Wordstock recap & a visit to E Burnside

Dymaxicon writers

All of Dymaxicon’s writers were there: from left to right, Chris, Hillary, me, Larry, Nancy and Lilly. Over the course of two days, we got to know one another and it began to feel like a family.

the Dymaxicon booth at Wordstock

By backing up a little bit, you can see our booth, with all of our books on display. With seven stages all going at once, featuring readings, panel discussions and conversations, plus an exhibit hall full of booths, no two people attending Wordstock were apt to have the same experience. Portland is a very bookish place, so there were plenty of local writers. More surprising was the number of big names like Pulitzer winners Isabel Wilkerson and Jennifer Egan and best selling author of The English Patient Michael Ondaatje. Lesser luminaries and stars of the future rubbed elbows with students, publishers…basically anyone engaging in a love affair with words. Saturday evening, we all trooped over to the Aladdin Theater to watch the Live Wire radio show being taped. My favorite part of their manifesto reads: “We believe that ‘funny’ and ‘culturally relevant’ aren’t mutually exclusive.” They put that into practice by incorporating many of Wordstock’s authors into a highly entertaining evening. The shows, taped in Portland, can be heard on public broadcasting stations around the country.

the Jupiter Hotel

Not far from the convention center, on East Burnside, is the Jupiter Hotel. A funky old motel from the ’50’s has been remodeled into a stylish place to lay your head, or, in our case, to gather to rehash the weekend, tipple and tell stories in the bar/restaurant, the Doug Fir.

Doug Fir outdoor dining

I had been scoping out E Burnside the week before, so when the question “where shall we go after?” arose, I actually had an answer. It was late, and a bit rainy to enjoy the wonderful outdoor space, but gathering around the fireplace in the lounge served us well. Roll-around tables and seating could be reconfigured to our liking. Now, since this is purported to be more of a garden-centric blog, I will leave the word stuff and take you back a week to my prowl around Burnside.

Burnside swale

Formerly a down-at-the-heels area, considerable work has gone into upgrading. These bioswales occupy several corners between traffic and pedestrians.

Burnside drain dome

I especially like the metal domes protecting the drains.

shops on Burnside

Formerly derelict buildings have been reclaimed to house little boutiques, vintage resale, galleries and restaurants.

another block of shops

…and in the next block, more of the same. Across the street from these is the Jupiter.

bicycle shop mural

I went around the block to get headed in the right direction and came across this bicycle shop with personality.

KBOO mural

In the next block, this radio station was not to be outdone.

outdoor dining

I parked the car to get pictures of the murals, and that was when I spied the back alley of the Jupiter, where guests can enjoy bamboo-lined patios.

umbrellas out back

Or lunch on a fine day, far from the traffic and noise of busy streets.


No naked hippies…just book lovers, book writers, book publishers and all of the above in fascinating combinations for your entertainment and edification. Dymaxicon will have a booth, where I will be signing books most of the weekend. If you already have a book that you would like me to sign, bring it on in…or pick up one or three at the event (they will make great stocking stuffers, if I can get away with mentioning the yule tide at this early date). Visit the official Wordstock web site for schedules and snippets from various authors.

Can’t make it? I will try to give you a rundown of the highlights after the fact. You can always purchase BeBop here

BeBop Garden cover

Oh, and be sure to say “Hi!” if you make it to the Convention Center this weekend. I would love to chat plants…and books…with you!

my book, BeBop Garden, is here!

BeBop Garden cover

In case you didn’t know, I wrote a book about getting bitten by the gardening bug and the revelations and little observations that came with that new pastime (some might call it an obsession).

You can order one at the sneak preview price by clicking here. Or, if you just want to know “Why the goofy title?”, the first few paragraphs tell that story, and are included on the order page.

A couple of blogging buddies have written reviews. To read what they have to say, go to Danger Garden and Gardening With Grace. If you haven’t already discovered these two excellent gardener/writers, you are in for a treat when you browse through their blogs.

Please let me know if you would like to be in the loop for notifications of related events like readings, signings, etc. Just leave a comment here, including your email address. I promise not to bombard you with missives…just the occasional update when something new happens.

do you kindle?

kindle and library book

My kids gave me a Kindle for Christmas. There it is next to a library book, The Complete Works of Jane Austen. Which of these would you prefer to carry around in your purse to read whenever you found yourself with a snippet of time on your hands? Don’t get me wrong: I am, and always will be, a book person. One of the first things I did when setting up housekeeping on my own was begin to build a library. When I hooked up with Richard, who shared my book habit, we quickly outgrew our shelf space. Did we cease and desist? No, R built more shelves. It is only lately that we have begun to jettison a random book or three, to make room for more. There is a limit, even for us, to the amount of wall space that can be given over to book shelves. Enter the Kindle, at precisely the right moment in time. It is slim, elegant and relatively weightless. The screen renders typography extremely legible. The number of volumes it will store is practically limitless. Order one from Amazon, and before you have even logged off it will have been uploaded, seemingly magically, to your reading device. The Kindle versions of books cost less, even, than paperbacks, and works that are in the public domain are either free or a nominal $.99. What is more, when in doubt about a book you might want to read, you can download the first chapter to give it a test drive before committing resources.

Richard was disdainful (to put it politely) of this newfangled contraption. He was casting about for some reading material the other day, and I knew he would love Just Kids, Patti Smith’s National Book Award winning account of her life with Robert Mapplethorpe. It was the first book I had ordered up for the Kindle. I wouldn’t say he is exactly a convert, but he did have to admit that it was a pleasant reading experience. In the case of Just Kids, it is a book I will probably buy in its hardbound edition, just so that I can have all of the wonderful line drawings and photographs sprinkled throughout. Riffling through the pages of a book is satisfying in a way that bookmarking in an e-reader does not duplicate. There will always be books we will want to own. For reading in the tub, best to stick with ink on paper. I love my Kindle, not as a replacement, but as another tool for gobbling up words.

kindle case

It didn’t take long to figure out that if I was going to carry this thing around with me, it would need some protection. I made a case for myself, and one for Hillary. She was thrilled, and said that she had gone on Etsy to try to find something like it and had found nothing. Whoa! A new, uncrowded niche in the labyrinth that is Etsy? I made a few more and added them to my shop, by which time there were over 4,000 others ahead of me. Sigh. What about you? Have you fallen prey to the Kindle? Do you have an experience or an opinion or a rant? Please share. And if you want one of my cases, you can find one by poking around in my Etsy shop.

books from hpso

book cover

The Hardy Plant Society of Oregon provides its members with many opportunities to get involved, i.e. volunteer. You can open your garden to other members, help out at events, write for the bulletin. It’s all fun, and a great way to meet new gardening friends. If that is not enough to prompt you to sign up, how about this? Each December, there is a volunteer appreciation event in the HPSO offices, where, besides coffee, treats and chatter, there are books for sale at cost. I never seem to be able to work the event into a busy holiday schedule, but the sale continues during office hours for the entire month. I have been picking up succulents wherever I see them for some time now, and often the labeling is slipshod or absent. I was looking for a book that I could use to identify my growing family of nameless urchins. This was not exactly the book I was looking for, but at half the cover price, it would do.

inside pages

The emphasis here is on design and grouping succulents in containers, but enough of the plants in question are identified to do me some good. Mostly, it is a visual treat, and I am sure that some of the ideas are seeping into my brain, where they will be stored, regurgitated, and claimed as having originated in there.


Some of the ideas that have made it into the pages of this book will never be claimed as my own. I imagine stately Agaves and Yuccas blushing with humiliation over having been tarted up for the holidays.

HPSO also runs a lending library, where I found exactly the tome I sought. Succulents II, the new illustrated dictionary, takes a no nonsense approach, with alphabetized photos accompanied by the basic pertinent information. I checked it out for the allowed three week period, but I think this is one I will have to put on order, along with the first volume. Together, they cover about 2000 species. The authors are Maurizio Sajeva and Mariangela Costanzo, and the book is from Timber Press.

by the book

Our favorite book for identifying the birds visiting us, or those we see in the field, has long been Sibley’s Guide to Birds of North America. The carefully rendered illustrations make them easier to identify than any photograph. Now, after eight years of painstaking effort, David Allen Sibley has brought the same meticulous attention to detail to bear in a book on trees. It was Richard’s one request when asked what he would like for Christmas, and of course I was only too happy to oblige.



The book is, of course, a valuable field guide. What surprised me was the poetry in Sibley’s prose as he talks about trees.

Then there is this little gem, which found its way to me as a gift.



The first book by Paul Bonine of Xera Plants, its squareish format makes for a pleasing layout (close-up, dramatic photo on the right-hand page, descriptive text on the left). Oddly, I never went in for scary movies, but the noirish character of these plants really appeals to me. Take, for instance, the ‘Vampire’s dracula orchid’

…best known for their bizarre flowers. Three large petals or sepals are veined with black and white lines, each terminating in a long, midnight-black tail. The interior of the flower is no less sinister with yellow stripes that radiate from a central white to light pink pouch, reminiscent of a small coffin.

What fun!

easing into the new decade

Man, oh man! The holidays totally knocked us out for the count. Lots of family, friends and fun, computer in the hospital and still not working properly, finally colds that made us too fuzzy to accomplish much. I finally popped out of bed this morning feeling fairly frisky and realized January is one-third gone and I haven’t even wished my virtual friends a “Happy New Year”. Is this a foreshadowing of the way the whole new decade will unfold? I hope not. Don’t know about you, but I am just as happy to whisk all those aughts into the dust bin and move on.

Contemplating the garden’s future, I hope to bring whimsy and an artist’s heart to all future endeavors. I just came across a piece I wrote for the Ventura Reporter a couple of years ago. Rereading it is what put me in this frame of mind, so I’ll share it with you.

The Art of Nature

Several years ago, I wandered into a small flower shop. There, on a pedestal amidst sprays of orchids and exotic foliage, lay an open book. The photograph was of the highest coffee-table-book caliber. The scene depicted looked like a natural phenomenon, but not like any I had ever seen. I leafed through a few pages, each of which revealed a new image as startling, in its own way, as the first. I had just had my first brush with Andy Goldsworthy.

Here was a book I had to possess, and an artist I must learn more about. I hadn’t been so excited about art since DeKooning. I snatched up Andy Goldsworthy, A Collaboration With Nature right then and there, and mooned over the other books so vocally that they eventually came my way as gifts. Unlike most glossy art books, they are opened, and pored over, long and often. Guests are pressed to dip into Andy’s world, and lo and behold: they “get it” and immediately fall under his spell, whether they have any arts background or not.

The works in question are in nature and of nature, but not exactly nature. The artist goes forth onto the land, looks around, and sees the tools and materials of his trade all around him. He carries no sketchpads, no brushes: nothing but a sharp eye and a brilliant imagination. A piece might be as simple as picking a lot of dandelions, transporting them to a nearby stream and covering the surface of a quiet pool with them. The effect of the splotch of color where least expected is displacement, intrigue and a whiff of humor.

Not all of this man’s ideas can be executed so easily. When he chooses to create a tapestry of leaves, he will use thorns to stitch them together. Coloration for a cairn of stones might be achieved by pounding and scraping other stones of the desired colors until they produce a fine powder. Sculpting with ice means working in punishing weather and resorting to bodily fluids as mastic, then willing the shards or icicles to stay where he puts them.

Most of these art works are ephemeral by nature. It is only through the wonders of photography that most of us will ever experience them. A starburst fashioned from icicles, nimbly perched atop a rocky, snow-dusted cliff, seems on the verge of melting from the very page. Rocks piled precariously speak of impossible balancing acts and make you want to hold your breath. Sand sculptures on the shore invoke the tingle of suspense we felt as kids, waiting for the tide to obliterate our handiwork.

A film, Rivers and Tides brings time into the equation, and thus enriches the viewing experience. We can actually watch the process of nature reclaiming its materials, redistributing them and, in effect, erasing the artist’s work. A streamer of brightly colored leaves placed in a rushing river becomes a contortionist on the currents, finally to be torn asunder. Handfuls of russet rock dust flung into the air create a pattern for an instant before falling back to earth. The fleeting images burn into the brain, leaving a little ache in the heart.

Film gives us the opportunity to meet Goldsworthy’s family, taste their cozy life and tramp with him over the rugged fields of Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where he developed his unique aesthetic. One glimpse of his ruddy cheeks, ruined hands and puckish demeanor, and we know him to be an outdoorsman who will never take himself too seriously. We watch him slowly and painstakingly construct a frieze by inserting hollow reeds into each other. When he pushes the construct too far, the whole thing collapses. He laughs good-naturedly and starts over, assuring us that the failures are all part of the process.

If art is a new way of seeing, Andy Goldsworthy is better than laser surgery. See through his eyes only briefly, and I dare you to look at the world in the same old way. His gentle stride through nature leads him to change it utterly, and yet leave it as if untouched.

Now I am going to hop on over to Netflicks to put in an order for Rivers and Tides to watch on one of these chilly winter evenings.



Roy Lancaster was the featured speaker at a HPSO event yesterday. Joking around with the doorkeeper when she nearly forgot to give me a ticket stub for a door prize, “I should be about due to win something” quipped I. Browsing through books before the program, I fell upon the one pictured above. It fell into the “Must Have” category. When it came time for the drawing for door prizes, guess what? I won! And guess what the prize was? This very book. Is that poetic justice, or what?

More about the program, and about the Reed Hell Strip, which I visited on the way there, in later posts. I just had to share with you this bit of serendipity.