Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Auspicious Days, Auspicious Nights

This is an auspicious day: the coinciding of the autumnal equinox and the Harvest Moon. Auspicious. That word takes me back in time…

I worked in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in 1993, and a local-hire embassy staffer (who happened to fulfill four distinct roles: driver, translator, general office support, and in-embassy comedian who bolstered everyone's spirits and senses of humor) quite “suddenly” (from my perspective) set his wedding in the wee hours of one particular morning. Guests had but less than a day to prepare. How strange, I thought.

Why? He explained:

“This is an auspicious time, according to the Buddhist priest. The stars had perfectly aligned [for this couple, given their astrological signs], and so the wedding had to be held within a 6 hour window of opportunity.”

The conjunction of the autumnal equinox with the full moon (technically, the Harvest Moon is fullest 6 hours after the equinox) is said to be auspicious: the plenitude of the harvest and the moon, the illumination of the evening skies that makes night seem like day, the equality of day and night—all are thought to bestow particular clarity and energy to our selves and our projects, and to provide an opportunity to seek and achieve balance in our lives.

Some might discount that “stuff” as “New Agey,” “old wives’ tales,” “hokey,” or just plain “nonsense.”

But, professionally speaking, I can vouch for this energizing force of clarity; the contours of my second book project are in relief, the argument more clarified than it ever has been, writing progresses (though writing always seems to ebb and flow regardless of cosmological occurrences).   

In my gardening life, well, I find myself susceptible to, nay, being bullied by, this astrological conjunction. I find myself trying to capitalize on auspiciousness by doing the unthinkable: planting a sun/partial shade tolerant plant in “less than partial shade, more than mostly shade” conditions. The coming Harvest Moon told me to do it; the equinox called me chicken; and Jupiter only egged me on: this astrological troika would make Nikita Khrushchev proud!

Last week I purchased myself  "a little happy," which has come to be my euphemism for “Honey, I nearly spent the mortgage payment at the garden center.” I found the perfect addition to my foliage/texture-based backyard shade garden: Shenandoah Switch Grass (Panicum virgatum). The leaves begin the season a blue-green, turn to green and then, during summer, a lovely red, only to fade to a rich autumnal burgundy. The considerable plumes of tiny (sterile) seed heads form throughout the season and during late summer into autumn sport a lovely red-burgundy color that looks dramatic and heavenly when the sun catches it just so.
Mine doesn't quite look like the above photo (to be fair, I did just buy them after all), and I do now fear, after reading several gardening guides that specialize in ornamental grasses, that the leaves won't be as lustrously red and burgundy as they ought to be. But I thought I'd risk it nevertheless.

The stone patio needed to be set off more discretely than it currently is; a border needs to exist on the "far" side of it. So I am situating the Shenandoah Switch Grasses on either end of this emerging bed, and will most likely place 2 or 3 Harbor Dwarf Nandina domestica (if the garden center is still selling them) between the grasses (I currently have Liriope and ajuga in that space). 

Because of the sun/shade issue, I am taking considerable risks of course. But gardening is about taking risks, even if your pocketbook does not wish you to do so.  

I can almost hear Sarah P., asking sarcastically in that contrived, annoying, cutesy accent, “How’s that auspicious-ey thing workin’ out for ya?!”

I’ll keep you posted.

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