Category Archives: Gardening

Bumping Along

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“Today I’m flying low and I’m not saying a word. I’m letting all the voodoos of ambition sleep. The world goes on as it must, the bees in the garden rumbling a little, the fish leaping, the gnats getting eaten. And so forth. But I’m taking the day off. Quiet as a feather. I hardly move though really I’m traveling a terrific distance. Stillness. One of the doors into the temple.”

~Mary Oliver

I was doing fine, really. Covid-19 entered our world, our consciousness, our news cycles, and we were all affected. Sadness, loss and fear became a daily, always escalating theme. Through all this craziness, that seems to have thrown the whole world into a tailspin, I was okay.

In February, when the virus was just beginning to make the news, my sisters and I took a planned trip to Florida. In March, when it was making bigger news, my daughter Jen and I, after thoughtful discussion and much weighing of options, decided to push forward with our plans to visit my daughter Kate in Hawaii. We listened to warnings and advice, took added precautions, and warily made the trip.

By the end of our first week there, the virus had taken off, closing down travel and businesses throughout the state, and the country. We kept a close watch on the numbers in all of the states. Just like everyone else, we were horrified at the mounting death toll, and fearful of the future. As one scheduled flight after another was delayed, then cancelled, we kept in touch with family members, work associates, and the lovely people who were taking care of my dogs.

Still, I more than once said, “If we have to be stuck, what a wonderful situation to be stranded in: surrounded by family…in Hawaii!” With my normal routine disrupted by the enforced, extended vacation, I expanded the time I spent writing and drawing. I continued my little exercise routines. I read a lot.

Time spent at the house was lovely. Mornings, Jen and I sat on the porch, drinking coffee, chatting and reading books. Chickens were always close by, and three little Kona pigs often stopped in. One of my daughters or grandchildren would sometimes accompany me on my walks.

Excursions were extra special for their scarcity. One morning Kate, Jen and I walked on the lava cliffs at the shoreline. One night, my son-in-law, Jeremy, took me up into the foothills to look at the stars. On our last day there, we gathered lava rocks and bits of coral from a beautiful, deserted beach while watching the waves crash against the shore.

Getting home was scary, with stops in Los Angeles and Detroit. Again, we were thoughtful and careful, taking every precaution throughout the trip. The trip from Lansing to my home on Beaver Island was a new adventure, too. I have become hyper-aware of every encounter, whether with humans or door handles. A simple pause at a rest stop was a mask-wearing, disinfecting-wipe-wielding, hand-sanitizer-using challenge!

Finally home, I had two weeks of self-isolation that I spent loving on my dogs and re-acclimating myself to the not-so-perfect weather. I think leaving Hawaii’s near perfect climate would always require adjustment…but snow?! Really! Still, I kept my good habits, and enjoyed my time alone.

After that time, I did not go back to work. Though my position in the hardware store is considered “essential,” I am of an age that falls into a high-risk group. In addition, my boss had to keep the store staffed while I was stuck on vacation, so hired new employees. Business has been slow. While I was away, several things broke down, and it sounds like for some reason I am considered at fault for not letting the boss know (I know, right?).

In any case, at least for the time being, I don’t appear to have a job. Worrisome, yes, but unemployment benefits will keep me going for a while. I have on-going projects in the studio, and many others in the planning stages. It’s spring, so there is plenty to keep me busy in the yard and garden. I called to offer my volunteer services at local non-profit. I still have my daily “meditate-write-study-draw-yoga-walk-read” routine to give substance to my days.

So, I was doing fine. Until, with no warning at all, I wasn’t. I lost a filling, and getting in to see a dentist has proved challenging. My ex-husband’s aunt died. I broke the handle that turns on the water to my shower. The replacement I bought for it was missing a set screw. I learned that an old friend, my age, has been put into hospice care. My tomato plants didn’t come. Big things and small, they all played on my emotions.

After having just explained to a friend how I had conquered my insomnia by getting up at a set – early – time each day, I spent an entire night tossing and turning. That was the final straw. Yesterday, I woke up discouraged and depressed.

I was fearful of the future, worried about finances, and troubled about my work situation. I was distressed by the bitterness and animosity that is running rampant on social media, disheartened by a thoughtless comment made by a political candidate (does he not realize how important this is??), and sad for the state of the whole world.

I let myself be miserable. I not only allowed it, I wallowed in it. I skipped over or abbreviated every element of my morning routine. I ignored my to-do list. I took a long afternoon nap. I watched mindless shows on Netflix. I went to bed early.

Today, I’m better. It turns out it wasn’t the early signs of a big down-turn It’s not a path I’m staying on. It was just a few bumps in the road.

Today

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White Coral on Black Lava

Today, after several days of sleeping in, I woke up early. I brewed coffee in the dark, and sat thinking of the whole day ahead. No feeling of urgency; no worry about fitting everything in. It felt like a bonus, those few minutes before the sun came up. It made the whole day seem longer, and more full of possibilities.

Today, I thought, I’ll go up the stairs. I’ll check out the exercise room, see if I feel inspired to lift some weights, pull out the Ab Roller, or get on the Pilates chair. I’ll at least water the plants, and dust off the surfaces, so that the room will be ready when I am.

Then I’ll go into the studio. I’ll start by sorting the works-in-progress that are stacked against the walls and piled on the drafting table. Sometimes that gets me going on one project or another. Even if art-making doesn’t make it onto the agenda today, any cleaning in that room will be appreciated later.

Today, I’ll reset all the clocks, upstairs and down, that have been blinking ever since the electricity went out two days ago. I’ll find the batteries for my special “wave” clock, and see if I can finally make it work. I’ll take the cover off the entry light, and see if the bulb is burned out, or just needs to be adjusted.

Today, if it warms up, I’ll get my [brand new, never-been-used] blower vac out of the shed, and out of the box it came in. I’ll read the instructions and make sure it is charged up. Then, I’ll try it out on the flower beds beside my kitchen door. While I’m out there, I’ll take the time, I guess, to put away the snow shovel, which is waiting beside the back door for the next blizzard.

Today, I’ll fill out the census forms that have been displayed on the dining room table all these many days, lest I forget them. I’ll add them to the stack of mail that is ready to go to the Post Office, as soon as this period of self-isolation is over. Maybe, I pull out the income tax file; maybe it won’t seem as intimidating as I imagine it to be.

Today, I made elaborate plans as I watched the rising sun brighten the landscape and finally emerge above the tree tops. I haven’t actually accomplished anything yet. There’s still time. This day is just beginning. And…there’s always tomorrow!

Intentions

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Another Hawaiian View

Today, I’ll be on the road, driving north, headed home. This day is already full. I have to gather my belongings into boxes, bags and suitcases, and load the car. The drive to Charlevoix will take about four hours: 127 north to I 75 to M 32 to M 66. I’ll fill the car with gas before going to the airport. There, I’ll unload all my belongings to go on the plane.

Once back on the island, I’ll retrieve my own car from the back parking lot, and load it up. To the Post Office next, to pick up three weeks worth of mail, and then to the kennel to pick up my dogs. I’ve missed them so much! Home, I think I’ll start by taking the dogs for a walk. Next, I’ll have to once again handle all of the suitcases, boxes and bags. I’ll unload the car, put away the groceries, unpack, start laundry, and give all of my houseplants a drink of water. The rest of the day, I’m going to relax, enjoy being in my own home, and love up the dogs. That’s enough.

After that, though, I have two weeks of self-isolation at home. Just in case. I am healthy; I’ve been very cautious this entire trip, rarely coming in contact with anyone beyond my family circle and practicing good safety procedures. Still. In order to get home, I had to travel through airports and on planes. The small communities in northern Michigan have far fewer resources to deal with illness. We have to all be aware, and do our part to keep everyone safe. So, just in case, two weeks.

If you know me, you know I have plans!

First, I plan to keep up with the good habits I maintained while in isolation in Hawaii. Every day I wrote in my journal, added drawings to my sketchbook, studied, and read. I did yoga and other exercise daily, and almost always got in a good walk. These are habits I always aspire to, but sometimes work gets in the way. As I cannot go to my job until the quarantine is over, there is no excuse!

I’ve been missing my studio space and art supplies. I intend to spend some quality time there, clearing out the cobwebs and getting some good work done. This is an ideal opportunity to push the boundaries, explore new ideas, and finish up works in progress.

If spring is on the way, there is plenty to do in the yard and garden, too. I haven’t yet adjusted to this weather, after being spoiled by Hawaii’s perfect climate. I’m not sure what to expect. I’ve been hearing reports of warm weather and spring-like days, but also of high winds, hail, rain and snow. I guess I’ll see when I get there!

As always, I have plenty of good intentions, combined with high hopes. If I stick with my plan, I’m sure the two weeks will fly by!

It Must Be Tuesday

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Tuesday announces itself to me with a sense of urgency, from the moment I wake up in the morning. It comes with a nervous feeling that shows itself in various ways. I may notice a rapidly pounding heart or an upset stomach. Sometimes it’s a severe headache. Often, it’s a combination of many things. At the same time, my brain is working overtime, compiling lists and sorting through possibilities.

Tuesday is the end of my “weekend.” Tomorrow, I go back to work. It’s not the job that causes the stress, but all of the things I wanted to accomplish on my days off. Tuesday is the day of reckoning.

Tuesday is the day I chastise myself for the things I didn’t get done on Monday. No matter how much I believed, on Monday, that I deserved a “lazy day” to catch up on sleep, Netflix, and social media, by Tuesday, I regret it. Why, for heaven’s sake, did I feel justified in taking the dogs for three long walks? And whatever made me think it was okay to just sit and read?? What insanity made me believe I could put everything off until Tuesday??

I do the same thing every week. No matter how much I get done on Monday, it seems insignificant by the time I wake up on Tuesday. Whether my accomplishments are many or few, Tuesday always has an impossibly long list.

This week on Monday, I stripped the bed, washed the sheets and comforters, and finished the rest of the laundry. I swept the floors. I balanced my checking account, and paid bills. Outside, I pulled up the squash and bean plants, and hauled the vines to the woods. I stacked the tomato cages. I worked on weeding in the garden and in the flower beds. I picked up windfall under the maple trees.

Tuesday, what torments me are all the things I did NOT do on Monday. Along with big indoor projects (like painting and putting up baseboards), there are still plenty of large outside jobs to finish. The lawn needs to be mowed once more, before the end of the season; the garden needs a lot more work to put it to bed for the winter. There are rose bushes and berry bushes to prune. Beyond that, there are studio projects to give my attention to.

When I’m working, I look forward to Monday, and protect it like the Holy Grail. If I have to schedule something away from home, or go to town for any reason, Tuesday is the day I choose. That’s why, today, with my long list of things to do at home, I also had to go to town for a meeting at the school, and a trip to the post office. I passed on the transfer station, the grocery store and the gas station; I’ll find time on a work day to take care of those things.

Tuesday is the day to think about what I’ll pack for work lunches for the next several days. It’s a day to get more exercise in than I can manage around my work days. It’s my last chance to get the house, car and yard in whatever condition I can live with for the next week. It’s a good day to spend in the studio, if I’m ever caught up enough to allow myself that. It’s the day I try to write this blog. It’s all too much!

So, Tuesday also becomes a day of bargaining, trade-offs and multi-tasking. Right now, waiting by the back door, I have a box of donations waiting to be loaded into the car, a small bag of papers to be burned in the fire pit, and the annual tags that should have been put on my car in August. Toilet bowl cleaner is doing its job. Two bottles of spray cleaner and a couple rags sit on the table for when I’m ready to clean the windows, cabinet fronts and other surfaces. As I write this, I have homemade soup simmering on the stove for weekday lunches. It must be Tuesday!

Effort

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Starting today, October 1st, I’m participating in “The Last 90 Days Challenge.” It’s one more self-improvement strategy cooked up by Rachel Hollis and her company. With best-selling books, wildly popular seminars, blogs and social media, her topics range from building a business to fitness to decorating napkins for a child’s lunch box. I’ve aged beyond the need for much of her advice, but I’m always drawn in by self-improvement.

The purpose of the “last 90 days” is to prepare to start the new year strong. Rather than ending the year on the downside of all the neglected plans and ignored resolutions that were made last January, this is a way to finish with a bang!

The plan has five basic requirements:

  • Hydrate! This one is hard for me, as I’m not much of a water-drinker, but it’s an area that I know I have to improve. Many days I only drink the water I need to take my pills and vitamins! This will be a good time to make an extra effort. They recommend drinking half your body-weight in ounces of water. My personal goal is to increase my intake, and keep track of it.
  • Wake up earlier. One extra hour in the morning, to read, exercise, write or meditate. It’s a good idea; it will be a big challenge.
  • Give up one category of food or drink. I’m doing this in 30-day increments because, you know, Thanksgiving and all. For October, it’s alcohol and candy. There are things that are bigger indulgences, and would do me more good to abstain from, but too bad, I’m starting this way.
  • Move your body at least thirty minutes a day, every day. That’s easy. I have dogs, and already have the habit of walking them morning and night. At least one of those walks is a combination of speed walking and intermittent jogging. I have a job that often requires quite a bit of physical activity, too. I’m going to try to be more regular about other exercise, especially strength training, for the rest of this year.
  • Practice active gratitude. They suggest writing ten things, each day, that you are thankful for. This is also something that I’ve been working to incorporate into my life. Time, now, to be more disciplined about it.

That’s it! In addition, I plan to keep up with my “Morning Pages” every day, and blog posts twice a week. I intend to get my studio organized so that it’s a pleasant place to work again. I have one window to repair before the cold weather sets in, and a couple house painting projects. Outside, the garden has to be readied for winter, and the lawn will need one last mowing. I could make a longer list of things I want to get done, but it would probably lead to disappointment and failure. At this stage, I prefer to keep my expectations in check, and plan for good results from my effort!

Bounty

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This is the season. This is the time of year when all of my efforts come finally, and seemingly all at once, to fruition. The tomato plants are doing their own version of the biblical “loaves and fishes” story, with an endless supply of bright red fruits. They, along with the cucumbers that keep getting ahead of me, too, are present at every meal.

The row of yellow squash, which hesitated to grow and refused to blossom for most of the summer, now miraculously produces a perfect squash – sometimes two – overnight. The peppers, slow starting, are now ripening all at once. I gathered the potatoes from one bin, and have been working my way through them, with two more bins ready and waiting.

I picked a mound of green beans, and put them in the refrigerator, confidant that I could wait for a better day to clean and process them for the freezer. “This will be the last of this year’s green beans,” I told myself, with a touch of melancholy. Two days later, I went out and picked an equal amount. A few days later, I did it again! Now, I have three grocery sacks of beans in the refrigerator, and they cannot be delayed a moment longer!

I have a row of drying peas along the fence that will need to be dealt with soon. I avert my eyes as I walk by, because I don’t have time today. Likewise, the kohlrabi is ready for harvest, just as soon as I make room for them in the vegetable bin. The corn has started to form ears.

On top of all that, the blackberries are ripening. I am a forager at heart, and cannot ignore food ripe for the picking. So, at the very least, I fill a colander each day from the brambles that border my yard. Yesterday, I loaded the dogs into the car and drove down to “the forty,” a woodland parcel that is owned by my family, and that my cousin Bob mows, in order to make berry-picking easier. There, I filled two big bowls and a coffee can with the sweet fruit. Sigh.

I learned that sigh from my mother. She perfected it during this same exact time of the year. She’d be sitting at the table, enjoying her first cup of coffee, maybe chatting with some of her children, and plotting out the day ahead. Then the back door would slam. Heavy footsteps through the back room and hallway would announce Dad’s entrance. He’d arrive at the doorway into the kitchen with a wide grin, and a bushel basket full of tomatoes. “This is just that far, short row,” he’d state with glee, “there are a lot more ready to be picked!”

Well. There was a large household to feed, and a long winter ahead. Mom would let out a big sigh, and rearrange her day. Whatever had been planned would have to wait until tomatoes were canned. There is no negotiating with time or tiredness or ripe fruit. Not right now, in this season of bounty!

Back on Track

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It’s been a long time since I have posted a blog. I rarely let more than a week go by, even in the busiest of times, without putting my random ideas and observations out for all the world to see. I’ve managed to post blogs while travelling or on vacation, when working long hours, or when distracted by a dozen other things. Yet here I’ve been, right at home, not writing for almost two weeks!

Granted, it has been a busy couple of weeks. That’s the nature of summer on Beaver Island. I’m working lots of hours, plus busy with the garden. I’ve had lots of events to attend, and lots of visitors to the island. Short on inspiration and long on distractions, I just let this writing go.

It’s not the only thing! With family here for the last week, I’ve been putting off and setting aside everything possible, in order to spend time with them. I see them so seldom, usually only three or four times in a whole year, that every moment is precious. So, I shaved off hours at work wherever I could, rushed the dogs through their walks, and let Email and laundry pile up. I don’t regret a minute of it!

Still, now that I’ve said the final, sad goodbye to that last-to-depart family member, it’s time to get back on track. Last evening, I did two loads of laundry. I finished mowing the front yard. I took the dogs for a car ride down to the landing at Fox Lake so they could go for a swim. Then we went for a long, leisurely walk.

I picked peas and beans, then cooked myself a simple meal that I ate while reading a book. As I’ve been having meals with my family, either at their lodging places or in restaurants, it was the first meal I’ve eaten at home in a week. It was lonely in comparison, but perfectly enjoyable anyway.

Today, I’m continuing my plan of getting back on track. I started my day with some journal writing (my morning pages), and a cup of green tea. A big glass of water, next, to take my medicine and vitamin supplements. Over my first cup of coffee, I went through my Email. Next, the news. Then, a long walk with the dogs.

I’m compiling a grocery list, and intend to get to the grocery store before the day is out. I plan to mow the back yard and give the flower beds some attention. I’m going to pick beans and tomatoes. Before any of that, though, and before any more time goes by, I decided to write this. Finally, after two weeks, back on track!