Michaeline: Nothing to Say

Baby lemon balm plants with about six leaves each, peeking through the mulch

So, here’s a bonus nothing: I am a terrible gardener. Lemon balm, which is viewed by most as a pernicious weed, is something I need to baby with frequent mulching, and every year, I worry if it will come up again. I’m safe this year!! Hoorah! Unless we get a sudden frost, I think I’ll have enough for tea and insect repellent. Also, in further nothing news, I was afraid that my husband had killed my bee balm (Oswego tea) last year with a good application of herbicide. But, no . . . that stuff apparently LOVES herbicide! While mowing, my first hint was that lovely smell of crushed bee balm . . . and when I looked down, I saw clump after clump of beautiful, healthy, 15 cm tall bee balm! It’s taken over almost a third of the back yard, which is wonderful news for me, because then I won’t have to mow it — just around the lovely little clumps. Unless my husband applies another dose of herbicide . . . but if it’s mowed, he won’t be tempted. Good lord, give me the ankles to keep this mowing up and save my beautiful bee balm! (E.M Duskova)

I haven’t got anything to say this week, so I thought I’d spin a little bit of nothing out into a few paragraphs. Frequent readers of the blog may know that I left my job at the end of March. I wallowed most of April, and in May, I started to get stuff done – but all the wrong stuff.

I’ve decided I like gardening again, and I want to have flowers and a relatively kempt lawn this summer – there are several ceremonies attending my father-in-law’s death this year, and the next one coming up is the 100th Day on July 5, and the first Obon in August. (I’ve written about ghosts and Obon before. But more of the nitty gritty about dead relatives returning during the Obon season can be found on Wikipedia.) Coronavirus concerns will mean we have fewer guests than we might have had, but I’m sure we’ll still have guests.

And they have appreciated the flowers I’ve bought and arranged for the first 49 days of weekly ceremonies. To tell the truth, it’s been a comfort for me, too. My father-in-law was a man of few words, but he showed his love for his family and his community through doing things, and doing them right. I could sit in front of the family altar and tell him how much I appreciated him, but it just seems right to let the flowers do the talking. I hope he would have liked them.

So, I just completed the first lawn mow of the season yesterday. It took four days and a lot of ice on my ankles and muscle recovery meditations, but I survived it. Barely. I hope that now it’s done, it’ll be my daily 30 minutes of exercise and also thinking time for my writing. But if we get several days of rain . . . I’ll be back to mowing knee-high grass for hours and hours again.

I can’t remember which book I read where a man talked about how physical labor drove all the dreams and imagination out of his head. I want to say Thoreau, but that doesn’t sound like a Thoreau sort of thing to say. Quite the reverse, if I remember my Thoreau. (It’s entirely possible that I’ve made up a False Thoreau in my head, based on a few facts like his mom did his laundry while he was playing survivalist on Walden Pond.)

I’ve forgotten how to Continue reading

Michaeline: Secure Your Belief Systems!

A Japanese ghost or demon in a long kimono

Dead or alive, when Grandma is happy, everyone’s happy. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

Long story, and we’ve got time, don’t we?

So, I cleaned house for much of the morning. Last night, my mother-in-law said, “The Temple is coming tomorrow at 9:30.” No, not the whole thing – just the Buddhist priest, who comes a couple of times a year to . . . I’m not quite sure what the theological underpinnings are. To bless the house? To say “hi” to our deceased family members with a speedy little sutra? At any rate, he comes, he recites a prayer before our household altar, then he has a little tea and some cookies, and heads off to the next household. The most important dates are spring equinox, fall equinox and Obon, which people in my area reckon to be about August 15.

Today is July 8. The nearest date of any legendary significance is Tanabata – the star festival when the lovesick weaver and shepherd get to cross the Milky Way and have a night of joy before heading back to work. That’s officially on the seventh day of the seventh month, but time isn’t a straight forward concept in Japan. The holiday is often reckoned by the Buddhist calendar, which is moon-based and wanders through our Gregorian year like a tipsy secretary at the office picnic. That would put 7/7 (Buddhist style) on August 28, this year. But for the sake of convenience, people in my area usually celebrate it in early August.

Interestingly enough, Wikipedia tells me that this celebration was originally from a “festival to plead for skills”. Huh. I ought to get me some of that action. Mark it on my calendar for August 28 . . . .

Ahem, excuse me for wandering off. Let me get back to the point: I spent the morning cleaning up the living room and tatami room for the priest, and then while I was in the shower, I started resenting the situation. You know how it is. You start to do something because it’s the Done Thing, but as soon as you get a moment to yourself, you start Continue reading