Monday, April 23, 2018

It's Here!

It's finally here ... Spring! The sun has returned, the skies are blue, and there are actually buds coming out on the trees (this is an old picture from last year because it's hard to see the tiny buds, but you get the idea).

Yesterday I spent some time over at my daughter's house watching them clean out the garden beds and do some concrete repairs to the front walk that had taken a beating from the shovels, salt, and relentless cold. My youngest granddaughter had been selling plants as part of a fundraiser at school for a local urban garden project and I purchased two for the front of their house (I am a huge supporter of urban gardens). After the front bed was  weeded and mulched, my #1 granddaughter, who started learning her gardening skills from me at the age of 2, put the new plants in - cosmos for their pretty yellow, and some tiny green and white ground cover for contrast . Even though I did not actually get my hands dirty, it was a joy to watch the next generation pick up the baton ... or in this case, the trowel ... and carry on the gardening tradition. It was my little way of doing my part to welcome spring, and to celebrate Earth Day with my family.

Mother Teresa advised us not to try to do great things but to do small things that make great changes. Supporting our local urban gardening groups and passing on my love of gardening to another generation are my small things, but in the end they make our world a more beautiful and peaceful place to live. Welcome, Spring.

And so it is.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Tending Our Childhood Gardens

This tin doll house looks exactly like the one my grandmom had!  I rememebr the pink toilet, the baby furniture, that sofa, and the pole lamp

While roaming through a second-hand shop with my youngest granddaughter the other day, we wandered into the toy section where she was checking to see if there was anything she just had to have. For me it was a trip down memory lane, seeing toys I had gotten for her mother and her aunt when they were little, and even spying a few, precious items I remembered from my own childhood. I came upon a shoe box filled with tiny, plastic furniture, the kind they used in the doll houses of my generation, when I was suddenly reminded of a day a little over 25 years ago when the sight of a doll house brought me to tears.

It was only a few months after I had uprooted my entire life and moved to upstate New York to the little village of Marathon. There was an Antique Fair being held at the Community Center that weekend. I decided to wander over to see what they had, and to enjoy the beautiful summer day. At one point I was in a section that held toys, not only from my own childhood, but some old enough to have belonged to my mother's generation as well. My first surprise was to find a combination cork board and blackboard built into an artist easel with a roll bar up top that showed the alphabet and numbers from 0-10. I had owned just such an easel when I was a child. I saw my Shirley Temple dolls, my Ginny dolls (I expect there are fewer and fewer of us who remember Ginny dolls), and, lo and behold, there was my doll house! it was a tin doll house with the inner walls and floors stamped with windows, doors, wallpaper and even curtains. It was filled with the tiny, plastic furniture and tiny people to go with it, each room set up as if the family were alive and going about their normal day. As I gazed lovingly at my old toy, or, rather, it's exact duplicate, I suddenly felt tears welling up in my eyes and a tightness in my throat. I turned and ran for the nearest exit, finding a quiet place outside to hide and have a silent cry.

Seeing that doll house had, at first, brought back some beautiful childhood memories of countless hours spent arranging and rearranging the furniture and the family. At the time I got the doll house, I was 5 years old and we lived in a one bedroom apartment in a four-family house owned by my mother's cousin. My older sister and I slept in the only bedroom, sharing a bed. My parents slept in the living room on what was then the newest rage, a Castro Convertible Sofa Bed! Sitting on the floor of the bedroom, I would imagine what it would be like to live in a real house, with my own room and a yard to play in. The following summer when I turned 6, that dream became a reality and we moved into our own home right across the street. It was very old and in need of lots of TLC (like the yards and yards of faded, flowered wall paper that covered every inch of every wall in the house), but I had my own room and a decent sized yard for a Queens, New York neighborhood with trees and my mother's beloved roses buses and lilac trees.

Once the happy memories returned, it was inevitable that the less-than-happy ones would, too. My father has passed away just three months before I made the decision to pick up and move. My mother was still grieving in Queens. Someone had visited my old home and reported that not only had it been remodeled so that it looked nothing like the home I grew up in, but the back yard had been ripped out and cemented over to make way for an above-ground pool. My mothers beautiful flowers were all gone. Throw in two failed marriages to the mix, and the memory of a little girl dreaming of a real home was bittersweet to say the least.

I went home that day and stood outside the entrance to my new home in the village. The landlord had given me permission to plant some flowers on either side of the door and up the trellises. I thought about making a miniature garden, with a bird bath, fairies and gnomes, and, of course, a rose bush. The next day I went back to the antique show, back into the toy section, and purchased a tiny plastic rocking chair. I still have it, sitting on a shelf next to a tiny, wooden birdhouse. Whenever I see it, I think of my dollhouse, and, because I am so much older and wiser now (at least I like to think so), I am reminded that home is in the heart, not in any physical location, and we carry it with us wherever we go. Just like Dorothy, all we have to do is click our heels and say, "there's no place like home."

And so it is.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Signs of Hope and Promise

As this never-ending winter continues to worm its way into spring, I also continue to look for signs that fulfill my hopes and Mother Nature's promise that spring will, indeed, come. So it was with great joy that I received a message on my Facebook page last week the my beloved Decorah Eagles had once more brought forth new life ... three perfect, beautiful little eaglets!

If you have been following my blog for the last 5 years or so, you know all about the Decorah Eagles, but for those of you who are new here, I'll briefly share the story again. The Decorah Eagles are a magnificent pair of bald eagles who reside high up in a tree on the grounds of a working farm and fish hatchery in Decorah, Iowa. They are part of a group known as The Raptor Project, an organization dedicated to the protection of these beautiful creatures, as well as educating the public about their lives and the challenges to keep them from becoming endangered. Cameras have been set up to cover the yearly return of the parents to the birthing nest, where they rebuild, repair and ready the nest, through the laying of the eggs, then the patient waiting for the first eggs to hatch. You'd be amazed how many thousands of expectant adopted aunts and uncles there are out there, checking in every day for weeks until the first little fuzzy head pops up. I have been following this particular pair since 2008. Together they have brought forth 31 babies. Sadly, not all of them have survived. Several have been the victims of exposed high power lines and switches. However, because this pair of eagles have been loved and adopted by thousands of people around the world, their outrage was heard at the state capital where changes have been implemented to mandate safety procedures to ensure this never happens again. A few of the offspring, once they became air-borne, were outfitted with tracking systems so that we can follow their travels throughout the years.

Witnessing the birth of these little bundles of joy fills me with reassurance that the promises of spring, of renewal and rebirth, are true, and that no matter how long it takes, with a little patience and a lot of faith, the trees will bud, the daffodils and tulips will spring forth, and the animal kingdom will bring forth the newest members of the next generation. Life will go on in spite of what we humans continue to do to interfere with the natural order of things. The eagles know better, however, and thank God for that. They are not only the symbols of courage and freedom for our country, but also the symbols of hope and the promise that spring will, indeed, come again.

To learn more about the Decorah Eagles, and the Raptor Project, log on to :, or you can go to YouTube and type in Decorah Eagles for 24 hour live feeds of the happy family and the beauty of the surrounding countryside.

And so it is.

Monday, March 26, 2018

The Mindful Gardener

Red Flower Bouquet on Brown Leather Boots during Snow Weather

The human obsession to "get a jump on things" has always been a mystery to me. The notion that there is "a time and a season" for everything is not just a Biblical quote or song lyric. Take gardening, for instance. Garden supplies and starter plants have been out since before Valentine's Day. The calendar may say that spring is here, but I hardly need to point to the weather for the last week or so to convince anyone that we might want to hold off on starting our gardens just yet. For those of us in the more northern regions of the country, even mid-April can still be a little premature unless you know how to rely on your senses, your intuition, and your experience to garden instead of The Farmers Almanac and HGTV.

For example, in the Spring, the air takes on a different quality, a different smell. Just as in the Fall when the air is crisp, and I tell my grandads that is "smells like the start of school," I can almost taste a difference in the air that says: "It's safe to plant now. The worst is over." I always took my cues from the birds and animals around me, as well as how the trees were coming along. How they behaved and reacted to the weather told me whether it was safe to get started, or whether we had to wait until the trees were in full bud, the birds song got louder, and the squirrels stopped hording. I didn't care if the rest of the neighborhood had their gardens hoed and their seeds in the ground by the end of April - if it didn't feel right in my bones, I waited until it did. I almost never lost anything to a late frost once I started to trust my intuition.

The same holds true of the inner gardening that we do. We have to be mindful of what we plant and when. Reacting to something outside of ourselves, especially if it is stressful or painful, by sowing seeds of resentment, anger and blame, before we've had a chance to amend our hearts (our inner soil), will produce results that are not productive. If anything, they will be counter-productive. Also, just like those times when the wind blows the seeds from our garden to the garden next door, sometimes those negative feelings blow over and take root in those around us, even if they have nothing to do with the cause of the suffering. This is especially true of our young ones. Their soil is so new and fertile for planting, and here we are planting weeds instead of flowers.

We have to be mindful inner gardeners, not only for our own sake, but for the sake of those we love. Take some time to make sure the bad weather has finally passed. Amend your soil with compassion, love and self-care before charging ahead. Make sure that the ill wind doesn't carry some of those bad feelings over into someone else's garden and, most of all, forgive yourself when you plant weeds. A very famous gardener once said that "a weed is just a flower in the wrong place." Wayne Dyer was fond of saying that the only difference between a weed and a flower is a judgment. Stop judging yourself and start trusting yourself. You'll be amazed at the miracles you will be able to grow.

And so it is.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Faith, Hope, and Mother Nature

See the source image

The good news this week is that today makes three days with no snow, plus sunshine and blue skies. The bad news is that it was 16 degrees when I woke up this morning ... an improvement from the 11 degrees it was yesterday morning ... and the high might reach 33 if we're lucky. Did I mention that Spring arrives in a couple of days?

Sometimes, when it seems as if spring will never get here, and I feel beaten down by the outside world, I find my hope in nature. If there is only one thing I can put my faith in when life seems to be at its lowest, it is that the sun will rise every morning, spring will eventually get here, as well as summer, fall and winter again, and the bare branches outside my window will be filled with buds in another few weeks (give or take a week). No matter what humankind can throw at us, these are the things that will sustain us, the things we can hold on to. The birds will return to sing us awake every morning, the sound of geese flying to and from the river will fill the air once again, daffodils and crocus will start to peek out from the slowly thawing earth, and the sun will get stronger with each passing day, warming our bodies and our hearts.

Whenever we need proof that there is at least one thing that works in this world, all we need to do is look outside of ourselves at the natural world around us. Have faith in the Creation, and the Creator, and hope that the buds will come sooner than later. Our faith is always rewarded with spring.

And so it is.

Monday, March 12, 2018

The Wearing of the Green

I've  been noticing more and more splashes of green around town lately. No, I'm not talking about trees budding or spring bulbs sprouting. Far from it. We've had three snow storms in the last ten days, and while my area was lucky and only got a taste of it, it was still more snow, wind, and all-around grayness then I want to see again. No, the green I'm referring to are all of the shamrocks popping up in every one's windows and on front doors. St. Patrick's Day is just a few days away and as the old saying goes: "On St. Paddy's Day, everyone is Irish!"

I've always wondered why everyone gets so excited about this holiday. After all, there are other saints that have their own feast days as celebrated in the Catholic Church but they don't usually get parades (except maybe in New York City where they have parades for ever thing - I grew up there). Nor is it, I suspect, because Irish folks know how to party ... seriously, ever been to an Italian wedding? No, I suspect it has more to do with the time of the year when this holiday falls than anything else.

March is the month when one's tolerance for cold, snow, and a colorless existence has run out. Just when we need it, here comes a parade all decked out in brilliant green, the color of spring. Everyone is laughing, dancing (I loved Riverdance), eating and drinking. It's time to bid winter goodbye and welcome spring on with a bang, sort of like New Year's for the seasons only with better food!

Sometimes we have to make our own celebrations to lift our spirits and remind ourselves that no storm, and no season, lasts forever even though sometimes it may feel as if it does. So we need not wait for an official holiday to find reasons to be grateful. For instance, I spied a small flock of geese heading north the other day. I cheered them on! Maybe I'll create a "Welcome Back" celebration for them, complete with nuts, seeds, popcorn and party horns that sound like geese honking. We can decorate a hat with feathers (fake ones, of course ) and wear it proudly!

What can you celebrate?

And so it is!

Monday, March 5, 2018

A Soulful Spring

Spring Pussy Willows

Thankfully, the big storm that was predicted to dump 16 inches of snow with 60 mph wind gusts was nowhere near as bad as expected, although thousands to the east of us got the brunt of it and lost power for almost 24 hours. Still, we did get about 6 inches of snow, and the wind has been relentless for days and days. After enjoying spring-like weather for a few days right before the storm hit, it was such a letdown to go back to cold, grey, and windy. Welcome March.

When we get this close to spring, but it still feels like winter will never end, I do what I can to make it feel like spring inside until the outside catches up. I keep some artificial flowers and plants to pull out every year at this time to give my home, and my spirits, a lift. My favorites are the pussy willows. When I first moved to upstate New York and was living along the river, the pussy willows were always the first sure sign of spring. They grew wild along the river bank and I was able to cut a bunch to bring inside and keep in water. Now that I am farther away, I keep a bunch of artificial ones to bring the hope of spring back inside. They never fail to cheer me up.

In addition to the pussy willows, I also try to create the sounds and smells of spring. I always have some essential oils or wax melts that spread fresh, floral scents like lilac, lavender and roses. Then I put on a DVD that shows a scene of springtime in the woods, complete with babbling brook and birdsong. Finally, I pull out my old collection of decorative flags (I used to hang them outside when I had a garden but now I use them like a hanging quilt) and find the one for spring. By hanging it right inside the front door, it's the first thing I see when I come in from the cold, and the last thing I see when I have to go out into it.

By the time I have finished planting my "inside spring," my spirits are lifted and I can endure what lies ahead until the real spring arrives. Over the years I have discovered that if we can create the atmosphere for what we want to manifest in our immediate surroundings, we can also create the feelings associated with that wish. It may not be the real thing, but it is close enough to make a big difference in our attitudes and in our inner gardens.

So if the first day of spring seems like it's way too far away on the calendar, try creating your own version of spring starting today. Every day can feel like spring - if  you can imagine it, you can do it!

And so it is.