Wednesday, June 24, 2015

not to be confused with the Swiss rhinoceros.

When we got J back, I asked him what he did with his week away from us, and said there had been a very long and annoying "knot-tying lesson." This turned out to be a failed attempt to teach the boy to tie his shoes, which not only left him unable to tie his shoes (his fine motor control makes it a high-effort, low-return investment, easily bypassed with cord-locks on his laces) but anxious about his inability. We were discussing when Anna had gotten around to shoe-tying.
"Yeah, I dunno, there was some story that's supposed to make it easier to remember--"
"The rabbit goes down the hole, and around the tree, or the other way around."
"--right. It's very confusing."
The child continued to perseverate.
"There's also the second part about the rhinoceros coming back up the hole to drink tea and eat flowers."
"What? It doesn't say that!"
"Sure it does. The whole story goes back to Germany in 1542. The Middle Ages. "
"No it doesn't!"
"1452, I guess it's the Renaissance, actually."
"That's not true!"
"The Reformation was a really confusing time for Europe."
"You know, if you wrote a book of all the fake history you make up, it'd be really funny."
My hope is that education will leave him sending me indignant text messages about a childhood filled with semi-plausible half-truths.

Or, as Anna put it after he'd read a few Calvin & Hobbes books: "Okay, Calvin's Dad."

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

summer plant update

"Summer" is a funky term around here, since we've had highly variable temperatures, reaching summery heights over a month ago. As always in California, the constants are a lack of rain, and a blinding sunlight that washes out the colors of the world and seems to find you even in the shade.

Our trees seem only variously happy, presumably from the drought. Some of them, like Loki the loquat, "cherry" plum, pomegranate, and Driveway Peach have taken the year off from fruiting. The Sidewalk Peach is taking it easy with the fruit, and may be adjusting to the heavy pruning we did--although that was only clearing out all the dead branches. Driveway Peach, to be fair, may still be recovering from the loss of its major branch two seasons ago, when the weight of the fruit snapped it off.

I put "cherry" in quotes because its companion, the pluot tree, is putting out fruit twice the size of previous years, so I imagine if the water table were higher, we'd be getting full-size pluots (we're already close). We fertilized it once and we've been watering it daily for a long time, so it seems possible that the "cherry" plum is just a plum that was discouraged and low on resources.

Figgy, of course, is going gangbusters like there's no drought. She was heavily pruned and seems to have responded with an explosion of leaves and nascent figs. The Figpocalypse will come for you. There is no escape.

I've had daydreams about making a dehydrator (wood frame + window screening + fan), but in reality I should probably just buy one. The figs in particular I hate to see go to waste, but there are so many of them it's not even practical to capture them all as fig puree (which is nice for baking, but takes up too much space and doesn't get used quickly enough).

Surprisingly, the apple tree is surging this year, despite being crammed in between Figgy and the pomegranate. Once we understood when the apples are ripe (November-ish), they were pretty good last year.

You may or may not remember that there were 8 rose...things, in front of the house when we moved in. "Bush" is sort of a strong term, but they were old rose plants, typical for rental properties around here. We don't care for roses and certainly didn't want them in the yard, so we invited people to come dig them up. They dug a foot or two down in the ground, pulled up the plants, and boom, we were done.

Eighteen months later, we have 9 rose plants.

The first Zombie Rose has been blooming regularly, first one flower, then two, and is currently at four. These are not the flowers of a plant in difficulty; they are bright, large, beautiful red roses. It's hard enough for me to think of roses as high-maintenance when they're one of the default half-assed-landscaping plants for low/mid-range rentals, but it's another thing entirely when people dig up the plants and then they simply grow back, in a record drought, without any watering.

Zombie Roses.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

east coast

I was just in New England! We went to Connecticut for my high school reunion. Despite predictions, it didn't rain: New England is having what they call a drought, which is the adorable thing where it doesn't rain there for a few months. (When California is not in a drought, we call that situation "April through December.")

There's so much water in the air there, all going to waste. What a shame. We spent a lot of time being wistful for a place with such greenery that just happens, without a lot of effort. (Sure, if you slack off you might get the wrong greenery, but something's gonna grow.) I mostly don't need my sunglasses out there, which is something I'd forgotten or never noticed. Is it the latitude (41 vs. 38)? The humidity? I don't know.

We went back for my nth high school reunion, and front-loaded it with a couple of days with my parents, which was lovely. Anna's goal for the trip was to gather fascinating and tantalizing stories of Young Chris, and I suppose spend time with me in the process. She got at least a few good ones, including the time when one of my best friends decided to hang-drop off a 1.5-story roof just to prove he'd be okay: he remembered the ER, but his memory left out the part where I hauled him over to the infirmary, made up a story for what happened, and held his hand while they cut off his shoe to look at his ankle.

(I'll make no claims for having good judgment as a teenager, but I did have strong impulse control. When I fucked something up, I tend[ed] to plan it in advance.)

I identified four different kinds of people I see at reunions, which map almost exactly to our relationships while in school:
  1. Actual friends. You're both genuinely happy to see each other.
  2. Friendly acquaintances. You're happy to see each other and content with the limited but positive role you played in each other's younger lives.
  3. People who were indifferent or hostile during school, who now feel able and compelled to greet you as though you have a shared history you can celebrate together.
  4. People who honor the fact that you were indifferent or hostile to each other during school, and that our relationship probably didn't blossom into something more positive over a couple decades of not speaking to each other.
I have a lot of respect for #4, and quite a number of classmates did me the favor of not even acknowledging my attendance. (There were just over 100 of us, so we all knew everyone's name and face at one point.)

 #3 I find a little confusing, and what Anna calls the "assumption of intimacy" is not at all unique to reunions. I wonder if they just have an idea about how classmates should feel about each other, much like parents can have an idea about how a family should interact, and that idea fails to give way to the reality of the people and relationships actually involved.

It was good to see some of the old gang, see the campus in its majestic summer beauty, and see what few teachers haven't retired yet.

We went to a panel interview with the last three heads of the school, including the one who left shortly after I graduated. He's a dynamic, wickedly intelligent and learned man--when I met him as a 13-year old, something in our conversation left me at a loss for words, and immediately my mother correctly decided he was amazing. The moderator asked some question about events during his tenure, and he rambled quite a bit about the guy who had preceded him and the changes in New England private schools around that time. But in the rambling...
And then Northfield-Mount Hermon, which is, strangely enough, now in the Mount Hermon campus, having sold the beautiful Northfield campus to the C.S. Lewis Center for the Preservation of the Most Naive and Backward Interpretations of Christianity..."
It's good to see he's still got it, in his mid-80s.