I spent a pretty good portion of the day yesterday combing through comments posted to the blog. Considering I’ve been out of the ring for a couple months, due to the Bad Situation and its ongoing effects, there were more than a few of them. Over a thousand, in fact. And most of them were autogenerated come-ons for various websites selling — well, here’s a very partial list:
replica handbags, knockoff handbags, michael kors, levitra, viagra, retin a, clarisonic, soma, parajumpers, strattera, propecia, nike, kamagra, bose, dr dre, montblanc, seo, burberry, bose, and apparently Michael Jordan.
It was pretty clear pretty fast that my filters really needed fixing, but I was unwilling to universal-wipe the comments just in case there was some gem buried in there. (For the impatient types, there wasn’t). Accordingly, I was able to experience the full spectrum of Interwebs barker teases, which kept raising unanswerable questions in my head as I scrolled through. Most were fairly innocuous: If soma is a drug, how do you make a bra out of it? Who is Karen Mullen and why is her coat so important — does it make you invisible or something? Is she here standing behind me, transparent, right now? What on earth is a “parajumper” and why do I need one? Do I get a base jumper for half off if I buy it? Is everyone on earth selling “replica” handbags except me, and if so, how did I miss the memo?
Others were a bit more disturbing — such as the website that asked, “Does Viagra work on dogs?” or the one that promised in English not just broken but annihilated that I’d become a “supercharged dildo” if I used their SEO scripting.
I finished the job and fixed the filters (again) and then, hoping for some lighthearted entertainment, moved over to my favorite vice: the U.K.’s best rag, also known as the Daily Mail. There, I learned about various family murders, a guy too dumb to turn off his truck when the tailpipe got buried in mud, more than enough about Kim Kardashian’s sartorial choices, and the news that a cute young woman had just received a $500,000 advance to write a book about her life buying drugs, taking drugs, having sex for drugs, and writing magazine pieces about all of the above plus some comments about makeup.
I had the John Cleese moment in “A Fish Called Wanda” — the courtroom scene where he says, “Right, that’s it” — and went outside into the back garden, wishing that life had a “Reset” button.
Well, sometimes it does. As Robert Orben remarked,
Spring is God’s way of saying, ‘One more time!’
Chamomile and chives. I’m pretty sure that pot was empty before winter.
Instead of my usual manic winter cleanup last year, I’d decided to let the various containers, pots and the side bed do as they would without any interference. And sure, I found a tangled mess of dead tomatoes and peppers, a marjoram that looked like it committed seppoku, and what I think are three-foot-tall dandelions in the side bed. They’re either dandelions or they’re triffids, and I have no more bandwidth to worry.
The Brave Little Valerian x 4
But I also found that the Brave Little Valerian had not only survived me ripping it up last fall, chopping off its roots, and cutting its root crown into four pieces before replanting — but that all four of them were thriving.
The passifloras, both Big Fred and the Little Guy The Butterflies Gnaw Down To A Stick During The Summer, had also pulled through.
Passiflora edulis “Frederick,” a.k.a. “Big Fred”
Fred seems to have forgotten that he is supposed to be a “vine,” the kind of plant that climbs things, and settled into a comfortable couch potato position on the fence.
The side bed was a jungle. I’d sown calendula seeds at random right before the rains set in, simply out of curiosity as to what they would do. I found, amidst the three-foot-“dandelions” mentioned above,
Calendulas, an official Really Useful Plant
a riot of blossoms that I immediately started cutting and drying. (Calendula has an herbalist and culinary history since the Middle Ages. King Henry VIII insisted that his food be brightly colored and his cooks used Calendula for bright orange and yellow shades. According to ancient and modern herbalists, it’s also a superb treatment for skin conditions, burns, bruises, and strains, and has applications for gastrointestinal disturbances as well). But it wasn’t just the calendulas that had taken advantage of my benign neglect.
Golden lemon thyme, lime thyme, Faustino thyme, yarrow, and one determined strawberry plant
The various thymes had run riot, the yarrow was exploding, and a strawberry plant that had appeared really, truly, and seriously dead for months had resurrected itself.
Even better, the lemon verbena had come roaring back after my perhaps too-enthusiastic harvesting last fall.
A very forgiving lemon verbena.
(Lemon verbena makes a fantastic tea all by itself, adds terrific flavor other less appealing medicinal teas, and can convince almost anyone to eat their vegetables when added as a delicate seasoning, either fresh or dried.)
And much to my delight, my lavenders had survived. I’ve had about as much luck with lavenders as I had in the past with passifloras — I’d plant them, they’d flourish for a while, and then they’d curl up and die overnight. Less water, more water, less sun, more sun, feed them, don’t; nothing I did seemed to make any difference. But simply being left alone was more to their taste.
Lavendula augustifolia “Hidcote” — English lavender.
There’s also another one, planted next to an aloe that also seems to have pulled through pretty well.
C’mon, little fella! You can do it!
It’s a smaller varietal which, unfortunately, I seem to have forgotten the name of, though its flowers last year had a lovely, rich, deep scent that a lot of lavenders don’t possess. (A lot of them have that cutting, acrid, headachy sweetness that smells like Grandma’s wardrobe). It’s looking a little punky right now, but I hope the spring will inspire it as it has its companion.
It takes a lot of stress and awfulness to make someone like me ignore a garden for months. But you’d think I would have learned from something I posted myself a while ago — sometimes, it’s not a disaster to step back, take a breath, and leave things alone for a while. There might just be a “Start Over” coming down the road.