Friday, June 15, 2007

A Rainy Day

I have been busy renewing a long-neglected garden. Most plants are planted and seeds are sprouting. It has been a long time since I've had a spring that was free to spend in my garden and my potting shed. Yesterday I stopped at a little nursery I love and picked out just a couple more flowers to plant--white ones--nicotiana, penta and nierembergia. But I'll have to wait a couple days until the garden dries out a little. We had quite a bit of rain last night. The storm has left the garden looking like a bad party. On bright sunny days the golden coreopsis stands tall, swaying with the lightest breeze, attracting the rusty colored Fritillary. This morning its stems are laying every which way leaning into nearby feverfew and peony. As I approach to get a closer look a cloud of goldfinches takes to the air. I wonder why they were in the coreopsis. Can there be seeds there already for them? The fairy rose that normally arches gracefully with long branches of light pink blooms has become heavy and sodden—drooping over an area much bigger than its allotted space. I have to find a tall stake to prop up the clematis, “Polish Spirit” that is pulling over a trellis far too small for all its exuberant growth. It is thick with purple starry flowers. My son brought it home for me from a nursery where he held a summer job last year. It was tiny when he gave it to me in a black plastic pot. True to its name it now needs a sturdy support, which my husband promises to build for me in the west border very soon. The lady’s mantle is mud-splattered, a fading lily has lost its last petals and the borders generally look beaten down. But I know the earth has benefited from the deep soaking of the storm followed by a night of steady rain and the next sunny day will bring a burst of growth similar to a rain forest. I’ve seen it many times. I check on the striped green caterpillars of the black swallowtail. There were about ten of them on the rue, parsley and dill. There are fewer now and I wonder if some of them have fed birds that are always looking for morsels in the garden. I have read that a person can have many butterflies or many birds, but not both. At dusk two deer come out of the back woods to visit a salt block and nibble some nearby grass. They are pretty but I hope they don’t make their way up to the garden. As I get ready for bed I hear the distant call of a whippoorwill.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How Much Is That Doggie. . .

Yes, anonymous, I probably should have a little dog as a role model. One thing I could really use is the ability to live in the moment. I contemplate far too much. It’s mostly happy contemplation, but mind-consuming nevertheless. And, sometimes, it’s just a “mad,” that I decide to stay on. I’ve never seen a dog do that—except for the times when Kelly doesn’t get any of my ice cream because it’s chocolate so she turns her back to me and lays on the other side of the room. And I like to think a dog doesn’t worry—but Kelly gets funny when she thinks you’re getting ready to leave and she may not be going with you. And I swear she’s thinking too much, too, when she keeps staring at you trying to figure you out or trying to tell you something and we don’t know what she’s “thinking.” But she does know how to enjoy what comes her way and run joyfully, barefoot, through the grass with the wind in her ears . She definitely follows Rule #1, "When loved ones come home, always run to greet them," and Rule #16, "When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently." I guess the idea of a dog as a role model and a friend is still a good one, but maybe Kelly is a little bit “human.” And if I had a dog, I’d probably be expecting it to be like Kelly and it would just be a little dog. Hmm . . . another thing for me to think about.

The Potting Shed

I am planting my tiny lavender seedlings into larger pots today. It’s been a while since I’ve handled such little plants. The first few seedlings make me feel like all my fingers are thumbs. I’m trying not to disturb the tiny roots while setting them down into dark premoistened potting soil in which I’ve made an opening just the right size for the new plant. I try to push the fresh soil around the roots without mashing them. It gets easier after a while and I develop a comfortable rhythm. Scratch growing plants to sell from my list of possible futures. But growing for myself is definitely right there on top, clumsy as I feel. Working with fragrant plants is an instant “high.” I water them and find I have no way to make a mist fine enough to keep from toppling the little plants right over. I run water into large flats and set the pots into the flats to absorb moisture from below. I make a mental note to buy a fine sprayer. I set the flats into my cold frame and cover them with window screen to provide some shade until they adjust to the outside. I plan to leave them in the cold frame until fall, at least, to allow them to develop strong roots before I transplant them again. A cold frame appeals to my nurturing nature. Providing a shelter for tiny plants evokes the protective feeling I experienced when all my children were small and cozy inside our home, protected from the storms outside. My cold frame is on the warm south side of my garden shed. It is bordered by wild Tartarian honeysuckle on the east side. Brown thrashers and mockingbirds fly through and provide a background of activity along with robins and cardinals. A pair of bluebirds gather nest-building materials. A wren is singing its lilting little song and the cat is asleep under the garden bench. On another day he will be working to control the bird population and I’ll have to work not to be mad at him, but not this morning. The red anemones are beautiful against their background of white strawberry flowers, the snow-in-summer is blending with blue forget-me-nots, the roses are in full bud and a soft breeze stirs bell tones from my chimes hanging from a copper verdigris sun under the shed overhang. I like to think my tiny plants love the world around them as much as I do.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Bloom Where You Are Planted

I spent a lot of time thinking at the beauty shop yesterday between reading “Oprah” and playing with the shop’s little Jack Russell, Max. This morning I was up at 5 a.m. and I played music and thought some more. I listed my many hobbies and interests and considered what I loved and didn’t love about working and not working. I “dug” below my first layer of hobbies to find what it is that I really loved about each one that might give me some insight into my direction for the coming year. I’ve considered going back to teaching, starting a craft business or simply just living. I found the common thread is my love of those things that stimulate the senses. I love good fragrances, textures and flavors. I also love freedom and life. I decided not to give up freedom yet. It’s a good list and I’ll check back with it often. My goal for last year was to get organized and healthy. I did. We created a TV/exercise/game room in our basement where I can now dance and enjoy good movies. I set up my sewing room upstairs where all my sewing, knitting and quilting materials are at hand. There is a little sitting area there for daydreaming over magazines and photos and for curling up with a good book. I have a second kitchen in the basement for crafting and food preservation.

My goal for this coming year is “joy and adventure.” I’ll enjoy my hobbies in depth. I’ll spend a lot of time on each of them. I’ll also spend lots of time being with people I want to be with and seeing some new places. For the rest of spring I’ll plant my flowers and herbs and furnish and decorate my garden shed and porches. This summer I’ll improve my swimming, learn to sail, and spend long summer evenings by the pool and on the deck. Will I go back to work in the fall??? I’ll let that thought just float around for a while. Now I’m going out to my garden shed and get started. My lavender seedlings are ready to transplant into pots and I have crowded perennials in the garden to divide and move.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Dig Until You Find It

Doggie Rule #15 says, "If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it."

I’ve reached my first goal of putting together my own exercise program, my own style of eating and nourishing my spirit. I’ve lost 14 pounds. I’m finding my waist again and my balance and flexibility are noticeably improved. I’m just where I want to be—on my own custom-tailored path to real improvement of health and fitness. My blood pressure is good and going down and my energy level is good. I’m ready to get rid of my books that discuss female fatigue, walking for health, etc., etc.

I’m going to tackle the next big question. Those who don’t care for deep thoughts, look away. I’ll be “digging for what lies buried” until I find it. I’ll be exploring what I want to do for the next year . . . after I go get my hair done.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I’ve been away for a week visiting my daughter and her little dog, Kelly. I’m energized from the change of scene and the great restaurants and harbor lights of Baltimore. We drove through neighborhoods where old stone houses were almost obscured by blossoming pink and white cherry trees and yards were filled with yellow daffodils and blue grape hyacinths. We drove past the ships in the harbor at night with the beautiful lights of city over water. We had Tapas at Pazo’s and shrimp pasta at the Macaroni Grill. We watched “Lost” with hazelnut/chocolate gelato from Italy—Mmmm. Every day Kelly and I walked around a quiet neighborhood where the air was cold but the people friendly. I kept dancing and I lost another pound. I’ve bought a dance/exercise DVD from “Dancing with the Stars” and enjoyed it immensely yesterday, but I still danced free afterwards. Exercise routines are effective but restricting. There’s a freedom of spirit I’ve discovered in moving to the music that’s missing in structured routines. I like doing both. And I like visiting the city and coming home to the country. I’m dreaming of my next visit when it might be warm enough to sit out by the harbor, watching the boats coming in with a cup of “Maggie Moo’s.”

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

I’m starting my walk this morning in sunshine, but the sky overhead is hazy and to the west the clouds are dark. I’m glad to have the sun for now. I feel a little high-spirited today as I see a bunny hopping down a trail. His powder puff tail zigs and zags, then he hops straight up and down and disappears around the bend. I’d like to follow him. But I suspect he has just stopped in another little bit of briar and weed. I want to think I’d have found a little opening at the base of a stump where he’d have disappeared and I could have lain down on the moss and peeked in to see a little family of bunnies painting eggs to get ready for Easter.

Everything is in bud this morning. Near the stream at the base of the white oak there are more little Hepatica buds almost ready to open. All through the open woods Cut-leaved Toothworts hold clusters of young buds. Here and there tiny leaves of Corydalis are coming through the leaves into the sun. Their leaves are similar to Dutchman’s Breeches, which I’ve never seen in these woods. New leaves of wild rose, Autumn Olive, and honeysuckle are starting to appear. And the field grass is just a little greener than yesterday.

Near the path to the stream, I see a Forsythia bush starting to bloom. I wonder who planted it there. There’s no house nearby. A few years ago it looked like someone was planning to build on that property. There were markers where a house might go and some of the land was mowed. Maybe the Forsythia was planted then along with hopes for a home. There was a bridge across the stream that a car could drive over. It has been broken down for a long time. There is moss growing on some of the old bridge lumber that is down in the stream. I feel a little lonely, as if I’m sharing someone’s memories of dreams that never happened.

Now I listen to sounds. A staccato beat nearby is loud—it must be the pileated woodpecker, either searching for food or hammering out a hole in a hollow tree to build a nest. We have a bat house in our yard that has never had bats in it, but last year there was a brand new hole near the top that had been chipped out by a woodpecker to make an entrance. Now I hear the woodpecker calling as it flies away to its next task. Another series of poundings off in the distance comes from hammers--people at work building something. They are too busy to be concerned with us here in these woods. As I walk further I hear various songs from birds I can’t name—then a loud caw of crows catches my attention. I look up to see two of them harassing a hawk. I have seen that before—sometimes the number of crows becomes greater. The schoolyard isn’t the only place that has bullies. I wonder why crows pick on hawks. Getting close to home I hear a variety of bird sounds coming from one spot. There is chirping, then warbling and tweeting and singing. I smile, knowing what I’ll see when I look up in the tree. It’s the mockingbird. I remember almost thirty years ago sitting in a rocking chair with my first baby in my arms on a late spring night with a window open to the soft breeze and the crazy singing of a mockingbird that went on all night long. Night after night the three of us shared the warm breezes. I’m happy to hear it again every spring.

My walk is over for the morning. I pick some daffodils to bring in the house.

“Hepaticas that pleased you so are here again” . . . Edna St. Vincent Millay

I saw hepaticas! I walked to the stream this morning (I’ve found the sound of a rushing mountain stream to be the perfect beginning to a day.) and on the way back I saw the leaves of hepaticas peeking out from the layers of brown oak leaves at the base of a white oak. I gently lifted a couple dry leaves and there were the little buds that will soon be the frosty blue petals of a little flower that takes me back to high school English class where I first learned to love poetry. The flowers are rarely seen in this area—like the fragrant trailing arbutus, they bloom early and are like a treasure to find. A morning walk that started out fresh and clear has turned wonderful. I walk back feeling the soft breeze and thinking I should always wear soft clothes on spring walks and maybe I should let my hair grow long and flowy.
I took my camera on my walk, but I didn’t have it “ready” when three cardinals flew in and out of a bright green Virginia pine in a flurry. What color! I did get a picture of the hepaticas that weren’t blooming yet and a spray of rose hips that had turned dark from last summer with little tiny leaves that weren’t quite out yet.

Ok—update on my “fitness program.” I am still eating the foods that are considered “superfoods” for health. Everything I eat is healthy and delicious. I am never deprived because it always seems to be time for the next meal or snack and I am eating so much flavor that I’m always satisfied with the smaller amounts. My food for today was-- breakfast: small bowl of Kashi heart healthy cereal with fresh strawberries and skim milk and a cup of tea, snack: small apple, lunch: shrimp creole over rice and broccoli and an orange, snack: small handful of walnuts, 3 tiny cubes laughing cow light cheese, a little white zinfandel with a strawberry, dinner: a spinach/romaine salad with cherry tomatoes, roman beans, gouda cheese, olives and onion with two slices of whole grain bread and dessert of vanilla yogurt with fresh strawberries. I drink water when I’m not having tea.
My exercise routine has become a daily walk outside in the morning with the treadmill to fall back on if the weather outside is too bad. Then I dance at least 30 minutes most days. My dancing has become more free as time goes on. Sometimes I sing like a rock star, but only when no one else is home. I randomly add yoga, resistance, pilates and stretches when I want to. Often I incorporate those within my dancing. It has been about four weeks now and I have lost 6 pounds and I feel wonderful. I have noticeably more energy. The dancing is definitely toning my whole midsection. I have two and a half more weeks and then I'll reconsider my routine to see whether I want to change anything. And then there's the reward I promised myself if I stayed with my routine . . .

Saturday, March 24, 2007

It’s officially spring and it feels like spring!! On our deck the sun is shining, birds are singing and Carl the cat is sleeping under the table. I have a t-shirt on and I’m up to my elbow in potting soil. I have lavender, thyme, marjoram and alyssum to plant in flats. I also have 6 starts of rosemary that rooted in water on my windowsill. I am doing one of the things I love most—growing plants. As I’m sprinkling tiny seeds of lavender over dark, rich, potting soil, I’m dreaming of Provence where lavender fields bloom. I think it must be close to heaven to be in the midst of so much fragrance. Knowing, though, that if I chose to fly to Provence, I’d be looking back at my home with little heartstring tugs when our car pulled away to leave for the airport, I don’t know if I’ll ever go. I’m going to plant my own little lavender field right here. Last fall my husband tilled up a square in the garden for me. I’ll move some plants I already have there and I’ll root cuttings to make more. If these tiny seeds grow, I’ll have even more. I’ll dry lavender to put between sheets in the linen closet and in sachets for my drawers. I’ll make lavender bath salts, lavender water, lavender wands and, occasionally on laundry day, I’ll lay a white cotton gown over the bushes to dry and absorb the fragrance. For today my planting is done and Carl and I will sit and watch the birds for a while in the sun. Maybe I’ll plant a little tiny catnip patch for him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Moja Mama

It is the first day of spring! And I am having a cup of tea. Its sweet hot rich flavor flows perfectly over the curved lip of my new cup. I may never drink tea in a straight-sided mug again. My cup has a potbelly curve and smooth glaze that makes it as wonderful to hold, warm, in my two hands as it is to drink from. I look at the dark green geometric design that borders the clusters of pale currants that were handpainted by an artist in the country that was home to my Mama and I think about her and all the tea that we shared together. We had chamomile tea when we were sick and linden tea when we could get it. We didn’t have a linden tree but I heard stories about gathering of linden blossoms from her. Mama didn’t care for peppermint but almost anything else could become tea. She added hot water to canned strawberry juice for a delicious strawberry tea. Boiling water over a couple lemon drops provided instant lemon tea. She used loose tea leaves in a small blue teapot to make a concentrate by adding boiling water and letting it steep. Then a small amount of that with fresh boiling water provided many cups of tea. Teabags would have seemed silly to her. There was always a fresh kuchen to have with tea and flowers on the table. I grow chamomile now and have a linden tree that I harvest the flowers from. I grow peppermint and lemon verbena to dry and I have her blue teapot. Sometimes I use fresh tea leaves and make a concentrate in it. Sometimes I have fresh flowers on my table. Right now I am just having a perfect cup of tea to savor memories with.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The unexpected snow has given me more thinking time. Not wanting to risk a re-injury of my wrist, I am staying in for a couple days while enjoying the beauty from inside. A pine outside my window looks like a Christmas card with bright red cardinals within its snow-covered branches. I did go out a couple days ago to a Polish pottery sale with my family. Afterwards we had a wonderful lunch at an Irish pub with all the atmosphere of a jolly St. Patrick’s Day celebration. My shepherd’s pie was wonderful—the saucy hamburger with corn had a flavor of thyme in the most delicious gravy ever and was topped with a thick layer of mashed potatoes and melted cheese. Mmmmmm—I could dream about it. Now I have a Polish plate that I’ve filled with a spinach salad that contains cherry tomatoes, hearts of romaine, raw mushrooms, roman beans, venison and slices of smoked gouda. It’s dressed lightly with just a little olive oil. With all the flavors in it, it doesn’t need anything else. I have whole grain bread and water with it. With all the flavors in my meals, I’ve lost 5 pounds so far. It’s not a lot, but I’m not dieting. I’m eating wonderfully. Tomorrow will be one of my seafood days. All the movements of intense dancing seem to be whittling away my waist. Granted it’s just a little and no one else can see it, but I am definitely toning up my midsection. I’ll be ready for hip-hop soon. When the snow melts away I’ll be back outside and when my cast is off my wrist, I’ll be gardening. I will need a bigger herb garden this year for my cooking and more tomatoes for canning.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Puppy Rule #3: “Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.”

I was standing out on the deck this morning feeling the wind on my face. I could hear it in the trees before I could feel it. I remember what an old sailor said to me last summer. “If you want to learn to sail, you have to learn to feel which direction the wind is coming from all the time.” Today it’s coming from the North. I think about all the land the wind has passed over before it came to mine—Canadian pine and moose, then cities and flatlands and highways and rivers. It’s bringing a change to us. Our brief few days of spring temperatures are being chased away today by the north wind. I took a walk early this morning while it was still warm in the back fields and woods down to a cold stream. Some crows warned everything else that I was invading their territory. A hawk called out as it sailed overhead and settled in a tall tree. I scared out a rabbit and it scared me. I walked on carpets of moss and pine needle. I explored little trails made by deer, probably, and paths cleared by my husband. When I finally returned home I cut more pussy willow and took a picture of the purple crocus that just opened up today. Then I went back out just to feel the wind.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Tonight I hear the spring peepers again! The return of spring reminds me the earth doesn’t care what changes I’m making in my life and whether I’ve gained or lost weight or that I’m getting older or that my wrist has a little break in it. The crocuses and snowdrops are blooming. The buds on the white lilac are getting full and the sun is higher in the sky. A bluebird was on our wild cherry yesterday and the geese are heard often now. I sat in the warm sun for a long time after breakfast today. This is the first spring in a long time that I have the luxury of spending so much time outside and I don’t take it for granted. Tomorrow, with some help, our grapes will be pruned. I’ll buy seeds and start some under lights inside. I’ll plan this year’s garden and the little corner where I’ll have a tiny “lavender field.” It’s all I can do while my wrist heals—that and keep up the exercise and good eating. Life is happening and I am ecstatic!

Monday, March 12, 2007

The hand injury turns out to involve a bit of a break in my wrist bone. Darn--a cast on my right hand limits my activities even more than the brace did. This is for three weeks. Ok. What would a healthy little dog do in my situation. Tomorrow the weather is forecast to be in the low 70's. Rule no. 9 says, "On warm days, stop to lie on your back in the grass." Yes!! I can do that with a cast on my wrist! Lunch tomorrow will be a picnic basket of herring with sour cream, whole grain bread, broccoli salad, and hot tea with an almond cookie. After lunch I will lie in the grass with nothing to read or write.

Friday, March 9, 2007

I received an email today with some of the best advice I've seen. I don't know who wrote it, but it was a list of what you would learn if a dog were your teacher. I will most likely quote from it constantly. Today I jumped right to the middle of the list when I exercised: "When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body." I turned on Upop on xm and danced with the joy of a puppy. I think I lost 15 pounds in that 40 minutes and I feel awesome.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

I felt spring Saturday morning. I stepped outside and the sun was warm against the logs of our house. I made a cup of tea and pulled up a chair on the sheltered side of our home because the wind was still somewhat chilly. I sat there just vegging in the sun and dreamily watching birds at the feeders for a long while, until a finch sideswiped a wire holding up the feeder. Tiny feathers flew but the little finch just veered from its path a little and kept going. I found myself laughing the way you do when someone falls and you know you shouldn't but it just comes out anyway. My dreamy spell broken, I started forming plans to prune the grapes, clip some pussy willow to bring in and some forsythia to force. I found clippers and went back to the pussy willow. It was soft and beautiful and I brought in some twigs of it to hold for Easter. When I went back out the clouds had covered the sun, the wind was stronger and spring had disappeared.

It was enough to inspire me, however. I know it will be back. The next day I bundled up and walked to the back woods through fields that still hold remnants of the last snow. I dreamed of the violets and pussytoes that will soon carpet a path in a warm, fragrant field and will be followed by honeysuckle and wild rose. Comforted by my walk and the fresh smell of pine and cedar, I came back home with a new determination to be strong and healthy to greet spring and summer.

My exercise and food plans are in place today. It is windy and cold outside so I walked on the treadmill for 25 minutes while the Barefoot Contessa cooked on TV. Then I crunched for perfect abs and felt so strong that I ended with a half hour of free-style dancing to 60’s music.

I am eating fish twice a week, having two entirely meatless days a week and no more than one day of beef or pork. I am filling myself with green and orange food and I drink water constantly from a green glass goblet. Oatmeal was my breakfast today, lunch was spinach/mushroom frittata and dinner was chicken cacciatore. My snacks were yogurt, a fruit smoothie, and a pear. When I force myself to go to the store I will stock up on blueberries, almonds and whole grains. Spring will be back again in a few days.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

“Focus plus daily improvement plus time equals genius” – Sharma

When I read that quote, I realized why I haven’t attained genius status yet. I haven’t applied all three to one goal – ever. What should I apply that formula to??? Maybe my fitness program. If I focus totally when I exercise and I feel a little improvement every day and I continue it for a month, I’ll be on the road to greatness in that area. We’ll see. I did end up weighing myself. Mistake. But I wasn’t depressed long. I’ll be a different person in less than a month. And today was another good day. I focused well on my dance routine, I added pretty good arm movements (daily improvement) and added one more day to my program. And I heard geese fly overhead.

Monday, February 26, 2007

My fitness program is coming together. I like my dance routine—a tape that includes Latin dance moves and ballet. It was my second time to follow these exercises and I find a bit of improvement in my ability to follow the foot movements—my arms are still flailing a bit erratically—I’ll figure that part out later. A friend of mine told me she doesn’t do the exercise tapes because it’s too hard to learn the steps. Of course, I immediately decided I would not stop until I COULD do them—my pride again. So—I’m doing my dance routine every morning. I’m going to fit in the treadmill or a walk outside every day. Just before bed, I’ll be doing “Yoga for Chickens.”

So today I danced. I felt good afterwards—all invigorated and alive. I loved it. I came up and took a shower. Then I had a gourmet lunch of shrimp linguini, spinach salad, sugar snap peas and large red grapes with a small glass of wine and Italian music in the background.

This is an experiment in following a “Fine Living/spa” lifestyle for a month to see what comes from it. I hope to lose weight and trim up, but my greater goal is just to feel wonderful and healthy. I’m not weighing myself, I’m not counting calories or depriving myself of good food and I’m not following any diet. I’m doing what I love and I’m going to love everything I do. This will be a month of bliss and pampering. It officially started today.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

"Pride cometh before the fall"

I was having a little feelings-hurt moment because I was teased about staying in just because there was a little snow out there. I grabbed my veggie scraps, slipped on my treadless Birkenstocks and headed out to the compost pile with annoyance, when, "Whiz, plop!" the veggies flew in one direction and I flew in the other-- right on the ice. Well I'm 61. I've heard all the old stories about the "broken hip" when you become "elderly." So I picked myself up and carefully checked out all my parts. It seemed the only injury was to my wrist. A large bump started forming. That was a week ago. No more knitting, no more chopping and slicing for my gourmet-cooking hobby, nothing that took both hands--and it was my RIGHT hand. At first it was nice--I put my feet up and read and watched movies and my husband brought me tea. But I got restless and. . . my first blog was born. As soon as I could use the computer with both hands again, I called my daughter and, with her help, I am online.

I'm not sure yet what I'll be writing. I've started a fitness routine (without arm exercises at the moment) and will be developing it as I go. I love to cook, knit, and garden. I'm currently taking some time off from my career as a Chemistry teacher and never know what I might be doing next. I'm always reinventing myself and might be doing some of that right here. My adventure begins.