The Daily Muse

A  Garden Journal -- August 2006

Last Update: August 31

Our newly planted "Brandy" Desert Willow

August 4 - morning

Yesterday evening, I saw Steven Tomlinson's play, American Fiesta, at the McCullough Theater at the University of Texas. It was the third time I have seen him perform this profoundly moving yet funny work and each performance reveals something new and rewarding in the script. (We are producing an entire episode of my program, Austin Now, on American Fiesta that will air on September 29.) Steven explores several issues within the play - from gay marriage to personal obsession, but the real theme is reconciliation.... how do we reconcile ourselves with our families and with one another in a nation that seems so bitterly divided? In January of this year I wrote an essay that had a similar theme - it dealt with "the spiritual discipline against resentment." Steven's play is a beautiful expression of that discipline and I urge you to see it.

Meanwhile, my personal obsession, my garden is hanging in there despite our continuing drought. More soon...

August 7 - morning

Another close-up of our new Desert Willow's flowers.

Another week-end of intense heat and intensive gardening... speaking of obsession, this seems to be the summer where I am pouring all of my energy into the task of keeping the garden going depite the heat and drought. I can no longer claim that things look "fresh" as I did last month - it has been too long since we have had a measurable rain-fall. Yesterday, a shower came within striking distance of our house, you could smell the rain and a few drops fell into the dust, but , once again, we missed out. My rain dance will be especially energetic today - please join me.

On another subject - we are once again seeing  religion being used as a weapon in the Middle East. Surprise, surprise. Of course, what is happening in Lebanon feels vaguely different from the struggles and upheavals that have gone on before it. The current conflict appears to be the opening act of a war between Iran and the United States and that we are dream walking towards catastrophe. Each side in this multi-sided war are  victims of their own ideological and theological blindness. We are all being led by the most violent and radical factions of our respective cultures towards the much anticipated "final battle." How long have the holy warriors of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism been sounding the trumpets? Since the birth of each religion. Today, these warriors are armed with rockets, tomorrow... I am afraid that our imaginations are not quite up to the carnage being dreamt of in the minds of the true believers.

I do not pretend to have an answer to what is happening - the dancers are all locked together in the death grips of their theologies. However, it does seem clear to me that the United States has delivered exactly what al Qaeda wanted from us - to be trapped in a land war in the Middle East that would excite and inspire Jihadists from around the world. In his new book about al Qaeda, The Looming Tower, Lawrence Wright describes in intimate detail the motivations and actions that led up to September 11. Bin Laden wanted to create such an outrage that a blundering U.S. would come stomping into the Middle East seeking revenge - sowing discord and reaping anarchy. Well, did Bush ever deliver. Bin Laden, in his delusion, thinks that he was personally responsible for the destruction of the Soviet Union during his pitiful little adventure in Afghanistan. Now, he believes it is our turn. The sad thing is that the neo-Cons and the "decider" are following Bin Laden's script perfectly. Meanwhile the zealots in Tehran, unable to deliver anything other than sermons to their people, are utilizing the chaos we have created in Iraq to spread their influence and weapons throughout the region. Dance, partners, dance.

August 8 - morning

Well, speaking of dances, my rain dance is broken! Once again there were showers in the area, but we missed out on them altogether. The forecast for today is not nearly so encouraging as it was yesterday, so I am tempted to retire my dancing shoes. Oh well, relief must be on the way! Autumn will be here in another nine or ten weeks (on Austin time.)

I have been thinking about the title of Lawrence Wright's book, The Looming Tower. It actually comes from a quote from Mohammed, where he is exhorting his followers onward against the "looming towers" of the infidel du jour. Bin Laden used this quote in a similar fashion. Of course what is guiding the human-missiles of al Qaeda is the belief that the Koran is the unassailable word of God and that Sharia, Islamic Law, imposed on a new Caliphate running from Indonesia to Southern Spain, will bring the dawn of a new golden Islamic age. Sound familiar? In our own country there is an entire generation of home-schooled "Generation Joshua" Christian youth being trained as holy warriors (remember that Joshua was the "General" of Israel who conquered the promised land.) Their intent is to spread the inviolate word of God as proclaimed in the Bible and to make Christianity the "law" of the land. (In fact there is now a system of Christian colleges that are designed specifically to keep these kids in the "bubble." One such school, located near Washington,  actually supplies a large percentage of the interns working in the White House and on Capitol Hill.) While it is true that GenJ (as they call themselves) may not be planning suicide missions, they are blind to the similarities with their Muslim counterparts.

It seems to me that the looming towers are actually mirrored. The warriors might think they are seeing infidels, crusaders, or dangerous secular radicals in those mirrors, but what they are actually seeing is themselves - their own delusions and fears mirrored in towers that, unfortunately, hold tens of thousands (if not billions)  of people just trying their best to live in a confusing and increasingly dangerous world.

It would be very easy to surrender to despair in the face of our current situation, but I think that we must proceed with small acts of hopeful determination, guided not by faith but by reverence. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a step... find another person or people who believe in loving compassion and walk together, but do  it soon and do not remain silent.

August 15 - morning

There is not much to report, still not a drop of rain and the temperatures have been over 100 degrees (38 celcius) nearly every day and the forecast is calling for more of the same. Despite the heat, I continue to find some inspiration in my garden time.  I was about to start my watering routine just before dawn yesterday morning when I stopped to admire a group of bats that were diving and darting through the open space above our garden. Reward enough for yet another brutally hot day.

Bats dart in and out
of the gathering light. I
glance up at the moon
so clear against the sky and
pause for a moment. Just this.

August 27 - evening

It has been a good summer for taking naps indoors (in the air conditioning!) This is Basho, the smallest and bossiest of our tribe, in a favorite hangout - the cats' window hammock

The brutal weather continues unabated - at present, we have had 32 days with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees. I spent the better part of the past few days hand-watering the garden in an effort to keep things alive until it rains or the temperatures break.  Even some of our agaves are showing drought stress. This is definitely one of the hardest summers in memory for the gardeners of this region. I fear it is a harbinger of things to come. Hopefully, we'll see our first cool front in a couple of weeks. There is a very slim chance for showers in the forecast tonight and I am keeping my fingers crossed.

This morning, I spent some time stalking the hummingbirds that frequent the garden, I was hoping to get a picture as they visited our Hamelias and red yuccas. I didn't get the shot I was hoping for, but I did manage to find a few images to share. Hope you enjoy...

'Jude the Obscure' English rose.


A bee coming in for a landing on some of our Coral Nymph salvias.


Red yuccas in bloom - the hummingbirds were in the trees waiting for me to get tired of standing in the heat.


Close-up of some Hamelia blooms.


Looking back to the house over the salvias.


I was trying to get a picture of the bee on this passionflower  when another flew into the frame.


One of the frogs that live inside our frogs.... a family of frogs has taken up residence in our stone frog planters. I have purple fountain grass sitting in the planters and they live in the crawl space inside safe from the racoons and other  varmints.


On the look-out.

August 29 - morning

There is rain on the weather radar - and it it tantalizingly close... just a few miles off to our west. Dare I hope?

On another front... we have been having varmint issues. The drought seeems to have flushed the racoons out of the creekbeds and into our pond. Almost every night, one or two of them will go swimming and try their hand at fishing. They are making quite a mess. The other evening I grabbed our flashlight and went outside to investigate some suspicious noises. Over at the pond, all seemed fine. However, I heard some rustling coming from our lawn area. I turned the flashlight on and caught a pair of skunks out cavorting in the grass. Needless to say, there were three "hightails" in the garden a moment later.

August 30 - morning

Only two-tenths of an inch of rain, but this morning there is a steady northerly breeze and the air feels fresh and cool - almost autumnal. Even though the temperatures are supposed to rebound to nearly 100 degrees in a day or so, I will count this brief respite as a sign that the worst is past. This morning I feel deeply grateful. Whether you received over an inch of rain, or just a few drops, join me - take a moment, go outside, feel the freshness of the morning air, breathe it in, and say thanks.

August 31 - morning

Another cool morning! I hope you get the chance for a stroll in your garden.

Just wanted to make a quick announcement...

I will be leading a "Soul of the Garden" retreat at the Seton Cove with the assistance of the Cove's Executive Director, Patty Speier, on Saturday, September the 16th from 10 - 4.  It will be an interactive retreat based on several themes developed in my Soul of the Garden video series. Lunch will be provided and the event will end with a visit to my garden. Call the Seton Cove to register - (512) 451-0272.

Hope to see you there.

Return to Daily Muse Menu