The Elephant in the Room

I’ll start with a bit of levity from a Facebook post shared by a friend:

I’m either coming out of this quarantine 20 pounds lighter, chakras balanced and a house full of completed craft projects or 20 pounds heavier with a drinking problem.” – Spiritual Thug

I’m signing up for the former. I’ve lost six of the ten pounds I gained during my couch-bound, post-surgery recovery, simply by moving again. No doubt my metabolism slowed to a crawl. The first time I put my fitness watch back on, it celebrated 1,000 steps. It’s all relative.

Now that I can sit with my feet on the floor, I’m also enjoying crafts. I’ve started by playing with some new watercolor markers, then on to a Washi tape card. I love playing with that tape. It’s oddly therapeutic.

Tail ends of Washi tape

Front of Washi tape card

Finished Washi tape card

Sometime last year I found vintage French seed packet labels, intending to make them into cards for a friend. I came up with corny quotes to match and that was as far as I got. This week I followed through to completion, not only making the cards but getting them packaged and mailed.

Seed packet labels

Authentique paper

Even the paper scrap has a French name

Cards made with vintage French seed packet labels

Seed packet cards

Inside cards: Cover-inspired puns printed on tracing paper

A trio of seed packet cards

Close-up of vintage seed packet label

My friend’s trip to her beloved Paris is canceled, so this is a little pick-me-up and a surprise.

After finishing the cards, I repurposed a page from an old gardening calendar. I save and reuse wall calendars for crafts. I had to piece it in a few places to get the size I needed. It’s such a gorgeous photograph of a flower and bee. I wish I could give the photographer a proper credit.

Pieced edges of calendar used to complete envelope

Finished cards tucked into garden calendar page envelope

The exterior of the completed envelope

Sealed with a paper key

There’s nothing new I can share here about the ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM except to say that I’m working hard to tamp down my anxiety on a daily basis. I’m stretching in the morning before I even get out of bed. I’m touching my toes, just because I can. I’m also pulling weeds in the garden until my foot screams at me to stop.

That’s my signal to retreat to the couch with an ice pack and Mouse the Cat pressed to my hip.

Mouse loves his couch time

I’m a hugger by nature, so if I could, and only if appropriate, I would gather you in a warm embrace and say that it’s all going to be okay. For now, (((((you)))))

Be well.

My Garden Sows Content

The sweet peas are out, but the cornflower will remain for awhile

Life is full.

Since my last post we’ve celebrated three family birthdays, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, and my oldest son’s graduation from college. My youngest son came home from his first year away at college and my oldest son moved home mid-June. Somewhere in there we took a two-day getaway to Las Vegas after Mike finished a big work project.  Next week I leave for a long-anticipated trip to British Columbia and Alberta. I’ll be traveling with my friend Kelly, a dear friend whom I met through blogging nearly eight years ago. I am really looking forward to this trip.

Through it all though, my garden continues to sow content.

We had some brutally hot days in the low 100’s (104 F or 40 C), but it has settled down into cooler temps.  During the heat wave I arrived home to wilting hydrangeas and burnt ground cover. The flowers recovered but the ground cover is done till the rains return.

On the subject of rain, we had the loveliest, late-season rain in May, bringing about larger and taller flowers, fuller blooms and a short-term delay in the unbearable heat. It was such a gift.

I spent some early mornings this week pulling out the spent Nigella, also known as Love-in-a-mist and the sweet peas. I let both of them go to seed, reaping the benefits of a self seeded garden each spring. The cornflowers are the last of the self-seeded spring flowers. The bees are still pollinating the remaining blooms while the birds swoop in for the seeds.

I’ve been musing to myself that some of my garden favorites are the ones that return year after year with no effort on my part. They attract birds, bees and admiring neighbors. I get several month’s worth of small garden bouquets, and enjoy sharing the bounty with others.

Now that summer is here, our plums are ripening and the four o’clocks are about to bloom.

My miniature Hobbit garden, planted a year ago in celebration of my New Zealand friends and hosts is also robust.

I’ve added a tiny rusted table and a few flower “lights”, a gift from my friend Laura. I noticed this week that a tiny violet has self-seeded near the Hobbit door. We’ll see how it grows.

The tomatoes are looking promising this year!

Over the years people ask “is your garden a lot of work?” and the answer is always the same. Yes, it can be back-aching work, bending and lifting, pruning and pulling weeds, especially during the hot days of summer.  But the work is joyful. It’s not so much the ends but the means. I love working in the dirt, discovering new things, seeing what works and learning from failures. Working closely with nature is uplifting.  I marvel at the different shapes and sizes of the bees. I’m honored when a hummingbird comes close, inquisitive and open. I hear the rustle of the lizards and hope the cats will let them be. I laugh at myself when I’m startled by a spider, but I’ve learned to manage that fear while respecting the gifts they bring to the garden. A few ladybugs came for a visit last month and polished off the invading aphids. These are some of my favorite examples of nature at her finest.

I get dirt under my fingernails and sometimes in my teeth. Bruised knees and a sore neck mean I’ve stayed out too long. It takes me a lot longer to get up from the ground, and the pain in my hips reminds me of my advancing age. It’s all worth it for that time in the garden where I find a real connection to this earth.

Laboring in my garden sows content.

 

 

 

A Journey Back to Blogging

I’ll write a blog post tomorrow, I thought, and then, and then, and then. Tomorrow becomes next week, then a month, while life serves up challenges big and small.

I miss blogging. My time on WordPress has yielded wonderful friendships, rich connections, and thoughtful and thought-provoking conversations. How could I be away for so long? In short, life is full.

My youngest son went away to college in August. This included helping him get ready, attempts at helping him get ready, a one-fell-swoop shopping trip and a day-long drive to Southern California.  Within a few weeks my oldest son went back to the dorms, and is now into his senior college year.

We celebrated our wedding anniversary (23 years on September 23rd)

after dinner Santana Row

After dinner at Santana Row

and ten days later I turned 59. Dear friends visited from Canada over my birthday week, including a few days in beautiful Carmel.

My volunteer work at Lifted Spirits kicked into full gear. If I wasn’t working with organizing clients, I spent time volunteering in the boutique. I work two shifts a week, and I’m often there on Thursdays organizing the boutique or other areas of the program. It feels like home.  The work is challenging and rewarding. It also allows me to serve women in need in my  community. I’m learning so much as I go. My favorite organizing project so far is the computer lab. We needed extra space for other programs, so I split the room in two using an abandoned old chalkboard and a fancy shower curtain found in a drawer. How’s that for using what you’ve got?

Mike and I are enjoying our evenings and weekends as a couple once again. In many ways, the empty-nest blahs seemed worse leading up to the boys respective departures. It eased once I knew my young men were and getting on with life.

This past weekend we planned to fly down to see our youngest son for parent weekend. I ended up going alone. I took Mike to urgent care the night before, where they referred us to the ER. They diagnosed Mike with a blood clot or Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). It was a long, scary night, but he’s home and receiving good medical care. He’s not allowed to fly for at least three months so we’re adjusting to the idea of possible train travel.  Mike’s not in pain and he’s able to work, so those are both a plus.

Our felines continue to cozy up the place. As the weather cools into a California autumn, I hope to haul out my crochet once again.

Meanwhile, I’m on the committee for our Front Door Communities, Lifted Spirits fundraiser in early November. I’m putting together the program, a soup recipe book, preparing a raffle item and working with another volunteer assembling silent auction items.  It’s a busy time.

Oh, and the garden I used to blog about? It’s still here. The tomatoes were a complete bust this summer, with four huge plants producing about two dozen tomatoes in all.  I planted late-season cantaloupe, only to see them munched under cover of darkness.  I did manage five small pumpkins so all is not lost in the produce department. Overall though, I feel like I lost my gardening mojo. As that tired cliché goes, there’s always next year.

Here in the States we’re gearing up for mid-term elections in three weeks. Once again our garage will serve as a polling place. Change is in the air. I can feel it.

Thank you for stopping by today. I hope you are doing well.

Solar Eclipse in My Garden

It’s been an exciting day here in North America. Depending on where you live, you could witness the first total eclipse of the sun in the U.S. from the Pacific to the Atlantic since 1918.

AccuWeather total solar eclipse

Map of total solar eclipse route. We live in the 70% range – Source: AccuWeather

Here in San Jose, we witnessed a partial solar eclipse for about 2 1/2 hours. It reached its maximum impact at 10:21 a.m. when I popped outside with my camera to take some garden pics.

The occluded sun cast crescent-shaped shadows on the ground and the side of the house. I took this photo one minute before maximum impact.

crescent shaped shadows eclipse

During the eclipse: Crescent shaped shadows cast by the tree on the side of the house

Here’s what I noticed in the garden:

Most of the flowers in bloom remained open with one exception: the pumpkin blossoms. The flowers started curling in, and when I checked on them after lunch, they had closed up tight. Fascinating!

pumpkin blossum during solar eclipse

During the Eclipse: Pumpkin blossom closing in 10:23 am

It was eerily quiet when I went outside. We had less birdsong than usual.  The bees, however, continued on with their day.  I admire their industrious nature and silently thanked them for keeping our planet afloat.

bees during solar eclipse

During the eclipse: the bees didn’t seem to register any difference

National Public Radio aired live updates throughout the day, and though it’s radio and not TV, they managed to convey the excitement as the eclipse crossed a thin ribbon of states.

Back in the garden, I enjoyed the interesting shadows.

Pumpkin in shadows solar eclipse

During the Eclipse: Pumpkin fruit in shadows 10:23 am

California poppies during the solar eclipse

During the eclipse: California poppies 10:24 am

pumpkin shadow during solar eclipse

During the eclipse: Arching ribbon of shadow on the pumpkin’s surface 10:35 am

Indoors, the cats were oblivious. (See Monday through Sunday for comparison…ha!)

Did you witness all or part of the eclipse today?

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Gardening From The Ground Up

After my forced break from the garden, I’m making up for lost time. I’ve been outdoors pulling weeds, sorting compost, preparing planting beds and doing general cleanup every day for weeks.

freesia collage

The freesia are in bloom all over the garden

I’m in the garden for a few minutes in the morning after returning from school drop-off. If I’m working with clients or have other appointments, then I put in my time at the end of the day.

lemon tree buds and leaves in the rain

Meyer’s Lemon Tree Enjoying the Rain

The weekend affords the luxury of a few hours in a row, even with our recent and welcome rain.

Chronic neck pain, a wonky hip and my tender ankle tend to dictate the duration. I enjoy working in the cooler weather and even the rain but once my various ailments begin to act up, it’s time to pack it in for the day.

About a year ago I bought a garden kneeler with handles. I’ve seen pictures of them in catalogs for years. I once used a foam pad for shifting around the garden, but it’s become increasingly harder to get back up without pain.

The pictures generally feature a “mature” woman using the kneeler. Only recently did it occur to me that I’m a mature woman. In my mind I’m perpetually thirty. How disconcerting.

I got over myself and bought the kneeler.

gardenease kneeling bench

Kneeling in the garden

Word of the Year

I chose “health” as my word this year. It’s interesting how much of life’s enjoyment comes down to our personal well-being.  I’ve reduced my consumption of sugar, with some slip ups here and there. I’ve kept a food and exercise diary through MyFitnessPal for the past 66 days. Now that I’ve been on such a long streak, I find that I don’t want to miss a day. Logging what I eat is also eye-opening. It feels good to be back to Pilates classes two days a week, and I’m back to long walks as well. The weight is coming off slowly though, which seems so unfair [insert pouting face here].  I’m not giving up, but find it disappointing when week after week the scale doesn’t budge and the pants remain snug. I think we’re conditioned to think that if we do everything “right” we should see the results. Does this happen to you?

The first day of spring in California is March 20th this year. I’ll be planting heirloom tomatoes, basil and maybe, just maybe, a few pumpkins. I have a new and improved watering system which I will share in another post.

When autumn rolls around, I say it’s my favorite time of year. Then spring unfolds and I’m in love with the color, the birdsong and the freshness of it all.

I think I’ve made up my mind: I can’t possibly choose sides.

Rear Window

Have you seen the movie Rear Window, the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic? It’s one of my personal favorites.

While I’m happy to report that nothing too suspicious is going on outside my rear window, I’ve found myself thinking about Jimmy Stewart’s character, a photographer convalescing with a broken foot. Through the view of his rear window, he gradually pieces together a murder.

As my surgery-addled brain clears and my energy slowly returns, I’m feeling the limitations of my restricted mobility.

In the movie, Stewart’s character Jeff starts to suspect the neighbor across the way of killing and then burying his own wife. At one point he tells the detective:

“Those two yellow zinnias at the end, they’re shorter now. Now since when do flowers grow shorter over the course of two weeks? Something’s buried there.”

This got me thinking. There is something suspicious outside my rear window. It looks like a small sinkhole to the front of a newly planted shrub. Like Stewart, I’m unable to investigate on my own. I waited for Mike to check it out. He topped up the recess with a handful of soil, but the next day the sinkhole was back.

It’s quite possible that I’m spending too much time in my head.

In any event, I miss my garden and my mobility.

San Jose summers are too hot for daytime gardening. Mid autumn is where the action is. I long to be out there raking leaves, pruning branches, and tidying the garden for the winter ahead. I love the way the crisp air reddens my cheeks and reminds me that I’m one with the elements. The bouquet of autumn decay centers my soul.

This is the time of year when my garden gloves wear out. Even the toughest gloves are no match for wet earth and rough leaves. Once the fingertips have worn through, it’s time to put them to rest, thanking them for a job well done.

As the garden rests, part of me comes alive. I spent the first six years of my life in Ontario, Canada, a home with four distinct seasons. I think those changing seasons are part of my early imprinting. Autumn in San Jose connects me to my early sense of home.

As I heal from surgery and sit this season out, here’s the view from my rear window.

hydrangea cranberry

This blushing pink Hydrangea darkens to a beautiful cranberry before dying back for the winter. I’m looking down on it from our living room window

split view

Splitting the view: indoor shelves display assorted succulents; outdoors, Abutilon grows along the fence with dollops of ground cover and a peek-a-boo Hydrangea

ultra violet decal

These window decals “contain a unique component that reflects ultraviolet light, which is brilliantly visible to birds, to alert them of glass without obscuring your view.”

pair of hummingbirds at feeder

Ana’s hummingbird has a drink at the feeder while a competitor swoops in for a turn

alysum, geranium, begonia and flax

Foreground: Alyssum, Pink Geranium and Begonia. Background: New Zealand Flax

A Walk Through the Garden: The Drought Addition

It’s hard gardening in a drought.

It’s equally hard writing a blog about it without sounding all gloom and doom. (I’m saving my gloom and doom posts for Halloween).

Since we’ve all had it up to here with the drought, the heat, the save-the-air alerts and the raging fires here in California, writing about it  seems as drab as my former lawn.

Bouganvilla

Bougainvillea love the dry heat. Lush lawns are a thing of the past.

Today, I’m shaking things up a bit with a garden video show and tell.

I created the video tour using my mobile phone with my family’s help. Mike followed me around the garden and took video, and my son, Mac edited the clips for the final production.

Instead of tidying up before the guests arrive, I present to you my unadulterated, much-loved, brown around the edges garden.

Without further ado, Gardening Nirvana: The Drought Addition