The Daily Muse
Last Update: March 28 - evening
Part of the Austin skyline from the Zilker Botanical Garden.
March 5 - afternoon
We are experiencing another gray day with the lightest of mists falling. The garden is really beginning to come to life - the flower buds are swelling on many of our early spring bloomers and the garden, which has felt so empty since we removed our elm trees in January, feels like it is filling in with new foliage. Everywhere I look I see redbud trees flowering between the still bare branches of other trees. I really like the effect of seeing them this way, they seem like motionless patches of pink or purple fog.
I spent the morning tidying up the garden and I am about to head in to work where I will be helping KLRU with its spring membership drive this evening. I hope we all have the chance to get outside this weekend and play in the dirt!
Here are a few pictures from the Zilker Botanical Gardens from last week...
A craggy old pittosporum that has been artfully pruned along one of the paths in the Japanese Garden.
The new foliage, or fiddleheads of river fern.
March 8 - evening
Finally, we have had a couple of sunny days! Despite the fact that it clouded over again late in the day today, we have enjoyed two nearly perfect days. Everything is beginning to bloom, this week our flowering peaches, Mexican buckeyes, orchid tree, redbud, quince, magnolias, and more will come into full flower. I spent a few very happy minutes in the garden this morning soaking in the early light. Here are a few new pics...
Is there any happier sight? A deeply fragrant daffodil from our garden.
An extreme close-up of a bloom from a potted azalea in our garden.
March 10 - morning
A visitor to my website sent a note to me yesterday that ended, "here comes the sun." Here in Austin that has a special resonance as of late...
And with the sun, here come the flowers...
The first blossoms on our Red Baron peaches.
More daffodils (and boxwood.)
Magnolia "Jane" blooming in their containers.
Another shot of "Jane."
Close-up of a Leucojum blossom.
March 12 - evening
Today felt like a celebration - it was a near perfect warm, clear, dry spring day. The garden is filled with flowers, birds, buds, and a few bugs... Cheers! And Happy Birthday to my "little" sister, Diana who is marking her thirty-ninth birthday (again!)
A visitor on our redbud tree.
One of the signature springtime sights in Austin, I love the subtle color of the redbuds.
The Red Baron peaches are gorgeous! They will be fully open in a few days.
OK, can you tell I love these magnolias?
Cameo flowering quince. What a color!
March 13 - morning
It is early in the morning and the sun has just crept above the tree line to our east and its light is beginning to spill onto our back patio and into our garden. I love these rare quiet times when the only sound is the cooing of the mourning doves, the song of the cardinals, and the occasional tapping of a woodpecker. I have already made my first tour of the garden, viewing yesterday's handiwork - both the garden's and mine. My handiwork involved subtraction - weeding and pruning. The garden however was busy with creation - the joyous surge of the new.
I have spent a good deal of time thinking about creation recently. I have been reading Matthew Fox's book, Original Blessing, probably the most influential work in the school of "creation theology." In Original Blessing, Fox challenges the dominant Christian theology of guilt (through original sin) and its fixation on salvation and the rejection of the things of this world. In creation theology the emphasis is on the many blessings that we have received and participate in. In Fox's words, "Creation is continuous and never stops. And neither do blessing and blessings. Blessing is the word behind the word, and the desire behind creation." What a life affirming, transformative view of the divine - and note how different it is from the repulsive concept of original sin that is still taught to children! Fox shares my view of what original sin is, not that we are born a blight to creation, but rather that our "sin" is our egocentric self-awareness that leads us to ignore our bond with creation, which includes our bond with one another. Again, in Fox's words, "... the sin behind all sin is seen as dualism. Seperation. Subject / object relationships. Fractures and fissures in our relationships. Take any sin: war, burglary, rape, thievery. Every such action is treating another as an object outside oneself. This is dualism. This is behind all sin."
So what does creation require of us? Well, certainly not self-flagellation and guilt! It simply asks that we pay attention to its blessings and savor our connection to it, and to honor it and that connection in all that we do. There is ecstasy in creation and in pleasure in embracing it - words foreign to most of the theology that lashes congregants around the world. Fox: "Pleasure truly pleases and does not merely titillate. Today the true contemplative will teach us what it means to con-temple once again, i.e., to become so thoroughly one with what we love and enjoy that we make a holy tabernacle of the event. The true contemplative will teach us the art of savoring. For creation needs savoring more than it needs inventory taking..."
This reminds me of Mary Oliver's great poem, The Summer Day:
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean -
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down -
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
So, on this sunny spring morning, I will savor creation in another of its exuberant hours. To paraphrase Mary Oliver, tell me what else should I do?
March 19 - morning
I have been in San Antonio over the course of the past four days shooting video for my documentary program on the Spanish Missions of Texas. We had a remarkable time shooting these beautiful structures and I wanted to share a few images with you... We should complete the program by this summer. Look for it on PBS affiliates around the state of Texas this August, it will be called Las Misiones: The Spanish Colonial Churches of Texas.
Workers quarters at Mission San Jose.
Gothic arch and the dome of San Jose.
The convento garden behind San Jose.
I love those arches!
A stairwell in the Spanish Governor's Palace in downtown San Antonio.
The facade of Mission Espada.
The moorish-styled doorway of Espada.
Espada's bell tower.
Inside Mission Concepcion.
An exterior stairway at Concepcion.
The Espada Aqueduct.
March 20 - afternoon
Happy Spring! Here are a few more pics from my shoot in San Antonio...
Mission San Juan.
The bell tower of San Juan.
A bell from the tower of Espada.
Mission San Jose, the"Queen of the Missions."
A window in San Jose.
Looking at San Jose through the front gate.
Dawn light shining through the ruins of Espada.
The courtyard of the Governor's Palace.
Moon over San Jose.
March 22 - morning
It is a glorious spring morning - the air is crisp but there isn't a single cloud in the sky. We have received several generous rain falls over the course of the past few days and I am anticipating an explosion of new growth. Everywhere I look in the garden I see flowers and buds. In a few days all of the trees will have leafed out and we will be reveling in the green. Here are a few pictures from the fist day of spring...
Daffodil "Ice Follies."
A wide shot of our allee from the roof. Note the Red Baron peaches in the upper left.
Our G.G. Gerbing azalea has been in bloom for three weeks!
March 25 - morning
Still more spring...
St. Francis and blettia terrestrial orchids.
And our "Texas orchid tree" - Bauhinia congesta.
March 26 - evening
We have been on a weather rollercoaster for the past few days. Yesterday, it started out clear and cool and then turned summery in the afternoon with highs in the '80's. Then, in the evening, a line of storms blew through with damaging wind, intense rain, and the largest hail that I have ever experienced in Austin, marble sized and larger. Fortunately, the damage in our garden seems mostly superficial and I was able to clean up most of the very substantial mess with the help of my father who is visiting (along with my Mom and my in-laws from Mexico.) Today, we have had several more strong showers and the weather is decidedly cooler.
The worst part of the hail damage is the fact that our peaches, redbud, and orchid tree were stripped of most of their flowers. The ground under the peaches is absolutely red with the fallen petals - there has to be a haiku lying there with them!
Here is what the peaches looked like yesterday before the storm...
March 28 - morning
Back to perfect weather! It is a bright, clear, and cool morning - and best of all, I am taking the day off to show my in-laws around the Hill Country. Here are a few pictures from the weekend including shots of a wooden sign bearing the name of our garden, "Possumhaw Hollow." My Dad crafted the sign using the papyrus font that we feature on this website. Thanks Dad!
The sign is hanging under our covered porch.
A pair of Lesser Goldfinches at our feeder.
A close-up of the male.
March 28 - evening
Today we had the great treat of touring one of the most beautiful and pristine canyons in the Texas Hill Country. The owner, a recent acquaintance of mine, invited us to explore his family's hidden preserve. It was amazing to see land so lovingly tended. It seemed untouched by man's hand. We are truly indebted to our host and to this most splendid of Central Texas days. Here are a few images from our tour...
A wide view looking down into the canyon and its streambed. There is a twenty foot deep swimming hole in the center left of this picture.
Looking down into the swimming hole from a cascade above.
The cascade from below.
A small pair of waterfalls along the stream.
A group portrait by the pool. That's me with Victor and his parents.
Maidenhair ferns clinging to the rocks by the pool.
The creek winding through cypress roots.
A cascade with wood fern and bald cypress roots.
Another group shot in a shaded overhang.
Looking down the stream towards the limestone bluff and overhang.
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