Labyrinth_optJust before the rainy days, I managed to finish weeding and replanting the labyrinth for spring.  Lots of spinach, sorrel, herbs, and mustard greens remain and self seed each year. And this year some blue honey wart, too. Not to mention my friend’s statue.

And meanwhile, this by Robert Shiller from today’s paper, read to me by Larry, on the labyrinthine world of finance–the path through that is more convoluted:

“Governments…use expanded credit in a desperate effort to placate a dissatisfied electorate. Credit expansion can create housing bubbles and an illusion of wealth for many people, for a while, at least. ‘Let them eat credit.’ “

Dressed for fall

Just before the rain, I finished weeding, chopping and slashing, and used straw to outline the labyrinth paths.  It looks a little swallowed by straw at the moment, but it will all calm down with a little rain and time.

As I was doing this, I was thinking about Rumpelstiltskin, and his spinning straw into gold–clearly a daunting task. Why is it that so many fairy tales have questionable morals? I mean, really, we’re teaching children that it’s fine to back out on your promise if the person who helped you is less than human? Or if his demands now seem too great?

Anyway, the rest of the definitely-not-gold-but-straw bale will make paths in the vegetable garden and what’s leftover will get added to the chickens’ hay.  They happily dig through and manure it for use as garden mulch.

Another poem at least partially about poetry…ekphrastic?

I know it’s been almost a week, but here’s another poem as part of the ekphrastic series, assuming a poem about a poem can be in that category. This one is by Jack Spicer, one of the poets Larry first introduced me to when I came to the West Coast decades ago. Like Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, his work was different than anything I’d seen before.

Any fool can get into an ocean…

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one. Continue reading “Another poem at least partially about poetry…ekphrastic?”

Domestic Felicity

Yesterday was the day for pruning the labyrinth. I am a person who loves to plant and tend but hates to cut. My mother used to say she liked the look of wild gardens, and I guess I do, too.

Nonetheless, it was no longer possible to walk the full labyrinth, so pruning and tying back was in order. I took my wonderful Japanese scissors and some brown garden twine, and set to work.

The whole project took four hours, not the hour or so I’d expected. But it at the end the labyrinth was a labyrinth again, not an impassable maze, and the pullets feasted on the cuttings.

As a finishing touch, I placed a statue (a wonderful gift from a sculptor friend) near the center. In addition to gracing the labyrinth, it holds back the Blue Showers plant so that I didn’t have to completely decimate it.

Everyone was happy. Or at least the chickens and I were both pleased with the morning’s work.

If I were to work on a poem today, it would be in the category Bob Hass called in a lecture “poems of domestic felicity.” One of my favorites in that category is this one, “Everyone Was in Love.”As with all domestic felicity, there is a hint of darkness at the edges that only makes the moment sweeter.

Everyone Was in Love

One day, when they were little, Maud and Fergus
appeared in the doorway, naked and mirthful,
with a dozen long garter snakes draped over
each of them like brand-new clothes.
Snake tails dangled down their backs,
and snake foreparts in various lengths
fell over their fronts, heads raised
and swaying, alert as cobras. They writhed their dry skins
upon each other, as snakes like doing
in lovemaking, with the added novelty
of caressing soft, smooth, moist human skin.
Maud and Fergus were deliciously pleased with themselves.
The snakes seemed to be tickled too.
We were enchanted. Everyone was in love.
Then Maud drew down off Fergus’s shoulder,
as off a tie rack, a peculiarly
lumpy snake and told me to look inside.
Inside that double-hinged jaw, a frog’s green
webbed hind feet were being drawn,
like a diver’s, very slowly as if into deepest waters.
Perhaps thinking I might be considering rescue,
Maud said, “Don’t. Frog is already elsewhere.”

This poem is in Galway Kinnell’s latest book, Strong is Your Hold. Not only is this a wonderful book, it comes with a CD of Galway reading the poems. He has one of the great reading voices, and the book is worth it just to hear him read this poem.



The tag line for this blog includes “a labyrinthine life,” because that seems to me the perfect metaphor for the shape of a life. We can always craft stories about what happened afterwards, but while it’s happening, life is mysterious, counter-intuitive, lots of backtracks and strange turns, which is what I find so compelling about labyrinths. I love that the path to the center is not straightforward and that they have no real “reason” for being.

When I visited my friend Maureen about 10 years ago, she had made one in the field next to her house using a lawnmower to cut the circles into the tall grass. Over time, her friends brought her rocks, fragments, small pots, etc. to put in the center. I was so jealous! But I lived in a space with no flat surface. I had a hill, but it was too steep for a labyrinth.

A few years ago we moved, and the house we bought had a space we could make into a small (16’ diameter) labyrinth, a project I’ve been working on since about August of last year. I decided to plant kitchen herbs and small flowers in the labyrinth rows, and modified a plan to fit the space. I cleared and weeded the ground, and took a stick and a string to make the concentric circles, then made the pattern by mounding the dirt:

The idea for me was that it would work a little pause into my day—I tend to move very quickly. I planted the herbs I use most (parsley, oregano, cilantro, sage, chives) in the outer row, so I wouldn’t have to walk the whole labyrinth if I just wanted a sprig of one of them. I bought seedlings at Annie’s Annuals, the best retail nursery I’ve ever seen.

After three months, the labyrinth looks like this:

I have many interim shots, including one with the just-planted labyrinth filled with hail, which gave me the idea for the pale pebble walkway.  But like pictures of one’s children, I may be more in love with them than you are, so I thought these two would suffice for now.

I pick from the labyrinth daily, and tend to walk the whole labyrinth at least once a week, gathering flowers for small bouquets as well as lettuces and herbs. I’ve been adding to the plantings as I go. It’s an ongoing project. And as it’s right in my entryway, it gives people some idea about who I am as they come in. I like that!