The Lakefront owners were taking a look at the work and smiling. It had been done ahead of time, with no surprises on costs or construction materials. Since so much of the city was under construction and they had heard so many horror stories from other friends doing renovations and repairs they couldn't be happier.
Joe and Louis were in the yard picking up loose ends and chatting.
"You know, I wonder what Nola would do with the landscaping in this yard. She worked miracles on Owen's. Who would have thought, with as much yard as he had, you could live without a lawnmower?
The owners over heard and looked at each other. The construction had gone so well. They would be moving in this weekend. Their conversation last night was about being overwhelmed with the thought of bare ground and having no idea what to do with it. They had decided to just lay sod and knew that would end up meaning endless hours of grass cutting this summer. They both had the same thought at the same time: A No Lawnmower yard? It wasn't possible.
Joe looked up to see them waving at him. And he went over.
"We heard you talking about landscaping and no lawnmowers and we were wondering how that works. Owen didn't tell us that you all did landscaping too."
"Oh well", and Joe, being quick on the uptake when it came to any new possibility for work said, "Well we just added it. Owen's working with a local landscape specialist. We did his yard. I think he has some before and after pictures. You should talk to him."
And Louis, just as quick, stepped away and called Roger from his cell phone and explained what Joe was doing. Roger not wanting Owen to be caught off guard immediately called Owen. So when Owen go the call the same day about landscaping he had invited them to stop by his home so they could get an idea of the options and they had taken him up on it. He showed them the before and after pictures and the costs for plants and the hours and crew to do the work. He had also explained that they could design a phased approach to putting in the landscaping or the hardscape of pathways. They were interested. He said he have to arrange to get his new landscape specialist to take a look and would get back to them with options. Nola was due that evening and he said he would have something for them Monday and that he might want to have his landscape specialist talk to them. They said since they'd be moving in this weekend to stop by anytime. He said would try to get Nola out to talk to them this weekend. If they ended up doing the job he wanted her to go with him to choose them plants and it would be better if she could do the plant layout as well. Then he thought with all that work on her part he might just end up with her on the payroll. And he smiled at the thought.
He hadn’t spoken to Nola since Sunday's Full Moon. He didn’t know what she had meant when she had said ‘Planning’. But it had comforted him and he had been strangely relaxed through most of this week. His anticipation level at her return had made today drag by and had been glad for the diversion his client’s visit had offered. As he waited those last few minutes for her to arrive he began to wonder how today would go or what they would do or talk about. Then it came to him, if she got here early enough he would just put her in the truck and take her to the job site tonight. Do something grounded and practical would be good for them both. Tago smiled in agreement.
He was standing in the driveway when she opened the gate. He motioned her in the spot under the grape arbor like she was a plane coming into terminal. She followed his instructions but got out of the truck a little bit confused. He motioned to his truck and said "Get in."
"Get in? No hello? Just, get in."
And he engulfed her in one of his huge hugs, kissed her lightly and said, "Hello, now get in. I want to get there before it gets too dark." He opened the truck door and with his arm on hers insisted she get in. She got in and he closed the door behind her, got in and started backing the truck out of the driveway.
"Ok, I'm in. Want to tell me where we're going?"
"The Lakefront." And he pushed the button to close the gate.
"I want you to look at a house, well a yard really."
"Because Joe and Louis were talking to the owners of a house we're finishing up tomorrow about your no lawnmower landscaping and we could have a job to do their landscaping."
"What? Owen, I'm not a professional."
"No, I am. That's why you're going to look at the yard. We're going to talk about what you would do and I'm going to draw it up and price it and the guys are going to get another couple of days work out of this job. You can't imagine how proud Joe was about drumming up work." And while she sat thinking of something to say in opposition, he added, "It's gardening, right, crack addict? I thought you'd like it."
And what could she say to that? "No pressure, huh?" But she had to admit it did sound fun.
"I saw that smile."
"It's gardening right?" and she let him drive because he was going faster than he probably should.
He took her around the front and rear yard. She asked to be able to walk through the house because she wanted to get a feel for how the yard looked from inside so she could plan views. She looked up at the fading light and estimated the sun's path and where there would be more shade than shadow. She looked up and down the street at the block and the other houses.
"Well?" The sun was fading quickly now.
"Give me a minute, Owen."
"You do this as you drive, right?"
"Yes but other than your house and my own, I've never done this expecting it would actually happen. I drive the same routes most of the time and so over time I see the places repeatedly and get a feel for them and the ideas pop in my head. I've never seen this place before today. Where is their Air Handling Unit?"
And he pointed to the roof on the left side of the house in the back.
"A trademark of yours?"
"I like it. This way we don't have to work around it. Where are the sewer lines?" And he raised his eyebrows but pointed to where they were.
"Because where ever I can I like to plant big trees and big trees have big roots and big roots and sewer lines are a bad mix."
And he shook his head. She was very good at this.
She took another walk around the property this time paying attention to the surrounding property.
"Now what are you doing?"
"Looking at how this property abuts the adjacent property. I want to be able to use plantings to address any privacy issues."
She took another walk through the house. "Owen, can you get me that chair I saw in the kitchen?"
He did and she sat down in it. So he said, "Finished?"
She laughed, "No, I just wanted to get a view out of the windows from chair height."
"Oh. Are you sure you've never done this before?"
"Yes, I'm just trying to be thorough. And she moved the chair around from room to room. "Have these people seen your yard?"
"Yes. And how did you know that?"
"Lucky, I guess. It’s good too because even if they are not gardeners they have the plants in your yard as a sample."
Then she went out and stood in the middle of the street and walked back and forth in front of the house. Owen was beginning worry that the neighbors would wonder what was going on. But his truck had been at the house so many times no one worried. She walked back to him and said, "Ok, how do you want to do this?"
"How do you want to get what I have in my head down on paper? Do you have plans of the property for us to work from?"
"Oh yeah, in the truck." And he dashed to get them off the back seat.
He went back to the porch only to find her in the kitchen.
"There you are."
"I thought we could work here. It's pretty much the only flat surface other than the floor."
He was nodding and unrolling the plans.
"Shall I just point and you sketch in?"
"That could work." And she started to talk and point at the plans and Owen did his best to keep up with the flow and had to work out a way to list the options she was providing.
"Shumard, or Water Oak between the sidewalk and the street but on the left side here, ground cover, monkey grass or creeping jasmine or fig. Or if they are ambitious they can try the self seeding approach like I've done in your yard. Crepe myrtles, I like white ones, on each side of the driveway.
He nodded and made notes rough sketching in where she indicated there should be trees.
“The hedging on the inside of the fenceline can be gardenias here if they want privacy for their porch, shorter azaleas if they don't. Or if they like roses they could go crazy with Knockout roses. They will have to pick the colors."
He nodded and made notes, listing the plant possibilities and rough sketched in a few bushes in front of the house.
"A few understory trees: Redbud, Japanese Magnolias, Sweet Olives or some combination to round off the sharp corner on that end of the yard. When the Oak fills out that corner will be shadier."
"They too could do grapes over their driveway on this side of the yard but you all would need to build an arbor. Or we can plant vines along the fence or over the arbor, clematis - lots of color choices there, white jasmine, yellow jessamine, even honeysuckle. If they want shade without an arbor they can use the smaller understory trees. You could probably get 3 in there. I wouldn't recommend crepe myrtles they are messy on cars."
"Now how am I supposed to capture all of those options?"
"I don't know. You're the professional, right?"
"Sass. Ok, I’ll sketch in the arbor and the trees and then I can do multiple options." He listed the vines, sketched in the arbor and the trees.
"Don’t forget the rose option.” He added roses to the list and she nodded and continued.
“Down this side of the house it's shady. I'm leaning to recommending yews to give them a green privacy wall or if they want a more tropical look they could use bamboo. But if it were my house I'd want something between me and the windows of the house next door. It looks like no one lives there right now but someone could eventually. In front of the privacy screen, smaller understory trees, I like redbuds. As a groundcover here I like ferns. They could do a variety of ferns and Maurice could set up a garden path that wandered through the sunnier front yard to this shadier side yard fern garden and around to the back yard."
She had moved her hand over the plans so he had a good indication of where she wanted the walkway and sketched it in.
"Now where do the understory trees go?"
"Here so they are framed by the windows of the house from inside."
"Ok" and he sketched them in. "What's next?"
"I'd pull the walkway away from the fence here and wind it around to create a bump out for a fruit tree: preferably a tall one like peach or plum, or they could do any citrus they wanted or pick an understory tree. They have this lovely deck. They could either step it down and have more deck in the backyard, or Maurice could work his magic with a large patio or, and this is my favorite, create an oblong walkway with an island in the middle for a vegetable or rose garden. Because of how the sun is going to work with that garage and the house next door, the only place that a vegetable garden will really work is the center of the yard."
And he smiled at her and sketched in the oblong walkway with the vegetable/rose garden island.
“They need a space to keep their garbage cans and recycling bins so I’d recommend leaving the one side of the deck unplanted. It’s easier to recycle when you can literally just throw it over the side. If they want to hide them they can put them on this side. If they want an easier roll to the street, this side. Either way I think I’d either put lantana or gardenia or plumbago on the other side. Something that will be easy to trim so they can keep it deck rail height. Another option is butterfly ginger but that can be hard to find.”
“If it were me I’d want to hide them. We can work the pathway so it’s easy to get them to the street.” More sketching.
"That large oak in the other back yard shades most of their back wall. They could put a fountain, even a little cheap one from Lowe's or Home Depot along the back wall. It's hard to find solar fountains so you all might need to run power from the garage but I think that the pathway will allow for that so it shouldn't be too hard. I'd either, offset the fountain and put a fig in that corner or a swamp maple if they didn’t want a fruit tree. Or for a more structured look, we could put symmetrical planting of smaller understory trees on each side of a winding pathway back to the fountain with citrus closer to the middle of the yard where it will get more sun. If they don't want a fountain then I think I'd put a Japanese Magnolia in its place. They are amazingly showy when they bloom."
He sketched the asymmetrical idea with the fountain and said, "Based on other decisions they've made I think they'll like this better."
"I'd have Maurice wind a path way behind this garage to make a smaller private seating area and surround it and soften it with understory trees or a swamp maple for shade and fall color. The seating area would face the fountain in the other corner. They could put at least one citrus here on the corner of the garage. It will get enough light. We can infill any where with seeds or plant creeping fig or jasmine or money grass but while it looks good faster, it’s more work to plant and can be harder to maintain as a an area ground cover... although it's fine for edges. I Iike to use garlic chives on the edges, it’s magical protection, but not everyone likes the smell."
He finished up the sketching and adjusted the walkways for best flow. And then they stood back and looked at the sketch.
Owen smiled and looked at his watch before he said, "Genius woman. 30 minutes for site assessment and 30 minutes to get the ideas on paper." Then he hugged her into a generous kiss. When he released her she managed to say, "Jezz, Owen your exuberance is overwhelming sometimes. If you do that with other women it could get you arrested for assault." And she laughed.
“You know that’s interesting.”
“I don’t think I’ve ever done that with any other woman." Hmmmm.
And she shook her head at him. Then he said looking back down at the plans again, “Will you come and help us set out the plants?"
"You don't even know if they'll go for it yet."
"Oh I think they will. They fell in love with what you did in my yard. I know that we are a couple thousand under what they thought they would spend."
"Well, we'll see. If they say yes, I'll do what I can to be there for the layout."
"And will you go with me to pick the plants?"
"Jezz, I think you're going to have to put me on the payroll."
"Absolutely. I already figured I would. I'd bet that with this job we've just started NOLA Permaculture."
"You can not be serious?"
"Why... Well... I don't know."
"Let's just see. Joe will be thrilled. Louis and Maurice too. You know you've worked your witchy wiles on my whole crew." He had packed up the paperwork and had started locking up.
She followed him out of the house. And said slightly under her breath, "Witchy wiles. I do not have witchy wiles." And a bit louder, "What the hell are witchy wiles?"
And he kissed her lightly again before he locked the front door. "Yes you do and they work so well because you don't even know you have them. Come on woman, I'm hungry."
“Yes, your new clients stopped by the house right before you came and I haven’t had anything to eat since 11:30 and I’m hungry and I’d really like a steak. So we’re going to get something to eat before we go home.” He drove them to Lakeview Harbor on Harrison Avenue where he had apparently been before because they treated him like a good returning customer and he immediately placed his order without having to look at a menu. He looked at her waiting for her to order and since she had grabbed a small bowl of what James had cooked to make him happy, she looked up at the waitress and said, “Just unsweet tea please.”
When the waitress left she said, “Well that was fun: whirlwind drive, quick site assessment before the sun goes down, site design on the kitchen counter and now all this. It makes a girl’s head spin.”
He smiled at her. “You’re a pretty good sport you know.”
“I really do think that NOLA Permaculture could take off. Apparently the no lawnmower line is a great hook.”
She just laughed lightly and shrugged her shoulders and said, “Well, we do what we can.”
“I know exuberant and serious. I get it. We’ll see.”
“Aren’t you a little bit excited?
“Oooo pinch me.”
And she laughed at him and said, "You know if you're going to name this, I think No Lawnmower Landscaping is a better name. It's what hooked your first client.
"Hmm, No Lawnmower Landscaping. That could work. I'm seeing that on the side of a truck. It’s eye catching and appealing to anyone who's ever pushed a lawnmower or woken up to one on a Saturday morning."
"And what I do isn’t really full blown permaculture, for that we'd minimally have to add chickens.
"Yes permaculture is about integrating the home and its surrounding with the capacity to grow your own food. That's why I like to use as many fruit trees and herbs as possible and try to have room for a vegetable garden."
"Chickens... I don't know if I'm ready for chickens."
And she laughed. And thought again how the basketball court would have been a great place for chickens.
“Will you come to their house with me on Saturday to talk to them about the plans?”
“Yes, I think that’s a good idea. It’s their yard. They have to live with it. They have to understand that even without a lawnmower they have to take care of it. I’d like to talk to them.”
“You really are a good sport.”
“Is there an echo in here?”
He smiled and said, “I’ll pick you up this Saturday at your house at 9:00AM.”
And just for the hell of it he said, “You really are a good sport.”
While they waited she figured that this was just as good a time as any to tell him about next week. “Owen didn’t you say that your family comes in next Saturday?”
“Yep.” And then he thought and said right out loud, “You are not backing out of dinner.”
And she smiled at him and said, “No. I promised. I’ll do it.” And she could see him relax. “What time on Saturday does their plane arrive?”
And she nodded. “On your birthday.”
And he smiled, “Yes.”
And she nodded again and said, “I can’t come to your house for May Day.”
And the waitress walked up with his steak and, “Here you go. Need anything else?”
And Owen didn’t respond so Nola said, “Not right now.”
When the waitress left Nola put her hand on his hand and said, “I can’t come to your house on May Day because I’d like to come on Friday instead. James has opening weekend and his head will be totally in the play. Jamie has a sleepover for Friday night and I was thinking that maybe I could have one too. I have to pick Jamie up the next morning for 11AM so I’ll be out of your hair before your family arrives.”
And what she was really saying finally sunk in and he brightened and said, “You mean, you’ll come on Friday and Stay?”
“Yes, until just before 11 on Saturday.”
And it looked like he grew 6 inches as he sat up straight in the chair again and his steak looked good to him again and then he smiled and said, “Damn it woman. You almost made me loose my appetite. “
“Sorry. I thought you’d be happy.”
“Oh I am happy and if we weren’t in a family restaurant I’d show you how happy. But I’m going to contain my, what did you call it, exuberance until after I finish my steak.” And he dove in.
And she smiled and waved to the waitress who came right over, “Could I get a little more tea? Unsweet.”
As he ate she thought over the conversation that she had with James yesterday.
“Jamie has a sleepover next Friday. She’s going to Elena’s right after school. I can drop her stuff there in the afternoon.”
“Oh good that works.” And she knew he was thinking 'good he wouldn’t have to do it and then go to the theatre'.
“What time do you have to be to the theatre next Friday?’
“6:00PM every performance night.”
“It will be a busy weekend for you.”
“I’m not going to Owen’s next Thursday.”
“Oh, why not?”
“Because it’s hard to do ritual and then come home so late and have to dash off to work the next morning.”
“Oh, well that’s understandable. You do get home late some nights.”
“Yeah, it’s kind of like you after a performance. There’s wind down, soak time. I thought it would be nice to be able to do the ritual on Friday. That way we can go late and I don’t have to worry about work the next day.”
“How does that work? Aren’t there specific dates you have to keep?”
“Yes. But there are windows of opportunity. The moon is full for 3 nights. The other holidays have traditional dates but the dates are actually set based on degrees into the astrological sign so there’s a window there too.”
“I figure with you out all weekend with the play and Jamie out at her sleepover that I might as well stay over at Owen’s. He has spare bedrooms. I will be picking Jamie up from Elena’s at 11 on Saturday.”
“OK.” And she knew he was thinking 'good he could sleep in on Saturday'. She was thinking that staying over for other rituals might just be easier. He had about an hour before he had to be at rehearsal and half of him was already there.
“Woman, what are you thinking about? You are a thousand miles away.”
“I’m thinking that at least one of those spare bedrooms of yours should have a bed in it.”
“You want to have your own bedroom?”
And she laughed, “No, I think that James made some assumptions about what staying over at Owen’s means and I think that you having a bed in one of your spare bedrooms matches up with his assumptions.”
“Ok, I’m finished. We’ll get the check and go get a bed.”
And she laughed out loud again, “No, Let your mom and Stella take care of that while they are here.”
He got the check and gave her a huge hug and a healthy kiss before he put her in the truck and drove home with a grin on his face. It was still early, for them, when he pulled into the driveway and she didn’t fight him to go home and he kept grinning as he unlocked the kitchen door. He flipped on the lights and walked straight to the wine fridge and took out the Prosecco. She smiled at him and excused herself to his bathroom. He handed her a glass when she returned and then offered a toast, “To No Lawnmower Landscaping and sleepovers.” And clinked her glass. She smiled and took a sip and was ready for his kiss.
“Whew, I’m glad I was ready for that one.”
“Come into my library.”
“Said the spider to the fly.” But she smiled at him and moved to the library. She sat down in what he considered her spot facing the French doors. And he sat next to her and said, “Pretty exciting day.”
She sipped her Prosecco and nodded, “Yes, landscaping clients, totally unexpected.”
“I was thinking about the fact that you’ve agreed to stay over.”
“You really do need more toys.”
“You are not a toy to me, woman. Do we need to go over the May Day Ritual?”
“The May Day Ritual is pretty simple. It’s essentially a Full Moon Ritual without the meditation and the Veglia. The critical thing that happens at this ritual is that the God turns his reign over to the Goddess.”
And he smiled thinking about their last Full Moon.
“Do you have a sword?”
“A sword? You’re kidding right?”
“Well, not really. I don’t have a sword but some people do as ritual items. A sword is used by the God in the May Day Ritual to symbolize the God turning his reign over to the Goddess. It isn’t necessary but it’s very effective symbolically.”
“It isn’t necessary.”
“I’ll ask around maybe one of the guys has a sword.”
“Oh that should be interesting.” And she held a mock conversation: “Uh any of you guys have a sword?” “What the hell for Owen?” “Well I need it to lie at the feet of a naked woman.” “Oh well sure man, for that no problem. Here use mine.” And she laughed and he laughed too.
“Well you never know. Now that I know a sword could be useful. I’ll be on the look out for one.”
“You should also look for a ritual blade. If you had one then we could use that as the sword.”
“Oh, I have one.”
“You do? Why have you never used it for circle casting?”
“Hmmm, because we’ve always used yours.”
“Oh you should definitely have your own ritual blade. We can use it for the sword. How long have you had it?”
“I’m not a complete novice.”
“Oh far from it.” And she smiled at him knowingly.
And he smiled back and said, “I told you I’d dabbled. I’ve dabbled for years. A blade was one of the things we were told to get when I dabbled once before. You never focused on the trappings and the tools. You focused on the teachings, Aradia's Words and the Rituals. Plus we have everything we need in that Harry Potter box of yours."
"Where are you woman?"
"You drifted off. It looked like you were thinking about a million things at once."
"Oh, maybe I was a bit."
"What were you thinking?'
"I was thinking about how I resisted the trappings and the tools when I first started. I used just the fossils for God & Goddess icons for a long time. I used what I had already had for elementals, most of it picked up from nature. My teacher had to work on me for over a year before I broke down and bought the God & Goddess statues. I didn't have a bell for years and the bell I do use is one that my teacher and I found at the flea market. My ritual blade was purchased for me by a Boschetto mate. He said he knew it was mine when he saw it. Many would find it too light. But I've always thought of a hard blade as too demanding when working with the Old Ones and the elementals. He was right, my blade was right for me. My wand is made from fennel collected by Raven on the coast of California and a fir cone from a tree on the site where I was first initiated. I didn't have a wand for a long time too. I just used my fingers.” And she held up her right hand with her index and middle finger together. “I was also thinking that we've been using the Harry Potter box for a while and I should check supply levels and restock."
"See? I knew it, a million things at once."
"Are you sassin’ your teacher?"
"No, never." He said with mock dismay and smiled at how much she said sassin’ just like Latasha.
They had a light evening talking about where ever the conversation drifted. She checked the box and made a short list before she left. As he watched her leave he smiled thinking, see you Saturday, before he realized that, after this Saturday, it would be one week before she stayed.
And Papa Eric said, “For one night Owen.”
And Owen thought, “For the first night.”
"You'd better take good care of your toys."
"Not you too. Nola is not a toy."
"I know that."
"Hmmmpfff." And he headed inside and up to bed and Papa Eric gave Bellaria and Meana a frustrated 'Kids!’ look and Tago just said, "Patience."