Botanic Gardens


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I won’t be adding much to all the praise that has been heaped upon Boyhood. Indeed, it is a remarkable film. A fictional film that feels like a documentary. It was filmed over a 12 year period so you actually see the real actors aging over this period of time. Of course it is most striking in the young boy, Mason (Ellar Coltrane, pictured above) who ages from 6 to 18 as well as his sister in the film played by Lorelei Linklater, the daughter of the movie’s director, Richard Linklater. Linklatter was extremely lucky to have found young actors who mature so well into their roles and can really act. This gamble could have failed miserably. Perhaps the success of the film also has to do with the main actors (including the divorced parents played brilliantly by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke) helping to shape the script itself over the 12 year period, sometimes not finishing it until the night before the shoot.

There is no real plot. This is a coming of age saga with all the blemishes and stumblings, bad choices and good, redemption and heart of growing up, parenting, and relationship. It is a series of events and passages, mostly ordinary some insignificant, yet within this intimate context, we watch the young boy evolve emotionally into a young man. And this movie works, all three hours, because it is so intimate, so very real.  Its proportions, in fact, feel epic. It’s a journey we all travel. Linklater has made the ordinary extraordinary.


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“One Hundred Foot Journey” as comfort food

This is one more for the food movie list–The One Hundred Foot Journey. Though entirely predictable, this movie felt great to watch with its visual lingerings on fabulous Indian and French cuisine and on the gorgeous produce in the French market of a small village in the Pyrennes. Leaving India after their restaurant was burned down in a political riot, the Kadam family (minus the mother who died in the fire), find themselves in southern France and decide to open an Indian restaurant, right across the road from a one star Michelin classic French restaurant run by the hard-edged, perfection-focused Helen Mirren. This inspires some mean-spirited competition.

As the predictable (and almost corny) plot unfolded, somehow the movie evolved for me into comfort food. Yes, the young talented Indian chef (Manish Dayal) falls for the sous chef (Charlotte Le Bon) at the fancy French restaurant. Yes the talented Indian chef goes to Paris and becomes famous. Yes he returns to run the fancy French restaurant in the small french village with the lovely sous chef as business (and romantic) partner. Yes the obstinate Helen Mirren and the stubborn patriarch of the Kadam family (played by the marvelous Om Puri) have a romance. And yes, it felt so good to watch.  Not intellectually or emotionally challenging, but delicious nonetheless. Comfort food for the soul.

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Unexpected gifts are always the most savory

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Over the last quarter century we have composted our food scraps, raising the soil in the backyard nearly 5 inches. Occasionally the compost doesn’t get hot enough so when we place the fresh soil out in the spring we get volunteers, seeds that sprout in random places. Sometimes these volunteers provide extra harvest, sometimes they don’t provide any fruit or vegetable due to being a hybrid or if fruit is produced it is not always good tasting. In the past we have had an avocado grow out of a drain hole in the compost container itself. Tomato plant volunteers are fairly regular. This year it is delicata squash which has spontaneously flourished in the herb garden, where the beans and cucumbers grow as well. Flourish is way too weak a word for its exuberance. (The photo above shows a young squash on a portion of the volunteer delicata, which criss-crosses the herb garden path three or four times.)

Our first volunteer delicata (shown below) was the star of tonight’s stir fry. Unexpected gifts are always the most savory.

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For no apparent reason


For no apparent reason, today I am feeling especially centered, open, compassionate. All my demons are quiet.

Maybe it was the T’ai Chi at the lake that got the day rolling. Or my son finally resolving some difficult and thorny issues. Maybe it was finally getting a batch of letters off to my new students (which required an overview of my gentle and uncomplicated summer) or the delicious bowl of fresh tomatoes from the garden I had for lunch. Maybe it was the mango and coconut bubble tea from Joy Yee’s, or the sincere and generous text I received from a friend, or the warm hug I got from JB just a few minutes ago.

Or maybe it is—because it is. Reason enough for gratitude.

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“At the Tea Garden” by Margaret Hasse


My friend and I mull over the teas
displayed in square jars
with beveled glass labeled by type.
Each name seems part of a haiku:
“After the Snow Sprouting.” “Moon Palace.”
“Mist Over the Gorges.”
I’m drawn to green teas
with unoxidized leaves that don’t wither,
hold their grassy fragrance
like willow under snow in winter.

The proprietor offers real china for the Chinese tea.
Animal bones, fine ground, give whiteness,
translucency and strength
to the porcelain that appears delicate,
resists chipping.
The rim of the cup is warm and thin.

My friend’s lips are plush: her lovely
mouth opens to give advice I ask for.
We talk about memory of threshold events,
like a first kiss or a poem published.
She can’t remember…

I tell her about my brother-in-law’s
chemotherapy—his third bout of cancer.
He wants his family to put a pinch
of his ashes in things he liked:
his banjo, the top drawer of his desk, the garden.

I wouldn’t mind becoming part
of a set of bone china that serves tea
in a cozy teahouse smelling of incense,
cinnamon, musk, and carved teak.
I’d like to be brought to a small table,
sit between friends’ quiet words,
held in hands so close that breath
on the surface of warm drink
makes mist rise over their faces.

“At the Tea Garden” by Margaret Hasse, from Earth’s Appetite. © Nodin Press, 2013

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Chobunsai Eishi’s 19th century thought balloon


Young Woman Dreaming of the Ise Stories Monogatari, hanging scroll, British Museum, 88.7 cm x 31.2 cm, early 19th century

This image of a courtesan who has fallen asleep while reading the Ise Stories (Ise Monogatari), shows her dreaming specifically of episode 12, where lovers are hiding in grasses from the guards of the provincial governor of Musashi Moor. The guards hold torches, threatening to burn the moor down. The courtesan perhaps imagines herself as the star-struck lover, dressed in sumptuous brocades, held by her handsome hero. The dreamer leans on a book box which holds the volumes of the story.

Eishi’s thought balloon is sensuous, graceful, and convincing. Vaguely looking like a face— the guards as its eyes and the lovers as its mouth— the thought balloon accentuates the intensity of the drama.

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