Take That, Bitch!!!!


Oh, dear. Oh, dear dear me.

Nonni is taking her prednisone.

This means that Nonni has lots and LOTS of energy. It means that Nonni has so many fun and amusing plans! Plans for how to repaint the house, inside and out, while writing a novel and baking organic cookies!!!! Yay, Nonni! Yay, Prednisone!

It also mean, alas, that Nonni is just a teensy weensy bit cranky. And that Nonni is ready to use that all that energy to utterly destroy anyone who gets in her way.

ANYONE.

Yesterday is a good example of poor Nonni’s conflicted relationship with Prednisone.

You see, Nonni and Papa went out to hear some great music from one of our favorite bands on Friday night. As always, Upstate was amazing and exciting and fun and uplifting. We had a fabulous time.

But we got home late. And Nonni was feeling those fun Prednisone energy jolts. Until about 4 AM. At that point, she fell asleep.

So. Saturday morning found this old woman on three hours of sleep, with way too much energy but no strength. I was crabby (if “murderous” and “crabby” are synonyms.) I paced around for a bit. I did dishes. Cleaned the fridge. Paid the bills. Organized my pots and pans. Used a tiny bottle brush to scrub out the silicone straws that the kids use.

By noon I was climbing out of my skin.

So I headed into the yard.

And that is where Nonni discovered that she is not the only crabby old bitch to be on the loose.

We’ve lived in this house for close to thirty years. In that time, we have created a lovely garden area filled with flowers and bushes and blooming shrubs.

And when I say “we”, I mean ME. I mean this woman. All by myself. I ripped out grass and put in perennials and ripped out weeds and put in bushes. I have trimmed and pruned and raked and fertilized and transplanted. And it is gorgeous out there.

Yep. I planted this beauty 25 years ago. Yep, I prune her!

So when I headed outside yesterday, I noticed that the yard had begun to close in on us. Every year, it seems, the trees sneak a bit closer. The woods encroach. The wild comes just a bit closer.

And yesterday, for the first time in a decade at least, Nonni had Freakin’ HAD IT.

I took up my brand new rechargeable, super efficient trimmer. And I went to town.

Thirty minutes into my “pruning” efforts, the driveway was littered with the chopped off limbs of maples, oaks, hemlock, ash, beech and birch. There was suddenly sunlight again on parts of the yard that had become moss covered and shaded.

I looked up.

I LIKED this!

Nonni, in all of her angry, teeth gritting, pissed off over-energized-jittery glory had found a way to burn off some steam.

I made my way up and down my driveway, swinging my tool of revenge in front of me like a demon. “Take that!” I crowed, as I buzzed five oaks and three maple saplings from the edge of the drive. “You won’t take over my one means of escape, you foul beasts!!!!” I lopped them off at ground level.

I believe I chortled.

I kept the driveway space clear for my car.

I kept going. My heart was racing. Mosquitoes were lodging in my ears, nose and on the edges of my sweaty gray hair. Still, I could not be stopped. This was FUN.

And so empowering.

Mother Nature wants to put out ten knew pine trees in my GRASS? I don’t THINK SO!!!

Buzzz, Bzzzzz, bzzzzeeepeezeeep! Down, down! I vanquish thee!!

Fourteen baby oaks popping up off of one downed pine tree? Not on my watch, kids!!!!

Vrooom, vrooomy, vrooomotchka!!! Out you goes!!!

After three hours, my arms were shaking. I couldn’t see because of all the sweat, dirt, dead bugs and pine needles plastered to my face.

But I felt GREAT.

I knew it was time to head inside for a shower, a triple tick check and a martini. But I needed one more quiet moment of reflection.

Take that, Mother Nature!

Mother Nature, you’re not the only cranky old pissed off lady out here today. So you just back off, bitch. Nonni is here to save the yard.

Connections


My husband is a very good human. He is kind, thoughtful, gentle. Pretty much everyone likes him.

Paul was a shy and quiet child, but grew into himself as an adult. He’s a constant surprise to old friends who knew him way back in High School, because he’s now the most social one of all of us.

Now that he is an outgoing, confident adult (and a successful and well respected psychologist), he has begun to articulate what it is that makes him reach out to strangers.

“It’s all about the connections,” he tells me. “Life is about making connections with other human beings.”

I know that he’s right, but I am not always as open or as non-judgmental as he is. Still, I try to be open. I try to greet people with a smile and a welcome.

Today that attitude paid off for me, as I made a lovely connection in the most unexpected of ways.

I was shopping at my favorite guilty secret bargain store, Ocean State Job Lot. I went in for a few small items, but as usual, I was pulled in by the seed packets, the bubble wands and the plants. I was on my way home from a visit to my mother, and was thinking a lot about my childhood. I was feeling a little emotional as I went into the store.

I picked up everything I needed (or could justify to myself), including a pot of dianthus and one of lupine. I love both of these perennials, and mine are in need of reinforcements. So I plopped them into my cart and continued through the store.

When I got to the checkout, there was a bit of a line. I waited my turn, noticing the young man behind me who was talking on his phone with a work colleague.

I’ll be honest. I noticed him first, in my creepy old grandmother way, because he was very good looking. Southeast Asian, I thought, perhaps from Vietnam or Cambodia. Tall, slim, dark haired, with wide, light brown eyes that contrasted with his darker skin.

He had a tattoo on one wrist, and a sharp spike piercing his lower lip.

Cute. Interesting.

My turn came at the register, and the young cashier rang up all of my many, many items. She got the skin cream, the candy, the seeds, the olive oil, the potting soil and the potted dianthus.

Then she turned to the lupine. She spun the planter, and frowned. There was no price tag.

“What is this?”, she asked. When I answered with the name of the flower, she shook her head. She was looking at her list of items for sale, and the plants were not labelled by name. They were labelled by size.

“It’s a perennial” I said, looking over her shoulder. “But I don’t know if its a quart or a 6 1/2″ pot.” This seemed like a meaningless comparison to me. Quart? Versus inches? What?

The cashier was confused, so she called her manager. He had no more idea of what to think than we did. We all looked at each other blankly.

That’s when the man behind me leaned forward.

“This is a 6 1/2 in pot. It should be this price.” He reached forward to tap the page that we were all looking at.

I was delighted. What could have taken ten minutes had been reduced to one small, simple comment.

“Thank you so much!” I said with a smile. A real smile. Not a ‘I should be friendly’ smile.

He smiled back.

“Well, I work in a garden center,” he said.

As my transaction was finishing, I thanked him again, then told him that I wished I had more time to ask him for advice, because my gardening dreams are always more successful than my gardening realities. We both laughed, I thanked him again, and headed out to my car.

As I was putting my toys, makeup, and food into my car, the same man came out of the store and headed my way.

Wouldn’t you know that the universe had arranged for us to park next to each other?

The man held out his phone to me. “This is my greenhouse,” he said with pleasure. I looked at the image of the wide, bright, beautiful array of plants. What struck me was his pride in his work.

“It’s gorgeous!” I said with all sincerity.

We started to chat about his work, and I asked where it was located. It turns out that he is one of many growers at a garden center that I have known my whole life.

“My parents always got their plants from your garden center!” I told him with surprised pleasure. “I love it there!”

The young man smiled and nodded at the compliment. “It’s beautiful. We grow so much there, all year!”

Then he opened his trunk.

“This is what I grow,” he said with pride. He beckoned me over and we looked into the trunk of his car. Tomatoes, peppers, squash and four beautiful flower plants.

We talked for a few more minutes. I asked him for advice on how to get my lupines to reseed. He talked about the personalities and needs of different plants, and advised me to get to know each one.

And then he reached into his trunk and pulled out one of his beautiful young plants.

“For you,” he said, “If you want this sunflower.”

I tried to refuse, but only weakly. “Oh, I can’t take that from you!”

“I want you to have it,” he said. “This was a nice meeting.”

I took the sunflower baby, and I was filled with such happiness.

“You have made my day,” I said to him. “Thank you so very much!”

“Thank you!” he answered. “Good bye!”

We didn’t exchange names. We’ll never run into each other again. But just by chance, we were able to connect to another human being who shared our love of plants and our desire to reach out and just be pleasant to each other.

Oh, Mother Nature…


Have you ever had one of those days when everything just seems to be perfect? One of those days where in spite of the day-to-day stresses of bills, mosquito bites and political overload, the universe seems to be perfectly aligned?

Welp. I have.

They don’t come around all that often, but yesterday was one of them.  I woke up to the realization that my colonoscopy was over, I could eat whatever I wanted, and most of my body was pain free. Huzzah!

The day was warm, sunny, gorgeous.

Spring in Massachusetts, brief as it is, reminds us all that Mother Nature must surely love us. The lilacs were passing, but the peonies were just about to open. The irises were in full and glorious bloom, and the grass hadn’t yet turned brown.

My yard, if I do say so myself, was fabulous! “Holy rhododendron”, I thought as I looked out my front window, “I am a gardening goddess!”

rhodies

There were butterflies on every blossom. Darling little chipmunks were racing around the bushes. Robins and Phoebes were singing.

Ah, nature!

It was an amazingly natural day. I loved my dear Mother Nature.

Last evening, my husband and I did something we rarely do anymore. We went out to hear good music. We drove about an hour west to meet up with our kids and some of their friends. It was a blast.

Wahoo! Great finale to a great day, right?

Then, after a truly fun and completely wonderful night of great music from Upstate Rubdown, we headed home.

We made the hour long ride home with glorious silver stars shining overhead. We were in a mood of pure elation.

As we made our winding way through the small roads of Central Massachusetts, we found ourselves commenting on how lucky we are to live where we do.

At one point, the headlights of our little car caught the glowing eyes of a possum, and we slowed to watch it amble into the woods. “Eat those ticks!”, we cried, laughing.

We counted ourselves lucky to have seen the funny little guy.

But there were more delights in store for us before we made it home to our beds.

We were absolutely thrilled to see a beautiful raccoon waddling across one lawn in a nearby town. Next we noted a delicate young doe standing in the tall grass along the road, her fur illuminated by the gentle starlight.

Mother Nature, you give such beautiful gifts! Angels were singing. Angels, I tell you.

And then, just as we turned into our very own rural neighborhood,  we found a little family of foxes playing on the grass. How beautiful! Those little golden red faces! The Mamma fox, rushing her babies out of harm’s way!

Oh, Mother Nature! You wonderful goddess, you!!

We finally got home, and congratulated ourselves on having landed in such a beautiful place, so full of the love of nature. We fell asleep to the sound of barred owls calling. How lucky we are, we told each other, how blessed to live in such a gorgeous, natural, sylvan setting!

We fell asleep.

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And we awoke to another gorgeous early summer day.  I got my beloved little grandchildren ready to play outside. I was just so filled with gratitude toward Mommy Nature!

Out we stepped, into the golden morning sun. The flowers were in bloom. The grass was green. The angels were freakin’ singing in my ear.

I moved happily toward the new screen house that we’ve set up on our glorious green lawn. I moved inside the sheltered room.

I looked up. I saw a few bees and flies attached to the inside of the screen. A few as in roughly 5, 000 bugs. All attached to the INSIDE of my bug shelter.

I gulped.

Oh, well, I thought, that’s just part of nature!

“Oh, my!” I chirped to my baby grandson, who was sitting wide-eyed on my left hip. “The buggies flew inside our screen house, honey! Let’s go outside and knock them off the screen so they can fly away and be free!”

I stepped out of the screen house, moved gracefully across the gorgeous lawn toward the outside of the screen. I thought that I could just knock on the outside of the screen and thereby send the zillion icky buggies out the open front door.

I squared my shoulders. “Nature”, I told myself, “It’s all just a part of nature.”

I raised my right hand, preparing to tap on the screen. “Look!” I said to my sweet Johnny. “We can make the little buggies go away!”

At this point there were still angels singing. Mother nature and all that crap were still humming along in my mind and heart.

I prepared to lower my hand so I could knock on the outside of the gazebo.

And approximately 2 milliseconds before I lowered my palm onto the screen, I happened to notice THIS GUY.

spider

The. Spider. From. Hell.

I did not scream, drop the baby and set the yard on fire.

For which I am extremely proud.

However.

I did decide that the sun was too darn hot for us today. I did bribe the kids with ice cream. I did get us all safely inside where I made everybody strip down, allegedly for a “tick check” but really for a “could the world’s biggest spider possibly be hiding in our underwear” check.

I didn’t lock every door or window, but I did double and triple check every screen.

Holy horror, Batman.

After a nice lunch (eaten up at the highest table and after I checked the floor six times), I got all of us into bed for our afternoon nap. Naturally, I pulled back all the covers and looked under the bed, bureau and bookcase before we laid down. I checked the window screens a few times and stuffed a bunch of pillows between the bed and the wall.

And as we drifted off to sleep, my beloved babies cradled against me, my sweet doggie at our feet, I thought to myself,

“Mother Nature, you fucking old bitch.”

 

It’s all so random


I’m finding it very hard to write these days.

First of all, I just can’t face the news anymore. I can’t stand the helplessness that I feel about guns, in particular. I dreamed the other night that I was shooting up Congress. I’m not kidding.

And I have never even touched a gun in my life.

Rage is so exhausting.

I’m also struggling with putting myself out there in my writing. I’ll be the first person to admit that I am a blogger, not a “writer.” I’ve never had a piece of fiction published, although I’ve sent a few things off.

It takes some internal courage to keep typing up this chatty little blog. It’s pretty personal, and its my limited attempt to keep myself feeling at least a little bit creative. It’s scary every time I hit the “publish” button, knowing that every typo will be out there. Every trite sentence will be read. People will read and react, and some will think it’s lame.

I recently had some very snarky, mean spirited comments posted about me and about this blog. Posted by someone I love and thought I could trust. It hurt more than it probably should have, and it shook me to the core.

But I need to get back on the bike, if you will. I can’t let someone else take this away from me.

I like writing. I like having this place to express myself. I thoroughly enjoy reading other blogs and being part of this community.

So here I am. I hope that those who find this blog silly, annoying, pointless or boring will do me the courtesy of just not reading it any more.

In light of all the negativity in the world right now, from the insanity of our President to the insanity of the NRA, I think I’ll write about the random nature of life.

I will write about my tomatoes.

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IMG_20170928_115504

I picked these beauties in about 5 minutes yesterday. Aren’t they lovely? Don’t they look like a gardener actually planted them and took care of them and, you know, grew them on purpose?

Yeah.

But no.

I did plant some tomatoes last May. Right in my actual garden! Right in the soil that I had enhanced with manure and in a deep hole with the right additions. I staked them and I pruned them and I watered them. All 8 plants.

I harvested (ahem, cough, cough) a grand total of 4 cherry tomatoes.

Then I took a walk around the back of my house. You see, we had three huge pine trees cut down last fall. All kinds of new growth has sprung up where they used to cast their shade.

For almost 30 years I had a compost pile back there, in the area around those pines. But when they were cut, their limbs covered the spot, so I have started to compost indoors.

Welp. Lo and behold, while I was ignoring my backyard and letting it go wild, what looks like a veritable forest of tomato plants has taken over the old compost pile. Mixed in with black eyed susans and a lot of crab grass there are at least ten different tomato plants, and they are LOADED with fruit, of all sizes and shapes. All growing on the ground, all tangled in a heap, all overgrown.

Isn’t life random? So much for my illlusions of control.

 

Ah, the smell of dirt…..


myosotis

I wonder if perhaps I was a farmer in my past life?  I wonder if I had to stay inside my dark, cold wooden house through the long New England winters, waiting for the first approach of spring, when I could start the long season of growing once again.

Maybe in a past life I was settler in the wilderness of the New World, trying to find fertile soil to start a plot of corn and beans for my family.  Can’t you just picture me, in a mob cap and homespun dress, using a wooden pitchfork to turn the soil on the first warm day of late winter?

Well, I can.

I’m sure that I was totally in tune with the earth in a past life. I’m positive that I was able to turn plain old rocky soil into something so rich and fertile that it fed my growing family throughout the winter.

How do I know this?  Huh.  Easy!

Because I swear to God, I love the smell of dirt in February and March!  I love it.  It’s like the best combination of aphrodisiac and power drink.  I stand outside on days when the snow has receded enough to uncover clumps of semi-frozen mud.  I tip my head back toward the barely warm sun and I breathe in so deep……!! My lungs expand, my oxygen level increases, my brain wakes up from its winter hibernation.  I come alive again.

This morning is one of those mornings.  It is very, very warm outside; almost 40 degrees! Paul and I walked the dogs, and I only had on a sweatshirt.  The snow is nearly gone. Only little piles of filthy ice pellets remain.  There is a thin layer of mud everywhere.  I squished my way through it, loving the thick gooey feel of it under my boots.  I could smell that rich, heavy earthy smell with every step.  Dirt! Good old New England dirt! If I poked it with a stick (which of course I did), I could feel that the earth is still frozen solid.  Even so, there was a layer of thawed muck on top of the frozen ground, and that was full of promise.  The dead grass is even turning slightly green in some spots.

I know that the trees are still completely bare and that there isn’t a butterfly or a bee in sight.  Still, the tips of the daffodils are visible.  I can see shoots of daylillies and iris pushing their way through the dead leaves in my garden.  If I squint my eyes just right, I can see little swelling buds on the tips of the lilac branches.

And I can smell dirt. Soil. Earth.

My pioneer farmer Colonial past self recognizes the smell and rejoices.  “Huzzah!”, she shouts.  “Tis nearly Spring!”

 

Sleeping Beauty


I have just made an amazing discovery!  Fairy tales really must be true!

I have discovered the actual location of……………….. Sleeping Beauty’s castle!!!!

Yup.

Sleeping Beauty, the mean old step mother, the handsome prince.  They were all most definitely living in Central Massachusetts in the summer.

How do I know this?

Because of the huge vines that are attempting to climb my deck, my fence and the walls of my house.  Like this one, creeping across my lawn even though I cut it back to the ground every week.

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Or this tenacious climber, the one that I have cut back no fewer than four times this summer.  It seems to be determined to sneak in through my dryer vent.

Let me in........

Let me in……..

So I now know that it was not magic that encircled the famous castle with thorn covered vines.

Nope, the beautiful princess was not protected for a hundred years by magical thorny roses.  Here is the truth, finally revealed:

Sleeping Beauty was asleep in a castle that was wrapped up in a giant blackberry bramble.  The handsome prince probably didn’t find her because he was looking for his true love.

I suspect he was looking for a very good blackberry cobbler.

OK, Mother Nature, you win.


Every spring, without exception, I am overwhelmed by the desire to create a fantastic garden.   I imagine myself growing enough vegetables to last us through the winter.

Every spring, I turn over the earth, Google “Tomato plants in New England” and “How to grow beans in Massachusetts”, and go out to buy 300 pounds of composted cow manure.

Yep.

I aspire to be one of those self-reliant old Yankees, canning my tomatoes and freezing my beans.  Ready to take on the winter, even if the grid goes down.

And pretty much every year, round about July 8th, I start to think, “Oops.”

That’s when I notice that the tomato plants are turning all yellow, and the beans never came up and the row of lettuce got eaten by some kind of little wormy thing.   That’s about when I start to think about the Farmer’s Markets and the local farm stand, and I start to repeat that old Red Sox slogan of many years past.  “Wait till next year”, I tell myself.  “Next year I won’t put the tomatoes in the garden with all the manure (too much nitrogen).  Next year I’ll remember to spray the lettuce with a combination of dish soap and water.”

Yep.  Next year.  The elusive next year, when the bounty of my backyard will be enough to insure survival for Pa and me over the long snowy winter.

I’m an idiot.

And here’s how I know that I’m an idiot.

I have huge areas of my yard that I completely ignore.  One part used to be a rock garden, until I ran out of steam and stopped chopping back the vines.   This year it is so full of ripe delicious raspberries that the birds and I are both filled up.  I picked enough in an hour to make a pot of jam.

Another section used to be the home of a grand old white pine.  We had to cut him down about 5 years ago, as he was getting mighty old and brittle, and he was threatening our roof in every windstorm.

Two years ago, I noticed that a whole bunch of blueberry bushes were springing up around the stump of that old tree.

This afternoon, I went outside and shooed away a couple of robins.  I picked about 2 cups of sweet, ripe blueberries in 20 minutes.  Enough to make a pie.

And here’s the part that gets me.   Its only in the parts of the yard where I haven’t done one single thing to grow a crop where there is a crop worth harvesting.

I am clearly NOT the Farmer’s Daughter.

Momma Nature, I give up. You win.  Again.

Picked all this in about 20 minutes.

Picked all this in about 20 minutes.

Sigh.

I can hardly wait for the acre of blackberries to ripen in a few weeks!

Why I love lilacs


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Sometimes Paul and I walk the dogs along the local bike trail near our house.  As we stroll along the paved walkways, we look into the woods on either side.  Because this is New England, we see beautiful tall pines interspersed with old oak, sturdy maples and young birches.  We often come across stone walls, covered in moss and lichen, fallen down in places.

We know that these walls mark the boundaries of farms long gone. We realize that farmers lived here a hundred or more years ago, and that they cleared this rocky land for their crops, using the upturned stones to build boundary walls that marked their fields.

But what intrigues me more than anything else on our woodland ramblings is the sight of huge old overgrown lilacs, standing some ten feet apart in the middle of the woods.

If I look closely, I can usually make out the slightly sunken rectangle that would have once marked a front door.  Sometimes I am able to move aside the grasses and weeds to find a little cluster of daffodils or day lilies. Sometimes we can see the shape of the root cellar that once stood in this place.

I love the way the lilacs stand as sentinels, so many years after the houses have fallen back into the earth.  I love the way they continue to blossom and bloom and perfume the air, not caring about whether or not there are humans around to appreciate their beauty.

But every time we stumble upon one of these grand old plantings, I wonder, “Who planted these beautiful bushes? Whose house once stood here?”  And I fall into daydreams, wondering about those long ago families, living in this place where I now walk.

About fifteen years ago, I planted a tiny lilac just outside my front door.  It was a baby offshoot of a lovely bush growing in the yard of one of my old friends.  Her home was older than ours, and the lilac had been there, full and mature and proud, when she and her husband had moved in. Knowing that we were living in a wild and desolate yard, in a new house, she gave me the gift of that baby lilac, and I put it in the ground with high hopes.  Some five years later, that new plant sent out another shoot, which I planted to the left of my door.

And now the air outside my windows is filled with the impossibly lavish scent of lilac.  The bushes are tall and strong, and fertile beyond my wildest hopes.

And as I sit here tonight, in my poorly built house, looking at the cracks in the walls and noting the buckling foundation, it occurs to me that someday in the not-too-distant future, long after this modest home has fallen back into the earth, another couple might come walking along in the woods.  They might pause for a moment as their dogs sniff the fallen leaves.  They might look into the growth of young maples and birches, and notice the strong and sturdy lilacs that stand side by side, their branches drooping with blooms.

And that other woman, sometime in the future, might look with sadness and sympathy on my lovely lilacs and ask herself, “I wonder who planted these beautiful bushes?  I wonder whose house once stood in these woods?”

There’s a metaphor in there somewhere.


One of the coolest parts of teaching fifth grade is helping young kids to recognize metaphors.  Kids tend to be pretty literal, and they usually come into the grade level with a fairly concrete way of understanding literature and life in general.

Its part of my job to help them understand that sometimes a storm is a metaphor for a really bad mood, or that a sunny kitchen is a metaphor for a happy family life.

I love teaching this stuff!  Our poetry unit is one of my favorite parts of the year! All that symbolism.  All those fabulous metaphors.

So you would think that I would recognize a real life metaphor when it slaps me in the face (literally).

But I missed this one until it rose right up and stared me in the eye.

You see, I am a “wannabe” gardener.  I read gardening blogs. I subscribe to “Organic Gardener” Magazine.  Every spring, I visualize a glorious riot of colorful blossoms, a neat row of delicious vegetables, a panoply of growth and life.  And every June, as the weather gets hot and the bugs descend, I think, “What the HELL was I thinking?” and I go back inside where it is safe.

One of my very favorite flowers is the simple daffodil.  It is easy to plant, easy to grow, and it bursts into sunny, joyful life every year just as we are about to slit our wrists at the thought of one more week of winter.  Daffodils laugh in the face of the winter blues.  They are the exuberant cry of life’s triumph over death.  And they are really pretty.

So the first year that we lived in this house, 23 long years ago, I made sure that I planted a whole bunch of daffodils in the brand  new garden beds that I had created along our home’s foundation.  I planted yellow narcissus, and creamy colored double petalled daffodils. I set them out with tulips and grape hyacinth and day lilies and irises.  Awesome!

After about 12 or 13 years of glorious growth, though, my daffodils seemed to sort of peter out.  A lot of them sent up leaves, but never flowered.  I figured that they were just worn out, lifeless, no longer viable.  So I dug them up and threw them into the woods just behind our compost pile.

I knew that I didn’t want them actually in the compost, but I figured that if I just chucked them out there in the totally unkempt and untouched woods, they would gently fade away.  I planted nice new, fresh bulbs in the beds along the front of our house.

Enter the metaphor.

A couple of years ago I noticed that the thrown out bulbs, although they hadn’t even been planted, were sending up some very nice blooms.  I thought it was an anomaly of some kind, and didn’t really think too much about it.

It didn’t occur to me until this weekend that the “thrown out”, “useless” bulbs on our property were blooming and thriving and filling the air with life and scent and joy in a far more successful and beautiful way than the carefully planted little sets of three that I had so artfully put into the designated garden beds last fall.

I wonder how often my carefully crafted plans and lessons and ideas fall on barren ground, and how often some little “thrown away” thought takes root and blooms.  I wonder how often I overlook the value in what seems worn out and finished. I wonder how often I toss out a thought or idea, never suspecting that it will fall on fertile ground and bloom in awesome beauty when spring comes again.

How lovely it is to think that in spite of our mistakes, life finds a way to send out a patch of beautiful blossoms when the time is right for them to bloom.

Daffodil patch in the middle of the woods.

Daffodil patch in the middle of the woods.

Beautiful flowers flanking the compost heap.

Beautiful flowers flanking the compost heap.

Why I think I’m an elf.


I first read “The Hobbit” in the fifth grade, and “The Lord of the Rings” when I was in the seventh.  I fell in love with the characters, and I wanted to be a hobbit for a long time. Like a hobbit, I love comfort, I’m always ready to eat or take a nap, and I have thick wavy hair. I love to grow flowers, and I’m a good cook.  All I needed, I thought for many years, was a house with a little round door.

But now that I am older, and have owned my own home and yard for many years, I can see that I was wrong. Now I’m pretty sure that I am an elf.

Oh, I know. I’m not tall, blonde or graceful, and I sure can’t shoot an arrow. But I most definitely feel an affinity for the trees.

This beautiful sugar maple stands just off my deck, at the spot where our yard meets the woods. I have watched its leaves open for 22 years, have enjoyed its shade every summer, have admired its golden orange foliage every October.  Paul and the boys used to tap it in February to make maple syrup.  It’s like a beautiful guardian of our property. Like a lovely old friend.

Yesterday I was home alone, because the kids and Paul were hiking for the weekend.  It was early evening, and I was on the deck, grilling my dinner.  As I stood there in the silence, with the sun setting behind me, I looked out into my woods.  I was struck by how the sugar maple had grown.  When we moved in here, it was a medium sized tree, and I could look over its head into the sky above the forest.  Now it fills that area of sky, spreading its branches over what used to be part of our lawn.

I looked around the yard, thinking of how the trees have changed in the time that we have lived here.  They grew up with my children.  And some have gone just as the children have.

I remember when this pine was taken down, after we realized that it was too old and too unsound to remain where it might fall on the roof.  I remember how sad I have been each time we have had to bring a tree down.  The loss that I felt as each of our sentinels crashed down to earth in a shower of broken limbs.

We have lost branches to ice storms, wind storms and even a hurricane or two.  Like an elf, I suffered the pain of each break, feeling it deep in my own heart. Each snapped branch has felt to me like a broken arm, but one I can’t soothe or cast or ease in any way.

Like one of Tolkien’s elves, I also celebrate the new growth of my trees.  Yesterday, as I walked around the yard, I was aware of how steadily the woods are growing into the yard. There is a beautiful stand of hemlock on the edge of the woods in a spot that used to be all grass. There is a group of new young white pines, clustered together like the children of the trees we have lost.And everywhere I look, I see new saplings rising.  Maple saplings grow on the stumps of old pines.  Hemlock, pine and even a spruce or two pop up in every sunny break in the woods.  There is such a feeling of “life goes on”, of renewal, of hope in the future.  The trees keep coming, keep growing, keep filling in the spaces.

Like Legolas Greenleaf of Middle Earth, I am happy to see each baby tree. I greet each one with a smile and some words of encouragement.  And I let them grow, even when they are in the middle of my daylillies.