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HERB BENHAM: April blooming with joy

Everybody was outside this past weekend. Outside and in the garden. If you weren’t outside and in the garden, you may have been out of town.

It was perfect. The temperature. The breeze. The siren’s call to drift outside and see if you could improve the landscape which already looks really good.

We bought a Japanese dogwood, six magnolia-flowered camellias bushes and three olive trees the day before we planted. Hard to buy and plant on the same day.

I’m in love with the shape and color of olive leaves. Silvery, delicate, nothing prettier when the breeze picks up. Olive trees look good all year long and also as if they belong in the valley.

We planted the dogwood and the camellias on the west side of the house shaded by several dawn redwoods and two sycamores. Planting is a workout. No wonder nurseries charge for it. There is solid satisfaction in doing it yourself, however.

Satisfaction and also the pleasure of talking to neighbors as they walk their dogs or drive by slowly admiring your-get-up-and-go or kneel-down-and-dig.

I was feeling so energized that I borrowed my neighbor Steve’s electric chainsaw and cut down a dead Krauter flowering plum tree and promptly dropped a branch on my head that knocked off my hat, and grazed my forehead.

Dead wood is heavy wood. Some of that dead wood is above my neck.

***

Henry, our youngest grandchild, turned 1 over the weekend. Parties for 1-year-olds are comical because the child has no idea what’s happening. It’s just another day in a wonderful life.

They have no idea until they discover their first chocolate cupcake and then the chocolate cupcake light goes off in their heads. They eat it, wear it and finger paint with it.

***

If "Neon Blue" was the only song the Mavericks recorded and the only song lead singer Raul Malo ever sang it would be enough. What a voice. His group is good, but Malo’s voice is a combination of Roy Orbison, Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and Vince Gill. The musical voice gods smiled on Malo and gave him this glorious instrument that he makes seem so effortless. Other people may be sweating but not Malo with his great high tenor. The Mavericks are the musical recommendation for the week.

If nothing else, listen to the first verse of “Neon Blue.” It will bring tears to your eyes.

***

I’d never read it, but I recently finished “The Phantom Tollbooth” by Norman Juster and illustrated by Jules Feiffer.

I’d seen Juster’s obit. When an author dies, book sales go up. At least in my house.

You could see reading this to a grandchild or to yourself. The book is full of humor and wisdom couched in an adventure. This is one of my favorite passages:

“'But I could have never done it,' he objected, 'without everyone else’s help.'

“'That may be true,' said Reason gravely, 'but you had the courage to try; and what you can do is often simply a matter of what you will do.'”

How true is that?

Herb Benham is a columnist for The Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.