his beautiful head

day 2For the last two days, I’ve been looking at photographs of my new grandson. In a week or so, John and I will travel to Ottawa to meet him, to hold him, to congratulate his parents. I think of how my own grandparents must’ve longed for such immediate gratification — I do have some photographs sent by my mother to my father’s parents (they were among the small leavings I took from my parents’ home after their deaths) and there are notes on the back to provide context: age of the children, the location of the photographs. Yesterday Forrest and Manon sent several images taken in the hospital and in response to my observation that Arthur’s hair seems dark, another photograph arrived to show the top of his beautiful head:

arthur's hairForrest’s hair was the colour of a peach when he was born. Soft faint strawberry-blond. And there wasn’t much of it. (Still isn’t! Though it’s more russety now…) So how fascinating that this little baby has what looks like red hair too! When Forrest was born, we tried to think of where the red hair came from. My father remembered one red-haired sister and also several sisters with blue eyes. They were half-sisters, sharing a mother — his mother. No one in my immediate family had red hair or blue eyes. In John’s family, his father had fair hair and blue eyes, as did his sister. (I say “did” for his sister because her hair darkened over the years, though her eyes are still blue!)

I tried to puzzle through the mysteries of genetics in my essay, “Euclid’s Orchard”, and re-reading it, I see that I was already wondering about this baby as soon as I knew he was in process! I was musing about what had happened with the peas I’d saved for three years from seed originally purchased at the Mendel Museum in Brno. The seeds were wrinkled and they produced strong vines with white blooms. For two years the peas were wrinkled and then, last spring, this was what I found in the dried pods I’d saved for planting in 2015:

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from “Euclid’s Orchard”: In four generations, the Mendel peas have taken different directions, perhaps because of their proximity to the Mammoth Melting Sugars or maybe because mysterious calculations under their own particular skins. I’ve planted them and await their appearance with all the anticipation of awaiting the birth of a child. Which we are also anticipating, in October. A second grandchild; the first being Kelly Samra, born on July 17, 2014, to her mathematician father, Brendan, and her physicist mother, Cristen. She is beautiful, with clear pink skin, blue eyes, and not enough hair to determine its colour. She is lanky like her mother and father—and shares her mother’s blue eyes, which are also her uncle and aunt’s blue eyes from our side of the family, and from her great-grandfather Ben Pass. And who will the new baby be? She or he has a red-haired father, with blue eyes—my older son—and a dark-haired dark-eyed mother. The maternal grandparents have lived for many generations on either side of the Ottawa River, in Quebec and Ontario, and there is an Algonquin great-great-grandmother in the not so distant past.

 

hybridity in the green world

I’ve been working hard on a new extended essay and part of it is about genetics. Not in a scientific way — I barely passed Biology 12 — but more as a meditation on what we inherit and what we don’t. I’ve been growing peas I first obtained in the Mendel Museum giftshop in Brno in the winter of 2012 and keeping (very casual) notes on their progress. I’ve saved the seed each year since 2012. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, the seeds were smooth and yellow and produced vines with white flowers. Last fall, because I was busy, I simply dried some peas in their pods and saved them in an envelope, unshelled. When I opened them a few weeks ago to plant them, I was amazed to see what the 2014 peas produced as seed:

P1110847I grow another variety, Mammoth Melting Sugar, in the garden too and so I guess the bees have done their work. But the thing is, the Mammoth pea seeds are also smooth and yellow.

As I eagerly wait for each new photograph of my grand-daughter, and also anticipate the birth of her cousin in the fall, this extended project of saving seed and watching a cultivar gradually change and adapt over the years becomes all the more intriguing. So much can be predicted and so much is mysterious.

monsoon cabbages

We’ve had a run (like a rash?) of wild wet days, rain spilling out of the gutters, the creeks. Today is the first day there’s been real sun for ages and even it’s sporadic, taken over by high white clouds every half hour or so. But the garden has responded to rain. I can’t believe this is the same muddy patch that caused me such despair in February. This is what the cabbages and peas (and spring onions and kale grown close together for salad) look like this morning:

monsoon cabbages

And this is the same area two months ago, seen from a slightly different angle:

looking northwest

As for the sun, bring it on.

more of the same, but different

I’ve just picked vegetables for a special dinner tonight (friend Liz is coming!) and am delighted with the broccoli crowns (just cut one…), the Mendel peas from seed saved from last year’s crop, and a few curly garlic scapes because they were too pretty not to include. And roses — again, roses, because how could you not cut them over and over and put them in pots for their beauty? And the tablecloth from Arles.

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And this morning I did a bit of detailing on the salmon panels, using red fabric paint. The indigo is lighter this time around because I tried boiling the wax out of the batiked areas and it seems the dye was not quite as fast as I’d hoped. But it’s still a good blue, I think, and I have a whole pile of cottons stacked to see what seems to work best with these two long panels — they’re 70 inches wide, one with the fish heading into the natal stream, and one with them leaving it. In the next few days I’ll spend some time spreading out lengths of fabric on the floor and seeing how the panels look with dark red or a Japanese print with raindrops or even the Moravian blueprints. After I’d dyed the fish panels, I dyed about 3 metres of the unbleached cotton with the left-over dye and the result is nice — like a faded chambray shirt. I know I’m not a real quilter because I don’t plan. All the books tell you to chart your design and use colour wheels and so forth. (I know writing manuals tell you much the same thing: make an outline, keep file cards of your characters, plan out your chapters. Sigh.) But my eye is more random, looking for surprising relationships and unexpected connections. Who knows what this quilt will look like when it’s finished? All I know is that I love every step.

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“…a green thought in a green shade.”

I’ve been thinking of Andrew Marvell and his garden lately as I work in ours and begin to see the results of all the work of February, March, and April when we reconstructed the whole area after drain field repairs and replanted the potted herbs, flowers, and even an apple tree which had patiently (I can only see it that way!) waited for us to return them to the soil.

“…their uncessant labors see
Crowned from some single herb or tree,
Whose short and narrow-vergèd shade
Does prudently their toils upbraid.” (from “The Garden”)

Most of the plants are thriving.

And mostly we are too. It’s a pleasure to pick kale each day and salad in the evenings. A pleasure to pull up a clump of spring onions, as green as anything dreamed of by Marvell. To guide the bean vines up their teepees, to see the Mendel peas climb their wire and see them begin to bloom. Last year I loved steaming these peas — I brought home the seeds from the Augustinian abbey in Brno where Mendel conducted his experiments with peas — with garlic scapes and the timing looks good for the combination this year too.