Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pioneers: Jane Addams & Frederick Law Olmsted

Tomorrow (Friday) will be a sad day in Chicago. It will mark the closing of Hull House, the pioneering social service agency started in 1889 by the extraordinary Jane Addams.

To counter-balance the blues at this news, I am posting some pix of my trip to a structure honoring another pioneer: the landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. Here are a few views of his House, Office & Garden (Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site - U.S. National Park Service...won't link) from my December 2011 trip to Brookline, MA. We were lucky enough to be the only ones on the tour (a Monday before Xmas) and to have an endlessly patient guide as we snapped tons of pix and asked detailed questions. The place has been closed for years as it undergoes reconstruction, but while not complete, is open for tours. So go make your pilgrimage!

Above, our Ranger (Mark?) points out the Hemlock planted when Olmsted moved into the house in 1883. These two below show documentation of the maturation process of Olmsted's Emerald Necklace around Boston.

 The changing technology fascinated us. Here Mark demonstrates the process before Xerox became a generic term. This contraption was used to expose the drawings to light on a rainy day...otherwise they would be set outside the window to be developed by the sun.

I was relieved to see Olmsted's method for storing old plans didn't differ much from mine. Computer storage means that for some future pioneers, we may lose the types of beautiful & historic landscape drawings exhibited in this house and kept in the archives.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Reflections with a Sprained Ankle

First: I wanted to thank the many of you who sent me healing emails.  Since most of you never comment publicly, I don't know that you read this until I get cheerful greetings in my Inbox. Whichever method of communication: I feel surrounded by friends! Since the path to healing is never as fast or as straight as we'd wish (just like the maturation of a garden), support helps!

And, of course, I am grateful that my injury was minor and not during planting season.

I mentioned wishing that, with crutches, I was better at carrying things on my head...which reminded me of last year's visit to Guatemala...see above.

Below you can see the deceptively bucolic path at 10,000 where I slipped off and pulled a tendon last March. I have also noticed that on crutches, one place that's OK, is leaning up against our kitchen counter. But as you can see, not a lot of those in the cooking areas the Mayan villagers inhabit. At the bottom, you can see the types of more challenging sloped paths I will need to navigate when I return this March. If you have any ankle-strengthening tips: send 'em!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Winter Education

Yesterday morning I was so looking forward to giving my PowerPoint on Architecture & Paths at today's session for the Wicker Park Garden Club Home Landscape Design course. Above you can see one of the slides of a courtyard my company made-over last June. I was also delighted we were getting snow (the second since my last post about abnormal seasonal weather). And I looked forward to the soulfulness of walking in the snowfall.

But, since "a funny thing happened on the way to the forum," my colleague Sam Marts, of SMA&P, is graciously playing pitch hitter with my lecture today. And I can now only view the weather from inside as you can see below. Then continue.

Below you can see the reason why my mobility is challenged. A sprained ankle from slipping on the snow-covered ice while dog walking (the ER staff said that is the most common reason they see people with these injuries). Theoretically, I have five total days on crutches.  After a half day and a night, I am getting a memorable education on how challenging this is, wishing I were one of those women who was trained to carry things on her head. Meantime, I am grateful for improved hardware (go Air Cast that I can remove at night & showers....I broke my foot when 12 and the technology is so much improved now!). And I am also grateful to live in a community with two decent hospitals and nearby generous friends & neighbors.  Finally, it sure helps my healing to be married to an awesome, progressive chiropractor in Applied Kinesiology .  So: here's a shout out to Mats! You can also read more about one AK practitioner who is a giant in the field here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow & Cacti


Yesterday (January 11, 2012), I took a photo one block East of our apartment, 3 1/2 blocks West of Lake Michigan. The photo was lost in the virtual ether so I will describe it to you: it showed a Hamamelis vernalis (a Spring Witchhazel) blooming. Even though this plant is one of our first shrubs to bloom, normally that would be the end of February or early March. Yikes!

So to soothe the soul, I went back to these photos from my trip to Tucson in March 2008...which shocked me because I remembered this great trip with Scott Calhoun of Zona Gardens as in 2010! Check my blog for pix & text for March 16, 18, 22, 24, 29 and 30 of 2008.


Saturday, January 7, 2012

New Year's Wishes for 2012

 Since I am in the office preparing for a board retreat, I decided to take advantage of the quiet energy with no other sound or activity in the building except my most loyal canine friend snoring at my feet.

After years of searching for a simple incense burner, I found one I liked on New Year's at the Victory's Banner Bookstore.

Then I had to get fire...lucky I didn't live thousands of years ago :)

So today I finally lit some incense (my chiropractor husband muscle tested me at the bookshop to see which scents were OK for me).

Above you can see the slight plume of smoke and below the ash from "Hem Champa" or Masala Incense from India. The package says it "is the most traditional  of Indian incenses. It is highly prized for its calming, and purifying effect."

Given that 2012 is an election year, I believe we need that, especially me. Given the global economy, we need all the prayers we can get. Given our record-setting warm temperatures here in Chicago (56F yesterday and only 20% of normal for December's snowfall), I'm not sure what we need. But I always wish for weather that is kind to the plants. And so far this isn't it...

Last night's local t.v. news ran a report from the Morton Arboretum where they showed a Viburnum about ready to bloom! I believe the staff person interviewed missed an opportunity to connect people with the landscape. Instead of explaining how challenging this weather is for our plants, she talked about how great it is for business. Like most others, I appreciated the warm sun on my skin. But I also wonder how many plants will not survive these unnatural conditions. And what the effect will be on our larger ecosystem...of which we are part.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Wangari Maathai

During the last days of the year, I heard a WBEZ Worldview rebroadcast of an inspiring interview with the great Wangari Maathai. In her early death from ovarian cancer, the world lost one of our visionaries in terms of, not just woman's rights and environmental activism, but in the just & loving practice of humanity.

Since I am already thinking of what books to take on my annual AFOPADI site-visit in Guatemala for Earthways, I decided to get Maathai's memoir: Unbowed. Because I take very little luggage (and half is for my colleagues), I made the big leap last week and bought a Nook. If I take it off Wifi, apparently the battery will last a few weeks. Since I stay in a room with only a single solar bulb with minimal output, I got the cheapest & smallest nook (I don't bring down anything expensive in case it gets stolen, but more importantly: because I don't feel it appropriate in such impoverished communities) as well as the attachable light. You have no idea how exciting this is for me! As a life-long obsessive reader, it was always a challenge for me to figure out what book to take. And then if it turned out to be a lemon...

So I am looking forward to nights spent learning more about and being inspired by the Green Belt Movement. Because, of course, the challenges in Africa are similar to those in Guatemala. And many of those are similar to impoverished communities here in the States.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012