The Daily Muse

A GardenJournal -- July 2002

Last Update: July 22

July 8 - morning

It has been a very interesting start to the summer here in Austin! Last week we recorded a total of ten inches of rain (25.4 centimeters.) From famine to flood, the Texas way. We were lucky compared to some of the communities just a few miles west of us where they received thirty inches of rain- an entire year's worth in a few days time. All that we lost were a few herbs and our tomato plants (which actually survived, but look so horrible we don't feel like harvesting the remaining fruit.)

Of course, my big project during this time has been to move in two truck loads of mulch, "to help preserve ground moisture." Exactly what we don't need at this time. Oh well, so it goes. I'm sure we'll be back to drought like conditions in a week or two and I will be glad to have made the effort.

July 11 - morning

A heavy dampness is still hanging over the garden, making the work of moving and spreading mulch quite unpleasant (not to mention seem a little futile.) However, many of our new trees and shrubs are beginning to respond to the gift of so much rain water. It is amazing to me to look back at images of the garden from last spring when we first started planting, some of our trees have more than doubled in size, some have tripled.

Our bald cypress trees are particularly happy with the rain. Yesterday evening, I had to clear a passage through the cypress allee to allow folks to walk through without dodging branches. By next year, I think that the allee will begin to resemble the leafy tunnel I was envisioning when we planted it.

The garden is alive with critters right now. There are frogs everywhere we turn, garden spiders, praying mantises, birds, squirrels, and more mosquitoes than I have ever experienced in Austin. Unfortunately, our pond has also been visited by what we are guessing is a heron. Several of our large goldfish are missing, but the pond shows no sign of a raccoon rampage. (Raccoons usually make a BIG mess when they go fishing!) We have draped bird netting over the pond and hope that by leaving it in place for a while the heron(s) will get the idea that this pond is not good pickins'.

It is funny, the dance we do with the wildlife. We try to create a sanctuary, free of poisons, and when we succeed, some uninvited guest always shows up to say "thanks." You don't always get to choose when you are dealing with nature, and that is frustrating in a culture where meaningless choices are elevated to the status of heroic acts. Today, I will move mulch in the stultifying heat and feed my rather skittish fish by tossing the food through a net- not because I chose to, but because it needs to be done.

July 22- afternoon

It has been an exhausting few weeks. We have moved from cool, wet weather (the cool part, of course, being relative) back to our usual summer heat. Throughout this time, I have been in a veritable garden frenzy of mulching, weeding, fertilizing, transplanting, and tweaking.

Tweaking is a critical, yet under-appreciated, gardening chore. No matter how carefully you plan your garden, there are adjustments and refinements to be made . I have been moving plants, straightening out some sight lines and reinforcing others, rearranging our 'focal points', and, I have even managed to spare some time for a little silliness. (Just ask me about the argyle pattern I cut into our swath of zoysia grass!) You can't take something called tweaking too seriously.

Today, I finished the massive chore of mulching the garden and celebrated by working on the final design for our garden labyrinth. Actually, what I have designed is more like the suggestion of a labyrinth- it won't quite be like the one at Chartres, but I think it will serve as a powerful symbol. Labyrinths are ancient meditation devices designed to guide our feet onto a spiritual path. I was going to use a "Greek key" pattern for our labyrinth. This simple design, also called a meander,  is actually the basis for many labyrinth patterns so it seemed like a good idea. However, the space we have set aside for our labyrinth is not expansive enough, even for something as simple as the Greek key. Instead, I have stream lined the pattern and have come up with something that I am quite pleased with. A labyrinth doesn't have to been real complex as long as you embrace its symbolism and take it to heart. Hopefully we'll post pictures of a completed labyrinth soon.

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