Archive for July, 2008

Tom Sawyer – reflections on painting a fence

July 23, 2008

There was no one in the paint department at Liquidation World when I sauntered through, idly wondering if I could match up my fence colour so that if I missed a spot in covering over the weathered wood, it wouldn’t be too obvious. I found a clerk associate at the till who very amiably agreed to page the paint clerk for me.

This latter arrived with a beaten look on her face. The happier sales associate scurried away back to the till, advising her colleague, “This one’s first (pointing to me) and then him.” There was a line up starting to form.

I asked paint-woman,””Do you have any Tile Red left? I couldn’t find any.”

“Sold out.” she stated flatly. I wondered what kind of bad day she had had before coming to work. She had permanent worry printed on her face.

“I’ll take the Garnet, then. Just one can.”

“It’s purple,” she stated, as if to say only a fool could choose purple for a fence.

“Purple?” I reacted, a bit baffled. The paint colour had looked rather brown with a reddish tinge. Maybe Magenta. Maybe Italian red oxide. I always think I know my colours fairly well.

People call the same colour by different names. Maybe it was just a case of that, I thought.

“The paint samples are over there, ” she said, again with a disagreeable flatness that hinted at her customer’s lack of perspicacity, that is, my complete lack of perception. It was a caution that I’d better give my head a shake, had better reconsider my choice, or at the very least, make sure that I knew what I was doing.

I took the time to see if I could understand her choice of the word “purple” to describe the colour of the mini picket-fence post that hung above the paint shaker on the back wall. There were about four warm brown to red colours – Chestnut, Garnet, Tile Red and Rust. I could see that the Garnet was a cooler red, or conversely a warmer brown, but I made up my mind that it wasn’t going to be lilac or royal purple and it would be slightly happier than the existing brown on my fence. The minor mis-paints would not be too obvious.

All that decision-making could not have taken more than four seconds. It obviously takes longer to write it than it does to think it.

“I’ll take one can of Garnet, then,” I said, turning back to her. “Can you mix it up for me?”

Well, I knew what I meant.

“We don’t mix colours. It’s already mixed,” she answered. “Oh God, I must be dealing with an idiot,” she must have been thinking. The sourness had not lessened in her physiognomy.

“Well, shake it on your machine, then,” I said, not to be put off by her rebuking stance.

She didn’t even answer that one. She took the can from my hands and shook it. In less than a minute, she handed it back to me. I made my way out of the paint department and then to the till thanking my good fortune in having a happier disposition.

The woman at the till, a smile on her face, chirruped, ” You got the paint you wanted?”

“Think so,” I said back with a grin. It’s wonderful how a smile can generate another smile and happier feelings prevail. Her curly blond hair seemed to bolster her cheeriness. This woman, too, had lines on her face. At sixty and working all day in a visually depressing store, she might have had difficulty in keep one’s spirits up, but her face lines were laugh lines, and the weathering was soft and a bit marshmallowy.

(A prayer aside. “Dear Lord, I’m an aspiring writer. Please don’t ever let me see someone else’s description of what I look like. Or are you reserving this for me in Purgatory for when I die and have to account for my life? It really is part of a writer’s job, describing people…. I’m doing the best I can….”)

So, let’s skip a bit here. My stories are always a bit long:

So now I’m out in the back yard having found a screw driver to open up the paint can with, a wide brush, three plastic tray liners stacked together for strength because I can’t find the metal paint tray, and a brand new roller thing on a old battered roller holder. I’ve got paint thinner and a couple of rags.

With the screwdriver, I gently lever the lid, turning the can around inch by inch, until I get lift off on one side. Then with a bit greater pressure, I manage to pop the thing off with out spurtling paint all over.

I’ve got fencing completely around the back yard. There’s the almost new fence with lattice work on top adjoining Lara and Glen’s yard at the back in chocolate brown. There’s the decrepit fence that separates the length of the property between my yard and the pioneer neighbour, Jack’s, yard. This fence is finished, really, It’s an expensive project that I’m leaving until later, especially since a developer has just purchased this magnificent one acre property and is going to put, depending on the rumours afloat, three monster houses with rental suites or five duplexes (read 10 families) or twenty three town houses. This single-family neighbourhood is aghast at the prospect. All of a sudden, three monster houses sounds better than the last of these choices. The developer, rumour has it, needs two years to get his Plan 23 in place to apply for the development permit. In between time, he is not going to do a darned thing with the fence. It can rot in place.

Last year, a section of it came down in one of the violent wind storms. It was rotted at the base. The fence posts were just mush. There was no point in repairing it. There is simply a six foot gaping hole in that stretch of fence – all one hundred and thirty eight feet of it – and there is no point in tackling that until some decisions are made. It doesn’t distress me. I rather like a rural look; a falling-rotting-barn kind of look. It’s poetic. It has a weathered patina that can’t be bought. There’s a trace of original colour (it might have been Tile Red or Garnet, methinks) lots of bare grey, sundried wood, and a variety of lichens, mosses and entwined vines and volunteer trees growing through its cracks. It has character. Sort of like a tottering drunk with a friendly grin, but none the less tottering and unkempt.

The only stretch of fence that was small enough to tackle, reversibly if Garnet Purple didn’t appeal after all, was the one that encloses the back from the front, going from mid-side of the house to the ancient fence. It is about thirty feet long with a gate in the middle.

I poured a quart of paint into the pan. It looked a dark brick red colour to me. Garnet was a bit of a highfalutin name for it, but it would do. It would freshen up things. Missed spots would not be noticed much. It was flat deep brown underneath. What I did notice though, was that fence stain was a different consistency than other paints. It was rather more liquid.

I started to roll the stain over the fence boards. It covered quickly and well. In all, clean up included, it didn’t take me more than two hours, for which I was grateful. It gave me two hours to think, not only about the job at hand, which I took as a meditative opportunity to let my mind run free, but also a s a task with intrinsic value. As I poured, rolled, and brushed, I wondered about Tom Sawyer. I had no one around to con into doing my work. It was just me. I should have rather been wondering where Huck Finn was.

But it wouldn’t have been the same. As soon as there was a chattering voice to answer mine, the peace and tranquility of it would have changed. I was happy in my painterly solitude. There were no artistic decisions to be made – no composition, no questions of value, no considerations of texture or pattern, no leit motifs of meaning, no thoughts of positive and negative shapes, no checking of spatial relationships forming and altering as developments occurred.

I was simply dipping my brush in the thin Garnet liquid, applying the brush to the corners and the cracks, and to the places the roller could not attain. The biggest visual decision I had to make was “is there a dribble” followed by “have I obliterated it”.

At the end of my two hours, I had spent an agreeable time; I was covered in deep brown speckles (the colour looked darker on my skin) on arms, feet, hands, glasses and my painting clothes. I had only lightly spattered the gravelly stones between my feet. I stood back to get some perspective on my latest painting and the fence was looking super, clean and kempt.

Then I took my paraphernalia to the back steps under the porch and started to clean my roller and brushes. I had used up the whole tin of paint. I poured some methyl hydrate into the pan and rinsed out the roller then the brush. I rolled the roller on two local weekly papers until the most of the remaining paint was out of it and then enclosed the almost clean roller in a plastic bag. I’d learned this last trick from Charlie the Painter. If I continued on painting next day, I didn’t have to do a proper job of now. I would wait until I had truly finished painting with that colour.

I rinsed the brush in a cleaner pot of thinner and then loaded it up with dish detergent to loosen up the remaining paint binder in it. It took three times of this water and detergent stage to get it looking like new, not counting the metal ferrule which I never try to get really clean. I left the brush outside to dry and transferred the dirty thinner into a glass jar. I was done.

I took one last look at my handiwork. It was nine o’clock and the July light was fading fast. I was happy with my work.

“Maybe. Just maybe,” I thought, “this colour is maroon. It sure dried fast. It’s got a certain je ne sais quoi to it?

“Maroon? …Or maybe purple?”

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Another Haiku

July 22, 2008

Moss has turned to gold

with summer heat. Grass chafes

the blinding white sky.

o

o

In Haiku, the format is 5 syllables, then 7, then 5 again. So here’s a question:

Is there any rule that says each of the lines has to be a complete thought? Or, can I break up a sentence between two of the lines?

S.S. Numidian

July 19, 2008

Like a Six Word Bio, an elliptical message stared back at Kay from the lid of the packing box

B. Penny

S.S. Numidian

Winnipeg Via Portland, M.E.

Written in hand painted letters across the planks of the big travel box, this message had become faded with age, obscured by the dust of time. It was nineteen hundred, the turn of the last century, when Kay’s grandmother at the age of 28 braved the ocean voyage from Liverpool to Portland and thence to Winnipeg to meet Kay’s grandfather, a friend since her teenage years on the Estate of the Bordillon family. Grandfather was the son of the gameskeeper. Bessie was a maid and then, as years went by, Miss Bordillon’s lady’s companion.

William left home at 17 to make his fortune and he must have done that very well because he traveled frequently back and forth to England – frequently for those days. On one of those trips, now an established and successful British subject living in Canada, he proposed to Bessie and she agreed to follow him to the pioneering city, that Canadian hub of the railway network of North America, to Winnipeg, plunk in the middle of the vast, flat prairie.

And here Kay was today, happily, diligently, scrubbing that box that she had jealously envied before her Mother died and which she gleefully had inherited when the estate was resolved.

The box had moved from each house that her Mother lived in. It stayed in the basement, filled with curtains and other linens and precious clothing that Mother had been unable to part with. Her mother’s wedding dress was in there and a grand, very flat black hat from the ‘Fifties designed in Paris. It looked like Audrey Hepburn’s hat from Breakfast at Tiffanys.

On Monday, Kay had been laying a chunk of carpet in the basement. In order to bring the carpet out to the lawn to cut it to size, she had to move the box; so she pulled it from its temporary storage place, outside, sheltered from the weather, under the porch overhang, thanking the muscle gods for her gym work-out. The darned thing weighed forty pounds at least.

When Kay moved to the house a twelve months previously, there was no room for the box. The sheer amount of goods – her mothers and her own – had priority stored in the basement. The box would likely survive the winter. Those boxes were still there encumbering the passages, stacked to the ceiling. Some of the goods were waiting for the box to come in. There were days when Kay felt the chicken and egg syndrome was mocking her. The Catch 22 principle. She couldn’t put stuff away without the box. She couldn’t bring the box in until stuff was put away. She sighed deeply in exasperation.

And now she had recuperated carpet from a friend who was laying hardwood flooring.

“Perhaps I should be installing hardwood flooring,”: Kay ruminated; but she had carpet and it had been free. Now carpet laying was the first step to sorting out the basement into show room, art storage and studio. And now the box was in Kay’s way.

Kay hauled the heavy crate up the three cement stairs to the sidewalk area and left it in the hot sun to allow it to dry thoroughly and to air it out.

That was Monday, and in her inimitable red hen state of mind, the nine by twelve carpet was installed with great amounts of heaving and dragging, lifting of unpacked moving boxes from one place to another. Tuesday Kay felt like she’d packed seven days into Monday, and so she rested. She was, after all, a senior.

Wednesday, taking advantage of the weather, Kay got back out and spent a full day in the garden – the weather was fantastic, perhaps a touch too hot and bright, but beautiful. Midway through gardening efforts, Kay noticed that water was dripping on the box.

“Now how could that be?,” she pondered aloud. “We’ve had almost 10 days without rain. Each has been hotter than the next. Everything is sere and dying if not fed by piped in water, but this box, sitting under the eaves is getting great water drops on it.”

The sky was blue overhead. Not a cloud. There was not a bird in view. She drew the box away from the eaves and still the water spots mysteriously grew.

Now thoroughly perplexed, Kay gingerly stuck her finger in the clear wet substance and sniffed it. It wasn’t oily but it was sticky. In seconds, it filmed up on her finger tip, slightly grey, slightly brown, translucent. She stuck her finger in again, and once again. No smell at all. Just that sticky, filmy residue.

Kay returned to her garden patch, dug it free of iris root bit by bit. Time passed. The final root mass was lifted when, all of a sudden, an idea arose in her mind. It was wax! The heat of the midday sun had melted it!

Now it was Friday, and Kay, seeing the clouds finally gather high above, decided that this was the day to clean up her grandmother’s the travel box. It was the first thing to be put in on the new carpet. Then it would have a new generation of contents. It would be a great container for her medium sized paintings. If anyone came to see them, they could easily flip through them without them sliding down in an untidy heap at their feet.

Kay drew a hot pail of soapy water from the kitchen sink, took a scrubbing sponge and a terry cloth rag out to the back yard and began to wash down the trunk. The soapy rag pulled away an ugly layer of fine dirt.

“How much of this am I willing to take off?” she said, talking to herself as she worked. “… Can’t ruin the patina. ….Want to preserve the historical feel of it … must protect the lettering … don’t want to make it look brand new”, and she scrubbed all the while. The sponge came away with a fine layer of dark brown dirt which she rinse out with the garden hose. “No use putting that thick film of dirt into the washing water.” she thought.

Should she take away the careless blobs of enamel paint, some white, some vermillion red, some in forest green that decorated the lid, evidence of the box’s reincarnation as a surface to hold things in father’s workshop? There were paint can rims of oil merging into the brown stain of the wood. It all seemed part of its history, its character, its life. Kay considered, then left them. Had she removed them, perhaps there would have been raw new spots of damaged wood like open wounds in an ancient skin. It wasn’t worth the risk.

She liked to think that her Great-grandfather had made the trunk for her grandmother. He was both a carpenter and a cabinet maker, she’d been told. It somehow made the trunk that more important; that more valuable. An antique dealer wouldn’t have given her peanuts for it. It might have fetched a twenty dollar bill at the Salvation Army. But for Kay, it had an intrinsic value; a family historical value; and it was going to be useful.

The one by four planks had been made before electricity had been used in mills. The outer sides were planed smooth and fitted perfectly together, but on the inside, the saw marks could seen. These were hand made planks! The wood on the inside was clean and fresh looking as the day it had been constructed. A length of wood had been split in half and then again to form four corner braces. These had been rounded off, or rather, the inner side had three facets to it – a nice finishing touch on a utilitarian travel box.

On each end of the box, a sturdy handle was affixed with rough iron screws. The handle had been hand-forged from a thick rod of iron that would bear a man’s muscled hand, the kind of hand that was used to lading heavy crates of merchandise, bales and vast amounts of traveler’s trunks.

Now, as Kay scrubbed along the lid where it joined the box, she saw that the hinges had been hand forged as well. She tipped the box forward to inspect the underside of the box. How many spiders had taken up residence, installed their cottony nests of eggs? But there were none. Despite the rainy torrents of the winter, the box had fared well. It’s short feet had kept it above the standing water level. It was clean. It was dry. It was mold free. But the sides, she could see now, more exposed to light, still had a layer of grime on the lower two planks as if the crate had suffered it’s various crossings, sitting out in the elements waiting for the carrier to take it on it’s way home, mud splattering, drying, ingrained on the lower boards.

Scrub, rinse. Scrub, rinse, Scrub rinse. It was no easy job after all; but after a good hour of cleaning, inspecting, scrubbing, rinsing, she was done. Kay opened the lid to check the state of it’s innards.

Yellowed papers lined the bottom. The Vancouver Sun. 1978. It had been thirty years since Mother had cleaned out the trunk, refreshed its lining papers, repacked the trunk and closed it for posterity. Kay had uncovered a time capsule – The comics page had Peanuts, The Family Circus, Shoe, Fred Bassett, Broom Hilda, Doonesbury and Rex Morgan, M.D., still going strong today, though Love is, Kerry Drake, Casey and Tumbleweeds seem to disappeared into the ether.

Kay’s horoscope predicted: Work seems pleasant. Concentration level good, energy level optimal. Tackle complex projects.

The Career Option page had advertisements checked for Branch Manager/Mortgage Officer, starred with three blue stars against the title “Economist for the Province of British Columbia”. and a long blue pen mark highlighted the qualifications for a Supervisor, Pricing and Business Analysis for B C Buildings Corp in the adjacent advertisement.

That must have been Otto, Kay reflected. He would have been thirty, just home from his year of world travel, jobless and living with Mom and Dad.

A headline stated ” Return to synagogues, N.Y. rabbi urges Jews.” In another headline, “Man charged with killing wife, says he never lived with her”. It went on to say:

  • A man charged with the first degree murder of his wife claimed in assize court Friday that he never lived with her. …. when asked why he married her, Mr. C replied “I don’t know.”

That made Kay laugh though it was tragic, really.

Entertainment, You, The Courts, Sports, Careers. All these are here, but the events of the day were missing. But perhaps these snippets were enough to give a flavor. As much as things change, they stayed the same.

“Enough!” she chided herself. “What would Mrs. Stepford say” Mrs. Stepford, her next door neighbour was her Devil’s Advocate.” Why do you care? What does it all mean? Why is it important?” she would say. Mrs. S was a great one for throwing things out, living simply and directly, not getting distracted. She chafed and complained regularly about Kay’s incessant wool-gathering.

It had been an active hour of cleaning. Now it was time for tea. Kay went in and prepared a cup then sat communicating with her computer. Firefox…Google… S.S. Numidian she typed in. There were 17,100 responses that popped up in a nano-second. Kay selected StockImages

http://www.photographersdirect.com/stockimages/s/ss_numidia.asp

and found beautiful undersea photos with lovely tropical fish darting between the rotting framework of the vessel and its subsequent reef full of swaying Anenomes and coral in a cyan blue sea. Had the S.S. Numidian sunk? Grandmother’s ship? And navigating away from the photos, Kay explored another post or two:

Yes it had sunk. Steve Smith, writing on

http://www.encyclopedia-titanica.org/discus/messages/6937/38118.html?1032335203

had answered another seeker of historical trivia about her family and said:

  • The S. S. Numidian was built in 1891 by D. & W. Henderson & Co., Glasgow, Scotland. Tonnage: 4,836. Dimensions: 400′ x 45′. Single-screw, 13 1/2 knots. Triple expansion engines. Two masts and one funnel. Steel hull. Passengers: 100 first, 80 second, 1,000 third.Maiden voyage: Liverpool-Quebec-Montreal, August 20, 1891.Made her final voyage to Boston in 1914. In the first World War she was filled with cement and sunk, so as to block a channel against submarines. Sister ship: Mongolian.

Kay felt nostalgic and sad. It was the way of all things. Nothing lasted forever. People came and went. Lived and died. Ships were built and sailed, became obsolete and were sunk. Wars came. People had jobs, had no jobs, found jobs, built purposeful lives, got old. But the box was still here; and Kay was going to give it a new incarnation.

She finished her hot cup of tea, rose and went to tackle the next move. Just how was she going to get that box into the basement?


Six word bio

July 18, 2008

Bio 1. Artist searching unusual beauty, looking, recording.

Suburbanlife tagged me with the Six word bio project. Of course, she didn’t explain although it seemed relatively simple: choose six words to describe yourself. Nonetheless, not liking to get things wrong, I Googled these three words to see what I could find. Very interesting….

Some wily fox, instead of writing about himself, declared he had found a loophole. It said Bio not Autobio. He proceeded to post a mystery bio . From his cryptic bio, we were invited to guess which famous person it referred to.

Both exercises Bio and Autobio (sounds like names you’d chose for twins of the small furry pet variety, doesn’t it?) are rather interesting.

I stumbled over another rule that hedges the simplicity of the exercise. It was that you could take three runs at it. However, without more prolonged thought, I’ll decline another six word description of myself

The next task is to tag five other people to provide Six word bios. So here are five of my favourite bloggers for you to check in on and see if they are interested in engaging in a response.

These five people are bloggers have enriched me with their thoughts and I invite you to explore their writings, photography and/or art through their web logs. There are many many good bloggers out there Care to share your faves?

  • http:/www.forestrat.wordpress.com – wander through the woods with him, appreciating running water and the quiet beauty of nature
  • http:/www.marshaobrien. wordpress.com – great photography and great advice for living to the full
  • http:/www. bluedragonfly.wordpress.com – sensitive thoughtful writing
  • http:/fencer.wordrpess.com – super writer, esoteric subjects (for me at least)
  • http:/blinkandbreath.wordpress.com – sensitive, thoughtful, living an artist’s life…

There are many many good bloggers out there. For those of you whom I’ve tagged, would you care to share your faves?

K

The blue scarab

July 15, 2008

Kay lay steeping her sore muscles, soaking in the hot water that surrounded her. She leaned her back against the sloping tub side, a green terry face cloth the only thing between her wet skin and the hard almond colored enamel.

“It feels so good,” she said aloud, although no one was around to hear her but herself. The pleasure of the heat caressing her skin pleased her no end. She contemplated a nice relaxing bath snooze and let herself sink into that half-consciousness. As long as the water stayed hot, she would stay in, she promised herself. It was her reward.

It was her reward not only for a day of digging out a long neglected flower bed but also for her successful navigation through three weeks of preparation for the Art Fair, two weeks of house guests and a week away at the Music Festival. Six weeks! Six long weeks she had been driven to do things that had to be done. Now she had time to luxuriate. She had time to contemplate. She had time to listen to the silence. Everyone was gone.

Kay dismissed the thought of the visitors. She preferred to luxuriate in thoughts of her day digging up the weed encrusted soil, running her fingers through the silty silkiness, tearing the clumps of grass or buttercup apart to release the precious earth from between the roots, and sifting the soil to remove stones and rogue roots that, if left to their own devices would simply procreate a whole new vigorous weed-plant. The buttercup was the worst. Just a tiny quarter inch of fresh root could regenerate a new plant. It was a vital, eager and aggressive reproducer.

As Kay reminisced her day in the garden, she entwined her thoughts of it with the papers she had stumbled across only the night before. Kay had been trying to reduce the mass of family records still encumbering the room she used as an office. She had selected a storage box with her father’s professional papers, thinking that she might be quite successful in throwing them out, reducing volume. But it hadn’t been so.

True, there were files that were beyond her understanding, rich with scientific detail, complete with explanatory drawings. The drawings were made in an extremely precise manner, in her father’s hand, illustrating his hypotheses for his thesis in Engineering. Although she couldn’t understand them, she couldn’t simply toss something that had been hand drawn by him. Somehow, it kept him close, though he had died almost twenty-five years before.

Amongst the files was one that held horticultural notes written in a fine, even script in an ink that had faded. Or perhaps the ink had been diluted to make it go further. The document had been written in tougher times when cash purchases were a luxury, an impossibility. Ink could have been one of these.

Kay ran her fingers lightly over the unlined paper. Each of the written lines was straight; the height was consistent. It was a real find, she thought. It was only the second hand written thing that she had from her father’s father. On her mother’s side, there was nothing written by her grandparents at all.

Kay marveled at the writing that had no hesitations, no erasures, no scorings through words. She marveled at the elegant word choices and the careful structure of the essay. It was his second language, Kay thought, “and yet there were no grammatical errors, no spelling errors“. She sighed as she felt the fragility of the acidic paper that was browning and drying out. With just a little bit of handling, it wouldn’t last long.

Grandfather on her Father’s side had come to Canada when he was only seventeen. He had worked on the railroad just like her Grandfather on her Mother’s side. He and his brother worked, frugally saving every possible penny, until they could afford to homestead. Kay’s father was born on that homestead in the Interlake district of Manitoba, many miles north of Winnipeg.

Kay’s grandfather’s family had always had a teacher in every generation and held a high respect for education. And so, after a long day of working to create a farm, to tend to the fields, to tend to the farm animals, to tend to the family of six children, her grandfather studied. By correspondence, he studied English until he had it to perfection and Agriculture and Husbandry to ensure better yield from his crops and the health of his farm animals. By correspondence, for his pleasure, he took an Art course and a sign-maker’s course.

No television for that one, Kay reflected wryly.

The text was entitled “Fundamentals in host” and it explained the importance of preparing the soil for planting; recognizing the various soil types; improving the soil with manure or chemical fertilizers; cleaning debris and old roots out the soil; and tilling and harrowing the fields to make them even and free of depressions. In the same file, there was another shorter essay, “Shrubs and Flowers for the Home Grounds”, describing the planting of perennials to landscape a home garden.

Kay spent a few hour transcribing the found texts onto the computer, checking the spelling of the plant names through the Internet, especially the ones she hadn’t heard of before. Delphinium, Columbine, Gladioli, Tulips, Mock Orange, Lilies and Day Lily had been familiar. Trollius or Globe Flower, though, was new to her until she researched and found it was in the family of the Buttercup; and Evonymous, too, was unknown to her.

As Kay luxuriated in her warm bath, she relived her efforts in the garden. The massed Iris had formed a solid clump of root. The shovel would not go through it and when she thought of bringing out the machete to cut through it, she rejected the thought. She hadn’t the muscle to make it work. She tugged at one peripheral root and yanked it. It separated from the mass and brought a long trailing root with it. With the persistence of a dog worrying a bone, she separated and pulled the roots one by one until the mass was reduced from an umbrella sized plate to the size of a dinner plate. Finally, with one good thrust of the shovel, she had been able to liberate the recalcitrant mass of roots and wrest it from the soil.

” I wonder what kind of soil this is?” our amateur gardener pondered. It was dry and finely textured. Its brown silkiness slid easily through her fingers like warm beach sand. Beneath the root mass, there were no weed roots nor rocks. The soil had retained no moisture at all. But if one did not know what loam, peat, sand and clay soils were, then what good did it do her? How was she going to improve it?

As she raked the remaining soil with her hands, her fingers lodged against a tiny, bright blue object. Her archaeological find was a very rare species of scarab, Scarabaeidae plasticus from the late 20th century, a child’s toy. It was not the first artifact that Kay had found. She still had the yellow and black dump truck from the sand box where she had been preparing grass seed for improving her lawn. In the Hosta bed, she had found a cup with a broad red band of forest green on the bottom and a slightly smaller red band on the top and she had found several tiny confetti angels seeded in between the raspberry canes. Juvenile Humus sapiens had lived here before.

Kay shifted in her bath, stirred the cooling waters, drained an inch or two and added hot. She settled back into her reclining position and closed her eyes. The sultry waters lulled her. Was it imagination or reality? In her somnolent state, the tiny blue scarab was traversing her clavicle, feet so lightly tripping rapidly as if to sneak across without being felt. She shifted and opened her eyes. It was a spider! A tiny white spider no larger than a pin head was barely grazing her skin. It must have hitched a ride in her hair and now had completely lost its bearings.

Kay submerged herself and the spider floated away on the surface of the bath water. It was time to get moving, she thought, and she pulled the plug. The water receded. In seconds, an eddy had formed at the drain hole. She rose and dried herself, pitched her work clothes in the laundry basket and went in search of a whole set of clean ones.

“A final thought” she said out loud to no one in particular; after all, the house was empty of anyone but herself, the pin sized spider and the blue scarab.

It was a quote, the ending line from her grandfather’s essay on home grounds:

“Whereas the love of money often separates people, the love of flowers brings them together”

With that, she donned a summer dress, her new tan sandals and went looking for her new white straw hat, looking like the only time she had spent time in the garden was for an afternoon of tea and biscuits.