Osaka Gardens

When the newsletter came from my garden club, and I read the next meeting is a field trip to Osaka gardens I got excited. Japanese gardens turn me on. They are among the most aesthetic works of art planted. All things about the gardens promote peace, serenity, and well-being. The placement of rocks, the stones selected for grain and texture, the plantings, and the flow of water all lend to the experience. Since I had  never heard of Osaka Gardens I had to find it on Map-Quest. Surprise, the garden is a tiny dot inside a huge tract on the south side of Chicago called Jackson Park. As a kid of thirteen I went to this park many times by streetcar to drown worms. The lagoons were very accessible to fisherman, and they connect to Lake Michigan making them abundant in fish species. I kept my record intact, I never caught a single fish there, but I spent many happy hours trying.

The map program pinpointed the place exactly and the adventure began. Getting there after a sixty-three year absence made it more exciting. As it turned out, the map program and the GPS took the excitement out of the ride because I merely followed instructions and got to the exact place without a single wrong turn.

At the parking lot our members grouped and found Karen Szyjka waiting for us. This young woman sports the impressive title of Operations Support Manager, Department of Natural Resources for the Chicago Park District.  She explained her role as one of managing and maintaining the Osaka Garden and other Park District gardens in Grant Park. Karen was a fantastic tour guide. She told us about every aspect of the Osaka Gardens and the history of the place. Even though I have lived in the Chicago area all of my life I had never heard about the place. Yet, it came into existence during the Columbian Exposition in 1893.  During its lifespan the garden has gone through several reconstructions. The garden went into decline after years of wear and then needed reconstitution and refurbishing. The worst decline happened during the nineteen forties. Hello, I guess we were not very happy about the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.

Currently the garden is very happy, and Karen has made it her life’s work. She knows every tree, plant, rock, and pebble in the garden. She spoke to us with passion and excitement during her hour-long walk along the path winding around the garden. The views of the Museum of Science and Industry, the only building remaining from the Exposition and the World’s Fair, framed by the garden were astounding. My point and shoot camera did not do the views justice, neither did the photographer.

After the tour, most of our group stayed and picnicked along the shores of the lagoons watching the beauty around them. Peg and I escaped for a second adventure on our own. I decided to tour my boyhood neighborhood, and awaken some old memories. A wise man once wrote “you can never go back home,” and I will add “and you shouldn’t.”

If you get the opportunity to visit the Osaka Garden take it. If you are a garden nut or just a Chicago nut, you will love it.

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It’s Baaack!

This morning I awoke and peeked out he window at the 2013 Monet Vision. It looked the best it did all year-long. Bathed in white it looked better than the white theme I tried to make this year. For the past twenty years I have commented on the pussy winters we have had, but this year promises to become the winter I know and hate, . . er I mean love. When you live in Illinois you have to love winter or you are not worthy of living here.

This week we experienced the joy of breathing below zero temps and decided that Arizona looks pretty good. Then it snowed three times counting today. The first was a shoveler. That’s a powdery snow fall that is less than two inches deep and it is not worthy of wasting gas in the snow blower, so shovel I did.  The next day, it snowed again. Another powdery one inch not worthy of a blow job. In fact, because I had a doctor appointment early, it didn’t even get a shovel job. This morning when I opened the garage door there was nine inches of powdery snow in front of me: Hear that all you guys who moved to Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Florida? This was definitely worth a blow job. Except, my blower was not ready. I had it serviced, I had fresh gas, but I removed the blower-chute when I stuffed the machine into the trunk to take it for service. The winters have been so pussy, that I kept gambling on not needing to get it completely functional. It took fifteen minutes to install the chute and three pulls to get it going strong

Lucky for me the Frankfort snowplow had not yet come by to fill the driveway with a block worth of snow moving at forty miles per hour. My trusty Honda, inherited from my son who moved to snow-less Houston, moved right through the powdery stuff. The temp measured 31.4 degrees F at my front porch.

I had about 90% of the driveway completed when I noticed the snow was no longer flying out the chute. Instead, it packed into the chute and didn’t clean very well at all. The temperature was now above 32 degrees and the snow was, as we used to say as kids, “good packing.” That meant it is perfect for making snowballs and snow men.

It took about an hour to finish the drive and the walk in front of my house and the walks in front of the neighbors on each side of me. A few years ago, this would have taken me less than forty minutes and I would have had a great workout. This time, it took much longer and it tired me out completely. That is Nature’s way of telling me that the old bod’ ain’t what it was a few years ago. I guess it is the result of too many glasses of Cabernet and endless hours in front of the computer doing absolutely nothing.

After clearing the front, I tackled the patio to gain access to the bird feeders. There wasn’t a single dove, cardinal, or sparrow in sight. Must be the snow, I thought, until I heard the screeching call of a hawk. He sat in a tree observing the action around the feeders. I reveled at the sound of his call as he obstinately stayed perched and screeching high above me. I was shoveling a path around the post feeder and the hanging feeder at the window when I spotted Grandma Peggy peering out keeping the hawk under surveillance. Now that’s neat, a predator observing his prey while being observed by a constable protecting the prey. The look on Peggy’s face was enough to scare any hawk from the area.

I took some pictures with my phone and declared the 2013 Monet Vision had finally achieved a state of  beauty worthy of talking about. Remember, Churchill said, “never, never, never, never give up.” I’m glad I didn’t because the garden finally looks good.

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2013 Monet Vision in December looking at the waterlessfall

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The Hawk keeps surveilance

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Snow Angel

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2013 Monet Vision in December looking at the bird tower

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Grandma Peggy keeps her eye on the hawk

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Front Drive

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Walkways

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My flag Flies Everyday

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2013 Monet Vision September reference

The Gift-Part 8-Birthday Party

The Gift-Part 8-Birthday Party

Morty’s tiny house glowed with the tree and the nativity. The birds sang in anticipation of the party. Morty and Rabbit danced a circle around the room.

“My friends Max, and Gracie are coming to celebrate,” he said. “They will be late. Gracie is with Ben, and Max is with Jenna. They must stay until the kids say their prayers, and are asleep.

When the guardian angels knew their kids were dreaming of sugarplums and fairies, they slipped away to Morty’s house.

Max and Gracie arrived with their halos turned on, and shining brightly. Their angel wings glowed and fluttered when they saw Connie for the first time.

“Wow, what a beautiful tree,” they said. “Jesus will love you Connie.”

“I have a new tradition to share with you,” said Morty.

“What is it?”

“It is called breaking bread.” Morty gave Max and Gracie each a slice of unleavened bread He held his own piece up and stood in front of Gracie.

“Hold your bread up like I am doing.”

“Like this?”

“Yes.” Morty pinched a piece of Gracie’s bread and said, “I wish you peace.” He tore another piece and wished her love.

“Now you do the same and make your own wishes for me.”

Gracie followed his example.

“What a beautiful tradition. Where did you learn this?”

“On my last visit to heaven, Brad, Ben, and Jenna’s Grandma showed me. She asked me to keep the tradition going in her family.”

The three angels shared wishes for each other. Each of them broke bread from the other, and made a wish with each piece.

When the bread was all gone, they made one final wish.

“Merry Christmas.”

Without another word, Morty, Gracie, and Max, knelt quietly before the crèche, the birds, and the rabbit at their sides.

They said prayers for their children, for peace in the world, and for goodwill toward all men!

The End . . . MERRY CHRISTMAS BLOGGING FRIENDS

The Gift-Part 7-Final Touches

The Gift-Part 7-Final Touches

“Be careful with the tinsel, said Morty. “Hang each strand carefully. I don’t want Connie to look like the nest in the top branches.”

Morty placed a shiny gold ornament into the nest. As Red, Chick, and Spare hung the tinsel they chirped Silent Night. When the last strand was in place, they landed on Morty’s curl and admired their creation. Connie was an outstanding gift to the Baby Jesus on His birthday. Morty turned on the lights, and Connie came to life.

“I feel so wonderful,” said Connie, “you made me look beautiful. I hope Baby Jesus likes me.”

Morty handed the rabbit a bright red cloth, “put this around the tree stand to add the final touch.” Rabbit dragged the red cloth under Connie’s boughs where he had spent so many nights out of harms way, and worked the cover around the base.

“We have to put up the nativity next.” Morty pulled a small table to the tree. He wanted the nativity to be next to Connie where all of his friends would see it. Rabbit wiped the table clean, and covered it with Morty’s best tablecloth. The birds waited nearby. Each had a figure, ready to place. Morty set the stable in place.

“Okay, now you can finish by putting the figures down.”

Each bird hovered gently with a figure in its beak, and lowered it to the table. They handled each Mary, Joseph, and Jesus and all of the characters of the scene with special care and gentleness.

Morty put the last tiny white lamb down, “here you are little Shepard.” The nativity was complete.

To be continued . . .

The Gift-Part 6-Transformation

The Gift-Part 6-Transformation

Early the next morning, Morty got up, brushed his teeth, combed his curl, and ate breakfast. It was time. He found the tree stand and placed it in the corner of his tiny room.

“Stand straight Connie,” he said as he filled the bowl with sugar water to give Connie strength.

“You have an important duty ahead.”

“I have to play Christmas tunes while we decorate.” Morty tuned in to the Choir of Heavenly Angels over his boom box to play carols.

Morty sang with the music. He strung the lights onto each branch, making sure that the spacing was even.

The rabbit and the birds helped by hanging the popcorn garland. The Sparrow held one end of the garland while the Cardinal held it farther down the string. The Chickadee held a third spot. They flew in unison carrying the garland. Gently, they lowered the popcorn garland onto the branches. The beads came next.

“I wish Brad were here to help,” said Morty. “His muscles would be a great help with these heavy beads. They are too heavy for the birds. I have to drape them carefully to make them look pretty.”

As he worked, he hummed Silent Night, his favorite Christmas carol.

“Sing with me Connie.”

“Si – lent night, Ho – ly night,

All is calm. All is bright.

Round yon Vir – gin Moth – er and child!

Ho – ly in – fant so ten – der and mild,

Sleep in heav – en – ly peace,

Sleep in heav – en – ly peace.”

They sang together as they worked.

“After we finish with Connie, we can prepare for the party tonight.”

What a happy group they were. The Cardinals, Chickadee, Rabbit and Morty were all decorating the tree for Jesus.

“Almost finished,” said Morty. “Birds, please carry the crystal star and place it on Connie’s top stem.”

“Now, for the final touch, we have to hang the tinsel. It is a great job for birds,” he said.

All three birds began immediately, and carried tinsel like they carried grass to build a nest. They hovered above a branch and carefully lowered the silver strands down.

“You can be proud Connie. You are beautiful and will make Jesus happy on his birthday.

To be continued . . ..

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