Prospect Gardens Summer Time

Prospect Gardens Summer Time
Summer Scene

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Heat, a Surprise, Blooms & Thresholds

During the last two days Madison residents experienced record breaking heat. Temperatures were in the low 90s, with high humidity and a heat index of at least a 105.  Early morning hours were pleasant as I did my Tai Chi on the deck. I felt the heat increasing as the sun rose higher in the sky.  Each day the temperatures were in the 80s by ten o'clock.

Generally, I like summer heat. Yet on Saturday during my mid-morning walk, which included a stop at the bank, I stayed in the shade as much as possible. On returning home I walked along Lake Wingra. I savored the brisk wind off of  the lake. This poem by the American poet and novelist Hilda Doolittle, who published as H.D., reflects my feelings as the wind cooled my body.


H. D. (Hilda Doolittle) , 1886 - 1961

O wind, rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it to tatters.

Fruit cannot drop
through this thick air--
fruit cannot fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat--
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.

Last Friday's (the 29th) work session with the UW Badger Volunteers was cancelled because of the heat. Fortunately, earlier in the week when Ann and I tended the Gardens temperatures were tolerable. On Thursday morning, I left early to meet Janice, a former colleague. On her way to work, she delivered this Purple Cone flower, along with another bunch and Golden Rod. Thanks Janice. 

Janice is an avid gardener. As a volunteer she also tends a prairie off of Atwood Avenue and on the east side of Madison. Lovely prairie that borders vegetable gardens along a bike path. We discussed the challenges of recruiting volunteers. I offered to meet with her at an Atwood Avenue coffee shop to discuss recruitment. She mentioned developing a marketing plan for the east side prairie. Something to consider for Prospect Gardens. My concentrated recruitment efforts starting in March has not substantially increased the number of volunteers.

 As I waited for Janice's arrival, I happened to glance where the Prickly Pear cacti are located.To my surprise, this one had a delicate yellow bloom. Several years ago John, the Secretary of Legacy Solar Co-op, donated and planted the cacti. Later on I excitedly informed John of this surprising event. John takes care of the cacti.

This is the first year one has bloomed. On Saturday's walk I noticed the delicate bloom was disappearing. Oh the impermanence of beauty and life itself.

I trimmed the Forsythia that was shading the cacti. Sometime in the Fall I may move the cacti to a more sunny and prominent place in the Gardens. Perhaps this will encourage more blooms. John thinks this a good idea and he has recommended it for several years.

Here's a close up of the showy bloom. Like a happy and proud adoptive parent, I made sure Janice saw the bloom before she left for work as well as another neighbor and her three friends who were passing by.  Laura B., another volunteer working on a prairie further down the path, stopped as she was biking. We both admired the blooming cactus. 

In 2000-01 Laura B.,with some help from her husband and minimal help from another volunteer, planted a prairie west along the Path and near the Beltline, a highway bypass around Madison. She shared how she seeded the Prairie and the challenges of maintaining it. Her husband was initially very involved in developing the Southwest Path. 

It was good to visit with an experienced and dedicated restorer of prairies. Laura tends what she calls "the big ditch." A few days later Laura emailed that during weeding the ditch she noticed swamp milkweed, boneset, cord grass, and other wet-tolerant natives. She added: "This is with no burns and very little maintenance since it was seeded in 2001-2. It’s rewards like this that keep me coming back." The blooming cactus is one my rewards for coming back to Prospect Gardens. 

Last Monday, the 25th, I completed the rock removal project, which I commented about in my last blog entry. Here's a portion of the new bed with fewer rocks, new and more soil and various kinds of native prairie grasses donated by Nate, a nearby neighbor. Thanks again, Nate.

Redeveloping the bed took time, patience and involved much sweating. Pushing a wheelbarrow full of rock down the path and up the ramp to a temporary location tested my endurance. It's a task that I don't want to do for awhile.

Here's a close up of the newly planted native grasses. As they grow they will fill-in the entire bed. Rocks still cover the adjoining area west of this new bed. Removing these and planting more grasses, perhaps, is in the future, but not this summer. My rock days are over for this season.

To close I share with you four pictures of what is now blooming in Prospect Gardens and another poem. Like the blooming cactus, their return are the rewards for tending the Gardens.

 Here's a showy Lily up against an old white picket fence on the south side of the Gardens. Love the pale and vibrant yellow. A former neighbor now a resident of Oakwood, a west side retirement community, donated these several years ago. Every spring they have shown up.

This patch needs to be transplanted and moved up front so more folks can enjoy the splendor of these returning beauties. Another task for the Fall. I will subdivide the bulbs. There  will be plenty to share with Dianne, a neighbor near the Gardens.
Here's a Pale Purple Cone.The Gardens have fewer of these  compared to the more hearty and deeper colored Purple Cones. The Purple Cones are thriving compared to their pale cousins and I really don't know why. Something to look into during the winter months.
 Behind this butterfly house is the marvelous and delicate Queen of the Prairie. This year the Queens are making a come back. Last year a disease or fungus attacked the leaves before the blooms could appear. I cut the plants back rather than spraying. 
This patch of Poppy Mallow or Winecups, part of Peg's memorial garden, returned in all its splendor. What a marvelous ground cover that blooms for a long time and what a splashy welcome to all who descend the stairs or enter the ramp to the path on the south side of the Gardens. These are as vibrant as was Peg's spirit.

On this warm evening I end with another poem. Gardening, heat and summer itself are instances of thresholds. This poem is from our church's recent newsletter, The Madison Unitarian, which is devoted to thresholds. It speaks to me about the significance and power of thresholds we experience in life. They are entrances to truth and the crossing process towards truth includes letting go. 

Entrance by Rainer Maria Rilkg (trans. Dana Goia)

Whoever you are: step out of doors tonight,
Out of the room that lets you feel secure.
Infinity is open to your sight.
Whoever you are.
With eyes that have forgotten how to see
From viewing things already too well-known,
Lift up into the dark a huge, black tree
And put it in the heavens: tall, alone.
And you have made the world and all you see.
It ripens like the words still in your mouth.
And when at last you comprehend its truth.
Then close your eyes and gently set it free. 

Monday, June 18, 2018

Gardening, Storms, Memories & a Poem

Woke up about 2:30 a.m. Saturday morning to the sound of rain hammering on the windows and the metal siding of our apartment building. I peaked out between the blinds of our large bedroom window and witnessed sheets of rain pouring down, trees swaying in the powerful wind, and the intersection of Monroe and Knickerbocker Streets filling up with water. Later I learned that five inches of rain fell during the storm.

 A Prospect Gardens work session was scheduled to start at 9 a.m.  This storm was not in the forecast, while predicted were 90 degree temperatures by noon.  Ann and I arrived at the Gardens before 8:30 am.  In several places I could see where torrents of water passed through the Gardens. I was relieved to see minimal damage to the Gardens.  Yet, the Ox Eyed daisies, once proud and stately, now bowed to Mother Earth. 

We persisted despite the rising temperatures as the morning unfolded. Along with Ann and I, the stalwarts were Loren, Laura and Eli. Thank you so much for tolerating the heat and all that we accomplished.  Here we are taking a break and enjoying Ann's homemade brownies.
 Most of the morning involved removing Bishops' Weed as Laura is doing in this picture. This plant's continuous presence is a lesson in practicing patience and acceptance.  After all, Bishops' Weed does provide ground cover. Yet at times I feel discouraged about keeping this aggressive invader at bay.

The rip rock, such as the pile pictured here, complicates removal of Bishops' Weed. Their roots and tubers go under the rock into the soil. This pile is the result of removing rock from a section of the Garden and more remains. Sometime during the upcoming week, I may remove more. Then I will replace with topsoil and plant grasses donated by Nate, a neighbor.  Thanks, Nate.

While removing rocks, a man stopped and offered his thanks for me tending the Gardens. He said that I was doing God's work. I replied that when it comes to the rocks, sometimes I feel like I have encountered the devil's work.

Less taxing than rock removal and more pleasurable is refurbishing the depleted strawberry patch. Here are some of the plants put in early Saturday morning. Ann V., a friend, donated these from her fabulous vegetable garden.  I anticipate strawberries next year.

It's strawberry season. My plans are to visit the Farmers Market around Madison's downtown Square this Saturday and buy berries. Getting there early is always a good idea because by 9 a.m. the sidewalks are jammed. The Market is always a feast for the senses. The colorful flower, vegetable and bakery stands line all four sides of the Square and around the Capitol with its beautiful and well manicured flower beds.

Ann V. also donated this Peace Lily. The white blooms makes this a rather unique Day Lily. I look forward with anticipation to the unfolding beauty that will grace this corner of the Gardens. This one plant will spread and multiply. Thanks Ann V. for including it with the strawberry plants.

It was one o'clock by the time I hauled the equipment in the green plastic wheelbarrow to the shed. My attention turned to the effects of the night time storm.  Here's a downed catalpa tree about a half block south of the Gardens.  A catalpa has a special place in my heart.The tree always reminds me of our wedding celebration. Because of legal requirements in WI, a judge married us in Portland on May 25th, witnessed by two close friends, Darrel and Beth.

Thirty-nine years ago, this July 7th, Ann and I returned from Oregon to celebrate with family and friends. The celebration started with Ann and I repeating our Portland vows under a catalpa tree in the backyard of my brother-in-law Chuck and sister-in-law Kathy's home. A Unitarian Minister officiated.  After a dinner at a nearby restaurant, we returned to Chuck and Kathy's home and continued to celebrate as the blooming catalpa witnessed our happiness and the joy of family and friends.

 A half block west of Prospect Gardens this giant, a witness to the changes in our neighborhood, gave way to the storm's fury. Trains once rumbled past including, in the early 1950's, steam powered locomotives. Now walkers, runners, parents pushing strollers, unicycles and bikers stream by. Among the bikers are shiny lyric glad youth traveling at a fast pace. Some strike me as having little time to notice aging trees and the passing of time.

On my walk on Saturday afternoon I encountered this scene about a half block from our apartment and near the entrance to Wingra Park. The roof of the buried Prius was caved in and the windshield shattered. Imagine the owner's surprise. Also on my walk I encountered two more downed trees a few blocks west of the Prius.

I started and ended my walk at the annual Jazz in the Park festival, just across the street from our apartment.  Here's the bandstand with the nearby Edgewood College jazz band on stage and my fellow neighbors. You can see Lake Wingra in the background. Temperatures were in the low 90s and most of us were hugging the shade.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, June 17th, the heat wave continues with a temperature of 91 degrees. Ann and I are content here in the coolness of our air conditioned apartment.  Ah... the marvels of air conditioning.  I recall the hot and sweltering summer nights of my youth in that large square farmhouse. Some of my brothers and sisters would sleep on the front porch or we would move our beds closer to the bedroom window hoping to catch a breeze.

I also remember what my Mother did during fierce storms when lightning flashed and thunder rattled the windows of our farmhouse. She calmly approaches the front of the wood stove in the living room and in her hand are holy palms blessed during that year's Palm Sunday. She  strikes a match, tosses the flaming palms into the stove's firebox and crosses herself while saying in Polish, "In the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Ghost."  She believed that this ritual protected the home and us from a lightning strike. Perhaps it did because lightning never struck the farmhouse or us.

The next Prospect Gardens work session will be June 29th from 1:30 p.m. to 4.  John Imes and his UW Badger Volunteers will be with us. John is the Director of the non-profit, the Environmental Initiative and a primary candidate for our state assembly seat. He and his wife own the Arbor Inn, a former bed and breakfast, in our neighborhood. The Inn is for sale and lodging at the Inn is available through Airbnb, the online reservation system involving staying at private residences.

On the 29th, guess what? We will once again be focusing on Bishops' Weeds, and so life continues. Patience and to some extent acceptance may reign. For now I offer this poem by John O'Donohue for our reflections:

To Come Home to Yourself

May all that is unforgiven in you
Be released.
May your fears yield
Their deepest tranquilities.
May all that is unlived in you
Bloom in the future
Graced by Love.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Good News Days

May 31st, a Thursday, was a "good news day" at Prospect Gardens, as was Saturday, June 2nd.  Here's what Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, founder of a world wide Buddhist community, and teacher says about the challenges and benefits of being mindful of life's good news.

The Good News
The good news
they do not print.
The good news
we do print.
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
that the linden tree is still there, standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you, and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong. Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile, singing the song of eternity. Listen. You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow, of preoccupation,
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.

Gardening to me has a spirtual demension. Last Thursday during the six hours plus, I tended the Gardens, I had many moments when I felt free of the world of sorrow, connected to those who were helping me tend the Gardens, and felt connected to the natural world.

Pictured here is the Conservation Crew from Operation Fresh Start (OFS), a Madison youth program. This was the second time a OFS crew worked in the Gardens this year. The crew was provided through a contract with the City Engineering Division. Thanks Maddie Dumas, the Division's Greenway Vegetation Coordinator, for making the crew available. The crew worked diligently and I enjoyed my interactions with them. The four youth, each in their own way, contributed to making it a "good news day".

Ryan, the man with the sunglasses, is the Conservation Crew supervisor.  Ryan also has an important teaching role.  I watched Ryan use "teachable moments" to instruct his charges on matters related to prairies, invasives, and plants found in the Gardens.  Ryan knows a lot about prairies.  I asked and he gave me advice about spacing columbines that I was planting. Ryan also cultivates day lilies. He gave a brief lesson on cross pollination after plucking a day lily and explaining  its various parts. His charges and I listened attentively.

The crew weeded and specifically removed Jewelweed, a plant with many benefits while being aggressive. Native Americans and Herbalists have used Jewelweed plant for centuries as a natural preventative and treatment for poison ivy and poison oak; and it is a folk remedy for many other skin disorders. I can attest to how the liquid from a split open Jewelweed stem eliminates the pain from Stinging Nettles, which are in the Gardens.

Jewelweed spread over a substantial area and were competing with grasses and prairie plants. With some hesitation, I decided to have the OFS crew reign in the invaders. By 11:00am, the OFS crew had cleared the affected area.

Most of my time involved creating other new beds, planting and mulching while OFS tackled the Jewelweed.  Pictured are the some of the results. The bed near the bottom of the picture has grasses. If you look closely  you can see the prairie drop seed plugs. The middle bed has Columbine which will hopefully thrive and bloom next spring.  The top bed has Black Eyed Susans and Lanc-leaf Coreopsis. The Gardens will have a swath of bright yellow when both plants bloom, hopefully later this summer.
The following five blooming plants contributed to the "good news of the day" and a mood of tranquility. Here's the Oxeye Daisy adding a dash of yellow and white.  I wonder why they are called "Oxeye?"  Perhaps the yellow center is the eye?

The Blue False Indigo blooms again after being in the Gardens for years. This one's ancestors was one of the first plants when the Gardens were first developed. Speaking of ancestors, I received the results of Ancestry's DNA testing. No surprises: 97% from Eastern Europe and the remaining 3% Western Europe. It's confirmation of my Polish heritage.

This is the third year for the Golden Alexander. Zizia aurea, the official name, is a perennial forb of the carrot family. Didn't know that until I Googled to learn the correct spelling of Alexander.  "Forb", just in case your are interested, is a flowering prairie plant. Oh,the magic of the Internet.

Here's the wild Spiderwort with its delicate lite purple blossoms. Another variety has white blossoms. The flowers open in the morning and close sometime during the day.
The Gardens have perennials besides prairies plants. Here's one of my favorites, the Japanese Iris. I love the purple color. The Gardens also have Day Lilies and Hosta. It looks like we will have an abundance of raspberries and cherries.

On Saturday, my brother Louie and his wife, Corine, were in town for a nephew's rugby game. A team from Pulaski, my high school almamater,  was playing for the state championship in nearby Cottage Grove.

 More good news. We visited for a few hours as we toured University of Wisconsin's Alumni Park ,which I mentioned in a previous blog entry, and during lunch in the Memorial Union's Rathskeller.  More opportunities to leave behind the world of sorrow while feeling the love of family.

Facebook informed me that Pulaski won the game. They are now the state champions. Fifty two pictures showed the action and the post-game celebration.

After a nap in the mid-afternoon, Ann and I ventured to Home Depot and the Bruce Company. We purchased annuals for the pots on our deck. The bright colors will continue throughout the summer. I usually have breakfeast on the deck as well as do my Tai Chi.

May you have many moments of tranquility as summer unfolds and experience the freedom expressed in Thich Nhat Hanh's poem. 

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Bucky, Memories and Summer Heat

It's 91 degrees outside according to my smart phone app and high temps will continue through Tuesday. I thought I would first mention the 85 Bucky statutes situated throughout the Madison area. I have not seen all 85 and so far these are my two favorites.

Here's "One Leg Up" Bucky on the Library Mall and in front of the 60-year-old Hagenah Fountain. This one reflects the tradition of periodically placing thousands of flamingos on nearby Bascom Hill. The fountain is at the intersection of concrete pathways between Memorial Library and the Wisconsin Historical Society, and across the street from Memorial Union. The Library and the State Historical Society are still some of my favorite buildings as they were when I was a UW student during the 1960s.  Ann and I spent a few hours Friday visiting the nearby new Alumni Park. A stunning space that commemorates the contributions of alumni. A must see when you visit Madison.

Here's "Blooming Bucky" located on Henry Mall. Ag Hall is in the background. Wonder if "Blooming Bucky" would like to relocate to Prospect Gardens? Not going to happen.

My office before retiring was in a building to Bucky's left  overlooking the Mall. I loved the eight years when I led the evaluation unit of the Environmental Resources Center.  I learned how to phrase survey questions asking farmers about manure spreading behaviors, a very touchy subject for them.

Often from Spring through Fall around noon, I walked through Henry Mall on my way to Allen Centennial Gardens, one of my favorite campus gardens. I took refuge while enjoying lunch in the splendors of the gardens. Sometimes, I would stop in nearby Babcock Hall for ice cream or frozen yogurt.  Another must stop for anybody visiting Madison.

Enough of this nostalgia. Today's work session started early with comfortable temperatures and tolerable humidity. At about 8:00am, and on the way to the Gardens we stopped at Aileen's nearby home to dig up Purple Cone flowers. Thanks Aileen for this gift.  This last winter was tough on these usually hardy and showy prairie plants. Aileen's donation replaced some Purple Cones that failed to survive.

Surviving, and in bloom are the Columbines, pictured here. These are the offspring of the first Columbines planted nine years ago.  May they continue to thrive as the years slip by. However, they will quickly fade away because of the impending 90 degree days.  "August like" heat is with us.

 Also, among the winter survivors are these Prairie Smoke. These were planted about four years ago. The charming, nodding pink flowers give rise to feathery, smoky-pink seed heads that decorate the plants into mid-summer.

A neighbor, Percy, donated several clumps of the originals. Most disappeared except for this one. Once again these Gardens confirm the unpredictability of gardening and of life itself. Change and impermanence, paradoxically, are the constants of life.

These flowers remind me of how my Grandma Julia was a gifted flower and vegetable gardener.  Peonies and iris were just a few of her favorites. At this time of the year, Grandma Julia would be preparing the ground for her large vegetable and fruit garden.  Her garden fed our large family well into the winter.

Here is today's crew.  Ann my wife took the picture and once again provided the homemade treat, Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars. We just finished enjoying these goodies. Thanks Ann for the treat and your hard work in the hot sun.  Pictured on the first step starting on the left is Mulch King Bob, Eli, me, and in the back starting on the left are Steve, Eric, and Laura.

Eli is finishing seventh grade and is already developing a fondness for gardening.  He told me he will be attending a gardening camp this summer.  Eli joining today's crew confirms the passage of time. I recall baby Eli being carried by his father, John,  in our old neighborhood.

Eric is an Americorp member at Madison's James Madison Memorial High School.  When I was his age, I completed a teacher practicum in 1968 at Memorial. Memorial just opened that year and I was assigned to a senior Economics course.  I only had one college level econ course and remember stumbling through a lesson that included the "demand curve."  Those seniors tolerated my ignorance.   
 While the crew weeded I spent time preparing and planting beds. A special "thank you" to all for diligently pulling overgrown and unwanted tall plants.

Plants pictured here are: Black-eyed Susan, Lavender Hyssop, Lance-leaf Coreopsis, Wild Columbine and Prairie Dropseed. Many of these still remain to be placed in the Gardens.   Perhaps on Monday, I will plant them. The prediction of 96 degree temperature means getting up early to plant in the cooler morning.  Heavy mulching and frequent watering will be required.

 Here's the before planting picture of two beds. Before planting much time was spent on the removal of roots and rhizomes of the dreaded Bishops Weed.  Rest assured, that despite my persistence, some still remain and will rise again.
Here's the planted and mulched beds.  Mulch King Bob assisted along with Steve. Now I await the magic of Mother Nature with the assistance of vigilant me. These will need watering as this summer heat continues.

So another Memorial Day is just about here. Images from past Memorial days when I was growing up near Pulaski, Wisconsin flood my mind. World War Two vets from Pulaski's American Legion sold red paper poppies during the week before Memorial Day. On the appointed day, we made the six mile car trip into the nearby village. One year we made the trip in a very rusted out 1954 Chevy.

We silently watched the somber parade of American Legionnaires including members of the Women's Auxiliary dressed in white uniforms, white stockings, white shoes and with blue capes and white nurse-like caps.  The high school band led the parade.

The parade made its way to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary cemetery. We followed. Flags on the veterans' graves fluttered in the warm breeze as a smaller contingent of Legionnaires assembled. The appointed one played Taps. The melancholy sound waffled over the hushed assembly. A gun salute followed. Sometimes, the shots would not be synchronized because one of the vets responsible for the salute was slow on the trigger. He pulled the trigger after the others fired. Nobody seemed to mind that the salute was imperfect. At least nobody laughed, that I can recall.

I just Googled to learn if  Pulaski still has a Memorial Day Parade. Sad to say that it seems like there is no parade.  However, the 40th annual Polka Days, attracting thousands,will again be held from July 19th through the 22nd, my birthday.  I most likely will not be one among the thousands who come from throughout the Midwest.  Although sometimes I am tempted to go because when I was young I loved to polka. However, the July heat is a disincentive to attendance. Also, I like celebrating my birthday with a play at the outdoor's American Players Theater in Spring Green. Oh, the choices I have before me.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Equanimity and Prospect Gardens

Sun and blue skies are with us once again after several days of rain. Equanimity is on my mind.  In the Buddhist tradition, equanimity is one of the four heavenly abodes or benevolent states of mind. The others are friendliness, compassion and joy. These heavenly abodes contribute to a sense that heaven is nowhere else but right here on this earth. Equanimity, often referred to as "balance" in Buddhist teaching, is defined in Webster's dictionary as "mental calmness, composure, and evenness of temper, especially in a difficult situation."  Wendell Barry's poem "The Peace of Wild Things" exemplifies equanimity.

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethoughts
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

I experienced equanimity as Ann, neighbors and I tended the Prospect Gardens on several days from May 5th and through yesterday, May 14th. As I noted in my last blog entry one of the gardening challenges (not quite despair) is the invasion of Bishop's weeds coupled with rip-rock.  I am happy to report that my relationship with Bishop's Weed has attained a level of balance. 
Several new beds now exist as a result of removing rocks and filling in with fresh black dirt. These are relatively free of Bishop's Weed.  I say "relative"  because one never knows if all the roots have been removed. Bishops Weed can regrow from severed roots, so a new crop may arise. Meanwhile, I celebrate the spaciousness of my mind regarding the future of Bishops Weed while enjoying the stark beauty of the new beds.  On May 26th the beds will be replanted.  
These two beds were especially challenging. Bishops Weeds covered the area with roots deep into the earth and burrowing underneath surrounding rocks.  

Work involved removing rocks and dismantling and then resembling the terrace wall dividing the two beds. I started at nine and finished at about 2:30 pm on May 8th. As I worked I had little sense of passing time while enjoying breaks for conversations with several neighbors who were passing by.  Dianne, a neighbor, provided welcoming bottles of cool water. I look forward to the upcoming replanting.  I suspend expectations about the eventual outcome once these beds are replanted . Gardens have their own way.

On May 5th, several neighbors joined Ann and I.  Here's a few pictures revealing their hard work, generosity and our comradery. 

 Here's Ann N. taking a stand as she trims some shrubs.  Thanks Ann for once again joining the crew. Your expertise, humor and energy contributed to equanimity.
 Steve and Tom tackling the weeds around, in and above the raspberry patch. I overhead a pleasant discussion between the two as they weeded. Thanks Steve and Tom.  This was Tom's first visit.

Tom is a member of a small group from our church, First Unitarian Society, that I also belong to. Our little group meets twice a month with a focus on meditation and Buddhism.

Tom and I started reading Robert Wright's "Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment."  We met at Colectivo to discuss what we read and other topics not related to the book that emerged during our enjoyable discussion.

Here's Hanns preparing to tackle Bishops Weed in this area of the gardens.  Thanks, Hanns for helping out.  I enjoyed his sense of humor, which is indicated in this picture.  Here he is acting out plunging his hand spade toward the patch of weeds.
Here's most of the crew: Steve, me, Tom and Laura and Ann N. Not pictured is Ann B., Hanns and Bob affectionately knows as the "mulch king."  We are enjoying Ann's homemade Toffee Squares. Thanks Ann B. for the delicious treat and for your hard work in the Gardens.

Laura cleaned out the overgrown strawberry patch. Thanks Laura. The weeds survived the winter while only 12 strawberry plants made it into spring.  I will be refurbishing the bed with strawberry plants from a friend... another Ann... and her thriving gardens. (She will be distinguished as Ann V.)

On  May 14th, Ann B., Bob and I rescued and transplanted grasses from the site of the nearby former Associated Bank. The bank moved to the first floor of a new apartment building several blocks further east on Monroe Street.

Following the recent Madison trend, another apartment building with 60 units and businesses on the first floor will rise on the site. Demolition of the bank we used since moving to Madison in 1986 is now underway.

Here's Bob digging up the grasses.  A special thank you for coming out on a wet Monday morning. The site has other wonderful plants that wait their fate.  My urge to rescue more is high while being realistic that my time is limited.  I also realize that Prospect Gardens don't need the type of  potentially available plants.

Here's the new home for most of the transplanted grasses. They will grow to be  least four tall and hopefully spread. I look forward to their growth. They should also help stabilize the site and prevent erosion. Go to it grasses!

I end with two pictures that contributed to the mental state of equanimity that gardening  enhances. The Gardens' Red Bud and Cherry trees are blooming sending out beauty in all directions. Their beauty and serenity quiets the mind.

May you and all being everywhere, both the two legged and four legged kind, experience equanimity and feel heaven on earth as spring continues to unfold.

Blessed Be. Shalom. Amen.


Monday, April 30, 2018

In Praise of the Ordinary and April 27th Work Session

Today I am praising the ordinary, including the April 27th (Friday) special Prospect Gardens work session.  Being mindful and praising the ordinary are the messages of this Richard Gilbert poem.

In Praise of the Ordinary 
I lift my voice this day in praise of the ordinary:
The endless routines of living:
Life's everyday rituals;
The boring things we do to exist;
The monotonous getting up in the morning;
Eating, working, going to bed at night;
Moving to and fro to make a living;
Enjoying a life.
I celebrate the simple things,
The things to which we give not a second thought:
The miracle of breathing;
The act of eating;
The cadences of daily speech;
The sounds of nature as a simple backdrop
To our complicated lives.
I celebrate leaves falling from the trees
And snow falling from the skies;
The brave persistence of the grass,
And the sleeping flowers of the fields.
Enough, I say, of big things and great things,
And extraordinary things, and ultimate things.
I celebrate the ordinary.
I lift my voice in praise.
I lift up my voice and with a grateful heart , praise what happened and who participated in the April 27th Prospect Gardens work session.  This was a special work day with the aim of creating more open spaces among the rip-rap rock that covers several sections of the Gardens. 

This section, along with several others, were mistakenly totally covered with rip-rap rock in hopes of preventing erosion shortly after the pedestrian-bike path opened in 2001.  Developing the Gardens, starting in 2010, involved removing rocks to create and plant beds.  We hoped that seeds from the bedded plants would spread and take hold in the dirt between the remaining rocks.  Instead, weeds have proliferated and removing them is increasingly a challenge.

 Carissa, City Engineering Department's Landscape Architect ,
offered and sponsored a crew from Operation Fresh Start (OFS) to assist in the project. OFS provides a path forward for disconnected youth in Dane County, ages 16-24, through education, mentoring, and employment training.

Carissa is a strong supporter of prairies and gardens along the Path.  Thank you Carissa for the opportunity to work with the youth and the OFS conservation crew leader. We look forward to continued collaboration with you and others from City Engineering as the ninth year of tending Prospect Gardens unfolds. The Department's role and your support is worthy of praise.  
Worthy of praise and a special thank you goes out to Nelson, the manager of Monroe Street's Colectivo, a coffee roaster and cafe with several Madison locations and based in Milwaukee.  Monroe's Colectivo is less than a half block from our apartment. 

Colectivo donated chocolate chip and raisin oatmeal cookies.  They were boxed and waiting for me when I picked up the goodies at 8 a.m. and before walking to the Gardens.  This morning I enjoyed an apricot scone covered with white chocolate for my breakfast. Oh so good.    

Colectivo is a special place and beyond being ordinary.  Ordinary human interactions that have the potential of being "extraordinary" take place within it's walls.

Last, but not least, worthy of praise are the two youth and Ryan, the Conservation Crew supervisor, from Operation Fresh Start.  Here's Ryan working at a speed that outpaced mine.

Ryan mentioned that because of the then upcoming Prom weekend, several of his crew called in absent.  Oh yes, there are priorities.  Hearing what Ryan said, reminded me of being on the Prom Court. Going out to an upscale Green Bay restaurant was a big deal for this  Pulaski farm boy. 

Here's Ryan and one of the youth dumping leaves in a location further down the path. The rotting leaves were from the the end of storm water drain that runs under a section of the Gardens. The drain carries water from Fox Avenue into the ditch along the path.
Here's Ryan and the same youth who had a quiet, almost shy demeanor coupled with a willingness to work hard. I enjoyed working with both, as well as another teen who is not pictured. He also worked hard and had a quick smile.  He was on the thin side. I shared with him that when I was his age I  was so thin that an adult, whose name I have forgotten, commented, "When Jake stands sideways, you can't see him." Now that's having a slight build.

Praising what is sometimes considered the ordinary often leads to gratitude while noticing that the ordinary is often the extraordinary qualities of life and of humanity. I send out one last joyous "hallelujah" in praise of those who worked on April 27th, and to the others who volunteer at Prospect Gardens.