Port Townsend Waves in My May Rose Garden
Saturday, May 22, 2021
|On the Port Townsend Washington ferry - 1987|
The sun had not yet risen. The sea was indistinguishable
from the sky, except that the sea was slightly creases as if a cloth had
wrinkles in it. Gradually as the sky whitened a dark line lay on the horizon
dividing the sea from the sky and the grey cloth became barred with thick
strokes moving, one after another, beneath the surface, following each other,
pursuing each other, perpetually.
The Waves – Virginia Woolf – First paragraph of novel
I dream of my Rosemary, and when I am awake, as I deal with
the daily menialities of dusting, washing clothes, dishes and feeding the cats,
I cannot but feel the absence of my once companion. I have been told that I
must soldier on. Working in the garden, that is beginning to look very lovely, is
still melancholic work. I need her advice. Living alone in a garden is like falling in the forest. Nobody would know if they were not there to witness it.
Mid May in a rose garden is a wonderful time. It is only now,
as they sporadically bloom here and there (they must do this at night) that
roses can compete with my pristine hostas.
|Rosa 'La Belle Sultane' 22 May 2021|
Mid May is scanning season. I scan roses and other plants.
Some of the roses I have scanned years back quite a few times. I calculate that
I must now have 3000 plant scans, a task I began in 2002. I think sometimes if
I had never ever taken portraits or worked for magazines; shot landscapes and
street photographs in Mexico, photographed countless undraped woman, would I be
known for my plant scans? What is going to happen to all these scans that I am
safely storing in double exterior hard drives?
I really do not worry. The process of walking through the
garden and selecting my roses (now I am combining them with clematis that they
share pots and garden beds) is a calming pleasure. I momentarily do not think
of Rosemary as I spot out the specs of dust with my 17 year-old Photoshop.
Scanning a rose is as exhilarating as swimming or now riding my bike to buy
stuff at Safeway.
|Rosa 'Sombreul' & Hosta 'El Niño' 18 May 2021|
With the pandemic affecting my ability to shoot portraits
with my cameras, recording my (our) plants is fun and it keeps me busy in
something that seems to be more important than passing the vacuum on the living
I remember that I took the photograph near Port Townsend because my Rosemary and I saw a film there. It was the 1987 Hope and Glory.
Tonight I will begin to read The Waves.
The Years - Virginia Woolf
Shirriff & Mexican Rice
Thursday, May 20, 2021
It might have been in 1950 when I was 8 that my mother took
me to the Lincoln Library on Calle Florida (even by then vehicle traffic was
prohibited on it). We went there for two reasons. The
Filipino Legation (not a consulate and not quite an embassy) was there right next
to the U.S. Embassy and the lubrary. My grandmother worked at the legation. The second reason
was the United States Information run library, where they
had a novelty in Latin America, of being able to check out a book and take it
home for a week or two. I remember that the wall across from the building had graffiti
that read, “¡Fuera imperialistas Yankees!
Tango en carmesí - Florida y Lavalle
We Argentines have a conflicting relationship with the
United States. We dislike their 19th, 20th and 21st century colonial
shenanigans but we adore their products.
I remember that when I was around 7 my mother wrote on a
grocery list for our live-in housekeeper/cook the word catsup. I remember not
much later that my mother brought home from a friend at the American school
where she taught a package of lime-flavoured Jell-O and some bread with poppy
seeds. Most Argentines will kill to obtain American jeans.
And so when Rosemary, our two daughters and I lived in Mexico;
we had to ask friends who traveled to the US to bring back Lipton Tea (bags!).
Black tea was simply not available in Mexico and we actually re-used those
When we arrived in Vancouver in 1975 we were struck by how
many American products were available at the supermarket, but at first I could
not figure out why Captain Kirk appeared in TV Super Valu ads. We indulged in
all of them until Mexican nostalgia hit us and suddenly we wanted Mexican style
hot chocolate (containing traces of cinnamon) and other stuff that in 1975 was
not to be found in the city. So we had friends smuggle back all those precious
About a week while wheeling my cart at Safeway I noticed
Shirriff Mouse. I remember how my Rosemary would prepare it many years ago. We
had stopped the custom as we gravitated to better foods with fewer additives. I
bought the double chocolate!
My youngest daughter Hilary visits on Mondays and Thursdays.
I prepare a full meal for her so she can relax. At 6 we watch Rachel Maddow
(Niño is on her chest while Niña is on my lap) and a bit of Lawrence O’Donnell.
Then I take her home and in the car we listen to CBC Radio Ideas.
Today Hilary is coming. The menu is:
Barbecued chicken wings from my own barbecue, Mexican Rice,
cucumber salad, fresh but barbecued California corn, and to drink a Mexican
soda brand Jarritos in my fave mandarina flavour.
And for dessert it will
be Sherriff strawberry mousse with chopped strawberries.
Creative Boredom Today
Tuesday, May 18, 2021
|Rosa 'Fair Bianca' & Hosta 'Autumn Frost'18 May 2021|
When in boredom sometime in the summer of 2002 I tried
scanning a plant from my garden (Rosa
‘Reine Victoria’) my intentions were about capturing an image with accuracy. I
scanned them with 100% size and put the day’s date.
It was only after that first scan that I also became aware
of the beauty. I also discovered that the photography of plants with macro
lenses or simply the photography of a bush brings nothing new and that these
pictures after a while all look the same.
When people spot the large inkjets of my plants on the walls
of my living room they comment what a nice photograph it is. I tell them that
it is not a photograph but a scanograph and that I am a scanographer. They
immediately turn around and lose interest.
I have persisted and I have thousands of Tiffs of these
plants in an exterior hard drive. I go back to many of the plants so that you
can see what they look like on the same day years later or months later. Many
of the scans are of plants that died or that did not fit in our smaller garden.
Somehow having images of these long-gone plants is comforting.
Today Tuesday, May 18 2021 I miss my Rosemary and as I work
in her garden (now mine) I become melancholy. I am trying to do justice to her
garden by making sure the garden looks its best.
One of her favourite roses was the English Rose, Rosa ‘Fair
Bianca’. It has been with us for at least 30 years. It is not a heavy duty
grower so I have to cuddle and coddle it. Today it bloomed for the first time.
I put my nose to it and I received hints of lemon, pernod, magnolia soap and
something that the English call myrrh. It is heavenly.
In spite of my melancholy I was a bit bored so I decided to
become less involved in scanning for accuracy and to do it just artistically. I
combined Fair Bianca with a recent introduction in the huge hosta kingdom
called Hosta ‘Autumn Frost’.
I like the result and so would have Rosemary.
Monday, May 17, 2021
|Rosa 'Leander'- Clematis 'Taiga' 18 May 2021|
In our former Kerrisdale corner garden Rosemary and I had
the space to put just about any plant we wanted. We had around 30 hydrangeas
including many species of them. I grew over 600 hostas and Rosemary and I
finally had about 85 roses, most of them being Old Garden Roses. When we moved
almost five years ago I was depressed about leaving some of our plants (and all
the trees) behind. I was not aware how much harder it hit Rosemary.
We ended up being able to grow about 45 roses in our present
Kitsilano garden. Most are in largish clay pots. We came up with the idea, that
with space being restricting to our many plants taste, to try putting companion
plants with the potted roses and hostas. One of the experiments that seems to
have paid off is the use of the clematis as a rose companion.
Rosemary adored all clematis so we have somewhere around 25
The combination here is with that other fave of Rosemary’s,
the English Rose Rosa ‘Leander’.