusiastic. “I drive by here every day on my way to my girlfriend's,” said the young Romeo, probably in his 20s. (Difficult for me to judge age anymore, since I just turned 49, a blinding turnstile age.) At any rate, the Don Juan plead his case, “I was thinking how happy my girlfriend would be if I could bring her just one of those beautiful flowers.”
“The tulips?” I asked, a bit incredulous that he had stopped to beg a flower for his lover.
“Just one?” he pleaded.
How could I refuse so romantic a gesture?
“You pick it,” I said. And he did.
I wish I could have seen the look on his lover's face when he showed up with that flower. I wish I could have seen what she'd done with it. Was it in a pretty vase on the bureau in her bedroom? Atop her bathroom sink? The centerpiece of her dining room table? I could only hope she would cherish the tulip as much as her sweetheart had. I pray the tulips return next spring. I will gladly share another and another and another.

If you grow a garden, know that your garden is not for you alone, but for all who would look upon it. All who would steal its seeds. All who would imitate your edge of Eden. All who would beg a flower for a lover.

For more greenthumb matters, please visit my page, where I serve as Denver Flower and Gardening Examiner. Just click here to link.

COLORADO COLLEEN: Happy Feast Day, St. Francis of Assisi

I'm a day late in wishing Saint Francis of Assisi
a happy feast day!

St. Francis has successfully crossed ecumenical boundaries,
and he's often associated now not only with animals,
but also with the environment
and peace.
Plus, he's the patron saint of Colorado,
so he's one of my favorite saints.
I called on him constantly when I had my dogs Friday and Copper.

I made a pilgrimage to Assisi, after my dog Friday died,
and I left some of her ashes there
near where the body of good St. Francis lies for all eternity.
But that's another story.

Photo by Quincy Benton
depicts my secret garden's St. Francis statue,
a gift from my late parents.
See that crack around his neck?
Once, my girl Friday got so excited chasing a squirrel,
that she jumped up and toppled the tall, heavy statue.
Upon impact, his head fell off,
and St. Francis of Assisi became St. John the Baptist
until he got his head on straight again.

For more about the environment, garden angels, flowers, gardening, and other greenthumb matters, please drop by my page where I serve as Denver's Flower and Gardening Examiner.
Here's a link.
Just click here now.
Hope to see you there.


04 October 2009

THE WRITTEN WORD: To Sanctifiy Your Sunday--Or Any Day

Happened upon this beautiful passage today. I post this to sanctify your Sunday. Or any day.

"Dear one, you are growing up. You are beginning to sense and appreciate the coming changes. The ground-swell is beginning to sweep the planet. Fresh winds are blowing, untruths and injustices are being brought to trial. The world court, in its very infancy, is beginning to meet out justice. It is coming, it is coming.
Continue your earnest and sincere prayers for those mortals in ‘charge’ of grave decision making, which will affect humanity with far-reaching consequences.
The cry of the human soul is always heard. Pray without ceasing for the downtrodden, the downcast, the trampled upon and the mighty greedy ones. Each and every soul is in need of upliftment. The most powerful hungry-for-money humans have the neediest souls.
Continue to pray for God’s Light so to shine, so that even those who sit in spiritual darkness may begin to sense the Light living within them. You are a part of an invisible peace corps, an army dedicated to do the will of God. Join all the other souls in prayers for peace, for love, for light, for balance, for harmony.
These are all waiting to be manifested in the unified energy-force field. Focus your desire upon all these things. Energy follows desire, and desire fosters the intent to create.
Thoughtless form prayers do not leave the building in which they are said, and many prayers remain unanswered, because they never reach heaven.
Desire your prayers to be answered with all your heart, soul and mind.
Be there in your prayers. Grow in faith, and grow in spiritual strength, for it is the Father’s Gift, Who guides you in all things. Seek your Gift in the Stillness of your heart."

Thoughts or reactions, anyone?
Peace be with you!


01 October 2009

Happy October: 37 Days Til Ski Season Opens!

Frost in the forecast means fare thee well
to much of my garden;

but in my in box an email reminding me
of the one consolation:

37 days until ski season opens in Colorado!

Photo depicts my college housemate
Betsy "Logan" Edwards, at left,
and moi atop Vail.
Betsy brokers real estate in the Vail Valley
in case you're looking for
a get-away in the high country.

Meanwhile, bring in any plants
you intend to over-winter in the hospitable indoors.
Toss a blanket over your tender plants outside--
especially those tomato vines!
Indian Summer extends our growing season,
but not if Jack Frost nips too hard.

Pass it on!