The back yard

Seven summers ago, I started a new life devoted to writing, in Provincetown. Naturally, I wanted to distract myself. My apartment was surrounded by growth. The front garden was tamed by the former tennant, an admirable writer, who grew epic tomatoes and many herbs.  I was told repeatedly, though,  that nothing would grow in the back, though; too much shade, poor soil; wind.

Nothing motivates me more than a gardening challenge. I researched Cape Cod garden peculiarities, studied books on soil improvement, and shade gardens all winter long. In the spring, I got to work.

The back had two bare plots, divided by a common gravel path.  The north-facing cement wall, aka foundation,  featured a tangle of wires and meters, and wooden fences ran along the east and west sides.  The front was seperated from the wetlands by another gravel footpath.  It wasn’t a secret graden, or a reading nook to escape with a book and tea.  Without privacy, the backyard became a place to landscape and learn.  The nooks and bits of garden I’d had before mostly consisted of pots, and not much dug into the ground.  So, right off, I bought a shovel, pruners, and a rake, and the first in a series of garden hoses.   The pruners especially rusted magnificantly.    

Two hostas already grew along one fence, so I took the cue, and planted a few more. I found cinnamon fern, dicentra, astilbe, Forget-me-not, sweet woodruff, and huchera in the local nurseries. I added that year’s star perennial, geranium Rozanne, and some annuals, guided by garden catelougues, books, and sales.  


Things grew slowly that year, but steadily. Clematis came next, and buddleia. I tried a potted dahlia, trout lilies, and to my surprise, I had a volunteer Joe Pye’s Weed. The latter was good for the bees, my gardener friend told me, and she gave me some monarda to plant as well.


I kept trying new things, like margoton lilies, heirloom glads, snake’s head fritilleria. Some plants reassuringly appeared year after year, while others, like the trout lilies and buddleia, last only a five years. One year, the cinnamom ferns kept having babies. But the garden feels incomplete. It lacks a sense of sanctuary, a sense of safety. It looks good in parts, but does it have a sense of harmony? I have my catelogues and graph paper out. I’m watching garden shows and taking notes. If you have suggestions, I’m listening. (Below the next two photos is a slideshow.)740″] Fern explosion, 2017?[/caption]

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A vegetarian at the seaside: rant

Vegetables Disguised as Fish at the Gardner Museum Cafe

A good metaphor for being vegetarian at a seaside resort town is that the only health food store becomes a beer hall.

When you ask if there is anything vegetarian to eat, the waiter will brightly say, “ we have a really good veggie burger.”

Twenty years ago,the only veg option at a nice restaurant was stir fry, which was another name for steamed carrots, beans, and portobello mushrooms over fried rice.

Before veggie burgers, an entire giant portobello mushroom would be seared and served in a bun.

At Chinese restaurants, the veg option was Buddha’s Delight,meaning you had given you taste.

Thirty years ago,you could ask for mashed potatoes, but not the gravy.

Someone realized pasta could work as a vegetarian option, and that vegetarian did not mean boiled noodles with salt.

A non-vegetarian will assume a vegetarian can’t have ever have had a decent meal.

A vegetarian will only realize how difficult it is to be a dinner guest when hosting gluten-intolerant guests, or vegans.

Vegans are much more militaristic than vegetarians.

MasterClass with Ravi Shankar video ( 2008)

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