It's hot...

95 degrees today, high humidity. Supposed to be worse tomorrow. Summer in Minnesota is a brutal, beautiful thing. How do we all survive?

Harry, he's got the right idea,
hogging the fan.


A farewell-to-spring poem

I've been writing a lot lately, working on my story, my memoir, my book. But I needed a break from prose and wrote this farewell to spring poem. Enjoy.

Spring looks like
she spent the night at the prom
and is rushing home
to beat her curfew at dawn.

 Her fresh corsage is now just
breeze blown petals
on the crushed grass.

Drying dying lilac blooms
have the over ripe scent
of stale drugstore perfume

 and petticoats of leaves
rustle immodestly on every tree
in the shifting, rising wind.

 Every tulip is ragged at petals’ edge,
scuffed from dancing
and swaying too close to one another

and the heavy buds of roses yet to come

bend their stalks over, over

like a careful up-do coming down.

Soon, perhaps tomorrow,
she’ll step out of her pastel dress,
shake off the pollen,
and slip into summer.

© Amy Kortuem 2011


My garden. The REAL story.

I started digging my garden the day after I separated from my husband. By the time the divorce was final the next summer, I had dug up nearly all the grass in what used to be an expansive green lawn in the backyard.

And I did it all with this shovel.

The garden became my solace, my healing place. A place where I could safely and productively get out my anger, frustration and grief (much more productive, say, than throwing empty wine bottles against the basement wall, not that I've ever done such a thing...). And did I ever have frustrations to get out. Look at the angle of that shovel blade. I did some serious stomping on it.

I've thought about submitting it to the
Walker Museum of Modern Art
under the title "Divorce."

Every spare hour I had, I was in the garden. I accepted plants from my Mom, from Ethel, from relatives, from friends. I invested what little money I had in substantial plants, filling in with tiny, $2.00 perennials in plastic pots from discount centers. Eventually, my anger turned to nurture. My frustrations turned to artistry. My stomping turned to a meditative weeding, a gentle training of climbing vines, a trailing of fingers over leaves and blossoms to release their scent. Here's how it's looked and grown, in various stages since 2000...

The view from the bedroom window.
When I was digging that curvy path,
I'd run upstairs and look out this window
every 5 minutes to make sure it was even.

Perfectly timed blossoms, 
carefully thought-out color schemes.

Light foliage in with the flowers for texture and contrast.

 Oh, pretty.

And the occasional, sweet little visitor.

The stage was set. I had the garden, the house. Now all I needed was the family I'd longed for. I waited, yearned, tried. There was pain, heartache, disappointment. The garden started to feel overwhelming. It started to show signs of neglect: the evergreen topiary collapsed from lack of pruning, the phlox started to take over, the hollyhocks were edging out the more delicate plants, the grapevine was strangling the lilies.

And so 10 years after first sinking my shovel into the dirt, I sat in that garden and told it, admitted to it that I needed a break. That I needed to spread my wings. That I needed to explore Amy beyond Amy With The Beautiful Garden. I'm pretty sure I heard the garden say she'd be fine with a break, too. With that, off to Paris I went. Then I went again. Then I went to Ireland. Then I went to the south of France. Then I went to Paris one more time. All these trips in two years. I've come home to a garden that's a disaster.


Now for the REAL story - the confession. This is more than just, "Oh, I've been traveling so much I just didn't have time for the garden..." like I blithely posted about last week. I honestly don't want to be out there anymore. My heart and mind and creative force are dedicated to writing my story now, and to making music when the opportunities arise. The only reason I'm pulling weeds whenever my friend Steve can come over to help me is that I feel a responsibility toward it. I can't stand to look outside and see that kind of overgrowth. The effort seems like I'm only maintaining an old dream.

It's a little sad. Okay, I'm actually really, really sad writing about how much I used to love that garden and the time and energy I put into it and how beautiful it once was. But even more, I'm really happy now tending more carefully the new ways in which I'm growing and changing and shaping myself. I'm loving the new opportunities that are blooming in my life. Exciting new possibilities are arranging themselves in perfectly timed, beautiful colors.

These are what I'll be tending in the future. These are the curving paths I will follow.


In the garden...before

Last year I didn't touch my garden. Didn't pull one weed, didn't trim any spent blossoms, didn't dig out any volunteer trees or hollyhocks or phlox. I was busy. I spent nearly 6 weeks in Europe. And in between, I played and wrote and played and wrote and played and wrote some more.

This year, I'm paying the price...

Thistles in the tulips.

Maple trees in the echinacea.

Hollyhocks choking out the fern peonies.

Mystery trees in the verbena.

And thistles, thistles everywhere.

It's a bigger job than I can handle myself. So I've hired a friend of mine to come over a few nights a week and help me trim, pull, dig, cut and prune. Two nights in, and there's been lots of progress. There was even enough space cleared out to plant tomatoes. I can actually see the raspberry plants now that masses of weeds have been pulled. We've taken two huge truckloads of brush and cuttings to the compost center.

I've forgotten how sore and tired gardening makes me. I've been running and lifting weights every nice evening for more than a month, but one night of working in the garden flattened me. What a wimp. That's what I get for taking a year off.

Stay tuned for the "after" photos.