Not exactly a seasonal picture, but one that does require seasoning. Vinegar with a splash of olive oil, and some salt, pepper, and Mrs. Dash, or a tiny portion of a million other ingredients. It makes me wonder who or how it was discovered that salad is edible. Cows munch on grass, but we don’t. At some point humans must have thought to be cowlike, only to find that we can’t digest grass and that straw does absolutely nothing for us. I, for example, see nothing edible in this picture. And yet, the salad in my bowl looks absolutely delicious. Has the history of salad been lost in the strange history of human progress? Is there anything obvious about salad? Apples and oranges are somewhat obvious… the sweetness on the tongue. I suppose roasted animal seems just as obvious, though much less polite. But how many leaves growing on the ground would one have to taste and regurgitate to determine what goes in the bowl before dinner? Or in some places after? It strikes me as completely mysterious, and yet invitingly tasty. The almost infinite depth and variety of salad.
 


A flowering plant that looms over buildings. A tree tall enough to go unnoticed. We would need a hook and ladder to get closeups of these flowers. I’ve walked underneath this tree almost on a daily basis without noticing. I keep my eyes on the sidewalk to avoid stumbling. But yesterday I took a break, turned my head heavenward and realized the spectacle above me. Nature, it seems, knows no limits.
 


And a spot of red. Some vegetation seems boundlessly energetic and endlessly repetitive. Where does it start, and where will it end? An infinite texture that knows no limits.
 


These are like flowers on steroids. They have too many blooms. The nursery has spiked the Growmulch or done something pretending that if you plant these in your garden they will continue to flower at unrealistic rates. They are so healthy they look artificial.


And here they are in a different color.


And here in yet another. Grocery store flowers, shamelessly blooming. They say, “Buy me, buy me.” It’s a clever trick and I wonder what it is. But I’m not falling for it. It’s obviously wrong, but I spent the longest time staring at them. How in the world did they do it?
 


The interesting thing about this photograph to me is that none of the ingredients belong together. They come from different parts of the world. Which parts exactly I don't know. The green leaves are pumpkins in the making. As I type this, the leaves are dead and nothing but a curled mass among vines and pumpkins. It didn’t last that long. But it was bright and beautiful while it lasted. The yellow bumps at the ends of flowers turned out to be orange pumpkins, which I recognize. They have a season and leave enormous fruit. They also have a name that I easily remember. The others are foreign, both in name and origin. To give them names I would have to make them up which, of course, someone has already done. But it is not the names or points of origin that strike me, it is the color and the shapes. They fit together, strangely, in an instant of time. Like people in a crowd forming a vast humanity. Ever changing. Always the same. Different people on different days. The picture warms my heart, but my thoughts seem vastly complicated. Should we make everything the same, or should we allow the differences to blend together in unforeseen ways? I feel completely incapable of creating this on my own.
 


Not all flowers are big and beautiful. This is the tiny bloom of some sort of vegetable planted under the staircase and gone to seed. It provides cover for a spider that would otherwise have nothing more than the seam in the staircase to hide in. Some blooms are magnificent. Others are almost like afterthoughts. Of course, they all accomplish the same end. They all produced seed that produces more plants. But like the beautiful and the disfigured, plants go through the motions with varied degrees of perfection. Some stun with their beauty. Others simply do their job, as if beauty is an unnecessary ingredient.
 


I’ve posted several pictures of this flower, or rather flowers within a foot or two of this one. They’re a sorry lot this time of year, straining to bloom. But if nothing else, they’re also tough and not yet ready to give in to the inevitable. Here one orange flower squeezes through a screen. Six months ago the screen was almost solid orange. Today it has one flower. One very determined flower that has my complete attention.
 







 


When I was a boy the slopes leading down to the beach were covered in ice plant to hold down erosion. Wikipedia says there are “135 genera and about 1800 species [ … ] of dicotyledonous flowering plants commonly known as ice plants or carpet weeds.” I haven’t seen those slopes in years, or rather decades, but I recognize these as exactly the type I used to walk through on my way down to the sandy beach. Not pretty, always a bit forlorn, but highly effective. I found this patch in the front yard of a house on the way to dinner at the Vets Hall. It brought back so many memories that there isn’t time enough even to outline them. Ice plant was a part of summer for me. It grew only at the beach and nowhere else, though it must have grown in all sorts of places. When you’re young you tend to accept things as given more than later when you develop the capacity to pursue things. Ice plant was simply part of the beach, and the beach was part of summer, and summer lasted almost forever. And now there’s a patch of it in the front yard of a house not far from here, and I wonder if it means anything to anyone but me, because it seems to mean absolutely everything.
 



 


When my kidneys failed I asked a neighbor to drive me to the hospital. Not for my kidneys, which I didn’t quite understand at that point, but because two things happened the night before. At about 3:00 I was lying in bed listening to the radio. The commentator gave a colorful report of Melania Trump checking into a Washington D.C. hotel to redesign all the military uniforms. Apparently she needed quiet and privacy. I remember thinking to myself that that was the stupidest thing I’d ever heard. Military uniforms aren’t designed merely for looks, and it wasn’t her job to… Then it occurred to me that I don’t actually have a radio in the bedroom, or even a radio that wasn’t packed away somewhere. I don’t listen to the radio. I also had a somewhat self-serving conversation with my mother. Though I was willing to have that conversation, I was also aware that she was dead and aware that it wasn’t actually my mother I was talking to. But it was a conversation. I very carefully came to the conclusion that I wasn’t functioning correctly.

I ended up in the Emergency Room and was transferred to a small cottage hospital in England where the nurses spoke with accents that were strangely American. All but one from the Czech Republic whom I thought might be the ring leader. It was a very interesting time.

Earlier this week I attended the Nurses Clinic at the dialysis center. I took half a pain pill before walking up to the park to catch the bus. I also took two kinds of insulin, a phosphorus binder and a handful of regular pills. At the clinic I was given a flu shot, which I reluctantly agreed to, my third hepatitis shot, an Epogen injection in the flab of my arm, and an IV iron injection. I could be wrong, but I think that’s too many things in too short a time. I also gave four vials of blood. I did not walk back to the bus. My head was spinning. I got hot soup and cold water at the hospital cafeteria and sat for an hour and a half until I felt I could make it to the bus and then home.

We take the brain for granted. That we have a brain is like saying the world is real. It doesn’t mean anything. But when we mess with our body chemistry, whether by failure or on purpose, or even through good intentions, the world changes, and we change with it. My brain is obviously the main ingredient in these posts. The strange thing is that I tend to listen to the words that come out with a sense of wonder and surprise. I allow my brain to do the work it was designed to do, or the work it randomly ended up doing, to keep atheistic scientists happy. It does the work much better than I do, so long as I feed it correctly, keep its fluids balanced and don’t stress it too much or expect more than it's prepared to give. It’s just a brain, but it’s also the whole ball of wax. Without it, there’s nothing. No world. Not thoughts. No posts. Nothing.

I’m telling you this because it seems necessary. Or else I’m listening to it and reading it because it seems interesting. But what will any of us think tomorrow?
 


This is a pot that looks like it may have been forgotten. Or else it’s just growing into obscurity. There’s a tendency to plant too many things in the same pot. This is not an example of that. Here it seems everything started out very simply — a little of this and a little of that — until this strange perfection was achieved. It has a very distinct not recently planted look, which only happens over time. And as far as time is concerned, there is also that odd moment when things that have been perfect too long become overgrown. This is just on the verge of that. Now it’s perfect, now it’s not. Just like all of us.
 


There must be limits to the variety of flowers, but in human terms, I suspect that limit might be infinitely large and infinitely far away. There are so many flowers and so few days to absorb or experience them. We walk in a garden of infinite delight, but a garden mixed with horror, disease and ugliness. Perhaps we should see all those things as part of the fullness of life, as part of the pleroma surrounding us, and not just the flowers that go on and on. But, how to do that? How to reach out and pull back the infinite?
 


Cactus (or cacti or cactuses) are messy plants, and sometimes dangerous, but this photograph shows that they also bloom. To be honest, that never occurred to me. I thought, like nasturtiums, they just expanded indefinitely. Of course, very slowly. I suppose I also thought, and it might be true, that you could just plant pieces of them and they would grow. A neighbor showed me a plant on my walk today that was brought over as a shoot wrapped in a damp napkin from Belgium in the early days (or maybe not so early days) of air travel. Her grandmother did that, and various people in the family got shoots from the resulting plant and they are all healthy and happy and ready to offer shoots to others. Do cactus really start with seed?

Cactus seems like a reluctant visitor. Usually it’s an accent to a garden, rather than the garden itself. I don’t think I’ve ever assumed that people plant them. I usually assume they just ended up where they are from somewhere else, somewhere where they grew at their own speed, in their own time, mostly alone. So, if you’re looking for answers, you’ve come to the wrong place. I still think cactus belongs in remote places that one remembers driving through. But piece by piece by troublesome awareness, I’m figuring it out.
 


This is a sort or timeless garden where things seem to grow in complete cooperation with each other. It has a random, artistic quality where nothing is in a row, where nothing predominates and everything seems essential. It took someone with a good sense of design to place each plant and then leave the assemblage to itself, to grow and mix. Some tiny things seem entirely accidental. And yet, without the accidents it might seem contrived. Without the accidents it might seem unreal. A garden laid out by someone who understood that the person laying out the garden is its least important ingredient.
 


Of all the photos I’ve taken this year, I think this is my absolute favorite — a dead leaf on a dirty sidewalk, but so much more. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
 


Not the same plant, but the difference between spring and fall. A burst of life and a death that produces seed for the next generation. Each is its own part of the process. One warms our heart while the other saddens us. It leaves us empty because we live with the strange belief that springtime should last forever and that youth should be eternal. The truth is that life itself is eternal, though the living are temporary.

 


This looks like a kind of onion growing in a neglected yard. We see the roots and stems of onions, if the green part is a stem, but we never see such things as this at the market. Stores offer a very narrow range of plant life. We don’t find onion seeds or onion blooms, though I think there's something called onion salt. In fact, these may have nothing to do with onions, but it’s all I can come up with. Round balls of bloom. Edible or inedible? I think I’ll leave that to someone with more gusto for life and a greater inherent sense of experiment. I’m reminded of a line that Google has not helped with, though I thought it was from Ben Johnson’s dictionary. Maybe I just improved on Swift a bit. “Brave was he who first of oysters ate.” Indeed.
 


Here is a flower that is too large, too long and too low to the ground. I’ve never seen anything like it — words repeated over and over this year — though it may not be as rare as I think. I found it close to the hospital after Nurse's Clinic at the dialysis center and had to stop and look again. It’s almost as if it expects ants to help pollinate it. Of course there are many more higher up, but they have mostly passed their prime and are shriveling up and dropping everywhere, making an enormous mess. The mess, of course, might be part of how they propagate. I saw a prettier version of this flower on the cover of a book recently: Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras. I haven't read the book, but I recognized the flower. It’s hard not to stop and consider such things. It's big and strangely interesting, but in truth I don’t find it beautiful the way I do most flowers, which are fewer and fewer this time of year. It has a certain alien quality. Something to catch the eye, but nothing one wants to ponder. I hope the book does better than the flower.
 


A single spot of yellow in St. Timothy’s garden, the most blooming place on my walk these days. A four petaled (though it looks like more) bright yellow flower not in the main garden, but outside the wall where cars drive by. It strikes me as interesting because, like a number of succulent flowers, it seems to grow and announce itself until replaced by another, and another. In other words, it has a stem that flowers and reflowers until it just wears out. Beneath it you can see the row of pods forming from past iterations. There would seem to be no end to the ways Nature has devised to facilitate reproduction. Behind it are other flowering plants with reddish orange spikes pushing up through a bed of unkempt leaves and stems. I find myself slowing down, not that I walk that fast, as I approach the church, never knowing quite what to expect. The garden seems like the work of enthusiasts, as opposed to the work of gardeners or landscape architects or designers, though I have seen what looks like gardeners now and then. Someone has an idea to plant something, and it gets planted. Pride radiates outward from every plant, but there remains very little in the way of overview and masterplan. It’s an acquired taste, I suspect, something that Father “Ed” seems to have mastered. It has a distinct churchlike feel. Beauty interspersed with chaos.
 


I’m rather fond of this picture. I’ve kept it on the desktop for a while. It lacks in composition, but it lacks nothing in density. There isn’t one square inch that isn’t active and growing. It represents for me a kind of perpetual springtime. Of course, there is more to life than activity and growing, and sometimes we just crave open spaces to be left alone in, but before you harden your heart or sour your life, admit just for one moment that this density is inviting, is cosy, is beautiful.
 


A bit worse for wear, but giving it all they have. You can kill the plant, but you can’t always kill its future. Flowers are deadly serious about the future. Their goal is to produce seed that will reproduce the plant that is no longer there. A world filled with flowers is a stupendous world. A world likely, one way or another, to continue.
 


I love the red tint along the edges and the variable greens these plants offer. They are only two feet from each other in a garden meticulously maintained. There is so much in such a small space that it’s hard to decide what to look at. On one, red starts immediately, but on the other it comes almost as an afterthought. Somewhere I wrote about chlorophyl being green, but the green is capable of being drowned out by other colors. When I was in high school we were taught that chlorophyl came in various colors, which explained purple and red tinted leaves. But it turns out, according to Google and others, that chlorophyl is green and simply capable of being overcome.


Whatever is going on, the ability of chlorophyl to step back, as it were, and allow other things to visually predominate, adds a beautiful dimension to a number of succulents. Red in these cases outlines and emphasizes, which does not seem accidental. It makes one wonder how many other tricks Nature has up her sleeve.
 


Dying leaves and pumpkins ready for harvest. They start out as yellow bumps at the ends of flowers and swell slowly into orange masterpieces. It seems too much to ask for. Some are almost two feet across, filled with pumpkin seed and pumpkin flesh, ready for pies, brown sugar sweetened side dishes and Jack-o’-lanterns. Yes, fall is here, and all is well.
 


The actual equinox was yesterday at 6:54 PM local time. So if you heard people saying that yesterday was the first day of fall, they were only partly correct. But today is the first full day of fall, which means more, I think, than saying that the last 5 hours and 6 minutes of yesterday were fall. It didn't seem right to celebrate, if that's what we do, 17 hours and 54 minutes early. (This post normally goes up automatically at 1:00 AM.) So, I decided to let yesterday be the end of summer, which it was, and today the first day of fall. Though clocks are standard metaphors for time, the universe does not run like round, geared wheels. Nothing travels in an absolute circle, and there are no bells or whistles when the day and the night become for an odd instant equal. Time is a human abstraction. Time composed of units. As Heraclitus said, "You cannot step in the same river twice.” The river is infinitely different from moment to moment. Of course, I could go back and type that differently, but time itself, whatever time turns out to be, moves on with or without the words. So, for what it's worth, happy first day of fall. Now the nights become longer than the days until by the end of a normal day it is already dark and things begin moving forward in reverse. It has nothing to do with calendars. The words of William Blake may sound familiar, but they are seldom understood:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour […]
He was emphasizing thoughts we normally ignore. Hoping we would see what we seldom see. It could very well have been the moment of equinox.

The photograph, as usual, is of the gate at Terry and Cami’s house. If I didn’t have a calendar of my own, I would know the season by its gately decorations. I took this picture at 6:54 last night.
 


Summer is often a headlong rush into catastrophe. Things reach their potential, but then keep on going. They crowd each other out. They grow, die and decay until all sense of order is undone. A piece of this and a piece of that. Things out of control until the moisture is sucked from them and the next cycle begins. It’s a time when we tend to think of other things. To imagine and to remember. To ready ourselves for what comes next. But not to think too closely about what actually is.
 


Is there anything more ornately beautiful or less inviting? This is the beauty of pure ruggedness. Not something for the feint of heart or the weak livered. This is perfection mixed with dirt and grit. It beams danger. It threatens to hurt, to injure, to remove. And yet, it does all these with the precision of absolute beauty in a world we cannot grasp, cannot fathom, and yet understand completely.
 


In a dying corner of the garden, giant sunflowers have decided to bloom. The garden is not dying from neglect, but from the season. The sweat peas that covered an entire wall are gone. It is time to regroup before pushing ahead for another year. I’m not sure if the sunflowers are growing simply because they found an opportunity or because it’s their time, but one sunflower seems the equivalent of a thousand blooms, and we have what seems like a hundred of them. What an unexpected surprise.
 


Amid fragile leaves, this surreal display. As if they’re planning to hide in the coming snow. Of course, there will be no snow. I have never seen flowers like these. I’ve said that perhaps a hundred time this year. Were my eyes always closed, or are these new? And does it matter? They are strangely beautiful.
 


An ant and a bee in a flower that is only holding a place while we wait for this year’s sweet peas to arrive. The twine in the background is their trellis. Late summer, early fall seems like a time for large flowers, as if we have grown tired of tiny perfection and they wish to grab our attention. It has certainly succeeded with an ant and a bee at the same time. Perhaps there just isn’t enough for them to do this time of year. Fewer and fewer flowers. Less and less to eat and to pollenate. Does Nature never rest?
 


I’m told these are hollyhocks. I started this week with what I believed to be a hollyhock. My neighbor planted a number of things from seed and then transplanted them here and there among which was a space under the staircase. They seem rather temporary to me, like they will bloom and then never appear again, and perhaps also a bit unreal. They grow on tall stems and flower madly once they’ve begun. These are almost white with a touch of pink and a surprising yellow center. Wikipedia says, “Alcea is a genus of about 60 species of flowering plants in the mallow family Malvaceae, commonly known as the hollyhocks. They are native to Asia and Europe.” Obviously it says nothing about the staircase, but it also says nothing about how stunningly beautiful they are.
 


Almost mesmerizing. How could so much find its way into a single flower? I ask the question, but provide no answer. Sometimes I feel very small and very simple confronted by something so large as a single flower.
 


When my boys were really young we drove down to San Diego one Sunday afternoon to take them to the zoo. But instead of the regular zoo, which they had been to when they were really too young to remember, we drove out to the San Diego Wild Animal Park, now called the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where the animals appeared to roam in the wild. It was the perfect trip for young parents. But the surprise of the day was a sort of annex to the park. What seemed like miles of shade cloth tents housing a world class collection of fuchsias. If it seemed like miles, it seemed like millions of different flowers all being carefully misted to fight off the heat, and each of them meticulously labeled.

The San Diego Zoo has this to say:
Today, there are about 110 species of Fuchsia, which are mainly native to South America, with a few from Mexico and Central America and some from New Zealand and Tahiti. Some are tropical species, while others prefer a cool, mild climate. Some are considered hardy enough to live in cold climates, where they die back during the winter and produce new growth in the spring. The immense popularity of these plants has led to extensive hybridization, resulting in thousands of varieties of cultivated fuchsias.
I have only the slightest memory of the animals, but I remember a bewildering array of beautifully colored fuchsias. More fuchsias than I could see in a single day. Certainly more than could be seen with two active boys and a wife. These memories come back to me each afternoon as I open the door to start my walk. A large display of madly blooming fuchsias hang from the staircase immediately in front of me. My neighbor has put together a collection from various nursery throwaway piles and yard sales, and nursed them into magnificence. They seem to love everything he has done for them. They bloom without restraint. I don’t really deserve this display, but there it is. I feel blessed every time I open the door.
 


I devote this week to pictures taken only a few feet from my door. Without exception, each flower is the result of my neighbor’s determined effort. I thought he had no idea what he was doing. A few months later it turns out he just had ideas different from mine. This, I believe, is a hollyhock. It’s a large flower and its color is magnificent. If you raised your eye a bit you would see my window. But the hollyhocks don’t care about my window, they care about the sun and insects. They care about reproduction and the ongoing cycle of life. They remind me that life is short, even if life goes on forever.
 

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