As I finish dinner with my family at a restaurant along the Bay Trail in Burlingame, California, I watch the last rays of the day's light sinking into the horizon. When we walk outside, I pull my camera out and set it on a sign post for stability to catch those beams before they are completely absorbed by the earth. Evening flights are taking off and landing at San Francisco airport, just north of where I am standing and the lights in the distance are beginning to twinkle on. I snap a few, close my eyes and allow myself the luxury of imagining that he miraculously has been able to come here and enjoy this moment with me. I brush away the tears before turning around to head back toward my family.
The apples from the tree my grandfather planted in his (now my) back garden were kind of a dull, mottled red. Not the prettiest of fruits. But wow, they were juicy, shot through with sugary veins, the flesh firm and crunchy. Perfect for eating right off the tree, and for baking, as well.
Several years ago, my father announced that the tree was diseased and had it cut down. On the bright side, it gave a little plum seedling that had appeared a few years earlier in its shadow the opportunity to grow. But there would be no more apples. Maybe it was dad's way of telling me he didn't want any more of my apple sauce!
The next year, another seedling appeared, almost in the grave of the original apple tree. With smooth bark, and large green leaves, it looked suspiciously like an apple tree, so I let it grow. This year, small, whitish-pinkish blossoms appeared, again, a lot like apple blossoms. And last week, a tiny little green nub appeared high on one of the top branches!
The little apple is already beginning to take shape and color and has grown considerably in one week. It is difficult to tell at this point, whether it sprouted from fruit that dropped from the original tree, or one that fell out of the compost pile, but I plan to cover it with netting before it ripens too much, so I can "test" it properly.
I mentioned mounting a 20 foot tall ladder to prune a bonsai on Martina's page, and failed to mention it was not the kind that is confined to a small container! This tree takes up half my front garden, is unfortunate enough to have to depend on me, and therefore has not been pruned for over three years! Originally, my grandfather shaped it into neat ovals, which are indistinguishable, now. Those branches shooting straight up? Not supposed to be there. Some are already over three centimeters in diameter, too large for my loppers. I have to use a hand saw to remove them.
For two days, I have been chipping away at the overgrowth with bypass hedge trimmers, loppers and the hand saw. The photo at left shows how far I got ... not very!
As I look at the photos, I want to try to preserve some of the randomness and airiness of the overgrown look. In a traditional garden, trees are shaped to represent the sky, and I want my clouds a bit less compact and controlled than my grandfather had them (sorry, grandpa!).
I was in the town of Nancy one Saturday, and happened upon a used bookstore. I love used books. The worn pages, the musty smell, sometimes with a note inside the front cover, sometimes something clever in a margin. And I love used bookstores, because the people working in them tend to be a tad more passionate about their merchandise than clerks in other retail establishments.
I walked in and headed straight for the sale bin. Smack dab in front was Patrick Süskind's Perfume! My boyfriend had mentioned it a long time ago, and it is also the favorite book of my best friend in Metz, so it had been on my shopping list. I snapped it up.
That night, I discovered it would be an almost impossible read for me. Much of the vocabulary was beyond my comprehension. I had to first read a sentence for gist, translate the words I didn't know, reread it, then read the whole paragraph again after following that sequence for every sentence ... and then re-translate some of the words I'd forgotten! After one hour, I had read and understood five paragraphs.
But what a sensual five paragraphs! Laden with nouns and adjectives, I could smell 18th century Paris from the safety of my 20th century Metz apartment! I was excited! And disappointed, as I knew I would have to read the English version to fully understand it.
As I prepared to move back to California, I discovered a new used bookstore had opened in my hometown a few doors down from what used to be my parent's pharmacy. My first week back, I walked into B Street Books. The man behind the counter asked if he could help me find anything.
"I'm looking for Patrick Süskind's Perfume."
And a voice behind one of the shelves said "It just so happens I have a copy of it in my hand!"
Well, that was easy! My French is better now, so I am reading a paragraph in French first, then reading the English version to see what I missed and using the French-English dictionary for the words I can't figure out. The going is still slow, but it is a little faster than before. I wonder what everyone else is reading this summer...
I'm a short, semi-optimistic but fully cynical middle-aged, angry but happy, crazy mixed up kid from the bay area. I'm so old I remember when my home town was in the 415, we collected records instead of MP3s, and school teachers didn't have to beg parents to make photocopies for them.