The Daily Muse

Thoughts from an Austin Garden  -- September 2007


Last update: September 30


The butterfly season seems to be in full swing - more pictures below!


September 5 - morning


I saw at least six different butterfly species yesterday including this little guy.


The deluge continues - more rain, it looks as if this year may go down as the wettest in Austin's history! I took the day off yesterday to work on a book project, and a light rain fell for much of the day. It was a peaceful way to spend my time.


Just a reminder... Emerging Voices, Emerging Church will air tonight on KLRU (at 7 P.M..) The show features Bishop John Shelby Spong, Marcus Borg, Barbara Brown Taylor, Richard Rohr,  Joan Chittister, and John Dominic Crossan - all leaders of thought and change within the Christian Church. I hope you'll tune in and support the station with your membership pledge!


More soon...


The garden is filled with Gulf Frittilary butterflies.


September 9 - afternoon


The garden is super-verdant this year - Buddha is about to be engulfed in horse-herb!


On behalf of KLRU and my colleagues there, I want to thank those of you who helped to make the airing of Emerging Voices such a success earlier in the week! The program raised nearly $9,000 for the station, more than any locally produced show has raised in years. I'll keep you posted about repeats.


On a related topic I am in the process of writing a book and would like to photograph some area gardens to help illustrate it - I am particularly interested in spaces that have a deeply personal and spiritual feel . I know that can be interpreted in many ways, but I am open to your suggestions! I will only be able to schedule about 6-8 shoots, but if you would like to be in touch please look up my contact info here.


And speaking of pictures - I spent an a pleasant hour hanging out with the butterflies a short while ago and here are the results...


The zebras are hard to shoot! You really have to sneak up on these guys.



A slightly different angle.



A Tiger Swallow Tail.



There were lots of tigers in the garden today.



Another view of the same guy.



They love those Mexican sunflowers! According my my colleague Linda Lehmusvirta, who produced the wonderful "Back Yard Butterflies" program, this is the best butterfly attracting flower there is.




The light was really nice for both the flowers and the butterflies.



One last tiger.


Salvia leucantha.


September 10 - morning


One more image for my gallery of butterflies...


A Gulf Frittilary depositing an egg on a lantern (next to the favored food of its caterpillar, a passionvine.)


September 11 - morning


I have been preparing for a class that I will be leading that is focusing on some of the parables of the New Testament.  I love the parables relating to the "Kingdom of God" and I will be using Stephen Mitchell's book, The Gospel According to Jesus, as my source. Mitchell's translations are as transparent as any I have seen. As I was thumbing through my copy of his book, a scrap of paper fell out, it had been tucked into the book noting  a page with one of the "lamp" parables. On it, was a haiku I had written years ago on a late summer afternoon very much like yesterday.


I remember the scene very clearly - I was walking down the main pedestrian street by the University of Texas campus - the students had just returned  from their summer break and they were filling up the sidewalk. In the middle of the crowd I passed a blind woman, not an unusual sight around UT, but there was something a little strange about the scene.  The following haiku sprang into my mind:


in one hand - a white cane

under her arm - a box labeled "lamp"


Jesus has multiple parables where he mentions a "lamp." In these he is referring to our own inner light, "for the Kingdom of God is within you." When he calls on us to dispel the darkness of the world he is asking us to look to that inner light - to share it.


And he said, "When you light a lamp, do you put it under a basket or under a bed? Don't you put it on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden that can't be made clear, and nothing secret that can't become obvious. Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give is the measure you receive."


On this day, perhaps we should spend a few moments reflecting on what has guided our steps over the course of the past six years. Where have we placed our lamps? When have we summoned our inner lights?




On a very different note, here are a few pictures taken yesterday morning of two members of our pride...


Regal Rufous.



Mysterious Maya.



Rufous again.


September 13 - morning


Last night Victor and I went to see a screening of The Unforeseen, a truly beautiful documentary that uses Austin's enviro-wars over the protection of  Barton Springs and the Barton Creek watershed as a touchstone for the larger issues of suburban sprawl nationwide. It is a thoughtful, meditative, and ultimately personally challenging film because it refuses to fall into the  blame game mentality that is typical of our politics. It will be released in theaters nationwide later this year and I highly recommend that you find it and bring your friends. Cheers to film maker Laura Dunn who created this important work of art. (On a personal note, I am biased towards any film that draws on a Wendell Berry poem as its "source" of hope and inspiration!)


    From "Sabbaths" by Wendell Berry
    III. (Santa Clara Valley)
    I walked the deserted prospect of the modern mind
    where nothing lived or happened that had not been foreseen.
    What had been foreseen was the coming of the Stranger with Money.
    All that had been before had been destroyed: the salt marsh
    of unremembered time, the remembered homestead, orchard and pasture.
    A new earth had appeared in place of the old, made entirely
    according to plan. New palm trees stood all in a row, new pines
    all in a row, confined in cement to keep them from straying.
    New buildings, built to seal and preserve the inside
    against the outside, stood in the blatant outline of their purpose
    in the renounced light and air. Inside them
    were sealed cool people, the foreseen ones, who did not look
    or go in any way that they did not intend,
    waited upon by other people, trained in servility, who begged
    of the ones who had been foreseen: ‘Is everything
    all right, sir? Have you enjoyed your dinner, sir?
    Have a nice evening, sir.’ Here was no remembering
    of hands coming newly to the immortal work
    of hands, joining stone to stone, door to doorpost, man to woman.
    Outside, what had been foreseen was roaring in the air.
    Roads and buildings roared in their places
    on the scraped and chartered earth; the sky roared
    with the passage of those who had been foreseen
    toward destinations they foresaw, unhindered by any place between.
    The highest good of that place was the control of temperature
    and light. The next highest was to touch or know or say
    no fundamental or necessary thing. The next highest
    was to see no thing that had not been foreseen,
    to spare no comely thing that had grown comely on its own.
    Some small human understanding seemed to have arrayed itself
    there without limit, and to have cast its grid upon the sky,
    the stars, the rising and the setting sun.
    I could not see past it but to its ruin.
    I walked alone in that desert of unremitting purpose,
    feeling the despair of one who could no longer remember
    another valley where bodies and events took place and form
    not always foreseen by human, and the humans themselves followed
    ways not altogether in the light, where all the land had not yet
    been consumed by intention, or the people by their understanding,
    where still there was forgiveness in time, so that whatever
    had been destroyed might yet return. Around me
    as I walked were dogs barking in resentment
    against the coming of the unforeseen.
    And yet even there I was not beyond reminding,
    for I came upon a ditch where the old sea march,
    native to that place, had been confined below the sight
    of the only-foreseeing eye. What had been the overworld
    had become the underworld: the land risen from the sea
    by no human intention, the drawing in and out of the water,
    the pulse of the great sea itself confined in a narrow ditch.
    Where the Sabbath of that place kept itself in waiting,
    the herons of the night stood in their morning watch,
    and the herons of the day in silence stood
    by the living water in its strait. The coots and gallinules
    skulked in the reeds, the mother mallards and their little ones
    afloat on the seaward-sliding water to no purpose I had foreseen.
    The stilts were feeding in the shallows, and the killdeer
    treading with light feet the mud that was all ashine
    with the coming day. Volleys of swallows leapt
    in joyous flight out of the dark into the brightening air
    in eternal gratitude for life before time not foreseen,
    and the song of the song sparrow rang in its bush.

September 17 - morning


The oxblood lilies are at their height right now.


This was an intensive gardening week-end... I started the make-over process for several of our large planting beds. A couple of the beds have just become too-crowded and the plants need to be divided, while several others have become too shaded to support the species we originally planted there. I started with our "conversation room" which was subjected to nearly day-long sun just a couple of years ago. Now that our cypress trees are approaching 35 feet in height, the sun-loving plants are struggling. Also, the monsoon earlier in the year killed a number of the succulents and herbs that were planted there. So, it is time for a little house cleaning (despite the heat!) I still haven't completed the design for the new planting, but most of the grunt work in that one bed is done.


Speaking of house cleaning I had an enjoyable moment or two just a short while ago - I was inspecting one of the planting beds underneath of the elm trees in the front yard and I noticed that the trees are beginning to shed their leaves. This is happening weeks earlier than usual. What caught my attention was the fact that the falling leaves were getting caught in the web of a spider who claims a certain patch of air-space down below. In the short time I was there, the spider patiently removed one leaf after another from its web and then set about the necessary repair work. A spider's version of chopping wood and carrying water!


Buddha of the lilies.





September 19 - morning


A quiet morning, the sun hasn't quite come up. All around me  the cats are all settling into their Buddha like post-breakfast poses - eyes half closed, tails neatly wrapped around them. Outside, I can hear a few blue jays calling from tree to tree. In a short while, it will be time for my first tour of the garden. Yesterday, I had to keep back-tracking during my tour because of all of the spider webs. Usually, I won't make a detour for a web because I know that the spiders can reweave a web in minutes, but I was feeling generous  -  one web in particular seemed so artful.


On a related note, I ran into John Aielli in the hallway at work yesterday. For those of you not from Austin, John is a local legend. He is a host for our local NPR affiliate and is quite the character. He has been known to play insect songs for hours on end during his show. His audience is fanatically devoted to his quirks and insights. Yesterday, John was excited about, "All of those spiders!" Funny coincidence. He was saying that people all across the region are talking about the huge numbers of "Spiny Orb Weavers" that seem to be everywhere. He was pleased to report that they are the same species that is featured in the children's book,  Charlotte's Web. So, when I make my rounds this morning - I'll be looking for word weaving spiders. I'd love to get ensnared in RADIANT.


The sun is  up and I am off.


September 30 - evening


The Bishop's Garden at the Washington National Cathedral.


I have just returned from an exhausting , yet exhilarating trip to Washington and New York. In the coming days I will be sharing many images of the beautiful gardens and famous sights that I toured in between meetings. In the meantime, here is a tease...


A floor detail from the National Cathedral.



An English-styled border garden from Dumbarton Oaks, Washington.


Busy bee at the cutting garden at Dumbarton Oaks.



The Viet Nam Memorial, Washington.


Continue to October 2007


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