To Share - Compartir - Botanically
Thursday, August 05, 2021
|Rosa 'St. Swithun'& Gentiana asclepiadea - 5 August 2021|
Words and expressions, after lots of use, suffer a
modification of their meaning or become useless in putting across a point with
I often tell my friends that “at the end of the day if I want to move forward, and this is clinically
proven to be effective 99.9%”, one could substitute, perhaps, at sundown for at the end of the day!
This is only a pet peeve for me. I wonder how many in this
century may know what that means. I despise the expression, “I want to put Iceland in my bucket list,” even
though I would love to go to that country and connect with my dancer friend
Sandrine Cassini who teaches dance there.
But share is a word that in its use, especially in social
media, has lost its original and wonderful coinage.
If one speaks in two languages, as I do, it is interesting
to find a word in one language and how it translates to another.
In the case of share, in Spanish the verb is compartir. While in Spanish con not com, meaning with, it
used here, it is probably a case of old misspelling or the fact that it is
easier to pronounce the verb with an m.
Partir is to split or cut. It comes
from the action (I believe) of Christ holding a loaf of bread and before
sharing it (breaking bread) tells his apostles, “Do this in remembrance of me.”
To me compartir is
a lovely word, as lovely as the frequently (not in English, speak or chat is
the substitute) used conversar which
literally means to speak in verse. To share thus to me has the idea of giving a
part of oneself.
The social media use of share is for individuals to go to
that huge area in the digital skay where one removes a famous song video, or
whatever and one shares it in one’s social media page. Rarely does the sharer
mention its personal importance. To me this is akin to certain US politician
throwing paper towels to a large group of needy people.
To share has to be more. This is why my loss of my Rosemary
after a 52 year marriage has troubled my soul for so long since her death on
December 9 of 2020. Living in a house that I shared with her (almost five years
in Kits but full of furniture, mementos from our other houses) is a constant
reminder of that time shared. The worst part is my daily visits to the garden
that was ours. Her little plants, her gray plants, her love of the details of
small things, is something that I cannot erase from my mind.
The scanning of a portrait on a good monitor means that I
get to know a friend, a relative or even a stranger’s face, quite intimately.
The scanning and the fixing of my plant scans takes me to magnifications that
only now I understand my Rosemary was aware of and that she could see them when
she tenderly, on her knees or bum worked on her flower beds.
For many years, since 2001, I have been scanning the plants
and flowers of the garden. At first the roses were my thing, and of late I am
preparing what will eventually be a presentation to the American Hosta Society conventio in
Minnesota next year on the beauty of the often ignored hosta
My approach has also been a different one in the last few
months. I rarely scan a plant, a rose, or anything else in isolation.
In our new deck garden (it does have three flower beds and
one in the back lane) with our reduced space, we began the experiment of
growing roses in large clay pots. Other plants went is smaller containers. But
thanks to Rosemary’s idea that plants should share (yes share!) space with
other plants, and she used that nice expression companions, I have been scanning
plants together as is the case in the scan illustrating this blog.
Rosemary loved plants with blue flowers. Years ago my
Argentine artist friend Juan Manuel Sánchez (sadly gone now) placed on my hand a
Chilean translation of Thomas Mann’s The
Magic Mountain, telling me that I should read it. I did and I was
particularly interested that gentians are often mentioned in the novel and that
they grow well in Switzerland. So I brought a Gentiana asclepiadea one day and it became a fave or Rosemary’s.
A detailed blog on Gentian blue
The rose, Rosa ‘St Swithun’ is an English Rose. Sometime in
the early 90s Rosemary came home from a plant show at VanDusen Botanical
Garden. She said, “There is this rose
that I absolutely want to have. Because it is show specimen the grower has told
me to go early tomorrow, when the show is about to close and she will sell it.”
We went and bought it. What attracted Rosemary to this pink rose (she often
told me that she could not understand why I liked and had so many pink roses)? St.
Swithun has an intense scent that the English call myrrh. It is a scent that
only sophisticates like Rosemary could appreciate as some consider the scent to
Since St. Swithun has a stronger scent than other English
Roses. I adore the scent.
It is just another way that I cannot stop from
remembering as I scanned the rose, that Rosemary keeps sharing with me and will
for as long as I live.
Dying - A Social Function
Wednesday, August 04, 2021
|Rosemary & Niña - 9 December 2020|
I my youth in Argentina, where I first I first became aware
of death, I had to go next door for a velorio (wake) of our neighbour’s son. My
mother in her wisdom wanted me to know about death. I was 8.
After the velorio and the funeral, I am sure that the boy’s
parents tried at best to live a normal life in spite of their grief.
My Rosemary died on December 9 2020 and almost every day I
get some document addressed to her.
Today I went to ICBC on MacDonald, near my house to enquire
about my Cruze’s insurance. I was told to contact my agent. This I did. Because
I have a scanner I was able to send him, upon his request, my Rosemary’s death
certificate and a phone photograph of my car’s odometer.
With our Blue Cross Health insurance I was able to pay
July/August fees (told this was onetime as I had to give them the full number
of my Visa) but I had to scan the death certificate and a complicated form.
They will call me to find out what my complete Visa number is! The folks at
Blue Cross in Burnaby will not be opening their offices to the public until
I have cancelled credit cards but kept Rosemary’s American
Express card. That card gives us access to nice airport lounges if I ever get
to travel again.
I took Rosemary's iPhone to my guy in Richmond and told him to download all of her pictures and put them into a exterior hard drive. I will present the hard drive to my eldest daughter Ale and see what she wants to do with them.
There is not one day that I do not look into our closet or her armoire and find some item that I know I cannot use but that I cannot get rid of.
In spite of all the above, letters keep arriving and I
remember stuff I had not thought about but have to do in reference to Rosemary’s
Will this ever end?
I wonder how United Nations Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld would have
handled this? In his lovely autobiographic musings Markings (with a foreword by W. H. Auden and treasured by me since I
purchased it in Buenos Aires in 1966)
If even dying is to be made a social function, then,
please, grant me the favour of sneaking out on tiptoe without disturbing the
My Journey to Damascus
Tuesday, August 03, 2021
Because as a boy and teenager I was under the influence of a
Spanish grandmother I was educated in a way that would seem most modern. She
never told me not to do something. It was always, “If you do this these will be the consequences.” And I was
constantly listening to advice that then, I did not know, came mostly from the
The most frequent maxim of hers was, “Nadie te quita lo bailado.” It loosely means that nobody can take
away from you the memories of the dances you have danced.
These last eight months my abuelita’s advice (the one of the
dances) has been present in my mind to remind me what my friends and relatives
keep telling me that I will always have my memories. For me this is not only
enough. The memories that surround me in my Kits house make me miss more that
But I may now be on my way sort of out this existential
conundrum. I place here three photographs of Susan Fiedler that I took sometime
in the mid 90s in my studio and on a hot summer day in Lynn Canyon. Also here
is an etching I bought in Venice when I went there two years ago with Rosemary.
I will begin with the etching. One day Rosemary felt tired
so I told her I was going to go for a walk. Instead of turning left to go to
St. Mark’s (our hotel was perhaps two blocks from there) I turned right. I
discovered a Vivaldi museum that was full not only of his paraphernalia but
also a great collection of very old string basses. On the way I stopped at a
shop and saw this etching. I liked it. I brought back Rosemary; she liked it so
we purchased it. The artist Vicenza Poneti we later found out sold her stuff at
a shop in Florence. There we bought another for us and couple more for our
All four are nicely framed. Our two are at the entrance.
Susan Fiedler had a face that when I first saw her at a
party at the Exposure Gallery on Vancouver’s Beatty Street I knew I had to
photograph. This I did twice. She was starting a career as a jeweller then and
I have lost track of her.
The melancholy of a waning summer with Susan Fiedler
Now what do these photographs and the etching have in
Should I die tomorrow (statistically quite possible) I am
not going to worry what will happen to the etchings or Fiedler’s negatives in
What is important (is this a St. Paul moment on his way
to Damascus?) is that I now know that the moment of going back with Rosemary to
the store and seeing the pleasure on her face, and seeing these photographs of
Susan Fiedler, that moment, that feeling, that pleasure is all that counts.
What makes all this important also is that it cannot be
repeated. I cannot return to Venice with Rosemary and I cannot (in this
century) ask a beautiful woman to pose for me. It is not only my advanced age
that would turn them off. I would be seen as a creep. I do not believe I was a
How can one fathom of taking Susan Fiedler to Lynn Canyon
and taking her photographs just for fun? There was no plan then. I do remember
that some woman at one of the shows at the Exposure Gallery suggested I go and
take photographs of feet. So I did photograph Susan Fiedler’s feet.
Imagine doing that now! So I really do not worry about
legacy anymore. My abuelita was right. I have danced and I do remember.
As a P.S. My present obsession of scanning the plants of my garden (I have amassed perhaps 1500 since 2001) provide me with a daily and soothing pleasure as I sit at my monitor and clean up dust specks and play with contrast and shadow detail. If none of these scans are ever used or admired by anybody after I am gone it is irrelevant. Until then the scans are dancing in my mind.
An ode to a cat - Pablo Neruda
Monday, August 02, 2021
|Niño on Trutch (a soon-to-be-changed street name)|
In my 5348 blogs to date I have been consistent in
explaining my love for St. Luke’s 22:19 reference in his gospel to Christ’s
words upon breaking bread : Do this in
remembrance of me.
Not one day goes by when I don’t remember a person in my
life from my past or even a recent past and then do something to recall the person and his/her importance to me.
Consider that today I squeezed the last from a tube of
toothpaste. It was bought by Rosemary. I remembered her and looking at the tube
I considered that now I am the one in charge of buying another one. And so it
goes with everything, every day. A lot of this brings with it melancholy.
But not always. Rosemary taught Niño, our orange cat, to
walk around the block without a leash. She told me never to shout at him and to
wait in my place when he would linger in someone’s yard or one of his fave
pursuits to smell under a car (?).
Three months ago a man kicked Niño when the cat got
caught in his legs. From that point on Niño would walk only as far as where
that confrontation happened and he would disappear. I would go home and
eventually he would come back.
I am happy to report that Niño has perhaps forgotten as I
have now successfully walked with him twice in the last few days. People on the
way, who know Niño, ask me why I have not walked him. A few who do not know ask
for my wife. And whenever Benji (a dog that lives nearby) and Niño meet, Benji licks Niño's face. I believe that Niño may be one of the most unusually placid cats I have ever owned. Evertbody in the neighbourhood knows him and when they have the chance they pet him.
|Niño & Benji|
Unlike looking at the plants in our (my) garden, which
saddens me, walking Niño cat seems like a perfect activity that is joyous as I
remember my Rosemary doing it with so much pleasure.
In this blog I wrote how my ability to read in Spanish
has given me a contact with a myriad of references of writers writing about
cats. This one by Pablo Neruda (here in Spanish and in English) is an amazing
ode to the cat. It is much longer than the one by Jorge Luís Borges but it is
equally good. There are lovely references here to the perfection of a cat which
goes along well with my present obsession with Plato’s world of ideas and the
Parable of the Cave
Oda al gato
Los animales fueron
largos de cola, tristes
Poco a poco se fueron
lunares, gracia, vuelo.
solo y sabe lo que quiere.
hombre quiere ser pescado y pájaro,
serpiente quisiera tener alas,
es un león desorientado,
ingeniero quiere ser poeta,
estudia para golondrina,
trata de imitar la mosca,
ser sólo gato
gato es gato
bigote a cola,
presentimiento a rata viva,
noche hasta sus ojos de oro.
ni la flor
sol o el topacio,
elástica línea en su contorno
sutil es como
de la proa de una nave.
echar las monedas de la noche.
tigre de salón, nupcial
viento del amor
inmaculado pie del gato.
de la noche,
no eres misterio,
mundo te sabe y perteneces
habitante menos misterioso,
todos lo creen,
conozco al gato.
sé, la vida y su archipiélago,
el mar y
la ciudad incalculable,
gineceo con sus extravíos,
el por y
el menos de la matemática,
embudos volcánicos del mundo,
cáscara irreal del cocodrilo,
bondad ignorada del bombero,
atavismo azul del sacerdote,
puedo descifrar un gato.
resbaló en su indiferencia,
tienen números de oro.
más silenciosos los espejos
furtiva el alba aventurera;
la luna, esa pantera
es dado divisar de lejos.
indescifrable de un decreto
te buscamos vanamente;
remoto que el Ganges y el poniente,
la soledad, tuyo el secreto.
condesciende a la morosa
de mi mano. Has admitido,
esa eternidad que ya es olvido,
de la mano recelosa.
tiempo estás. Eres el dueño
ámbito cerrado como un sueño.
Ode To The
were too long, and they had
started coming together,
together to make a landscape,
birthmarks, grace, flight.
born in a
state of total completion,
to itself and knows exactly what it wants.
like to be fish or fowl,
would rather have wings,
are would-be lions.
want to be poets,
try hard to act like flies.
But the cat
nothing more than to be a cat,
cat is pure cat
whiskers to its tail,
sense to squirming rat,
nighttime to its golden eyes.
flowers nor the moon
thing by itself,
sun or a topaz,
and the elastic curve of its back,
both subtle and confident,
is like the
curve of a sailing ship's prow.
depositing the coins of night.
without a realm,
without a homeland,
parlor tiger, nuptial
four nimble paws
cat's immaculate paw),
of love in the air.
O freelance household
there is nothing
aren't a mystery after all.
known to everyone, you belong
least mysterious tenant.
may believe it,
to a cat,
But not me.
I'm not a
know a thing about cats.
everything else, including life and its archipelago,
and its scandals,
and minuses of math.
I know the
earth's volcanic protrusions
crocodile's unreal hide,
fireman's unseen kindness
priest's blue atavism.
But cats I
can't figure out.
slides on their indifference.
hold ciphers of gold.