Garden Notes – June 5th 2020

In spite of drought conditions down here in southern Colorado, my garden continues to bloom. May, usually one of our wettest months, was rough here, with a little over a half inch all month. In the past week or so we have seen Colorado Springs, two hours north of us, receive a half inch of rain as well as Trinidad to the south. We just keep getting skipped over…

But still my sky garden blooms!

The most dependable early bloomers, even in a drought, are the Walker Low Catmint, Yellow Yarrow and Rocky Mountain Penstemon, although I am also having great luck with ‘Red Knight’ Knautia Macedonica and Red Gaillardia now that they are established.

Remember Rocky Mountain Penstemon (Strictus) has to overwinter once before it will bloom.

A couple volunteers I really enjoy each year is the very early local Penstemon, Yucca flowers and…

…the Showy Four O’Clock, which grows from a taproot deep in the ground.

I am lucky enough to have one perfectly located in front of my Buddha. This was not planned, it just happened. It’s just starting to bloom now.

After the great disappointment that Perennial Favorites near Rye has closed for good, I hurried down to the nursery in Walsenburg and purchased two new plants this week. I bought a couple Echinacea ‘Mellow Yellow’ and ‘Dusty Rose’ Salvia. I’ll let you know how those two turn out later.

I’m trying to get some non-purple flowers in my garden, but it isn’t easy for a a total purple lover like me!

Is America Great Again…Yet?

I have been re-educating myself lately on Black and Native American history. And on one program I saw last week on PBS, a Black man asked us all such an important question:

When in our history was America great for African-Americans? What time period are we trying to go back to exactly?

Let that question soak in for a minute or two? Then ask yourself this:

At what time in our history was America better for women than right now?

I know, these silly catch phrases pass us by without much thought, so think about this one for a minute. Those who support Trump believe things used to be so much better than now. In other words, the “good old days” of lynchings, and shooting a black man for jogging, wife beating, child abuse and wife murder, those were the great times from our past.

How about the millions of Native Americans we killed either with diseases or plain old murder?

Trump says: Let’s get back to those days of American greatness!

I saw a silly meme the other day, but there is also some truth in it:

When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.

This is why I am re-educating myself on American history. My life has been supremely privileged. Growing up in Kansas as a European-American I never experienced racism, but I did understand sexism from an early age. Both suck. And to any European-American who disagrees I say, how would you like to be black or of Latin American descent in this culture? For most of us it would be quite instructional. We might suddenly get it.

The good old days were only great for those of great privilege….

European-American versus Native American Respect For Our Ancestors

As mentioned in my previous post, I have been watching and absorbing a new appreciation of the Native American peoples who lived in the Americas before the beginning of European conquest. One fact that was never communicated to me when I studied “American History” in high school was that the first Spaniards, who murdered and subjugated the Incas, confronted over 10,000 years of Native American existence, culture, beliefs and traditions. I had no idea how well-educated and well-organized this population of over 100 million souls was when European began destroying them. For example, their expertise in the area of astronomy far exceeded the Europeans until the time of Galileo in the 1600’s.

Did anyone ever teach me these facts when I was studying the history of the world? Did anyone even care?

I have also learned recently that one of the factors that strengthened the bonds of Native Americans through many centuries was their reverence for their ancestors:

Due to the sacrifices of our ancestors, we live.

As a scholar of Chinese history, this reverence reminded me of traditional Chinese society. Those that had the resources often built large shrines to their deceased ancestors and worshiped them. This parallels the Native American honor and respect for their elders.

While I was watching the PBS series “Native America” this week, I kept thinking about how we European Americans feel towards our own elders. I spoke to one friend about this contrast and he said, “It seems like we just want to send them away and lock them up in a nursing home…”

Did your family honor and appreciate your great-grandparents and grandparents while you were growing up? Did you sit with them and ask them to share their stories of sacrifice for their country and their families?

Where would you be without them?

One factor to consider in our own history is that only those Europeans who were willing to leave their ancestors behind emigrated to the Americas. Most of us left centuries of family history behind to move here.

Our recent pandemic is decimating our elderly population as I write this. Covid-19 is hardest on the elderly, with those 65 and older accounting for 80% of U.S. deaths from this disease, according to the CDC. So many lives and stories lost. And yet I feel little sadness nationally. These are the Americans who helped to build our world, and now they die lost and alone.

As I age, I feel our disrespect for the wisdom of our elders. I just turned 65 and I certainly do not feel respect or reverence for my own hard-earned wisdom.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it…

Stop watching the death toll on TV and…

Can we let ourselves ponder the possibility that wonder awaits us in simply opening our senses? That awakening to the magnificence and mystery of life can be brought about with the slightest shift of our attention? That awe is available whenever we open our hearts? That moments of the most abiding belonging are within us always?

In the wilderness is the preservation of the world. – Henry David Thoreau

‘Remarkable’ Solar Lights!

I remember back in 2006, when I was just beginning to learn about social media and blogging, I read a great book about what this kind of publishing freedom could mean for all of us. My favorite quote from back then was:

“Freedom of the press is only available to those who own one!”

The other idea that has stayed with me for the past 15 years is exactly what the word ‘remarkable’ means. Today it means ‘going viral.’ It means so many people told someone else about something they saw on the internet, that it feels like the entire world knows about it now!

How often do you see something that is truly remarkable? Here’s mine:

I was messing around the other day, looking for solar lights that I liked as much as my simple little pink flamingo that switches itself on around 8 pm every evening.

I found these silly looking lilies…

They look like cheap artificial flowers during the day, but at night they light up and and then start changing colors! They are truly REMARKABLE! I love to watch them all evening. I know they seem expensive, but I think they are worth it!

The butterfly solar lights are extremely cool too!

Can antibodies from previous flu viruses improve your chances of fighting off the novel coronavirus?

As someone who has had MANY flu viruses in my life, because I have been unable to get flu vaccines for decades, and also as one who has lived in Southeast Asia and China quite a bit, I cannot help but wonder whether the millions of antibodies I now carry might provide some protection from the novel coronavirus.

“A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.” -CDC Coronavirus

As a medical researcher in my past life as a librarian, I thought I could get some idea of what present research says about this important question. My most memorable experience with flu virus was in 1968 when I caught the Hong Kong flu (H3N2). I was severely ill with this to the point of passing out and delirium. A woman on the next block from us died from it.

In an article in Science Daily from February 4th 2020 I found this:

“A team [of] UCLA and Arizona scientists reported in 2016 that exposure to influenza viruses during childhood gives people partial protection for the rest of their lives against distantly related influenza viruses. Biologists call the idea that past exposure to the flu virus determines a person’s future response to infections “immunological imprinting.”

This research helped overturn a commonly held belief that previous exposure to a flu virus conferred little or no immunological protection against strains that can jump from animals into humans, such as those causing the strains known as swine flu or bird flu. Those strains, which have caused hundreds of spillover cases of severe illness and death in humans, are of global concern because they could gain mutations that allow them to readily jump not only from animal populations to humans, but also to spread rapidly from person to person.

This is not to say you should make any assumptions about your own antibodies and risk exposure to this present pandemic. I just wish new antibody tests were much more dependable and available at this point!

Happy Earth Day! My thoughts on living close to the natural world…

As I think back, my relationship with nature has been mixed over the sum total of my 65 years here on earth. Most of that can be attributed to being raised in towns and cities.

My guess is that the bigger the city you live in, the less time you will spend outside enjoying nature, mostly because there are less natural areas to enjoy…

The early years of my life were spent in small towns in Iowa and Kansas. The fact I was raised by a botanist, a naturalist and budding environmentalist certainly influenced my early education and my tendency to be drawn to nature. My Dad was outside every chance he got, collecting plants, bird watching and teaching us about the wonders of nature constantly, much like being raised by Sir David Attenbourough. But this early training only blossomed inside of me later in life, when I spent enough time to stop and consider what I am naturally drawn to and what I now love to do.

As we all know, when you are younger you need to go where the jobs are and that is often cities. In my case it was universities as I was an academic librarian for 25 years.

But I always found ways to retreat to nature, like the many week-long river trips I took while working at my first job at the University of Utah. On a serious river trip there is no way to go home. You will be on the river until the trip is over! And no, there are no motels along the way. You must wash in the river…

I also developed a budding interest in plants and gardening along the way, as I moved from place to place to change jobs or learn Chinese. The worst year of my life was spent in Taipei, Taiwan where there was no natural beauty, except on our bus trips down to Kenting at the southern tip of the island. I had never lived in such a horribly polluted place in my life! There were days when I couldn’t even see across the street the air pollution was so bad.

After Taipei I ended up in Boulder Colorado, a virtual garden spot compared to Taipei, but I soon realized the air pollution was plenty bad there too! Then I moved to Fort Collins which I thought would be better, as I was suffering from terrible bouts of bronchitis every winter. Fort Collins turned out to be no better.

Horsetooth Reservoir near Fort Collins, looking west from Soldier Dam

I know, most of you might think that places like Boulder and Fort Collins are quite clean compared to other cities, but no. The traffic is terrible there and the air there can be just as dirty as Denver. My test is if you can see and taste the air, you are in trouble!

Thank goodness and my husband Mike’s better instincts, we moved to a beautiful natural part of Colorado in the summer of 2014.

Since moving here I have re-gained my LOVE of the natural rhythms of the earth. Living in silence surrounded by nature’s glory is the only way to go for me now. I did not discover until we moved here that I now have difficulty breathing at this elevation but so what!

I choose to live where the natural beauty I am surrounded by everyday far surpasses the ugliness of this great pandemic. I can hardly wait to welcome a new season of beauty into my sky garden! For me, now, living close to nature is the only way!