Of Juice and Thrips and Ceiling Wax
Begin the Begonia, August 8
Geese Gaggling, August 15
Spotting UFOs While Canning Tomatoes, August 29
Title of the Month: Fly Pushing
Begin the Begonia
About 20 years ago I was visiting the grandmother of a friend in Point Richmond, California (Bay Area). On her lovely old oak dining table was an enormous plant with huge leaves. The tops were a rich dark green and the underside a purply red. I was enchanted. Mrs. Dornan graciously gave me a slip of the plant to take home. She said it was a beefsteak begonia.
Since then, the beefsteak begonia has been with me through thick and thin. It liked El Cerrito and the permanent fog bank. It tolerated too much light in my San Francisco flat, and not enough in the Daly City place. It traveled in the back of a Ryder truck when I moved to Minneapolis back in the early '80s and adapted to cold, dry winters and hot, moist summers.
All along the way, people asked for slips and I cheerfully gave them, wanting other people to enjoy the plant as well. It's easy to care for, easy to start. The only thing it doesn't like is direct sunlight other than that, it's really hard to kill. The leaves are a bit brittle; they break off or get damaged. But who cares? It will happily grow new ones. Every few years or so, it has tiny white orchid-like flowers. It has been a nice plant, but up till recently, was never as magnificent as its mother.
Then I got the job here at the library. The building has windows but another building has been built around it. I sit in bright fluorescent lights all day. To remind me of the living world I brought in a slip of the begonia. It loved the fluorescent lights. The leaves got bigger nearly five inches across. You could tell this plant started out in the understory of a rain forest somewhere. The one at home seems almost pathetic. More people asked for slips students, visitors, co-workers.
Several months ago, one of our reference people decided the public area of the library needed plants to warm it up a bit. I donated several, including, of course, a clone of the beefsteak begonia. Unencumbered by boundaries, it has spread over one of the study tables in Reference until it has become nearly as large as the original back in Point Richmond. About once every two weeks, someone asks about it; I encourage them to take slips to keep the plant under some kind of control.
A month ago, someone who works at Bachman's (a local nursery) asked about it, and I gave her a slip. A couple weeks later, someone from the Horticulture department saw it and asked for a slip. Just now, a new student worker asked for a slip.
Currently you find mention of this plant only in older books about house plants. It went out of style in the early sixties. But I have a feeling that within a year or so, I'm going to start seeing it in nurseries or on the Victory Garden show or some such; and then I'll have to wonder: is this a baby of one of those slips I gave away?
I'm sure Mrs. Dornan is long gone. Wish I had a way to tell her how far her generosity has traveled. I'm sure she'd get a big kick out of it.
Hope all is well out there. Happy Birthday to Karen, Rebecca, Doug, and Hope. Take good care of yourselves.
Spotted a gaggle of Canadian geese in the State Fair parking lot this morning. They were muttering about Louisiana and Barbados as far as I could tell. That's it. The State Fair is next week (they let us peasants at the U park there for a small fortune when the fair isn't running when the fair is running, we are on our own). Some corn dogs, an ear of corn, everything on a stick, a few cows and quilts and wham winter. Summer's over.
Had my first tomato sandwich of the year earlier this week. Ideally this should simply be fresh home-grown tomatoes on utterly fresh San Francisco sourdough bread, but fresh home-made or Mill City Peasant bread will do. I have a shameful secret in that I like to add mayonnaise as well. What can I say, once a Californian, always a Californian, at least in some matters.
Hug someone you love,
Spotting UFOs While Canning Tomatoes
I've just learned that my poem, "Spotting UFOs While Canning Tomatoes," has been nominated for a Rhysling award! It was published in Serve It Forth: Cooking with Anne McCaffrey, a collection of recipes and food-related writings by science fiction and fantasy authors, and is reprinted here for your viewing pleasure.
Can some tomatoes, folks!
Copyright © 1997 by Terry A. Garey.