Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day - Truce be With Us

Is America on the right course? The easy answer is no. But as an airplane flies from coast to coast, adjusting to winds and storms along the way- She always has. So, Yes.

Memorial Day has changed since its inception as Decoration Day. It now fills a role as a family day of national and spiritual importance. To honor the fallen, this should be a day in which the game of Truth or Politics is suspended.

I came of age in the era known by the name of a far-away jungle covered country. Vietnam. Click on  Memorial Day to experience a suburban California ust before modern malls were born. Read the subtext and understand- in a land of so much abundance- it is easy to take much for granted.

Memorial Day Rose 2004 AARS Winner
  I believe there is a rose for every reason. Including Memorial Day.

Kevin Bacon as Lieutenant Colonel Strobl- His finest performance.
Taking Chance (2009) is the perfect movie to watch on Memorial Day.  Kevin Bacon's  nuanced reflection is of  the real-life soldier  lacking combat experience. His journey with the intensity of personal sacrifice begins when he volunteers to escort the body of a 19 year old soldier home to Dubois, Wyoming after his soul fled to his eternal home on the fields of Iraq. This movie is guaranteed to draw tears. If it doesn't: you don't need a cardiologist,  for you have no heart.

Greater Roadrunner Geococcyx californianus
Yesterday-this little darling did not hold still long enough for me to grab his photo. In split seconds, he blurred from next to where I was grooming the garden, under my and my husband's cars, leaped up the side hill before crossing the archway and disappearing across our the rooftop. 

Two observations on roadrunners.

One. The bird is faster than a speeding Olympian. The Time-Warner communication service by that name is  only arguably so. Some days more than others.

Two. Where there are roadrunners, there are snakes. 

May Your Memorial Day be Blessed and May He From Whom All blessings flow continue to bless the United States of America.

Headstone and Memorial Day Rose images by Gene Sasse.

Roadrunner image found on Wikipedia

Friday, May 27, 2011

Whatsoever We Think On

Butterfly rose
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.- Philippians 4:8*

Gerry shot this film at high speed, resulting in the motion of the finch at the feeder to slow down. Fascinating to watch the avians in graceful flight at a speed my mind comprehends.
My husband has family in the south- my heart has been with them with the flooding and tornadoes. But for the Grace of God, it is not I. 
Next time, it might be. If I were to write the script for my last days,  the set would be in my garden. Tending my roses, feeding the wild birds and cleaning their fountains. 
I would watch the puppies pretend to chase the bunnies that pretend to run away in the nearly endless loop of hide and seek.

To keep me in touch with what is really important, Time Warner would go down, taking rude programming and gossipy gotchas from interfere with preparing  a feast for my family. Since this is my script- the dishes do themselves.

How would you write your last days if you could? Would anyone in their right mind really spend 2 minutes on politics?
*King James translation

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Throne of Sage and Robe of Santolina- Simplicity Reigns

It could have been any day in the garden, clipping away at the fragrant wands of the Cleveland Sage. Its long arms look almost like a giant bent skewer piercing the olive green leaves and balls of purpley-blue flowers.

Then I heard the air whipped about by some small winged creature, The wings pushing the air beneath a tiny body in a relentless vibrato. I didn't look. Panic and fear rarely serve a gardener.

So I prayed "Oh please Lord, Not a bumble bee. Uncle Frank got bit by one and it nearly killed him."
I slowed my motions so not to frighten whatever was hovering ever closer to its target. Which with every passing moment I felt was me..

 Every few seconds, there was a pause in its forward motion. The wings would still and the creature fell a few inches like a helicopter with a stalled engine, only to sputter back into fearless flight.

I felt the soft feathered wings of a hummingbird kissing my cheek. 

The last time I was past this corner at Cal Poly, it was barren of character. Now the Cleveland Sage fills the corner like royalty on a throne. To her majesty's side, a patch of yellow flowered Santolina-probably rosmarinifolia S.virens- is strewn like the royal robe with its weave of bright green flowers leaves and knobby yellow flowers across the floor.

If you have a spot  with not much more to offer a garden as a home other than bare dirt and sunshine- this pairing has potential for the start of a romantic setting.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Dogging Romance

Reno is a Master at getting what she wants.
 Dogs... do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they have not. There is nothing of value they have to bequeath except their love and their faith.

Eugene O'Neill
Tahoe is Daddy's little Tomboy

It is an unfortunate fact that youngsters at summer camp who are most homesick are those that have dogs at home. Jack Herbert
Elleen Atkins

"No hugging, dear. I'm British. We only show affection to dogs and horses. (Eileen Atkins as Jocelyn Dashwood in What A Girl Wants

As companions, dogs are up the evolutionary scale in romance than many women.  An anonymous writer once penned something I remember goes something like this-

Dogs don't cry to get their way. Dogs love all your friends. Dogs love how you sing.

Dogs don't get upset when you run late. They are excited to see you whenever you show up.

Dogs don't get upset if you call them another dog's name and you can play as rough with them as you want.

Dogs don't mind if you give their offspring away

Anyone can get a good looking dog.

If a dog is gorgeous, other dogs don't hate it

Dogs don't shop. Canines never expect gifts. They have no use for flowers, cards or jewelry

Dogs like it when you leave lots of things on the floor

Dogs never need to examine the relationship

A dog's parents never visit.

Dogs love long car trips. The canine understand that following your instincts is more fun  than asking directions

Dogs don't ask you if their jeans make them look fat.

Dogs understand when you raise your voice to get your point across
Dogs don't worry about germs

Dogs don't care if you've had other dogs. 
You never have to wait for a dog, they're ready to go 24 hours a day

Dogs enjoy heavy petting in public

Dogs can't talk. Or criticize. In fact, when you are totally stupid, they often find it amusing.

Need I say more? If romance seems to be on the wane- think- what would your dog do?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Garden Blooming Blog Day (s) Closing

Another day another rabbit.

Fragrant 'Betty Woods' Daylily blooms at the same time as the 'Jackmani' clematis.  It's your choice if this purple and gold is fitting salute to the LA Lakers (who adopted these colors back when I was in 6th grade aka 1967) or for Diamond Bar High School.

This soft pink flouncing rose is so delicate and feminine. I promise to find the Peter Beales receipt to properly tag my British beauties. Search to see if any made it to sale in the US.

Evelyn. The rose who is the source of scent for the Crabtree and Evelyn perfume by the same name.  The first English rose I ever planted. A bit of a magnet for disease- the fragrance-planted at the front curb, in full bloom she casts her spell all the way to the neighbor's mailbox. 

The view to the outback.  The white clump of flowers is the Matalija Poppy. Rain is expected tonight, Again- ttomorrow.  As soon as the journey is safe- I'll see if I can't catch a close up view of the pride and joy of  foothills and canyon lands. If you have sun, room and want little maintenance with bold impact- This is your baby.  

A thought on Visions of Paradise. So many versions tug at hearts with different songs- but at the center of it all- isn't there a garden with plants in every one?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Garden Blooming Blog Day (s) 2- May 2011

Where did we leave off? Here. With her New Zealand heritage, the innocent pink 'Sexy Rexy' rose gets a bit more confident as she reaches maturity.  Shy in her youth, Rexy  is  worth waiting for her to come of age.   

 I do need to look up the import tag on the roses trained against my husband's shed.  

'Jackmani' clematis  drapes like a silk shawl over the shoulders of the tall British beauty, Scented geraniums shade the feet of the rambling vines. Which fits the- more- the- merrier attitude which draws in butterflies and hummingbirds, who enjoy this garden as their personal year-round resort.

Something I learned to love from too infrequent trips to the UK is that even the most utilitarian an area deserves to be set amongst beauty.  Such detail is the difference between good and great: the horticultural equivalent gesture of "doing" what is right even where it is not likely to be noticed.

There's not much in this corner of the yard besides the hose and some watering attachments. The magenta bracts of bougainvillea and kumquat fully colored up  make hand watering a desired occupation just for the joy of taking out and putting back up the hose.

The weather vane is turning as clouds pushed through our valley.  The 'Graham Thomas' is tall enough to give new meaning to the term "tree rose."

Clusters of "Ballernia' roses do not seem to mind that the neighbor planted a tree which now shades this former hot spot.  
 If scent is not a major feature of your garden, you are missing out on one of the great joys. Carnation (dianthus) was tucked in a narrow spot at the base of a pot.  It's spicy scent fills tour little porch- guaranteeing smiles whenever the front door is opened to guests.  

Now is time to read and rest.  Tomorrow is another day. Perhaps we can finish the garden tour then. 

Have Camera? Take Pictures.

Have camera. Take pictures. Be a keeper of your family history.  You can not only go home again. You can relive the moment. Even those that came before your time.

This image shows sheep congregating on a water hole such as in the days of the Diamond Bar Ranch. Our reservoir has long been a water feature on the Diamond Bar Golf Course.

My niece Anka brought this photo of my mother with her her last trip down from Portland. Her grandmother sure had a great smile. No matter what was going on, going wrong,  mom believed in smiling right through it.

The marlin leaping was oldest son Trevor's first big game fish. It was Thanksgiving weekend. He was probably 9 years old.

Kenny and Shannon will always be each other's big catch. Which is saying allot since he landed his first marlin the day before his brother did. Kenny was 6.

2011 is the year of the Great Photo Project here.  There are the historic photos like of the sheep courtesy of teacher Tracy Morris of Maple Hill Elementary School. Those are being cleaned up for the Diamond Bar Historical Society and written about for

While I was very good about cataloguing and labeling photos of our early years of marriage,  and our sons each have an album of their own from growing up, those were days when archival materials were not widely available to the general public. So now we are carefully lifting older albums off the shelves to keep photos from falling out in random order. Refitting photos into new archival  albums at the rate of 2 a month- this won't be a burden on finances or time. Just patience.

  Gerry is taking duty with vintage- antique really- images of his side of the family. Thanks to Facebook he is in touch with relatives who are helping him both build stock and properly ID people and places. It turns out not only does he have a relative who died being hit by lightening, a grandmother who died after eating mushrooms- there is also one who died from a mule kick.  Yes. Such info may not have commercial value, it is still priceless.

I am on break from vintage family photos- THE wedding pictures are here. The album will open  not with the ceremony, instead opening with a few historical benchmarks. A childhood picture of the bride and groom. The first date. Their graduation from high schools  into adulthood. A section dedicated to the engagement party. Only then will the moment be ripe for images from when they cemented their unity as one.  

Someday, should the good Lord bless us with grandchildren, then I shall show them what destiny looks like. They'll see it through the pictures of their parents growing up and in love.

Garden Blooming Blog Day (s) May, 2011

Welcome! From Gerry,  Tahoe and Reno

Show. Don't Tell. That is the writer's Mantra.  I will try to keep my fingers quiet. Let the colors of the May garden sing for themselves.

"All I can say about life is, 'Oh God, enjoy it!'  Bob Newhart

Gerry's new camera plopped on a tripod captured him enjoying a blue-skied romp in the garden with "our girls. "

Texture and pattern are not just considerations of clothing. Take away the dappling of lacy leaves overhead and the character of our garden would change into something not of my hand. 

Three decades of gardening have changed this scene. The only thing in the picture that existed then is the wrought iron fence ( a metal shop project at Walnut High where the former owner-husband taught shop) and one of the roses. It is not a particular favorite. It blooms just long enough and tall enough to not be replaced. Yet.  

The lipstick color rose is 'Cinco de Mayo'. Red - violet really- Valerian and Feverfew pop through the rose arms.  Two weeks ago I thought she shouted. Now that there is a chorus of flowers flowing through her arms, her moody-color grounds the scene.

Unlike many suburban lots, our shortest view out back is sideways . As seen from our old lab's former ' runway.' 

This view back from the formerly naked fence- The purple clematis 'Jackmani' winds round the bird- topped tutierre.

Another amaryllis glows in its afterlife. Its first life was a single season as a forced bulb. When that season ended, it simply was placed in what seemed like an empty spot. 

There is so much to show this month. Forgive me for not rushing.  This month I will let the garden unveil over the week so visitors may savor why I do not bother to become un-obsessed.

To really enjoy the garden, please come by for the next few days. Tell me what you see- or what you don't, but would like to.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day

Memorial Bouquet

One year ago,  our oldest son moved out of state. Walking in our home from saying goodbye, the phone was ringing. Calls before 9 AM on a weekend do harken with urgency. My mother was in an ambulance. Almost to the minute this is posted, my mother passed from this life to the next.

Disneyland Rose
 Which makes the year which has passed, odd. The flowers which were her bouquets still bloom. But they don't get to travel so much. With gasoline at  $4.33/ gallon, the drive to my mother-in-law's is too expensive for a regular trek.
Iris, Valerian and Aeonium 'Kiwi' tame the sidewalk heat

Today, our younger son Kenny and his bride treated Gerry and I to brunch at Maggiano's Little Italy in South Coast Plaza. Part of a chain and generously sized, maybe it was Sinatra's voice- the place radiated with a charm as if it were a family establishment where Mama and Papa might be in the kitchen.  The service was excellent. The food scrumptious and the ambiance delightful. The restaurant was scrupulously clean. The offerings might not be quite as succulent compared to what a skilled homecook serves guests. For me- I didn't spend 4 days in the kitchen- 2 cooking and 2 cleaning.  This tradeoff is more than fair.  We will be back... 

On the ride home, I thought of what I might pen to honor my mother now that her lovely voice is in another realm...

In 2006 I wrote my first obituary. As a writer, there  is no more hallowed endeavor than the words we lay open upon a person's death. Below is the text saved from my mom's memorial. They speak of her and the world as she knew it.    

Ethel Maria Sepulveda Lent
December 5, 1922 to May 8, 2010

 It was my mother’s specific wish that there be no sad good-byes on this day. She wanted to be the honored beloved guest in this garden which she was, is, and always be so much of.

Please join us commemorating and celebrating her life. Beginning with a little background to know how the Ethel Maria Sepulveda Lent became the woman who was not just my mother, but my closest friend, mentor and advisor.

Born not longer after her only brother, Eugenio, on Dec 5 1922 in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico to teacher Antonio Sepulveda and his young wife, Monserrate Rivera. Tragedy came quickly to the family when Monserrate died in childbirth when my mother was only two. Antonio never recovered enough from the loss of his wife and infant to raise his older two children as a single father.

One of mom’s earliest memories was of her aunt with 10 children not being willing to make it a dozen under one roof. They dressed my mother up and took her to the orphanage: there was no room. So the care of two little children was left to a spinster Aunt.

On scholarship, for high school- mom attended the exclusive Blanche Kellogg Institute, associated with the female equivalent to the male Ivy League colleges- Mt. Holyoake. The virtues of Christian values and temperance were in addition to the public school curriculum were taught in English. .

1943. Mom received her bachelor’s degree from the Polytechnic Institute of Puerto Rico. Now know as the Inter Americana University, the Christian founded institution was dedicated to being a cultural bridge between North and Latin America. From the web page, this school is “devoted to preparing students in all branches of humanistic endeavor; social and scientific.”

Mom was offered a scholarship to continue her education to be a physical therapist; however the same opportunity was not offered her brother. Her family would not let her accept.

Mom got a job in a bank. She had a desk and was paid less than what a carton of cigarettes costs today for her weekly salary.

WWII broke out. Sept 6, 1944- Mom flew to Jacksonville, Florida to enlist in the United States Navy. She became an occupational therapist at Bethesda, MD.

That is where she met my dad, the late George Daniel Lent. He was a serviceman who landed in the hospital with a broken arm after being jumped by an ethnic gang. His doctor thought they were a cute couple; he kept my dad in the hospital a little longer. When they were both discharged, George brought Ethel to California to meet his family. He wanted to be a lawyer. They married Oct 6, 1948.

Nine months and two weeks later my beautiful sister, Gina, was born. Next: Candace, who was stillborn. Then me. Last, my genius baby sister, Marina. Dad never finished college.

Early in their marriage, Mom worked in a lab. But they preferred she be home raising the girls. Giving us guidance. Filling spare moments with volunteer work. She didn’t drive and we were generally not allowed babysitters, so we frequently were brought along to PTA meetings and  food banks. Gina and I worked shifts at Whittier Hospital as Candystripers under mom’s direction.

As we girls came closer to college age, mom went back to college. She said too much had changed in Chemistry. She earned her MA in Spanish and her teaching credential from CSULB. In this order: she bought a car, learned to drive and returned to the workforce as a high school teacher, a job which she retired from with a pension that COLA drove up to just over $500 month when she passed away 31 years later.

My father died in 1993. She never remarried.

Instead, she focused all her love on her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Her garden, until health separated her from it.

My mother’s health was never what we refer to as “good”. It is a miracle of God’s love that we got to enjoy her company for as long as we did. At 4:15 in the afternoon, when her soul took flight, it was with Gina, Kenny and I at her side, praying for her safe passage to heaven.

As much as the family regularly argued politics, mom was pretty mum about religion, But in her waning months, we got to discuss matters of faith. If she had not told me that she considered herself a Christian, these last few weeks would have been far more difficult. However, the faith that she is now, at long last, getting to know her own mother and child she never knew is a comfort. That her earthly body is no longer bound to a wheel chair and tied to routines of pills and shots- for her I am happy.

Friday, May 6, 2011

What My Mother's Garden Taught Me

best trail in El Yunque
 El Yunque rain forest in Puerto Rico

My mother never went home to Puerto Rico after I was born. Instead, she fulfilled her primal urge for the land of her birth by raising a jungle in the center of what was in the 1960's and '70's white middle class suburban Whittier.

In high school, I didn't need to give an address to find my home. "The jungle on Cornishcrest" was all any stranger needed.

To an adolescent wanting desperately to fit in, it was disconcerting. Embarrassing.

When the dashing Gerry put a ring on my finger, he was proud to have rescued me from the jungle. Not long after, he presented me with space to garden, to develop my signature style.

Hardware, paint and geraniums enliven an old mailbox
As my mother had her vision of paradise, I have mine. This is not my mother's garden. I have no qualms about whacking off branches and I don't let philodendron reach inside the house from windows left open. However, I have come to understand my mother's quest in her garden and the lesson left me.

The 'Graham Thomas' Rose is tall as a small tree
She and her garden taught me not to be afraid to not conform. To be authentic to the inner voice of what is a reflection of the gardener's soul.

Roses, tomatoes and herbs in pots discourage hungry rabbit- raids

The first bloom welcomes visitor's at the curb. My garden is filled with roses. Birds and bunnies help themselves to food and water. Our forever-puppies give chase. And now that the ostrich egg-sized blooms of Matalija Poppy have flowed past the boundaries of civic planners, I am happy.

Look closely. A bunny has discovered it can limbo in and out under the gate
I have no expectations for future generations will know my name. But in every future May, the beautiful "fried egg" appearing blossoms will put a smile on future residents' faces as the California native weaves its way through our canyon.
'Reno' waiting for the bunny to come back. Matalija poppy forms a backdrop
Future generations of Diamond Bar may not know my name or why these beauties popped up in the little canyon behind my home. But because my mother taught me with her garden that that it is okay to be different, in May they will be reminded of the happiness that comes when flowers let out a loud laugh from the land.

Puerto Rican Rain Forest Imgae by Rainforest Inn

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Quatro and Cinco de Mayo

A Succulent Cinco de Mayo to You!  

The classic strawberry pot was never lush until it got packed with slips of succulents. Now it is a little cutting factory to make presents from.  

Today is Cinco de Mayo.   The historical excuse for indulging mariachis is the Mexican throwing off the French oppressors. Hit the link and learn about the American Holiday. Yep. You read that right. This celebration got its start in 1863 California.  Who knew. 

Tonight there may be more tacos and margaritas served in the U.S. than in Mexico.


The morning routine has changed over the years. In 2011, it is get the dogs up and out. Turn on the computer. Turn on the computer and sort through the overnight emails. The day never feels completely up and running until I've read Oregon Sue's   daily delivery.

Sue organizes her post with the weather, the routine from the day before and a list of factoids specific to the date. How many of you knew that yesterday was International Respect for the Chicken Day?

Last night there was something symbiotic about the date, writing on the history of Diamond Bar,  and the first breaking news cycle. Given the green light to dive off this fresh platform for my writing I wrote for my first blog post.

The chicken image- I do believe that is something Trisha Bowler sent over when telling us gal pals about a political dinner she attended.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Lesson of Saint Thomas

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio

I have been thinking. Should the images of the slain Osama bin Laden be released by the government?  They are not anything I would want posted on any of my sites. I do not need direct evidence.

Yet there is reason to be skeptical and cynical of government in general.  Clarity and honesty are paramount to trust. In this instance, what to do for the sake of clarity? Even little bits of misinformation feeds distrust. For example, Islamic law is that the bodies of  deceased are to be respectfully disposed of in a timely fashion. But burial at sea?  ONLY when the person died shipboard

I believe I found the answer in the Bible. In the New Testament. In the story about the disciple's reaction to the death of Christ. The one centered on whom we know as Doubting Thomas (John 20:19-29). 

The risen Christ showed his wounds. Proof that God finds value in providing physical evidence.  I understand, such open disclosure is not without risk. But certainly not with any more peril than we are without it. Not providing the images is only going to provide fertile ground for misinformation.

So, President Obama. Please. Release a picture. I will take it as a sign of respect for the American people and those who fight to protect her.

Then we can move on to more important issues. Such as regards foreign aid. When is it good and when is it simply enabling bad behavior by unscrupulous souls? If someone hid bin Laden because they were paid so much money to "look" for him: the implications of that question are more important than pretending we had any respect for the man who disgraced the name of  bin Laden. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

May is for Marching on

Everything is blooming most recklessly; if it were voices instead of colors, there would be an unbelievable shrieking into the heart of the night.
 ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke

Shannon carried a clutch of  roses

Tonight I finally sat down to make decisions on photos from Kenny and Shannon's wedding. What to go in the album was easy.  A few minutes to to decide which to give importance by reprinting larger- a shade more thought. Which to have reprinted in giclee for our formal family wall. That, I will sleep on. The most interesting pose isn't always the best in a grouping.
If tomatoes had eyes, this is what the first in the row would see
The sundial, set high in a birdbath planted in succulents is nearly hidden behind the last of the bearded iris, red Valerian at its peak and mounds of day lilies just beginning to shot their blossomed stems out like arrows.   Before the winds of fall set in, a decision needs to be made. Thin the planting or move the sundial.  Crunched reads "clutter" and is easily remedied at the proper time. Which can't all be in May.

After all, May is already taken up with mulching, chasing gophers and catching up on everything that got behind the past season.

The Shed and potting bench are  now in better order.

The vining begonia having survived benign neglect and the scurrying feet of a squirrel who uses the trellis as a ladder.

Surprise! An amaryllis popped up where it wasn't just last week. Note to self- at the end of the season, there are bare spots needing colorful company more than here. Plant collections need to be curated just like libraries and art shows.  

A brave oriole has decided that since I fill the nyger station with feed, he ought to let me take his photograph):- 

The bare spot beyond  is a neighbor's cleared hillside. The firebreak is welcome- but the bare dirt left behind the blow-and- go landscape crew- it just isn't natural. It isn't healthy.  

I have a plan. It involves wine and either succulents or wildflower seeds. Since it is fire resistant,  stops erosion and will be free if they want to help themselves to the abundance of blessings that need a home or they are going to the compost heap - I expect the plan to get a fair hearing.