Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Baby, it's HOT outside . . .

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11

Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11

On the southern wall of my urban terrace garden, I keep a thermometer (seen in the photographs posted above, taken over two consecutive days respectively, before seven o'clock in the morning). I initially got this outdoor thermometer to keep in a cold-frame which was built specifically to use in the winterizing of my garden. Winter and its freezing temperatures prompting songs like Baby, It's Cold Outside, seem a distant memory. For at 6:41:23 AM, EDT, this Tuesday morning, the thermometer registered a little over 80 degrees as it did yesterday, giving me a good indication that by late morning or very early afternoon New York City, where I live and have my lovely garden, will officially meet the heat wave criteria for the tri-state area on this summer day, July 19th 2011.
A heat wave "is a prolonged period of excessive hot weather (we have been experiencing this in New York City) which may be accompanied by humidity" and "severe heat waves have caused catastrophic crop failures." (For more details on heat waves, please click here.) In addition to the extreme heat that has plagued New York City for the past several days, even more high heat, humidity, and near 100 degree tempeatures are anticipated for the remainder of the week and throughout the weekend. Therefore, the latter part of the aforementioned quote is what has me concerned when it comes to my terrace garden; because baby, it's hot outside . . .

Under "normal" summer weather circumstances I have to water my garden, where I grow over sixty things, by hand, three times per day (early morning, late afternoon-early evening, and late at night). However, when the weather conditions are severe, I need to water more often than that or I, too, have catastrophic failures with a number of my herbs, vines, plants, flowers, trees, and shrubs. Although the task of watering is time consuming — since I do it by hand — it does give me the opportunity to attend to minutest detail of each of the things which I grow in my garden (as discussed in a previous post which you may refer to by clicking here).

The scheduling of my watering ritual is always in between my free-lance writing, movie-making, and photo-art assignments, which for the past several months have dwindled. Thankfully, the majority of them can be fulfilled by my working at home, and, therefore, I am able to maintain my garden very well. However, for part of this week I have accepted a job to work in a Lower Manhattan office all day. While it is a blessing to have an opportunity for extra income in this economy, the job is spiritually draining, which is ironic since it is in a church;  and, so, today, after I gave each of the things that I grow in my garden a generous morning drink, I began to experience a feeling (perhaps prompted by the fact that where I'd be working would be spiritually draining) which is very familiar to me, and that feeling is regret.

Regret for the things I have done in my life; and regret for the things that I have failed to do. For if I had made better choices in my life, or if I had overcome certain physical and emotional obstacles, I might have more "regular" work, or I might book bigger free-lance assignments, and I might even have a garden with a watering system like the urban garden of a woman (whom I will call TD) that I know who, like yours truly, lives in the Upper Westside of Manhattan. TD's place is thirteen blocks north and four blocks west of where I live, and, like me, she has a terrace garden. Her garden has a has a lovely Hudson River view — with no high buildings to block the view's sight lines —  so the feel is open and expansive. Because her garden is not "hemmed" in by surrounding buildings, it gets a chance to cool down at night, unlike the garden of yours truly. Her garden also has an elaborate watering system, and another thing that is unlike yours truly is  TD and her computer scientist partner own their place, which I was told that they, in 1999, renovated for $400,000 — a fact not lost on me,  who at her ripe middle-age still struggles to pay rent.

I initially met TD a few years ago in 2008, through the Achilles Tandem Program (a cycling program that I have referred to in previous posts. 

They can be found by clicking on the following links: ONETWOTHREEFOURFIVE, and SIX). The program, as I have said in the aforementioned posts, was initiated to enable blind, and legally blind folks like myself, to participate in cycling.

One Saturday morning after completing a ride offered by the Achilles Tandem Program where TD had been my cycling captain, I was invited by her to attend a party which she was throwing for her partner's birthday. TD and I had discussed gardening during our tandem ride, and she thought I might enjoy seeing her garden. I showed up at her party with a bottle of special vino, a box of my handmade greeting cards.

I also brought TD and her partner some small cuttings from my herbs and a small — but very unique — plant from my terrace garden. I had thought that they might enjoy adding what I grew in my garden to hers. I did not know at the time that her apartment was a two story floor-through; nor did I know that her terrace garden overlooked the Hudson River and was a two floored garden chock full of numerous lush things including plants, herbs, trees, shrubs, and vines — all of which were watered by a very elaborate watering system.


At the party she served a huge array of foods, many of which were cooked on a large grill. The food was accompanied by a vast selection of wines and beers, and there were over sixty guests. Sixty guests is quite a large number to accommodate in a New York City apartment party. Therefore, the vast garden, and the enormity of the food and alcohol being served, quickly caused me to feel that all my humble (but heartfelt) gifts were inadequate, and that I too was inadequate. These feelings were cemented by the fact that the guests in attendance were highly educated and held successful jobs with large salaries. Even though I am highly educated and graduated with honors, I never landed or was even considered for employment that paid very much money. My feelings related to the personal and physical struggles that are associated with this fact came back at full force that evening. It was hard for me to accept that I was barely living pay check to pay check as everyone toasted their accomplishments with the latest and best vintage, but I nodded and smiled as they told of their success stories and was somewhat in awe that TD, with all the amenities one could ever want in her large apartment, all the loveliness in her garden, and the evident support of her computer science partner, was distressed that night because her ice-cream making machine was not working; it was only producing a cold runny soup-like dessert.

As it happens, I did ride with TD a few times after her soirée, including The Transportation Alternatives 2008 NYC Century Bike Ride and ultimately she came to my garden for lunch, but, with some staff changes at The Achilles Tandem Program, TD stopped participating, so I don't see TD often, but, as it happens, I did see her recently on July 4th 2011, when I was on Manhattan's Westside Greenway to watch the fireworks, and so perhaps it was my seeing her again that made me think of her garden with its watering system today, and to revert to the inadequate feelings that I experienced the night of her soirée when I found myself imagining what my life might have been like if only . . .

Of course, my imagining if I had done things differently that I would be more successful by now is not only futile; it is also presumptuous and even ungrateful. It is futile because in real life there is no Control-Z or Edit+Alt+Undo, to change what one has done with their life choices. Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth, has told us, "What's done, cannot be undone"; and as my father used to say, "If the dog hadn't stopped to sneeze, he'd have caught the rabbit.". 

Sometimes I think, and perhaps you do as well, dear reader, that the mental reshuffling of the cards of life choices is an effort to keep them still active, keep the possibilities still open, sparing the pain of loss and failure. For me it is interesting to note that when I, as do other folks that I know, reshuffle the past, the outcome of my imagined scenario, and the imagined scenarios of folks I know, is always to believe that, had we done other things, life for us would mean that we'd be healthier, thinner, more talented, have better jobs, and always have more money. It is interesting to note this, because rarely in the reshuffling of life choices game, do I, or folks that I know imagine the scenario being having ill health, being fatter, being less talented, or having a worse job or no job, or being poorer; or, to not be alive at all to indulge in what ifs and if onlys, which is why I pointed out that my doing this is futile, presumptuous and ungrateful.

However, on a hot morning such as today, it is harder for me to keep a good perspective as I hand water my herbs, vines, plants, shrubs, and trees, with a prayer that they will not suffer and die from this afternoon's predicted heat, since I will not be around to water them, and cannot ask others that I know to do this for me, nor can I afford to pay someone to step in for me today while I am in Lower Manhattan.

My recently added Echinacea plants seem to understand my ambivalence about leaving them for the day, reassuring me with their waves and smiles as seen in the photographs posted below,


Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11


Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11

that they will hang tough in today's heat.

And they do seem to be enjoying terrace garden life. Now if the photographs that they pose for, which are available as prints, or as images rendered into invitations that preserve a moment in time, program covers that enhance any occasion, and greeting cards that are about more than communication, would start bringing in some revenue, they'd be earning their keep and possibly a watering system!


Patricia Youngquist uses words and images to tell stories about her passions. Based in New York, she currently is authoring a series of nature books on birds of the city. Now in Apple’s iBooks store @ https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/words-in-our-beak/id1010889086?mt=11

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