Confession time

I have a confession to make. I really, truly don’t like living in populated areas. I never have. I grew up in the suburbs just south of the city of Chicago, in a place called South Holland. And, I hated it! With a passion, I hated it. Hated it so much that by the time I was fourteen, I promised myself I was going to get out of there and NEVER again live in anything that even resembled suburbia.
I hated watching houses go up in the small subdivision I grew up in because for every house that went in, a little bit more of the wild places that I played in, explored, day-dreamed in, and had adventures (some real, most make-believe) disappeared. The trees came down, the marshy spots were filled in, the tall grasses became manicured lawns, and the stars were less and less visible at night.
I have lived away from cities and suburbia since I left my childhood home those many years ago. And, I don’t miss all that concrete in the least. I don’t miss the regimented manner of sectioning off life. Anyone who has seen my garden on the pool deck understands that even though I’m constrained by the concrete of the in-ground pool and the fence which surrounds the pool (I do have dogs and children here), I have the flower beds by the pool planted with a profusion of wild flowers which are not segmented, regimented, and constrained. I have several different types of Echinacea and I’ve allowed them to grow as they will, where they will. My Indian Blanket (gaillardia) is gradually filling in the empty spots left when I had to cull all of my hollyhocks due to a severe infestation of rust. I have several Russian sage plants that have spread, defining the fence around the pool, their branches pushing through the weave to dance with lavender wands. The latest addition to the flower bed is a variety of Baptisia that is called “purple smoke” and I am in love with this plant. It grows as a large bushy plant that dies back in the winter. Once the flowers are spent, it forms black seed pods.  

The rock garden between the house and the garage follows flowing lines and keeps many of the large rocks we have brought back from Wyoming on our annual trip. I’ve broadcast cleome and verbena in the gravel and allow both to grow almost anywhere they wish in the rock garden, except for right along the stepping stones that lead from the breezeway to the pool, as cleome does have tiny thorns along its stem and it does hurt when it snags an unwary swimmer heading to the water. While I have many plants in planters, it is the cleome and the verbena which fill in a lot of the space between the planters.
The latest addition to the “landscaping” is a rock garden in the front yard, and again, it is a series of gentle curves nudging into the grass. I’ve planted perennials in that rock garden, too, plants that will grow and spread as they mature. I’m planning to put in a few more Russian sage plants near the tree stump of the old blue spruce which gave up the ghost a few years ago.

It’s getting to the time of year when the flowers will begin to die back. I’ll plan more perennials to plant over the winter and watch the gold finches and black-capped chickadees feast on the seed heads of the Echinacea over the winter. And, come spring, the regimentation of winter will fade away and once more, I’ll let my garden grow.

My Top Ten Books

Earlier this summer, I posted a list of my top ten movies that I would want to have with me on a deserted island (as long as I had some manner to view them). It’s time to share the list of books that I would want with me. As much as I love my Kindle and the ability to cart several hundred books with me wherever I go, if stranded on a deserted island, I would have to have the hard copy of the following books with me. There is something very comforting about the feel of a book in my hands.
In no particular order, here is the list of ten books I would want with me on this hypothetical island.
1.     To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. The movie was fantastic, but the book was even better. Little surprise there, as it’s seldom that the movie version of a book is as good as the book, much less better. The message in this book of forgiveness, tolerance, and acceptance is timeless.

2.      Ruffian:Burning from the Start by Jane Schwartz. This is the best that has ever been written about the incomparable filly who Lucien Laurin (the trainer of the great Secretariat) stated was “better than him.” Even knowing how it ends, and I had to walk away from the last pages long enough to stop crying, this is beautifully written. A fitting tribute to an earth-bound Pegasus.

3.      The HarryPotter series by J.K. Rowling. Yes, I’m cheating again by including these seven as one entry—but, asking me to pick between the novels would be like asking me which of my grandkids is my favorite. Not going to do it.

4.      Empire of Shadows: The Epic Story of Yellowstone by George Black. (Taken from the fly-leaf): At the heart of the story is a great paradox: that no matter how deeply flawed these characters (Lt. G. Cheyney Doane—the “man who invented Wonderland”; former vigilante leader Nathaniel Langford; scientist Ferdinand Hayden; and Gen. Phil Sheridan) may be as individuals, no matter how mixed their motives, the paths they opened led to one of the true glories of American history. In that sense, the exploration of Yellowstone is a quintessentially American story, of terrible things done in the name of high ideals, and of high ideals realized through dubious means.

5.     Perfectby Judith McNaught. Sigh…Zach Benedict is the perfect tormented, broken hero doing his best to be cold, aloof, and strong…and Julie Mathison is more than his match. I have read this book so often I’ve had to replace it three times because it has literally fallen apart.

6.     The Mistsof Avalon by Marion Zimmer-Bradley. A retelling of the Arthurian myth as seen through the eyes of the three women closest to him during his life: his mother, his sister, and his wife. A hefty tome, but wonderful and enthralling.

7.      The Bible. Need I say more about this one?

8.      The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Campbell made mythology accessible and acceptable for grown-ups to indulge in once more. In this definitive work, Campbell also lays out the steps of the Hero’s Journey.

9.      The Standby Stephen King. I think this was the best that King ever wrote. Nothing he’s written since has even come close to the brilliance or complexity found within the pages of this novel.

10.  20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne. Classic early science-fiction and it’s frightening how accurate Verne was with his descriptions of a submarine and how it works, considering when it was written.

And, no, I did not include my own book on this list. Honestly, that would just be over the top. 
What books would you want with you on a deserted island?