Tag Archives: flower beds

First of June on the Fox Lake Road

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The wind was strong all day yesterday, putting a chill in the air though the sun was bright. It made shaking out the rugs an easy task, as long as I stood away from the dust storm that ensued. Sign painting was a messy job, out in the open air. Mowing the lawn was an adventure, with grass clippings, dried leaves, pine chips and sand flying every which way. Aunt Katie – who chills easily – was bundled in layers to sit on her porch to do her gardening. Fox Lake, when I took the dogs for a swim in the evening, was so active I almost expected to see whitecaps topping the waves!

Despite the chill, we are seriously moving toward summer, now. The sun is up so early, it fools me into thinking I’ve overslept. I rush out of bed in guilt and panic, only to find it’s not even seven o’clock. It stays bright later into the evening, too. I keep thinking I’ll take advantage of the extra daylight to get more yard work done…but my energy fades long before the sun sets.

We’ve had a little rain, but it’s still awfully dry. It was a mild winter without much snow, so we started this spring with less moisture than usual. I’ve been saving my burnable trash, waiting for the fire danger to be eased. It’s getting to be quite a big amount, in a box in the corner of the laundry room. I may have to break down and haul it to the transfer station with my garbage and recyclable trash.

My strawberries are still white, but if the birds leave them alone, there will be a good harvest. If we get rain, I’ll have a few more pickings of rhubarb before it’s done. I found six perfect asparagus spears last evening, and ate them raw. The snowball bush is loaded with pale green – soon to be white – globes. The iris are opening in the side yard. Peonies – three, at least, of my four plants – have many buds. Lilacs are in full bloom, and fill the air with their sweet perfume.

And that’s how it is, on the first day of June, out on the Fox Lake Road.

 

I Fall To My Knees

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I’m reading a book by Norman Vincent Peale: Positive Thinking Every Day. It has a little prayer or meditation or positive message for each day of the year. I feel, most of the time, that I could use more positive thoughts in my life! Actually, the book is one I bought for my mother. It is inscribed, wishing her “Merry Christmas and much love, 1996.” When Mom died, my sisters set it aside for me.

Though it makes me feel good to think that as I  turn the pages I am following her movements, I’m not really sure she ever read it. Probably, though.

Mom was a positive-thinker, a believer in miracles, a pray-er. She had so many children, I suppose she had to be.

My most sincere prayers have been for the health and well-being of my children. Or dogs.

For the most part, I’m not much on praying, though. When friends are ill or having difficulties, I’m careful to offer “best wishes” or “good thoughts” rather than prayers. Worse than not praying, I figure, is offering to pray and then not doing it. I cut my losses.

Even so, I’ve been spending a lot of time on my knees.

These longer, warmer days provide a chance to work in the garden.

Snowdrops are wildly blooming along the edges of my flower beds. Clusters of Narcissus and Daffodils show all shades of yellow. Tulips have fat buds at the top of their stems. Iris and Day Lilies have presented their fan-shaped leaves. Through it all are layers of wet brown leaves that fell from the maple trees last fall, long bunches of pale Day Lily stalks and leaves and the remains of the fall-flowering plants. Together, they hide the progress of persistent spreading weeds.

Every day I come home from work, stash my papers and bags, let the dogs out to enjoy the sunshine, and I drop to the ground. My tools are simple: one claw tool for loosening and lifting roots, one ratcheting pruner for wayward rose, grape or wisteria branches. The creaking, wobbly and rusty wheelbarrow stands nearby.

My rule is that I’ll work at least one hour, and fill the wheelbarrow at least once with debris.

First, I pull all the dead stuff away, working with my hands around stalks, raking with my fingers though the blooms. Then I tackle the weeds.

Years ago, when I had about four fewer jobs, and much more impressive gardens, friends would ask me to come over in the springtime, to look at their gardens, and help them determine what was a desired plant, and what was a weed. I couldn’t help. I don’t recognize every good plant, and I don’t know all weeds, especially in the springtime. My advise was this: “Pull what you know: pull the grasses; pull the dandelions. If you’re not sure about it, wait until you’re sure.” Weeds show their true nature soon enough.

That’s the way I do it. One at a time, I move the rocks that border the flower beds. Roots of grasses are visible there, as they try to move into the gardens. I dig in with my fingers. I try to use gloves, but can’t get a sense for what I’m doing, so I usually set them aside. I pull roots up one by one, and follow them to the end, or until they snap. When an area is clear, I move on to the next rock, and repeat the process.

When I am working at the hardware store, I’m often thinking of things I need to accomplish for the news magazine, or for the townships. When I’m driving to and from other obligations, I’m planning art projects or remodeling projects, or plotting where I’ll find time to get groceries or do a load or two of laundry. When I’m awake in the middle of the night, I’m running through to-do lists or writing articles and doing interviews in my head.

When I’m working in the garden, I’m hardly thinking at all. One leaf, one root at a time, I am in the moment. It’s the closest thing to a meditative experience in my life.

The entry for May 1st, in my little book of positive thoughts, says this:

The secret of prayer is to find the process that will most effectively open your mind humbly to God. So experiment with fresh prayer formulas. Practice new skills and get new insights.

May 7th, I have heard, is the National Day of Prayer.

If the sun is shining, I’ll be on my knees…with my hands in the dirt.

What?!

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My friend, Kate, has been making me laugh.

I’ve known Kate since grade school…though she was Kathleen then.

We all went by our full names at Bishop Kelley School. I’m not sure, but I think we may have gotten extra credit if the given name was an actual saint’s name. In any case, no shortened versions. Twice, in the eight years I attended, I had to bring a note from home, verifying that – in fact – Cindy was not short for Cynthia or Lucinda, but my given name just like that (I was actually named after Cinderella, but my mother had the good sense to keep that off the birth record!). I’m fairly sure my younger brother – we called him Teddy back then – would not have had to repeat the first grade if he hadn’t had to spend so much time trying to write Theodore Ricksgers on every paper!

When we transferred, after grade eight, from our small Catholic school (90 students divided among eight classrooms)to the large, city-wide high school (1200 students in four grades with dozens of different classes), it was easy to lose track of people. Depending on scheduling and class plans, it was possible to have six classes with not one single familiar face. There were many more options for activities and interests; without the ever-vigilant nuns overseeing our choices, a whole new world of clothing and hairstyle options opened up to us. Names were shortened. It took me two years of high school to realize that Bill, the funny, loud boy with longish hair and cool attitude, was the same shirt-and-tie and crew-cut wearing William that I’d sat in the same classroom with from first through eighth grade!

So, in the larger world of high school, Kate and I lost touch. When we re-connected last year through the internet (and its magical ability to make the world a smaller place), we had hardly spoken to each other since the eighth grade! Still, there are strong connections between people that were children together. The years tend to downplay differences and accentuate similarities. Through her wonderful blog, I’ve learned about her family, her interests and her life. Through messages she has sent, I have benefited from her understanding and sympathy. I have been surprised and pleased by her wonderful sense of humor.

Most updates on social media are pretty dry, aimed at a specific audience, and remind me just a bit of notes passed in high school: “sick today…UGH!”, or “headed for the mall – new dress!”.

Not Kate’s! Every single post is a gem. She is brilliantly funny, a master of understated hilarity, simply profound:

“Procrastinate zealously…Put it off until there are penalties.”

“I like the way “Peace be with you” gives everybody smiley faces.”

“It kind of hurts my feelings to hear other people talking about how smart their phones are. My phone is smart, too…It just never applies itself.”

I read any one of her offerings, and I grin about it for hours…or sometimes days. Most recently, I’ve been chuckling over this entry:

“So, I said to myself, “Kate, you have too many pairs of flip flops!” Then I said, a little bit louder, “What?! You can never have too many pairs of flip flops!” ”

Silly, yes, but so very applicable to my life!

This week, crawling around on hands and knees to clear weeds and debris from my garden, I thought, “Too many flower beds!”, then thought of Kate, smiled, and thought, “You can never have too many flower beds!”

Picking up yet another package at the Post Office, I chastise myself, thinking, “You really have too many books already…” then I imagine the twinkle in Kate’s eye as I say, “What?! You can never have too many books!”

This morning, I put the long bench out in front of the forsythia bush. I dragged the old metal chair to its spot under the big maple tree. I pulled the benches out of the shed and sat them on either side of the outdoor table. I moved the red folding chair to the back yard, and the sling chair to it’s spot near the vegetable garden. I thought, “Really, Cindy, for one person, you have way too many things to sit down on!”

And the distance from Greensboro, North Carolina to Beaver Island, Michigan disappeared, and more than forty-five years fell away, and Kate and I could have been two children giggling together as I said “What?!”

Is It Really Spring??

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It certainly seems like Spring here on Beaver Island!

After a winter that was hardly a winter at all, we’ve now had several days in a row of unseasonably warm weather. Hovering near 70 degrees! I remember years when St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with a foot or more of snow on the ground. Today I worked outside in short sleeves!

My cherry trees have little nubs pushing out where the buds will be. Daffodils, jonquils, early tulips and even day lilies are poking up their leaves in my flower beds. I found this cluster of crocus in a sunny spot in the front yard, not far from a patch of snow.

The dogs believe that Spring is here. The melting snow opens up a world of new smells for them to explore. The warm weather brings out the chipmunks and squirrels to tease them. Just two weeks ago we had almost eighteen inches of new snow. Walks were slow-going, plodding and slippery affairs. Rosa Parks, pushing through heavy snow up to her chest, would sometimes give up and need to be carried. These warm days, though, she never slows down. She bounds through the fields and down the trails, circling every juniper and climbing every bank. Clover doesn’t even try to match her pace. Their tails never stop wagging!

Home from the walk, I tore into some yard work. After a year of neglect, a season under wraps and a month of high winds, everything needs attention. I picked up branches and twigs, and added them to the fire pit…waiting for a calm day to have a bonfire. I raked the leaves and cleared the weeds out of the two small flower beds on the south side of the house. I set up the lawn chairs. I put away the snow shovel (I don’t believe Spring is here to stay, but I do believe I’ll manage now without the snow shovel).

I hear warnings that the trees will bud too soon with all this warmth, and a killer frost will wreak havoc and the harvest will be ruined for the growers that depend on it. I hear that the danger of wildfires will be extremely high with the mild winter followed by such warm weather. I hear the lake levels will be down, with all of the devastation that brings, because of so little snow. And of course, Global Warming looms, a danger to all life. Should I hate this Spring day? Do I make any of this worse, by loving the weather? I don’t think so.

Since the weather will do what it will do, I intend to thoroughly enjoy this beautiful, serendipitous day!