“My Big Boomer Blunder”
2019, guest blogger at Boomer Café.
2018, first prize for creative nonfiction from New Millennium Writings
“Then There Was Dad”
2017, Hippocampus Magazine
“Can Baby Boomers Wear Pajamas Even In Public?”
2017, guest blogger at Boomer Café
“Are We Boomers The Best To Give Relationship Advice?”
2017, guest blogger at Boomer Café, 2017
“One Baby Boomer’s No Contact Solution For The Future”
2017, guest blogger at Boomer Café, 2017
2014, Available on Paperback and Kindle from Amazon.com
“Conversation about Cabbage”
2011, National Public Radio
“The Block Party”
2006, San Francisco Chronicle
2005, Carve Magazine
“I’m In The Wrong Movie”
Work not available on-line:
2012, “The Bungalow” , Redwood Coast Review
1998, “How I Stopped Watching Life”, guest columnist, San Francisco Chronicle
1998, "My Old Lady Won’t Leave Me Alone”, guest columnist, San Francisco Chronicle
1995, “Safe Ground”, San Francisco Sunday Chronicle First Person
1994, “Who’s Going to Repair Your Car? You Are!”, Cosmopolitan Magazine
“The Accidental Gardener” will come out in Green Prints Magazine this year.
Meantime here it is… for free.
The Accidental Gardener
It was deep winter in northern California on the day when I bought the house of my dreams. After a lifetime of renting, at last, my own little bungalow. I sat at the kitchen table signing documents and making scary decisions with my real estate lady while outside the rain battered my quarter acre of land, an unexplored swamp of mud, frost-blackened branches and barren twigs. I had been too consumed with plumbing and walls and floors inside to care about what was beyond the back door. That morning I glanced through the streaming window and noted, over in a far corner, an area of wires, cables and posts. I’m from Philadelphia, what do I know? I see wires, I think electricity. I figured it was some sort of generator in case the power failed, as if I were at a remote outpost in the Antarctic and not an hour north of San Francisco. Compared with the complex documents spread before me, the prospect of managing my own power source seemed incidental. I also saw gnarled stumps along with the cables and posts. “What are those plants?” I asked my real estate lady. She glanced up from a signature, squinted then shrugged. “I think they’re wisteria,” she said dismissively. Later I looked up wisteria on the internet. I would like them. They were pretty, possibly a diversion from the unsightly utility substation I’d be managing.
Fast forward to May. At the first hint of spring, that dormant quarter acre exploded with growing things. Blossoms like fireworks, vines and leaves, stems and branches, I had no clue what most of it was and my “wisteria” was emitting grapes. The cables and posts and wires were the supports and irrigation lines for a vineyard. I would have been better prepared to cope with a voltage transformer. It was as if I’d suddenly become curator of an alien zoo where I couldn’t recognize the creatures and they were hungry. I was frantic. Nothing in Philadelphia had prepared me for a prolific garden in the fertile California wine country. Back in Philly I’d had a bonsai. On the windowsill.
Thankfully, a neighbor told me about Domingue, a local gardener. She gave me his number and instructed me to leave a message with a time and day for a visit. His son would make sure he gets the information. If he couldn’t show up, his son would call. I thought the son thing was odd – but everything was odd.
Promptly on time, a man pulled up in a dusty truck. I raced over and pumped his hand. "Domingue, I am so glad to see you. I’m afraid I’m going to kill everything. I don’t know how and when and what to water. What is fertilizer? I know it has to do with cow manure but how would I get a cow to… never mind, anyway, can I eat the strawberries? They look like actual strawberries from the store but you never know. And there’s a bug the size of a four-year-old child. It keeps looking at me. And there are roses. And a vineyard! I’m a nervous wreck. Can you help me?”
Domingue had a wonderful smile and kind eyes. “No English,” he said.
Fast forward another ten years. I took a class in viticulture and one in horticulture and I can recognize what I’m growing. The produce section of the grocery store and the florist are deprived of my income from April, when my lettuce is ready and the roses are blooming, through November when the last melon is gone. Along with my neighbors I carry a bag of zucchini around in August, offering it to anyone who isn’t also carrying a bag of zucchini hoping to give it to me. Thankfully I’m growing juice grapes, not wine, so I’m not competing with my neighbors at Gallo and Kendall-Jackson and I found a little grape press to keep everyone in juice and jelly for months. But of greatest importance, I somehow haven’t sent Domingue out on stress disability. We’re both a bit more grey-haired now – I’m hoping I haven’t caused his share – and he still shows up every week even though I still plague him with questions and my grasp of Spanish is nonexistent. Actually, even my grasp of the Spanish-English dictionary is questionable. Once, apparently, I told him that bats were eating the strawberries when I meant snails. I will never have his intuitive understanding of what each plant needs and when it’s needed, but I can effectively semaphore that my Roma tomatoes hate me and that accounts for the blossom end rot this year, and he nods and adjusts the water and calcium and they improve. He never laughs at me or seems discouraged. If I had to work with someone like me I’d be on medication by now.
These days when each winter comes I’m back at that kitchen table, again poring over documents – except this time it’s seed catalogues. Of course I remember that first morning and the bewilderment and the D.I.Y. voltage transformer and it cracks me up every time. Then I go back to a different sort of decision. What to plant for that explosion of growing things in May. Perhaps, along with the flowers and edibles for the table, a little wisteria for nostalgia?