Over the hill (but with new tropical plants and books about opium)

Age has given me what I was looking for my entire life – it has given me me . It has provided time and experience and failures and triumphs and time-tested friends who have helped me step into the shape that was waiting for me. I fit into me now. I have an organic life, finally, not necessarily the one people imagined for me, or tried to get me to have. I have the life I longed for. I have become the woman I hardly dared imagine I would be.

Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith

You solve it as you get older, when you reach the point where you’ve tasted so much that you can somehow sacrifice certain things more easily, and you have a more tolerant view of things like possessiveness (your own) and a broader acceptance of the pains and the losses.

Ted Hughes, Letters of Ted Hughes

ἔοικα γοῦν τούτου γε σμικρῷ τινι αὐτῷ τούτῳ σοφώτερος εἶναι, ὅτι ἃ μὴ οἶδα οὐδὲ οἴομαι εἰδέναι.

I seem, then, in just this little thing to be wiser than this man at any rate, that what I do not know I do not think I know.

Plato, The Apology (Socrates and the Oracle)

Well, it finally happened. Yesterday I crossed the threshold into my forties. It’s kind of difficult to imagine, but here we are and nothing can be done about it.

I had a delightful birthday, from beginning to end. I found a nursery on Anastasia Island called Leonardi’s, which seemingly specializes in tropical plants. I am not exaggerating when I say this is the most extraordinary nursery I have ever stepped foot into. Even the teenagers on his staff know a great deal about plants and botany, and he has plants that I have dreamed about but failed to find online. They are mostly relatively mature specimens, so it’ not like you have to wait forever for them to turn into something remarkable. And this is just up the A1A from us! It was such a blessing to discover.

I bought all the plants I could fit into the car, which included an Alibertia Belize or White Shooting Star plant, Song of India, a light blue and an indigo Agapanthus (Lily of the Nile), a shrimp plant (because I killed the last one to make room for new plants that I later ripped out and replaced with bromeliads), and a fig tree (to make my paradise garden sufficiently biblical). I plan to go back for a few more, which include papyrus – yes, papyrus, the plant ancient Egyptians used to make paper. It’s not even that pretty, but how can you not have papyrus in your garden given the opportunity? Oh my God, I am turning into my mother.

I am particularly fond of the plant from Belize, which is somewhat rare, and is of a scale that I needed in a partially shady corner of the property. I have decided that I am going to try to focus on collecting new and interesting plants going forward, rather than my old habit of planting large drifts of flowers. Studying botany has thoroughly wrecked my brain. Now I want it all.

Also, our county finally, finally, finally hired a horticulturalist for the agriculture extension office, which means…. THEY ARE GOING TO HAVE A MASTER GARDENER PROGRAM THIS FALL! This is something I have wanted to do for a decade, and I am now on the list to submit my application to become a certified master gardener. You have to submit 50 hours of volunteer work in the community in addition to completing all of the coursework, and I am hoping that I can work in Washington Oaks Gardens State Park for that. (Check out the pictures in that post, they are unbelievable – and they don’t even do justice to the gardens there.)

After that, we went for a long lunch on the beach at the South Beach Grill in Crescent Beach. It was a good lunch of blackened flounder over pasta with sun-dried tomatoes and olives. A perfect light meal for a hot day.

But I don’t want to give you the impression that we have been behaving ourselves any more than usual lately. This is a recent stop by Whaam Burger in Flagler Beach:

And then there was this memorable meal at the Crab Stop in Daytona Beach. I have to say, this is a top-five restaurant to me (even though it is a total dive atmosphere-wise). You can’t see it in the image, but underneath all that crab is enough butter to give Ina Garten the biggest orgasm of her life.

(Okay, the beach food interlude is over….)

After that, we went to Hobby Lobby for art supplies. This is another new thing for me for my new decade: watercolor. I bought a book recently, The Joy of Botanical Drawing: A Step-by-Step Guide to Drawing and Painting Flowers, Leaves, Fruit, and More, by Wendy Hollender. This is my introduction to working with watercolor and colored pencils for drawing things in my garden and places I visit. Folks who have known me since I was a child know that I love to draw. But watercolors are a new thing altogether. I hope it works out.

On a related note, Botanicum: Welcome to the Museum by Kathy Willis and Katie Scott, is also a remarkably beautiful book. Much like the Plant Hunters book I am always raving about, it has prints that could be framed and used for art around the house (if you are not into botanical drawing yourself).

My reading about the East India Company made me somewhat interested in the Opium wars, and I decided I wanted to learn more about that period in history. It is my understanding that the Opium Wars are a central part in how the Chinese look at the western world, oddly a little timely.

That’s when I fell down one of those infamous black holes in the internet, only to surface later with a lot of new books.

Now on my nightstand:

Milk of Paradise: A History of Opium by Lucy Inglis

Imperial Twilight: The Opium War and the End of China’s Last Golden Age by Stephen R. Platt

Opium Nation: Child Brides, Drug Lords, and One Woman’s Journey Through Afghanistan by Afghan-American journalist Fariba Nawa

And then that last one prompted me to pick up Black Wave: Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the Forty-Year Rivalry That Unraveled Culture, Religion, and Collective Memory in the Middle East by Kim Ghattas. I am particularly excited about reading this book.

As you can see, I am going to be keeping myself very busy for a while.

11 thoughts on “Over the hill (but with new tropical plants and books about opium)

      1. It only gets worse! At 10 years old, a year is 10% of your life. At 100 years old, it’s only 1% of your life. Each year seems to go by faster!

        Liked by 1 person

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