I chose to live this life alone over 12 years ago. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a dream fulfilled is a tree of life,” one of the proverbs tell us. My heart was sick for too many years with an unhappy relationship. I only imagined what a happy marriage would be like. A come-true dream is a tree of life for me today. Eight years ago this July, Dean and I met on a semi-blind date arranged by his brother and sister-in-law. This tall, dark handsome man captured my eyes. But unlike the other bucks in the herd, Dean captured my heart. So happy I pursued this relationship. With our family backgrounds and life experiences, Dean and I came together like two peas in a pod, and we still are. Our pod is shared with our huge family almost every evening and every weekend. “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” is how an African proverb is told.
Dean and I needed to become just “two peas in a pod” again for a few days. We stole away to the Great Smokies, doing the Air B & B thing. Mountains, pines, music, and the visual and culinary arts we surrounded ourselves with. Despite the hot days while on a mountain culture retreat away from our Missouri life, I picked two big plastic bags full of leaf lettuce and a heaping bowl full of arugula and chives from my gardens this week. And those delectable garden peas! I love the pods picked fresh, and peas plucked out one at a time right into my open mouth like a baby bird awaiting mother robin’s wiggly worm catch after a rainy morn. The bountiful earth is feeding me (and my family and friends) goodness this spring. The longer and hotter days tell me the summer equinox is soon. Purple lobelia, wandering jew, and red geraniums are filling my moss baskets and terra-cotta pots. I thank God for watching over my beloved gardens while pursuing what captured my heart 8 years ago!
The holiday weekend marked the baptism of our youngest grandchild, Elise. Beautiful evening ceremony. Lovely child. God with us. Labor Day seems to signify the end of summer. Colorful fields with changing hues of amber and purple for the harvest season. A whole summer of prolific arugula is about to end although my growing season continues with my herbs. I sowed more leaf lettuce and basil a month ago in hopes to yield a fall crop. See how mother nature takes her course. Next year I will introduce a new herb to my quilt of culinary herb patches. Lavender. So I will learn how to prepare the soil for my first crop of organic lavender. Lavender lemonade is my favorite summertime beverage, and a lavender tisane is a soothing, calming herbal tea enjoyed before nap time or bed time. This time next year I hope to harvest my own fresh grown lavender at the Deanna Greens And Garden Art plot seated in Boone’s Hollow Farm. Not sure if little Elise will be quite ready for a tea party then, but maybe soon in the many days that follow …
Simplicity. “In a world of complexity, the best weapon is simplicity,” Price Pritchett is quoted. The simplicity of a garden is one place I find peace in this troubled world. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific one. I love creating an ambiance with green life. The fragrances of fresh herbs after a soaking rain or while harvesting feed my culinary imagination for Dean and I’s next meal, cucumber salad with snippets of cilantro to cool the heat of the summer day. The beauty of August’s blooms set in a simple vase uplifts the day no matter the bad news. “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,” Audrey Hepburn once said. It takes faith. “Faith isn’t the ability to believe long and far into the misty future. It’s simply taking God at His Word and taking the next step,” artist Joni Eareckson Tada tells us. So I take one step at a time, one seed at a time. “Faith as a mustard seed can move mountains” as the Bible encourages us. I believe one simple step of love leads to another and then another. Those mountains of hatred will move. Make one simple step towards peace this very evening.
In a world with ever changing values and technology, some things remain the same. Kinship, old mountain towns, and summer lakes. Most of the time you can depend on all three. Family is family. Most of us are connected if not by blood, in some other fashion to each other no more than 3 times removed. We connected to Joe, owner of this small town bar & grill and a new eatery called the Galloping Goose Cafe while in Rico, Colorado. He is a visionary for this town. Not sure if I could go back 4 decades, but the brief week we had in the old mountain town cabin took Dean and I to the simplicity of our childhood years. And we loved it. In search for WiFi a couple of times to get connected to our urban civilization to post photos and reserve a hotel room for our travels back home, other than that we lived without any electronics and screens. Dean and I resorted to reading, writing, napping, cooking, bird watching, photography, and walks. We return to our full-time employment with government entities that overwhelm with procedures, projects, policies, and politics. Cannot escape it in the evening with the political conventions being aired. So here is to wonderful July 2016 memories with family in the old mountain town and near the summer lake. I will keep reading, writing, … making more memories and connections.
I use my abundant, pungent arugula in my salads as well as egg, pasta, and rice dishes these days. A little goes a long way, so most of my culinary creations as of late include my fresh grown arugula. One important aspect to the culinary arts is that improvisation goes a long way. It is easier to substitute ingredients with cooking versus baking. I find arugula can be used in place of spinach in most dishes and salads. There is a taste difference with these 2 greens, but cooking properties similar. Arugula like spinach is a great source of vitamin A and C as well as potassium, calcium, and magnesium. Arugula grows much like spinach, spring and autumn sowing here in Missouri.
I love creamed spinach! The best I ever had is crafted by the executive chef Gerard Germain. I learned much from the culinary experts while working at Dierbergs School of Cooking. Chef Gerard dazzles his students’ appetites with Italian and French cuisines. A first generation French immigrant applies his old world culinary magic in the kitchen of a fine Italian establishment in St. Louis called Tony’s. The next best thing is spinach in a white sauce over pasta. So here is my attempt to a lighter version of Pasta alla Fiorentina … Pasta Arugula (or the Italians say rucola), but my recipe is American-style. I lessen the butter and use a little olive oil as a base for the slurry as well as use whole milk instead of cream or half & half. Of course, arugula goes in the recipe instead of spinach. Noted for the recipe this evening, I cooked too much whole-grain pasta for the amount of white sauce I made, and did not add enough arugula. Fresh arugula shrinks considerably while sauteed. Tonight I served the Pasta Arugula with locally-made chicken Italian sausage and crusty bread. I sipped a glass of lavender sparkling water, and Dean downed a domestic beer this rainy summer evening.
A week in the mountains away from suburban life, work day conflicts, time constraints, and society’s woes … God’s creation … His canvas …
colorful vignettes, the snow-capped peaks and vi-rid valleys, mountain streams, deep-rooted trees, fresh air, hummingbird shrills, delicate flowers abloom, the silvery paper coins of the aspen groves fluttering, and the simplicity of just being can settle anyone’s mind, heart , and soul. What a difference a week can make.
Why are we as a people so fired up? In fight mode, defensive? Pause a moment. Take a deep breathe or two. Quiet the soul. Chill, or sip some chamomile tea if you cannot get away to that quiet place on your own. Think, but not too hard. Meditate on goodness. Selah from the heart. Thank God. Love unceasingly.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails…” 1 Corinthians 13:4 -8 (NIV).
“We have learned that more of the ‘earth-earthiness’ would solve our social problems, remove many isms from our vocabulary, and purify our art. And so we often wish those who interpret life for us by pen or brush would buy a trowel and pack of seeds.” Ruth R. Blodgett.
The week-long sunshine and humidity boosted garden growth. Clean, crisp leaves of arugula and leaf lettuce will make a big bowl of salad for the family crowd this week. My sister is in town from Minnesota, cause for celebration.
Sweat beaded my neckline, and then down my back and chest as I harvest the garden greens. Already 88 at 10 am. Soon salty droplets dribble onto my lips. The greens are almost sweet before the extreme afternoon temps turn them bitter. Are not we all?
The herbs thrive in the summer heat, with plenty of water. More chives need cutting. Snipette of tender dill and cilantro came ready in a couple of days. Next week I will be freezing my surplus herbs for the winter meals. The pea blossoms produced 1-inch pea pods in a matter of a week. Plant scraps are added to the compost. Earthy goodness. Primal to my taste buds. Organic gardening..
As the summer solstice approaches we relish the vibrant blooms in the gardens and roadside, as well in our homes. Our dream is to bloom with our kin folk. Dean and I refurbished our living room, a blend of fresh and vintage. Midnight, our Labrador is ready for the companionship of kin, and is on the welcome committee at our home. In the meantime a few recent travels take us to our families in other Missouri towns. Dean is such a proud father and grandfather. He carries his digital camera to capture the moments and shares his finds with zeal.
Late April we were blessed with another grandchild. Elise is Dean’s first born grandchild. Beautiful baby. We took the occasion and traveled to meet her early May when she was less than a week old, and another one this past weekend. The last Saturday in April we honored my deceased father, aunt, and uncle with a Relay For Life team of kin at the cancer relay held downtown St. Louis. Mother’s Day was a visit to an old lookout point in St. Francois County with my daughters and their families. We had another May day trip to the Missouri Botanical Gardens with my brother and sister-in-law. And there is summer league baseball with our oldest grandson, Brendan. The first weekend in June we celebrated the 30-year birthday of Dean’s daughter, Liz as well as the birth of our youngest grandchild, Elise.
“Let us be grateful for the people that make us happy, they are the charming gardeners that make our souls blossom.” Marcel Proust
“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 had a deja vu moment this past weekend while walking down a neighborhood street to the auto part store with my Dean and our Midnight. During our brisk walk I approached a view unforgettable from my childhood. An old brick house, the grandmother’s house of a farm family I grew up with just down the road from my childhood home and tree farm. I was 12-years old again and at the place where I knew I was more than 1/2 way home from the old town ball diamond where I played softball. On occasion my sister and I would walk to ball practice and our games. It was at least a 2-mile walk one way, and required us to cross over the interstate on a cross walk. Considered a summer adventure, not scary. Over 40 years ago, my hometown St. Peters, Missouri was a farm community. Everyone knew each other, and for the most part everyone was trustworthy. That cross walk was torn down a few years back. But if it was still usable today, would I let my 10-year old or even 14-year old granddaughter walk that distance to ball practice from home and back again? I would say “no” as this community has greatly changed in size. We do not know our “neighbors” like we did back then, and who knows about the interstate traffic and travelers. The world has changed its character.
“Almost home” is like those familiar places and people. Thankful for, content with. The rental house has been a temporary refuge for us, almost home. But home and family is where we are meant to be. All my senses clearly see, smell, hear, touch, and taste its warmth. The pine wood and painted walls smell fresh, clean, new. These colored walls are awaiting our human presence. I hear our birds chirp near the front porch in the maple and dogwood trees. And I feel the crisp new bed linens and quilt to my skin as I lay in my bed along side my husband. This weekend we will be moving our personal items back to our renovated home. And our hearts come with. Living minimally has been refreshing like the aromas of fresh wood. Dean and I vow to continue this. As I wrote a few weeks ago, “’Home’ is where you lay your head, and share your heart and blessings with your family…” no matter the structure or belongings. The Books of Matthew and Philippians in our Bible say, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” and “I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” My prayer for each of us, we know that God our Father provides for our every need and that we each are content with His provisions.