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.