Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Cordate Shaped

Cordate is a botanical term used to describe a leaf when it is shaped like a heart.  The most recognizable cordate shaped leaf can be found on the Redbud.  Redbuds grow relatively low in the canopy, with a height comparable to a Dogwood.  The Redbud first produces red or purple 'buds' in the spring before the leaves emerge. There are a special few spring days when the flowers are still clinging to the branches and the heart-shaped leaves are emerging.  The leaves range in color from lime green to dark purple depending on the variety. All through the Spring and Summer the branches of the Redbud are covered with garlands of hearts.  When you see them, no matter how bitter, jaded or cynical you are, it is difficult to think of anything except love.  In the Fall, the Redbuds steal the spotlight again when their leaves turn yellow.  As the breezes blow, the whole yard is dappled with yellow hearts, like a classroom strewn with construction paper hearts after the kids cut out their Valentines.  I find myself feeling sweet and happy as I rake all the hearts into a pile, I find myself singing even.... I began looking around the garden and taking stock of all the Cordate shaped leaves I could find.  And wow did I find them.  Here are just a few:

morning glory



Elephant ears


My overwhelming thought was two fold.  First: Humans are always looking for signs, for proof of things, for direction, for encouragement that they are on the right track.  Humans especially yearn for these signs from the Heavens, or from God, or the Universe.  Well, if we are looking for a sign, the Cordate shaped leaves all around us just might be it.  (Isn't it sweet of the universe to communicate with us in a modern 'emoticon' kind of way that its sure we'll understand no matter which language we speak?)  There are hearts all over the plants, what should we gather from this?  For those of you who know me, this is going to shock you a little but ....I think the universe is saying:   Love really 'IS the answer,' love really IS 'all around,' what people really need IS 'more love'... you get the idea.  Maybe that verse in Corinthians that they always read at weddings isn't just about romance, maybe it's about life and how we conduct ourselves.  Maybe the 'greatest of these' really is love.  When you get to the bottom of why people want to give, to help, etc, there is love.  People want to give more love because many times people want to receive more love and as a result love, not money, becomes  the answer to a world of hurt.  Our best moments are motivated by love in some form.  Think of your power as an individual if you were brave enough to always act out of love, think about how we could mobilize people or institute change with the power of love.  Love is not risk free, but its returns are infinite.  If we are looking for a sign, if we need some direction, we've got it....It's not in the stars...it's in the trees.

"Time is how you spend your love."  Zadie Smith

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Starbucks music

As a break from the technical plant talk, I'd like to discuss caffeine, corporate America and generic sounding music...

I tend to visit Starbucks most often when I'm on a road trip.  When I arrive at the Starbucks, I am usually at my weakest point...I probably need to go to the bathroom, I'm probably uncaffeinated and hungry and I'm probably bored with the radio or the music that is already in my car.

So-- I show up to the counter and first contemplate whether or not four shots of espresso in my latte will give me a heart attack.  The next question is whether or not I really need a croissant AND a donut and a $3 bottle of water for the car.  I'm usually having a hard time making any decision because I need to pee.  After I relieve myself from that distraction, I stand there, waiting in line, staring into uncaffeinated space.  It never fails, the CDs always grab my attention.  I'm sure there is something there that my ears are longing to hear.

But...Starbucks CDs are like Walmart clothing.  From far away they look good enough to lure you to the clothing department and maybe even to the dressing room.  The covers of the Starbucks CDs are always artists that you like, with pictures you haven't seen and songs you've never heard of.  "Jackpot!" " This will probably be awesome to listen to"...WRONG.  The Walmart clothes never fit.  And the cd's at Starbucks are always generic enough that they 'appeal' to everyone and don't offend anyone. My example:  a new CD my Mark Cohn, they guy who wrote 'Walk'in in Memphis.'  That song is good right?  So a CD full of covers by him must be great? right? NO!  Same with all the other stuff they are playing in there.  Most likely everyone is so jolted full of caffeine while they are there that they need 'soothing' music just so that they don't climb the walls...So what you have a is a collection of songs with so little dynamics that they should be used chiefly to put people to sleep and should bear a warning on the cover, "DO NOT use these while driving.  May cause spontaneous naps."

Monday, November 8, 2010

Last Day at USNA

Ed, Chris, Brad, Ramon, GrayC, Barbara, Lynn, Tanya, Mariah, Amanda, George, Coley, Joe, me, Joan, Jeanette, Pat, Nate, Michael.
If you've been following the lunch stories, here is a photo of my last lunch hour at the US National Arboretum for 2010.  This photo includes most everyone who has been featured in a lunch story ( Read Critters and Lunchtime...) except for Tony, who somehow escaped the photo op but who was actually present.  I think it was the Dove Ice Cream Bars that drew everyone to the celebration (provided by my boss Lynn, as a special going away treat!)  The conversations were entertaining and juvenile as usual, including an especially disgusting discussion of how Mayonaise is really just 'sandwich lube.' Ew....

During the internship Lynn would assign homework each week and then would spend an hour or so testing  me on the information.  While we ate our ice cream, the Intern Coordinator asked which assignment I liked best.  My boss mentioned the assignment on the Grove of State Trees, which was to memorize the names of all the State trees and then be able to identify them by their leaves.  I confirmed that it was one of the hardest assignments but definitely my favorite one.  I think it goes without saying that the things most difficult to achieve are usually the sweetest in the end.  Of all the ballet roles I danced, my favorites inevitably began with tears after the first rehearsal because I was convinced that I wasn't capable enough to dance them and ended with more tears because I fell so in love with the ballets that I never wanted to stop dancing them.  (Combat, Sugar Plum Fairy, Sinatra Suite)

"Always leave 'em wanting more" is a show biz phrase. It definitely makes your heart beat faster when you leave craving more of something instead of having had your fill.  From that perspective, saying 'goodbye' when you're not ready to leave is a luxury. Still, the people I have gotten to know at USNA are charming and generous.  It would take me ages and ages to have my fill of them or the work I got to do there.

Happily, I WON my battle with Poison Ivy!! I never contracted it for the entirety of my 6 months in the Friendship Garden.

What is next?  Getting the mice and the soldiers on stage for the Nutcracker...   A trip to Australia!!  Selling Christmas tree's at Behnke's, applying for more internships... celebrating my first holiday season that isn't dictated by my ballet schedule....overwintering my little herb garden and missing my days at the National Arboretum. There will be lots of news to report.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


More typical lunchtime antics from the US National Arboretum...

Today amidst a conversation about burps vs belches....I leaned into George and said, "This is the dumbest conversation we've ever had..." George counters with, "I'd be careful, this might not be THE dumbest."

Which turned us on to revisiting the 'Best of Dumb" starting with a ridiculous 5th grade discussion from a few weeks back about hot peppers and how hot is hot and who can eat the hottest ones...enter Ed carrying a bag of potato chips that boasted the name 'Mamazuma's Revenge.' It then became about how many bags one man can eat and whether he licks the foil or not after he finishes it (Tony (from the original lunchtime blog post "Critters" )of course licks the foil and then sweats and complains about how hot his mouth is until the end of lunch.)  We revisit a discussion about whether it would be better to drown or to be shot in the head, which is a lively yet disturbing and somewhat dark debate that doesn't end...Even when we revisit, it just starts the debate again...incidentally most of the women and George picked drowning and all the other men picked getting shot in the head...and they would defend it all day if lunch wasn't only a 1/2 hour long....

Then we move onto other childish activities... Too start ---and this is true-- if you take a plastic jar of JIF peanut butter that is 1/2 full and spin it like a top, it makes the most amazing sound.  Its a sound you could never identify, kind of like a spinning turbine, we (and when I say 'we'  I mean Pat and Joe) start with one jar that has been unrefrigerated and test it against a refrigerated jar.  I'm pretty sure 'unrefrigerated' won out for sound AND the cool shape the Peanut butter was spun into on the inside of the jar.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is like show and tell for nerdy adults.

Another day someone brought in Japanese raspberries from Asian Valley.  They are very beautiful to look at but not to eat. Almost everyone tried them and almost everyone said that they "tasted like a caterpilar"-ew- I didn't try one...and then Michael remembers that he has a sling shot and then the fun really begins...I'm not kidding...everyone cleans up though which is nice and no one aims the sling shot at anyone's face, which is nice too.

The best part is that at the same table on any given day are a pile of old Horticulture or wildlife magazines that someone is giving away or a cake or roasted pumpkin seeds that someone brought in to share. Those things spark lively debates too...how to roast the best pumpkin seed, which birds are still endangered (because the magazines are from 1990) and any talk of endangered species usually gets people worked up about whether the Panda should be saved or not. Add to that talk of whether it's fair to close a perfectly good fishing beach, just to preserve some unknown endangered bird's nest...

In the end after reminiscing through the 'best of dumb', Ed walks in. This is the same Ed from before with the spicy potato chips.  Today he's splurged and gone to get a sandwich from A. Litteris  --a famous DC Italian Grocer since 1926.  Suddenly Ed is unwrapping a small block of esoteric Italian cheese that sells for $25 a pound.  Then he passes samples to everyone and compares it to some other snooty cheese he's familiar with.  This is what I love about this place.