The Blue Bench Patio


I can’t recall now what got me started on D.H. Lawrence again. It would be true to say that I was always, in the past, more interested in him as a person and less as a writer of fiction. But it would also be true that I now find him more interesting as a travel writer than as a person: the more I learn about him, both from his own writings and from those of people who knew him well, the more I’m convinced I would not have been able to spend too much time in his company. Still, that’s one of the great things about a book: you can put it down as soon as you become tired of associating with whoever wrote it or whoever it describes, which is sometimes the same thing. After finishing Lawrence’s 1926 Mexican novel ‘Quetzalcoatl’ recently, I’ve embarked on a series of Lawrence-centered memoirs, which I may write something about later, once I’ve had a chance to digest them. They are: ‘Journey with Genius’ (1951), by the poet Witter Bynner, whose extended excursion to Mexico with Frieda and D.H. Lawrence formed the background for both Bynner’s memoir and Lawrence’s novel ‘Quetzalcoatl’; ‘Not I, but the Wind…’, Frieda Lawrence’s book of reminiscences of her life with her husband; and ‘Life in Mexico’ (1843), by Madame Calderon de la Barca, a classic memoir of the author’s residence of two years in that country in the years before Maximilian and Carlotta. D.H. Lawrence was an avid reader of this last volume, carried it with him during his Mexican travels and was greatly influenced by it in his thoughts about Mexico. I’m finding this all very intriguing stuff.

Meanwhile, since our densely foggy summer seems about to come to an end, and because our three new puppies are growing up and becoming somewhat more reliable when left on their own, I’ve started restoring our garden to its formerly well-maintained state. This is an ambitious project, since I’ve neglected it for almost two years, first because of a year of dismal weather, then the physical decline and death of our beloved elderly dog, followed by the adoption of three lively new puppies. Luckily most of the plants have survived. But there’s a whole lot of excess foliage to trim away and an enormous amount of tidying up to do. Yesterday was gloriously sunny and I worked on what we call the Blue Bench Patio.

When we came here eleven years ago, the very steep hillside you see pictured above was a dense mass of blackberry vines and other invasive pests. The three steps in the bottom left corner of the photo are part of a flight of about a dozen, new steps I built myself to replace some decaying ones constructed decades ago by some unknown soul. The two retaining walls were built from concrete blocks, each of which had to be carried down the hill and put into place in as level a fashion as possible. The bench itself came in three pieces and was not easy to install, but it makes a pleasant spot to sit when the weather is good. The little patio was paved with aggregate blocks, each inset with small colored rocks. The plants surrounding it include  a large Pride of Madeira (top left), a South African protea and two leucodendrons (center, around bench), varieties of the shade-loving helleborus, a button fern, an Ecuadorean ‘marmalade bush’, a miniature ‘bottle brush’ plant named ‘Little John’ and lots of other plant people. The yellow water dish at bottom center is one I originally put out for our dog Bika but which was quickly requisitioned by raccoons and other creatures. They turn it upside down and leave it for me to refill when it’s empty.


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