Put away the Cell

Deer Stand - June 2, 2013“Can’t you even put away your phone long enough to take a walk?”  Those weren’t the exact words but it was something to that effect.  Because of unusual circumstances at this stage of life, I am alone a lot. Much of my connection to the outside world is via internet, TV, and my cell phone – upon which, I admit, I’ve become far too dependent – to check email and Facebook connections.

This became far too apparent when I went out on the trail this afternoon.  I made my way through the trees skirting the canyon and came out on the paved walking trail. Immediately, my first instinct was to log on and check FB and email. That’s when the admonition sounded clearly in my thoughts.  Seriously?!  Can’t you put it away even for a walk?

I immediately shut off my cell and forced it into my too-small back jeans pocket.

I looked up.  And out.  And listened.

It is late afternoon. The marshland thrives with life.  A Mallard drake and his hen leave gentle ripples as they lazily glide along the pond. Frogs – by the hundreds, thousands? – signal their presence.  The familiar trill of Redwing Blackbirds remind me of a rusty well pump handle squawking in protest. I feel frustration because I can’t identify many of the multitude of other birds songs calling across the canyon.

To the right of my path, a cotton-tail freezes, hoping I won’t notice it, while on the other side and a little ahead another bunny high tails it into a thicket.

I walk on. Scurried motion in shrubbery on both sides of the path reveal the presence of other creatures rushing for their camouflaged cover. It works.  I know they’re there but I can’t see them.

In the distance at water’s edge, I see more movement and wish I’d brought binoculars to identify either the wild turkey or pheasant taking a drink.

I walk on. The path curves and I make a mental note to keep my mouth shut as I forge through the local swarm of gnats.

Ahead is one of my favorite landmarks – the gnarled tree with weathered strips of wood nailed to its trunk – once a ladder to the primitively constructed deer stand in its overhanging branches…

I reach in my back pocket and wrestle out my iPhone, no longer interested in logging onto anything.  I simply want to capture – document – savor – this walk.  This balm to my soul.

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My Dream Garden

     When I was a child, ours was not a family of “means.”  I was very aware that other kids in the neighborhood, and at school, seemed to have more than we did.  It still amazes me that I can say that not once did we go on a family vacation.  Nor did we ever eat in a restaurant.  Not once.  But what we didn’t have, and what we didn’t do, is not what this post is about.  It’s about what we did have.

A fence separated our back yard from the neighbors’.  Along that wire border grew lilac bushes which, every spring, filled the air with a fragrance that planted itself in my DNA. Also along that fence grew a few stray purple iris, and further down the fence, at the other end, stood a mulberry tree, perfect for climbing.

On the other side of our back yard, along the fence that protected us kids from our other neighbor’s ferocious (and I’m not kidding) chow, was another, smaller mulberry tree.  This one yielded berries every summer, and we joyously ate them.  We also delighted in sucking the nectar from the tips of columbine blossoms, which grew around the base of the tree. 

Because this fence was on the north side of the yard, and because of the tree, it provided the perfect spot for other shade-loving plants as well.  Such as fern; their unfurling fronds were endlessly fascinating.  Every spring, nestled in this same semi-shady area, bloomed exquisite “bleeding hearts.”

There wasn’t more than about five feet between our house and the brick four-plex to the north.  It was almost always shady along that side and lilies of the valley grew in great profusion.  We knew the chow was locked up when his owner was at work so we dared to edge into that small “alley” to pick stems of those little white bells.  We brought them to our mother who displayed the diminutive bouquets in a juice glass.

At the base of the steps from our back porch, hollyhocks bordered the sidewalk in vivid pinks, fucias, yellows and coral.  (This photo is not from that time.  These were grown from seeds three years ago – a gift from my sister who knows how much, to this day, I love hollyhocks.)  

Following the path around to the front of our house, framing our screened-in front porch, grew great bushes of, what we called, “bridal wreath.”  Their tiny, lacy white flowers bloomed for a time, and then the petals fell, coating the sidewalk and grass like snow. 

All of these gardening wonders appeared in our yard every spring and summer without my mother’s tending.  We children took them all for granted.  It is these memories which are so precious.  A part of my childhood that I long to re-create, it is these flowers I covet most for my Dream Garden.   

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Poetic License of a Blogger

Bachman's Idea House - Minneapolis - May 2, 2010

* Got to tour Bachman’s (Florist) “Idea House” in Minneapolis on the 2nd.   Every few months, they completely change the interior decor.  This time, the theme centered on re-purposing and re-cycling.  If you’ve read my About Me page, you know I love redeeming cast off stuff anyway, so the tour really whetted by creative instincts.       

* For May, this is a bit too chilly for me.

* Am so enjoying the Goldfinches coming to our feeder.

* Iris’ are blooming. 

* Annual community Garage Sale this Saturday.  Am in such a mood to simplify and downsize.   Anyone interested in a ’50s turquoise rotary dial telephone?  Very retro!  There is going to be so many cool goodies in our sale; if it weren’t my stuff, I’d be excited to buy it.  But…oh, yeah, I’m downsizing, aren’t I?

* Praying with a group on a regularly basis  for a unit of guys in Afghanistan.  God is answering in miraculous ways.  It has boosted my faith immensely…and taught me that we ask far too little of God.  Prayer is a privilege!!!  Why don’t we take advantage of it more?  Seriously, the Creator of the Universe wants to hear from you.  He loves you, you know.

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Random-ness

It’s been months since I’ve posted here.  If I wait until I feel like composing prose, I may never write again.  So, I’ve decided to cast away all writing fear and record my thoughts, as random as they may be…

       My father-in-law, who is 87, is an enviable gardener.  Last fall, he shared with me some bulbs – lily, iris, phlox – and some peony sprouts.  I was thrilled – especially about the peonies  – which are heirloom plants brought from Norway by his grandmother (or was it great-grandmother?), about 100 years ago.   

       I managed to get all the bulbs planted but not the peony roots.  They needed a different spot in the yard.  A brand new place.  My hero had great intentions of removing sod and preparing a great place for them.    

But because his job demanded enormous amounts of overtime, he just couldn’t get to it. 

         Weeks passed, pushing us into late fall.   In desperation, I finally decided I’d do it myself.  I was soon shocked to discover I had neither the strength nor the tools to cut through sod, much less, prepare five holes, each a foot wide and a foot deep, as I’d been instructed by a peony expert whom I’d phoned for advice while in that state of desperation. 

    I should probably mention that I did manage to dig one hole – almost deep enough.  I’d started late in the day but decided I should probably stop digging when our neighbor backed into his driveway and just sat there with his truck headlights beaming at me…digging a hole in my yard in the dark. 

       Which turned out to be a good thing for another reason.   The next day,  as my college-age son and his friend sat eating my home cooking, I asked the friend if he would be willing to dig holes in our yard, for pay.  He agreed but in a follow-up phone conversation, he suggested I first call and have our yard marked for underground wires, etc.  You know – the “Call Before You Dig” advice. 

      So I did.  I called.  A few days later, I saw little wires with colored flags marking varying spots in my yard.  And red lines sprayed in the grass, directly across the hole I’d begun digging. 

        I need to shorten this so I can get to bed…  

        Finally, on a frigid, windy, rainy November day, the young man I hired, and our son, not only dug the holes, they mixed in the compost I’d lugged home.  And, with my guidance, planted the peony roots.     

               It had been weeks since I’d received those heirloom starters from my father-in-law and I was more than worried they may not sprout.  But now it’s spring.  April.  And I am so stoked to see they’ve come up! 

               And the young man, one of my “sons,” who incidentally turned down my pay, is now in another state beginning training to be a Navy Seal.           

Savoring Summer

 

 

 

It feels as if it’s been two years since we’ve had summer.  Last June ushered in devastating floods here in Iowa and the remainder of the summer was swallowed up in coping with crises.  Though Cedar Rapids is far from a full recovery, God has smiled on our area by granting lovely summer weather…perfect for growing corn. 

 

 

 

 

And perfect for those of us – like me – who savor summer.  I love summer!  The top photo is a shot of one of my favorite roads for walking at sunrise. 

 

Day’s end is equally captivating, with glittering fireflies and breathtaking sunsets.  

 

    

 

I cannot thank God enough for granting us these lovely days.  Every single one is a gift.  If  I could, I would hug summer.  I’m doing my best by cherishing every moment.  And tenderly touching summer’s beauty.

 

Oh Lord, thank you for thinking up Hollyhocks!

Oh Lord, thank you for thinking up Hollyhocks!

 

In a world so fraught with strife and pain, these are the things which center me. 

 

God is still with us.  He is still Love.  My prayer is that may you see Him today, too.

 

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Corona 1, Robins 2

 

Came home from NC and discovered three little robin heads peeking from the nest under our front porch eaves.

 

 

Yesterday one decided to try his wings…

 

Fledgling # 1

Fledgling # 1

 

…and became a victim to the neighbor’s cat last night. 😦  Hero tried to rescue it but, alas, the damage was done.

 

Darn you, Corona!  Yes, the cat's named after the beer.  I love our neighbors and the cat, but right now he's not my friend.

Darn you, Corona! Yes, the cat's named after the beer. I love our neighbors and the cat, but right now he's not my friend.

 

Just now I heard a clunk! on our front porch and, sure enough, a second fledgling is now sitting on the concrete looking helpless.  Oh, whew, it just made its way up to my potted pansies. 

Aren’t those little tufts on his head the cutest?

 

Meanwhile, baby robin number three calls forlornly from the nest… 

   

 And I declare to Corona that they are NOT your supper!

 

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Six-day Riddle Solved

 

Though I flew home Monday, I’ve still been flying by the seat of my pants since we arrived.  I am not yet unpacked.  But, there are priorities, after all, so here’s the solution  to the Six-day Riddle (good guesses, by the way):

 

The photo was taken in Embera Drua, located on the Upper Chagres River in the Panama rainforest.  We reached the village by motorized canoe. 

 

 

 

 

I was captivated by the accounts of Miguel Flaco, the botanical doctor, who described the medicinal properties of local vegetation.  

 

 

 

In the mystery photo, Miguel shows the scars left by the bite of a venomous Bushmaster snake, the largest pit viper in the world (which reaches a length of from eight to twelve feet).   When asked if I could photograph his scars, he obliged by hastily picking a leaf  to display which type of plant saved his life.  Look how far apart those fang marks are!  

 

 

 

He said that normally a medicine is made from the plant but he was alone when the snake attacked so all he had time to do was pluck leaves and eat them before he passed out from the poison.  (Added: He also noted that the leaf is shaped like a heart…apparently a clue as to its healing properties.)

 

Needless to say, it was the trip of a lifetime.  I could post dozens of photos, and pages of copy about the amazing adventure, which I took in the summer of 2005.  It was in the Embera village where I had my first taste of Tilapia (fish), prepared by the local women.  Delicious! 

 

 

 It is perfectly okay to laugh at this photo.  Everyday in the Panama rainforest was a bad hair day for me.  Never had my tresses experienced such humidity.  Donning the cap was the only way to prevent a mega-fro, which, as you can see, was escaping anyway. 

 

Okay, enough.  Riddle solved.

 

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