Thoughts about this issue.
You’ll find a small gardening story in this issue that is really about optimism and sharing: “The Gifts That Grew,” p. 14.
The idea came from contemplating my sea of houseplants and realizing how many of them came as cuttings from other people’s plants. A few of my garden perennials, too, came by way of a friend’s backyard.
I have a wonderful, fragrant old rose that came from Westminster biology professor emeritus Ty Harrison; the rose bush has grown on his family’s property in old Sandy for generations. And for maybe 20 years, now, one of its scions has sprawled across a fence near my back door. It’s definitely from another era; I respect this plant a lot.
Maybe five years ago I admired a type of geranium I’d never seen before on the porch of a house where I was attending a yard sale. The woman, whom I didn’t know, gave me a cutting. In the course of the ensuing conversation, turns out she had gotten the plant from my friend Garrett.
In 1978 I moved to Utah with a jade plant start taken from my friend Kate’s plant, which I had originally given to her in 1972. The start became a plant and now, 38 years later, it is still going strong.
Here’s a really convoluted slip of a story: In the mid-’80s my friend Michaela gave me a piece of an interesting plant; we didn’t know what it was. It rooted and grew. After 25 years in the same pot and the same window, it was massive, spindly and very dusty; it had ceased to, in the words of Marie Kondo, “spark joy.” In 2015, Alice Toler identified it as an Epiphyllum pumilum, which, treated right, makes fragrant blossoms. She rescued and resuscitated it, making many more Epiphyllum pumilums, and last year gifted a healthy baby back to me.
While editing Ben Bombard’s “So You Want to Learn to Fish” (page 10), I recalled a memory from when I was maybe two: My dad was a fisherman, and the freezer always contained half-gallon wax milk cartons full of his catch. He cleaned the fish with a flat stick to which he’d nailed bottle caps, fluted side up. He’d say this little poem to me: Fishy fishy in the brook, Papa catch’em on the hook; Mama fry’em in the pan; Baby eat’em like a man. I thought it was the funniest thing. I looked up the words right now; the rhyme goes back at least to 1868, from a book Our Young Folks.
At some point I must have cajoled Dad into taking me fishing because I viscerally understood Ben’s description of casting a rod and the sensation of reeling in a reluctant catch. I also have a vague recollection of positioning a nightcrawler onto a hook. That cured me of the urge to fish, and also paved the way to a future appreciation of vermiculture (composting with worms ).
Once, as an adult, I fished at dusk in some lake in the Uintas. It was a camping date. Mosquitoes ate us alive, but they also made the fish lively. We cooked our catch in foil. We’d forgotten the salt and pepper but had plenty of butter. Those small trout who had so recently given up the ghost were the most delicious thing ever.
Katherine Pioli profiles Brian Kelm and the upcoming blues festival: “Kelm at the Helm” (page 12). He mentions the Dead Goat Saloon, a notoriously great downtown basement bar from yesteryear, with real blues musicians. Brian regularly used to broadcast his KRCL “Red, White and Blues” show live from the Dead Goat. My friends and I would dance and dance, have a beer and dance some more.
One night there was a woman there, maybe 10 years older than me, going by her hair and makeup. Blue eyeshadow. And dance moves that were, um, a bit outdated. Feeling embarrassed for her, I made a mental note: Don’t become that woman.
I cringe with shame, remembering this. The truth, of course, is that secretly I worried I was becoming her. I would‘ve been more humble, had I been wiser.
She would be ancient now (when you’re 20, “ancient” means 30. When you’re 60, it’s 70.) But I hope I see her, blue lids and all, doing her silly ‘60s dance steps at the blues festival downtown this month. I’ll be right behind her, grinning my head off and dancing like it’s 1970-something.
Greta deJong is editor, publisher and founder of CATALYST. Greta@CatalystMagazine.net