Embrace the Offering of the Present

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and fellow garden writer Kylee Baumle recommended a book — The Backyard Parables by Margaret Roach — to me. When it comes to garden books, particularly those that are more memoir than reference, Kylee and I are cut of similar cloth; her recommendation carries a lot of weight.

A few hours after I ordered my copy from Amazon, Kylee posted a full review and giveaway on her blog, Our Little Acre. Her hearty recommendation to me was multiplied as she places The Backyard Parables at the top of her all-time favorite gardening books list. Coming from Kylee, an avid reader and book review editor for Horticulture magazine, this revelation only whet my appetite for a masterpiece found within the book.

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Flora! illuminated at the Sterling Morton Library

This past weekend, I visited Morton Arboretum in Lisle, IL. I’ll write about my rain-shortened visit to the Arboretum in another post, but while the rain chased most of the Aboretum’s guests into the visitor center, I took the garden path less followed to the Sterling Morton Library to view the Flora! Illuminated exhibit that runs through June 30.

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Garden bounty of the literary kind

When we think about the bounty of our gardens, we envision perhaps a bushel basket full of freshly-picked sweet corn or a bouquet of fragrant wildflowers. We may  remember the visual beauty of our landscape and how it serves as our refuge from the hectic nature of our everyday lives.

But, for me, one of the greatest products of the garden is the abundance of words that have been written by gardeners throughout the centuries as they embrace the beauty of nature, fill themselves with the sense of accomplishment that comes from tilling the soil, and understand the cycle of life that underlies all their horticultural endeavors.

Before the days of e-commerce, I could spend copious amounts of time browsing bookstore bargain tables, looking for that gem that didn’t receive mainstream attention, but nonetheless contained valuable information or inspiration in its pages. Since Amazon.com launched its Used and New service, allowing third party booksellers to shop their titles through the Amazon website, I’ve been addicted to finding deals on gardening books to add to my collection. My personal favorites are those titles selling for a penny (plus $3.99 shipping).

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Strolling along a pulchritudinous plank toward the sea of floridity

I was recently introduced to the beautiful, entrancing prose of Carlos Ruiz Zafón (Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game). Each volume consumed my attention over the course of several cool late July and early August evenings. As I turned the final page of The Angel’s Game to complete the second novel of his Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, I felt literally spent, exhausted from the immersion in the world of Ruiz Zafón’s characters and creation. Simultaneously I was struck by disappointment that I would have to wait perhaps years until his next novel is published in English (the orginials are written in Spanish). I cannot remember the written word ever effecting on me such a complete emotional response; it has me looking at words — and more specifically fiction — in a completely different manner.

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Music!

Just started reading This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel Levitin. Although it’s hard to give a thumbs up or down after just a handful of pages, it’s certainly interesting so far. For what promises to be a “scientific” book, Levitin has an accessible writing style. I’m particularly interested in any insight into why my brain seems to be so wired to music. Ever since the advent of the iPod — which gave me pinpoint control over my musical environment — music in some form illustrates and enlivens my waking hours. It’s become hard to work in silence; although on the flip side, I now find it hard to fall asleep listening to music.