thyme bloom

balcony thyme in bloom

Suddenly my balcony thyme is abloom in its thrifted Italian clay pot, planted early last summer, though the smaller thyme start (smaller pot) purchased the year before is not. Thyme is my favorite winter herb, basil my summer, and cilantro a close second in any season. I'm not fond of tarragon but enjoy parsley in salads and tabouli, sage in roasted vegetables, squash, or buttery potatoes, oregano in tomato dishes, and rosemary in bread—herbs in context. Better than refrigerator herbs of course are those snipped straight from the plant. And so I have a mini garden outside the French doors, though all the plants need bigger pots to thrive. I'll have to work on that. (By the way, I hate now that every time I hear, see, or use the word "thrive," I think of Kaiser Permanente, marketing mission accomplished, tainting a perfectly good Middle English term.)

Everyone knows the homophonous play on words, thyme/time. But I've been thinking a lot about time this year. Like it or not, my life is, if lucky, half over. I see roadkill every day at the side of the highway to and from work: ducks, geese, and possums bent and twisted, or sometimes curled in their fur or feathers almost as if asleep. I think about their mates and offspring waiting in the nest or burrow, waiting, waiting, with no emergency contact numbers, no knock from the police, no answers, only absence where once was presence. Do we think about this while we're listening to music or talk radio in our air-conditioned cars on the way to dinner? I reject the anthropocentric view that humans are the only emotive creatures. Give me a break—we're just apes, and not all that smart when you consider the degree to which we're trashing the planet.

Last week I finished Joan Didion's latest, Blue Nights, in which she muses in disbelief at her advancing age (mid-70s), cessation of wearing her trademark four-inch red suede heels and gold hoop earrings, continued loss of loved ones (long-time husband, only daughter, assorted family friends), and increasing health problems and general "frailty," to use her expression. Old bones grow frail as eggshells, skin frail as a dry leaf, blue veins showing through the brown spots. Though denial's a powerful force, old age comes for almost all, again if we're lucky. Children are supposed to save us from the eternal abyss, the cold space between the stars.

And pensions and social security are supposed to save us from old age in poverty—because as a good friend warns from experience, "It's hard getting old, but it's even harder being old and poor." While Didion doesn't have to worry about the poor part, more Americans now do, with increasing rips in the social safety net, which was already a much smaller net than those of the social democracies in Europe. (As an aside, it's almost funny listening to Didion prickle in defense around the word "privilege" when she reminisces about close friendships with celebrities, her household help, and how her baby daughter had sixty dresses lined up on little wooden hangers and later spent years in hotels ordering room service on expense accounts while mom and dad were off tweaking scripts on set. As much as I admire Didion as a sharp nonfiction stylist, one of the best, the woman should have spent a little more time seeing how the help lived. But there I go judging again.)

neighborhood rosemary blooms

Though buds have sprung, though surrounded by blooming color and soft greenery and cloudbursts as abrupt, intense, and passing as the emotions of teenagers, in mood this spring for me it's autumn and the bare-branched reach of winter looms close, rising just behind my long bared neck. Or else it's just a phase. 

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