Tag Archives: gardening

I feel the earth move

My relationship to the earth is changing. When post-knee surgery instructions included “no kneeling” and “no squatting,” I suspected my gardening days were behind me. But once my son Christopher — raised on nature walks and front yard veggie gardening — reminded me about an upcoming native plant sale, I resolved to get a bit back into the swing of things.

He’s lobbied me for years about making the transition to gardening with native plant species, puzzled by my attempts to explain the meaning behind other sorts of plants I’ve embraced through the years. Most remind me of places lived before moving to the desert — all located near forests where I feel most at home.

But water is scarce, and so too is time. Using native species makes practical sense — and I can only hope some measure of true inspiration for desert gardening will worm its way into my heart. Cactus never really cut it for me. This feels like the first time I’ve noticed that the darn things actually blossom for a spell.

I took a trusty rake to my long overgrown garden yesterday in a botantical spin on “out with the old and in with the new.” It broke off near the tines, apparently angry over all those seasons of neglect. But the little stub that remained was enough to get the job done. I’ve got a clean slate, a fresh palette. And the will to feel the earth move.

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This morning we strolled through the Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park. And I’ll be hitting the plant sale at the Center for Native and Urban Wildlife at Scottsdale Community College later this week (Thurs and Fri 9am-1pm in Toad Hall, and open to the public). It’s a fitting way to celebrate Earth Day, which plenty of other folks will be doing this month at various Valley venues — from the Desert Botanical Garden to Phoenix Zoo.

Folks who favor the feel of playing in the dirt while keeping their own hands clean are eager to witness the unfolding of a new Desert Botanical Garden/Ballet Arizona collaboration called “Topia” — which’ll blossom beyond the traditional stage during its May 2-26 run at the garden. Choreographer Ib Andersen (artistic director for Ballet Arizona) is both dancer and visual artist, so I’m eager to experience his marriage of nature with movement.

Those who like their celebrations on the cooler side can head to Valley theaters for the Earth Day premiere of Disneynature’s “Chimpanzee.” Also Arizona libraries, colleges and museums offering special Earth Day fare. I’d love to list them all for you here, but I’ve spent far too much time at my laptop of late. It’s time I feel the earth move.

– Lynn

Note: Click here to find Earth Day celebrations and other family-friendly events featured in the Raising Arizona Kids magazine calendar (and to learn how you can submit calendar items to the magazine).

Coming up: Human rights and human rites

Photos: Scottsdale Xeriscape Garden at Chaparral Park

Google and gardens

Sydney Gunnell of Arizona submitted THE EARLY SPRING for this year’s DOODLE 4 GOOGLE contest for K-12 students

National Public Gardens Day is being celebrated May 6, 2011 thanks to The American Public Gardens Association and Rain Bird. It’s designed to raise awareness about public gardens and their role in promoting environmental stewardship. Also to promote plant and water conservation — something we’ve yet to master here in Arizona.

I was struck, while browsing this year’s submissions by K-12 students for the “Doodle 4 Google” contest, by how few of the drawings with plants and flowers feature specimens native to the desert Southwest. Still, I can’t really complain — because it’s taken me more than two decades to develop my own appreciation for Arizona flora and fauna.

I grew up in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California — with nary a Saguaro in sight. But my son, born and raised in Arizona, patiently prompts me in the ways of xeriscaping while doing his best to forgive my forays into plants of other regions that I still keep in my garden to remind me of my childhood.

We’re longtime members of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, but I was pleased to learn recently that Arizona is home to several other public gardens as well. (My personal garden feels public when neighborhood dogs leave their mark, but it doesn’t technically qualify.)

Those noted on the “National Public Gardens Day” website include not only the DBG, but also two public gardens in Tucson — Boyce Thompson Arboretum (affilated with UA) and Tohono Chul Park. Also The Rose Garden at Mesa Community College and Wallace Desert Gardens in Scottsdale.

We know of other gardens in Arizona as well, including the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, The Arboretum at Flagstaff and The Arboretum at ASU Community Garden in Tempe. All make for fun adventures with a camera or sketching materials in hand.

We dabbled in gardening as my children, now 17-21, were growing up. It taught them that the best food comes from the earth rather than machines. That growing good things sometimes takes time. That it’s okay to play in the dirt. That living things need tending to on a regular basis.

Encourage your little ones to try their tiny hands at gardening, and keep the care of Arizona’s natural bounty top of mind with garden-related day trips, garden-inspired art projects and explorations of garden-related books and activities. Maybe someday the winner of a “Doodle 4 Google” contest will feature the early morning bloom of a Saguaro cactus.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of amazing “Doodle 4 Google” artwork to explore on the Google website — which features submissions by K-12 students from around the country. You can vote online for your favorite through May 13. And watch for next year’s contest if your child might like to enter his or her own masterpiece.

Judges who selected this year’s 40 finalists include an astronaut, two Olympic gold medalists, several cartoonists and authors of beloved children’s books, a couple of museum professionals, an award-winning actor and others who grace the world with their own unique bits of art.

The winning “Doodle 4 Google” will be displayed on the Google homepage for 24 hours on May 20, 2011 — and the artist will receive prizes that include a $15,000 college scholarship. The 40 regional finalists win a trip to NYC and will have their work exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

For the rest of us, a simple parenting pearl still holds true. Refrigerators make the best exhibit spaces.

– Lynn

Coming up: Arizona school earns Grammy Foundation award 

Elton does the Bard

I set out early Sunday morning with my 21-year-old son Christopher in search of plants to refresh the giant flowerpots James’ parents keep on their patio.

Christopher suggested red since it was his grandma’s birthday and the occasion falls so close to Valentine’s Day. We stumbled on some stunning red tulips and a couple of small cacti with bright pink blooms.

It's "love at first fight" as Gnomeo meets Juliet

But before we did our planting, we took in the new “Gnomeo & Juliet” — a Touchstone Pictures film whose executive producer Elton John also provides much of the movie’s music.

As the movie was about to begin, a young boy sitting a few rows in front of us called out to friend who thought it was time to leave the theater. “The movie hasn’t ended yet!,” he exclaimed.

Apparently the previews for kid-friendly films like “African Cats,” “Rango,” “Hop,” and “Rio” were plenty entertaining for at least some in the crowd — and I must admit that they all look rather enchanting.

“Gnomeo & Juliet” (rated G) pits two competitive gardeners, and their gnomes, against one another. One house is red, while another is blue — and never, it seems, the twain shall meet.

The movie opens with one of many homages to William Shakespeare, who penned the gnome-free “Romeo and Juliet” long before the lawn mowers used in alley races by the film’s waring gnomes were invented.

Nanette tells Juliet she has good reason to fret

Many of Shakespeare’s characters are there — Romeo, Juliet, Tybalt, Paris and such. But now they’ve got those pointy little hats.

The plot can only go so far before deviating from the original. As you’ve likely guessed or heard already — there’s no double tragedy as the film draws to a close.

Characters are voiced by all sorts of well-known performers, including James McAvoy (Romeo), Emily Blunt (Juliet), Michale Caine (Lord Redbrick) and Ozzy Osbourne (Fawn).

The ending of “Gnomeo & Juliet” is neater and cheerier than it needs to be, but we still enjoyed the journey to get there — which includes some witty dialogue and word play, fun arrangements of Elton John and Bernie Taupin fare, and unexpected characters like baby bunny statues and a pink flamingo.

A statue of William Shakespeare comes alive at one point to explain a bit about the way his tale of ill-fated lovers ends, but it may be lost on the littlest viewers — unless their parents are clever enough to turn the movie into a “teachable moment.”

Featherstone delivers an anti-bias message

“Gnomeo & Juliet” is entertaining enough on its own (although it does drag in a few places, and include some adult-geared humor that seems a bit tasteless) — but it’s best enjoyed as part of a broader experience with Shakespeare.

Think time spent reading child-friendly adaptations of Shakespeare stories. Spring or summer theater camps with a Shakespeare theme. A family trip to the Utah Shakespeare Festival – which features kid-friendly “Greenshows.” Attending “Southwest Shakespeare Company” productions.

Of course, it can be our little secret if you also run right out and buy your own copy of the “Gnomeo & Juliet” soundtrack.

– Lynn

Note: Spring and summer performing arts camps, including those with a Shakespeare twist, fill quickly — so don’t delay in doing that camp homework and getting your child registered before slots are filled for your favorites.

Coming up: Meet the youngest “Gammage Goer,” Monty Python meets musical theater

Film photos from www.gnomeoandjuliet.com

My “Eat Pray Love” obsession

I’ve never actually read the book. Still,  I’m obsessed with “Eat Pray Love” wordplay. Recently I awoke to a barrage of brainstorms about similar titles that might appeal to different audiences. See what you think…

For erring spouses: Cheat Pray Love

For texting teens: Tweet Pray Love

For fashionistas: Eat Chambray Love

For toddlers: Eat Play Eat

For writers on deadline: Complete Pray Love

For chocoholics: Sweets Pray Love

For big box employees: Greet Pray Love

For editors: Delete Pray Love

For reality show contestants: Compete Pray Love

For animal lovers: Eat Stray Love

For marriage equality advocates: Eat Gay Love

For gardeners: Peat Pray Love

For hookers: Street Pray Love

For bachelors: Reheat Pray Love

For pacifists: Eat Pray Dove

For vampire fans: Eat Pout Love

For seniors: Eat Gray Love

For dieters: Eat Weigh Love

For air travelers: Eat Delay Love

For dog owners: Eat Stay Love

For mobsters: Concrete Pray Love

For chefs: Eat Flay Love

For musicians: Beat Pray Love

For ob/gyns: Eat Pray Glove

For tidy types: Neat Pray Love

For comedy buffs: Eat Fey Love

For serious shoppers: Eat Pray Shove

For babies: Eat Play Poop

Thanks for reading — I feel much better now.

– Lynn

Photos: Christopher Trimble

Note: Phoenix New Times editor Amy Silverman offers tips to “get those true stories out of your head and onto paper” tonight during a writing workshop titled “From Memory to Memoir.” Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe, Aug 26, from 6:30pm-8:30pm. Click here to learn more/register.

Pondering 300 posts

I think it’s fair to say that anything we do three hundred times–especially for 300 days in a row–is something we value.

Today marks my 300th RAK “Stage Mom” post, so I got to reflecting this morning on all the things I’ve done in my life–at least 3oo times.

As I share a few of the activities I’ve deemed worthy of so many hours of my time, I hope you’ll pause to consider the things you may be giving considerable portions of your time.

Time is our only real currency, and it’s a limited resource.

You may find, as did I, that some of the things you’re doing over and over again aren’t all that valuable–so perhaps today’s post also will help you ponder the things you might be ready to let go of.

On the mommy track, I’ve done plenty of things at least 300 times–changed dirty diapers, crafted a bedtime story, taken kids to and from school, and volunteered in the classroom.

I prefer not to count the number of times I’ve done dishes, laundry, dusting and such.

On the pet mommy track, there’s feeding all those lovely creatures–birds, a bunny, a cat–and cleaning all those not so lovely cages.

In my spare time, I’ve returned more than 300 times to favorite activities like gardening, reading a book, lingering over a newspaper or tackling a crossword puzzle.

My husband likely suspects that I’ve shopped for shoes at least 300 times, but I keep insisting that I’m being falsely accused on that one.

I’ve attended well over 300 college class sessions, though it’s hard to remember now what I might have learned in many cases. I suspect it’s all there, but doesn’t make for easy recall at this point.

I’ve unfortunately said “Ugh!” at least 300 times when looking in the mirror–more so lately now that I’m getting a lovely little something I refer to as “blogger’s butt.” I really should learn to blog while running in place or jumping rope, I suppose.

I’ve certainly taken the wrong turn or otherwise ended up on the wrong street at least 3oo times. I just count my blessings when I figure it out before I get to Las Vegas or San Diego (both lovely places to be unless your child is waiting on a friend’s doorstep).

My typo count easily tops 300, especially when blogging gets banished to the wee hours. But there’s an easy fix for that–my 300+ daily doses of espresso.

I haven’t yet been to 300 music, dance and theater performances–but I’m going to try my darnedest to get there.

And I certainly haven’t done enough to help the people on our planet whose ‘list of 3oo’ includes sleeping on the street, going a day without food, fighting to defend our country.

What’s on your ‘list of 300?’

–Lynn

Note: Graphics are from cafepress.com, which offers a huge selection of gifts with various themes related to the arts and other fun areas of human endeavor (even writing and editing)

Coming up: The U of A Poetry Center, Arts grants from the Flinn Foundation and Piper Trust, Arts and business awards, Lyric Opera Theatre at ASU

Old friends and tomato plants

An allegorical game of "Mother, may I?" in Heretown

There’s nothing like time with old friends.

That’s how it feels each time I enjoy a Childsplay production with my 16-year-old daughter Lizabeth, something we’ve done together for more than a decade now.

She’s enjoyed oodles of their productions, summer camps, conservatory classes and more—even performed herself in community theater works directed by renowned Childsplay artists like D. Scott Withers.

Today we sat nearly front row and center (we moved to the side one seat since Lizabeth wanted to be sure the younger child behind her had a clear view of the stage)—watching a talented trio turn a tale of tomatoes into something much more.

The trio is Jodie L. Weiss (Tomato Plant Girl), Yolanda London (Little Girl) and Elizabeth Polen (Bossy Best Friend). “Tomato Plant Girl” was written by Wesley Middleton and directed for Childsplay by Patricia Snoyer Black.

I always wrestle with how to convey such moving work in mere words, but Lizabeth summed it up beautifully as we passed the gushing “waterfalls” outside the Tempe Center for the Arts on our way back to the car.

Lizabeth likened the process of growing tomatoes with the process of growing friendships, confessing that she was tempted to ask the cast about the use of metaphor in theater when they came out after the show for an actor/audience Q & A.

The “Tomato Plant Girl” trio began by asking young viewers which of the characters seemed like a good friend or a poor friend—and why. Though Childsplay productions are never preachy, the kids clearly got the message.

“Bossy Best Friend” was a poor friend because she “yelled at people” and “bossed them around”—whereas “Little Girl” was a good friend because she “was nice” and “knew how to say sorry.”

Am I the only one who thinks we ought to offer this play to aggressive drivers in lieu of those dreaded driving classes?

My point is simply this—that Childsplay productions typically teach both young and old alike, but gently and with good humor.

The online resource guide for teachers and parents notes the following “Tomato Plant Girl” themes: friendship, bullying, differences, nature, gardening, peer pressure, knowing right from wrong, children’s games, six pillars of character and fitting in.

I’d add another two, which I treasure finding in many a Childsplay production: The joy of reading and the importance of good manners.

When cast members thanked audience members for coming, the young Childsplay regular sitting to our right with his mother and brother replied, “You’re welcome.”

Parents of young children (“Tomato Plant Girl” is ideal for K-6 students but enjoyable for many others) should add Childsplay season passes to their list of essentials.

Live theater that supports our growth as parents, fosters the curiosity of our students, engages the imagination of our youth, and brings us all closer together as a community is as important as seat belts and smoke detectors in my book.

If your child has ever struggled with being “the new kid,” wrestled with peer pressure, recoiled in the face of someone who seems “different” somehow or questioned the rewards in doing the right thing, Childsplay’s “Tomato Plant Girl” will sew seeds that bear fruit for a lifetime.

–Lynn

Note: It’s an exciting time of year for Childsplay as they ready for their next production (“The Big Friendly Giant” opening April 25), a gala fundraiser to benefit their arts in education program (“Childsplay Celebrates” on April 30) and summer academy classes (for ages 3-17) focused on everything from beloved storybooks and classic fairy tales to Shakespeare and musical theater. Today marks the final performance of “Tomato Plant Girl” at the TCA, so go online to learn more in case tickets are still available. Happy growing!

Isn’t parenting our greatest masterpiece?

I’ll never own an expensive piece of art—aside from the priceless pieces my children have created through the years. I’ll never have the money for private painting or cello lessons. I’ll never live next door to one of the world’s great art museums. I’ll never be remembered for a sketch or poem I leave behind.

But that’s okay. My ‘legacy’ will include children who create and appreciate art. I didn’t set out to instill the arts in their hearts. In many ways, I think, we’re a family of accidental artists. Yet as I look back on my twenty plus years of parenting, I think many of the activities and moments we’ve shared as a family fueled the artist in each of us.

I suspect there are entire books written on this subject, but what I’m reflecting on today is how the home we created for our children early on equipped and empowered them to pursue the arts in a whole host of ways, from photography and writing to theater and music.

We were never big on toys with bells and whistles. Our home was full of toys that children could use in any number of ways. They weren’t battery-powered. They were imagination-powered. Wooden blocks became towers, kitchens, roadways, animals and more. Balls got bounced and rolled on, over and through. Stuffed animals became doctors, teachers and friends it felt safe to disagree with.

We spent a lot of time outside—inspired, I think, by the nature of their elementary school. It was situated in a lovely desert setting, where children would read under trees and sketch surrounding plants and wildlife. It never occurred to me to consider the role of nature when I began looking at potential schools, but it’s a happy coincidence that it worked out this way.

Some of our most relaxing and reflective times together involved long walks through the neighborhood collecting found objects like prickly pine cones and pristine pebbles or hitting destinations like the Desert Botanical Gardens with a sketch pad and pouch of bold-colored pastels. It wasn’t just nature, but the time and space we made to enjoy it. It was taking time to see, to hear, to smell, to taste, to touch.

It was taking time to muse, making spaces to meander.

My son (now a budding wildlife biologist) has created more than a masterpiece or two using his computer, but I’m not sure that’d be the case had he not first learned the fine arts of observation, listening and reflecting. I don’t want technology to define him, only give him another tool to express who he is and who he is becoming. For us, the art-friendly house was gaming free until well into the teen years (and by then, frankly, the kids had all discovered things they found infinitely more interesting).

Jennifer (now a college freshman majoring in cultural anthropology) used to dream of being a food artist. I mention this because I suspect it’s the many materials my children manipulated during early childhood that fueled their impetus to create and their connection to the art created by others—whether by manipulating musical notes, words, body parts or clay. (Or kiwi slices.)

My children manipulated food when they helped me grate carrots or peel apples. They manipulated sand and water when they hit the back yard or park with their pail and shovel.  They manipulated soil when they helped me grow lettuce and tomatoes. Every time they had an opportunity to use one or more of their senses in a new way, they grew in their ability to find and foster art in just about everything.

What are the arts if not exploration and expression? Everything they explored gave them the heart and mind of an artist—whether museums and animal parks or libraries and playgrounds. They were especially fond of places like the Scottsdale Civic Center Mall (a city complex rather than a shopping center). As we strolled along the pathways, we encountered sculptures and flower beds, museums and outdoor cafes. It was all art. Art was like air—constantly moving in, through, out and around us.

Museums and messes. Parks and play dough. Libraries and ladybugs. This is the stuff great artists are made of…

Coming soon: Tips for making your home art-friendly