Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Happy Second Day of Autumn!

Sure, sure.  Most people would indeed be wishing you a happy first day of Autumn.

Do we really want to waste time quibbling about whether it is more important to celebrate a first than a second day? All while cooler morning air evaporates into another stark reminder that Autumn in Central Texas is more a suggestion than seasonal change?

I thought not.

There will certainly be no shortage of internet foliage shots available if borrowed imagery is your deal.

And yet?  I find the color we get around these parts, the show that begins after a couple of welcomed rains in combination with cooled overnight air, though mostly of the Last Gasp Flowering variety? It is soothing and inspiring in its own way.

So if it is colored leaves you desire, please feel free to look elsewhere.  To follow is everything I've got to ease your summer weary eyes...

I listened, straining.
Shook my head
and listened once more.

It was then I heard her.

"I too, 
am Autumn's offering"
the Pomegranate was whispering
in my garden.

"Do I not embrace cooler mornings, 
eased afternoons,
respite from summer's braggadocio of heat?"

"I flower and fruit,
offering tribute to 
all that is,
has been,
or can be."

"You callously 
worship leaves
as they lose their life stream."

I heard her sigh.

"But I too,
I too am Autumn."

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Why I left Facebook

I've always felt participating on Facebook is way too evocative of Junior High School days.  And not in any good way.

[A note of explanation to all readers under the age of, oh hell, just for you young ones, OK? Let's not get into the numbers.  What I endured as Jr. High is now called Middle School. Onwards.]

In my public Jr. High school there were all sorts of activities built into the school year that seemed designed chiefly to underscore how popular you were (or were not).  Student Council elections, cheerleader elections, student dances, movie days.

The most egregious offender was a series of fund raisers where for a contribution, groups of student council members (aka the popular kids) went around from one classroom to the next delivering carnations with a knowing flourish to...you guessed it....all the other popular kids.

If you couldn't figure out for yourself how popular you were (or were not) the evidence was there at the end of each class period.  Clear as the flowers not on your desk.  Not that most of us needed the visual. Most of us were all too aware of our status.  Trying to find a way to live with, or in spite of that, was the emotional burden we carried along with our textbooks day to day.

On Facebook the "friend"counts and incessant thumbs uping and downing were taking a similar toll. It felt so much, too much like an online lunch room with the attendant strain of figuring out where it would be safe to sit.  The constant rankings and ratings, the cookie cutter thumbnail indicators of "we are FOR this" or "we are NOT FOR that" began to feel like a very unspecial episode of Glee, minus redeeming musical interludes.
I resented how every online shop and brick and mortar store now insisted I like them on facebook.  I was supposed to share my purchase information, offer product reviews. Suddenly every social or political action taken carried along with it an expectation I would next-step: use my wall to re-publicize the cause.

I clicked and posted, filling my page with videos, petitions and updates on my every waking thought and mood, yet I was never sharing anything particularly special or unique.  It was all so packaged.  So contrived.  So... commercial.  There was not much about myself or my life on Facebook that a quick rummage through our trash cans, recycling bins or worse yet, a quick scan of my credit card receipts wouldn't similarly reveal.

Was there anything of the real me on Facebook or was it all simply manufactured simulacrum?  Did it matter?  Did I care?

There were boundary issues.  On Facebook there is a pile of permanently preserved detritus unearthed by the less than judicious post. For me it all began to take on creepy overtones. Pulling up certain people's pages on Facebook felt way too much like driving  s-o   v-e-r-y    s-l-o-w-l-y  around a neighborhood to spy on other people's front porches or into their garages.

Sure I could see what was posted there.  But should I?  Who's fault was it if when I looked?

I was becoming way too comfortable alternating between indulging other people's inner flasher and/or my peeping tom.

It all came to a head the day I got the email informing me my account had been hacked.  I was advised to change all my passwords and email links.  Everywhere.  The vulnerability of trying to be so very accessible to everybody meant that in my case, the site had become a Trojan horse.

I kicked myself as I reset log-ins for all bazillionty sites I frequent.  I had met the enemy and she was me.  I thought about what I stood to gain and what I stood to lose, then simply took my page down.

I let a few people know, but mostly I just quietly bugged out.  Within the span of a few key strokes I willingly, knowingly, relinquished the capability to effortlessly view relationship status updates and uniformly adorable baby photos of my friend's kids and grandkids. I accepted I would no longer be able to send messages to or be virtually reminded of other people's birthdays, anniversaries or travel plans.  

So far, so good.  I realize my absence makes it a little more time consuming for other people to keep in touch.  It will take more to get caught up with Actual Me than simply scrolling down a page to check for breathless updates on the weather or my latest purchase.
I'm OK with that.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

One Good Thing

deserves another...

Even though it is currently 95 degrees outside (wherefore art thou, Autumn?) we are slated for cool(er) temperatures and the real possibility of rain going into the weekend.

To my mind that sort of shift in the weather begs for the first batch of chili.  I like each pot of chili to hang around in the refrigerator at least overnight so the flavors have a chance to move past howdy-do all the way to being smitten with each other's company.

That means I'm getting a head start on Batch-The-First today.  Granted, my timing might be a leetle optimistic.  The forecast can change (just ask the DNC planners), my willpower might not hold past dinnertime tomorrow.  Modern life can be tricky.  Fortunately, chili is not.

How about you?  What is the first thing you think about making when it Fall hits your neck of the woods?

UPDATED Friday:  Folks I'm happy to report the cooler weather and rain arrived right on schedule.  Today I made a batch of our favorite cornbread and tonight?  Chili's on, y'all!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

House Fatigue

Especially during the harsh sunlight of summer months when I look around our house I see, on a bad day, only the areas that need work.  Popcorn ceilings.  Tiled counters.  Faltering appliances.  Tired blinds that are older than my now grown children.

Charm and character?  Nope.  The backdrop of our fond family memories?  That's what photo albums are for.

I walk from room to room and all I see are dollar signs, projects never started, days to weeks of living with construction noise, mess and chaos.  It feels like tackling any one small thing will only serve to highlight the many other big things yet undone.  It gets to be overwhelming in a hurry.

Ugh and oof and pass me another drink.  Not one of those "here's an inch" restaurant drinks, either.  I'm talking a glass filled with something.  Stat!

The cherry garnish in this cocktail of my discontent was a recent nighttime mis-adventure.

The Hub and I are old enough to have joined company with Paul Simon. We don't expect to be treated like a fool no more and we sure enough don't expect to sleep through the night.

Recently when The Hub flung the covers off in an especially vigorous gesture that had his arm slamming up against my right-up-until-that-moment totally somnolent body, I was initially and immediately angered.  I have enough trouble falling asleep at night. Waking the other person up thoroughly violates well established getting up to pee etiquette.

"Hey!" (I thought but did not speak. Silence is baseline strategy in the maybe I won't wake ALL the way up game.) "You don't have to throw the blanket off to get up to pee!".

Judging by the way the Hub hopped up out of the bed and then began to brush himself off vigorously I knew before even reaching full-alert status that this was not your regulation bladder-call.

I resigned myself to wakefulness.

"Did something bite you?" I asked wearily and somewhat unsympathetically, without making a move.

"Yeah" he said.  "I think so..".

At this point he was lifting up the light quilt we use during hot weather months to get a good look at the presumed malefactor and I realized I was still recumbent merely inches away from whatever it might-have-been that may-have-bitten.

Suddenly I was fully awake, adrenalized. I performed my own ungraceful leap up out of bed.

Lifting my side of the cover, we both spotted what first looked like a little round spot, about the size of a pencil eraser.

I pointed.

"Is that IT?"

He nodded.

"It's a scorpion." he said.

"No it's not!" I replied emphatically because I really really wanted that to be true.

The little dark dot unfurled and...yeah.  Of course it was.

A scorpion.

In our bed.

With us.

While we were asleep.

Fast forward eight and a half minutes. After arming myself with the usual plastic food container and spatula scorpion-wrangling combo, said scorpion had been stunned, contained, and transported to take the wild water slide into city sewers that is the preferential exit point for all conquered scorps.

I don't want them dead.  I want them dead and gone.

I was standing there, panting, spatula still in hand as I realized I was alone.  The Hub was back in bed, and by the sound of his breathing, already nearly asleep.

Fully adrenalized, I sat at bedside, shakily petting our cat, scolding her for not being a typical hunter-protector when I needed her.  I waited for the pounding in my ears to subside.

I worked to convince myself not only were the chances of there being two scorpions in our bed on the same night way past astronomical, but we had thoroughly investigated said sleep platform and visually confirmed: a la Zelda Rubenstein's famous line in Poltergeist, this bed was clean.

It took me several full minutes of interior encouragement dialogue ("you can do this", "you saw for yourself, nothing else is in there" "it'll be fine") before I could get back under the quilt.  Time crept by as I timidly approached the concept of closing my eyes. Ever. Again.

I'm fairly sure it was another good half hour beyond that before I gingerly,  s-l-o-w-l-y and fully extended my legs back towards prime scorpion real estate - the bottom third of the bed.

I surprised myself by falling back asleep fairly promptly.  But before I did, my last thoughts ran something like this: "I am so over this house.".

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Show and Tell

When I was a young girl, a song hit the charts written by Herb Newman called "The Birds and The Bees".  The lyrics ran (in part)

Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees
And the flowers and the trees
And the moon up above
And a thing called "Love"...

The tune is quite catchy, and before long we were all singing the chorus on the playground at school despite the fact our relative youth meant we had little real idea of what it was we were singing about.

Lately that song has been running nonstop through my head whenever I am out and about.

Does that ever happen to you?  Do you have ever have a soundtrack superimposed over your days?  It happens to me all the time.  I see beauty around me and the music is simply and suddenly there as well.

Today, rather than sing the song (you can thank me later) I thought I'd illustrate it for you. So, without further ado:
This young Eastern Screech Owl roosted temporarily on our front bench 
Ongoing stand off between competing male hummingbirds
Bees often get blown into the pool.  The lucky ones I fish out and they fly off apparently unharmed 
Polygonia interrogationis Question Mark Butterfly
Eumorpha vitis - Vine Sphinx moth
Garlic chive blooms dancing in August's heat over the Verbena
Oak leaf galls - the jewel tones are surprisingly pretty
July's second full moon for 2012

I love to watch the sky reflected on the water.  I think of this as the China cloud.
Here's hoping you and yours are having a lovely Labor Day Weekend.