By Jan Martin on 7/15/2010 1:43 PM

When I went out to refresh the Hummingbird feeder I found this poor creature trying to swim in the birdbath. Even though I have some rocks in the shallow bath (really a ceramic catch basin), the bee seemed to be having trouble negotiating her way out. I managed to rescue her by offering a dried palm branch, which she eagerly climbed onto, and placing her on a nearby sunflower plant.

Wet Bumblebee

While I had the camera handy, I took some photos of the plants that are blooming right now.





It seems that my garden isn't so lifeless when viewed with the macro lens. I feel better now.

By Jan Martin on 7/15/2010 8:18 AM


Backyard facing North in 2005










Backyard facing North in 2010










Backyard facing South in 2005













Backyard facing South in 2010










"Rivers know this: there is no hurry. We shall get there some day." -  Pooh's Little Instruction Book, inspired by A. A. Milne

Yesterday I was feeling disappointed after comparing photos of the backyard taken in May of 2005 and July of 2010. So much has happened in the past five years; our neighbors cut down their trees and built a balcony, we got a second dog, (Chloe), who destroyed most of my shade garden, our Koi passed away and we moved the surviving goldfish to a smaller pond (and filled in the old pond), we cut down our overgrown trees, and I started growing plants in containers.

Jim reminded me that the yard had its "ugly side" despite my recollection of it being lush, green, and full of life. We had made mistakes in our choices of plantings, especially with regard to the trees. Our decision to place stepping stones in pea gravel as a lawn substitute turned out to be disastrous with two dogs chasing each other back and forth, kicking up rocks and creating ruts in the dirt.

While I do remember those things, I also have an image in my mind of how I want the yard to look. That image, combined with some sorrow over killing the trees that I so lovingly planted when we bought this property, has me feeling impatient and anxious to "make things right".

By Jan Martin on 7/5/2010 7:45 AM

At the beginning of our tour at the Tree of Life Nursery, I couldn't help but notice all the birds, bees, and lizards engaging in their morning activities. I didn't mean to interrupt, but I must have been a little too excited as I pointed to a very large lizard doing push-ups beneath the Lester Rowntree Manzanita. To my delight, Mike Evans took that opportunity to tell the group about the wildlife that will "appear" in your garden when you plant California natives. He said "I don't know how they key-in to gardens with natives, but if you plant them, they will come". Indeed, while standing in line at the check-out counter I saw a small frog hop across a table and hide under a plant container.

This morning I was reading through a bunch of Facebook posts and was drawn to an article written by Chris Hedges. In the article, he writes

"Defy nature and it obliterates the human species. The more we divorce ourselves from nature, the more we permit the natural world to be exploited and polluted by corporations for profit, the more estranged we become from the essence of life. Corporate systems, which grow our food and ship it across country in trucks, which drill deep into the ocean to extract diminishing fossil fuels and send container ships to bring us piles of electronics and cloths from China, have created fragile, unsustainable man-made infrastructures that will collapse. Corporations have, at the same time, destroyed sustainable local communities. We do not know how to grow our own food. We do not know how to make our own clothes. We are helpless appendages of the corporate state. We are fooled by virtual mirages into mistaking the busy, corporate hives of human activity and the salacious images and gossip that clog our minds as real. The natural world, the real world, on which our life depends, is walled off from view as it is systematically slaughtered. The oil gushing into the Gulf of Mexico is one assault. There are thousands more, including the coal-burning power plants dumping gases into our atmosphere that are largely unseen. Left unchecked, this arrogant defiance of nature will kill us."

This wasn't an epiphany for me, but on reading the article I realized that my desire to plant my own veggetables and convert the backyard to native plantings stems from my despair over all the conflict in the world;  I'm trying to find some peace.

In the article, Chris also quotes a poem by Wendell Berry, titled "The Peace of Wild Things".

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


Wendell Berry, "The Peace of Wild Things" from The Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Copyright © 1998.

The poem sums up my feelings, and reading it actually did cause an epiphany. Whether working with animals, as I have, or working with plants, I feel a sense of peace and gratitude that I don't find in other activities. My personal conflict arises when I feel pressured to make a profit or to compete to be that "helpless appendage of the corporate state".

My goal is to create a sanctuary for my mind and body that will allow me to "rest in the grace of the world" in my own backyard.

By Jan Martin on 6/23/2010 9:37 AM

“I don’t see much sense in that,” said Rabbit.

“No,” said Pooh humbly, “There isn’t. But there was going to be when I began it. It’s just that something happened to it along the way.”

I don't know whether or not there is such a thing as a mid-life crisis. I do know that I have been experiencing physical and mental changes that are contributing to my desire to make some changes in my way of living.

For the past ten years or so I've been working in the veterinary field. Much of my job duties have been physically tiring; standing on my feet for eight to ten hours a day, and lifting and bending to carry or restrain animals. Animal hospitals can also be very mentally stressful environments.

When I accepted the position at my last animal hospital, I was already attending school to obtain a degree as a Veterinary Technician. Along with the on-line and correspondence portion of the course, I needed hands-on training from a local animal hospital. I had hoped that I could work part-time and fulfill the clinical requirements for the course at the same time. But, something happened along the way.

The hospital was so close to my home that I could walk there, making travel time to and from work mere minutes. The interview went well, I passed the drug screening, and then realized that, alas, there was no part-time position available. I took the job anyway, thinking that I could handle the work and the homework. I did handle it, for awhile, but when the only classes I could actually attend were make-up classes (I was at work during the scheduled class time), I found myself getting further and further behind in my studies.

After I had exhausted my extensions for the semester, I had to face the fact that I could not continue to work full-time and complete my education. Since we needed the money more than I needed the degree, I ate the loss on the tuition and quit school.

Now, two years later,  I'm mentally and physically exhausted.  I'm not sure what my next job will be, but I'm rethinking my career choice while I return to the local community college this Fall for some Horticulture courses.

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