Although I am perfectly happy to be living in Brooklyn most of the time, once in a while the thought of California tugs gently at my heart. In the "Escape" section of the New York Times this morning is an article on the lavender farms in Sonoma. The pictures above are from the Matanzas Creek Winery which has a large lavender garden. I felt an overwhelming desire to be there. Suddenly I had visions of walking among the lavender fields, of waking up in the warm sunshine and not the sticky, humid and unrelenting grey mush that greeted me this morning. I recently came across the term "urban refugee" and I can picture myself as one, with my constant dreams of sylvan escape. But like the poet W. S. Merwin, I "love the city, but I also love the country and I realize that when I'm in the city I miss the country all the time, and when I am in the country, I miss the city some of the time."
I know that summer is passing with lightning speed when I look at these hydrangea blooms. Much as I hate the thought of the summer getting away, I do like hydrangeas best when they start to fade, turning into dusty shades of blues and pinks. The oakleaf hydrangea flowers make the most dramatic changes, turning from pale chartreuse to mottled delicate pink. In the wild, hydrangea flowers were originally like lacecap species. They have an outer ring of sterile large florets attracting insects to do their pollinating work on the central bouquet of fertile tiny florets. It is this structural contrast of the flower–the large florets being strictly for show, acting as decoy for the miniscule and delicate fertile florets in the center–that I find so lovely and interesting. Yet, years of cultivation have brought us the big mop head with only large florets found in most common hydrangeas. The name hydrangea comes from the Greek words for water and vessel, describing the vase-shaped seed pods of the flowers.
Julius Shulman photographing Case Study House #22
It's another muggy day and I had yet more computer troubles. Luckily, my friend Dan, the tech extraordinaire, sorted everything out for me. Lily and I had a lovely lunch by the pond, along with the turtles and the dragonflies. We watched a bird swoop down onto the water to snatch the insects and felt like we were watching a live David Attenborough nature documentary. On the way home, I picked up a wonderful book on patterns out of a box on the street (it's a custom around here to leave books and other things out in front of your place for others to pick up–a rather friendly and efficient system of exchange). My neighbor Benny, a sixty-something Napolitano who's been here for decades and still speaks with a thick accent, gave me a bag full of basil plants from his garden. We have that wonderful relationship that gardeners often have with one another, always ready for any exchange of knowledge or bounty. Over the last couple of months, Benny has offered me great advice, the use of his electric saw to trim the holly, and sapling of his wisteria which he had brought back from Napoli years ago. These are some of the reasons I love where I live.
The Palinist “real America” is demographically doomed to keep shrinking. But the emotion it represents is disproportionately powerful for its numbers. It’s an anger that Palin enjoyed stoking during her “palling around with terrorists” crusade against Obama on the campaign trail. It’s an anger that’s curdled into self-martyrdom since Inauguration Day.
Its voice can be found in the postings at a Web site maintained by the fans of Mark Levin, the Obama hater who is, at this writing, the No.2 best-selling hardcover nonfiction writer in America. (Glenn Beck is No.1 in paperback nonfiction.) Politico surveyed them last week. “Bottomline, do you know of any way we can remove these idiots before this country goes down the crapper?” wrote one Levin fan. “I WILL HELP!!! Should I buy a gun?” Another called for a new American revolution, promising “there will be blood.”
These are the cries of a constituency that feels disenfranchised — by the powerful and the well-educated who gamed the housing bubble, by a news media it keeps being told is hateful, by the immigrants who have taken some of their jobs, by the African-American who has ended a white monopoly on the White House. Palin is their born avatar. She puts a happy, sexy face on ugly emotions, and she can solidify her followers’ hold on a G.O.P. that has no leaders with the guts or alternative vision to stand up to them or to her.
This article by Frank Rich in the New York Times articulates just exactly what I find so frightening about Sarah Palin and all that she represents. I get completely stressed out every time I think about it. As Rich points out, she is the face and voice of the "dwindling white non-urban America that is aflame with grievances and awash in self-pity as the country hurtles into the 21st century and leaves it behind." This same condition also describes the motivating force behind Osama bin Laden's call for jihad against the West.
The Brooklyn Botanic Garden today
We're finally in full summer mode now that the rain has stopped. It's lovely to be woken up in the morning by the sun filtering through the curtain rather than by the persistent sound of rain. In the evening, we like to sit in the garden while Lily chases fireflies. In between playdates, Lily has been reading up a storm. She finished Inkheart in three days and proclaimed it the best book she's read so far. She and I are reading Ernst Gombrich's A Little History of the World to each other. We are also giving ourselves art lessons. I learned how to work with oil pastel for the first time today. At her request, I am also giving her French lessons, which involves a lot of singing. Today, she also started her camp at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, learning to be an urban farmer.
I got to spend the day with Nicolette and observe her at work. When I was in college I fantasized about being a florist. Now I wonder what my life would have been like had I pursued it. Being around flowers all the time is not a bad way to live. Nicolette surrounds herself with beautiful flowers at all times and her tenement apartment in Williamsburg is a wondrous botanical haven.