Sunflower Project, Day 10

Here are four sunflower seedlings in the kitchen this morning

This early morning dream came along about the Los Angeles River. How did that image come to mind, when this isn’t Los Angeles? Well, years ago there was a video about a dog rescue on the LA River. Now that might sound like throwing a net into some rapids, or wetsuiting up and swimming out for the dog. But no, this wasn’t a river with a slippery shore or swampy reeds or currents. It was concrete walls several stories high over a dry sun-baked concrete canyon that goes along apparently for miles. At that time and location the river was all out of water, so volunteers climbed down some dubious slap-up of laddering and ropes. They persuaded a panicked injured German Shepherd to not attack while being caged and hauled up to safety. It looked dangerous at every step. At the time it must have impressed its way into my subconscious as an Inauspicious Environment archetypal image.

So right, the dream. It was all about running through the LA River like a panicked animal looking for a way to climb out and escape. The only chance was to reach some safety flood gates up ahead and try to climb up one of them. But just as I got closer, each of the gates slammed shut one by one, and sirens started going off. Why were flood gates slamming in a dry riverbed? Because from around the bend here’s a high tsunami of burning radioactive slag rushing along the canal. After fleeing for as long and far as possible, I finally reach a glass control booth. It’s a laboratory full of men and women, scientists who manage natural disasters for the city. Behind the glass they’re completely rapt in their instruments and screens, running from station to station, snapping out commands. They have no spare time to notice that I’m pounding on the door trying to get indoors or trying to warn them. Then it dawns on me: this isn’t Los Angeles. This is Chernobyl. This the Ukrainian team keeping the reactor from blowing up even with all the other hell breaking loose this past month. Screaming at the glass wall won’t help. For one thing, I don’t know Ukrainian, let alone a term like “tsunami of radioactive slag.” I could scream in Russian; that would be comprehensible to them but not a sensitive thing to do. Then the intensity of their work makes it clear that they knew when they volunteered for this assignment what could happen out here, and they’re sparing no thought to whether they make it out of here or not. Distracting them for even a second is the wrong thing. They have something honorable to accomplish together, shoulder to shoulder, in lives full of meaning. Me, I was just bumbling around getting lost; in that much bigger picture of world importance, what happens out here in the canal really doesn’t matter. So I drop my hands and turn from the door and walk away.

Well, a dream like that was good for an early hour or two of lying paralyzed staring at the ceiling. It was really hard to get up and get going with the tasks of the day.

At that point, the most constructive recourse seemed to be tending the new sunflower seedlings. One week ago I planted 40 sprouting sunflower seeds in the garden. Not a single one has cracked the ground. That is probably because our crows are so interested and smart that they must have have fluttered down and dug them all up. It’s a good thing that as backup plan B there was another set of seeds planted indoors in a flat of dirt away from them rascally crows.

Plot review: March 17, put seeds in water. March 18, put seeds in a strainer with frequent rinsing. Then on March 20, when the seeds sprouted little roots, I planted them in seedling flats with potting soil and frequent water misting until March 27.

Note to self: From now on, when the pointy seed tips crack open and show a tiny white shoot, plant the seed with pointy seed tip DOWN and the rounder flatter side on top. That white shoot is a root — not future leaves! (Oops. I planted them all upside down at first. Next day I was puzzled to see no sprouts peeking out. Instead, each sunflower seed hull had somehow risen up out of the soil. Then gradually little leaves unfolded inside the seed hull and finally shed the hull.) Fortunately the seeds knew which end was up. Every one of the sprout roots turned itself top down, digging in and pushing the hull backwards out of the dirt.

Experience also shows that on Day 10 these guys belong in the ground. By then they are two inches tall and ravenous for light. Despite frequent rotation they will twist around to follow the sun and will get gangly stems. Plus they already have a tap root and side roots the same size as the seedling or more. So today I took the dozen largest, and planted them outdoors. Then to let the neighbors know that these are plants and not weeds, I picked out lighter-colored stones from the rock bed, and made little crop circles around each seedling. (It was nice that the sun lit up the inside of that little scallop shell.)

Sunflower seedling in the ground with protective circle of rocks and one shell.

In other neighborhood news, last night neighbor D. and I decided to draw a hopscotch board outside the garbage cage because why not? So we swept the space really well and swiped the big floor mat from the front of our building as a template, and got to work. Here it is, cropped here and there to slice out views of the garbage cage and other peripheral clutter.

Hopscotch Board

Other adults, some of them total strangers walking by, grabbed chalk and helped. Then for the hopscotch game we got some flat rocks to toss on the board, and tried to remember and figure out how to play while making up any rules as needed. My contribution was remembering that the flat rock is called a potsy, and on the way back to square one when we land on the potsy square we have to bend over on one foot to pick it up, calling out “Butterfingers!” Of course, those are New York rules, and the honorable opponent from Mexico had a different set of rules, which was different from Vancouver and Ohio rules. Then as more total strangers walked by we asked them to referee rules for us. Then as various unsuspecting grownups came to take out their garbage, Neighbor D. explained to them that from now on, the rule is that to access the garbage cage, you have to at least walk over the board. The surprise was that nobody turned us down; everybody tried at least walking or hopping, and some even threw in fancy backwards hopping and other tricks. Even when suppertime came and it started raining we big people stayed out for 90 minutes throwing potsies and making up rules and taking turns with the chalk. Between turns, on the far side of the hopscotch board people added big chalk flowers and hearts and smiles and frills and Peace and Love and Understanding. Finally it was getting dark and chilly, and we put the floor mat back where it belonged and headed indoors.

“Gee,” said one of our reigning champions, “and I just came out for a smoke.”

About maryangelis

Hello Readers! (= Здравствуйте, Читатели!) The writer lives in the Catholic and Orthodox faiths and the English and Russian languages, working in an archive by day and writing at night. Her walk in the world is normally one human being and one small detail after another. Then she goes home and types about it all until the soup is done.
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