Outside my window this morning, I noticed a little bird pecking on the ground where I had raked some leaves, revealing some green grass and–more importantly–soft soil. A small effort on my part made it a bit easier for another creature to find sustenance in a season where most animals have to work harder to find food, especially if they haven’t been able to put away any stores. A few moments later, a squirrel found a prized acorn and used a bench as a table, leaving its crumbs before scurrying away. Closer to the golf course, two squirrels raced up and around tree trunks and through the leaves in a game of chase, it seemed to me. To them I suppose it could have been a fight for territory, if squirrels even do such a thing. The crows caw near and far, louder than the softer, higher chirps of smaller birds. I hear something scurry on the roof. Suddenly I get a sense of how still I am in comparison to the busy-ness and activity of the world around me. In my quiet observation, I can hear the other creatures going about their business as they should. Distraction pulls me away to my own activity, and I lose sight of the creatures and no longer hear their calls.
Thoughts While Weeding in a Collar
Even in one-hundred-degree heat, the weeds grow. I’m pretty sure there is a hybrid of Bermuda and crabgrass growing in the bed by the front drive. Rather, it was growing until I donned my new gloves and pulled the weed. It might be considered a grass, but in the wrong place, it’s a weed to me.
Photo by Carl Lewis under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
I was anxious to plant the two lamb’s ear sprigs I obtained from a clump at the church garden (that looked like it could use thinning). Some might consider lamb’s ear a weed, too, but at least it has some curb appeal. It also has some drought tolerance and is low-maintenance: my kind of plant!
I was so anxious that I took the time to bring the dog outdoors with me, but I did not change my clothes nor remove my collar, the newest addition to my wardrobe and sign of my office. I had the band around my neck, the dog near my feet, and my hands at the spade, digging in the rocks, when I recalled the morning’s readings–the parable of the sower.
This was rocky ground. I wasn’t planting seeds. I was pulling weeds and planting new plants, but it was rocky ground. And life is hard. The busy door to the church, opening to the many in need, could testify to that. Despite the rocky soil, some things grew. The boxwood grows. My so-called hybrid, pointy nuisance of grass was growing. As a would-be gardener, I was transfiguring the landscape a bit to introduce a softer plant, one with antiseptic qualities, I was told, should I need it. Maybe it will take, maybe not. I’ll have to keep tending and watering, and I’ll have to wait. The conditions are not ideal, but maybe something better will come of my efforts; maybe there is fertile soil there after all.
There will be more weeds, more unwanted foliage, and attempts to change things for the better. There will be neighbors driving by wondering what the lady in a collar with the big yellow dog is doing in the rocks when it’s a hundred degrees outside. There will also be the realization that what matters more than anything is the time and care given to another, to any aspect of Creation. Wearing a collar or not, this is work I am bound to do . . . work I love to do . . . and will continue to do with determination, perseverance, and hope.
We read a poem this weekend that had to be written by a kindred. Her words spoke in my language, spoke in truth. I cannot find her complete poem on-line, though there are partial reprints. Elizabeth Carlson’s “Imperfections” can be found in this book, however. I dare not repost the perfect little poem in its entirety, what with copyright laws and all.
What I can post is my own writing, though. After listening to and with Carlson’s poem a bit, we got to go our solitary ways. I listen well when I am writing, when I am doing nearly anything. To listen for my own imperfections at a deeper level, I sat. I wrote. This is what surfaced. (I apologize in advance that I cannot get the spacing to change, so pardon the stanza run-on! I tried.)
I can sit with the ants in the dappled light
On this, another awe-inspiring autumn morning.
What mysteries might the breeze whisper in my ear?
What chatter does that strange creature
echo from my monkey brain?
Usually I listen for the wisdom I stumble upon,
Doing the tasks that need be done.
For once, at least,
I let myself
May the pen be my trowel
And my busy-ness the weeds
I remove from the soil.
The soil is rich and fertile.
Or maybe I fold the distractions
With each shirt, pants, and sock.
Some thoughts need to dry in
Their own time.
No dirty nails this time to
Show for my effort.
What are the treasures?
I cannot be rid of the roots from the species
This is hard,
But the longer I ignore them, the harder it gets
To let the soil be rich,
To appreciate the beauty
That is there if only
It, too, could obtain the resources
by that which needs the
The daily tending.
It helps to name the
bermuda grasses of my being.
I cannot ignore the
Reality of money,
The need to connect with my family,
The limits of time.
I have to give up this idea of
A garden is not a photograph.
It teems with
Life and Intention,
with Persistent Practice.
Blood and sweat, surely,
From the thorns and twigs of
I didn’t plant the oak tree there
Or the rose there.
Gifts of vulnerable strength and
Timeless, both, and full of
The mosquito offers its own poison
As it draws my blood,
Leaving the stinging itch
That will gnaw like the
Censor to challenge any
Gift I may unearth and
Lay claim to.
But it, too, will fade.
And even after my blood
Is dried and gone,
The earth remains to
That which it gave.
Live into this cycle,
Practice persistence with
whether with the harvest of the Earth
Fruits of our wombs.
All is still and alive.
All is well.
This I am told.
Today’s calendar presented an open slate, which then filled with the simple pleasures of keeping house and preparing an abundant lunch. The next wave of thunderstorms has rolled in, just in time to go pick the kids up from school.
For this brief moment, I find myself sitting in a quiet house . . . well, maybe not completely quiet. The thunder, rain, and dishwasher have their voices heard at the moment, along with the clicking of the keyboard. It is, however, still — especially compared to what it’s usually like with four kids and two adults and a dog and cat running about.
Some days we just have to revel in what is, and I know that this is good. I don’t know what the next hour or tomorrow or next year holds for us, but I do know that if I can remember the joy and gratitude I feel in my heart at this present moment, that all will be well.
Right now we also get to enjoy eating the few fresh strawberries we have from the garden, reminding us what a real strawberry tastes like, what a fruit of the earth carries in a perfectly packaged little bundle of tender juiciness. Experiencing and tasting these delights, I know that what I buy in bulk from the store doesn’t even get close to the truly organic variety from the backyard. Sometimes we just have to be reminded of how good it can be. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves how sweet we really have it, fresh strawberries or no.
I consider myself delightfully spoiled today, and I give thanks to all that is.
(Cloudy skies today contrast with the sunny skies of yesterday morning, when we remembered to collect our first strawberries of the season. 🙂 )
Just when I thought I was keeping the house clean (or at least tidy), we discover a little surprise.
Need a close-up of our apparently not-so-clean sink?
Yep, that’s a plant growing in the sink trap. A bean plant, it seems. I didn’t even know a bean had fallen in there. We really don’t use this sink that often. In my defense, beans grow quickly and with little assistance. Perhaps you home-schoolers could do this as a project in your own home.
Of course, now I’ll have to transplant the little guy. I figure it’s meant to bean, I mean, be. 😉
Fall Fairy Wishes
May your season of harvest and abundance be filled with thanks for blessings big and small.
There’s “spring cleaning,” and I figure what I’m going through now is “fall clearing” — when it’s time to clear the clutter, make some organizational shifts, and make sure my priorities are in line before the long nights of winter set in. (It only seems far off; we know how time gets away from us.) Honestly, the coming fall fills me with as much excitement as spring, just in a different way.
The days have just been hot enough to make you sweat, and many nights have been cool enough to cut the a/c and open the windows. I sense a pull to what is natural, intuitive. I’m making decisions based on a gut feeling, and great things are happening, however seemingly small they might be.
All this is related in that by clearing out some of the stuff that’s filling my days, my house, my mind, I am making room for quiet, for creativity, for Divine energy to move about and through me. I love being aware of the synchronicities as they unfold, and I love having time to participate in them. I offer unbounded thanks to those who are able and willing to participate with me.
This morning, after daddy took the older children to school, I was clearing the breakfast table (from a yummy feast of omelets and potato cakes). Table clear, dog having eaten the leftovers, I gathered up the compost. The youngest had been going in and out the back door, revelling in her ability to open and close the sliding glass door, talking in her suddenly realized vocabulary about the cat and dog being in and out, out and in. I watched her through the window when she was outside making a barricade of her body so the cat couldn’t go any further. Of course, the cat just walked around her. Suddenly, she ran inside to get a “tiny bowl.” “Mommy come?” she asked. I slipped on my shoes and grabbed the compost. It was time again to get a little raspberry snack. I dumped my bowl of scraps and grounds and then searched with childlike enthusiasm for the dark red treats, wondering why I had ever worried about the birds and the bugs getting them all. We have to share. With our snack-sized bounty, we turned to the house. Behind the glass door, I saw my husband smiling, coffee in hand, and I relished the moment when our little one realized her daddy was back home.
It truly is the little moments that make life rich, even if we tend only to remember the big events. As I continue my late summer and early fall clearing, I hope to continue to embrace the time given to do what need be done but also be who and where I need to be. I wish no less for you, with love.
The Resilience of Trees
All the rain we’ve been having reminds us that we are, indeed, in the midst of spring. And the bounty of greenery, in all its shades and hues, contrasts nicely, magically against the gray skies. I had wondered what this spring would look like after the tragic ice storm left many of the trees amputees. I admit my shallow underestimation of nature.
Yes, you can see some of the splintered edges or the awkward, haphazard trimmings. But the trees continue to stand as tall as they can and put forth new growth with as much determination as ever. Where the trees were trimmed carefully, with attention, you would hardly notice anything amiss, save for the less dense canopy. The new growth is amazing.
I might say, “Wouldn’t it be nice to be a tree, where all we had to do is grow, go through the seasons, letting go and growing when it’s our determined time.” But that’s not all a tree does. No two trees are exactly alike. No breeze blows without ruffling each leaf in its own way. Every natural event leaves its mark upon a tree’s trunk, but the tree is ever adapting. Maybe I should say, “Oh, to have the wisdom of a tree.”
When I was a little girl, I remember going into the woods beyond the pasture of my grandparents farm. I found a young maple that I sat beside and talked to at length, looking up into its branches, certain that the leaves blowing in the wind were responding just to me. I promised to be this tree’s friend. I found a large-ish rock and put it beside the base, so I would be sure to remember which tree I had chosen.
Time passed, though, and when I returned, I wasn’t sure which tree was which. There were rocks all around. I felt bad. I had defaulted on a friendship, and I was sure that this tree would certainly remember who I was, was probably watching me circle around and around, aching that I couldn’t hear and feel.
Maybe I had read The Giving Tree too many times. Maybe I was personifying the tree too much. But I don’t think so. Even now, when I need to be grounded, I see myself as a tree. When I need to disperse extra energy or receive it, I can exchange with the trees. I’ve not forgotten the relationship one can have with the trees, and I have a special place in my heart for maples.
The trees are beautiful and have much to teach us.
Fall into the Garden
The sunflowers have dried up, the tomatoes are long and leggy and experiencing a resurgence of green after all the rain and cooler temperatures, and my son delights in picking the green peppers. The okra’s still going strong, too, but the squash were devoured by the squash bugs. (I’m sure I’ll be dealing with those again next year.) Such is our garden now, and I’m wondering what we need to do now that it’s fall. (By the way, that’s not my cute dog — from everystockphoto.com by darkpatator, photo called “Les feuilles magiques.”)
Looking at several lists, these are the basics to making getting started again next year that much easier.
Clean out plant debris. Healthy stuff can be composted, but diseased or pest-ridden plants need to go in your yard waste or burned in your brush pile (if it’s legal).
Plant or tansplant your trees/shrubs. Be sure to keep watering young plants until the first freeze.
Clean and sharpen your garden tools. I hear that putting oil into a bucket of sand is good for storing your tools in and keeping them honed.
Save and store seeds from your favorite plants. I use regular paper envelopes. It makes them easy to label and keep separate.
Harvest your herbs. If you don’t already have an herb garden, now might be a good time to plan for next year’s.
Feed the wildlife. Make sure your feeders are free of wasp nests and such, clean and ready to fill for the winter time. We have a feeder hanging right outside our dining room window so the kids can watch birds eating while we do. We don’t mind the mess, but be aware that wherever you hang a feeder, it gets messy below.
Water features need to be cleaned and drained. Frozen water expands, and you don’t want to ruin your investment. It’s not attractive, but that’s why fountains are turned upside down in the winter.
Take care of your roses and gladiolas. (See links below.)
Some sites if you want to know more:
- Assocaited Content
- Garden Guides
- Love to Know
- Suite 101 — Cottage Garden
- (Google “fall garden chores” to find related articles)
Enjoy the early fall and the beautiful weather to get your boost of vitamin D and fresh air. My kids are loving it, but most importantly, so am I!
The rewards of the summer are in the bounty of the garden.
I took my youngest to the botanical garden yesterday, the older three being with their grandma, and we got to pick some purple beans (like green beans, only purple). I brought our handful home, added them to our small bit of green beans and the small batch from our produce delivery. We had a full bowl, and they tasted delicious. I’m not sure if it was the purple beans or not, but they seemed to have a particularly buttery flavor. Delicious. (picture coming as soon as my obstacles are overcome!)
I’ve also taken our bounty of squash and zucchini, added some onions, bell peppers, mushrooms (all flavored with some hoisin sauce and a bit of soy sauce) and teriyaki chicken to make a stir fry, served with brown rice. The kids raved and raved, much to my surprise.
If you don’t have your own garden, take advantage of the local farmers’ markets. Use your imagination to create something from what’s in season. It’s a good practice anyway and will add something new to your diet, and, chances are, you’ll be glad you did.