Pink and purple morning glory flowers on a wired fence behind a small honeyberry shrub
Morning glories behind my sun scorched honeyberry

I got a second COVID booster Friday afternoon and I expected the side effects would be very much like the last booster—sore arm, headache, and really tired for about 36 hours. So I was super surprised that after the headache I got vertigo. It wasn’t bad. As long as I sat and kept still, I felt fine. It was only when I stood up that things would go sideways and then it would take a little while to settle back down again.

Unfortunately Saturday ended up being a day I would have loved to spend outdoors. It was mostly cloudy and only warmed up to 74F! At least I was able to read, so that was some consolation. I read an entire book in a day, Craft in the Real World: rethinking fiction writing and workshopping by Matthew Salesses. Made me see the “craft” of writing in a whole new way. I recommend it to anyone interested in writing for themselves or in how writing is taught, or even as a way to think about fiction in general and the decisions that go into making it.

Then I started reading a novel, When I Sing, Mountains Dance by Irene Solá, translated from Catalan by Mara Lethem. I am only a few chapters in, but thus far it is a wonderful multi-narrator story—lightning, mushrooms, the ghosts of four 17th century “witches,” a widow—they all have their own way of seeing the world. The story takes place near a small village in the Pyrenees. 

Friday night I finished a novel that I cannot believe everyone isn’t talking about. Recommended by Eliza at My Solitary Hearth, When Women Were Dragons by Kelly Barnhill was not only a great story, but it made for great social commentary too. And, I discovered, the author lives in Minneapolis, which might explain why I had to borrow the book from Wisconsin through interlibrary loan.

Briefly, on April 25, 1955 there was a mass dragoning in the United States (though it is not a strictly US phenomenon) when over 600,000 women turned into dragons. Women had turned into dragons before this and continued after this, but not in such numbers. Some of the women who turn into dragons devour their husbands or their boss, burn down the house or workplace, and all of them leave. The reaction is to suppress information about all dragonings, to pretend as though it did not happen, to deny that it happened at all, to say that the women just disappeared because they were bad, and to come up with reasons why buildings burned down. At least until the dragons come back.

The story is told by an old woman who was 8 at the time of the mass dragoning. It is a story about rage, trauma, the harm secrets do, love, and healing. It is a beautiful, emotionally affecting story inspired by the brave testimony of Christine Blasey Ford during the Senate hearing for Brett Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. Read the book!

green leaves and creamy white black-eyed pea flowers
Cow pea, aka black-eyed pea, flowers

Obviously my COVID booster recovery time was well spent. I haven’t read so much in such a short time in, I can’t remember how long. I miss the garden though. The week ahead looks like it should be lovely—no more unbearably hot days but old-fashioned normal summer weather hovering around 80F. Hopefully I will finally get some zucchini growing. Already the green tomatoes are blushing and the plants producing more flowers. And the pole beans are suddenly delighted and growing and flowering before my eyes! 

The elderberries are beginning to darken and between the song birds eating the berries on the top of the tree and the chickens eating the ones on the bottom, I hope there is enough in the middle for me! 

The apples are growing big too and edging toward getting ripe. Now if only the squirrels would stop eating them. Darn squirrels! The squirrels ate all the crabapples off Walter, not a single one left. I know where they are a whole bunch of crabapple trees that I might need to go forage from.

And plums! A very long and continuing saga over the fate of the Hiawatha golf course and Lake Hiawatha not far from where I live. At one time there was a big push from a group who wanted to stop dredging the lake and bring back the marsh and wild rice that used to grow there as well as create the largest food forest in the United States. It was a glorious vision. But the NIMBYs won. However, as a concession, the park board, when it needed to plant a bunch of new trees, planted about a dozen plums. This was 3 or 4 years ago. I noticed last week as I biked by the lake, some of the trees have plums on them! 

I am keeping an eye on their ripening and hope to be able to pick at least a few before someone comes along and takes them all. I had three blossoms on my plum tree this year but they did not turn into plums. The tree is only 3 years old (maybe 4), so I was not surprised plums did not happen. However, I am excited that plums will happen soon, maybe as soon as next year!

It is late in the gardening season, but I am hoping since the heat has broken the remainder of it can be salvaged. In the mean time, I am already thinking ahead to next season and how I might protect the veggies from sun scorch and heat. I have ideas that are, of course, multi-year, multi-layered undertakings that involve possibly my own version of a food forest.

  • Article: McSweeney’s: For my next death defying stunt, I will ride my bike in this bike lane.  “You gasp and tremble for good reason. This is no Dutch bike lane with a safe, modern design and well-funded construction. This is an American bike lane—a blood-pumping obstacle course of neglected asphalt and ideas from the 1970s.” Ha!
  • News: Salman Rushdie. Keeping up with his condition and the aftermath rippling out from it.
  • Orion Magazine: A Conversation with Margaret Atwood and Rebecca Solnit. Atwood is the first recipient of Orion’s new Barry Lopez Award. Of course this was a good conversation, especially when Atwood got up in the middle of it to go check on her meringues.
  • TV mini series: Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? Based on the Agatha Christie novel of the same name, and written and directed by Hugh Laurie, who also has a small acting role in it. It was good fun! Plus the costumes *swoon*

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14 thoughts on “Reading and Gardening

  1. Great recommendations as always, Stefanie! I’m listening to the Chomsky podcast now. Sorry to hear about the side effects, but I’m glad you made good use of the time! I was lucky – didn’t get any side effects either from the original vaccine or the two boosters. The vertigo must have been worrying for a while there.

    1. Andrew, hope you liked the Chomsky podcast! And thanks. Yeah, having had a week long bout of vertigo a number of years ago that kept me in bed with my eyes closed for a week because it was so bad, I was a little worried. So thankfully it only lasted a day and wasn’t so bad that I couldn’t sit up and read.

  2. I’m so behind reading your blog, but as always I enjoyed it. Good on you for getting your second booster. We had reactions to each one, but the last one (the second booster) I just felt “ordinary” for a day.

    We watched Why didn’t they ask Evans. Nothing memorable, really, but great fun.

    As for that McSweeney’s article, all I can say is “why would you”! Our bike lanes are probably variable. Not like those Dutch ones you describe, but in our city they are in pretty good nick I think (from what I see anyhow). But, they give me the heeby-jeebies, and I’m a driver. I hate it when I’m driving down a road at 45mph (70kph) and I see a bike in front of me about to cross an off-ramp I’m to go off. Do I try to speed up and get there well before the cyclist, or do I slow down to a crawl so that the cyclist can cross and I go behind them. This latter is what I usually do because the former is too risky for me and the cyclist, but I’ve got to make a decision about whether I have the comfortable time to go in front. Usually it’s not quite comfortable so I take the slow down option which can affect all the traffic behind me who may not see why I am slowing down to below the speed limit. Then we get past this hurdle, and less than a km on, we have to turn left into a road that a bike path runs to and that cyclists then have to cross, and the same issue arises, though here the road is quieter and the speed limit is less so slowing down is the easy option. This is nothing against cyclists, but it says to me, no way do I want to be that cyclist! (Particularly at twilight which is when this particular trip that Mr Gums and I do en route to concert takes place.)

    1. “ordinary” for day as opposed to the usual superhero feeling whispering gums? 😉

      No Evans wasn’t amazing but it was some light fun entertainment.

      part of the trouble with bike lanes in most places is that they are an add-on and not built into the flow of the street so you end up with awkward situations like you describe. Drivers don’t know what to do, cyclists don’t know what to do and it leaves everyone feeling unsafe and grumpy. In the U.S. though it can be ridiculous. Drivers yell at cyclists for not being in the bike lane but it is hard to ride in the bike lane when delivery trucks and drivers stop/park in them all the time. Also, cities often think that paint on the road is great cycling infrastructure but it keeps no one safe. There is a short stretch of busy road I bike on nearly every day that got a bike lane paint upgrade a few years ago, instead one white line separating me from traffic it now has two so I am twice as safe! Hahaha! In spite of everything, Minneapolis has somehow managed to not have any cyclist deaths in two years. That’s not saying much, but it’s something.

  3. Oh Stefanie I hope the vertigo didn’t last too long. I got a second booster and was just really tired and the spot where I got my shot was quite red and itchy for several days. I’ve made a note of the books you mentioned and totally want to read both. My reading has been quite slow going this year but I don’t mind my TBR list expanding! Hope you are able to get some of the plums you mentioned!

    1. Thanks Iliana! The veritgo lasted about a day, but at least it I was able to read, which helped. After the first booster I had a bad headache for a few hours and then felt really really tired for a day so that’s what I was expecting for #2. Nope! Bodies are weird.

    1. Dutch bike lanes are amazing smithereens and I wish the United States would figure it out. I think Paris is starting too. I’ve heard that some streets have been closed to traffic, which sounds like heaven.

      1. Paris is getting much better since even before the pandemic. Closed traffic is more for weekends I understand, but I know the mayor is very ambitious on this (although a lot of people cry out against gentrification) But each suburb does pretty much whatever they want (and can), so it is still very uneven. In my town they launched a new tram line to connect one suburb to another directly. This is the way to go as a lot of commuters go from one suburb to another but still need to go to Paris center to change line which increases the congestion unnecessarily.

  4. I’m sorry you had a different reaction to the booster but glad you were able to read so much. The Barnhill book sounds fascinating, I think I’ll add it to the list. Hope you get some plums soon!

    1. Thanks Laila! I am so used to having reactions from vaccinations that I was more surprised over the form it took. But at least I got to read a lot so that’s something!

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