Yellow-Flower Weeds

The first thing that I noticed as I pulled into my driveway coming home from work were all the ankle-high weeds sprouting from my landscaped front yard. The weeds seemed to appear overnight, sprouting through the layered black lining and pushing through the decorative small rocks that make up the majority of the landscaping.  The weeds were a blemish to the perfectly textured terracotta-colored small rocks.

Seeing the front yard like this reminded me that I have weeding to do.  I added it to the list of things I had to do when I went inside the house: make dinner, supervise my kid’s homework, write my essay for my online class, and a bunch of other small tasks that I know will pop up.  I worked all day and I don’t want to do anything. Why should I have to be the one to pull the weeds? Because I’m the only one who’s bothered by them, that’s why. I parked the car, sighed, and went inside.

A little while later, changed out of my work clothes and into my weeding clothes, I began to pull up the easiest and tallest weeds to yank out of the ground.  They are bright green and have a single yellow flower perched above it’s spindly plumage. I’ve seen these types of weeds reach monstrous proportions but I never let them get that big in my yard.  I moved around the front yard focusing only on the yellow-flower weeds. My back soon started to ache and I sat down on the decorative rock which was uncomfortable on my rear-end. Why am I out here?  I already worked my 8 hours today and I still have to make dinner and have an essay to write. I looked up from my uncomfortable seat and surveyed the remaining weeds. There were so many of them, it will take me forever to weed through the whole front yard.  

I stood up and went over to my cactus garden to check the yellow-flower weed status.  I’ve received compliments about my cactus garden from strangers taking their evening walk past my house.  I am fastidious about keeping it free of weeds and there were only a few to pull. I glanced toward my barrel cactus and saw a yellow-flower weed rising above the golden spines, the lone yellow flower swaying in the breeze.

I walked to the barrel cactus, going slow to avoid the spines of the garden, intent on pulling out the offending weed.  I looked down at its base, fingers ready to grasp it like pinchers and pluck it from the earth but sharp golden spines thwart my attack.  The yellow-flower weed sprouted so close to the barrel cactus that I couldn’t get to the base of the weed as it was protected by very sharp golden spines.  The weed grew close to the green flesh of the cactus, twisting and intertwining itself through the spines like a vine. Its yellow flower sprouted just above the topmost spines of the golden-covered barrel.  

This yellow-flower weed clung to the safety of the golden barrel cactus like I am to cling to the old rugged cross.  The golden spines hugged the yellow-flower weed close to it and protected it. The golden barrel cactus was the yellow-weed’s salvation as it saved the weed from certain destruction by my hands.   I remembered the rock of my own salvation and my perspective changed. Weeding my front yard meant that I had a plot of land of my own, having a job meant I was able to provide my family’s material needs, and helping my kids with their homework meant that I had family near me.  

I stood up and looked down at the yellow-flower weed protected by the impenetrable golden spines.  There was no choice but to leave the yellow-flower weed where it was. I’ve heard it said that a weed is just an unwanted flower.  My children have picked yellow-flowered weeds and gave them to me with smiles on their faces, holding out a bouquet of very much wanted flowers.  What an amazing thing perspective is, I thought as I stretched my back, loosening the kinks that come with bending over to weed. I went inside to make dinner, satisfied that I had done enough weeding for the day and refreshed with a new perspective thanks to the rock of my salvation.

The Snow Day

We experienced a first since we’ve lived in Twentynine Palms.  We had a snow day. With actual snow. I heard rumors that it snowed in Twentynine Palms in 2008 but assumed that it was the stuff of legend.  A myth that was started by those hopeful children who want a day off of school.

I heard the television in the living room while still in bed this morning.  My daughter got up earlier than me and turned on her cartoons. Despite her keeping the volume down it still woke me up before my alarm went off.  It had to be before 5 am. I rolled over and tried to get warmer under the covers. It’s cold this morning. The alarm finally went off, signaling me to start the day.  I had to get ready for work. I began to think about my day, because it never snows in Twentynine Palms.

I shuffled down the hallway and requested no TV before 6 am.  I opened the sliding glass door to feed the dog. As I stepped outside, my jaw dropped in surprise.  Through the dark, I saw large fluffy snow flakes falling from the sky onto the soft white snow-covered ground.  I heard the sound of snowflakes landing on the ground and bushes.

I poked my head back in the house “It’s snowing outside!” I told my daughter.  She paused the cartoon she was watching and came outside. Pure delight and wonder were on her face.  She had never seen falling snow before. She went outside in her robe and pajamas and sock feet.  

“Go inside and get on your slippers, at least” I told her.  I went inside with her and woke up my son Logan who has never seen snow either. He jumped out of bed and went to the window.  

“Wow!” he exclaimed.  He got his slippers on too.

Both kids went outside with the snow.  They couldn’t stop touching it and I couldn’t blame them one bit.  It’s 5:10 am and it’s still dark.

Slippers needed to be upgraded to shoes and coats.  

“Walk on the snow, Chloe, it’ll make a cool sound” I told her.  She looked at me with her mouth open and eyes wide at the thought.  

“Really?” she asked.  She stepped off the patio and listened to the snow crunch as she stepped on it.  She looked over at me and her whole face radiated pure pleasure. Soon my son joined her and together they made footprints in the one-inch layer of fresh snow.  

A miniature snowman was made.  The kids were having a blast and were shouting and playing in the snow.  I tried to shush them, after all, it wasn’t even 5:30 in the morning yet.

I heard a voice in the distance.  The neighbors a couple of doors down were outside too, exclaiming over the snow.  Lights were on in the houses around us. The neighbors seemed to be already awake.  Besides, this was snow, the myth has become truth!

“Ok, you two, go ahead and play” I said.  

Snow balls were thrown into the desert and then against the shed.  Then, of course, snow balls were thrown at each other. After establishing the rule of no snowballs to the face, our first snowball fight commenced.  Snow balls were everywhere, as fast as we could scoop enough snow from the ground, we threw them at each other. Logan slipped a snowball into my coat pocket without me realizing it.  I’m glad I caught it before I went inside and put my coat away. Chloe and I made a miniature snowman family out of the snow.

My children soon learned something about snow:  it’s cold. It’s especially cold if you don’t have gloves on. My son had enough of the cold and went inside very upset “I can’t bend my hands!”  He didn’t warm up until after a hot shower and fresh clothes.

All through this time I forgot that the kids had school and I had work.  I checked Facebook for news and I saw school was canceled. An unexpected day off.  What a gift!

All three of us were giddy with happiness.  There’s snow on the ground and there’s no school.  Oh happy day!

Chloe suggested we should have snowman pancakes for breakfast.  She had a great idea and I had the know how.  As I was flipping the first snowman pancake over in the warmth of the kitchen, Chloe asked me if I had ever tasted snow before.

“Oh sure, lots of times” I replied.  “Why don’t you go outside and taste some snow?”

Chloe’s smile lit up her whole face as she turned around and went back outside.  I smiled as I put the snowman pancake onto a plate. Today was going to be a good day.  

Wait, I didn’t warn her about yellow snow.

Winter Winds

The winter winds bring us our version of cold-weather living in Twentynine Palms.  The wind brings character into our otherwise predictable and sometimes boring winter days of endless sunshine.  When the winds blow it is not with gentle breezes but with consistent gales. It rushes through the palm trees with a distinct rustling sound.  Flags flap and flutter, furling and unfurling, as the wind whips them around. Open trash can lids hit against the side of the can in an inconsistent rhythm.  It whistles through the holes in the stop sign poles and hums through the electrical wires. It is a cacophony and not a symphony of sound.

Being outside in the cold wind for any length of time is tough but doable.  At a park and rec flag football game during a recent windy evening, the sidelines were filled with parents wearing beanies, sweatshirts, and their biggest jackets.  Some had blankets over their laps as they were watching their sons and daughters play. A few even had a kerosene heater set up in front of them, cranking out heat at the highest setting.  These were the people who have lived in Twentynine Palms for a while. Those who just arrived to Twentynine Palms from much colder climates were watching the game in a sweatshirt and baseball cap.  

When the winds blow we prep our house for them.  Windows have to be shut throughout the house otherwise a layer of dust will be on the windowsill and surrounding furniture.  Garden flags need to be brought in because the wind will work them off their pole and blow them east to Wonder Valley. We had a shade umbrella for the children’s small outdoor picnic table but lost it because we didn’t bring it in and the wind lifted it and took it somewhere over night.  When setting out trash cans for the trash truck to get them the next day we learned from our more experienced desert-dwelling neighbors to put a large rock on the lids so the wind wouldn’t blow them open and carry our trash all over the desert.

Windy nights make for good sleeping weather.  The sound of the the wind blowing outside in the cold makes me thankful that I’m inside my warm home.  It makes me appreciate my blankets that much more. My young daughter doesn’t appreciate the windy nights.  The wind whips especially loud passed the corner of the house that forms her bedroom. She can’t sleep while the wind blasts past the outside corner of her bedroom.  My daughter usually ends up sleeping on the floor of my bedroom on those cold and windy nights when its windy chaos outside and warm peace inside.

Roses in the Desert

My Dad would give my Mom a dozen roses throughout their marriage.  All of them would be red to represent “love” but there would always be a lone yellow rose to represent “friendship.”  The only yellow rose blossom contrasted against the sea of red. Both my mother and her mother had rose bushes in their backyards.  I could see my mom’s yellow roses through the living room window, the blossoms swaying in the wind from my favorite armchair. I’d sit back and watch them.  My Grandma had a much larger variety of rose bushes. She had all sorts of colors and would display large bouquets of them on her kitchen table.

Roses can even tolerate the scorching desert heat with enough water.  Yucca Valley has a lovely rose garden by their community center with a surprising variety of roses.  I enjoyed walking among them when we first moved to the Morongo Basin, being very watchful over my 18-month old daughter as she trotted among the thorny bushes trying to find the biggest and prettiest blossoms.  She’d point each one out to me before burying her little nose into the blooms, inhale deeply, and say “Ummm, is good!”

When I finally got my own home with a yard I knew I wanted to have some rose bushes.  Walmart was selling bare-root roses and I splurged one day and bought two of them There were no leaves or flowers on either of them.  They were just a couple of sticks with roots wrapped in plastic wrap. The label on one of them promised a yellow rose and the other a red rose.  I read the directions on the wrappers carefully and planted them in my backyard. The yellow rose was planted underneath my dining room window. I hoped that in time I would be able to look out my window and see the yellow blossoms swaying in the wind.

They both quickly had leaves and soon blossoms but the red rose didn’t seem to be doing was well as the yellow rose.  It’s blossoms were shaped weird and it didn’t bloom near as much as the yellow rose bush did. My dog discovered he enjoyed the taste of rose bush and chewed up the red rose so much that I put the poor bush out of its misery and uprooted it.  The yellow rose survived the mauling and my husband put stakes and a chicken wire fence around it for protection against our fury rose-killer. When my husband was installing the stakes he discovered why the yellow rose bush was doing so well.  He drove the stake right through the washing machine run off pipe. When ever my washing machine drained, my rose bush got watered. What a happy accident!

I’ve learned how to take care of my surviving yellow rose bush.  Youtube and Google directed me how to prune it. When I noticed the blooms weren’t frequent and unimpressive I asked for the advice of a more knowledgeable rose-grower.  My Mom told me that roses are heavy drinkers and feeders. Well, I had the watering down but my rose must be hungry too. I started fertilizing with rose food and my little rose bush has flourished.  

My yellow rose bush is doing well surrounded by its protective fence.  It’s watered by the washing machine and the leftover water in the dog’s water dish.  I write on my calendar when it’s time to fertilize it with rose food. It’s not big enough for me to look out of my dining room window to see its blooms but I think it will be with time.  I’ve enjoyed harvesting it’s blooms and displaying them on my kitchen table. When I sit at the kitchen table I get whiffs of the roses perfume and it smells sweeter than the other roses because it came from my own backyard.

Some Time in Sleepy Hollow

The fiery jack-o-lantern hurled toward me through the covered bridge.  It’s light illuminated the interior of the bridge section by section as it came nearer.  It was a thrilling image. The Headless Horseman threw the jack-o-lantern at the unfortunate Ichabod Crane in this Disney version.  That scene stuck with me through childhood and into adulthood. I learned that what I always thought of as “The Headless Horseman” as a kid was actually a short story called “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” by Washington Irving who wrote it in 1819.  As a lover of books I thought to give Irving’s short story a try. I now read Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” every year around October and November. It is the best book to read around the autumn season as it has all things that we associate with autumn in it: scary ghost stories, brilliant autumn scenery, and an abundance of good food.

“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is a great ghost story.  Irving sets the story in superstitious Sleepy Hollow whose residents pass the time by telling stories about the ghosts they’ve seen first hand.  The Headless Horseman, or the Hessian of the Hollow, is the favorite among the locals but there are others. A Woman in White shrieks on winter nights before a storm because she perished in the snow and the unfortunate Major Andre who met his demise at the wrong end of a rope in a large gnarled tree.  “Local tales and superstitions thrive best in these sheltered, long settled retreats; but are trampled underfoot by the shifting throng that forms the population of most of our country population” (Irving 1078).

Ichabod Crane, the community’s school master, was very receptive to the Sleepy Hollow ghost stories.  He enjoyed adding to them from his copy of Cotton Mather’s History of Witchcraft in which “He most firmly and potently believed” (Irving 1063).  Ichabod’s willingness to believe in the ghost stories makes him a prime candidate to meet with the Headless Horseman.

It’s thanks to Ichabod that we have such a wonderful description in “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” of a farm community in the autumn.  He notices the brilliant autumn leaves and the bountiful harvest. Ichabod takes pleasure in the table and he notes all the farm animals and crops that will make excellent future dining.  It is through his appreciative eyes that we observe the tables laden with pies and cakes. The tables groan with their burdens of ham slices, beef, and broiled chicken. The spread of food would out do any of our Thanksgiving tables.  It is going home from this last gathering that the school master, Ichabod Crane, meets the Headless Horseman.

I won’t go into what happens next as an incentive for you to get the book from the library and read it for yourself.  Don’t cheat and watch a movie or see the Disney cartoon because Washington Irving’s story is much richer. It’s the difference between fast food and a five-star restaurant.  Reading Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” will transport you from your comfortable armchair and into a small farming community with the abundance of the autumn season and ghosts for company.  

 

Works Cited

Irving, W.  Irving: Letters of Jonathan Oldstyle, Gent., Salmagundi, A History of New York, The Sketchbook, New York, Literary Classics of the United States, Inc., 1983.

The Cricket Wars

The sound of crickets chirping has always been a soothing sound to me.  It greeted me as I arrived home late at night and walked to the door after parking in the driveway.  The chirping crickets kept us company while we trick-or-treated in our neighborhood as we walked from house to house.  On the ride “Pirates of the Caribbean” at Disneyland we floated past the man smoking his pipe while he watched the evening as the crickets were chirping in the make-believe scene.  The animatronic figure rocked back and forth in his rocking chair on his front porch of his house in the swamp.

I learned recently that the frequency of a cricket chirp can be modeled linearly.  The warmer the evening is, the higher frequency the cricket chirps. There’s even an equation that you can plug in the degrees in fahrenheit and predict how many chirps per minute a cricket will sound.

The sound of crickets chirping in the evening outside is a wonderful sound.  Crickets chirping inside is not soothing at all. A cricket inside the house is a trespasser.  

It started in the garage.  I would go in the garage to get something and hear a cricket chirping in there.  Huh, I thought, there’s a cricket in here. Wonder what he’s doing in here? A garage is not the optimal place for a cricket to live.

The garage was only the beginning of the cricket assault.  A few nights later I heard one in a storage closet that shares a wall with my 7-year old son’s bedroom.  We kept the cat boxes in there and and stored extra household items like toilet paper and cleaning supplies.  Huh, I mused, wonder why a cricket is in here? The storage closet is at the opposite end of the house from the garage and is not the optimal place for a cricket to live.

I didn’t think much of the crickets in the garage or storage room after that. But when my son said at bedtime one night “Mom, I can’t sleep, the cricket’s chirping too loud.” It became a matter of family security.  

I dutifully opened the storage room and was greeted with nothing but darkness and the almost constant sound of a cricket chirping.  I flipped the light switch to dispel the darkness but saw nothing but cat boxes and cleaning supplies.  It must have been hot in there to the cricket as he was chirping at a very high rate from some hidden position.   There was no way for me to see the cricket much less stop him from chirping.

War was declared between the crickets and I.  The crickets won that battle that night as my son took his blankets and set up his bed for the night on the floor of my bedroom so he could sleep.

Since then my son has relocated to our bedroom to sleep a few more times.  It was not every night but it was enough for me to recognize that I was losing battles in the Cricket Wars.  New measures had to be taken. I would give no mercy and appointed myself judge, jury, and executioner when it came to the crickets in the house.

I delivered the first verdict while reading in my favorite chair in my bedroom.  I spotted something scuttling out of the corner of my eye and I after I verified that it was a cricket and not a cockroach (my husband is the judge, jury, and executioner of cockroaches) I sprang into action.  I grabbed one of my sandals lying nearby where I kicked them off and carried out the execution. No mercy was granted to the trespassing cricket.

I have extended the duty of cricket executioner to my kids.  They were trained in the procedures after they came running down the hall “Mom! Mom!  There’s a cricket in the bathroom!”

“Go kill it!” I replied.

My son was too happy to comply with this command.  But my daughter wanted to grant the cricket probation by removing it from the bathroom and setting it loose outside.  I am still working on my daughter’s training in cricket execution.

The family cat has also joined in the Cricket Wars.  Every morning, an hour before everyone is up, the cat and I hang out at my little desk.  I sip my coffee while she’s curled up in my lap. One morning she jumped down from my lap and was interested  in something by the small bookcase nearby. She sniffed at it and I saw it hop. The cat found herself a small cricket.  She pawed it around the floor and pounced on it. When she grew bored of her game she gave one last jump on it and chomped down the cricket as a pre-breakfast appetizer.  Judge. Jury. Executioner.

I suppose I could look into hiring an exterminator but I’m leery about all the chemicals they spray around the house.  We haven’t seen a cricket for a few weeks now. I’m sure the Cricket Wars are not over but I think it’s safe to say that I’ve won this battle.  Crickets should keep their high-frequency chirping outside and trespassers will not be tolerated. I’ve got highly-trained cricket executioners and a guard-cat on duty 24 hours a day.

Fall in the Desert

Does Fall even exist in the desert?  Some people say there are only two seasons in Twentynine Palms:  Summer and Winter. As some of my east-coast acquaintances put it: Hotter and Hot.  Fall in the desert seems non-existent. One day I am wearing shorts and a t-shirt and sweating in my swamp-cooled house.  The next day I’m digging out my sweatshirt and jeans.

It’s hot here from May to the end of October.  It’s especially difficult to endure the long stretch of hot weather when I see all the cute fall outfits advertised right around September.  The sweaters, leggings, and boots look so cozy and stylish. I should be wearing a light jacket, sipping a hot pumpkin spice latte, while wearing a comfy knitted scarf.  But it’s September – I haven’t even thought about getting out my sweaters and I don’t even own boots. It’s still 100 degrees outside! Everyone else in the country is celebrating Fall while I feel like I’m behind the curve.  I wonder if a pumpkin spice latte tastes good iced?

The trees are still green with leaves but I am beginning to notice a few “weakenings” in our consecutively hot desert days.  It occured to me that perhaps we do have a Fall season in the desert. The changes are so minor that I didn’t notice them happening before.  I present the following as evidence of Fall’s arrival in Twentynine Palms:

  • The swamp cooler/air conditioner shuts off.  I woke up a day or so ago and laid in bed wondering what was different.  Something was off in the usual morning noises. I realized I only heard my ceiling fan and not our swamp cooler.
  • Going into the garage does not feel like entering a broiler.  During the summer my garage is suffocating with heat. It is pleasant to go in there to get something and not rush back in the house again because of the reasonable fear of catching on fire.
  • The wind feels cooler.  It was windy a few days ago and it was refreshing.  It didn’t feel like a hair dryer blowing on my face.
  • The leaves at Luckie Park are changing.  There aren’t many trees in Twentynine Palms, at least trees that aren’t palm trees, but we do have beautiful specimens in Luckie Park.  It’s nice to see the green leaves yellow and flutter to the ground as I’m watching my kids play soccer there.
  • The mornings are slightly cooler.  Going to work in the early morning I notice that I almost need a light sweater.  If it weren’t for the fact that it will get to about 100 degrees later on I probably would wear a sweater.
  • The turkey vultures are drifting through Twentynine Palms.  These huge birds are awesome to see in October soaring high above the desert as part of their Fall migration.   A group of these birds is called a kettle and it’s very impressive to see a kettle roosting in tall trees with their wings spread out, displaying their 70-inch wingspan.  
  • Stater Brothers has pumpkin everything.  I see it as soon as I walk in. I’m affronted by pumpkin muffins, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, and pumpkin Pop Tarts.  That reminds me, I’d better get some pumpkin Pop Tarts before Staters is sold out.

 

Despite our seemingly never-ending summer there are signs that the hot summer days will not last forever.  There’s an end in sight! The end of October is a few weeks away. Tough it out, my fellow desert dwellers!  In the meantime I am going to try an iced pumpkin latte.