The Daily Muse

A  Garden Journal -- June 2006

Last Update: June 20

From Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead, Texas. An Opuntia set-off beautifully against a blue wall.

June 5 - evening

This past weekend, we went on an expedition to Yucca Do Nursery and Peckerwood Gardens, both located in Hempstead, Texas (about 90 miles east of Austin.) Yucca Do is a plant-collector's dream , it offers dozens of unusual varieties of Agaves, Aloes, rain lilies, palms, bromeliads, and more. Peckerwood, which is immediately adjacent to the nursery, may be the finest private garden in Texas and it features many of the spectacular plants that can be purchased at Yucca Do. When combined with a tasty meal at Royers Cafe, in Round Top, Texas, it made for a great little expedition.

The "dry garden" at Peckerwood.


The climate in Hempstead is wetter than here in Austin, and the soil is quite heavy, so many of the plants are planted high, in mounds or raised beds for drainage.


Silver is  the dominant foliage color in several large areas of the garden.


Agave victoria regina close-up.


And a side view.


Whale's tongue Agave.


A sitting area in the woodlands garden.


Meanwhile, in our garden, the recent rains have resulted in another flush of growth and color.


Double daylily - an oddball that was a stow-away when we purchased the yellow variety behind it.

June - 7 morning

Reason and Reverence

Over six years ago, when I started this website, I intended it to be an exploration of the reverence I feel for creation and the profound connection to creation offered by the practice of gardening. Since that time, my musings have wandered from one subject to another, but recently, I find that I keep returning to the subjects of faith and reason in our culture. I feel genuinely torn by these issues because I recognize much beauty and power in the faith traditions of the world, but also keenly feel their capacity for evil. This week those issues are once again at the center of my thoughts and our world. And, once again, the news of the day is providing  sharp contrasts between reverence, reason, and faith.

 Several days ago, President Bush called for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriages and civil unions. Most credible observers have called this an obvious ploy to shore up what is left of his base of support. In effect, they are saying that he is throwing the religious right the bone it has been demanding. Too bad for those whose flesh is on the bone , I suppose, but sacrifices must be made for the sake of the faithful. Then, this morning, I read of the Muslim faithful who were recently arrested in Ontario for  plotting to take-over the Canadian Parliament and be-head the Prime Minister. Ahh, faith. What a slippery slope it is.

I know that some people will be deeply offended by my linking Christians intent on banning gay marriage with Muslim 's planning mayhem, and I do recognize that the current version of Christian fundamentalism is certainly less bloody than the Muslim variety, but sadly, the link exists, and it is not fundamentalism - it is called faith. The faithful of any creed, share by definition beliefs that do not rest on logical proof or material evidence. To be even more plain-spoken about this, faith cannot be reasoned, and is unreasonable.  Fundamentalist Christians believe by faith that three thousand year old proscriptions against homosexuality from a book urging believers to stone-to-death transgressors are "the word of God." Muslim fundamentalists share similar beliefs about slaughtering "infidels." Does this radicalism discredit the entire heritage of Christianity, Judaism,  and Islam? I believe it is threatening to do just that. Despite the softer "interpretations" of religious moderates, faith itself is tainted. If humanity survives the next hundred years, it may be because all faiths or beliefs that fly in the face of reason are finally repudiated.

Where does that leave me, and this trail of musings? Back where I started, with reverence.

I cannot make reason, cold rationality,  the centerpiece of my life. There have been those who have tried to impose a kind of secular fundamentalism  on societies in the past,  elevating reason as their "god" - their experiments led to a trails of horror not un-like those being planned in the caves of Pakistan at this very moment. (Remember the French revolution?) No,  I still believe in the sacred, I feel it with every ounce of my being, I simply think that it is deeply irreverent to call it "God" and marry it to a creed. That implies that we know something that we most emphatically do not.

In his book, Reverence, Paul Woodruff uses a very simple definition of the word, "Reverence is the well-developed capacity to have feelings of awe, respect, and shame when these are the right feelings to have." He describes reverence as a virtue that needs to be cultivated in our lives, and adds that it, "...depends to some extent on belief, but not at all on formal creeds."

I believe that the best aspects of the faith traditions need to rescued from their creeds. I feel a profound reverence for Jesus and for many aspects of Christianity but hear it calling out for the kind of renewal that leads believers away from the certainty of blind-faith and into the day-to-day mystery of life itself. Faith is a closed door preventing believers from fully engaging in life and from cultivating true reverence. The writer, Sam Harris, says that, "The doors leading out of scriptural literalism do not open from the inside."  It is time for those of us on the outside to hold the faithful accountable to the same standards applied in every other aspect of our shared lives.

Reason tempered by awe, respect, and yes, shame when we inflict pain on others... reverence!

June 9 - evening

Last night I watched a presentation of the PBS documentary series,  Frontline, dealing with Saudi Arabia, our "allies" whose oil wealth is now spreading jihad across the globe. The program featured a scene taken straight from Saudi  TV of a children's show that looked like an updated version of Romper Room, except the children were singing praises to martyrdom. It was absolutely chilling. How, I wondered, will the planet survive the coming years? It is easy to imagine a world positively swimming in  weapons of mass destruction by 2016 -  just in time for the beautiful children shown on that broadcast to do something other than sing about their glorious martyrdom. Meanwhile, here in America, our highways are choked with gas-guzzling SUVs proudly displaying  yellow ribbons that say "pray for our troops." It is almost enough to make you cry.

Isn't it obvious that our self-preservation depends on an immediate and massive push for energy independence? Shouldn't that be our highest national priority? Right now, the only thing propping up the theocrats of the Middle East is our addiction to their oil. But, in their wisdom, our "leaders" have other things on their minds... protecting the sanctity of marriage from  Adam and Steve.

June 11 - afternoon

One of many visitors (and residents) that I have been spending time with this week-end.

Another blisteringly hot day - I spent most of it working in and wandering through the garden. It offered sweet (and sweaty) respite from the concerns of the world. Here are a few images from my "Eden" for you...


A tiger Swallowtail Butterfly on one of our Echinaceas.


A dragonfly by our pond.


And another... "Hey, you lookin' at me?"


Busy as a...


The blue-green leaves of our Lacey Oak.

June 14 - morning

'Pat Austin" English Rose

I just returned from my first morning inspection tour and I am pleased to report a pleasant few minutes spent in the company of a pair of hummingbirds. It is unusal to see hummingbirds share thier space with one another, but they definitely seemed to be quite the happy couple. I enjoyed watching them engage in a little courtship and then challenge a wren that happened to land nearby. The poor thing seemed  unnerved by their humming and beat a hasty retreat.

The weather continues to be brutal, but we are enjoying some of our early summer flowers... the crinums are coming into bloom, as are the gingers, and our 'Incense' passionvine. Here are a few new pics...


Society garlic in the morning light.


Crinum lilies.


Passionvine close-up. "Take me to your leader!"


Another shot of our Sunday visitor.

June 17 - morning

Rain! I just awoke to a heavy downpour,  and, after checking the radar,  it seems as if we will be ejoying a good bit of Mother Nature's bounty this morning. What a joyul noise after the past two weeks of intense heat and dryness!  More soon...

June 18 - evening

Dragonfly. This one has gotten used to my "advances" and allows me very close access.

I spent a fair amount of time enjoying our newly refreshed garden today - we have received nearly 2.4 inches of rain since Friday, and there is a chance for more in the forecast. Just what the doctor ordered. As I write this I can hear the frogs celebrating in the pond. Earlier, the dragonflies seemed a little more trusting, so I took a few new pictures. Here they are...


My blue buddy.


Even closer...


Agaves in one of "circle" beds.


Rain! Sabal mexicana palm leaves.


Echinacea in the morning light.

June 20 - morning

"We fight the enemies of God in order to establish God's rule on earth." - Mujahideen Shura Council (The group claiming responsibility for the recent kidnapping and murder of two American soldiers in Iraq.)

"It is dominion we are after. Not just influence. It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time. It is dominion we are after. World conquest. That's what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish." - George Grant, former Executive Director of the Coral Ridge Ministries - one of the most influential media conglomerates of the Religious Right

I am in the process of reading Kingdom Coming, the new book by Michelle Goldberg about the rise of Christian Nationalism in the United States and I urge that you do the same. (Just in case you have any doubts about the intentions of  the Christianist "army" that is forming in our nation.)

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