The Dog Days

The Dog Days

An August morning. A  house finches flashes ruby, resting on a daylily stem beneath a yellow flower before attacking the feeder again. The grey squirrel climbs the post and holds on with his hind legs, extracts seeds from the portholes and then feasts while his body sags earthward.

The birds fly away, unwilling to do battle with such a large creature, knowing there’s more food just a short distance in my neighbour’s back yard.

The dog days are supposed to be hot, fit only for lying about on the patio, drinking beer or coolers or wine or gin and tonic, but today opens like a day in September, after a cool night. The yellows and oranges and whites of the August garden, with a hit of vivid mahogany from a daylily whose name I have forgotten turn the cool white and green of early July into a county fair of colour.

All ready we’re thinking of what we should move, where we should cut back, how we should reorder the plantings.

Is it time to simplify? Now that we’re older and the garden is too, do we need to cover some beds with grass and leave the garden to the lawnmower’s whine?

Perhaps some day, but not yet.

The front of the house is more difficult—a smaller space but out-of-control. The heat from the grey stone that encloses four squares and lines the new bed turn the garden from a mid-Ontario zone 5b into something approaching a Mediterranean climate. In June the purple of the lavender loomed over the mauve of mother-of-thyme, set off by stands of daffodils. The lavender and thyme seed everywhere: into the cracks between the pavers, at the edges of other plantings, one tiny grey-green spike of lavender popping up amongst a clump of alyssum. We didn’t plant the alyssum, not this year. Another volunteer who found the winter mild enough to survive.

The roses suffer. Too much heat for varieties bred for a northern climate, like us, perhaps, struggling across the country with weather more suited to southern locales.

Summer, cont.


Gardening: Our hot, very hot and mostly dry summer continues. The garden, all except the roses is loving it, since we are able to water it from the river that flows past our home. The roses fear they have been transplanted to the deep South and have shut down production until more reasonable conditions return. Daylilies, hostas, echinacea, clematis and blue mallow are the stars of the moment.

I planted delphinums and staked them moments before a battering thunderstorm went through, so they are standing and about to bloom. I understand they are short-lived, so I will buy more next year to ensure a good clump.

Writing: Finally the last revisions are done, and the Facepainter has gone off to be set for paper production. Meanwhile, I’m at work on the sequel. A new character has stepped forward and I have to find something for her to do.

Do you know the organization called Great Courses. They finally have released a dedicated Canadian catalogue and some of the professors will be Canadian as well. Find them at I followed one of their courses called Building Great Sentences, and now I’m doing a 30 lecture series on Analysis and Critique, How to engage and write about anything. The lecturer is excellent, my only quibble being that the lecture ends too soon.

Italy: We’re talking with our travelling companions about a trip in the fall of 2012 that would see us spending a few days in Venice, while they celebrate their fortieth anniversary, and then a road trip to Vienna, where we spend a few days to a week.

I’ve been studying Italian, through Rosetta Stone for several years now, with a year’s break to learn some rudimentary Spanish. I began again at the beginning with Italian and now approach the end of the third dvd. I received four and five at Christmas so I will press on. Learning a language, besides good for travelling, is supposed to be good for brain health.

Politics: Very sad news about Jack Layton. To be struck down like that in his moment of achievement is truly tragic.

What is going on with the Americans? They are just recovering from an economic disaster and now want to plunge into another one. Where are the adults?

That’s about it: writing, gardening, learning. Retirement is great!