Summer Blooms

I have been using the Audubon Wildflower Guide (Eastern Region) from the library to identify most of these. I am still trying to decide whether or not to get this or the Peterson guide as my own. Against popular opinion and as a newbie, I am partial to the color photos in the Audubon guide, and like the size and 2-part organization. In the past, I’ve found it difficult to use illustrated wildflower guides since I need more detail to accurately identify as a beginner. Either way, it has been a joy finding all of these blooms.

Garden Update

“Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh, how beautiful,’ and sitting in the shade.”

—Rudyard Kipling

Earlier this spring I spent some time digging up more of our backyard to use the leftover pea gravel from creating our patio last summer. At the beginning of spring I always feel energized and ready to work outside. With the pandemic beginning early in the spring here, there was also a sense of national camaraderie around victory gardening, although I can't say that was really my intent. But there is a sense of stewardship that comes along with composting, growing our own food, attracting pollinators with wildflowers, and creating a wonderful space for spending time in outside of our home.

I decided to build two raised beds, and filled the bottom with compost and then covered that with a mix of topsoil and raised bed mix. I also installed a rain barrel with a gutter diverter, but have mostly used that for watering flowers in our front yard. Katey and I decided to grow tomatoes, zucchini, musk melon, broccoli, romaine lettuce, and some herbs: basil, sage, parsley, and sweet mint. We also cut out a section for a midwestern wildflower mix so we could cut flowers to put inside all summer.

I Made a Skateboard

In the film 180° South, Yvon Chouinard talks about how climbing is essentially a useless act: “You get to the top of a wall, there’s nothing up there. Lionel Terray, the great French climber called it ‘The conquistadors of the useless.’ Yeah, the end result is absolutely useless, but every time I travel, I learn something new and hopefully I get to be a better person.”

I love this observation about climbing, and I think it reflects the way I’ve always viewed skateboarding. In many ways, it is a useless act—but in the same way art is a useless act. In a culture which centers around work and pragmatics, doing something purely for the sake of enjoying it can be refreshing.

I started skateboarding back in elementary school. My uncle Kevin had grown up skating himself, and gave me a couple of his old boards right before I started middle school. I would spend hours skating around in the street, and eventually it became a primary activity with friends throughout high school. While many stereotypes of skateboarders exist in America, it might also be seen as an art form and as a craft. We were often kicked out of locations, or viewed as burn-outs with nothing to do. But I think my friends skated for the same reason I did. There is a beauty in carving down a hill or feeling the wind in your shirt. When I started college, skating eventually faded out of my life. In an attempt to find a few personal projects in the midst of the pandemic, I decided to reuse the trucks from my uncle’s old board, bought some new wheels, and shaped my own deck out of an old cabinet shelf.

My uncle Kevin’s old board.
Using a paper template to trace a shape onto the board.
Cutting out the main profile with a jigsaw.
Putting on the old trucks.

On Repeat

I’ve been making quarterly playlists for about two years now, and find that each one is always a sort of reflection of—or a net for catching—the ups and downs of each season of life. It’s always interesting to look back and see how much my tastes have changed, or how replaying a certain song conjures up memories of a certain dinner at home, driving somewhere, or a feeling felt. I often don’t take time to actually reflect on these things or mark them, so I thought this would be a good place to start. Here are some songs I’ve had on repeat so far this year.

Please Won't Please by Helado Negro

“Lifelong history shows/That brown won’t go/Brown just glows.”

Helado Negro is the project of Robert Carlos Lange, the son of Ecuadorian immigrants who often explores issues of family, identity, and personal history in an intimate and powerful way. The album title itself draws on Jamaica Kincaid's story ”Girl,” a series of instructions and ideals from an immigrant mother to her daughter. Lange's previous albums are much more electronic and eclectic, but This is How You Smile is much more soft and personal. One of my favorite things about Lange's live performances are the Tinsel Mammals created by his wife Kristi Sword.

 

Don't Look Back by Jackson C. Frank

“You can read all about justice / In a million books and more / But there aren’t words to bring back Evers / Nor pay the price that he stood for”

This song by Jackson C Frank is a politically charged piece recounting the civil rights movement and the murder of Medgar Evers, and American Civil Rights Activist who was shot in front of his own home after returning from an NAACP meeting.

This week we've watched as protests unfold over injustice, police brutality, and the continued fight for civil rights for black and brown people in America. My heart aches for the entire situation. I've been reflecting recently on how much political turmoil was going on during the 1960s, and how this moment in time feels so similarly in upheaval—like returning boomerang—even though it's not quite the same.

 

Nihilist Kite Flyer by Loving

“Asking myself / When I just might / When I just might be found / When I just might see clearly”

Loving is a Canadian folk-pop trio who released their debut LP If I am Only My Thoughts this year. I love the honest song-writing here, and how they highlight this desire to have meaning, to be able to see clearly. The lyrics feel almost psalmic or biblical in thought—the thoughts of someone who is lost and desires to be found.

 

Sacred Sands by Allah-Lahs

My guilty pleasure is listening to surf-rock inspired music like The Ventures, The Beach Boys, or Dick Dale. Allah-Lahs is a garage-rock, surf-rock inspired quartet from LA who released this instrumental track back in 2012. I've really enjoyed some of their newer tracks on Mexican Summer as well, but this song in particular just feels like it's supposed to be in a Bruce Brown film—and this makes sense, since ”three of the four members met while working at one of the country's great record stores, Amoeba on Sunset Boulevard, where they spent countless hours studying up on the vintage sounds that compose their affectingly melancholy self-titled debut,” as noted in a Pitchfork review.

 

Breeze by Jefre Cantu-Ledesma and Var Har Du Varit by Dungen

Picking up off of the surf theme, these are my two favorite tracks from the recently released soundtrack to Self Discovery for Social Survial, a collaborative film between Pilgrim Surf Supply and Mexican Summer. To create the film, both musicians and surfers traveled together and the music was created in response to the surfing–a sort of homage to the birth of the surf-film genre in the 1950s.

 

San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair) by Emile Mosseri, Daniel Herskedal, Joe Talbot, and Michael Marshall

I recently watched The Last Black Man in San Francisco directed by Joe Talbot. It's a really beautiful movie about home, belonging, and place. The score to the film is composed by Emile Mosseri, and is beautiful on its own, but fits the cinematography perfectly. This is a cover of the original 1967 song by Scott McKenzie.

Spring Blooms

Being at home more has made spring feel slower than normal. With the extra time, I have taken up walking more often with the hopes of going for at least an hour per day, or for 10,000 steps if I'm feeling ambitious. If you're wondering where that number comes from, it's a funny story. Even after taking longer walks for two or three weeks, I find that there is a quiet, restful, and observant aspect to them that is refreshing to me physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And I feel more strongly about recommending walks the more I take them. I love this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“No wealth can buy the requisite leisure, freedom, and independence which are the capital in this profession. It comes only by the grace of God. It requires a direct dispensation from Heaven to become a walker.”

While I don't know if I'm a true walker by Thoreau's definition, I've really enjoyed taking them in the mornings, during lunch breaks, or in the evenings—and have begun noticing the spring blooms that I often miss around our neighborhood during this season. The street we live on is semi-rural, and borders a lake that eventually makes its way into the Cuyahoga River, so it teems with native wildflowers much more than in town. Walking and observing these is such a special and ephemeral moment of the year. Hoping to do another post later with some summer blooms.

 

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