Thursday, June 16, 2011


Tam Nguyen

Tam was deaf. It was struggle time for her life. She got anger from her siblings and people around her without understanding the reason. Her Dad took her to see Doctors, but she never got full treatment. They gave her antibiotic for infections, but it never a full core for that. She also didn’t know why she got her hearing lost. No explanations why it was. Nothing for hope of treatment.

One person to hang around her was her Dad. He told her, “It is not important what happened to you. It is more important how can you deal with it.” He was patient, talking close face to face, and taught her to listen to sounds around her by feeling vibrations, by her heart, by hearing things with eyes, and by her spirit hearing without ears.

Her friends were grass, flowers, trees, insects, and birds. Those friends never ever laugh at her or mad at her, either. They taught her to be patient as her Dad in listening to the moving around of sounds. She put all her senses on. She imagined in her brain a sense of an aura she got without understand what it was.

Her Dad gave her a compensation for without hearing by ears, opening a third eye for her to feel life still wonderful and meaningful. She learned to love garden. She enjoyed with garden and watched the spider work hard and patiently to make his web and caught prey on spider’s web.

She learnt about sounds by looking at plants. Depending on force of wind, the plants move gentle or strong. If she stand, she will feel the wind on her face and the blowing of her hair. That was the way her Dad describe the sounds to her. Rustle of leaves, clamorous branches of trees attached to each other. Even singing of bird is a melody of song.

She hated herself. She hated to be deaf. She just felt confident with herself at a private corner of the house. She spent most of time by herself. She did not care about noise or people surround her. Other children ran and played, but she stayed inside herself. Run and play cannot study. In her deafness, she learnt to be student.

That was also the reason her uncle thought that she didn’t like him. Her uncle asked her a favor, but she did not hear what he told her. She did not respond to him or acted something to him. Her uncle was so angry. She not know why or who made him angry until he came and pointed to her face. She hold all her emotion and put deep inside her soul. She really wanted to punch to her uncle, but she hold her hands back. She wanted to fight back, and screaming back.

Her Dad had to come and talked to both.

Her dad supported her. He talk to her close face to face. He told her to get out into the world for travel miles far away with a first single steps. He took her with nature and taught her a meaning of life. And he gave her hope that a miracle will be appear to her that she will see the right situation and right person will fix it for her. Or choose an optimistic thinking for living. She took trips hiking with him, doing farms job, and take care goats for him. He kept telling her about technology, developing science will be changed. A girl, she did not have concepts in that but years later she did. She got a passion from him. When she grow older, she look back on her Dad and realize he taught her to meditate. He took her out of her corner and let her walk to a farm, to a city for college, and now she stayed at another country.

Her hearing got fixed in America. Proof for her about things her Dad told her. She appreciated her Dad changed her life by education in a right way. Deafness and her Dad gave her love of garden, life to study, meditation.

Tam Nguyen, a Master Gardener, is a student at NAU and the Literacy Center where Dana Prom Smith is her tutor. Also a Master Gardener, he edits GARDENING ETCETERA and can be reached at

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Dana Prom Smith

Q. Spent big bucks on iris bulbs. Missus told me to fix up the front yard. Said that old, rusty plow “just doesn’t cut the mustard anymore,” least ways not since that damned Master Gardener moved in next door. Keeps looking at me like I was a primitive, kind of weird like. Anyways, all I got was spikey green, no flowers. Told they didn’t need much care, and that’s just what they got.

A. They aren’t bulbs, but rhizomes. “Little care” doesn’t mean “No care.” If those rhizomes were your children, you’d charged with child neglect and tossed in the hoosegow. Here are some guidelines about parenting rhizomes. Ideal children, they don’t demand a lot. They’re not dependent personalities. They’re real self-starters.
You feed children. Irises are fed about 6-8 weeks before they bloom and after their blooms are gone. No lawn fertilizer. Too much nitrogen. Nitrogen for iris is like candy for children. It rots their rhizomes, instead of their teeth. Use bone meal or super-phosphate because phosphorous makes for root growth. All root, they need lots of phosphorous. Think bone meal.
Next is potassium. You need potassium for your cardio-vascular system just like irises need it for their health and growth.

I hope you make your children clean their rooms and make their beds. Well, irises need clean beds and rooms. They need weeds picked, just like you don’t let your children hang around with juvenile delinquents and other morally challenged youth.
Finally, you don’t want your children wasting their energies in frivolous pursuits, like video games. Children need discipline just like irises. After the irises have bloomed, cut the flower stocks close to the ground. This is allows their energy to go back into the rhizome instead of frittering it away.
Your wife is right. That rusty old plow is an eyesore. You aren’t a farmer anyhow. The proper plural for iris is irides. Iris is a Greek word meaning rainbow. Dress up your front yard, and your wife won’t serve you cold sardines for breakfast anymore. Maybe, even that weird looking Master Gardener with the creepy hat will give you a hand if you’re lucky.

Q. My name is Abigail. I’m married to a man named Rusty who thinks that a front yard of gravel, weeds, and a rusty old plow is the cat’s pajamas. He says it celebrates the early days of Flagstaff when “men were men” whatever that means. I threatened him with cold sardines for breakfast, just like early cowboys ate, if he didn’t get off his big, fat behind watching “Ice Road Truckers” and fix the front yard. Our new neighbor just shakes his head. His wife is real nice and friendly and suggested that the easiest thing to grow were bearded irises and that they were quite beautiful. Even said that they could be planted in groups right in the middle of that damned gravel. Rusty dug’em in, but they just kind of pooped out. What do you suggest?

A. I fear that Rusty didn’t plant them the right way. You
don’t dig’em in but settle them in, just like they’re putting your children to bed with a light blanket over them and just their heads sticking out. First, prepare the bed, by digging in compost, phosphorus, and potassium, and then let it sit for a week or so. A noble flower, irises require a fine bed. Then make a small mound and settle the rhizomes into the bed, covering them with a thin layer of soil while leaving the leaves above the soil. Then for the first few weeks water them so that the soil is damp, but not wet lest the rhizomes rot. All this should de done toward the last of summer or the beginning of fall so that the rhizomes will have time to develop roots before winter sets in.

Try making him nice breakfast hash browns, bacon, and eggs sunny side up. That’s the best way to his heart. He may get off his behind and fix up the front yard. Ask that Master Gardener to lend a hand. That’s what he for.

Copyright © Dana Prom Smith 2011

Dana Prom Smith edits and writes GARDENING ETCETERA for the Arizona Daily Sun and can be emailed at

Friday, June 03, 2011


Chheten Tamang

My native language was not written down. We only spoke it. I never read it. There were no schools in my village. I did not learn the alphabet until I was twenty-eight years old. Langtang, the village where I was born and raised is in Nepal at 12,600 feet. It was two days by foot from Kathmandu or one day by bus. There are nine families in the village. Our houses are made of stone.

My father, Dorje, herded yaks. Yaks are valuable because of their milk, fur, and meat. My father sold milk to the government dairy where it was made into cheese. Yak cheese has more taste than cheese from cows.

My mother, Tsiring, spun the yak wool into yarn by hand, spinning it with her fingers. Then my aunt wove the yarn by hand on a loom, and my uncle made our clothes, rugs, and blankets from the cloth woven by my aunt. My mother and father were Tibetan but were born in Nepal. Their grandparents left Tibet during the revolution when China took over Tibet.

Since we are Buddhists, we don’t kill animals for food. We would only eat meat after the animal had died. We did not eat meat often, and when we did, we would share with all the nine families in the village. Sometimes, snow leopards would kill the sheep and yaks.

We also grew vegetables: broccoli, spinach, peas, potatoes, beans, and cabbage. We also ate wild vegetables, like mustard and something that looked like dandelions. Our grains were barley and buckwheat.

Our soil was very rich and dark and our climate rainy.

One time when I was a teenager on a picnic on New Year’s Eve (Chinese calendar) with some friends, I noticed that my flock of sheep was moving around. My job in
the family was to herd the sheep. I looked around to see what was bothering the sheep. I saw a baby yak that was killed by a snow leopard. It was a fresh kill.

We all saw the leopard. It was moving very slowly. It was beautiful with gold and white fur with black spots. My friends and I yelled to scare away the snow leopard and then herded the sheep back home. I told a neighbor, and he went out and got the dead baby yak. We shared the yak meat and chopped up the meat and fried it in mustard oil. Then we used the meat in stews and egg rolls.

When we eat dead yak, we chop up the head after we have burned off the hair, and then we either cook it outside in a bonfire or boil it in a pot inside the house. Then we throw out the bones and brains and eat the meat. We never ate big chunks of meat. We thought they were disgusting. We cook the hooves in with the head.

My father picked out the bones and threw them away. He kept the meat and saved the soup in another bowl in a cool place over night. Late the next morning we ate the soupy gelatin. It had a meaty flavor.

About a three hour walk from our village was a monastery for Buddhist lamas and ten hotels for tourists. With the other villages in the countryside, we celebrated festivals with singing and dancing along with the lamas.

When I was fifteen, I wanted money for food. We did not grow things like corn, oil, and rice. I also wanted to buy clothes and shoes at a town about two days away by foot. It was called Dunche. I would stay at a tea shop made of bamboo and sleep on the floor.

I also became a porter for tourists for a dollar a day. I worked for some city guys down in Kathmandu. I had to buy my own food of rice and flour. I carried sixty pound packs for climbing expeditions into the mountains for climbers at a base camp.

I met my husband, Wayne Gramzinski, in Nepal and came to America. I am learning to write at the Literacy Center.

Chheten Tamang is tutored at The Literacy Center in Flagstaff by Lori Crowe and Dana Prom Smith.