By Anita Garner

I appreciate growth, even when it’s not me personally doing the growing.  Some years I look back and think I could have done more. I learn from friends. You keep growing and I’ll keep watching and maybe if I watch closely enough for long enough some of it will rub off on me.

A few Christmases ago, this baby amaryllis in a warm spot on the tall writing table by a window in my Mill Valley kitchen was obviously eager to demonstrate how it’s done.

If I recall, she turned out to be a tall redhead with a lot of attitude. I could learn a lot from her.

Waiting For The Naked Ladies

By Anita Garner

Naked Ladies show up in the oddest places in Northern California in July and all through August.  Clumps of them, pink and fragrant, with up to a dozen beautiful blooms on each leafless stem. They’re  energetic.  They’re sturdy.   They’re random.

They scatter all over the countryside in Napa and Sonoma and Marin in places where no one would have thought to plant them.  All of a sudden comes this magic in a distinct shade of pink, from a bed of weeds, a crack in a sidewalk, along fences, lining a country road, and in no particular formation. You have to smile at their tenacity and because critters don’t like them, they stay around a while.

There’s something mysterious and charming about them so I had to look it up.  Read on if you want to know too.

They’re in the lily family, starting life as a bulb. During the winter a plant with leaves appears, looking like any other plant.  Then the leaves die away and you can easily forget about them. A few months later during hot weather, up pops a bare stalk then another and another.

I wanted to know how they get scattered all over the place. Turns out they drop seeds which insure surprise sightings in years to come.  Once a bulb’s planted, you’ll never know how many will show up next season.

People say Naked Ladies are practically indestructible, but I assumed I’d lost the ones in my yard in Mill Valley a few years ago. A tree had to be removed right next to where the Naked Ladies bloomed the summer before.  Along with the tree and its roots, everything went.  Only dirt was left.

Then came the summer and overnight one bare stalk started pushing up, then another, beautiful and fragrant and naked.




I love old stuff.

I’ve been fond of old stuff since long before I was old stuff myself.  Other people’s furniture and accessories and dishes and even old clothes call to me.  I try to avoid chotchkes because shelf space is limited, but I keep an open heart about anything else I might fall in love with.

Even old pieces of metal that fell off some object can be fascinating. Especially old iron that’s rusting.  Old wood?  Don’t get me started. Favorite thrift shops require a whole day. I have my route.  I always have a wish list.  A stop for lunch or coffee and on to the next. Three current favorites are Hospice By The Bay “Hodgepodge” stores in San Rafael and Novato and Mt. Carmel Thrift in Mill Valley.

Unintentional Lamp Collector

I love old lamps and old lampshades.  Some of us don’t start out as collectors by intention, but the numbers keep growing and I look around and I do have a bunch of lamps.

For my friend, Pam, it was an unintentional sofa collection. She had plenty of room in a big flat in Boston’s Back Bay.  From there she moved to a Maine farmhouse, and pared down her sofas, but last  time I visited, I noticed a lot of chairs.

I recently emerged from a small-table phase. I gave some away and sold some and I don’t miss the tables that left, but I’m unable to say goodbye to lamps.

Old lamps work fine, as long as you know someone who can rewire them.  My friend, Itsie,  in Mill Valley, at nearly 90 years old had a full workshop on one level of his hillside home and he kept all my treasures in working order.

Itsie re-wired this one






After he passed, one of my favorite old lamps flickered and died. Todd to the rescue.  Todd’s a prolific music producer who also knows his way around tools.  He sent me to Home Depot in Woodland Hills with a piece of paper specifying what part he needed.

Back in Northern California, I plugged it in and it glows. Todd, you don’t know what you’ve gotten yourself into, being good at stuff like fixing old lamps.

This is a close-up of the one Todd re-wired.  She is obviously a lady who doesn’t mind showing her age.

Old picture frames – a topic for another time.


Music this week is, of course, “This Little Light Of Mine.”


My Own Christmas Newsletter. Spoiler Alert – Includes Swine Flu

December, 2009

        It may be better to give than receive, but I’d rather read your newsletters and cards than try to remember the past year in enough detail to write my own.

        Memory isn’t always accurate in my case.  A friend once accused me of “painting the past in pastels.”  I beg to differ.  Every writer I know paints the past in different colors but not all of them are pale. I don’t always note in which months these things took place, but I do recall the emotion vividly.

        Our little Caedan Ray had swine flu.  It began with symptoms of a regular flu but perhaps because it happened sometime in summer, an alert doctor tested for H1N1 and that’s what it was.  Immediately Caedan was quarantined with her mommy. Even her dad, Edan, couldn’t be close to her.  I wanted to go to L.A. to help, but the doctor wouldn’t allow that either.

        One of the most frightening parts was that one day Caedan got quieter and more pale and lay down on the floor. Cathleen rushed her back to the doctor where she was found to be oxygen-depleted and put on respiratory therapy. This disease can affect lungs so quickly and with terrifying results. Better news – Cathleen had a “regular” flu, but no one else close to them got Swine Flu.

        Caedan started Kindergarten in September, the youngest in her class.  She has just now turned 5. So far so good.  She loves school.  Loves the work and according to her teacher, loves visiting (too much it seems) with her schoolmates.

        I remain in Mill Valley, north of San Francisco, while my family is in southern California, so I spend a good deal of time commuting.  It’s worth it for the blessed fog and redwoods near me – and then the warm reception I receive when I show up at the door to my girls’ place.

        My biggest thrill so far this year (There are still a few days left and I wouldn’t mind another big thrill.  Are you listening, Santa?) was winning the John Steinbeck Short Story Award for my story, “Hank Williams Was A Friend Of Mine” which is from my collection in progress.

        I hope each of you has some pastel-colored memory to keep.  




© Anita Garner 2009