Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fire In The Fall - Inaba Shidare, Family And Friends

Inaba Shidare in my garden
This Japanese maple is by our kitchen door. It rewards us with this fire every November. We rescued Inaba Shidare from a big box store at the end of the season several years ago. Languishing in a gallon pot and all but dead, it had suffered a season of being under watered and over watered. Many of its branches had been snapped and torn, so it was also badly miss-shaped. It was a homely wreck of a struggling tree. 'Shidare' means cascade in Japanese, but there was no cascading going on there. Had we not spent  the five dollars, it was headed to the dumpster that night. This variety of Japanese maple has been cultivated in Yokohama since the early 1800s. Inaba Shidare won the prestigious Award Of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. A dumpster would have been an unceremonious end.
Inaba Shidare is unique amongst the Japanese maples as it is an upright grower. They reach between five and seven feet in height. Ours is about six feet now.
My husband gave this fountain to me for my fiftieth birthday. My daughter dubbed it "The Puking Fish."
The Puking Fish and Inaba Shidare greet visitors at our front door. I see them from the kitchen, too.

These Japanese maple leaves are from a different tree in our yard. Unlike Inaba Shidare, it has a horizontal form. It was also a rescue from the brink of death and destruction. One August, we dug it up from a property where it was hours from being bulldozed. I don't know what variety it is, nor do I care. It thanks us every fall with this outrageous crimson. Ferns grow at its feet and this Pulmonaria volunteered amongst them. Who could blame the Lung Wort for wanting to be with them? 
The iron pagoda was given to my husband by a dear, elderly friend, Louise. Louise died. She was ninety five and had lived a rich, bawdy life. We loved her and she loved us. Louise would have loved being in the middle of this riot of fall color. The Japanese Painted ferns by the pagoda, the dwarf, false cypress and the hostas were also end-of-season, big box cast offs.

Japanese maples do well here in agricultural zone five. They like humidity, of which we have plenty on the coast. These trees thrive in the conditions that make your hair frizz. They do not do well in wind, nor too much sun. The leaves dry out very easily, so they must be protected. We have seven of them on our postage stamp sized property, each tucked into a protective nook with afternoon shade. Every one of them is a rescue, nursed from the brink of death to the glory that was intended for them. 

      I am a gardener. It's a hobby to which I have been deeply devoted for decades. For money, I garden for other people in the summer. I call it "Weeding For Dollars."  I am also, by license and education, a Registered Nurse. I don't work in health care anymore, though I still have a license. I'll probably always have it. It was a hard won token and nurses don't give it up easily. For more than half of my life, it was part of what defined me.
     You don't have to be Sigmund Freud to figure out that I am a nurturing, caring person. I have such a bad case of helping hands that I spent three years in the Peace Corps! I was twenty-two and thought I could save the world!  And, I did save a couple of people. But in the end, most of my energy was spent on trying to save myself. I was profoundly depressed and physically, seriously ill more than once. It took a lot of work simply to survive that experience.
     I've always felt guilty about that, too. Somewhere in my dark, little heart I've believed that I should have been able to do more, to save everybody. That didn't go away with the Peace Corp, either. All my life I have been driven by a fix it force from deep within. It would lead me to marry a physically and emotionally abusive man, a destructive force with whom I stayed for eighteen years. I clung to the belief that I could repair his life.
     It has inclined me to collect friends who are wounded, crippled people. The weak light coming from their little planets gets sucked right into my orbit. Then, we are stuck with each other forever, spinning around in anguished, late night phone conversations. We huddle on each other's sofas, deep into bottles of wine and tales of despair. We clutch cups of coffee in each other's kitchens, the crying kitchens.
     I love my friends as deeply as I have loved my sisters, most of whom have had horrific problems in their lives. I've been drawn into their pain as if it were my own. But while listening to their stories, I have been strategizing solutions. Though I've listened to them, in the back of my mind a play has been going on. On the stage, I am the heroine who saves them all. 
     When I was young, I believed the screen play ending. But as I've gotten older, I've learned that there's damned little I can fix and less that I can save. The most that I've got for anybody is listening to them with a lid kept on the advice - a windless nook with shade. I wish for us all it was as easy as the little broken trees.


  1. You have captured the most brilliant Fall colors that Mother Nature has provided us. You are a very caring individual who, like me, continuously feels they can "fix" everything. I will pass on some Joey D. wisdom that has been my rule for life..."Things you feel you can change, go ahead and try. Things you are unable to change, LET IT GO and move on with your life."
    Apreciating the wonderful family we share...
    Happy Thanksgiving...There is much to be thankful.

  2. HG, Thank you. One is best advised to not let events of the past hobble one's ability to live fully in the present or the future. But, to forget is another thing. It gets very complicated in the middle ground. Agreed? I love the family, even those who have chosen to no longer prarticipate (mine). Happy and whole holidays to all, XORRR

  3. Your work here makes a difference in someones life maybe even more than you know. Those pictures are beautiful. =-}

    November 19, 2011 11:18 PM

  4. Robin, there's a reason we were so immediately comfortable with each other. I think you just touched on it.

  5. Hi Robin, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and feelings. Don't you find that when things get a little 'over the top' the best place to be is in your garden, I know mine has saved me many times. Unfortunately I don't think you'll ever change, you're a carer (me too) and people will always know where they can come to talk without being judged. It's good, it's just the way it is. Take care of yourself. Oh and btw, your garden sounds brilliant, all those 'rescued' trees are rewarding you now.

  6. Perth, thank for that. I agree, my garden, or other people's when I'm working, are often the places where I sort things out for myself. Weeding gives me a Zen like rhythm and state of being conducive to problem solving. Or, sometimes ruminating depending on my mood! And, you are probably correct that I'll no likely change. Sorry world!

  7. Christine Geery (OS)November 23, 2011 at 1:41 PM

    My rating button won't work, but if it did I would give you 10. This is wonderful, both the pictures and the writing. I too believe I can save everyone and I have saved damn few. The best gift you can give is what you have been giving...that of listening. Most of the time that is all we can do and people love that gift most of all. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

    Christine Geery
    November 23, 2011 12:58 PM

  8. Your place looks so very inviting, puking fish and all. I don't know which is more beautiful, your pictures or your words. R

    Rodney Roe
    November 23, 2011 08:45 PM

  9. AAaaaawe! Christine, thank you so very much! To just sit and listen sometimes feels so flat, so inadequate. I'm a do-er, so it doesn't feel natural to do 'nothing.' I know though, that often alll I want from my friends is to listen to me and not feel like they have to fix it. Thanks for the 'rate!'

  10. We have a Japanese maple outside our front window, Robin. Not sure which strain, but it's growing verrrry slowly. The mature trees in our neighborhood are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos.
    Matt Paust
    November 23, 2011 09:08 PM

  11. Rodney, thank you. We have a very interesting yard with a panoramic view of the open ocean, plants and ornamental trees jammed in everywhere, eleaborately pruned conifers and statuary. Sounds tacky, I suppose. But most find it a tasteful eyeful. Thanks for the rate and comment.

  12. Matt, thank you, too for the read and rate and comment. Always appreciated. There are two types of Japanese maples (to my knowledge): palmatums and dissectums. The palmatums are bigger leaves with not so fine cuts. The dissectums are the lace leaf, finely cut typs like the Inaba Shidare in these photos. I have both types here. The dissectums are slower growers in my experience. It takes about three years for them to really get established and take off. After that, they fill in quite quickly, even the crippled ones that started out their lives in harsh environments catch up fast. Keep giving it plenty of water and food and it will reward. They are kind of like dogs that way. :)

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