My Garden This Year Part 2: Cactus Garden of Death and Literacy Reborn

On the right-hand side of our back yard is the raised bed quarter circle cactus garden.

Our Cactus Garden

Our Cactus Garden

It is a garden that has seen much death. Jeremy and I have replanted about ten different kinds of cactuses in it and the only one to survive long term is our prickly pear. The prickly pear is now far too large and I need to trim it. Again.

Nothing will kill the prickly pear. Even the heavy frost we got two years ago which killed everything else in the cactus garden couldn’t kill it. It looked pathetic, with a dozen or so drooping, rotting pads but when I trimmed it up, it bounced right back.

Is it out to get the other cactuses at night on top secret little spiny toes when no one else is looking? Is it just the strongest plant in the desert?

How in the world can I be so bad at cultivating native plants that don’t need much water?

Well, after musing on the last garden post I wrote, I realized something important: I don’t read or research a single thing when I plant it. I don’t even closely read the little tags that come with the plants! I plant, I water, and hope for the best.

So what do I expect? If you don’t really know what you are doing with gardening, it won’t magically come to you. You have to read stuff and talk to people.

Now, as a busy family, I guess we have been poor readers and researchers for a long time  in general. But I used to be such a nerd about things like this. How did I become so ignorant?

Well, the last time I read non-fiction regularly was when I had my engineering/writing/research job at ECRI. It was a part of my daily work regimen to read and research the articles and journals pertaining to my projects. It was nice to have that knowledge and I still think about the things I learned when I was there.

But I guess I didn’t read non-fiction at home even then. I’d read enough of it at work. When I moved out here, my non-fiction reading fell off the map entirely.

So my reading habit for so long has been to read before bed. It helps me sleep as long as it is the right material: something funny, light, with a happy ending. Nothing that actually makes me think too much past closing the cover. I’m not about to give up my light reading before bed for more thought provoking stuff. But you know, it just isn’t enough to cultivate me as a person.

I’ve heard time and time again that one key to being a successful person is to be constantly reading. But I haven’t known how to fit more of it in. It seems to be impossible, especially with the kids so little. If I am with them, they have my attention and when they are napping I must tackle the mountain of dishes or the mountain of laundry or the mountain of music tasks that need attention.

But is it really so impossible?

Well, of course not.

If something is important enough, you make time. Something else will suffer…but you make time.

So now! We drop everything and read, usually between 7 and 8PM.

After musing about all of the reading I wasn’t doing , I realized that my son, who is in first grade, and just getting independent at reading, doesn’t actually SEE us read. I realized I needed to give myself and my family a reading intervention and just clear a space, an hour a day for us to read. We’ve been doing it for about two weeks or so.

It is nice family time. And I am woefully behind on my email (this is what got sacrificed). But I am getting some really good reading done! Some parenting books, spiritual books…and soon – a book on gardening, I promise!

My father in law gave us an agave to grow in the Cactus Garden of Death. And there is some sort of skinny spiny cactus I need to take care of I planted after the frost that is still alive after a year. So I owe it to them to cultivate them and help them grow too!

I am hoping that post-reading cactus garden will become the Arizona Garden rather than the Cactus Garden of Death. I’ll check back on that in a year.

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Authenticity is Hard

After my CD release party in May, I have not been out to perform. So, what gives? Here is the scoop. Since May, I’ve worked on a number of pieces to add to the set I’ve been playing out for Sunset Serenade. It needed to be longer. And I love them! But now, things aren’t hanging together right. Things just aren’t meshing. I have to acknowledge, something is up.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion, to be an artist who creates good work consistently, you must work from a place of authenticity.

I’ve long struggled with this. My own authenticity has been hard for me to grasp. I think it has a lot to do with the understanding you have about who you are. And I think I am finally beginning to come to terms with who I am. It also has a lot to do with the depth of study it takes to play the harp. You can get lost down the rabbit hole in the details of playing very easily.

But I feel the authenticity is finally within my reach. It has been a long time coming.

At this point in my life, with my music, it is key for me to create good work consistently. I’ve had it with exploring different avenues in my craft to see what is a good fit and what is not. I’ve explored enough and learned a lot. I’ve come to the conclusion that I cannot follow the money (gigs, weddings and teaching) to find the authenticity. Being a SAH mom, I just don’t have the time to follow the money and work on what I need to work on artistically. It has to be either or.

It has been a blow to my ego to let go of the money as it tangibly shows me that with my music, I am valued. But I am learning I have to have faith about this issue.

 

I’ve always worked very hard at all of my endeavors. But that isn’t enough. Having a mission isn’t enough. Even having a good mission isn’t enough. It has to be my good mission.

I can’t ask anyone’s opinion about what they think about this mission. Whatever their reaction is, I have to know if it is the right one or not. So I’m not writing this for anyone’s feedback or approval. I’m writing this more to explain to my friends who just would like to know what’s up.

But it is hard, so hard to be truthful about what that is and it takes courage to follow the mission. So here goes!

For 25 years I have seriously played music. I love it. I love my instrument. My harp is so very beautiful and inspiring. But I’ve had it with silently spending the bulk of my time learning and playing other people’s music. I’m done. I thought I could do both but it has been three months of a standstill and that is just no good.

At my Bright Green Bough CD release party I played one of my new songs for The Mermaid’s Daughter story/song project as a sneak peek at my next endeavor. I got more applause on that piece than any other I played that night. People were excited to hear more. I’d have to be nuts not to continue in this direction of course.

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This is the picture Amber took of me playing this piece. It is also the BEST photo of the whole night. By the way, the talented Amber took many great photos that night.

It is a tad frightening there are so few role models to follow in the harp world about this. There is Joanna Newsom and…well there is Joanna Newsom. And lord, even though she is a great talent I do NOT want to be Joanna Newsom. Not my authentic style! And I am also too old to pull off playing in those cute micro short skirts.

So I’ll just have to be me and draw from a place of authenticity and go for it. I will probably feel like a big goofball for awhile while I write and compose until I play the new stuff for audiences. But you know (or maybe you didn’t), I am a big goofball, so that actually makes me kind of excited. Authenticity!

But there it is. I want to play and sing singer songwriter stuff that I write. For kids, and for adults. And to do that, I have to cut the playing out, at least for awhile. It’s too much to do both. I’ve tried for the last 2 months since after the CD release to train up and do both and I’m all blocked up.

I’m not worried you might think my new music will suck. First off, I won’t put anything out I think sucks!

But I guess the risk is that I will have to build momentum again for when I am out performing again. Will my friends still want to hear me?

Well, risks are risks. They do indeed suck. I do hope my friends will still want to hear me when I am ready to play out more and I guess that’s all I can do!

So, no Sunset Serenade in the park concerts, until I have at least an hour of my own material to share. That might be a few months. I will miss seeing my friends while playing.

But I have a new handy dandy HD video camera with a great mic. I have a You Tube channel and I intend to post regularly to http://www.youtube.com/southwestharp.

And I have the optimism of my authentic goofball self to fall back on. Hooray for that!

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My Garden This Year Part 1

Though I am still a rather ignorant gardener, I have quite a personal relationship with every growing thing in my yard. My mother has chided me from time to time not to take a death of a plant so personally and that is helpful. I think perhaps feeling so personal about my plants gets me into trouble and stops me from taking risks that will help me learn more.

But to tell the truth, I do find my way a lot of fun and am loathe to change anytime soon. Perhaps I will feel less personally attached to my plants when I am more attached to the outcome of my garden. For right now, the plants are still just really interesting to me and I concentrate more on their survival because I do things wrong so often.

I consider our entire backyard our garden with lots of little points of interest for different purposes. From the back of the house the backyard is a rectangle with the long sides parallel to the house. We have a little balcony (very small, so more like a balcon-ette) connected to the master bedroom that shades the exit into the garden. In front of the shade of the balcon-ette is a nice brick patio for the kids to play on trikes and run around. To the left of the balcon-ette there is an area for barbecuing, and to the right there is a patio table for enjoying said barbecue. In front of the barbecuing area there is a sand box. Behind the patio table is the raised bed rose garden and to the right of the patio table there is the jasmine garden. In front of the jasmine garden a bit there is the pomegranate tree. Then, bordering the back corners of our backyard, we have a quarter circle raised bed cactus garden to the right and a square raised bed with pergola mommy’s paradise vegetable garden to the left. Pictures below!

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The rose garden behind the patio table (next to the house), jasmine garden to the right of patio table (next to the wall).

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Pomegranate tree between jasmine garden and cactus garden, cactus garden in the right corner.

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Mommy’s paradise vegetable garden and sand box, the left side of the yard.

The rose garden was the first garden I tended when we moved into the home. It is also the only thing in the backyard that survived us moving in (mostly).

When we moved in, the backyard  consisted of some sort of citrus tree in the back left corner, some sort of short leafy shade tree in the back right corner, a huge patch of mostly dead grass in the middle and the rose garden. The mostly dead grass in the middle was NOT our fault.

See, in Tucson, if you do not have an irrigation system in place and you do not take a hose and water your plants EVERY DAY, most of them die, particularly grass. As there was no irrigation system, the grass was pretty far gone when we moved in. Oh well. Didn’t feel like buying a mower for 10 square feet of grass anyway.

The citrus tree was next though I really tried. When I remembered I would go out and water the citrus tree. I really wanted to know what kind of tree it was! But I never found out. It lost its leaves a few months later in the middle of winter and never regrew them. Sad sad sad. Apparently though, watering a tree means you give them a BIG drink of water, such as 40 gallons at a prescribed frequency, like once a week. Standing with a hose for 30 seconds to wet down the ground is NOT going to give you 40 gallons of water.

The weird leafy shade tree was next. I didn’t really like it so I never watered it.  That was very passive aggressive of me. It was too close to the back wall and it didn’t look like it would produce anything I could eat so I didn’t see its point. But it did not die on its own, we took it out when we decided to put in the cactus garden. Chop chop.

So it was a miracle that the roses survived at all. Originally there were two bushes, one with pink roses and one with white roses. I watered them like the citrus tree, when I remembered. They both lasted about two years. The second year though the white rose bush got really mad at me and up and died. I think this was about the time I had my son, my first baby, so I remembered to water even less frequently than usual. In fact, I can’t tell you when it died as I don’t think I went out into the backyard for a few months there.

But, I thought the pink one was next but LO! It got CRAFTY!

All of the sudden RED roses started coming up to bloom. And these roses looked completely different than the pink ones, with a different scent. When my mother visited, she explained that many commercial rose bushes are grafted on to a “hearty” rose at the roots to make them less likely to die at the hands of irresponsible plant owners like myself. So, when the fancy pink rose started to die, the hearty red rose put up leaves and blooms.

When I started to straighten up and water responsibly, the pink roses came back. I love them! But the red ones are also here to stay. Yay! So I have two different roses blooming from the same bush. I searched my photos and I don’t have any yet. I will take some soon and update this post. It is pretty far out.

In the place of the white rose bush, I’ve put up a blue birdbath with seashells and I put in low flowers from time to time, usually with the seasons, as I still don’t have the knack for flower gardening. However, at least I am a responsible irrigator now.

Right now, there are some yellow desert flowers that look like daisies which are happy, a lavender bush with no purple flowers anymore and a little green bushy sprouty plant that used to have pretty white flowers that all fell off a week after I planted them. Hmmm. But they are still alive and cheer me up when I water them in the morning.

Next post: The Cactus Death Garden

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How Does Your Garden Grow?

I’ve often wondered at people who have a green thumb. There is a certain calm patience, resilience and certainty about every person who I’ve known to be a good gardener. I think the gardening either is a good teacher or the gardeners are drawn to cultivation, the earth and good growing things. One thing I know for sure, where there is a gardener, there is a good friend to get to know.

Years ago, I was at a wedding shower for Jessica, a good friend of mine. Karen, who organized the shower, put together a series of questions for Jessica, asking her to describe several domestic themes (children, home, relationships, etc.) in terms of metaphor. I think it was part of a cute game but I cannot recall the clever way Karen asked the questions.

Anyway, Jessica described her children as a garden that she would cultivate and nurture. Right then an there I knew that I needed to learn a thing or two about gardening!

Up until that time in my twenties, I’d resisted learning much at all about gardening. It is hard work. I grew up weeding my mother’s garden and complaining about the bugs and sitting on my knees in the dirt under the hot sun. I’d killed every single houseplant I’d ever owned. And thinking about how unrelenting the weather, deer, bunnies and insects can be, I was afraid of the heartbreak of everything dying no matter what I did right. So, I figured it was a lot easier to go to a store or farmer’s market to get fruit and vegetables and to live in a townhouse where I didn’t have much of a yard.

Now the thing that got me thinking at that shower is that there is a connection to amazing people and gardening.

Jessica is one of those really neat people. She is the only person I knew from school who realized The Doctor Dream. The University of Rochester, my alma mater, is a big pre-med school. But most people go there for pre-med and end up with some other degree entirely. I saw many people ditch the dream during the 4 years I was there, so it was a refreshing change to know someone who was successful in their ambition. She grew up in a small town in upstate New York and wanted to be a doctor for her town. She calmly studied, worked hard, and is now a doctor for her town.

In undergrad, we didn’t have much chance to garden anywhere. But when she went to medical school at the U of R, she started her own garden with her finance Art. Jessica and Art’s Rochester garden took up the whole backyard. I don’t know when she had time to garden as she was right in the middle of medical school at the time. I remember one visit, she gave me a large bag of cherry tomatoes as I left. Jess explained she’d had just about enough of them and wanted someone else to enjoy them. They were amazing. I ate the whole bag in about an hour. As I have quite the sweet tooth, this is saying a lot as I don’t usually eat tomatoes like they are Godiva truffles. But they were Godiva good.

When we visited Jessica’s parent’s home for the wedding, there was a huge field of sunflowers next to the house. My guess is she got the green thumb from home learning. I’ll bet she didn’t complain so much about the weeding, bugs or hot sun. 🙂

The Sunflowers At Jess and Art's Wedding

The Sunflowers At Jess and Art’s Wedding

Now Jessica and Art are settled with two sons. Jessica cultivates her family and her community just as she has always planned to do. I am sure it is not easy all of the time but she is the sort of person who makes it look easy, enjoyable and bountiful. I’m hoping to update this entry soon with word about her current garden as I am pretty sure there is one.

Since my mid twenties, I have tried gardening on and off. It is always rewarding. I am still not very good at it. However, with every attempt, there is progress. I will share the state of the Govier Family garden in a future post soon. There IS a lot to report about it this year. I am also planning to share a few stories about the gardeners that I know and love in my life.

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From Startup To Bliss

It has been about 7 months since I published my last post about the birth, life and death of my experience with iTipArtists in my blog 15 Lessons Learned from The Startup. I created that blog to have a healthy way to express my thoughts and feelings about this tumultuous time; a good way to digest everything positively.

So! It is time to move on.

I considered just leaving the blog up and being done with it, but it bothered me that it would just be sitting there, getting old and stale.

I considered just taking it down, but that just didn’t seem like the right course either. I think there is good information there to share and that people still might find relevant for a while longer.

Also, I enjoyed all of the writing, and though I didn’t have the blogging bug before I started the 15 Lessons blog, I realized that it is a lot of fun. So I decided to keep on blogging, but to change the focus to my domestic life.

But what to name it? Coyote Bliss!

When I was going through the ending of the startup, I found Coyote stories particularly comforting.

Do you know any Coyote stories? They are great! Coyote is a character from many Native American cultural stories. Usually he is a prankster, but I feel on the lighter side of prankster as his stories make me laugh. He is sometimes a protagonist but more often on the wrong side of the story. Coyote can be a jerk but he is not evil. He simply always makes for a great story that helps me reflect on flaws I have and laugh about them.

Also, something that I like about him is that he has a lot of pluck. I think he is akin to a teenager walking around, doing what he likes, thinking that he knows everything and that he will always win. Sometimes that doesn’t work out so well for him. But sometimes it does, which is the best! It is a great thing about young people that helps the world move forward. A very good example of this is in the story Coyote Kills A Giant. Check it out!

Anyway, I am encouraged by the funny stories of his flaws and his pluck so I named this blog Coyote Bliss; joy in life along with all of the missteps that come along the way. So  enjoy my writings about children, gardening, food, music, art, the environment and other various domestic subjects.

On a side note, I will soon move the original address of this blog, lornagovier.com, to be  another name for my harp business site southwestharp.com. This blog will soon permanently change its name to coyotebliss.com.

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Lesson #15: I plan to bring it home.

Back in April, one of the pivotal moments that made me decide to leave the startup was a simple thought I had during one of my long commutes from dropping off my son at preschool to a meeting at the Center for Innovation.

I was thinking, boy am I working hard!

I’d managed to carve out 17 hours a week to work on the startup on top of being a mom and running my part time harp teaching studio. It was a feat. A real feat.

Yes, it was not enough. But it was a feat that I carved out 17 hours in my week from NOWHERE.

And that’s when it hit me. Why couldn’t I just bring that kind of energy and dedication to raising my children? I felt a strong pull during the entire startup experience to be with them, and the thought of putting that much positive creative energy into their lives, rather than into a company, was dreamy, wonderful, amazing.

Now that I am on the other side of the fence, I know I made the right choice. I really do love being with my family and spending this time with them. Yes, it is difficult at times because raising children is difficult and yes, I worry that I am not pulling in a salary at this time and wonder what I will do when I decided again that it is time to work outside of the home.

But I suppose I have a better sense of reality about my place in the world. I feel more confident about my current role as stay at home mom because of this whole experience. I am certain that I am doing what I love and I feel more re-energized than ever before to tackle the day to day challenges. I chose to tackle cultivating a family life in my way, to think about how to run a good home and raise upstanding adults.

I am grateful for the lessons the startup brought to my life and I am looking forward to living more fully, to my best ability, in line with my values and passions.

Thanks everyone for reading about these lessons.

I wish everyone a healthy and prosperous 2013.

Lorna

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Lesson #14: Change the world!

To be honest, before participating at Startup Weekend, the only reason I believed anyone started a business was to either make a good living or to gain recognition or celebrity. But there is another reason to start a business: to change the world.

I’ll bet many of the businesses we love today were started with the mission to change the world in some way. Perhaps how we see computers, like Apple. Or how we socially connect, like FaceBook. Or how everyone can have access to great domestic design, like Target. My goodness, how I love Target.

And there are a ton of social entrepreneurship ideas out there as well, gaining momentum, targeting missions for social change in a new and exciting way.

People have great ideas for businesses every day. But most of us do not pursue the idea. Many of us say it is because we think the financial risk is too great. But MAYBE the motivation of money or recognition is not tasty enough. They are not the rewards many of us are truly searching. Maybe, if we consider changing the world as a motivator, embarking on a great idea would seem more fun, less frightening. At least for some of us!

The saddest part for me of leaving iTipArtists was realizing that I would not be part of adding a new way for artists to connect to their audience. I felt that with this idea, I had just found my motivation, and I wasn’t frightened anymore of the financial risks. But the emotional risks were too high for me.

The concept of starting a business to change the world does make me consider trying a startup again.

Or, it makes me think that when I do enter the salaried world of work again, I will look for a company with a “change the world” mission specifically.

As a side note, before starting my family, the engineering job in which I have the best memories was for a “change the world” organization. I can say now why I liked working there so much. It wasn’t so much the non-profit-ness of it. It was that the mission made the place special.

Anyway, we all know that motivation is a tricky subject. But after all the time and effort wondering why money and status did not make me want to work harder, it is a gem to find at least one idea that works.

 

 

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