Throughout the country, spring is starting early again. Still, February brought Seattle a handful of strange snow days. Dancing around freezing temps and hail, I began working outside. As plants started to leaf out, and days started to pull in almost eleven hours of light, I have mostly focused on transplanting things that have sat in limbo—containers or temporary spots—for far too long.
I also settled some books, most of which I began last year. Starting with David Gessner’s memoir about ultimate frisbee, Ultimate Glory. It’s about writing too—his career—but the focus is his obsession with a sport that has never received the credit it’s due. It’s a wild, raw memoir and I couldn’t help but think about my own growing obsession with, of all things, shrubs.
Which segued perfectly to the poet Stanley Kunitz’s reflection on his life spent in the garden. The Wild Braid is based on conversations he had with the writer Genine Lentine, and includes some of his poems. Like any good poet, he conveys a lot with a little, and I know I’ll be returning to this book many times over the years.
Larry Weaner’s Garden Revolution is another book I was happy to finish. It’s almost a complete ecology course in and of itself, proposing in full detail his theory of meadows and restoring land to a more natural state. If you have several acres to work with, start with this book.
Though I didn’t plan on summarizing all of the books below, I should mention that this month marked the first time I’ve ever listened to audiobooks. Exhausted by topical podcasts, I signed up for Audible, and I found it to be perfect for my headphones while I do exciting things like shovel. I started with Grant, Ron Chernow’s giant new biography. Claiming that Ulysses S. Grant’s life has typically been misunderstood, the book goes into extraordinary detail. It’s 1,104 pages, or 48 hours by audio. I only have 18 left!
Lastly, in February I learned that if there’s a place to name-drop, it’s the library. I made a quick trip to Miller Library, to find some information on a cultivar of the katsura tree1 called ‘Rotfuchs’ (Red Fox)2. It’s a narrow, upright katsura and I have a place for one. Gossler Farms in Oregon grows and sells them, and the stewartia that I planted in November, though given to me, originated there. The library didn’t reveal much about the tree itself but I mentioned that most of the information I had so far came from the nursery’s owner, Roger Gossler, who I’d just spoken with on the phone. Lucky me, the librarian said someone donated a copy of the Gossler’s own guide book the day before, and that it could be mine for only $5. The book was perfect condition, so I took it home and read it the next day. It’s solid resource, full of candid descriptions, and now I’m tempted to drive south and visit their farm.
Strongly recommended books are in bold.
Memoir & Biography
- Grant. Chernow (audiobook), 2017
- The Wild Braid. Kunitz, 2007
- Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth. Gessner, 2017
Reading Dave Eggers this month reminded my of the latest McSweeney’s Quarterly, #51. It was released in December but I wanted to recommend the first story in the book, titled “The Interview.” It’s the funniest short story I’ve ever read, so go find it if you need a good laugh. ↩︎