Tulip, 2005 Floriade, Canberra

The color of spring

I pass by the floral department in the local Safeway and see the spring flowers with all their vibrant colors. The daffodils, hyacinths, tulips are on display, and walking up to choose a bunch for my table, I catch the fragrance of springtime.

In my current mode of cleaning and and preparing to move, I’ve given away the few potted plants I had here. I have three small flower beds outside, but of course those plants will stay with the house. No digging up and transplanting for me.

To take the place of green and growing plants, I’ve been buying cut flowers for my table. I have a different color of bulb every week. Sometimes I’ve mixed colors of tulips, or had a bouquet of a single hue. The deep purples and milky white flowers are stunning together, and make a showy centerpiece. I also like the freshness of pink tulips. Seeing a big double bunch spilling out of their vase in the morning brings a smile to my face.

I made a decision recently that I know would be scandalous to my 89-year-old grandmother. I’ve determined that I’m not going to have indoor plants again. For a person who comes from a long line of green thumbs, mine is surprisingly, disappointingly, brown. I can grow flowers outdoors. But when I bring a plant inside, it’s just a matter of time. I know it, and the plant knows it.

And here’s the thing. With my new-found freedom from potted plants, if I’m traveling for a week, I just don’t buy fresh flowers. Nothing invested, nothing lost. And since I’m at the grocery every week, any time I need to add a splash of color, it’s easy enough to do. Cut flowers liven up my dining room in a way that a potted plant never did. And they last amazingly well. I can keep a bouquet for almost a week.

I do like a fresh cutting of rosemary or basil on a regular basis, and I plan to put those outdoors in my next location. But I’m making a pact with myself right now. When I move, I’ll put effort into plants outside. But I’ll let the grocery florist do the work for the inside. Should be a pretty even trade, when I think about the number of plants I’ve bought and killed over the years. At least there’s no surprise when you buy cut flowers. You know they’re going to wilt and turn brown within a week. I guess, to be fair, I always knew that about the potted plants too…the timing was a bit more uncertain, depending on the heartiness of the plant. But the outcome was never in doubt!

So here’s another little declaration of independence: I don’t need a potted plant to make me feel at home, or to create a warm environment. I do need color and freshness. But like many things in life, there’s more than one way to fulfill the need. I’m focused on freeing myself from things that have taken my time, held me back, kept me in a maze, and not returned the investment I’ve made. Potted plants fit in several of these categories. It’s a small step, but one of several I’ve taken recently. And even better, voicing it out loud validates my decision, tells me I’m letting go.

It’s going to be a great spring. See you at the floral counter!

Food done right

Tomato plants in the garden.
Home grown tomatoes

There is a growing awareness in the US today of the value of eating locally grown organic and sustainable foods. This isn’t a new concept, but there are more and more restaurants creating menus from locally sourced produce, dairy, and meats. The menus reflect what is in season at the moment…what is available at the time of year. The reality is that this is simply a return to a much older way of eating…long before pesticides, mass production, and vast distribution systems became the norm in the food industry.

Small and privately owned farms are leading this movement. There is a renewed appreciation for the art, the craft, the science, of food production done well, from the farm to the table. Farmers inspire chefs, and chefs support farmers. It’s a healthy and nutritious approach to life.

One of the goals I have in choosing “next” is to have access to farmers’ markets and to a wider array of food choices. At the local markets in Ketchikan, there is a good selection of ethnic and imported foods. But it would be oh so fun to have even more options. I remember my mom going to Indian food stores to buy authentic curry spice mixtures and other items that were not available at the local grocery. Things have come a long way. But I’m intrigued by the challenge of eating locally, and I want to explore the choices that come with living in a region of the country that has a rich agricultural tradition and more ethnic diversity of restaurants and resources.

Long ago, when Rob and I were first married, we planted a few tomato plants outside our apartment building. My grandmother, one of the greenest thumbs of all time, recommended a healthy spread of chicken manure as fertilizer for the plants. Those tomato vines produced an amazing harvest, and I must say, the only tomato harvest I’ve ever personally produced.

I don’t want to become a farmer. I don’t think my thumb is green enough. But I would love to have access to farmers’ bounty, and to have the opportunity to try my hand at growing tomatoes again. I don’t know if or when that ambition may become a reality. It is one of the things I’m thinking about as I sit dreaming, looking out at the Tongass Narrows. Living “as if, ” thinking, “not at once, but at last.”As  I said to a friend a few days ago, if all my dreams come true, I could spend the rest of my life living in an RV. I highly doubt that will be the case! But I think some adventuring is in order before I think about planting tomatoes or new roots. I’m good with that. I don’t need either of those things at the moment. But some day, maybe I’ll be a proud tomato grower again. And I’ll have a favorite farm stand to visit.