Saturday, February 28, 2009

Hearts in Flowers

curiously heart-shaped red flowers

I know Valentine’s Day was two weeks ago. But when I was looking at the photos I’ve taken a while back, I couldn’t help not sharing these shots. And since February is not yet over, I told myself that posting them would be a nice way to end Cupid’s month. So here are some photos of heart-shaped flowers.

We don’t have them at home, but my in-laws’ do. I forgot to ask the name of the plant, but I don’t think it’s specie of bleeding heart. For one, if I remember right, it has elongated leaves while bleeding hearts have compound leaves (three leaflets forming one leaf). And the raceme of the flowers (the “stalk” from which the flowers are attached) resemble that of a begonia. In fact, these heart-shaped flowers seem to share the same characteristics with Begonia flowers, except that the former are of course, in the form of hearts.

Thinking about it, I’m becoming more and more convinced that this is a cultivar of Begonia. Begonias have male and female flowers. With this plant, I think the male flowers are the heart shaped ones, and the female flowers are the ones above --- they’re still heart-shaped but between the “hearts” and the pedicels (shirt flower stalk), there’s another part which I believe contains the ovary. And looking inside the “hearts”, there are “twirly” shapes suspended. Separate male and female flowers (with twisted stigmas) occurring in the same plant characterizes begonia flowers. So maybe, this is one of the more peculiar cultivars of begonia. But then, maybe I’m wrong. In any case, I find these flowers really interesting. And a beauty to look at.

I find them prettier than bleeding hearts. I think it’s because they’re more heart-shaped and have a color closer to red. Plus, I like the smooth fragile petals --- a slight pressure on them will cause a “bruise”. I guess like our own hearts, whoever holds it should “handle it with care.” Too bad, they flower in summer and not in February. I think they would be very appropriate and metaphoric for Valentine’s Day --- “I give you all my heart but please be careful with it. Handle it recklessly and it will bruise easily. But with attention and caution, you’ll have it eternally.”

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

a stained glass window in one of the churches in Ghent, Belgium

A beautiful stained glass window in one of the several churches in Ghent, Belgium. I'm not so sure what from church I saw this vividly colored artwork but I think this can be seen in St. Michael's Church, near the picturesque quay of the river Lys. I though it would be a good entry for today is Ash Wednesday, the start of the Lenten Season.

By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food
until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken;
for dust you are and to dust you will return.
- Genesis 3:19

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Wishful Thinking

wishing it's summer rather than winter *sigh*

Wouldn’t it be nice if the white powder on the photo is sand instead of snow? The grey bleak days we’re having can really bring the blues. And the current winter is definitely a freezing one. Oh, we have intermittent days of sun, but they don’t last long enough to dispel the general gloominess and chilly atmosphere. I just keep telling myself it’s better to have snow and frigid temperature now followed by a “true” spring and summer than to have a mild winter that seems to drag on forever (for the past years, there seems to be little difference between the warm and cold seasons).

And to add to my dwindling spirit, our oldest indoor plants, Agave (Agave Americana var. marginata) and Yucca (Yucca elephantides) died. They’ve been with us for around five years and to see them now, water-logged and rotten to the roots, is quite depressing. I keep berating myself why this winter I decided to let them outside (we usually place them on our porch during the warm months). We didn’t have enough space inside the house to accommodate their bulk now since they’ve grown big both in height and diameter --- especially with the sharp-edged leaves of Yucca and the needle-ridden ones of Agave, so I decided to let them on the porch with a sheet of protective wrapper around them to keep the cold temperature at bay. I thought both the plants are sturdy enough to withstand the cold and the cover is sufficient to get them through winter.

Now I realized I was wrong. For sure, this winter is a lot harsher than usual. But I thought the winter wrapper and the plants robustness will keep them from being frozen to the roots. As they say, regret always comes in the end. I have really high hopes for them, especially with the Agave --- I was able to have four more medium sized plants from the one plant we originally had. Now, all of them are dead (*sniff* sniff*). And I don’t have anything except myself to blame for their untimely “demise”. I know I’m probably making a big fuss about it, when there are more serious things to think about and many things to be thankful for. But I just couldn’t help feeling sorry for the plants and for myself. As I said, they are, or rather, were our oldest plants. It’s a shame I didn’t bother to take a photo of them when they were still “alive”.

But thanks to Molly of The Bumbles, I have something that kept my spirits up. The Outlander by Diana Gabaldon that she recommended has been my company these past wintry days (and nights). And reading it made me forget my disappointment about my plants, the biting temperature, the overcast sky and the howling wind outside (it was quite strong on several occasions creating a lot of mess in the garden). It was an enjoyable read, transporting me to eighteenth century Scotland --- not only because of the narrative but because the notion of time travel is a central theme (maybe I should try to write a sort of “review” about it *winks*) Now, not only is my wish to visit Scotland has been intensified (both for the landscape and the culture, especially about the druids), but my curiosity about botanical plants and old cures has also been piqued.

Tsk, tsk, it seems my head is full of what ifs, should haves, would like tos. I guess when there’s nothing much to do outside, one tends to spend a lot time thinking things over, daydreaming or searching for reading materials about things that spark one’s interest, no matter how trivial or important it is. Well, at least that’s what I’m prone to do. And one thing I’m really wishing for right now is to wake up to a bright day, with the sun lording it over the blue sky *sigh*.

Monday, February 23, 2009

In Silence

Sometimes in silence, we hear the highest form of compliment,
the most deafening truth,
and the deepest and most sincere words of affection, acceptance and understanding.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Esse Quam Videri

lac d'Aubert (Aubert lake) in Massif de Néouvielle, Hautes-Pyrénées, France

For what it's worth: it's never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be.
There's no time limit, stop whenever you want.

You can change or stay the same;
there are no rules to this thing.
We can make the best or the worst of it.
I hope you make the best of it.
And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before.
I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you're proud of.
If you find that you're not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.
-Brad Pitt as Benjamin Button
in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

Some people I’ve known in the past may not recognize me now. Oh, I’m still me. Only different from what I used to be. It’s like the earth in its evolution --- with the cooling of hot air masses a livable atmosphere has been created; the folding and faulting of rock beds have formed mountains and valleys; the surfacing of molten lava has given birth to a lone or string of islands; the melting of glaciers and icebergs has turned into rivers, lakes and seas. You recognize it; yet it’s somehow different, not altogether the same.

I am different now. Or rather I feel different now. I might seem the same from the outside (aside from a wrinkle here, new lines around my eyes, new strands of white hair showing unbidden to my dismay *sigh*) … but I see things differently now. There’s a part of me that has disappeared or died completely allowing for things I’ve long unconsciously buried or never even knew existed to resurface and shaped me (and still continue to mold me) into a different person. It’s like wandering through an old mountain trail you used to take, with old rivers coursing through it gone dry but is boasting now of several springs that created new waterfalls and streams; seeing stumps or branches of once-flourishing trees replaced by young plants of a different kind brought by the wind or a flock of migrating birds; old huge rocks that used to stand as sentinels along the track are now small pebbles or coarse soil but a little farther you see new boulders chipped from the mountain side by weathering and erosion. One trail has become both an old and a new one. And you couldn’t say it’s only new on the outside because some fundamental characteristics have changed. And still no one could claim it to be exactly the same good old path.

Maybe the difference I see in me are just all in my head. It’s like attending a school reunion and you notice how different everybody is now. But after the initial shock of seeing them after a very long time has worn off, you realized they haven’t really changed at all. And sometimes it could be the other way around. People still see you as the same and treat you as if nothing has changed. (It’s ok if one used to be the Prom King and MVP (most valuable player) to boot; or Ms. Brains and Beauty and voted most likely to succeed; or the life of the party that everybody wants to hang around with. But those "branded" as a geek, a flirt, an airhead or simply Mr. Invisible (as nobody notices you) are definitely going to have a hard time. Old images of someone have a way of sticking to our minds like glue and we tend not to see him for who he is now, or at least notice that there’s more to him than those bygone memories.)

But whether my metamorphosis is visible or not, trivial or important, imaginary or real, one thing I’m sure of is that I like who I am now... a lot better than before. I may neither be successful nor popular (and I would never turn into a swan *smiles*), but I am happy and more at ease and at peace with myself. I used to think I have to be like" them", be one of "them" --- which, at the end of the day, makes me feel rather empty. But as they say, with age comes wisdom. I have learned how to look inside myself in search of who I am. And in the process, I have begun to reconcile parts of me that I either thought I don’t want or need --- which are in essence the necessary fragments of my being.

Oh, there are still gaps and spaces, but I’m starting to see and to be who I really am. I have shed my old skin and those others I’ve tried on that are part of a youth’s search for identity (which can go beyond the teenage years). I have learned to make the fabric that would contain the core of my being with bits and pieces of experiences that had opened my eyes to what I can forsake and what I cannot give up; of beliefs that sound true to my mind and heart; of what and who I love and hold most dear. I am now making my own pattern with my own thread spun from my own loom at my own rhythm.

And if somewhere along the way, I found out that what I’m weaving is not really who I am, then I’ll take Benjamin Button’s advice. I fervently hope I’ll have the courage to stop and start anew for life is not only about finding what makes you happy, what makes you whole and why you are here; it is also finding who you really are.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Amor Est Vitae Essentia

I think you have found love
when you find not only happiness in his arms but also peace and solace;
when you are willing to go an extra mile or two just to see her smile;
when you let your guard down yet feel safe and protected;
when you give a part of your self and still remain whole.

As Robert B. Mackay said, Amor est vitae essentia ... love is the essence of life.
So I hope we all find love one way or another, in one form or another.
Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Blooming Friday

our sweet alyssum during the warm months last year

Another easy to grow plant is the sweet alyssum (Lobuluria maritima) or simply alyssum (the name of the genus it belonged to before it was reclassified to the genus Lobularia). It is an annual plant but the ones I’ve planted around two years ago are still around. Of course, during winter they turn brown and dry, but the following spring, leaves sprout and flowers bloom until the season turns frosty. Well, maybe they self-sow, giving me the impression that that they grow from the very same plants I’ve grown the year before. But in any case, their cultivation is not difficult. Once sown, they grow on their own without much intervention on the gardener's part. Well, of course watering them from time to time is still necessary. What is more interesting is that they grow better in partial shade and the seeds don’t cost much.

They might not grow high (they are usually used as a ground cover) but they can give flowers almost all-year round, except if the temperature becomes too cold. One can plant it even in the middle of summer to give flowers in autumn. But of course, it would be better to sow them in spring to make the most of its blooming season. And if the wilted blooms are cut, you will have abundant sweet-smelling flowers that provide a great contrast to its foliage (especially the type with white flowers). A light breeze can diffuse their honey and vanilla scent which makes them ideal as pathway plants, near your windows or gazebos, or any other part of your garden where you usually sit down and have tea while chatting with your friends.

I planted them along our front porch together with our roses. So whenever I open the door, I am greeted by their sweet fragrance, an inviting note to take a walk outside. And with their white color peeking through the leaves and stems of our roses, the flower patch looks like bouquets of red roses with baby’s breath (gypsophila) one usually finds in flower shops. Only this time it’s with sweet alyssum and they don’t come in cut flowers wrapped in a transparent (or sometimes colored) cellophane tied with a ribbon, but rather real plants that last for the duration of the warm season.

see my other blooming fridays
see other blooming friday participants

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Not-so-Wordless Wednesday

Lac inferieure de Bastan, Hautes-Pyrénées

You have your piece of heaven on earth when your dreams are entwined,
when your hearts and minds are one,
when you look into his eyes and find your home and soul.

Monday, February 2, 2009

In Spe (In Hope)

Hope is a curious thing.

It can just be a trickle of water on a dry riverbed, a flicker of light in the dark,
a flimsy string that keeps us from falling into the abyss.

And yet, if we keep our faith in it, hold on to it and never let go,
it can sustain us through our ordeal, can illuminate our way out of desolation,
and pull us out from despondency and hardships.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Spell-binding Five

I would like to express my gratitude to Molly and Andy of The Bumbles for this heart-warming award. It is really nice to be appreciated, even if half of the times, my posts may come across as too melodramatic (even cheesy) or boring at times. But I’m not a great conversationalists, so I guess that shows in my blog *smiles.*

In any case, thank you Molly and Andy for thinking of me (well, at least, of my blog *grins*). I’m sorry it took me sometime to post this because in addition to the award, I’m supposed to write down five things I’m addicted to. Well, that’s not easy as I have to trim down to five my eccentricities. Besides, sometimes, when you’re so used to something (or doing something), you don’t see it as an “addiction” anymore. Well, here goes my answer:

1. Gardening --- I’m not outside 365 days a year as I cannot stand the cold weather (and I don’t think I will). And I fail half of the time (even more) in my attempts to grow plants. But I still do it (as long as I don’t get overwhelmed with what I’m still supposed to do in the garden --- which happens a lot of times *giggles*). I even like browsing through plant and seeds catalogue sand stores even though I don’t have any intention of buying (sometimes they are quite expensive or hard to grow for beginners, and having them won’t be a good idea as they would just die on me. And then I would just feel bad).

2. Hot chocolate drink in the morning --- If some people cannot begin their day without a cup of steaming coffee, well, mine won’t start right without my morning fix of hot choco. Cocoa is good for the body. But eating too much chocolate is not.

3. Historical romances --- They don’t have to be “classics” as long as they are set between ancient times and the 19th century. And it would be better if the characters are from the Middle Ages with chivalric albeit arrogant knights and strong-willed-yet-loving women (with or without a title and wealth, as long as they have a brain). And no, I don’t want my damsels to be always in distress and helpless, just waiting for somebody to save them.

4. Suspense/thriller novels and films --- Labyrinthine plots with a lot of mystery and dark secrets are my cup of tea. Just not too much gore, please.

5. TV series that won’t let you stay put on your seat with loads of ingenious actions and ideas and a little bit of the paranormal like X-files, Millennium, 24 hours, Supernatural, Lost and the likes. So no Desperate Housewives, Friends, Sex and the City, etc. for me *apologetic grin.*

So there you go. I know I’m supposed to pass the award and the meme to five people, but for the moment, I’d like to give this to Maya. She needs something to keep her mind busy. And since thinking and actually writing your addictions is not as easy as 1-2-3, I think this would do the trick :)