Monday, August 15, 2011

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-August, 2011

Happy Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, Everybody!  With our yard freshly pruned and August being one of the hottest driest months around here (unless we're getting rain from passing tropical storms) I wasn't sure what I was going to find today, but I managed to do OK!

Probably suffering the most from the recent lack of rain (and my poor watering skills) is my Evolvus glomeratus (Blue Daze), but shriveled or not, it's still putting out some lovely color.

Winning the award for "Best Attendance" is my golden shrimp plant, Pachystachys lutea.  It always shows up, never complains, and gets the job done with nice flair but little drama.  If I had to hire any of the plants in my yard, this would be the one.

To be fair, my lantana probably does the same thing, but it's always buried under my variegated hau plants, where I can't see it.  

I have a few red gingers that are in pretty nice form today.  They show up pretty consistently as well, but sometimes they look like they need to go back home, put on a clean shirt, and comb their hair.  Not really "front of the house" material, I'm afraid.

My white spider lily, Crinum asiaticum, was among the plants that got a pretty severe pruning yesterday, but the flowers are hanging in there. 

The creamy white flowers and the pretty pink bracts of my bouganvillea come in a close second for "Best Attendance".  

I've still got a few snapdragons...

...and some lobelia.

Another victim of the severe pruning, my variegated hau is being a real trooper, seeing as how these are the trimmings that are sitting in our truck bed, waiting to be hauled away.  

The newest addition to my yard, lavender.  I love the smell, but I can only seem to pick it up peripherally.  If I stick my nose right into the leaves or flowers, I can't smell anything, but as soon as I start to move away, I can catch a faint waft.  

Although they're not much to look at, the night-blooming jasmine comes to life at night and often fills the whole front of our house with its heady aroma.

This poor little guy, Cuphea hyssopifolia (False Heather/Mexian Heather/Hawaiian Heather) rarely gets any love, even though it blooms year-round.  It tends to get a little leggy and overwhelmed by all the things that are planted above it.

You know I'm getting desperate when I start taking pictures of my rosemary.

I love the hot pink and bright yellow of my hardy ice plant.

This time last month, my Agapanthus was just getting ready to bloom, and I was wondering what the weird little nubbins were that were sticking out about half-way down the stem.

Well, it turns out they were fairly normal flowers-to-be.  

Possibly my most mysterious bloomer is my Texas sage.  Like the drought-tolerant, desert plant that it is, it seems to go from zero flowers to fully-formed, open flowers overnight.  I have yet to watch a bud develop on this plant.  I think I might have to schedule a watering and photography stake-out some day to see how these flowers appear.  If I do, you know I'll post the riveting results here!

I hope you managed to find something blooming in your August gardens and that you didn't pass out from the heat while looking.  To see what others found blooming in their yards today, visit our Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day host, Carol, at May Dreams Gardens.  Thanks, Carol!  

Thursday, August 11, 2011

What I'm Reading Now-That Day in September

That Day In SeptemberThat Day in September by Artie Van Why--When the author contacted me with a request to review his book, I was immediately interested because I've never really read anything about September 11th.  I mean, of course I've read news articles, seen survivor and hero stories on TV, and I've seen the events of that day incorporated into other literature; but I've never really read any stories about what it was like just to be there that day as an ordinary citizen.  Artie Van Why didn't miraculously escape from above the wreckage, he didn't heroically save anybody's life, and he didn't lose anybody close to him that day.  Like so many other New Yorkers, he was just there, living his life like he always did, and then the world changed.  He witnessed all the terrible things and felt all the shock and confusion that everybody else did, and this is his story about that day.

The book is short--only 87 pages--and Van Why manages to give enough background information for the reader to get a feel for who he is and how he ended up where he did that day without overshadowing the rest of the story. The first few chapters switch back and forth between the author's background story and the events of September 11th, and I didn't feel like it flowed well; I think he would have done better to stick with a strict chronological telling of the story, but this was a minor sticking point with me, nothing irrecoverable.

I think this story will resonate with a lot of people.  People who weren't there can still relate to the feelings of shock and disbelief, the helplessness we all felt watching the events unfold on the television.  I think at some point, we've all wondered (and then failed to adequately imagine) what it was like to be there...and then put it out of our minds and gone about the rest of our day.  Artie Van Why was there, and he wasn't able to put it out of his mind.  Initially, he performed his story as a one-man theater piece; this was his way of telling his story, getting it all out there, connecting with others who couldn't forget.  Eventually, he turned his story into a book, in part to make sure that the rest of us don't forget either.

Something that surprised me was that the author managed to bring this story home for me in a way that nothing else ever really has, and it was through the small detail of describing the World Trade Center plaza  where he used to take his lunch breaks or drink his morning coffee.  I've never been to New York, so the only mental images I have are of the hustle and bustle of New York--the tall buildings, all the people on the sidewalks, the cabs, Wall Street.  With all its millions of fashionable, never-sleeping, corporate-lunching people, New York always seemed so other-worldly.  Eating lunch in a plaza, enjoying a few minutes of sunshine, watching the tourists take in the sights that you've come to regard as part of everyday life?  I could relate to that; I finally had a way to relate New York life to my island life and suddenly I could really imagine the contrast of living your life one minute and the world falling down around you the next in a way that I hadn't been able to before.

While this book certainly serves as a reminder of the tragedy of that day, I was struck by the fact that it also serves as a reminder of how much we all pulled together as a nation.  Although Van Why didn't set out to chronicle any particular heroism, he still managed to highlight the ways in which the citizens of New York reached out to one another to show support in a thousand little ways.  Everybody came together as neighbors, as fellow citizens and united in support of one another. Looking around at the political climate in the country right now, I feel like we have fallen so far from that, and Van Why's book serves as a good reminder that we're all in this together and maybe it wouldn't hurt to take a little better care of each other while we're all still here.

As the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks approaches, I think this would be a fitting book to read as a tribute to those who died, to those who lost loved ones, to those who tried to save them, and to all the people who were there that day to witness all the tragedy first-hand.

Thank you to Artie Van Why for sending me a copy of his book.  For more information about the author and his book, you can visit his Facebook page, his Amazon author page, and his Goodreads page.