The Joys (Not) of Apartment Life

There are some. The buildings in my complex are situated that no neighbors can see in my windows. It’s on a bluff. No new buildings can be built to obscure my view and make my living room a part of their view. I can see the sky, trees, and clouds. From my balcony, I have a fabulous view of Mt. Rainier. The fact that I have a balcony where I can grow plants and sit outside to enjoy the view, which sometimes includes bunny youngsters chasing each other across the back lawn.

Not so enjoyable. Walls so thin it sometimes sounds like people are walking around in my place even when I’m home alone. Annual inspections and other invasions of my privacy, such as installing energy-efficient light bulbs I never asked for because I already had them.

Starting Monday and all next week a company hired by management is going to be cleaning “bird guards” (whatever they are) and dryer vents. We’re advised to move our personal stuff off our balconies. The means I have to drag inside a chair, a wrought iron spiral plant stand, and fifteen flower containers. So I’ll be living in an indoor jungle for however long it takes them to finish up at my building.

The notice said that this is an annual event. Nope. They’ve never done it in the seven years (!) I’ve lived here. The staff turns over frequently. Even when they’ve been around awhile, half the time they don’t know what’s what.

I have four rectangular planter boxes that are about two feet wide. I may leave a couple of them on the balcony, next to the wall, where they’re less likely to be damaged. Maybe cover them with plastic trash bags.

This is one of the plants I have to move indoors. The hosta is almost three feet across from leaf tip to leaf tip. I’m crazy about it.

My favorite plant.
What my hosta looked like when I first brought it home from the nursery.

Another plant that’s going to be displaced. The geranium comes indoors during the winter, so it should be used to being indoors.

I’ve been babying this plant for several years now, so I’d be sorry to lose it and its friends.
Autumn fern. Those aren’t dead fronds; their color is the reason for the plant’s name. It’ll probably stay outside, pushed against the inner wall.

More displaced plants.

The petunias and bacopa (the little white flowers) live in railing planters.
A few more denizens of a railing planter. They’re a new variety, trailing pansies. They’re almost ready to climb out of their box.

I have no idea how long my plants will have to stay indoors. I haven’t bothered to ask the office staff; I’m sure they don’t know. My building is designated as “L,” which would make it seem logical that Wednesday would be the day to expect the cleaners, but logic has nothing to do with it. They may not start with building A. They could start with Z. This section of buildings is right next to the main driveway, so it could be the first one to get cleaned.

I guess I’ll know when the crew has arrived when I hear spray from their hoses or whatever machinery they may use. I live in suspense. Apartment living can be so exciting.

Oberon’s Monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

(Act 2, Scene 1)

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in...

This is one of my favorite passages from Shakespeare, from one of my favorite of his plays. It’s not the whole monologue. After these few lines, Oberon allows his jealousy, because his wife has adopted a mortal boy, to turn him mean. He anoints his fairy queen, Tatiana’s eyes with a magic potion that will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees, the weaver, Nick Bottom, who has been magically given a donkey’s head.

I had to look up the flowers.

Turns out the oxlips are actually primroses. Theyre also known as cowslips.

Musk rose and eglantine are both species of wild rose.
The name woodbine can apply to a number of different vines, including honeysuckle. I picked this photo because I thought it looks magical.

Weed is a synonym for a garment. So the snake’s enameled skin is a garment that would fit a fairy. If you’ve read novels set during the Nineteenth Century, you might have come across a reference to “widow’s weeds,” in other words, her mourning clothes.

And, of course, the fairy queen is accompanied by her court of, I guess you’d call them fairies-in-waiting. Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed.

In Shakespeare’s day summer was considered to begin on May first, thus, the summer solstice was midsummer, the time when the boundaries between the human world and the fairy world were particularly thin. Fairies could cross over then and meddle in human lives. Hopefully, for the better.

Springtime! Plants!

Bedding plants at a local hardware store. The “pillows” are bags of potting soil.

Do you have bedding plants yet? I didn’t buy any plants from this store, but I bought some at a nearby superstore.

All I have is a small balcony, but I want to fill it with leafy plants and flowers. Online I see photos of Italian house window boxes and apartment building balconies, overflowing with plants and I get envious. The exuberance of these window boxes is bright and cheerful. I suspect my balcony is the only one in the entire complex that’s loaded with flower pots. All the balconies here face the back and there is no car access. I haven’t walked around back to see if other people have balcony gardens. But I’ve driven past other complexes and have seen only one plant decorated balcony. Why don’t more of us do this?

Here are a few of my bedding plants.

I love that geraniums bloom all summer.
I’ve never seen this color petunia before. Petunias are humble little plants, but they’re cheerful and lovely and bloom all summer. I hope this beauty will attract hummingbirds.
These are bacopa. They’re pretty little trailing plants, they grow enthusiastically and also bloom all summer. They share a planter with my petunias.
The color of this petunia matches the edges of the magenta flower. I love the coral pink.
Occupants of another container.

This is a new variety of trailing pansy, called Cold Wave. When I bought them I didn’t know they were trailing pansies. I’d never heard of such a thing. Me see pansies. Me want. Me have money. Me buy. I didn’t even look at the label. As the name implies, Cold Wave pansies grow in cold weather. I’m not sure I’d have bought them if I’d known. I want my flowers to bloom all summer. I hope these dear little things survive in warmer weather. Fortunately, around here summers tend to be pretty cool, so I hope these babies will be happy come July and August. The long-range weather forecast is for a cooler and rainier summer this year.

Flowers From Other Years:

I’m hoping for a plethora of petunias this year, too. This photo was taken in mid-summer.
Don’t these coleus leaves look like velvet?

If you haven’t bought plants yet, it’s not too late. It was late spring when I bought this coleus. It was a leggy plant with only a few leaves on a long stem. No one at the superstore’s garden center had bothered much with the plants that had been left behind–end of season, new stuff to sell. After a few weeks on my balcony, with plenty of sun, water, and a bit of fertilizer, this is what the skinny coleus turned into.

There are four empty pots on my balcony (and eight occupied ones) I’m going to have to go to a garden center and buy a few more flowers. Pots should not be allowed to sit around empty. I need flowers. It makes me happy to see little blossom faces peering over the rim of their container. The blinds in front of the slider are always open, so I can see my “pets” anytime of day or night. I like to sit on my balcony among my plants, have a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy their beauty. There’s a bit of Italian somewhere in me.

Stopping to Pet Moss

Musings on Today’s Walk

I live in a rainy place. Moss is everywhere, but I never get over its wonder and beauty.

When I go for walks, I try to pay attention to things that get overlooked. 

Moss. Dead leaves. Blooming flowers. Wilting flowers. Raindrops. All sorts of small and seemingly unimportant things. 

I love this leaf even though it’s old, brown, and dry.

And, yes, I stop to smell roses and to pet moss. My hands like the feel of moss. It’s like botanical velvet. A carpet for fairies. I touch bark, feel the roughness. Like a child, I pick up leaves and pretty rocks and take them home. Is that because I never grew up?

I chose not to crop out this wilting rose. It has its own beauty. In Japanese flower arrangements, one wilted blossom is often included to remind us that life is finite.

As people get older, they too get overlooked and dismissed as unimportant, with nothing to offer.

I’m hardly the only person who has discovered the beauty of small, overlooked things, but the faster the world goes, the faster time flies, we forget to stop and look. Stop and to touch. To listen. And think.

Writers notice even the smallest details and describe them. Walt Whitman watched “A noiseless patient spider” and compared the filaments it casts to his soul, flinging gossamer filaments, hoping they’ll catch on something. Another soul. Another heart. Some of us cast gossamer filaments that never catch anywhere or catch on the wrong thing. Because of Whitman’s spider and Charlotte, I’ve never looked at spiders the same way.

Robert Frost noticed “A Considerable Speck” scuttling across the page where he’d been writing. How easy it would be to drown it with a drop of ink. The speck is so tiny it seems to have no room for feet, let alone a brain, yet it moves with purpose and seems aware of the threat represented by Frost’s pen. Of course, the poet doesn’t drown the speck but lets it go on its way. I no longer drown or squash specks. Most of the time. Fruit flies don’t count. Spiders do.

I fell in love with Japanese culture when I was in high school. I can’t remember if it was in my creative writing class when I discovered haiku. I was enchanted by the three-line, seventeen syllable poems. Or maybe I fell in love with Japanese culture at the Seattle Asian Art Museum while gazing at netsuke, tiny exquisitely sculpted fobs that fastened inro boxes to an obi. I love how the artists often depicted tiny creatures, frogs or beetles, in remarkable detail.

I just like the way this plant looks with its fuzzy white edges. I think it might be an artemisia. It grows in a planter next to the entrance of an apartment complex. People just drive or walk past it and its companions.
This picture appeals to me because of the contrast of colors and textures and the way the ivy looks like it’s embracing the rock.
Just because. Some people consider ivy to be a pest, but this one is helping hold a grassy slope in place.
A Noiseless Patient Spider
Walt Whitman - 1819-1892

A noiseless patient spider,
I mark'd where on a little promontory it stood isolated,
Mark'd how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,
It launch'd forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,
Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.
And you O my soul where you stand,
Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,
Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,
Till the bridge you will need be form'd, till the ductile anchor hold,
Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

(This poem is in the public domain)
The creation of a tiny architect.

Portrait of a Tulip

Grace and Elegance

This beauty comes from the tiny container garden on my balcony. I’m in love with this blossom. Other than liking them no more or no less than other flowers, I never much thought about tulips. Then a friend told me that tulips were her favorite flowers. Her comment caused me to take a closer look to figure out why. Compared to other, flashier, showier flowers, like peonies and dahlias, tulips, unless they’re parrot tulips, seem almost plain. They’re not. They’re graceful and elegant in their simplicity. Even when they bow their heads, they’re lovely.

Same Flower

The closer you get, the more intense the color. That’s how it is with people, too, isn’t it?

These blossoms are almost too beautiful for words. They’re ethereal and will slip away all too soon. That makes them all the more precious. That’s why I had to photograph this beauty and share it on my blog. Soon these pictures will be all that I have left of this flower.

Heart of a Tulip

Once you get close to someone you can see into their heart. This is the same flower. The only difference is the lighting and the location. The inside of the petal really is more intense in color than the outside. Many of us hide our intensity from the outside world.

Am I a Georgia O’Keeffe wanna be, except with a camera, instead of a paintbrush? I’ve loved her work for many years now. I love her sensuous, intimate portraits of flowers. I even love her barren landscapes and steer skulls. She shows them to us in a way we’ve never though to look at them before. I wish I could paint like she did. I want to live to a dynamic old age, with a beautiful, lined face like hers. I’d rather not slip away like flowers, but I suppose I will.

Come closer, look into the heart.

Here’s a link to the O’Keeffe Museum