the language of flowers

A year ago the thought of working on the flower beds at my house seemed a daunting proposition. Surely I would screw it up. Surely I couldn’t tell if my efforts were successful. Well I could not be more incorrect. Two months and who knows how many pairs of gardening gloves later, this flower bed/gardening thing is actually a fun adventure. And plants and flowers will tell you pretty quickly if they like their new home. They have their own language, if that makes sense.My backyard is mostly shade so tried a haphazard mix of Boston ferns, hydrangea, impatiens, and ornamental grasses. The impatiens really took off. I water this part of my backyard every morning and am smitten with this hydrangea. So pretty.

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The flower bed in my front yard is a bit more slow going, growth wise. It also gets more sun than the back yard so some of the plants are taking a beating with the heat of central Mississippi. I laid down a bed of pine straw to keep the flowers and plants from scorching and so far, so good. After I water the front yard flower bed, the leaves of the crotons stand upright as if to shout, “Hey thanks! I’ll have some more.”

goodbye, honeysuckle | hello, crepe myrtles

I have a honeysuckle shrub in my back yard and the last 4 weeks have been pretty glorious. Is there a better smell than fresh honeysuckle blossoms? Walking the dogs in #Belhaven amid all of these flowering trees and bushes is such a wonderful experience. I look forward to walking this daily path. Penny and Nickel sniff and wag their tails the whole way. At some point I’ll try to capture it on video.

The honeysuckle flowers are fading fast but the crepe myrtles are in their full regalia. Such showy trees when they are in bloom. The flowers are pale pink, purple, white, red, and watermelon–a hot pink color that is my favorite.

Crepe myrtles

I hope Jacksonians know how lucky they are to live in such lush beauty. I don’t take any of this for granted as a Chicagoan. In fact I marvel at how alive things are here.

Last weekend I purchased some annuals for my backyard deck because, well, annuals. They’re just so colorful. And it was my birthday.

Annuals

I was chatting with one of my neighbors and bemoaned the fact that I would only be able to enjoy them until September. His reply: “WHAT? You’ll be able to enjoy them until November. You’re in the South now.” Word.

reuben v. anderson

One of the things I do for work is create relevant member content, which I sure enjoy. I write magazine articles and social media posts. I also take photos and am a bit of a novice but learning. I found pretty quickly that I need to take anywhere from three to five photos to find one I like.

On Thursday (June 7) we hosted a Fair Housing Event at the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson, and we had the opportunity to learn from Mississippi’s first African American Supreme Court Justice–Reuben V. Anderson. What an amazing man and leader. What a life. In a future biscuit/post, I’ll have to share what I learned.

I buzzed around the event taking as many photos as I was able (while also trying to keep up with social media updates). Here are the ones I like very much.

In this photo, Reuben V. Anderson is at far right. Second from left is Alyce Clarke, and Ms. Clarke is often called the Grand Dame of the Mississippi Legislature. She is the longest serving woman in our state’s legislature, and I’m quite fortunate to have taken her photo.

Deborah McGhee

The other photos are Reuben V. Anderson at the podium and meeting with members. It was an exceptional evening.

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Hands

accidental gardener

I’ve been chipping away at the flower beds at Clearance Special the last five weeks, and I suppose garden work is work. Goodness and then some. I planted mostly impatiens and hostas in the backyard flower bed, and the impatiens have really taken off. The soil and warm weather in central #Mississippi really suit these little ones.

I wish I could say I did a ton of research and planning before getting to it. I asked friends on Facebook what they would recommend for a flower bed that is mostly shade and received a lot of input. And then I just started digging. This is a before and after, Day 8:

Before and after Day 8

The front yard flower bed seems to be moving a bit quicker than the back yard one. I moved clumps of monkey grass to the back and have planted some fibrous begonia. Now if I can just get to power-washing the vinyl siding. Uff da.

Front

clearance special: a love letter

If you read my last post, you might be thinking I was ready to hightail it out of #Jackson and head back home (Chicago). On the contrary, no. A thousand times no. I am a homeowner here. I knew from the moment I stepped into the house as a prospective buyer that this was the one for me. It has abundant windows. Sunlight everywhere. It also has that old house smell, which I find endlessly comforting.

Sometime in September 2017 I started redecorating in earnest. I nicknamed my house Clearance Special because I sought home decor on clearance. I love a good deal/bargain. Who doesn’t really? Anyhow, I filled Clearance Special with mismatched but colorful prints, tables, plants (fake), pottery. Some nooks have a theme, as this one does:

Clearance

Other rooms were works in progress, as with the office. (It really needed a rug, which I found later).

Clearance 1

My home team–my two dogs and cat–also really love this house. And the backyard in particular. My little rescue dog, Nickel Short, has really thrived here. To see her leap around the back yard brings me a lot of joy. My coworker Elizabeth took some action shots of Nickel and Penny, and these photos pretty much sum it up. Heart you, Clearance Special.

Nickel

Penny

there’s one in every neighborhood

If you get the chance to live somewhere else–pick up roots and plant yourself somewhere new–I would mostly say do it. It can be a good experience. You might see things in a different light. As an outsider, your views and perspective might be welcomed by those you meet or connect with, as with readers of this wee blog of mine.

If you do relocate, I would resolutely advise that you research where you choose to live. By research, I mean requirements, restrictions, reviews. Anything that will help you make an informed decision. I wish I had done a better job of this when I picked up and moved to Jackson in October 2016. I say this because my first few months as a Mississippian, well, were kind of challenging. The short-term furnished apartment I rented before closing on my house had bed bugs (egad, seriously). I found myself bitten (so darn yucky) and quickly trashed almost all of my belongings I had stored temporarily in the apartment. What belongings I had left I picked up and hauled myself, two dogs, and cat to a hotel. And in the process of changing rooms in the hotel, I lost my darn cat. I was frantic and inconsolable. I couldn’t believe I moved 12 hours south of Chicago to lose my cat. I don’t have children, but my three pets are familia. They’re my home team. Some 72 hours later, hotel staff found my cat. Phew. Challenge averted. Or delayed as I found several months later.

It must have been February 2017. By that time me and my home team were home. Belhaven. A cute little bungalow not far from New Stage Theater. I had invested considerable money to make needed repairs to my property. Among them, replacing rotted wood shutters and front porch posts. I hadn’t yet gotten to the front yard, which looked miserable. I had three dead bushes in the front and needed to rip them out. One sunny Sunday morning, I found that someone did that for me and dumped them on my front lawn. Eeep. A few days later I came home from work to let my dogs out and noticed my mailbox was oddly full. Someone jammed my mailbox with enough dead leaves and twigs that the top mailbox flap was propped upright. Eeep again.

I wish I could tell you my experience ended there. It didn’t. A month later I came home to find a bright orange building code violation notice posted to my mailbox. Someone reported me to the city for violating Belhaven Historic District Design Guidelines by not filing the necessary paperwork to have exterior property repairs completed. Ugh.

It was March when my case/file was heard by members of Jackson’s Historic District Commission. What an embarrassing experience. I was called to a podium when my file (before and after photos of my home) was projected onto a large wall. I was asked to explain myself, which I attempted to. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know I needed to file paperwork to replace rotted wood,” I stated. A few commission members schooled me on the fact that the new front porch posts didn’t match the original ones, so I promised to have the necessary work done so that they did. Which I did. And they actually look quite nice.

Months later I was sharing my relocation trial by fire with my godmother who happens to be a feisty redhead. (More feisty than me, for what that’s worth.) I told her that I thought I knew who reported me to the city. “Oh Kristen, there’s one in every neighborhood,” she commiserated. Truth.

when “i’m sorry” is grossly inadequate

Last Saturday I was working on giving life to a flower bed in my backyard. The flower bed looked awful, really. It needed a lot of attention and work. If you know me well, you would know I’m a city kid through and through. I don’t know the first thing about maintaining a flower bed or keeping anything green alive. But this bed was a long coffin of soil, manure, dead roots, and weeds. It needed life. It needed air and something green.

It took me three weekends to dig up the dead roots and weeds. I used a shovel to break up the dense soil and extract the roots. The dense soil makes a weird heaving, sucking sound when you shovel into it. I was intrigued and kept shoveling, ripping out dead roots along the way and dripping in sweat.

As I tried to breathe life into this coffin of soil on Saturday, I couldn’t help but think of a #Jackson family who was burying their only daughter. She was 18 years old and en route to her high school graduation practice last week when she drove over a large hole in Ridgewood Road. The hole was gaping and large enough that it warranted a manhole cover, which was missing. The convertible car she drove flipped. She was rushed to the University of Mississippi Medical Center where she died.

Manhole

I don’t know this family but I grieve their unholy loss. Words like “tragic” and expressions of sympathy like “I’m sorry” just don’t effing cut it. What could you possibly say to a family who lost their only daughter? I have no words.

Which leads me to my frustration with the English language. It’s so shallow sometimes. There aren’t enough ways to say “I’m sorry,” which makes me really freaking sorry. Sigh.