Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Ask, And Ye Shall Receive

Even though I love tending my little tabletop garden, I can't help but remember all the enjoyment I got from my big garden years ago. I even loved going out there early in the morning while the dew was still on the ground to weed as the birds sang the day awake. If I sat very still for a while, my little bunny neighbors would venture out to nibble at the edges of the vegetable plot. I wasn't the type of gardener who had a fit when a rabbit, or a squirrel, or other critter helped themselves to a little nibble here and there. I was only growing food for myself. It was Mother Nature's gift to me, so I passed the gift on to others.

Now I have a chance to do that again. Our church has rented two raised garden beds at a local urban garden site created and managed by VINES, an organization that creates urban gardens for those who don't have access to fresh, organic produce or the means to grow it for themselves. Our plots will be used to grow food that will be used at Shepherd's Supper, a free, weekly meal made and served to anyone and everyone in the community who needs a good, hot meal. We've been doing it for years and our numbers have grown, especially since COVID. What started out as a sit-down meal for 50 or 60 has grown into a take-out only meal for close to 300. Even with donations from CHOW and other places, plus our own tight budget, fresh produce would be lovely. In addition, what we don't use will be make available to anyone who can use it.

I suppose I should be used to having my prayers answered in unusual ways by now,  but when it happens, it always surprises and delights me. I wished for a garden I could play in again and share with others. Before it was just with my animal neighbors. Now it will be with my human neighbors as well. I can play in the dirt again, weed, water, and listen to the birds sing the day awake again. Ask, and Ye shall receive. Absolutely!

And so it is. 

Monday, March 11, 2024

And So It Begins

Right now the wind is blowing like crazy outside with Wind Warnings up all over the place for 50+MPH gusts. The bright blue sky and sunshine is a cruel trick that Mother Nature is playing on us, trying to convince us that Spring is almost here. Well, it may be a blustery day outside, but inside I am making a leap of faith that Spring truly is almost here ... I am starting my seeds.

Now, I know that experience and logic tells me that here in the northeast it isn't prudent to set seeds until at least April since crazy March can still hit us with snow storms and frigid temperatures. Yet this year my heart is telling me to pull out my mini-garden tools and get started. I went out and purchased a bag of seed starter, some packets of herbs, some peat pots to get them started in and, just for a little extra insurance, a second grow light. I even picked up some lettuce seeds and a rectangular pan to start them in. Talk about having faith when the temperature outside is 40 degrees at noon while the wind chill is 30!

I don't know what it is about gardeners and gardening but those of us who are enamored with playing in the dirt and watching things grow have more faith in a seed than in humankind:

"Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders."
Henry David Thoreau

Birds can sow seeds. Squirrels can, too. They don't stop to question, to doubt, or to ponder. They just dig a whole and plant the seed. Or they just drop the seed in some dirt as they fly by and let Mother Nature do the rest. She's been doing it a lot longer than we humans have and her expertise is beyond question. Sometimes you just have to have a little faith and a willingness to get your hands dirty.

So I am doing just that. I am pulling out a handful of seed starting soil and gently filling my peat pots. I am marking each one so I know what I planted in which pot (one does forget sometimes when one has so many), and I am planting my seeds. With some water, some light, and lots of love, I have faith that my seeds will provide wonders for me: herbs, lettuce, and my faith renewed.

And so it is. 

Monday, February 5, 2024

Thank You, Phil!

I was beyond thrilled last Friday when it was announced that the groundhog did not see his shadow, meaning that Spring would be early this year. It was music to any gardener's ears, but especially to those of us in the northeast when winter can hang on well into March and even early April. Of course, having lived up in this neck of the woods for over 30 years, I know that what old Phil predicted and what can really happen between now and the official beginning of Spring can be on opposite sides of the discussion. Still, a girl can dream.

What is this girl dreaming of as we meander into February? I dream of the first tiny shoots of daffodils and crocus pushing their pointy green heads up out of the ground. I dream of waking up in the morning to birdsong instead of just crows cawing us awake (no offense to the crows ... I love them but a robin is a bit more musical to wake up to). And speaking of waking up, I dream of waking up to daylight instead of darkness and actually wanting to toss the covers back and get out of bed. I dream of digging through my trusty garden bin under my tiny garden table to see if I have any leftover usable seed packets of herbs and something to plant them in. I dream of going for walks again in the sunshine without five layers of clothes and ear muffs. I dream of the geese coming home, and the birds laying eggs, and the world waking up once more. 

So for now I'll hold fast to old Phil's predictions and pray that he is right. On those days when it is cold and snowy, I'll light candles that smell like spring and watch gardening videos. One of these days I'll wake up to sunshine, birdsong, and a handful of seeds just waiting to touch the earth.

Peace and blessings. 

Monday, January 22, 2024

Winter Dreams

The snow that was softly coming down yesterday has turned into a undulating blanket of white today. It is only 12 degrees!

One of the things I usually do at this time of year is to start ordering seed catalogs or look up seed suppliers to start planning my indoor garden in the spring. This year will be different. I am holding off because my seed and plant needs will be different by the time we get into the heart of growing season up here which is June and beyond. After six years in my little home three stories up into the trees, I am moving. By this time next year I will be living in an even tinier two-room-with-bath space that my daughter is creating in her home. Yes, folks, I’m moving in with my kid!

There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that I’m not getting any younger and knowing that I have family on the other side of the door is huge to me. The other selling point is that she has a yard where I can create a small, raised garden, and a front porch where I can feed and watch the local animals, and just relax. It has been years since I had a porch to sit on and contemplate life, and it has been something I have sorely missed, having grown up with one as a child. I used to sit for hours on that porch when I was a youngster, notebook in hand, making up stories and documenting my deepest secrets and dreams for the future.

So this year I will not be looking at seed catalogs. I will be looking at raised bed kits, and small movable greenhouses, and purchasing plants to fill both of them. I'll still keep a tiny indoor garden next to my writing space for those cold days next winter, like today, when the sight of something green and growing gives me hope for the eventual arrival of spring. I will be so busy planning and dreaming that I will forget how cold it is outside and the time will fly by. Before you know it, spring will be here and along with the new buds on the trees a new home and a new life will be blooming as well.

And so it is. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2023

A Time And A Season

"For everything there is a time and a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted; "

The leaves are all gone, asleep under a dusting of snow. The skeletons of the trees stand out against the cold December sky. Up on the hilltop, the swaths of brown are dotted with the greens of the pines and evergreens. We say goodbye to autumn, and hello to winter.

So many things have been going through my mind this past week as I saw the seasons change seemingly overnight. I will miss the beauty of the autumn splendor, my very favorite time of year, yet I know I will also rejoice when the first buds of spring are on the trees to live another year, and the first flowers push their way through the last of the snow. 

I was saddened last week by the news that a dear friend had passed away. Even though we were thousands of miles apart - she in England and myself here in New York - our friendship stood the test of time. She was the first one to believe that I could be a writer, the one who was my muse as I began putting pen to paper. She was my teacher, my sister of the heart if not by blood.  A time to be born and a time to die.

I know this is a tough time for many people who have lost loved ones and must face this holiday season without them. For me, it will be the memories we shared, the laughs we shared as well, and her staunch, British boldness that taught me to "keep soldiering on," as her military father and Winston Churchill taught her. 

So this last week I put away all of my autumn decorations and took our my Christmas regalia. My tiny apartment is now filled with the greens of the little trees, the reds and golds of the ornaments, and, of course, my Christmas teddy bears. Most important of all, I took my out my small but precious Nativity set to place beneath my woodland tree decorated with birds and animals, just like the stable would have been decorated on that most important night of all: A time to be born, and a time to die. For every ending there is a new beginning. For every season there is a purpose.

May your Christmas be filled with love, joy, and fond memories. For in this most sacred of seasons, there is a purpose, too.

And so it is. 

Monday, November 6, 2023

May All Be Safe

The other day I was crossing the parking lot behind my apartment building to deposit my trash in the big metal dumpster and proceed to feed my little bird and squirrel friends. I noticed a huge tree branch sticking out of the dumpster and wondered how that had gotten in there. Clearly the trash men were not going to take such a huge branch. It would have to be disposed of  another way. As I was about to put my trash bag in the dumpster, I heard a voice call to me to stop. It was the young man who cleans our building inside and out. He pointed to the tree branch and explained that he'd found two raccoons down inside the dumpster at the bottom. They had probably been trying to take refuge from the cold and find something to eat. Since the dumpster was not even half full, they had nothing to climb up on to get out. So the young man had put the tree limb in to give them a way out. I carefully placed the trash bag inside and backed away. 

Everyone needs a place of refuge. Everyone needs a place to be safe, to be fed, to be well, and to be loved. These sentiments are used, along with others, in what is called "metta prayers." The idea is to first wish these things for yourself, then for your loved ones, then for those you don't know, then for the world. Phrases like:

May I be safe

May I be well

May I be peaceful

May I be happy

May I be free from suffering

Some people might have seen the raccoons as a nuisance, just some pests that needed to be eliminated or removed. I saw them as living, sentient beings who needed food, shelter, and, in the end, a way to freedom. Isn't that what we all want? Isn't that what everyone wants?  No one is more deserving than others. Even the tiniest animals need to be fed, to be warm, to be safe, and to be free, and that goes for the human animals as well. So the next time you sit in prayer or meditation and ask for these things, ask for them for others as well. Who knows? Someday you might need someone to offer you a branch to freedom, too. As for me, I'll keep feeding my animal friends, and keep a lookout for those who need a hand up.

Peace and blessings. 

Monday, October 23, 2023

Reflections On A Rainy Autumn Day

I woke up this morning to a perfect autumn morning. The sky is a soft blue, and the sunlight reflects the brilliant golds, reds, and yellows against it as if Mother Nature chose this vista on purpose in case someone wanted to turn it into a painting. I only wish I had that kind of talent. 

Saturday morning, however, was quite different. I woke up to dark, overcast skies. Wind whipped the rain around and threw big, heavy drops against the window. My beautiful leaves were raining down as well and I grew sad at the thought that if we have more days like this, they will be gone before we know it. As I sat down at my desk with my morning coffee and journal in hand, I saw propped up against the cup that holds my pens and pencils one of my Power Thought Cards from a deck I've had for years. It was invented by one of my greatest teachers, Louise Hay. This is what it said:

"It's only a thought, and a thought can be changed,"

I remember watching Louise on a DVD of her movie, "You Can Heal Your Life." In it she said that by changing how we perceive something, we can change how we feel. Instead of looking out onto a rainy day and saying, "Oh, it's a miserable, lousy day," we can say, "Oh, it's just a rainy day." It changes the emotional charge we get from using negative words. So I decided to use the rainy day to make a list of all the rainy-day things I could do to lift me out of my sadness. This is what I came up with:

1. Chop up some veggies and make a pot of soup to bubble on the stove to make the place smell yummy.

2. Clean out my bookshelves, give them a dusting, and start a pile of donations for the library sale.

3. Bake some cornbread.

4. Find a really good book to curl up with.

5. Make a pot of tea (to go with the above book).

6. Call someone I haven't seen in a while just to say hello.

7. Write a letter or send a card to someone just to let them know you're thinking about them.

8. Take a nice, long, hot shower, break out that lovely lavender lotion you got for your birthday, and put on something warm and comfy.

9. Journal, meditate, spend time in prayer.

10 Make a list of things you are grateful for. 

Wow, lots of things I could do to lift my spirits. Just writing the list out made me feel better. I didn't even mind when I had to go out in the rain to take out the trash and recycling or collect the mail. Since I'm not the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz, a little rain wasn't going to make me melt. Whatever happened to that child who liked to jump in puddles? Maybe it's time I went looking for her again.

So the next time you wake up to a rainy day, think of some fun, cozy activities you can do to take away that sadness. Change your thought and change your day ... but don't forget to jump in a few puddles now and then!

Peace and blessings.