Look what I found, nested just outside the window of what used to be the pink bathroom: baby pigeons. I thought of pigeons as city birds but here they are. I know for a fact that pigeon poo can quickly destroy a building; one of the things I looked for when I first visited the house was evidence that the birds had moved in, which would have meant structural damage far beyond what I could have afforded to repair. So I’m telling myself that wood will rot but stone can take the abuse, which I hope is true, and that they’re not pooping on the window, which I want to keep. Worst case, they are pooping on the shutter, which will be replaced, anyway, along with its rotting buddies, when I find a stack of cash to do the job right. So the babies stay; may they grow and prosper.
Missing stacks of cash are also keeping me from the landscaping that I want to do. Apparently there are so many tree stumps and stones in the ground, not to mention the “cadeaux empoisonné,” the debris that the workers abandoned all over the place, that there is nothing for it but to scrape the soil surface and start all over. Love to but that’s not in the cards right now. Instead I am trying to figure out what to do until my money tree bears fruit. It’s all about finding the right strategy.
I’m reading Christopher Lloyd’s book, Meadows. If I can’t plant a decent lawn (Julien just broke a lawnmower blade on a rock), why not make a virtue of whatever is already there? I’m hoping that the late, great Mr. Lloyd will show me the way.
Next to the house, I’d prefer something a little more civilized. Long, long ago and far away, I wrote a thesis on a Harvard-educated Los Angeles landscape architect, Edward Huntsman-Trout. HT is well known for his many commercial projects. That’s understandable: hardscaping, the core of a commercial design, lives. Plants die and get swamped by weeds or swapped out for easier-care substitutes. But when I spoke to his friends, they admired his character, first of all, and his knowledge of plants. They spoke admiringly of the way he used plants to shape spaces. In much of his later domestic work, he liked to borrow an idea from Italian landscape design. He would plant a more formal scheme near the house which, as the planting moved away, would become less formal, eventually blending into the surrounding countryside.
I had the privilege and great good fortune to spend an afternoon with his widow at their house in Mandeville Canyon; at that time, that far back into the canyon, it was pretty wild. I was so taken with her that I didn’t really look much at the garden. She loved the house, which was his design, and spoke at length about that. So all I can really tell you is that the garden didn’t look designed. It looked as if it had always been there, waiting for the right house to complement it. Where were my advisers? The house and garden probably should have formed the core of my thesis; back then I was out of my depth and I’m sorry to say I missed a great opportunity. Anyway, for the next little while I’ll be studying the masters and hoping some of that brilliance rubs off.
Hollyhocks do well here. They self-seed and thrive in even the most awful concrete-strewn messes. One day I stumbled into a garden center and found these little rangy bushes with flowers resembling my pink hollyhock volunteers. They are doing well and their horizontality complements their spiky cousins. So here they are out at a corner of the apartment, where I want to trend toward the fake wild. You see, I don’t get to blend into a forest. I blend into a lotissement. Visitors will have to use their imaginations. Still, it should be okay. Worst case I hope that visitors will think, “Oh, she’ll get to it eventually.”
Because I was traveling, I was a month without Jacques. That was a long, long month. Though I like to travel and Jacques likes to stay with Julien and his family, we are happy to be reunited. Here he is, trying to convince me that my best form of exercise is not rowing, not Pilates, not yoga, but chasing him and his little frayed toy all over the house. If I do sit down on that yoga mat he sits right in front of me and either talks me into giving him a little doggy massage or licks my face. Not a lot of stretching gets done.
He has also inserted himself into my meditation practice. When I bought the house I thought it would make a deluxe hermitage and so it has. However I can’t put the little zafu on the big cushion because then there is no room for Jacques and he will bug me and bug me until I make room for him. So I move the zafu and scoot over. Jacques settles in beside me and sits very still, a little white Westie mountain of calm, until the meditation timer goes off. Then he grabs his toy and makes me chase him around. I guess that’s its own way of living in the moment.