It will be a while before they sprout but the Scarlet Emperor Beans of 2020, the third generation of seeds that began with a packet I bought five years ago, are planted and ready to grow. I planted twelve on the hope that I will find a sunny spot for all of them. And they may not all come up. I do not know “who” they will be this year, but for now they are the “children” of the undaunted Tang Dynasty poets, Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho, Bai Juyi, and Wang Wei.
Meanwhile spring is doing its thing. Ravens and magpies fly by with twigs in their mouths to contribute to the nest. The crocus are blooming and the daffodils are up. Bear’s patch of snow is really gone, but it could snow more and we hope it does. We’re still in drought. Normally by now I’ve got other seeds going, but this year I’m a little behind. It doesn’t matter. I can’t put anything outside until June 1. 🙂
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Meanwhile I have more drawings to do. Yesterday I drew the Little Snake River. I’ve never illustrated someone else’s book before and I’m enjoying it very much. I “met” the author of the book I’m illustrating here on Word Press a while back, I think 2016. Her blog is Ladder Ranch and shows what’s going on with her ranch in Wyoming. I found it in a search for Livestock Guardian Dogs. She has something like 14 dogs like Bear that work hard to guard her sheep. She lives in one of Wyoming’s most remote and little touristed regions and, strangely, I’ve been through her valley a time or two. It’s a little off the beaten track of my family’s twice-a-year pilgrimage from Denver to Montana, but sometimes my parents liked to go a different way. In the days before the Interstate, any highway was drivable as any other. I was there again as a semi-grownup when the first X was studying at the University of Wyoming in Laramie and took me for my first X-country skiing nightmare I mean adventure. 😉
“It is very important for the artist to gauge his position aright, to realize that he has a duty to his art and to himself, that he is not king of the castle but rather a servant of a nobler purpose. He must search deeply into his own soul, develop and tend it, so that his art has something to clothe, and does not remain a glove without a hand. The artist must have something to say, for mastery over form is not his goal but rather the adapting of form to its inner meaning.” Kandinsky
Frost took Tu Fu early Tuesday morning even even though I had covered him (and the others). Li Bai had some damage, but not bad, Li Ho and Bai Juyi suffered nothing. Scarlet Emperor Beans ARE very susceptible to frost. I cut Tu Fu down to the original little 6 inch plant I set in the ground in June. It will go, too.
A few more beans were ready to harvest for next year.
In other climes Scarlet Emperor Beans are perennials, but not in this high valley. In other places, they’re just fodder for cows. After cutting him down yesterday, I pulled the tomatoes. A couple of days ago I cleared up a small bed and planted 16 Leper Bells — fritillaria that’s more often called “Snakes Head.” They don’t do great here, either, but…
There’s no way to escape the fury of nature, even when that “fury” is as quiet as the settling of frost on a clear September night.
Sunset Tu Fu
Cows and sheep walk slowly down, Each villager has shut his wicker gate. The wind disturbs the clear, moonlit night, These rivers and hills are not my homeland. A spring flows from the dark cliff, Autumn dew drips on the roots. In the lamp light I sit, white-haired. Why do the flowers continue to bloom?
For anyone who might be interested in the structure of a Chinese poem, here it is in Chinese with a Pin-yin transcription. (I found a great website if you like Chinese poetry… http://www.chinese-poems.com/
Once I won a ham in a grocery store drawing. I was a kid and the ham wasn’t very big, but it was a prize. We ate it. Otherwise? Most of the prizes I’ve won in my life have been for running (through 9th grade) or public speaking (in high school). In my adult life? Only one. My novel, Martin of Gfenn, was shortlisted for an award by Chanticleer reviews. But to win prizes you have to compete, and I don’t like the competitive side of my personality very much.
Yesterday I was out with my beans. Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi have had a GREAT summer out there, exceeding my wildest bean expectations. I’ve eaten several handfuls of their young beans and enjoyed them all — even last night. Now I’m allowing many pods to stay on the plants to ripen into beans for next year and or soup depending on how many I get. It’s strange but true that I get a peaceful easy feeling standing around my beans.
As I contemplated their beanish wonder yesterday evening, I thought of the passing season. I realized that it’s been a pretty nice summer, and I will be kind of sorry to see it go. I missed tea parties and lunches with my friends, especially Elizabeth whom I haven’t seen much. I missed visits from Lois but we had one short one. I guess I surrendered to the imperatives of this virus a while back and have mostly just forgotten about it.
When the beans are fully grown and ready, the pods turn yellow. I harvested a pod a few days ago. I brought it in and opened it to find 3 very large beautiful black and purple beans.
Yesterday I read a thing on “Brain Pickings” that resonated with me. It’s a long piece about Wendell Berry in which he gently rails against the “more” culture of consumerism. The part that struck me was this:
“In these times one contemplates it (life) with the same sense of hope with which one contemplates the sunrise or the coming of spring: the image of a man (whom Berry knew) who has labored all his life and will labor to the end, who has no wealth, who owns little, who has no hope of changing, who will never “get somewhere” or “be somebody,” and yet who is rich in pleasure, who takes pleasure in the use of his mind! Isn’t this the very antithesis of the thing that is breaking us (American humans) in pieces? Isn’t there a great rare humane strength in this — this humble possibility that all our effort and aspiration is to deny?”
I’m sorry but Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi are too busy working on their beans to share any poems today. Li Ho even said “Poetry is for the young” and that almost led to a contretemps between the four of them, but they held it together and went back to beaning.
“I didn’t bring it in. Teddy did. But I plan to steal it.”
Now that the ground is soft and damp after several days of rain, Bear is digging again. This is good and bad. It means the meds are relieving the pain in her shoulder AND it means there are more holes out there, but I’d rather have her dig than be crippled up and in pain. As Tabby T. Cat (RIP) used to remind Dusty T. Dog (RIP) dogs bury bones. Lacking bones to chew, Bear buries her rawhide.
When the rawhides are the RIGHT texture, either she or Teddy brings them back inside to savor, deriving the maximum enjoyment. They are slimy, covered with dirt, and if they’re the rawhide pencil type of rawhide, unwound. The big ones, the stout flat ones, don’t usually make it back inside. I don’t know why.
I think they are a great metaphor for these days. Slimy, covered with dirt and unwound.
For those of you needing a Scarlet Emperor Bean update…
After being in a drought since December 2019, the San Luis Valley is finally getting rain and it’s glorious, even if it terrifies Bear. Teddy could not care less. We’re having bright, warm mornings and stormy afternoons.
We just had a gully washer.
The garden is thriving. The squash sex I had last week has brought a nice healthy squash into the world that I expect to eat tomorrow or Monday. Today I helped both squash plants out. They are “Sunny Delights.” Completely new to me.
My Aussie pumpkin appears to be gay. It’s just sending boys into the world. That’s OK. I’m a tolerant gardener and I don’t know if there’s room for it to really get going — but if it does, I’ll help it, too.
Some of the Scarlet Emperor Beans are nearly 10 feet tall (3 meters). I spend time with them every day, I mean I literally stand in their garden and tell them how great they are, how proud I am and that I love them. Li Ho remains the shortest one. Even little Bai Ju Yi has surpassed him. OH well. Li Ho was always kind of a rebel. He might have other dreams, for all I know.
Maybe I should have had kids after all.
Clearing Rain Tu Fu
The sky’s water has fallen, and autumn clouds are thin, The western wind has blown ten thousand li. This morning’s scene is good and fine, Long rain has not harmed the land. The row of willows begins to show green, The pear tree on the hill has little red flowers. A hujia pipe begins to play upstairs, One goose flies high into the sky.
“How many people do YOU know who name their bean plants?”
“Or stand around with them and tell them they’re beautiful?”
“Do you think she might be a little demented?”
“Possibly, but it doesn’t hurt anyone. And we are pretty amazing!”
“Look at everything growing down there. I never imagined when I was living in that one spot of light inside the house that we’d would grow like this!”
“Look at YOU Li Ho. You’re still kind of short, but you’re putting out a good effort there.”
“And Baby Bai Juyi!”
“What? I was sleeping.”
“You’re really growing, in ALL directions.”
“I have to catch up. I didn’t even get my poles in until last week.”
“I worry a little about Wang Wei out in the front yard, though.”
“Not a good place for a Scarlet Emperor Bean.”
“Not really, but he does get a lot more sunshine.”
“A dog might take a piss on him, though.”
“Oh look! Bees!!!!”
“Did you see her out here yesterday doing something with the squash?”
“Squash sex. They keep putting out female flowers and male flowers at different times. Finally little Schubert down there had a male and female together. She was making sure Schubert got pollinated. Liszt, though, he/she just doesn’t get it together.”
“Isn’t squash sex the bees’ job?”
“Bees, schmees. You never know if they’re going to make it at the right time. I saw one trying to pollinate that primrose when the flowers had already closed.”
“Don’t you love these hot days?”
“Fabulous. Look at the tomatoes! They’re going crazy down there!”
“Silly plants, but I guess they have their place.”
“Look sharp, guys. She ought to be out here soon with those two sycophantic creatures who are always making so much noise.”
Frondescence? Leaves. It’s just green. All of it everywhere. All over the damned place, and I have to mow some of it. Soon, it looks like, but last time I got by with three weeks. Longer grass sends down deeper roots, good for the lawn in the long run.
The trees are green and sending branches over my yard that I have to cut down. The egregious weed-elms are popping up all over, and I have to pull them out because in about 15 minutes they become big-ass trees that are a big-ass problem. I have four of those to deal with, too. Home ownership? The ONE advantage is big dogs. I get the whole condo thing now in ways I never got it before. Building equity is a young person thing.
It’s funny when you retire no one hands you a list of the changes in your life and perspective that are likely to happen.
But there is the other side which is that it’s continually amazing to me that I can put a nearly microscopic seed into a peat pot and two little leaves will emerge. At that point, my nurturing instinct kicks in, and I start caring for those little beings as IF they had souls or could become president someday. The grim reality of their future lives — that they’re going to end up in caprese — and somewhere down the road the frost is going to get them, plays no role in the early spring ritual of “I wonder if I dare put them out before June?”
Of course, one or two DO go out before June and the results are always the same.
I’m not a “gardener” per se. I don’t care what my flowers look like. I’m not an ardent cultivator of my garden beds. It’s really too painful. Nothing really hurts my arthritic knees more than bending over to take care of anything. This summer I’ve seen that I have to do something about this, but this is not, obviously, the summer for that.
Everything out there this year is very happy. They turn their little solar collectors to the sun that hits my narrow strip of garden and they grow. They’ve helped me see what to do with my yard when I’m ready to ($$$). I’ve seen that I didn’t need a deck except to define the space and to help my neighbors financially. I don’t use it and don’t imagine I ever will, much. I haven’t even put up the umbrella. That doesn’t mean I don’t like it — I like it a lot. But what I like most is hanging around the bean plants.
Now, my favorite poem by Li Bai who is now approaching 8 feet tall…
Visiting Han-tan: The Dancers at the Southern Pavilion
They sang to me and drummed, the boys of Yen and Chao, Lovely girls plucked the sounding string. Their painted cheeks shone like dazzling suns; The dancers’ sleeves shook out like blossoming boughs. Bringing her wine I approached a handsome girl And made her sing me songs of Han-tan> Then the lutes were played, and coiling away and away The tune fell earthward, dropping from the grey clouds. Where is the Prince of Chao, what has he left But an old castle-moat where tadpoles breed? Those three-thousand knights that sat at his board, Is there one among them whose name is still known? Let us make merry, get something in our own day To set against the pit of ages yet unborn.
My poet beans are doing well so far, at least Li Bai, Tu Fu, Li Ho and Bai Juyi are doing well. Little Wang Wei is struggling in the front yard having gotten a late start. He’s trying to grow in a far more exposed location. These beans like to be sheltered from the wind. I guess Wang Wei has been banished to the frontier as was the case with all of these poet beans at some point in their careers as public servants.
The tallest bean is Li Bai which is fitting as he was — and still is — China’s most beloved poet. The next tallest is Tu Fu, Li Bai’s life-long friend. Li Ho is pursuing an independent growth pattern between his two squash consorts. Between Li Bai and Tu Fu is Bai Juyi who started later but is rapidly catching up.
Thoughts on a Night Journey Tu Fu
Reeds by the bank bending, stirred by the breeze, High-masted boat advancing alone in the night, Stars drawn low by the vastness of the plain, The moon rushing forward in the river’s flow.
How should I look for fame to what I have written? In age and sickness, how to continue to serve? Wandering, drifting, what can I take for a likeness? –A gull that wheels alone between earth and sky.
As I keep reminding one of my friends, these are strange times and nobody’s normal. By “normal” I mean no one’s their normal self. I’ve now done three days of my Internet diet, and day three wasn’t very successful. I realized that the Internet is a place I go when I feel that icky combination of depressed and anxious. Boredom — I think — is often a result of depression and anxiety. I don’t mean major depression, just the depressed mood thing. I fought it, but I also accepted it. One thing I have learned from stopping other bad habits is to cut myself slack.
This one is a little different. I live in this country and I’m horrified that — in this day and age — nearly 130,000 people have died of the virus. I’m horrified that people don’t use critical thinking skills to seek out accurate information and act in harmony with it. I’m horrified that “beliefs” aren’t questioned more. I listen to our esteemed leader speak about his plans for his second term (which I pray he doesn’t get) and all he can say is talent is more important than experience and now he knows a lot of people in Washington DC. As a reader of this blog said, we go online and scroll hoping for good news. She is right.
I have seen that the real challenge right now is overcoming my preoccupation with all this stuff and because, really and truly, all I can do is wait for November. Believe me, as soon as that ballot arrives, I will carefully fill in the bubbles and follow instructions then drive it to the City Clerk in Del Norte, Colorado and stick it in the ballot box.
Meanwhile, out in the garden, which is still pretty ugly, with the deck I have yet to enjoy, things of nature are offering me a model for life by pursuing their internal imperatives unquestioningly.
All of the beans are doing magnificently. Li Bai, of course, ahead of the others as befits China’s most famous and honored poet (not bad for 1500 years!!!!) Bai Juyi is alerting me to the likelihood that he’s going to need some support soon. Tu Fu and Li Ho are pursuing slightly different directions. Rather than sending up one vining tendril and blooming early, they are reaching out in a couple of directions. The squash is a type I have never grown (or eaten) but it seems happy. A couple volunteers have emerged — the one I thought was an Aussie pumpkin turns out to be zucchini. I’ve eaten salad from my garden. The tomatoes are happy.
Aesthetically, the yard still leaves a lot to be desired, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. I made more progress this year than ever before. As the progress evolves I see what I need to do differently. Basically, I’ve decided I need to fence in this whole area, but I can’t do that now. This temporary fence works pretty OK.
This morning the first song I heard on Mohammed’s Radio was The Clash, “I’m So Bored With the USA.” I had to laugh. Here’s the song. It’s punk rock so it might not be to everyone’s taste.
Another Scarlet Emperor Bean has popped its head out of the soil in my little garden. I had to move him. The garden is too small for four beans and two squash as it is. The only place he could go was the front yard to keep one of the straggling pumpkins company. His first night in his new home he had to confront below freezing temperatures, but he faced it like the heroic bean he is.
When I planted him, I didn’t have a name for him. I had to do some research on Tang Dynasty poets, having exhausted my existing knowledge (not difficult). I found the perfect poem and the perfect poet. I’m going to explore more.
This bean is now known a Liu Changqing (Lou Changching more or less) and he’s a Taoist bean who was also a government official. So far I’ve only read a few poems by this (to me) new poet but they are perfect for this moment and where this bean will live, in view of the San Juan Mountains, especially my favorite, “Windy Peak.”
While Visiting the Taoist Priest Chang on the South Stream (尋南溪常山道人隱居)
一路經行處， Walking along a little path, ; 莓苔見履痕， I find a footprint on the moss. 白雲依靜渚， A while cloud low on the quiet lake 春草閉閒門。 Grasses that sweeten an idle door. 過雨看松色， A pine grown greener with the rain; 隨山到水源， A brook that comes from a mountain source – 溪花與禪意， And, mingling with Truth among the flowers, 相對亦忘言。 I have forgotten what to say.