Celebrating the Living
Saturday, August 14, 2021
Since I was a little boy in Buenos Aires, trains were
part of my life. We lived in a neighbourhood called Coghlan, named after an
English railway engineer, as the Argentine train system was built by the
English. I think about the cavernous downtown Retiro Station where I would end
up with my parents when they took me to the movies on that movie street that
A recurring dream for me in these 2021 days is that I am on
that train bound to Retiro. At each station people get off. When the train
finally arrives I find that I am the only passenger.
There is a Canadian connection with my concept of death. In
earlier times in Vancouver, I seemed to suffer the expensive consequences of
having Italian cars (two Fiat X-19s and one Maserati Biturbo). My mechanics
would tell me, “The clutch might go tomorrow, next week or in a year. I cannot
tell you when that will happen.” To me, then, death is driving to Calgary with a
slipping clutch and getting to that destination when the clutch finally fails.
Nine months since the death of my Rosemary, she is not only in
my thoughts constantly but I try to rework in my mind stuff related to death.
Today marks the third anniversary of bassist Randy Rampage’s
death. I have been invited (I attend all of these Rampage gatherings) to be at the
Mountain View Cemetery at 3. I will go.
I do not believe that there is anything important of what was
Rampage’s under his tombstone. He is not there.
So why am I going?
To share, in a location that celebrates death, the memories of who was Randy Rampage with his living
friends and all who loved this scary looking man who would not have ever hurt a
A Sweep of Gray
Thursday, August 12, 2021
|Upper left Rosemary's unidentified Eucaliptus, R. - Crambe maritima, bottom L. - Senecio cineraria & R - Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis' 12 August 2021 |
Today I have been thinking of the colour gray. To begin with
I have problems figuring out if I should write it gray or grey. When I write in
a blog that I like Earl Grey Tea I invariably have to look it up. Grey for me
reminds me of the terrible, damp and grey days of the Buenos Aires winters of
my youth. And now in Vancouver grey is a colour no different from my Buenos
For Rosemary grey was a colour that she looked for in her
plants besides the ones that might have blue or white flowers. I never did
discuss with her the fact that many of her grey plants have yellow flowers, a
colour she disdained with the exception of the yellow of Rosa ‘Mrs. Oakley
Fisher’ and last year, a few months before she died the lovely English Rose,
Rosa ‘Buttercup’. We both shared a fondness for the little yellow patio rose
Rosa ‘Emily Louise’.
I never did tell her that the last colour that Jorge
Luís Borges was able to discern before he went blind was yellow.
Borges wrote sparingly and he described many of his story
protagonists as having grey eyes and a grey beard as he does of Doctor Stephen Albert
in his The Garden of Bifurcating Paths. In the story one finds out that Albert
is an eternal man who lives endless repetitive lives. Some see grey as a vague
and indefinite colour.
I believe that
Rosemary saw in grey plants a colour that would not clash and would blend in
with plants that had bright colours. Or it could have been that my Rosemary saw
grey as an elegant colour. She was an elegant woman.
Who was the Valerie Finnis in the cultivar name of Artemesia ludoviciana? Here is her Wikipedia citation.
This poem by Emily Dickinson is one that Rosemary would find
as fun as it is positive (certainly not vague or uncertain) and a happy one.
A slash of Blue by Emily Dickinson
A slash of Blue --
A sweep of Gray --
Some scarlet patches on the way,
Compose an Evening Sky --
A little purple -- slipped between --
Some Ruby Trousers hurried on --
A Wave of Gold --
A Bank of Day --
This just makes out the Morning Sky.
More Emily DickinsonIt's full as opera
I cannot dance upon my Toes
a door just opened on the street
Amber slips away
Rosa 'Shropshire Lad' - Bev McClellan
Monday, August 09, 2021
After having opened our garden for visitors for many
years, Rosemary and I understood the protocols. There were several.
One of them is that visitors
never asked to use your facilities. Another one that Rosemary always warned me
about was not to point out our Rhodochiton
atrosanguineum particularly to some of the older “ladies” that were her
friends from the UBC Botanical Garden. I often ignored her warning since for
reasons that I have never understood, Rosemary kept buying the plant (it is
tender) every year.
This year the protocol was that open gardens would not
have any food or drink available. Visitors just came to look at the plants and
most asked before taking photographs.
There is one very pleasant gift that opening your garden
to the Vancouver Rose Society includes an unexpected pleasure. A VRS member, Bev
McClellan, picks a rose she likes from your garden and does a lovely card which
is then given to garden openers with a gift card. Some years they were vouchers
for roses, this year it was a credit to spend at Lee Valley.
On Sunday when I attended the yearly VRS picnic (this
time at Brenda Viney’s garden in Coquitlam) we were given our gift cards.
Sunday VRS Picnic
I have to acknowledge here my deep appreciation for Bev
McLellan’s illustration of my Rosa ‘Shropshire Lad’ and how delightful it was to
open her card in a garden full of friends who all share a love for the rose.
Coincidentally today Monday, Shropshire Lad was in bloom
so I thought I could combine Bev’s card with the rose that inspired her.
Thank you Bev.
Brenda Viney's Rose Garden and a bit more
Sunday, August 08, 2021
Twenty Twenty was not a good year for me between a pandemic
and the death of my Rosemary on December. Twenty twenty one has had a few pleasant distractions. Most of them have been botanical or feline.
One of botanical ones was the yearly
Vancouver Rose Society open gardens. In the beginning of June I had many
visitors, and between the hosting by my youngest daughter Hilary and her assistant, my male cat
Niño, I had some fun.
Today I had the pleasure of going to the Vancouver Rose
Society’s yearly picnic get together. It was at former president of the society's garden,
Brenda Viney who lives in Coquitlam. She has a very large rose garden.
But, and this is most important, it is a garden that my
Rosemary admired and would have had a lovely time in it this year. Why?
Many who are participants of plant societies tend to grow a
monoculture. Viney has roses, many roses but she has a variety of fabulous
perennials. Rosemary would have approved of Viney’s generous use of that South
American verbena, Verbena bonariensis.
And as a card carrying member of the American Hosta Society
I have to point out that Viney has handsome and very large specimens. Not only
that, some of her hostas are not the usual ones. There is a somewhat little
known fact that hostas, when they reach maturity, should be left alone. Nothing
bothers me more than when friends ask me, “When are you going to split your
hostas? I would like some of them.” Viney has obviously been botanically
correct in not sharing them.
|Dahlia 'Bodacious' & Hosta 'Julie Morss|
Her roses are all in splendid shape, but I played Rosemary
and looked at the other plants. Two stood out. One was Dahlia ‘Bodaceous’ and
the other, a not run-of-the-mill hosta called Julie Morss. Vine’s dahlia was in
open splendour as you entered her front garden. But I was attracted to a bloom
that had not quite opened.
With roses, particularly the moss roses, the buds are
beautiful before they open. In the last few years I have discovered the beauty
of the often ignored hosta flowers. Like moss roses, they too, display elegance
and poise unopened.
All in all the day was most pleasant. What a luxury to be
surrounded by people with shared interests on a day that was not too hot.
Thank you Brenda and Al (her suffering husband who is
responsible for dealing with pruned stuff).