I Miss My Blog: A Haiku

I miss my dear blog
A yearning, hard to describe
Another sun sets.

Gardening Nirvana feels like a cozy little place on the internet. It’s not quite a room, or for that matter, a garden.

In internet lingo, it’s simply a URL. That said, it’s uniquely mine. I share through words and pictures. Kind strangers stop by from around the globe. Kindred spirits become friends. It’s magical.

Even in my absence, I feel the pull. It’s the strangest thing for a place that didn’t exist several years ago. Gardening Nirvana is my blogging home.

Since you’ve stopped in for a visit, I’ll briefly share what’s new.

In early October I turned 60. The lead up to what my friend Laura calls a “zero birthday” was strange. Sixty! Good grief that sounds old, yet here I am. It all amounted to a hill of beans. I have absolutely nothing unique to say about crossing into another decade. (I have plenty to say about the abysmal state of this country, but I’ll spare you that drama).

Our beautiful state caught fire once again. Autumn used to be a favorite time of year when temperatures finally cooled and the possibility of rain stirred the air. Instead, temperatures remain hot and dry, as fierce winds and low humidity whip into a frenzy. We just passed the one-year mark of the Camp Fire, the worst in our state’s history. It claimed 85 lives and destroyed a community.

This year, everyone has been on edge.

I get first-hand updates from my friend Laura who moved to Paradise six months before it burned. The Camp Fire destroyed her fence and several trees and left heat and soot damage throughout her home. Miraculously, the fire stopped there. Her home is one of the five percent to have been spared. Her friend, Christine wasn’t as lucky. She fled her home with four children and two dogs packed into the car, with forty-foot flames on both sides of the road. I’ll never forget the video she shared as they fled.

This season’s fires started later. We felt a collective relief. Then the predicted “wind events” came to pass, and just before I headed to bed, there was news of the Kincaide Fire. Several more followed, and once again it seemed our beautiful state burned.

We live in a bubble here in San Jose. We’re in a valley, so we avoid the heavy winds that swoop across the hills. We have friends up and down the state that lost power for days, endured forced evacuations and the worry of what they might return to. I should, of course, feel lucky, but instead, I feel dread. We desperately need rain.

On a brighter note, we flew to Mississauga, Ontario mid-month to attend a traditional Indian Wedding. The events were full of joy and laughter, beautiful color, dance, and wonderful food. Both families embraced us, helping us navigate the unknown and making us feel welcome. A local shop helped us select the proper attire for each event. We’re so honored to have been a part of the celebrations.

Haldi and Mendhi

Sangeet

Bride Baraat, Groom Baraat, and Pheras

An injured foot kept me off the dance floor. It’s also reduced my time in the garden.

 

A torn tendon kept me from dancing

A torn tendon kept me from dancing

Recent events remind me, however, that I’m lucky to be alive, and lucky to see another day. For this I’m grateful. If you’ve read this far, I’m grateful for you, too.

Merry Christmas, Choo-choo!

Merry Christmas!

Choooooo…chooooo!

model train in Campbell

Model train in Campbell, CA

There is something nostalgic about miniature trains.  They harken back to a time when hobbyists tinkered with cars and rails, built sets and then sent scale versions of magnificent trains, happily around a track.

For at least a decade now, a local train enthusiast in nearby Campbell runs a set of model trains around the track…in his front yard. I haven’t had the courage to knock on his front door, but I would love to hear how he got started. I wonder if the family peaks out the window from time to time to see the joy they bring to others.

The Livingston home converts the front yard into a model train village. A massive platform fills the entire front yard, and stands about knee-high. There is a shorter platform circling the yard as well.  Three different trains run around the tracks, passing small villages, figurines and miniature versions of Christmas trees.

model train campbell Model train set

Some of the scenery has the vintage flavor of a train station in the 1940’s. Leaves drop from the massive tree above, lending a naturalized air.  Surprises include tiny figurines from the Pixar Car’s  movies, Star Wars and Mickey Mouse.

miniature train station

Mickey Mouse and Daisy wait at the train station

This year, there was an even bigger surprise: a delightful cat.

Campbell model train platform

The train platform occupies the entire front yard. (Can you see the cat)

I didn’t see the kitty at first. What an unexpected surprise.  Just before taking the last of my pictures I caught a glimpse of his fur.

kitty by the model train track

Look at this handsome face

Kitty stretched and yawned, then marched across the train tracks for a closer view of me. Far from being skittish, he was happy for a bit of TLC.

kitty near the water tower

Kitty near the water tower

cat yawning

Big yawn

He rubbed up against my hand, then jumped down for a pet.

When it was time to go, I carried him back to his spot. I didn’t want him to follow me into the street, and although he looks a bit cranky, he was entirely unmoved by the experience.

alys with cat

Returning kitty to his spot

I couldn’t help but drive by a week later to see if I could spot him once again. Sure enough he was sound asleep in the same spot. I think I smiled the rest of the way home.

The miniature train runs during the month of December on McBain Drive in Campbell, CA.

Merry Christmas! May your day be filled with your version of miniature trains, nostalgic treats and whatever makes you smile.

Waging Peace: The Carter Center, The Old Globe and an Extraordinary Day in San Diego

Camp David old globe

The Old Globe Camp David Program

Jimmy Carter is one of my heroes.

Theater has long been my passion.

So when an invitation arrived to attend a west coast premiere of Camp David at The Old Globe theatre in San Diego, I pounced. The program exceeded my expectations and left me feeling hopeful for our troubled world.

The Carter Center

Founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter,  the Atlanta-based Carter Center has helped to improve the quality of life for people in more than 70 countries. The Center, in partnership with Emory University, is committed to advancing human rights and alleviating unnecessary human suffering.

Our Weekend

We gathered at The Old Globe for a luncheon and a presentation by Hrair Balian. Balian is the Director of the Conflict Resolution Program at The Carter Center.

carter center Hrair Balian

Hrair Balian, The Carter Center

I could have listened to him speak all day. His presentation was brief, but informative, touching on many subjects that I would like to learn more about.  I was able to appreciate all of the Center’s efforts towards peace. In conversations about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), The Carter Center involvement includes:

  • Relations with all, across multiple divides
  • Involvement of women, siting UN Security Council Resolution 1325
  • Factual conflict analysis
  • Coordination with the UN
  • Peaceful transition for Syria

and more. We were able to chat with Mr. Balian before lunch and sat with him during the play, which we loved.

The Old Globe, San Diego

Waiting for the start of Camp David at The Old Globe

Camp David received a standing ovation from a sold-out crowd. Playwright Lawrence Wright is also an awarding winning journalist. His thorough research, including access to the Carters, led him to add Rosalynn Carter as the fourth character in the play. Rosalynn Carter is a powerful force in her own right, advocating for mental health care around the globe.

Conversations with Playwright Larry Wright

Pulitzer-prize winning journalist, author and playwright Lawrence Wright wrote the play, Camp David, and a follow-up book called Thirteen Days in September Days. It chronicles the thirteen days at Camp David that led to a peace accord between Israel and Egypt, facilitated by the President Carter. Peace between those two countries remains thirty years later.

Wright spoke with us after the play, and we joined in a question and answer session; also far too brief. What a fascinating man. They hope to bring Camp David to Broadway in the near future.

Special thanks to Seema Shams and Marian Dickson of The Carter Center

If you’re interested in learning more, here are a few links:

Here are a few snapshots from the rest of our weekend. We walked along the Shelter Island harbor, ate dinner near Balboa Park, and enjoyed an outdoor breakfast at our hotel.

Monday Morning Musings

sweet pea

Sweet Pea

I really should be in bed, but instead I’m tapping away at my keyboard. It’s 12:21 am meaning it’s officially Monday here in San Jose, California. I’ve become much more aware of the time zones since blogging. Five minutes ago I had a brief exchange with Helen who is starting her day in England. On this side of the pond, I’m about to head to bed.

Blogging allows for an intimacy I never would have imagined. Unlike Facebook which can feel superficial, bloggers open themselves up with a genuine honesty and desire to connect. The very nature of blogging is about sharing of yourself and engaging with those who stop by to read and comment. Chances are you’ll go have a look at what they’re up to, and the exchanges that follow captivate, educate, entertain and enthrall.

In a few hours, my dear friend Kelly will board a plane to Washington, D.C. I’ll be joining her and others at the end of the week. We’re kindred spirits, soul sisters, and the best of friends. She’s the friend I didn’t know I was missing till we met. Now it feels that I’ve known her for a lifetime. Improbably, we met through blogging.

When I get off the plane Friday evening, Laurie, will be there to meet me. It will be the first time we meet in person, yet it feels completely natural that she’s picking me up and that we’ll all head to her place later in the week for a few day’s stay. I met her through blogging as well.

I’m counting the days till I can wrap my arms around Pauline. She’s flying all the way from New Zealand, a long and exhausting flight. We’ve had intimate conversations via Skype and look forward to long talks and even deeper understanding in our time together. Yep. She’s a blogger.

Julia’s life is about defeating despair. Her optimistic spirit carries her through some very dark days, yet she’s opened her home and her heart to us all. We share a mutual love of books as well as the joys and sorrows of raising children whose heart beats to a different drum. We all want to be understood for who we are and to be loved unconditionally just the same.

Just five more days and I’ll be descending on D. C. Extraordinary experiences await.

 

 

The Winter That Never Was

daffodils

Daffodils growing in the curb garden

Spring is technically less than a month away, but the view outside my window is shouting, spring, spring, spring!

pink hyacinth and fuchsia freesia

‘William and Kate’ Hyacinth and fuchsia Freesia

San Jose, California is more that two-thirds of the way through the winter that never was.

Initially, I gave Winter the benefit of the doubt. Though the calendar announced the arrival of winter solstice in late December, Winter decided to take his time. As a woman in her mid-fifties, I respect that. I no longer move like a twenty year old and my memory isn’t that great either. Winter, however, forgot about January entirely. No rain and above-average temps ruled the month. Winter left us high and dry, leading us into year four of our historic drought.

Okay, so December and January came and went, but surely February would live up to its winter reputation: cold, windy and wet. We’re ready.

san jose temperatures february

Source: Accuweather

As you can see by the Accuweather chart above, virtually every day this month has been warmer than average, sometimes by as much as 12 degrees. Winter says no can do.

While the rest of the country is battered by rain, wind, sleet and snow, it seems ungrateful to complain. I enjoy beautiful weather as much as the next gardener, but it feels like cheating. It’s supposed to rain in January. February is known for cold, windy days and a good splashing isn’t unheard of either. Our forests, rivers, lakes and wildlife depend on it.  Winter left town and I miss him terribly.

Winter, won’t you please come home?

Connections: Our Big Beautiful World

Nandini and boys

Nandini and our boys

Sunday morning I spoke with my long-time friend, Nandini via Skype. She currently lives in Chennai, India. It’s wonderful to connect.

I shared this passage on Facebook:

Nandini and I worked together at a start-up called Pretzel Logic Software in 1995. We became fast friends, then first time moms when we had our boys just six weeks apart in 1997. We supported each other through those sometimes difficult and perplexing first months of parenthood. We met weekly for tea, pushed our strollers through the park, and enjoyed time at our respective homes. It was a sad parting when she moved back to Chennai in 2000 in order to support her aging family. I’m grateful for the technology that allows us to continue our conversations, and to marvel at the fact that those baby boys will soon turn 18.

That’s when all the connections (my word of the year) started rolling in.

When you tag someone in a photo on Facebook, their friends can see it too. After several lovely comments from my local friends, Nandini’s cousin, Sujatha left a few words. When she did, it showed that we had a mutual friend named Akila. Akila’s son attended pre-school with my younger son here in California. Incredible.

Akila joined the conversation, saying she knew Nandini’s cousin as a family friend. That’s when Nandini’s friend, Parvathi posted, saying she also knows Akila. Nandini knows Parvathi because their sons are schoolmates in India.

It’s been amazing discovering these connections throughout the day. I’m humming with the joy of it.

How about you? Have you uncovered an unexpected connection between a friend or colleague? Please share your story in the comments section, below.

Any one person is connected to any other person through six or fewer relationships, because it’s a small world. SixDegrees.org is about using this idea to accomplish something good. It’s social networking with a social conscience.

It Rained!

Yes, folks, right here in San Jose, California, in the midst of a protracted drought, it rained. In September.

Real rain too, not that “did I just feel a drop?” kind of rain, but puddle-forming, windshield-wiping, garden-refreshing rain.  I lingered in bed this morning with the doors flung open and took in the mesmerizing sounds and smells. Then I got dressed and went outside.

gardener in the rain

Rain, glorious rain!

Good thing, too, since the sun was out by 10 but I enjoyed the refreshing drops while they lasted.

acer leaves

Acer leaves

deck in the rain

Cloudy skies and Salvia reflected on the deck

This is a tremendous gift to the firefighters battling the King Fire in Northern California. We are not in harm’s way, but others are. Many of  the state’s late-summer fires are the result of lightning. Sadly this one was arson. Fortunately they’ve made an arrest, but the fire has raged out of control for two weeks.

The good news today is that the fire is 43% contained, but the damage is unbelievable. 95,000 acres burned and a dozen homes lost.  Their are over 8,000 fire personnel from across the country battling the flames.

Today I celebrate rain in my little corner of the world, as well as the potential relief for crews on the fire lines and displaced residents in our parched state.

Let it rain, let it rain!

 

Here’s the latest from the Weather Channel:

Western Drought Monitor

Western drought status as of Sept. 16, 2014. Darker shading indicates progressively worse drought status. (NOAA/USDA/NDMC)

Yes, runoff triggered by soaking rain from this September storm in far northwest California will raise a tad.

However, the key to drought relief in California is not rain, but snow.

Critical to water supply in this part of the country is the buildup of winter snow pack in the mountains, whose melt water in the spring replenishes reservoirs.

Snow melt provides up to 75 percent of the West’s freshwater supply. The Sierra and, to a lesser degree, Colorado River snow melt, is crucial for California.

In short, California and the West needs a persistently wet winter, with a combination of significant rain and mountain snow to replenish groundwater and reservoir levels.