Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chillout Tuesdays: What is Your Oasis?

Figure 1. a view of Eileen's garden in mid-June, starring the gardenia, that blowsy showoff


Now that it is getting really hot here in South Carolina, seeking a place in the shade becomes paramount, and even then, you need your ice bucket, your chilled vodka, your Landshark lagers, your frosted glasses, your Thievery Corporation and Morcheeba CDs, your mini-propeller fans, the Peruvian boys wielding the fans [okay, just kidding about the Peruvian boys]. I recently visited the Cohen famille and was really impressed by their back garden, mainly all in the shade, beautifully landscaped, lots of trees, and various soothing shades of green. My yard in South Carolina is mainly just pines and live oaks and camellias and azaleas with no real forethought put into the landscaping [um, we inherited it this way]--partly because, after three and a half years of doing that for a living, well . . . you get lazy, but also because: it's too damn hot!--but a few years ago we did purposefully create one space where we could hang out and read and, um, drink heavily, when it gets really hot [see picture above]. I love this space because of the density and layering of the trees [some of the oaks are over two hundred years old] and shrubs, but also because of the old garage [which is situated just to the right of the patio--see below], which we have never used as a garage, and which I mainly use as a garden backdrop and as a place to display odd objects I scavenge here and there [such as part of an iron gate that used to adorn an eighteenth-century cemetery in Georgia].

Three summers ago, a famous writer whose parents live next door asked me if he could use the garage as a place to hide from his parents, where he could get stoned and drink coffee and write, and I said, sure, and I would like to tell you the title of the book published last summer that was the result of that, but I can't [he would kill me--although I think he should also grow up--haha]. I am especially proud of the garage because about five summers ago, I and a neighbor [who worked during the day as a chemist and was trying to finish a Ph.D. in chemistry] and his pet cockatoo tore off about forty years of roof shingles [well, the cockatoo just watched: seriously, the cockatoo really did] and re-hung the crossbeam [which, by the way, is scary and dangerous work and only afterwards did my neighbor confess to me that doing that typically requires several guys and special equipment], and we then replaced the rotting tongue-and-groove pine roof with a tin roof. I wanted a tin roof because I love the sound it makes when it rains. Basically, the whole job was just to have better-sounding rain: there was no practical reason to do this. So, this is where I go, pretty much every afternoon and evening, when I want to be quiet, contemplative, or, drunk. You have to have lived in the deep South, I think, to understand the importance of drinking your way through the hot swamp of the summers. Also, when the alligators show up, you don't get upset--you just pour yourself another drink.

So, where is your oasis? It doesn't have to be a garden or even a corner in a garden, although it could be, as easily as it could be a park or a corner in a park or a certain bench in a certain corner of a certain park. But is could also be a room in your house or apartment [or a corner of that room] or one particular table in your favorite restaurant or a favorite barstool at a particular bar or a view from a certain rooftop or a quiet stairwell somewhere. It could be a table or tree you like to lie under, or even a certain vantage point someplace that is always very crowded and from which you can see things that make you feel calm [or happy]. It could be a certain gallery in a certain museum, maybe even one painting and one bench in front of that painting. Tell us your favorite place to hide or "get away" or chill, and if you can, send a picture to Eileen [at eileenajoy@gmail.com], and we'll display that here.

Figure 2. Eileen's garage, starring the iron cemetery gate

EDIT [7:00 pm]: My current issue of Entertainment Weekly informs me that reeds are "in," bamboo is "five minutes ago," and eucalyptus is "out." I don't have any of those in my garden, but will be looking for reeds tomorrow, by which time they will be, I'm sure, "five minutes ago," and something like winter wheat will be "in."

EDIT BY KARL! Saving Eileen the trouble and sneaking into her post. My oasis? Looking out my kitchen window (see below, and yes, this is Brooklyn. Don't everybody move to Midwood at once.):
View from Kitchen. Yes, this is Brooklyn.

EDIT [June 21 @ 7:30 pm] Jeffrey wants us to know that his oasis is anywhere tropical, which right now is Florida:

EDIT [June 22 at 7:45 am] Irina wants us to know that her current oasis is the small balcony of her rented apartment in Berlin:


Karl Steel said...

Bamboo's a dream of mine. ALK tells me it's persistent and invasive, but I think it *might* attract Pandas.

Eileen Joy said...

ALK is right; she's always right--never forget that.

Eileen Joy said...

Lovely view, by the way, and great photo.

The Film Doctor said...

Hey Eileen,

I guess my oasis would be with the yardboy, or near the canards by that pond at FMU, or in the graveyard with a briefcase leaking cash, or perhaps at Mr. B's Bistro in New Orleans?

Eileen Joy said...

RCF: I know who you are and I can't believe you are bringing up the yardboy here--I could get in so much trouble. Mr. B's, though: on that we can agree. I do miss that yardboy, though.

The Film Doctor said...

Are you talking about what the yardboy took out in the trash or the business with the cats?

Eileen Joy said...

Well, in point of fact, I miss the friend who happened to be in the sack taken out by the yardboy. That would be *you*. You're not still dead, are you?

Anonymous said...

In the garden, in the last week on June, at around 10pm.

Jeffrey Cohen said...

OK, Camp Dad has concluded for the day. Today's agenda included: picking up Scooby from boarding (for a week she has been loking forward to more of the parmesan garlic doggy treats Eileen gave her); trips to the bakery and the hardware store; some time at the city library to get the kids a few wheelbarrows full of books; the purchase via neighborhood listserv of a bike hitch to replace the seat that Katherine used to be tiny enough to it in; installation of said hitch and the adjusting of the seat of Alex's bike (much cursing here, and talk from the spawn that an Evil Dad had replaced their good one because I was so grouchy); a long bike ride that culminated in Hawaiian shave ice. What could be better than that?

Now I am slowly catching up on blog reading. Karl, bamboo is invasive and from one point of view creates an environmental catastrophe. From another (and I say this as someone with a 40 year old stand of the stuff behind the house we live in) it also is beautiful and creates a new ecosystem of its own that many birds -- especially cardinals -- love. There is nothing more beautiful than winter snow on sagging bamboo with cardinals perched. But don't plant your own. Also, the pandas never do come.

As to oases, thanks for the praise of the Cohen backyard, Eileen. It's taken us 12 years to get it in that shape. Here is a shot I just took from my window. You can see the hammock that we were reading in earlier, as well as the sprinkler I forced Alex into and in which his little derriere got soaked.