Morning Gossip of the Scarlet Emperor Beans

“I think she loves us, guys.”

“I KNOW she does. She SAYS so.”

“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.”

Quotidian Update 4,903.a.2x.8

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.

Li Bai (trans. Arthur Waley)

Garden of the Joyous Beans

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.

trans. Cyril Birch

Anhedonia of the Times…

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.

A New Bean

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)[5]

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.

Scarlet Emperor Bean

I know you’ve all been losing sleep wondering how Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho are faring out there in the wilderness of my yard. They’re doing very well. The hot weather that makes me and Bear wonder what we’re doing here and question the entire point of life, has made the Scarlet Emperor Beans and everything else out there shoot up in plant bliss. Here they are:

To hedge my bets when I planted these esteemed beans, I stuck some seeds into the ground. One has come up. 🙂 I’ve named him Bai Juyi who was one of the most famous poets of the Tang Dynasty. He was also — as the others were, except Li Ho who was something of a renegade — a public official.

Bai Juyi is famous for the times he was governor of various Chinese cities, I think most notably Hangzhou. Anyone who has been to Hangzhou has gone primarily to enjoy the incredible beauty of West Lake. Cixi, the last empress of China, had a replica of West Lake built in Beijing for her enjoyment. It’s said of Hangzhou, “Heaven above. Earth below. Between, Hangzhou.”

Back in olden times West Lake sometimes dried up making it impossible for the farmers to grow crops. When Bai Juyi was governor, he built a causeway that successfully held the water in the lake and controlled the flow. It was not just a thing of beauty, but of utility. Of course, the causeway he built is long gone, but the one that is there now follows Bai Juyi’s plans, more or less.

West Lake, Hangzhou China

Bai Juyi’s most famous poem is a long story-poem called the “Never Ending Sorrow.” It was incredibly popular in Japan and in one of Japan’s oldest and most well known (and amazing!) novels, The Tale of Genji Bai Juyi’s poem has a central place. Japanese fashion of this era was strongly influenced by the poem as well.

On the Lake

Two monks sit,
playing chess on the mountain,
Bamboo casts a shadow on the board.
I hear the monks slam the pieces down.

Bai Juyi

Garden of the Summer Aspirations

Yesterday Li Bai, Tu Fu and Li Ho made their way out to the Garden of Summer Aspirations, accompanied by their domestic attendants, Golden Squash and Harvest Moon Squash (apparently the squash from these plants are yellow. Time will tell).

The procession was quiet, unattended by hangers on. To protect the well-being of each other and the beans, crowds that might have gathered stayed away.

Li Bai and Tu Fu, as lifelong friends, are pleased to spend this time in proximity to each other. Li Ho, always considered somewhat of a rebel, is enjoying solitude between the two attendants.

A Dream of Heaven

The hoary hare and frosty toad have washed the sky with tears.
Half open the cloudy pavilion, its wall slanting white,
And the jade wheel grinding dew wets its orb of light;
Wearing phoenix pendants they meet on a path sweet with cassia.
Those to whom the magic isles below are but yellow dust and clear water;
A thousand years flash by like galloping horses,
The nine continents far away seem nine wisps of smoke,
The vast ocean no more than water spilled from a cup.

Li Ho

Quotidian Update 89.314…

34 degrees when I got up this morning. That’s around 0 Celsius. Times like this, taken by surprise by autumn which fell (ha ha fall, get it? Get it?) suddenly Monday afternoon in blasts of north wind (“Feel that Bear? It’s coming! It won’t be long now!”) on which rode several large, black birds, not ravens — I don’t know what they were. Their heads were feathered so not turkey vultures. They rode the wind with some of the joy I felt at having my hair pulled back and my face realigned by incipient winter in which hirsute creatures are cut a break and I have to put on long pants. Grrrrrrrrrrr….

The next day, ALL the trees on the golf course, including the numerous holdouts, had surrendered to gold. “Awright aready,” they proclaimed. Like me, they had a weird summer. In their case it wasn’t surgery, it was virtually no precipitation from October 2017 until July 2018. “We’re not ready for this to end!”

Frankly, I’m not either and I am not a big fan of summer.

My garden has been more like a friend this year than a chore. My yard is a mess — the grass patchy and not helped by Bear’s digging. I didn’t plant anything in my flower beds. The birds planted sunflowers and the wild-flowers reseeded themselves. For veggies, I put in a row of Swiss chard, a Scarlet Emperor Bean and two tomatoes. The whole crazy garden turned out beautiful. I have six tomatoes (two gifts, two volunteers) and they’ve been giving me tomatoes like mad. My bean? Ah…

As some readers of this blog know, I planted some old Scarlet Emperor Bean seeds when I planted the tomato seeds indoors. When — to my surprise — they sprouted so beautifully, fast, and immense, I started repotting them and naming them for Chinese emperors and favorite Chinese writers. I gave them all away, except one that sprouted at the last minute before I went to the hospital and that I planted in the raised bed with the chard and the volunteer tomatoes I didn’t know about.

I didn’t eat any of the pots as they came along — but Bear did. I wanted the seeds so I have let them dry on the vine. I have a large handful of beautiful purple and black beans for next year. For some reason, I LOVE them. I guess they represent to me this whole summer of rehabilitation and the regaining of my powers.