Sunday, June 18, 2017

Planting A Legacy




When I began gardening some 25 years ago, my first major challenge was when I took over a yard that had been buried under grass for many years. A neighbor told me that the previous owners of the house, who had lived there for over 35 years, had planted a huge, beautiful garden that was the talk of the town. Even folks just driving by would stop and ask if they could look at it. Over time, after the house had been sold to younger folks who did not wish to put in the sweat equity necessary to keep it up, the majority of the yard was turned into a large grassy plot with just a few flower beds surrounding the back of the house, and those were mostly bulbs and shrubs.

In the beginning I stayed pretty much within the borders of the already established flower beds, clearing out weeds and planting some annuals to give the beds more color once the spring flowers had finished blooming. Then I began to investigate other areas where I could create new beds and add more character to the yard. I started with digging up the grass along the side of the garage to put in some daises, begonias, and foxgloves. In less than a week after I had cut through the sod and exposed the dirt underneath, I began to see shoots and vines coming up from previously covered over plants. The same neighbor who had informed me about the yard's history told me that there used to be lovely climbing vines where I had cut out the grass. These poor things had been sleeping quietly all these years waiting to come back. In a sense, these perennials (plants that come back every year as opposed to annuals which only last a one season) were the legacy left behind by the previous owners just waiting to share their beauty with future generations.

I often think about that discovery whenever I ponder what kind of a legacy I want to "plant" in my life for those that come after me. How do I want to be remembered, and what seeds do I want to bloom in my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and beyond? Here are a few of the "plants" I am doing my best to grow:

1. Compassion - Whenever I see someone in need, I always tell myself: "There but for the Grace of God go I." We have to care about each other. We have to understand what it's like to "walk a mile in their shoes" and treat them as we would want to be treated.

2. Kindness - A slightly different variation on compassion, this flower is one we can give to everyone, every day, regardless of their circumstances. We can hold a door, let someone cut in front of us on line, smile at a cashier or wait staff person, pay someone a compliment, or simply say, "Thank You."

3. Gratitude - This one needs to grow into a huge hedge that surrounds our lives. "Gratitude is the Abracadabra of manifestation," says spiritual teacher and psychic medium Colette Baron Reid. The more we are grateful for what blooms in our lives, the more blooms we have to be grateful for!

4. Integrity - When we can stand in our personal truth and align our beliefs with our behavior, we can grow authentic, beautiful lives.

5. Love - This is actually not a seed. It's the medium in which we grow the other four and everything else we want to bloom in our lives. If we ask ourselves "what would Love do" before speaking or acting, our inner gardens will always be nourished.

So this, I hope, is the legacy that I work every day at planting and tending. I do this not only in my day-to-day behavior, but in my work as well. Every word I write and publish comes from my wish to serve others by encouraging them to find their own seeds to plant, and to grow a beautiful, authentic and happy life. I do this in gratitude for the life I have been given, and my love for the gift of writing that Source has seen fit to bestow upon me.  

What will you plant in your legacy garden? You'll have to work hard at digging up the unwanted sod that has become so deeply rooted in your yard (what no longer serves you?), watering with gratitude and nourishing it with love, but all that work will be worth it when you see what grows! Happy planting!

And so it is.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Pockets of Gratitude


The endless rains finally moved on long enough to let me take some baby steps in my quest to turn a long neglected yard into a sweet little garden. I say baby steps because, between the rain that has lasted through the majority of the spring, and the amount of work this project will take, I understand that baby steps are all I can do if I don't want to take one of my favorite passions and turn it into a chore. I've been gardening long enough to know that if it took Mother Nature centuries to create forests and meadows, it's going to take me a little longer to create this garden. Baby steps allow me to get to where I'm going with joy along the way. They give me pockets of gratitude.

We have to look for pockets of gratitude where we can find them if we don't want our lives to turn into just a series of chores and disappointments either. They are everywhere if we set the intention to find them, and then remain open to receive them. While I had to squeeze in a few hours here and there between rain storms to get anything done in the garden these last few weeks, I've found pockets of gratitude just in being outside with my granddaughter, filling the boxes and containers with lettuce and basil seeds, setting up an outdoor metal sculpture for the morning glories to climb, and loving the feel of my fingers in the soil. That's a pocket of gratitude.

Today, for example, while we are certainly free of rain, we are, instead, in the second day of a two day mini-heat wave with temperatures in the 90's, unusual for us here in the Northeast in June. So working outside is not something I will be doing today. Instead, I am inside sitting in front of the big picture window over my desk and watching the antics of the family of blue jays that have taken up residence in the big pine tree next door. Here are creatures who live or die at the whim of the forces of nature, whose whole existence is based on finding food and shelter every day while dodging predators, and yet they find time early in the day to play dive bombers and air tag with great abandon. They remind me of how fortunate I am to not have to worry about food or shelter, or being at the mercy of the elements (except when it comes to gardening). Another pocket of gratitude, both for my own good fortune and the joy I get watching my feathered neighbors.

As I write this, my two female feline housemates, Charlotte and Laura, are also playing tag, their usual morning activity after a good night's sleep and a full breakfast bowl. Even at what is considered to be middle age in people years, they have not lost their ability to have fun. They remind me of that famous saying: "Carpe Diem" - seize the day! Age has nothing to do with joy. Another pocket of gratitude.

So now I'm going to go refill my coffee cup and sit down at my desk to enjoy one of my other passions, probably the one I love the most: writing. I am working on a new ebook and this is a perfect day to get some work done, sitting with a beautiful view of nature while not having to bake in it, seeing my fur babies settle down for their morning naps, and letting Divine Inspiration use me via the written page. A great, big pocket of gratitude.

May all your pockets be filled with gratitude.

And so it is.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Keeping The Faith


I'm beginning to think that this new garden is never going to happen! I wait for the weekend to come so the grandkids can help me with the heavy work (and the whole getting-on-the-knees thing) and, of course, it rains. Not that is hasn't been raining during the week as well. If we get two or three sunny days out of seven, we feel blessed! I can't start putting plants in until the ground dries up a little. Mud is  not conducive to plants taking root! On the other hand, I have to have faith that Mother Nature knows what she's doing.

One of my all-time heroes, and the reason I picked up stakes and moved up here 25 years ago, is Henry David Thoreau. I, along with millions of other people all over the world, fell in love with Walden and have dreamed of  running away to live in the woods, far from people, and stress, and live off the land. Thoreau, however, is also known for the research he did while he was living at Walden Pond, much of which is contained in his book "Faith In A Seed." While is it much heavier reading than Walden, and filled with scientific analysis, it does point to Thoreau's basic belief and faith in the workings of nature ... if you have faith in a seed, you can grow anything.

These days it's hard to have faith in anyone or anything. Except for our own tightly knit group of family and friends, it's hard to believe sometimes that we can make anything grow in this terror filled world. That's where faith comes in. I'm not necessarily talking about religious dogma. I'm talking about slowing down and looking for the things that do work in our world, the things we can have faith in: the sun comes up every day, the seasons come and go on cue (even though it always feels as if winter will last forever), no storm lasts forever (which I've been telling myself every weekend), and if you plant a seed in the right soil, with sunshine and care, it will grow.

So while the rain keeps coming down around me, and the world keeps raining tears and sadness, I'm going to start planting my seeds of love, kindness, compassion and joy anyway even if I have to start them in small plots inside my heart. As long as I have faith that the storms will eventually come to an end, and the sun will, indeed, shine again, I can also have faith that my garden will grow so that everyone who sees it will benefit from what blossoms.

Keep the faith, baby! And so it is.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Would You Care For Some Peace?




"Do you want to be right, or do you want peace?"
Dr, Wayne Dyer

Please note: Since this is officially a holiday, I am taking the day off and running a post from last Memorial Day. It does not surprise me that the words still apply a  year later. Wishing you and yours a Blessed Memorial Day.

We've all been there. Someone says or does something that sets off alarm bells in our head. We know they're wrong. They're not only wrong, they are really, really wrong. Then that voice of the ego kicks in and tells us, "well, you'd just better set them straight because you know you're right and they're wrong!" Before you know it, the need to be right, the need to change other people's ideas and behaviors, takes over like kids on a sugar rush after a birthday party!

What is it with humans that they feel they have to be right all of the time? I'm not saying that there aren't circumstances where things are happening in the world that are definitely wrong from anyone's perspective, like violence, terrorism, pain and suffering - and let us not forget the current political atmosphere. We can see the wrong in all of it like a neon sign blazing through the darkness. Yet if we rush at it with philosophical and verbal guns blazing, all we do is fan the flames and give whatever we are fighting against more fuel. 

Then how do we deal with all of this and still find peace? We start by choosing our battles. Our egos start taking charge when we are very little. We mimic the behavior of our elders. We hear them  yelling at the TV, or at each other, fighting to prove who is right, who has the superior position, what is acceptable and what is not. Often it's over things that, a year from now, no one will even remember, but that will have robbed them of a few moments of peace that they can never get back. So what if you don't like the fashions your kids like, or the music? So what if your front and back yards don't look like House Beautiful? So what if you decide to stop dying your hair, wear yoga pants and take up organic gardening? Does it bring you peace? 

On the other hand, when we see harm coming to ourselves or others, when we see injustice and hate gaining ground, we need to step in but not with the same ego infused idea that being right is an excuse for acting out in negative ways. If peaceful protest and strength in love and numbers worked for Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., it can certainly work for us. Do what you can, with what you have, from where you are and find like minded people to join you. Fighting for animal rights? Go vegan. Petition for jail time for people who abuse animals. Politically involved? Volunteer to make phone calls, stuff envelopes, knock on doors and hold peaceful town hall meetings. Get involved but for the right reasons, not the ego's reasons. 

As I write this I am running a few loads of laundry using chemical free detergents and dryer sheets. I am sipping organically grown coffee and nibbling at toast made by a local baker smeared with a vegan cream cheese substitute. After I post this blog I am going online to write a letter to my state senator in support of keeping fracking out of my area. Tomorrow I am going to the local farmer's market to support my neighbors and buy local. This is what I can do, with what I have, from where I am. I don't have to be right. I just have to do right. 

And so it is. 



Monday, May 22, 2017

Buying Bewilderness


"Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment."
Rumi

Saturday dawned warm and sunny. Demo Day was finally here!. For weeks I had been waiting for the rains to stop, the ground to dry out, and the threats of everything from hail to heat waves to pass so that I could begin my quest to turn my daughter's badly neglected yard into a garden paradise. My daughter inherited this disaster when she moved in and I had always wanted to tackle it. Now that I was living closer and in a place with no garden of my own to tend to, this seemed like the perfect time.

I armed my two grandchildren with the tools of the trade and explained that, while Rome certainly wasn't built in a day, neither was a garden. It was going to take a lot of hard work and, of course, my accumulated knowledge from years of gardening (and gardening shows on TV) to turn this yard around. The first order of business was to tear it all out with the exception of some bushes, some small as-yet-unidentifiable trees, and anything that looked like an actual flower. Gloves on, digging tools in hand, we set to the task. I was all about the work, all about the vision, until ....

"Grandma! Come see!"

My 7 year old grandson, who thought worms and bugs were the most extraordinary things ever created, had unearthed the Mother Lode! Hundreds of bugs of all different sizes and species were busy going about their lives, having been hidden until now by the weeds. It did not take long for me to abandon my Puritan work ethic and just watch the little critters at work. Eventually, since old habits die hard, my ego reminded me that at this rate, not only would Rome not be built in a day, it wouldn't be built in a month! Reluctantly my grandson went back to work, although with not as much enthusiasm as he had while watching the bugs. After some more pulling and digging, another voice reached me from the other side of the yard:

"Grandma! What's this?"

My 10 year old granddaughter, sister to the bug enthusiast, was pointing to some small green objects on the ground. When we first started pulling things up, we discovered that the two garden beds, and many of the cracks in the pavement around the back steps, were covered in wild leeks. Since the ground water in the area where my daughter lives was adversely affected by the two floods that occurred here back in 2006 and 2011, mostly due to contamination from old commercial dry cleaning plants in the area, I knew that we should not be eating anything that had been growing in that ground. What a shame! In any case, in addition to the leeks, my granddaughter (who has visions of growing up to become the next Rachel Ray), had discovered that someone had been growing peas. They were scattered all over the ground underneath the foliage that, having no where to climb, had just covered any open ground it could find.

I stood back up for a moment and looked around the yard in awe. Someone, years ago, had planted a garden here. It was hard to tell because the majority of the yard had been planted over with grass, with a portion poured in concrete for a patio, and the whole thing overhung with trees. Yes, someone had done the back-breaking work that we were now doing to put in a garden that would feed their family, but that wasn't what amazed me. What amazed me was that, regardless of what humans had done to this land, nature had just kept doing what it does best. The insects continued to go about their business as they and all of their ancestors before them had done, and the plants had somehow found a way to continue despite all of mankind's attempts. When the roots of a leek are so strong that the plant can push its way up through a crack in the concrete, who are we to think we are smarter than that plant?

On Saturday, I sold my cleverness and purchased bewilderment. I forgot everything I thought I knew about growing a garden and, instead, marveled at the work of the Master Gardener and her army of insect helpers. I bowed in awe to Her genius and promised myself that, going forward, I would stop being a drill Sargent towards my little helpers - the bug specialist and the cook - and start being a grandma: keeper of the wisdom, teacher, and helper. Together we would not "build" a garden, we would "grow" a garden, and in that time together, we would grow up together as well.

May all your gardens in life be filled with wonder.

And so it is.

Monday, May 15, 2017

No Expiration Date



Image result for free image of seed packet
As I seem to have fallen behind on a few deadlines and need to get caught up, I offer this post taken from my ebook: "Staying Rooted: Living And Growing Through The Seasons Of Our Lives," available from Amazon.com/Kindle.



During my novice years learning to garden, and grow myself in the process along with the flowers and veggies, I became obsessed with learning everything there was to learn on the subject. Let's face it, I came to gardening later in life and felt I had a great deal of catching up to do. So I became an ardent fan of Victory Garden and HGTV, and read every book and magazine I could find. However, some of the best education and advice I got came from the gracious women I got to know in my adopted home town of Marathon, NY.  It would come in casual conversation and news shared with the neighbor next door, with the ladies picking up their mail at the post office, striking up a conversation at the grocery store about the weather and their gardens, visits to the meetings of the historical society and garden clubs, or whoever might be hanging out in Riley's Diner over a cup of coffee. There is nothing to compare with learning about gardening from those who have it in their blood passed down from generation to generation.



One of the things I learned that surprised me the most was that seeds packets have an expiration date. Really? Who would have thought? After all, to my inexperienced eye they already looked old and dried up. How did you tell if they had "gone bad?" Did they start to smell like old milk? Grow mold like forgotten leftovers in the back of the refrigerator? "You'll know," they told me, and indeed, I did ... when you plant them, nothing grows! Of course, there is also an expiration date on the seed envelope if you’re smart enough to look for it. Nothing like the obvious, right?



Thankfully, the same premise does not hold true for dreams: There are no expiration dates on dreams! It doesn't matter how long you've had them. True, you may have to take them down off the dark shelf of your mind where you've been hiding them all of these years and dust them off. You may even have to update them given today's technology or changing ideas. It doesn't matter if you are a novice, an old hand, or somewhere in-between. Dreams never lose their capacity to grow into something wonderful.



I think this is a perfect time of the year to reflect on this idea as we witness new birth and new beginnings. Plants have taken root and are starting to flourish. The new crop of baby birds, bunnies and our other animal relations have found their wings (or bunny feet) and are exploring their new world.



Find your wings.  Dust off those dreams. Get busy. And so it is.


Monday, May 8, 2017

A Matter Of Perseverance

Eustomas in rain — Stock Photo #62771609

I'm almost as tired of writing about rain as I am having to look at it. Today, however, we are adding a new element ... snow flurries. Yes, you read that right; snow flurries ... in May.

Breaking News: The report of the arrival of Spring in our area is "fake news." Snow showers are predicted to mix in with yet more rain in the early morning hours.

Yesterday I spent some time at my daughter's house. My 10 year old granddaughter is as anxious as Grandma is to start tearing that yard apart and creating our garden. She is even more excited about getting started since she received an Easter Basket filed with gardening hand tools and a brand new pair of gardening gloves! She kept asking me: "Grandma, when can we get started? Is it ever going to stop raining?" I had to tell her that while Grandma may, indeed, be in her wisdom years, it does not extend to weather prediction or any insider information about what Mother Nature is trying to tell us. All I know is that it takes perseverance to be a gardener.

"Perseverance (noun): Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success."

I've head people tell me for many years that I must be crazy to be a gardener. You put your blood, sweat and tears, not to mention your back and knees, into creating this lovely living canvas only to see a wicked storm or frost destroy all of your hard work. What do I tell them? It's not about the finished product; it's about the process. It's about getting your hands in the dirt, pressing your fingers to the ground, and feeling the heartbeat of Mother Earth. It's about watching the birds and insects go about their business, which has a direct affect on our business; namely, the environment. It's about witnessing the miracle of growth from seed to bloom, from seedling to tomato, from sapling to tree. And if something comes along to tear it all up? You just grab a rake and a shovel, clean it up, and start again. Mother Nature does it all the time. Who are we to argue with that kind of success?

I often think about writing the same way that I think about gardening. There, too, I've had people tell me that writing is a useless profession: "You'll never make any money at it; only a handful ever make it to the Best Seller List." Absolutely. So why do it? For the gift of the process: for the joy of playing with words, of stringing them together to create a thought on paper, for the power of knowing that someone, somewhere, will read your words and be changed by them even if no one else ever does. I would go so far as to say that it takes even more perseverance to be a writer than to be a gardener because you often don't see the fruits of your labor before your eyes. Instead, you feel it in your heart.

The latest forecast has sunshine and 60 degrees returning mid-week into the weekend, just in time for Mother's Day. Hey, Mother Nature is no fool. She knows what she's doing. She's giving us a much needed lesson in faith ... with a little perseverance thrown in!

And so it is.