Relax, Let Go, There’s Goodness…

Relax, Let Go, There's Goodness...

How do you let go of stress? Do you walk, run, indulge in a hobby?

I’m a gardener, but I do love autumn, appreciate the end of things, the respite. I could say I just need a break, but because of the many things & duties we take on in our lives, it’s good to anticipate some letting go, to be creative with how we use that freed up time.

LOOK TO THE SEASONS

After our wild fertile spring blasts her seeds, creates weeding headaches, I truly don’t mind a halt to that growth, to the gradual letting go as the earth grows cold and the sun’s angle changes. Autumn is when flowers stand out against the returned vigor of green grass, the shouting changing colors of the trees. Being outside on a warm day becomes a gift. I soak up the sun, become even more aware of the beauty of the earth, as I rake, pick the last flowers in the garden, put away flowerpots. Because I am preparing my garden and myself for the onslaught of winter. As folks like to say, IT’S ALL GOOD. But it is major change.

CHANGE: SOMETHING WE CAN’T ESCAPE 

The cycle of the seasons affects many things in our lives: school ends in one season, begins in another. Jobs and job responsibilities cycle throughout the year. Our very existence can change from the height of abundance to the depth of loss. But change is inevitable, and in these past seasons dealing with COVID, loss and gain have been the primary struggle. So are you okay? Have you lost anyone? 

SOME SIMPLE PHILOSOPHY 

To stay healthy in mind and body, we all have to try to avoid the stresses related to expected and unexpected changes–even those as basic and expected as the change of seasons.  Jane McKeon, of Better Homes and Gardens, wrote in one of her gardening articlesWISDOM: Frost reminds us that we’re not in charge after all.  How do we let go? Laugh at our failures, but don’t repeat them…Observe. Learn. Let go.

On one level, Jane is talking about gardening, but on another her words mean much more. We all experience life changes that affect our physical and spiritual health. Sometimes we are happy for these changes, other times we pray that they never happened or that they will end. In the latter case, we might clench our teeth, tense up our body muscles, even lash out at those around us, the people we love. Or…we can let go. It’s challenging, but there are times that call for  examining or admitting our struggles and our failures, discovering what might have contributed to them, trying not to repeat them. Bottom line, we are allowing a change in our own personal seasons. 

FINAL THOUGHTS 

There will be frost—for we are not in charge. But we can live happier, better lives if we find something about change that strengthens us. A broken bone, a pulled tendon, painful and inconvenient, is not life threatening. It can create a lasting appreciation for that body part, and for the people who do the littlest thing to help us weather that cycle.

On a different note, it’s totally challenging to find anything good in a job loss. That’s a change that requires strength, positive thinking, the belief that attitude is everything. That kind of stress can hurt family relations, ruin a person’s health. In times of struggle, we have to let go, accept the help of others while we are doing everything we can to help ourselves: observing, learning, planting those new seeds. Then we will weather such a season–have hope for new growth; it’s a process we perfect one day, one week, one year at a time. 

Jane McKeon may have intended her words just for gardening, but they are words of true wisdom. For spiritual and physical health, it’s best to accept the flow of the seasons in life, to weather the springs and the autumns. Then you’ll be ready for the winters when they come. Because after frost and snow, spring always returns.

When Will All the Leaves Fall   Primitive art by Debbie Criswell

Relax, Let Go, There's Goodness...

A Gardener’s Beginnings: Another Chapter In My Story

A Gardener's Beginnings: Another Chapter In My Story

Some gardeners would say that a most enduring gift to offer a loved one would be a bouquet of blooms from their own patch of earth–red roses for passion, lilies for purity of heart, or some new cultivar that amazes with its scent and beauty.

But I say: what about dandelions? What about those crumpled bouquets of stringy stems and crushed flower? They are fervent, perfumed with a child’s love and devotion. They stretch across the years, becoming an eternal gift. But they could also be a gardener’s beginnings.

MY STORY

For me, it was the peony, those perfumed beauties bursting out in spring, to be picked and brought to my mother, who, to support her three children, because my father died early on, was typing insurance policies in our dining room.

Sometimes, she would take a break, and together we would sit on the front porch steps, drinking in the beauty of the eight bushes that lined our front walk. Spring was the perfume, the color–fuchsia, rose, white, their large yellow centers, truly cabbages of color that became pendulous in spring rains, heads drooping like my head on my mother’s shoulder. The best part? Getting a scissors and bringing them inside to fill jelly glasses, transforming our simple home with their color and scent.

BUT THIS, MY FIRST GARDEN

It happened when I was ten. My two generous aunts had this everlasting garden with stepping stones! They talked a language of bearded iris, delphinium, coreopsis, and rose scale. At our house, I watched the green grass turn brown, the bridal wreath bloom off, leaving only ragged masses of dusty leaves, while whiz, bang, I could hear my mother’s typewriter through the open, summer window.

But my mother listened to me, and with some money from her budget, we bought marigolds and petunias. She showed me how to plant them in a patch of soil by our gravel driveway–my first garden! She found time to help me pot some scarlet geraniums for the front porch, and she showed me how to hook up the sprinkler and water the lawn. IT WAS A START!

Then, as summer faded, magic happened. I gave her a bouquet of spicy marigolds, which we carefully arranged in my grandmother’s cut glass powder dish. (See the photo above, as I have recreated this moment.) A lovely present, but not as lovely as the look in her eyes when I presented them.

I WAS A GARDENER NOW…

I was like my generous aunts who came up the front walk on a chilly night heralding the arrival of autumn, bearing sheaves of chrysanthemums expertly cut and wrapped in waxed paper to protect their well-ironed dresses. Mom and I exclaimed over the amber ones, the maroon ones, the bright, fiery yellow ones. My brothers moaned. Autumn to them was heavy storm windows that had to be hung, the window washing that went with that chore, and expanses of leaf-covered grass.

For me, I was beginning to appreciate this part of a gardener’s cycle–the tidying up, the banking of the peony bushes with dried leaves, the getting ready for winter. It all had a purpose and finality that I didn’t mind–it held a promise.

That first winter, after I became a gardener, I would gaze at the snow-encrusted world, imagining an eventual thaw, the peonies parading the front walk–the re-creation. The spirit of gardening had taken hold of me, and I learned in time that it’s a firm hold, one you give yourself to over and over.

In my youth, the promise lived in the simple gifts I could give my mother. Yes, the flowers sang out to us, called to us with their colors and perfume, solidifying even more our love, now cultivated by our very living.

THE MOVE…

THE MOVE...

the garden…

The sense of it, the experience of it started with “A Haunted House” by Virginia Woolf. Parts of it read: 

But they had found it in the drawing room. Not that one could ever see them. The window panes reflected apples, reflected roses; all the leaves were green in the glass. If they moved in the drawing room, the apple only turned its yellow side. Yet, the moment after, if the door was opened, spread about the floor, hung upon

the walls, pendant from the ceiling—what? My hands were empty. The shadow of a thrush crossed the carpet; from the deepest well of silence the wood pigeon drew its bubble of sound. “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat softly.

A moment later the light had faded. Out in the garden then? But the trees spun darkness for a wandering beam of sun. The wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass.

Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall, and, meeting, stain the faces bent…

AND I FOUND MYSELF…going to that place whenever I read A Haunted House, or thought about those roses and apples. That was the first lighting of my vision.

FROM VIRGINIA WOOLF TO…

The second was so opposite in its source! Yet I cannot remember the exact magazine, but it was either Country Home or Better Homes and Gardens. For when you fall in love with your own rooms, with your roses and apples, the sunlight on your carpet, the soft beating of safety when the sun departs and the moon glows in your window—a-ha, there are others who feel the same way about their homes. And they were reading the same magazines.

And so, this woman had a house in California. I do wish I’d saved the photographs. But in a major living area with tables and candles, with chairs and tea cups, she could open large doors of glass and smell the roses growing just beyond, in jardinières or window boxes, I don’t remember. And she was gracious and giddy about the bees that hummed just there, beyond the openness of her home’s windows and doors.

And I thought that lovely. I thought that so like Virginia Woolf, the image of crossing from the wooden floor planks of a house into the stones of the garden—the roses and sunlight bending inward, the bees behaving, possibly humming with the music that wafted outwards from a radio, a stereo.

Did I have that vision in my mind when, my patient husband, my patient brother and the real estate agent, took me from one place to another. Until. Until—there it was.

The day was cloudy, and the rooms smaller, but there was a large glass window and a door that opened to the garden, to the roses I would plant, the bees that I would summon, and the sunshine of southern California. And Virginia Woolf, the woman in the magazine, they would have approved.

But the trees did spin darkness for a wandering beam of sun. Though “Safe, safe, safe,” the pulse of the house beat gladly. “The Treasure yours.” And again, the wind falls, the rain slides silver down the glass. Wild beams of moonlight cross both floor and wall.

There were moon beams and sun beams to warm the floor, the home, this harbor, this home. There was laughter and weeping, kisses and warm embraces—and music, downstairs and flowing up the stairs, all throughout and lingering. What remains of us—only worn and warmed places and those spirits, and all those words, so many words that weave us together.  

DEPARTURE, SWEET SORROW….

But now we depart California, bid this home goodbye, we eager to love another, a treasure of solid walls lightened by sunlight, brightened by roses, by flowers that bend to us in summer, and blessed by all those who have ever sheltered there and now will shelter us.

Leaving has its pain, but—as Joan Didion, who was born in California but now lives in New York City, wrote: A place belongs forever to whoever claims it hardest…remembers it most obsessively, loves it so radically that it remakes his image…

Goodbye California, I will miss you, always. Hello, Chicago. We return to the neighborhood where we were both born and raised. We will greet our son and future daughter-in-law who now live just a few Chicago blocks from us. And the photo above—this is my new garden, and there is that door that opens to it, that pulls the inside out and the sunshine in. And there is some sunny window where I will sit and write…

P.S. So now we wait for the machinations of business, for things like escrow. What a funny word! And for a while we will be staying in Nevada with family. I hope to keep posting every Sunday, as living is change and change can make for interesting writing. Be “safe, safe, safe”—– Beth

Goodbye…

Saving Our Country’s Backyard

Saving Our Country's Backyard

Scenario ONE:

You have worked for over five years to make your backyard a place of enjoyment for your family. You have planted trees, shrubs and flowers, raked and weeded, spent money to fight disease in one of your trees and installed hardscape for more enjoyment of this outdoor space. Then one day a person from the government comes to your door and drops off a sign. Your backyard is now government property and has actually been purchased by a large corporation. The sign with their name will now hang on your fence and the use of your backyard is open to change.

Scenario TWO:

You live in an apartment, condo or public housing and in order to enjoy the outdoors you walk to a public park, a lakeshore or some open space. And wherever you live, when planning a vacation you consider a national park like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon or Glacier National Park. But now you learn that the government has changed the use of public lands. Oil drilling will now be taking place at Yosemite National Park and off the ocean shore by Santa Barbara, California.

THIS IS NOT ALL SOME HORROR MOVIE

A crazy movie-maker’s nightmare? The first scenario maybe. The second–a distinct possibility under this new administration. AND I wrote the first scenario to underline that our national parks truly ARE the playgrounds and backyards of the citizens of these United States.

FAMILY FUN IN AMERICA  

Not all families can fly to Europe or some exotic island. But they can climb into the family car and drive to a national park or fly to a central location, rent a car and again drive, drive, drive. That’s what we did in 1988. What did we see with our two daughters? The Continental Divide; Mesa Verde; the north rim of the Grand Canyon; The Four Corners; Monument Valley and Brice, Zion and Arches National Parks. My husband is one amazing planner.

When we lived in Iowa, we drove west through the Badlands to Mount Rushmore, the Crazy Horse Monument and then on to Mammouth National Park. But all of these amazing preserved lands that make America the land of free space for families to enjoy are now in jeopardy. Why?

WHAT IS THE FUTURE FOR SUCH TRIPS??

When our current president was campaigning, he promised to “streamline the permitting process for all energy projects.” That could mean ignoring environmental protection laws or changing them to “encourage the production of [fossil fuel] resources by opening onshore and offshore leasing on federal lands and waters.” That means “open season” for oil and gas drilling on public lands.

A recent article in NEWSWEEK reported that Americans see our National Parks as a gift of high value. A report from Harvard’s Kennedy School this year found that 80% of Americans would agree to pay higher taxes to keep the National Parks—and attacking them directly would be politically unwise for any government rep seeking a future term.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

WHO MIGHT FIGHT FOR OUR NATIONAL PARKS??

Who is currently in charge? Who could you write to? Republican Congressman Ryan Zinke of Whitefish, Montana is now serving as the 52nd Secretary of the Interior. He has said that no president in his lifetime has been “more for us” than the current one. WE WILL SEE. Click here for their website.

So what does this guy do? The Secretary of the Interior is in charge of overseeing the National Park Service, as well as overseeing all federal lands managed by the Bureau of Land Management, and presiding over the U.S. Geological Survey, a massive scientific research agency which studies America’s natural resources and anything that threatens them—like climate change, which you know who says is a hoax perpetrated by “the Chinese.” Read more here.

THE ANTIQUITIES ACT: REMEMBER THEODORE ROOSEVELT?

We also need to worry about the future of the Antiquities Act of 1906, which permits presidents to create national monuments on federal lands, so that they must be preserved indefinitely. President Obama used the Antiquities Act during his tenure to create 23 new national monuments, including a massive marine monument off the coast of Hawaii, and an expanse of wild land in north-central Maine. Republican presidents almost never use the Act. And under this president, things could get worse.

There is some good news. Dwight Pitcaithley, the former chief historian to the National Park Service says: “For every action there’s a reaction. This president doesn’t have carte blanche. I think if he goes too far, there will be a pushback by the public, and that will be felt in the next election.” Still, Pitcaithley sees no wins for the environment anytime soon. And he is worried.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WRITE YOUR SENATORS, FIGHT FOR OUR BACKYARDS

Stay alert these next few years. Plan your vacations to our national parks. (We are going to Yosemite in a few weeks.) Enjoy the beauty and bounty of this land. If you do and you want to fight for it, use the web, write to your congressman and congresswomen. Make sure your voice is heard. And thanks for reading.

Saving Our Country's Backyard

The sun was low in the sky at Arches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photos courtesy of John Havey

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Living in Southern California provides many positives: a major one, weather. The Golden State truly provides days and days of sunshine which can lift the spirits and certainly makes nature-deficit disorder a rarity. (Coined by Richard Louv, nature-deficit disorder refers to people of all ages who are disconnected from nature, spending inordinate amounts of time indoors.) But in most climates, we are lured outdoors to walk or participate in sports. Even in cold climates nature provides ice skating and skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.

SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER or SAD

Variety is the spice of life and that is also true for weather. People begin to feel depressed if the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time. I’ve written about that too–in a post about Seasonal Affect Disorder. Those of you living in temperate climates are familiar with this condition: SAD is diagnosed when a patient experiences depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season; and it generally applies to people dealing with long winters where sunlight is rare and the body begins to suffer–not only from outdoor activities being curbed but also from the physical affect that light has on the body. Because there is a definite relationship between light sources to the body and the production of serotonin which affects our moods.

FOUR SEASONS ARE THE BEST!

But though sunlight can lift the spirits, a person’s memory bank of weather also plays a part–we love rainy days and snow days and autumn days. A temperate climate allows for FOUR SEASONS that have definite borders. When autumn approaches, leaves change color and drop from the trees, grass begins to form deep roots instead of height, the air gets cooler and the days shorter. Fall requires different clothing and there is nothing better than a brisk walk in brisk fall air. It has its own perfume, its own way of touching the skin.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DOES NOT HAVE FOUR SEASONS. IS THAT GOOD?

In Southern California the shift into fall is often imperceptible. Yes, the days get shorter, some of the trees drop their leaves, but much of the vegetation keeps on flowering so that there is not a definitive change. I miss that. Then suddenly it is Christmas and folks, like those in the midwest where I lived most of my life, are driving cars with an evergreen tied to the top. But it takes some adjusting to drape Italian lights in foliage that is still bursting with greenery. Winter here is our rainy season. The nights do get colder and the rose bushes and hydrangeas get cut back. But there’s no snow. You can travel to northern parts of California to ski, but last year our snow depth in the mountains was very low. This year it is greatly improved.

WOW, SPRING IS COMING AND I ENVY YOU IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES!

Here’s my point: many of you are about to or just now experiencing the beginning of spring. I envy you. The air begins to warm and you shed your jacket by 11:00 am. The trees begin to flower–redbuds, forsythia, then magnolia and fruit trees. Tulips and daffodils push up from the earth and the days get longer. You find yourself pulled from your home where people’s voices once again blend with birdsong and the buzz of tires on the street. It’s truly a rebirth and often produces a smile from a stranger. Because we all feel it–new life, green grass, bluer skies.

WOULD YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR FOUR SEASONS???

Nostalgia for weather accentuates how grateful I am for nature and all that it provides us. So when spring begins and like a wave of blessing speeds across our country warming the winds and pulling people outside–consider: we need to protect the seasons, make sure that we don’t lose them, honor all the memories we have of spring, summer, winter and fall.

PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE EPA! FIGHT FOR YOUR SEASONS

So forgive me for this final thought, but if the Evironmental Protection Agency is defunded the way the current government is talking about–the entire country might eventually have the desert-like climate that is Southern California. No more leaf-peepers in New England; no more skiing in Colorado; no more ice-fishing in Minnesota. This is no joke. We must fight for the four season. Fight for clean air. AND ESPECIALLY, fight for clean water. No human being can survive without water–lots of it. To learn more go here. (Five Reasons to Like the Environmental Protection Agency)

I love talking about the seasons and how in some climates they are SO different. Which season is your favorite? Whichever you choose, I hope you don’t lose it. Help protect our earth. Help save our seasons or you might become nostalgic for weather you will never see again. Help fight for the EPA.

Photo source: Pinterest

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Will You Become Nostalgic for Weather?

Living in Southern California provides many positives: a major one, weather. The Golden State truly provides days and days of sunshine which can lift the spirits and certainly makes nature-deficit disorder a rarity. (Coined by Richard Louv, nature-deficit disorder refers to people of all ages who are disconnected from nature, spending inordinate amounts of time indoors.) But in most climates, we are lured outdoors to walk or participate in sports. Even in cold climates nature provides ice skating and skiing, snowshoeing and sledding.

SEASONAL AFFECT DISORDER or SAD

Variety is the spice of life and that is also true for weather. People begin to feel depressed if the sun doesn’t shine for days at a time. I’ve written about that too–in a post about Seasonal Affect Disorder. Those of you living in temperate climates are familiar with this condition: SAD is diagnosed when a patient experiences depression and other symptoms for at least two consecutive years during the same season; and it generally applies to people dealing with long winters where sunlight is rare and the body begins to suffer–not only from outdoor activities being curbed but also from the physical affect that light has on the body. Because there is a definite relationship between light sources to the body and the production of serotonin which affects our moods.

FOUR SEASONS ARE THE BEST!

But though sunlight can lift the spirits, a person’s memory bank of weather also plays a part–we love rainy days and snow days and autumn days. A temperate climate allows for FOUR SEASONS that have definite borders. When autumn approaches, leaves change color and drop from the trees, grass begins to form deep roots instead of height, the air gets cooler and the days shorter. Fall requires different clothing and there is nothing better than a brisk walk in brisk fall air. It has its own perfume, its own way of touching the skin.

SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA DOES NOT HAVE FOUR SEASONS. IS THAT GOOD?

In Southern California the shift into fall is often imperceptible. Yes, the days get shorter, some of the trees drop their leaves, but much of the vegetation keeps on flowering so that there is not a definitive change. I miss that. Then suddenly it is Christmas and folks, like those in the midwest where I lived most of my life, are driving cars with an evergreen tied to the top. But it takes some adjusting to drape Italian lights in foliage that is still bursting with greenery. Winter here is our rainy season. The nights do get colder and the rose bushes and hydrangeas get cut back. But there’s no snow. You can travel to northern parts of California to ski, but last year our snow depth in the mountains was very low. This year it is greatly improved.

WOW, SPRING IS COMING AND I ENVY YOU IN TEMPERATE CLIMATES!

Here’s my point: many of you are about to or just now experiencing the beginning of spring. I envy you. The air begins to warm and you shed your jacket by 11:00 am. The trees begin to flower–redbuds, forsythia, then magnolia and fruit trees. Tulips and daffodils push up from the earth and the days get longer. You find yourself pulled from your home where people’s voices once again blend with birdsong and the buzz of tires on the street. It’s truly a rebirth and often produces a smile from a stranger. Because we all feel it–new life, green grass, bluer skies.

WOULD YOU WANT TO LOSE YOUR FOUR SEASONS???

Nostalgia for weather accentuates how grateful I am for nature and all that it provides us. So when spring begins and like a wave of blessing speeds across our country warming the winds and pulling people outside–consider: we need to protect the seasons, make sure that we don’t lose them, honor all the memories we have of spring, summer, winter and fall.

PLEASE FIGHT FOR THE EPA! FIGHT FOR YOUR SEASONS

So forgive me for this final thought, but if the Evironmental Protection Agency is defunded the way the current government is talking about–the entire country might eventually have the desert-like climate that is Southern California. No more leaf-peepers in New England; no more skiing in Colorado; no more ice-fishing in Minnesota. This is no joke. We must fight for the four season. Fight for clean air. AND ESPECIALLY, fight for clean water. No human being can survive without water–lots of it. To learn more go here. (Five Reasons to Like the Environmental Protection Agency)

I love talking about the seasons and how in some climates they are SO different. Which season is your favorite? Whichever you choose, I hope you don’t lose it. Help protect our earth. Help save our seasons or you might become nostalgic for weather you will never see again. Help fight for the EPA.

 Photo source: Pinterest

We Are Not in Charge, But We Can Make a Difference

We Are Not in Charge, But We Can Make a Difference

I read newspapers and magazines and online articles. I’m constantly soaking up information and feel fortunate that I have the time to educate myself, to evaluate what I read and how I feel about what is happening in the world. Words are powerful. But it’s absolutely true: a picture is worth a thousand words. 

THOSE THOUSAND WORDS

Recently, I saw the above photo–two fathers carrying their infants in their arms. Compelling, love abounding in this TIME MAGAZINE photograph, despite the rubble, the destroyed street somewhere in Aleppo in Syria. The photo pulls me in. Photos do that. But after reading and looking, I turned the page. I could do that. I could look away. But this particular photo stayed with me. So I am writing about it–the thoughts it engenders.

ONE DAY YOU’RE UP, THE NEXT DAY YOU’RE DOWN

Autumn is coming, winter is coming. Here in the United States streets are not bombed into rubble, but there are floods and tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes that destroy.

I love living on this earth, but part of being here means struggle–for some it is all consuming, for others they are hardly touched. For some of you reading this right now: a loved one is ill, a friend recently died, an adult child is out of work or—-you just got a huge raise, purchased tickets to tour the world, bought a boat. I don’t know–these are random thoughts. But life is random. Like the song says, one day you’re up and the next day you’re down.

FAITH, LOVE, HOPE

So what are the constants: the earth turning on its axis, the change in seasons, birth, death, aging. They are always with us. AND SO IS WISDOM–the thoughts and ideas that are ours and others reaching out and providing us with BELIEF in what we can do, LOVE for what we have done and HOPE in the days to come.

I am certain, that if the fathers in the photo were asked what we could do to help them, outside of insuring peace in that warring country, they would have asked for food. Maybe they would have gone beyond that and asked for a small plot of land outside the terror of the bombs, a place to plant for food and maybe create a shelter so that they could maintain their families away from the chaos. That’s whittling down life to the bare essentials. That’s putting the seed in the ground to discover hope for the future. But that is what it means to be human.

So I come back again to the change of seasons, to the coming of autumn and winter–which ironically will not touch me as much as it did when I lived in the Midwest. Then I enjoyed putting the garden to bed, making sure the outside spigots wouldn’t freeze and that I had shovels for the snow and good tires on my car. Now I pray for winter rains in the drought that is California. But nature always gives you something. So we humans evaluate and try to prepare.

WISDOM: Frost reminds us that we’re not in charge, after all.  How do we let go?  Laugh at our failures, but don’t repeat them…Observe. Learn. Let go.

These are the words of Jane McKeon and she is writing about gardening, but her words mean more. We all experience life changes that affect our physical and spiritual health. Sometimes we are happy for these changes, other times we pray that they will soon end. In the latter case we can clench our teeth, let our back muscles grip in pain, lash out at those around us, or we can let go. It’s challenging, but such times call for examining our failures, discovering what might have contributed to them, and trying not to repeat them.

There will be frost—we are not in charge. And snow and drought and tornadoes etc. But we can live happier, better lives if we find something about change that strengthens us. A broken arm, painful and inconvenient, is not life threatening. It can create a lasting appreciation for that body part, and for the people who do the littlest thing to help us weather that cycle. Just as the relationships formed with strangers during a crisis changes how people feel about those very strangers.

On a different note, it’s totally challenging to find anything good in a job loss. That’s a change that requires we all remember: attitude is everything and stress can tear a family apart or ruin a person’s health. In such a time of struggle, for our own health and the health of our families, we have to let go and let others help us. And of course we have to help ourselves: observe, learn, not repeat our failures. That’s how we will weather such a season. It’s a cumulative process, one we will get better at as we live.

THERE WILL BE FROST AND SORROW AND JOY  

Jane’s words are words of wisdom. For your own spiritual and physical health, accept the flow of the seasons in your life. Weather the springs and autumns and you’ll be ready for the winters when they come. Let Go, Let God –or whatever god or spiritual practice you believe in. After frost and snow comes spring. And when you can: be grateful and reach out to others. Little by little we can draw closer to one another. We can make a difference.

Photo Credit: www.haaretz.com Photo taken by Ameer Alhalbi AFP/Getty Images

How to Catch a Critter, or Live with Them

How to Catch a Critter, or Live with Them

My husband says a raccoon is eating through our roof shingles.

Originally published under the title: Tales of Insomnia, Darwin, and Liquid Fence in the Des Moines Register 2007

In 1997, we moved from Chicago to Des Moines, Iowa.  We were excited about the deck and our many oak trees.  We got into the habit of opening our windows to the night air and falling asleep to the sounds of the woods—the chirps of crickets, the hum of insect mandibles chewing.  Ah the country, a little bit of heaven.

Think again.  One night I was awakened by a piercing screech so intense I couldn’t sleep.  I knew it would keep up until the owl had killed its prey or the neighbor’s cat could free itself from the local fox.  Tooth and claw, the survival of the fittest, was alive and functioning just beyond my fence.  But the point was I had a fence.  I had my territory and they had theirs and we could just keep it that way.

Then my neighbors explained to me that the reason my hosta plants had morphed into razor-edged sticks was something called browsing—a word that meant the deer were enjoying a salad.  This was all so new we spent the evening watching deer from my son’s treefort.  We counted the points on the male’s rack and called the folks back in Chicago bragging about our amazing wildlife.

Then there was the large doe finishing off my impatiens.  I clapped my hands, shouted, picked up a stone and lobbed it at her.  Inner-city deer.  She kept on chewing.

The mythology of dealing with deer bloomed.  “Put out bars of soap.  Scatter human hair.  Let your son relieve himself on your plants.”  Whatever!!!

The gardening center had shelves of products.  I read the labels.  Apply frequently; apply when it’s not going to rain; apply and cover each frond of the plant!  I had about 90 hostas.  And this stuff wasn’t cheap.  I bought something called Liquid Fence which when applied leaves a stench that will keep the deer away and your best friends.  But I sprayed.  And I had my fence, right?

The deer were jumping my fence.   And the rest of nature was just beginning to gear up.  The word had gotten around in the critter community—we’ve got fresh meat living in the grey house, go for broke.

There was scratching below our deck.  Then I saw a creature scuttle to its new home—under that deck.  I found a picture of my critter—a woodchuck.  Go ahead, start singing the old rhyme.  But like skunks, you don’t want one of these things living with you.  They are more territorial then I was surely becoming.  Oak trees, acorns—this  woodchuck was set for life.

The critter-catcher set up three traps.  We caught two possum, two raccoons and the neighbor’s cat.  Finally one afternoon I actually saw the critter walk right into the trap.  I was so excited I called my husband at work.  I had gone over the edge.  The critter-catcher wasn’t far behind.  He brought a camera .  “I’ve never caught one of these,” he told me happily.  We were a pair.

Then at two a.m. there was the bat, fighting the circles of the ceiling fan above our bed.  And me with a broom and a baseball cap and a towel—you use the towel to throw the bat to the ground.  I was learning!

Now I’m definitely dreaming of a condo—no trees, no animals.  But can I give up listening to the sounds of nature as I fall asleep?

A few nights ago: bump, thunk!  It’s four a.m. and something has just knocked over the bird bath.  I’m awake.  Is it deer in the hostas?  I haven’t sprayed.  A raccoon?  My husband says a raccoon is eating through our roof shingles.  He’s starting to crack too.  I closed my eyes, but all I could see was the yard below swarming with wild life, every inch crawling with nature, vivid with its slither and instinct, its hunger and need.

In the morning, the lawn was full of squirrels and chipmunks.  For even if the legal documents for our dwelling has the name HAVEY on it, we now know who truly owns the place.

If you have any critter problems, please share.

Thanks to Google Images

Thoughts When I Saw the Cardinal

Thought when I saw the cardinal

How lovely the cardinal no matter what the weather.

Gardening can make you think of health.  Every spring the perennials come back, but sometimes a few of them don’t make it.  And it’s hard to know why—the soil was too compact, the roots were eaten by some animal, the salt from the snowplows did them in.  But those that do survive never seem to fail in perfection.  They are hauntingly beautiful which is why they were created in the first place.  Flowers and birds lead the soul to God.  They speak of something beyond the weight and clumsiness of the human body.  It’s how they can ride on the wind, even the flowers that are rooted to the earth as we are have an ethereal quality about them that no human possesses.  And birds are like souls that hover in the trees outside my window.  The cardinal against the so pale green grass and just beginning trees has to be something of my father’s soul reminding me to remember him, to hold him in my heart as the day wears along.  Because the brightness of the cardinal’s feathers is inexplicably beautiful, like the spirit within all of us that begs for us to be perfect, though we struggle within our human context.  And so I look to the garden and the birds of air for mental and spiritual health.  And if I’m digging in the dirt and dragging bags of soil and mulch around, it keeps my body healthy too!!!