The Daily Muse

Thoughts from an Austin Garden  -- November 2006

Last Update: November 25

Queen butterflies on mist flower.

November 6 - morning

All has been quiet in the garden - we are seeing a few signs of autumn color and it seems as if our leaf-fall will come a little earlier than usual, though the weather has been warm, still and damp. I am looking forward to the next cool front that will push this humidity away and freshen the air!

I'd like to believe that tomorrow's election will have a similar "clearing" effect on the nation, but I am having a hard time being optimistic. Despite the glaring failures of our current administration and the obvious corruption and hypocrisy of the Republican Party (and their buddies in the leadership of the Christian Nationalist movement,) I get the feeling that the politics of fear will once again cause millions of people to vote against their own common sense and best interests.

There was an interesting essay in the book section of the New York Times yesterday - the author was describing the ease with which our political "leadership" governs with lies - outrageous lies that we do not hold them accountable for. It seems we view our politics as being no more than just another marketing campaign, which, of course, we expect to be filled with distortions. We judge our candidates by their commercials - applauding when they are particularly dark or clever. As long as we accept these lies as inevitable we get the kind of government we deserve. In another section of the paper, there was a major article on the corruption of the world's governments. It featured a map which showed those nations judged as corrupt in dark colors and those with clean "transparent" government in paler shades - the U.S. wasn't as bad as most - but our color looked decidedly unhealthy compared to many nations.

I am waiting for the voices of hope and truth to speak up loudly and clearly - and if the Democrats can't summon the will to do so our only choice is to do it ourselves. Tomorrow, our best choice is to find the biggest lies and vote against them. The day after, demand the truth!

Stained glass?

November 8 - morning

Just a few words of gratitude on this cool and clear morning... I feel a little bit like the Mockingbird that is singing just outside of my window - he is celebrating the fine weather and the coming of a new day. Last night, my fellow countrymen and women spoke up for decency, balance, and common sense. Thank you - thank you - thank you. The way ahead is difficult, the problems we face are daunting to say the least - yet, I feel a renewed sense of hope that we are willing to face the challenges confronting us and that is the first and most important step towards solving them. I was particularly pleased to see so many thoughtful, centrist, middle-class Democrats winning across the country - I hope the national party heeds their example and avoids going down a partisan road. There is life in our democracy still - and we should all celebrate that.

November 13 -evening

Bigtooth maples in their glory at Lost Maples State Natural Area.

We just returned from our annual pilgrimage to Lost Maples State Natural Area and I have been busy editing images. Here are a few of the two hundred pictures I took this weekend...


A maple pendant...


A meadow along the West Trail in the park.


A fern covered cliff along the East Trail.


A sulphur butterfly.


More maple leaves...


...and more.


Can Creek Canyon - my favorite place in Texas.


Still more maple leaves...


...and more.


You guessed it.


A classic Lacey Oak growing along the side of a cliff.


Along the East Trail.


Sycamores against the autumn sky.


Can Creek Canyon, again.


And again.


Shadow on a rusty metal plate.

November 20 - morning

A "Yuletide" Camellia sasanqua blooming on our back porch. One of the few signs of Christmas I don't mind seeing before Thanksgiving.

We had our first frost last week and it took us by surprise - the forecast had called for temperatures in the low forties, but when I made my morning inspection tour, there was ice in the bird bath and many tender plants were brown. I don't think we lost anything - but this week we'll have our hands full   cutting back the perennials and moving our cold sensitive container plants to safer quarters.

For those of you from Austin, I hope that you will catch KLRU's local program, Austin Now , this coming week. We will feature my piece on "Gratitude" from the Soul of the Garden series and present a short documentary with author, Richard Louv, whose book Last Child in the Woods, explores the broken bond between American children and nature. It's an important topic and Rich is a great guy. The interview was conducted at Westcave Preserve, one of the most beautiful spots in Texas.

One other announcement... On Saturday, December 16, I will be leading a class at The Crossings called "Landscapes of Meaning and Memory." This class is offered as part of a week-end long event called "Dreaming of a Green Texas." This class and the full retreat should provide the perfect antidote to Holiday season excess and stress. I hope to see you there.

The butterfly migration has been in full-swing.


Bigtooth Maples at the Bamberger Ranch.

November 21 - evening

My sister sent me the picture above on the same day I received the message below... syncronicity!

Lessons We Learn From Geese
Author Unknown

Next fall when you see geese heading south for the winter... flying
along in V might consider what science has discovered as
to why they fly that way:

Fact 1:
As each goose flaps its wings it creates an "uplift" for the birds that
follow. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds 71% greater
flying range than if each bird flew alone.
People who share a common direction and sense of community can get where
they are going quicker and easier because they are traveling on the
thrust of one another.

Fact 2:
When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and
resistance of flying alone. It quickly moves back into formation to take
advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front of it.
If we have as much sense as a goose we stay in formation with those
headed where we want to go. We are willing to accept their help and give
our help to others.

Fact 3:
When the lead goose tires, it rotates back into the formation and
another goose flies to the point position.
It pays to take turns doing the hard tasks and sharing leadership. As
with geese, people are interdependent on each other's skills,
capabilities and unique arrangements of gifts, talents or resources.

Fact 4:
The geese flying in formation honk to encourage those up front to keep
up their speed.
We need to make sure honking is encouraging. In groups where there is
encouragement the production is much greater. The power of encouragement
(to stand by one's heart or core values and encourage the heart and core
of others) is the quality of honking we seek.

Fact 5:
When a goose gets sick, wounded, or shot down, two geese drop out of
formation and follow it down to help and protect it. They stay with it
until it dies or is able to fly again. Then, they launch out with
another formation or catch up with the flock.
If we have as much sense as geese, we will stand by each other in
difficult times as well as when we are strong.


A Christamas card from my sister.


An image from one of our buddies. Thanks, Chris!

November 23 - morning

Part of the harvest at Boggy Creek Farm. Happy Thanksgiving!

What does it mean to be thankful? To live a life filled with gratitude? On this day I hope that you find some small "ordinarily sacred" thing in your life to give thanks for. Then, consider the gift of your own awareness, that fleeting spark of consciousness that allows this world to be known. I find it very comforting to know that, despite the many difficulties we encounter and the inevitability of our own end, we have participated in something immensely grand and exquisitely beautiful. Give thanks. Peace.

Here are some more images taken yesterday at Boggy Creek Farm:


One of the littlest visitors looked a bit overwhelmed...


...but he had a friend to help him.


The farmhouse is one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Austin. I loved the way the light was falling on this window.




On the back porch.


Rocking chair detail.


Antique varieties of roses were blooming everywhere.


Can you almost smell the fragrance?


I am not sure which variety of rose this is - but it is one happy plant.


All is well.

November 24 - afternoon

Agave detail.

We enjoyed a quiet day-after-Thanksgiving without going into a single store. Instead, we took a stroll around Town Lake, a typical lazy-day actvity here in Austin. Here are a few pictures from our walk...


There are several impressive Agaves planted along the north shore of the Lake. I love their texture and the imprinted patterns on their leaves.


One of the swans that call the Lake home.


The quickly changing skyline.


Rowing is a favorite Town Lake past-time.



There are several Bald Cypress trees on the south shore of the lake that are about 1,500 years old, this is among the largest.


Fading light in our garden.


Issa warming up in the morning sun.

November 25 - evening

Autumnal reflections at McKinney Falls State Park

Another beautiful, if a bit warm, autumn day here in Austin. Victor and I spent a good part of the day strolling through our "backyard" State Park - McKinney Falls, which is less than ten miles from the Capitol building here in Austin. It was a wonderful way to pass the time and it was especially nice to share the park with a handful of young families who were out introducing their children to nature. Seeing them, I thought about the time I spent with Richard Louv just last month. Louv's book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, is being featured on my program Austin Now this weekend. Rich saw the piece I produced on our website and seemed very pleased by it - I hope that you'll check it out too - it is a gentle reminder to take the time to listen to the wind in the trees as well as the longings of our hearts (which are really so much simpler and, in the end, easier to satisfy than the cartoonish longings celebrated in all of the holiday ads.)

I am sure most of the area malls were mobbed compared to the handful of families out enjoying the park today. The newspapers and news programs were filled with images of frantic shoppers lining up at the doors and piling up in the aisles of stores around the country... sometimes we really do seem like we have lost our minds. I am reminded of an old Will Rogers quote -

"Too many people spend money they haven't earned to buy things they don't want, to impress people they don't like."

What kind of culture have we created that is so completely dependent on such excess? Like animals from an old Tarzan movie, we seem driven into the jaws of this frenzy by the never-ceasing and cleverly-orchestrated drumbeat of consumerism. The din that has pervaded every corner of our lives is so loud that some of us have forgotten what our own voices sound like. In her book of essays, Small Wonder, Barabara Kingsolver, addresses this problem, "We see so much, understand so little, and are simultaneously told so much about What We Think, as a populace polled minute by minute, that it begins to feel like an extraneous effort to listen at all to our hearts."

In another essay from the book, one in which she describes the Thanksgiving that she shared with her family just after 9/11, Kingsolver talks about the reaction of many foreigners to Americans travelling abroad - they repeatedly ask, "Why isn't your country as nice as you are?" Now, there is a bumper sticker for our times! Why isn't our country as nice as you? Part of the answer to that question is the lifestyle we have all quite literally bought into. It is hard for others to think of us as "nice" when we are consuming the resources of the world at a stupefying rate. It is also hard to be nice when we are elbowing our way to the front of a perpetual line.

Oh well, I didn't mean to preach... 

Today, I spent a few moments watching rust colored cypress needles drift into a stream. I just wanted to share how deeply satisfying that was.


Cypress needles landing...


A lovely scene.


Another ancient cypress.


Rough-leafed dogwood in its autumn finery.


Growing out of crevice between limestone shelves.


Grass seed-heads.


The water's path through the stone.

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