Iris varieties. Which Is Your Favorite?

#1

During my trip back East to celebrate my granddaughter’s college graduation, I stayed with her other grandparents for a few days. Ever since my daughter and their son became engaged, we’ve been friends, so it was nice to spend some time with them.

The afternoon before graduation the other grandma and I toured the Presby Memorial Iris Gardens in Essex County. It was late in the iris season, but most of the varieties were still blooming.

#2

Being an artist more than a gardener, I didn’t take note of the various irises’ names. Instead, I contented myself with enjoying their beauty.

#3

Irises remind me of Japanese flower arrangements …

… and one of my tea pots.

Here are some more of my favorites from the garden.

#4

I know they’re all beautiful, but can you choose a favorite? How about the party-pink ruffles of #5?

#5

These are only a few of the 1500 iris varieties in the garden. I like the purple and white elegance of #6.

#6

Number seven makes me think of Hollywood in the 1930s. Does that make sense?

#7

The guileless simplicity of yellow and white calls to mind thoughts of sunshine and plain cold milk.

#8

What do you call the colors in #9? They’d look fine on a lady with a long, bustled dress I think.

#9

Number ten starts simple with plum and white and then bleeds in some red and pink.

#10

Velvet magenta, lilac-pink, and violet-red, #11 has beautiful depth of color.

#11

Number twelve is pure and simple. If you like sweetness and effortless sincerity, this one is for you.

#12

For me, #13 conjures up clouds and kittens.

#13

This last one wants to twirl and clap its hands to the sound of  a flamenco guitar.

#14

So … which one do you like best?

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Ring in Summer with an Arts Fair

Today is the Summer Solstice. In Seattle that means almost sixteen hours of daylight. This morning the sun came up at 5:11 am, and it won’t be setting until 9:10 pm tonight. This is our reward for having suffered through those long nights of winter when the sun sets at four-thirty in the afternoon.

This past weekend Edmonds welcomed summer with its annual arts festival, a celebration that’s been going on since 1957. Picasso Lane, shown above, is one of five long “streets” on the grass. There were more crafts and juried art inside the Frances Anderson Cultural Center and on the deck and patio of the library.

In the 240 artists booths, artists and craftsmen from all over the country display their wares. This woman sells beautiful pearl jewelry.

The lady from Art’Frica stole a spare moment to eat her lunch.

The festival had twenty food vendors. Here are a few.

Strawberry shortcake, ice cream cones, and a dogOyster Poor Boys and riding on daddy’s shoulders

Sitting on the grass at the corner of Dali and Rembrandt and eating ice cream.

Lots of good music at the outdoor amphitheater

A cool sax at the wine and beer garden

And kids having fun

The weather was a perfect seventy degrees. It made for a pleasant start to the summer.

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Art, seasons, summer, Washington ,

Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey.

A swamp in New Jersey? I suppose you could call it a swamp. But if the Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge had been named today instead of in the 1960s, we might be calling it a wetlands. In fact, the 35,000 acres also include grasslands, sandy knolls, ponds, brooks, marshes, woodlands, and ridges.

I saw the Great Swamp on the day before my granddaughter graduated from Princeton. Since I live on the far side of the country, the “other grandparents” kindly invited me to stay at their house in New Jersey for a few days on either side of the graduation. They had entertained me with a trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art the previous day, so now it was time for some exercise and a dose of nature in all its green serenity.

The first thing we came upon after a quick restroom stop was this snapping turtle preparing to lay her eggs. When we first saw her, she was digging a hole with her back legs, pausing now and then to soften the ground with her urine. You won’t be surprised to hear that the whole process was very, very slow.

The turtle had a curious audience for her labors. We watched her for a long time. Finally we left her alone to finish the job.

Following the boardwalks and trails, we came upon some wild irises, also called flags,

crossed a little bridge with lily pads below,

and admired some fresh green ferns.

Can you see the frog and the two turtles?

Back in the 1950s and ’60s, nobody loved swamps and wetlands. They were just junk land, a place to be drained and filled in. The Port Authority of New York had what they thought was a good use for this part of New Jersey: turn it into a huge jetport with four 12,000-foot runways. (Jets were new and cool back then.) The Port Authority would bulldoze the hills, fill in the swamp, and in the process destroy 700 homes and other structures. Local residents were not happy.

Those were the days of paving over the wilderness, but a group of people pushed back against the Port Authority. Among them were enough determined, rich, influential, and environmentally conscious people to be successful in stopping the project. In less than a year, two organizations purchased, assembled, and donated to the federal government enough property in the core of the swamp to qualify for perpetual protection of it as a National Wildlife Refuge. Crucially, eminent domain does not apply to federal land.

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Graduation 2017 and my Granddaughter

A Completion and a Beginning.

Most of life is just day after day—the rising and setting of the sun, the turning of the seasons. One day blending into another.

But then, there are the milestones, those events that mark a new phase in one’s life: the birth of a child, a marriage, the death of a loved one … and yes, the completion of one’s studies in high school or college.

For each of those events we have ceremonies. Our families and friends show up. They congratulate us and bring us gifts or cards.

This past Tuesday my granddaughter graduated from college. By the time I deplaned in Newark to witness her achievement, she’d already completed her finals and submitted her senior thesis. She’d spent days hugging her friends and saying teary goodbyes. She’d packed her boxes and suitcases. And she’d earned the credits and grades to graduate from Princeton University with high honors with a degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering.

It was definitely a completion worth celebrating. And we did.

Then, the next day, we all flew away, and we left her alone to construct a new life for herself.

On my plane ride back to Seattle, I imagined her sitting at the dining room table in shorts and a T-shirt. She presses her lips together and opens her laptop. Pausing for a moment, she hesitates because whatever she does next has personal, real-world consequences. Then she takes a deep breath and begins a Google search for her first post-college job.

What it will be and where it will take her, no one knows. But this week as she begins her new beginning, I send her all my love.

 

“Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” —Confucius


A personal note:

The weather at graduation was too cool and wet for my new dress. Sometimes, I guess, it doesn’t help to plan ahead.

Now I need another event.

 

 

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A Certain Kind of Soldier

(This post was first published more than three years ago. I think Memorial Day weekend is an excellent time to revisit these two remarkable men, my dad and my father-in-law.)

Two Veterans of WWII

My dad was a gentle man, quiet, kind, and hard working. He didn’t get into fights, beat his wife or abuse his children. So it’s hard to imagine him taking part in the violence of World War II.

My father-in-law was a classical Confucian gentleman. Like my dad, his physical strength was masked by his slender build. And like my dad, he fought in that great worldwide war. (The Japanese invasion of China, which is generally considered to be part of the Second World War, is also known as the Second Sino Japanese War.)

fathersNeither man talked much about their wartime experiences. My dad almost never discussed the landing at Salerno and the bloody battle for Monte Cassino in my presence. And though my father-in-law spent seven years fighting the Japanese, I never heard him mention it.

So I have no way of knowing how it felt for them to shoot a rifle at an enemy soldier or how the war changed them. All I have to go on is the way they behaved later.

My dad’s quiet heroism:

It was a warm day in summer. I was eight years old, my sister four. I’d just finished my swimming lesson and was paddling around inside the dock at Bonney Lake when suddenly I heard a commotion on the other side of the dock. I followed other curious swimmers to the ladder, and as I waited my turn to climb out of the water, I could hear people shouting from the dock above me.

“Hey! Hey! What’s going on?”

“Over there,” some kid yelled. “Can’t you see? That girl can’t swim.”

“Looks to me like two people.”

“Damn right! That woman tried to rescue the girl, and now she’s drowning too. The girl panicked; climbed on top of her.”

“No. It’s three people. Oh, my god! I can’t believe it. They’re grabbing the new person and pushing her under.”

“Doesn’t this place have a lifeguard?”

No one seemed to notice my dad diving from the far end of the dock, but I caught a glimpse of his tanned arms and shockingly white back and legs as his body sliced through the water. Fortunately the drowning women didn’t see him coming. He approached them from behind and below. Then he picked them off one at a time and deposited them on the dock.

When they were all safe, my dad simply walked up the grassy hill to the blanket my mom had spread under a large willow tree. He dried his shoulders and legs, sat down beside her and asked for a cold beer.

My father-in-law saves an old man.

My father-in-law was a gentle man with a presence that’s hard to describe. So let me tell you this story that my late husband, Eugene, told me.

One evening when Eugene was about sixteen years old, he and his father and his eight-year-old brother were walking back to their house in Yokohama when they came upon a noisy crowd of more than twenty Japanese men standing around an old man, who was also Japanese. The men were shouting and waving their fists, threatening the old man who lay curled up and cowering on the ground, shielding his face from their kicks.

My father-in-law instructed his younger son to run home. Eugene, who had a black belt in judo by then, was told he could remain. “But stay back unless I call for you,” my father-in-law told him. Then, without a word, he strode into the center of the crowd and held his hand out to the old man.

“Come with me, Old Grandfather,” he said. “I’ll take you home.”

Stunned, the mob opened a pathway for them, and my father-in-law and the old man simply walked away.

—————-

I don’t doubt that these two men did what they had to do during World War II. But if I had to guess, I’d say that their natural inclination was more suited to saving lives than taking them.

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When Familiar Landmarks Disappear …

 

I remember Harrison Street.

If you asked me, I could draw you a detailed map of it. The first feature on my drawing would be the little hill in front of our house. The hill would be small enough that a seven-year-old, peddling with all her might, could ride a bike up it. And there would be a river at the end of the street.

I could draw the  houses of all the children that lived on that block: Lois and Keith’s two-story house; Janet and Jerry’s house, where I learned to twirl a baton; and Linda and Dale’s house, where the neighborhood kids gathered on the living room carpet to watch TV for the first time.

the Harrison Street gang

I could add old Mrs. Torrey’s house across the street and her fish pond and her two big trees filled with cherries we weren’t supposed to pick but did anyway. And the house of the old man whose dog, Puppily, decided he wanted to be our dog instead.

I haven’t seen Harrison Street in a very long time. We moved away a few days after my tenth birthday.

Years later, when my husband and I were in the area, I thought I’d show him where I used to live. I was sure I’d be able to find it. I had a clear mental map of the street, and I knew the surrounding area well. Every school day from first through fourth grades I walked to school and back. I made my way up Harrison Street, around the corner, and down street lined with hawthorn trees. Then I passed the feed-and-seed store and a friendly horse in a small nearby field, continued across the railroad tracks, and walked down the main street to the school.

It should have been a cinch to find Harrison Street. But it wasn’t.

Looking at Google Maps now, I see the problem. Our old house is still there, hidden under some leafy trees. But the little hill and my friends’ houses and Mrs. Torrey’s fish pond are all gone, replaced by a freeway.

So why am I thinking now about Harrison Street?

The other day I was searching for a hotel to use in the novel I’m working on. Early scenes in the novel take place in Manila in 1989, and I wanted my characters to have dinner in a hotel restaurant on Manila’s Roxas Boulevard. So I googled the hotel I had in mind. No luck. In the twenty-seven years since we lived in Manila, the hotel must have changed hands. Maybe it changed hands more than once.

Roxas Blvd. on a quiet day in 1988

Next I tried a Google satellite map, but Manila had changed so much since 1989 that I had a hard time recognizing anything. I suspect population growth had a lot to do with all the changes. So I looked up Manila’s population and found that in 1990, the population of Metro Manila was 7,973000. Now it’s estimated to be 13,322,000. Quite a change.

So what’s the lesson of Harrison Street and the hotel on Roxas Boulevard? Keep your memories, but don’t use them to navigate around a place you haven’t seen in years. Use your cell phone or Garmin instead.


Interesting related fact: Metro Manila is the world’s most densely populated city. It has 111,002 people per square mile (42,857 people/square meter). For comparison, Mumbai has only 23,000/square meter.

I knew Manila was crowded, but still, this is a surprise. Now I live in a city with a population density of 4,437 people/square mile.


Happy Mothers’ Day to all you mothers out there.

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Does Science Really Matter … for You and Me?

an exploding brain hat in Seattle

We already have the wheel and gun powder and the internet. So … Haven’t scientists already invented and explained enough already?

I don’t think so.

I’d like to relate just one family story about a modern scientific discovery that has benefited people all over the world. Unfortunately, it arrived just a little bit too late for my sister.

It was spring, and Sue was barely eight year old when she fell ill. The symptoms were fever, headache, and sore throat. It could have been anything. After a week or two, she seemed to be all right.

A few weeks later, she came down with a bad case of chicken pox. While bathing her and, I suppose, applying calamine lotion, Mom noticed that one of Sue’s shoulder blades stuck out at a strange angle.

The doctor didn’t know what to make of it, so he just shrugged and prescribed massage. Eventually, however, it dawned on him what the problem was. My sister was suffering from the effects of polio.

A brilliant diagnosis? Not really. In 1955, polio wasn’t a rare disease. In fact, in 1952, there were 58,000 cases of polio in the US and more than 3000 deaths.

My sister and mother spent the next three years traveling thirty-five miles each way to see a specialist who examined Sue and oversaw her treatment and physical therapy. In another section of his clinic, the doctor oversaw the care of some of the most tragic victims of polio, children who had to spend the rest of their lives inside iron lungs.

(The picture below is from wikimedia.)

iron lung ward, Rancho Los Amigos Hospital

 

Years earlier, our Great-uncle Wes and Great-aunt Doddy also had polio. Aunt Doddy was about the same age Sue was when she got sick. Hers was a more serious case, and she spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair.

Science to the rescue … just a little late for Sue.

In 1953 Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had successfully tested a vaccine against polio. In 1954, clinical trials began. And in the spring of 1955, (the exact time when Sue was coming down with polio) a nationwide inoculation campaign began.

If you and your family have been spared this terrible disease, you can say a big “thank you” to science.

Here’s a sign being carried in yesterday’s March for Science in Seattle. (Photo courtesy of sister Sue)

Sue and my daughter both took part in marches for science yesterday. Here are a few of their photos:

Make America logical again

brainy hats

standing up for science in Richland, WA

Sue and Jan in Seattle

Seattle Science march, umbrellas, hoods, and bare heads

band playing Bill Nye the Science Guy song in Seattle

some future scientists at the Seattle march

 

Does science matter to you in a personal way?

Neil deGrasse Tyson put out a new four-minute video that I think sums up nicely the crucial importance of science in America today.

https://www.facebook.com/neildegrassetyson/videos/10155195888806613/?pnref=story

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Easter Then and Now

Back then, I wore a new dress every Easter. I usually had a new hat too and sometimes a new lightweight matching jacket. We called it a duster. (I was in eighth grade in this photo, out in the backyard by the playhouse our dad built.)

On Easter we celebrate new life, in particular, Christianity’s celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

My mom loved the Easter symbols of new life, eggs: bunnies, and especially new clothes. She was a talented seamstress, and every year at Easter, she made use of her skills by sewing new dresses for my sister and me and also for herself.

That was then. As for now, I’ll just have to look through my closet and find something suitable to wear to Mass and afterwards to brunch. (My sister and I have reservations at Anthony’s Homeport.)

Not being a seamstress like my mom and sister, I haven’t sewed anything in decades. And now it seems to be getting harder to find a dress to buy that I like (and that looks good on me).

My next big challenge is to find something lovely to wear to my granddaughter’s graduation in June. Wish me luck! Although I have two grandsons, C is my only granddaughter, and she’s a very special girl.

I’ll leave you with photos of some of the new life that’s been springing up around here in recent days. We’ve had a cold, rainy winter in the Pacific Northwest , and spring is making a slow, cool entry. Yet, new life won’t be kept down.

Lent may be over, but these Lenten roses in my flowerbed are still going strong.

Daffodils are springtime early birds. I found these on a rainy day walk in the planters around Anthony’s.

Tulips and pansies

 

 

 

Tulips and pansies living in harmony on my deck (or at least I choose to think of it that way).

Skunk cabbage beside the brook. It actually does smell like skunks, although not nearly as strong. In fact, you have to make an effort to catch the scent.

The rhododendron is the state flower of Washington. It’s also the national flower of Nepal. I found this one on the edge of the Edmonds City Park.

Fresh new leaves in the woods

Tender new life emerging from the forest floor

I love these tiny English daisies that spring up in the grass. I found this one in the Edmonds City Park. I suppose it’s considered a weed, but as you can see, it’s not the only one.

Happy Easter and Happy Passover to everyone.

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Journal Jottings on a Coup d’état

 

I have stacks of steno notebooks, a.k.a., my journals. Writing in them has been my way of paying attention to the world around me and saving my observations for the future.

In recent years I haven’t been journaling much. On the other hand, I am making good use of some old journal entries.

The novel I’m working on now (working title: Diana) is set in the Philippines near the end of 1989. The dramatic events I wrote about in my last two posts, an assassination, the declaration of martial law, and the People Power Revolution, happened before my novel starts. By 1989, the lovely wife of the assassinated senator had been elected president, and everyone was living happily ever after.

Not. Sorry. Troubles are never ending, and they didn’t end with the election of Corazon Aquino. During the first four years of her presidency Cory survived four plots, two incidents, and four full-blown coup attempts, the most serious of which was the attempted coup of December 1989.

My husband and I lived in Manila then. Our three daughters were in college and graduate school in the States.

On December 1, the rebels, having done some serious planning (or semi-serious), got off to a good start. They seized Fort Bonifacio and several air bases, shut down the Manila International Airport, and came close to seizing the presidential palace.

Expatriates like us watched from a distance. We snickered a bit about the rebels’ planes. T-28 Trojans (tora-toras) would have been nothing to joke about in 1941. But in 1989 they looked like toys. Even so, the rebels had captured the government air bases, so for a few hours their little tora-toras ruled the sky.

According to my journal, we onlookers wavered between concern and enjoyment of the spectacle. I went up to the rooftop of our apartment building and watched the tora-toras and later the Philippine Air Force F-5 jets and then the US F-4 Phantom jets from Clark Air Base.

A touch of Hollywood drama hung over the whole undertaking due in no small part to the rebels’ swashbuckling leader. Gregorio Honasan, who was known as “Gringo” for his cowboy tough-guy attitude, had led a previous bloody coup attempt after which he’d twice been captured and twice escaped. During the second escape he’d convinced his guards to escape along him. The man was not lacking in charisma.

With previous plots and coup attempts having come to nothing, we weren’t seriously worried. That changed on the second day of the coup when foreign tourists and many of our friends found themselves smack in the middle of the action. The rebel Scout Rangers, having decided to abandon Fort Bonifacio, marched into nearby Makati.

Makati, besides being the premier financial district of the country, was also the favorite place for expats to live. On the morning of December 2, Scout Rangers bearing their firearms, mortar tubes, and Howitzers marched down Ayala Avenue. Then they proceeded to occupy 22 high-rise buildings in Makati and place snipers on the rooftops.

Government forces couldn’t dislodge them, not with more than a thousand foreign tourists and business executives trapped in hotels and office buildings and readily available to use as hostages. Instead, the government blocked off escape routes. And for the next five days tourists and Makati residents were trapped.

You won’t read in Wikipedia about the many phone calls of friends checking on friends or about the rumor that rebels were marking the homes of Americans with a cross and circle so they could use them later as hostages. You won’t read about the Vietnamese woman who needed ingredients for her husband’s dinner and was killed in front of Makati Supermarket. You will, however, find those details and others in my journal.

Some of those journal entries just might make their way (in a fictionalized form) into my new novel.

Diana is still a long way from being finished. But if you haven’t read my first novel, Tiger Tail Soup, you can find it on Amazon, barnesandnoble.com, and Apple iBooks. If you can’t find it in your favorite bookstore or library, they can order it for you. Just ask.

Here’s a video of American coverage of the coup attempt (Peter Jennings on ABC).

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An Assassination, Martial Law, and a Revolution, Part 2

 

First year of Martial Law, R & C climbing on the gate in front of our house, Herminia supervising


The phone call came at five in the morning. It was my husband’s secretary. “Turn on the radio,” she said. “Marcos just declared martial law.”

That’s how it happens, without warning.

For the next two hours, my husband sat on the floor in his shorts and undershirt, switching from station to station, calling his colleagues and friends, and trying to get more information from the Filipinos and local Chinese he knew.

“Stay inside,” he told us. Eugene knew all about danger. He had lived through war and occupation.

And yet … At 11:30, with nothing new on the radio or phone, curiosity got the better of him. We packed up the kids and drove around. The usually crowded streets were eerily quiet. We drove through Makati, down Ayala Avenue, and onto EDSA.

We could have eaten anywhere, but Eugene turned into the parking lot of a favorite Filipino restaurant, Barrio Fiesta. He couldn’t have chosen a better place to find some action. We sat down and ordered our pancit, kare kare, and fruit salad. And sure enough, before our food arrived, soldiers from the Philippine Constabulary walked in the door, their hips heavy with weapons, their boots and uniforms shouting their power. They sat down not far from us, and waved for menus. And then we all ate.

It was September, 1972, less than a year after we’d moved to the Philippines. When I think about the nine years of martial law, what I remember is the midnight curfew, the soldiers with assault rifles stationed outside banks and department stores, and the newspapers, so strenuously controlled that they were no longer worth reading.

For some Filipinos, the imposition of martial law had more serious consequences than it did for us.

Last week on my blog I wrote about “Old Girl,” a story in Mia Alvar’s short story collection, In the Country. It’s an excellent story that gives us an inside look at Senator Benigno Aquino before his assassination from the viewpoint of his wife, Cory.

Another of my favorites in the same book was a novella, the title story, “In the Country.” On page one, we meet a young nurse, Milagros. She has organized a nurses’ strike and Jaime, an idealistic journalist has come to cover it. From the beginning, politics and history cast a shadow over the couple’s love story.

They move in together and Milagros gets pregnant. Then Marcos declares martial law, and Jaime (Jim) is carried off to a military prison, where he will stay until the lifting of martial law nine years later.

… four khaki-uniformed officers led Jim out of 26 Avalon Row to a Metrocom car. … “What’s the charge?” Jim asked. He looked Milagros in the eye, as if the question was for her. “Gentlemen? The charge?” …

“Just come with us, boss,” said the officers, in the voice one uses with a senile or demented man.

The story ends fourteen years, two children, and a tragedy later during the People Power Revolution that ended the rule of President Ferdinand Marcos.

In 1986, after twenty years in power, Marcos was old and in poor health. He was brought down by a combination of things—widely held suspicions of election fraud, an aborted military coup, and a Catholic cardinal who sided with the rebels.

With the plotters holed up in a military camp, Cardinal Sin got on the air on Radio Veritas and exhorted the people to come out on the streets and support the rebels. Almost immediately, thousands of citizens flooded the highway.

The People Power Revolution lasted four days, the crowd growing to more than a million strong. Soldiers switched sides, and in the end, Marcos was forced to fly off to Hawaii for medical care.

So how did the Revolution affect the fictional nurse and journalist? I’ll just say that Milagros didn’t go to the streets. She had her reasons.

You can read all about it in In the Country by Mia Alvar.

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