While at our local nature store during the holidays purchasing bird seed and gifts, we (and all their loyal customers) were given a cranberry seed bell, wrapped pretty in red & green tissue paper in a brown paper gift bag. Such a kind gesture. We saved the seed bell for this last weekend of Advent. A delicious dessert for our songbirds, or at least that is what Dean and I had in our minds. A neighborhood squirrel has another idea of who that seed bell belongs to. Within in minutes of hanging the cranberry seed bell on a hook, a squirrel is chewing on the rope so the dessert falls to the ground for his partaking only. By the time Dean got outside that blanky-blank squirrel is gnawing on that seed bell like a succulent buttery corn cob on an August day! In disgust, Dean shoos the squirrel away and rescues the cranberry seed bell from the ground.
Making do with what we have in the basement Dean finds an old metal curtain rod, metal wiring, and duct tape. Dean jimmy-rigs an extension pole from a current bird feeder pole. He is hoping this will deter the squirrels, or least make it more difficult to get to the cranberry seed bell. We still have squirrels feeding on the cranberry seed bell, but not totally taking over for their own pleasure. It is being shared amongst the songbirds and squirrels now. Such is the theme of the squirrels in our neighborhood, and I guarantee yours as well. We have learned to live with the squirrels, just make it a bit more of a challenge for the squirrels. And don’t take over what is meant for the common good.
Co-existence. Isn’t that the word? Much like the children’s tale of the king, mice, and cheese illustrates. The king dislikes sharing his cheese with the mice. So he brings in a cat to take care of the mice. The king doesn’t like the cat clawing on this furniture. So he brings in a dog. Then the dog’s fur gets on the king’s nerves, and he brings in … So the story goes on until the king realizes he has a much bigger problem than he had with just the mice. Can we apply that story to our current state of affairs in our nation? I think so. We can do so much better than we did this past week. We need to co-exist, agree to disagree, and respect boundaries despite our political views, creeds, races, genders, ages, and choices. So the lion and elephant do not crowd out our nation void, and you and I null.
The song birds at our feeders keep us entertained with their thankful chirps and chatter. The robins bob up and down listening for the worms. The cardinals’ color brighten Dean’s and I’s day. The yellow, purple, and house finches share and then bicker over perches. The word co-exist is familiar to many of us this present day. We are home together all day seven days a week now with these mandatory remote work settings. After a whole day of staying indoors that first day, Dean and I knew we needed to change it up. Fresh air and daily walks were needed to keep our sanity. Our bodies, minds, and spirits thanked us. We now take a stroll twice a day everyday. We see neighbors about, too. If we get into a spring rain, the drops are harmless. A cup of hot coffee for Dean and hot tea for me takes any chill out immediately. The spring season is in bloom every direction we walk. First the jonquils, daffodils, hyacinths, wild violets, and now tulips take bloom. The tulip and plum trees opened with the crab apple and pear trees closely after. Soon the cherry, red bud, and dogwood trees will be in full display. Nature’s canvas and neighbors’ garden art to admire. Our feathered and flowery friends, God’s creations teach us to take note, be present moment, co-exist, and share joy.
“Co-exist” is a word that became popular a few years ago. It implies people, critters, and plants living harmoniously on this earth despite our differences. A lofty goal, easier said than done, but is wonderful to experience when it happens. I would rather think “co-thriving”. I want to thrive rather than just exist. I know there are other people in my world who feel the same. Even my Labrador, Midnight thrives when people surround, a social animal. My geraniums thrive in the warm and sunny afternoons and a humid Memorial Day rain storm. Rain finally came after many cloud build-ups this 3-day weekend!
I am hitting the age where more of my colleagues are retiring. Dean and I attended a happy hour this past week for one of my friends. More Cardinal ball games and late mornings are in my friend’s new season. I can be entering that season of life in about 4 years and 4 months. That would be 225 more work weeks. Oh, I forgot I have a few vacation weeks in there as well, but who is counting?! I want to thrive, not merely exist during retirement. Good chance I will do just that because that is what I am doing now. Key is, co-thriving with my Dean, family, and friends. I believe green plants and gardening will fill my days, as well as serving with joy the people God places in my life. Much like today. “And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music” Friedrich Nietzsche is quoted. I hear the music, and I want to dance every season of my life.
I sat in our small SUV waiting on Dean to come out with a bagful of groceries needed for the next day or two’s menu. A late Saturday evening after the comical “Always Patsy Cline” play at the Westport Playhouse, I caught 10 minutes of shut-eye with the cool night air blowing away the heat of the day. I awoke to a noise in the local grocery store parking lot, and saw in the corner of my eye a quick movement. I turned, and there stood a deer! Misplaced or in starled my presence, we froze for a second or two. Co-existence? Suddenly, off across the parking lot and into the neighboring field he ran. Strangest encounter for a late night Saturday.
Well that deer sighting didn’t stop there. On following Sunday afternoon we arrived home from the church picnic, tidying up the house before taking a nap, and Dean hollers, ” I just saw a deer run down the street”. I ask Dean which direction was the critter headed, and he pointed west. I go out the front door to investigate, and there was the deer grazing in the neighbor’s front yard, 3 doors down and across the street. I don’t believe we have ever encountered a deer on our street the whole 28 years I have lived there. When I was a child, we would see a deer or two at my childhood home and tree farm about 2 miles from where I live now. A much more rural area 40 years ago. But not on our street, and our neighborhood in a city of this size, over 50,000 people! I am not sure if this was the same deer I saw the night before, only 1 mile away from Dean and I’s home. But co-existence came again for another 30 seconds before the deer saw me staring at him. He ran off once again.
Monday morning’s traffic report: “A herd of deer are causing traffic jams in St. Peters…”. I have not seen a deer in St. Peters since. I suppose the authorities took care of matters … I enjoyed the deer while they were amongst us. But then, maybe that is what has been chewing on my daisy and mum plants? I have been blaming the rabbits and squirrels. Cannot we co-exist? I know it is not easy, but I continue to dream.
Of course you have heard of the saying “April showers bring May flowers”. I always added to the end of that saying “and May flowers bring June bugs.” Well, I have refined that saying to “April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring June critters.” Missouri’s humid summer is here to stay for at least the next 3 months. The warmer season attracts the bugs as well as other critters to our plants. My two potted daisy plants were coming along finely near the front porch, watching each day for a week anticipating a blossom to open any day. Dean and I came home from work one evening this week with the two daisy plants knawled down to the roots! The neighborhood rabbits or squirrels must have had a mighty fine lunch of daisy leaves. There was plenty of other green vegetation to eat! The critters tossed the one lone daisy stem with a blossom to the water splash block setting under the front porch gutter. These furry critters must not like the daisy blossom, but I do. Not to eat, but I admire their simple beauty. I snatched the blossom and set it in water to co-exist with some airplane plant shoots. A repurposed medicine bottle found at the Chandler Hill Vineyard grounds while marketing last year now makes a lovely vase. The daisy blossom graces our kitchen and opened this last day of May. Lovely!
What do all these have in common? M’waw! In any given 15-hour period I can be all four places: historical small town main street, bustling city streets, tree-deprived urban avenue, or a country dirt road. The brick road, Main Street Missouri’s first state capitol of St. Charles, global skyscrapers towering over financial hub Clayton, urban neighborhoods sprinkled throughout St. Charles and St. Louis Counties, and the countryside near Defiance’s howling coyotes and wildlife; each culture is within 15 miles from my home. Today, the contrasting changes were apparent to me. Sunday, I spent 8 hours on Main Street in St. Charles, Missouri selling herbs, spices, and other food items at a niche market with literally hundreds of people during the Festival of the Little Hills, shopping at leisure and a slower pace. Early Monday morning I entered into a landscape of skyscrapers after bumper to bumper traffic at the fast pace of a city freeway. Suburbia is entered on several occasions as I get off the freeway as soon as I am able, finding quieter routes through residential areas and strip malls. And then to the greenhouse, winding down as I go out of the city, then suburbia, onto a state highway, county highway, and finally taking the dirt road near the weathered barn up the hill to our greenhouse. Most evenings we hear the owl’s hoot and the coyotes howl. Currently, I co-exist in these four cultures. Though two of them I am most at home with. Guess which two? Adaptability and flexibility have been engrained into my character these past five years while working for St. Louis County Government. Will I thrive for another 11 – 12 years in the city and its commute? Or is small town main street calling us home? More words on that subject at another time. Praying to see what God has in mind for Dean and I these last years before retirement.