Is that Santa peering at us from the tree? Or an angel? Maybe an angel in the form of Santa in the first snow! Angels are amongst us, and I believe in miracles. Perform Your miracles through me and Your People, Lord God. We need Your Peace. Let us be an instrument of Your Peace this Christmas and each day of the New Year …
Spring seemed to arrive in Missouri early this year. Grass and flowers bulbs sprouted up out of the ground, and we are not even to March yet. My vegetable and herb bed was prepped with rich organic compost, and spring greens and peas sowed on Monday, earliest ever for Deanna Greens And Garden Art. The pink tulip trees and yellow daffodils bloomed in color this week. And then … woo, the north wind blew in the arctic cold and snow flurries on Friday. Winter is still among us this weekend. Those daffodils swayed with the wind on Friday, but with hope they will continue to stand and bloom even in the chill of winter. Resilience. That is what we are called to this very day, and for a season. Isaiah 42:3 states “He won’t break a bruised reed. He won’t quench a dimly burning wick. He will faithfully bring justice.” Hot tea, a warm Sunday breakfast, and God’s Word keeps this wick burning this day.
As I center my thoughts on this new year, I think about the doors and keys to life. You know those doors of opportunity to knock on, doors to walk through, and finding that prize on the other side of the door. Scriptures tell us“knock, seek, and you will find”. At times it feels like multiple knocks before someone slowly creaks the door open with a mutter of a greeting. Other times you barely get a knock in, and “HELLO, HERE I AM!” like a bright red door. And then there are those times, and no one answers. Maybe I need to move onto a new address, new door, new opportunity? “When one door closes, another opens” as the saying goes. There can be a reward for those who are persistent.
Then there are the keys to life. Author Alex Morritt writes, “Owning fewer keys opens more doors.” Was he speaking about property ownership, or more about simplifying your life in general? Maybe both. In 2016 my quest to simplify and pare down was energizing. I was able to see my immediate surroundings in a new light. In 2017, it will be more in the area of my thoughts and words. Simplify my thoughts, less analyzing. Simplify my communiques with fewer words, use more effective ones. Loving words. Encouragement. God holds “the key to my heart”. He knows all my thoughts and cares of this life before I even pray them.
What door are you knocking on? What key will open the door, your life this very day?
After the main water line burst under our foundation and flooded the floors throughout our home in November of 2015, Dean and I stopped in our tracks for another look into our future. We lived in a rental home for almost 3 months while our floors, doors, and walls were upgraded. Poet Emily Dickinson once wrote, “Where thou are – that – is Home”. Home for me is where Dean is. We refocused on our future, and we dreamed new dreams those few days beginning 2016. We entered this year with different eyes for our near and farther future. “Different” has many meanings, and it is a word used interchangeable with words such as eccentric, strange, or unfamiliar and the opposite of alike, same, similar, or akin. Unfamiliar grounds were walked with the unexpected renovations of our home, working with our home owner’s insurance company and a contractor. Our insurance agent said she saw nothing quite like what we experienced. Living in a slab home has its disadvantages. “This ability to reinvent oneself, to sail confidently into unknown waters, seem to be even more needed today, ” writes author Ferenc Mate. Resilience.
On March 1 we made it back into our St. Peters house. No better opportunity to lessen and reorganize our belongings than when our plethora of boxes are delivered from storage back to our home. Dean built another storage shelf for the garage. Redecorating our quaint, beautifully refurbished dwelling allowed for artistic expression. In our future is a red front door, maybe not quite as eccentric as the purple door seen in the photo but I definitely wear purple. Soothing green walls, warm pine doors, and neutral beige laminate floors bring a more natural feel to our home. A room addition came to our minds as we explored ways to invest in what we could afford, yet not as risky as a rental property we had considered in 2015. Late this spring we signed a contract and hired the same local contractor who did our remodel for our 500-square foot house addition project. A delay with city permits and the rerouting of electric lines in our rocky back yard, the roof and windows were installed today. Trendy “barn doors” will be placed for the entry into a small bedroom, and the rest of the space will be a great room to include bargain-finds such as a hide-a-bed sofa, comfy recliner, dining table with chairs, more cabinets extending from our current kitchen, and a nook near one of the windows for a day bed and night lamp. We have friends and family stop in from time to time, and hope to have a homemade dinner made as well as accommodate any overnight visits. Will you be one of them? I hope.
Like previous years gardening, books, writing, foods, and hospitality continue to joyfully fill my spare moments in between my job and family. More herbs and greens will fill our pantry and plates in 2017. I will attempt to grow lavender for some aroma therapy and culinary use in baked goods and fresh tea and lemonade. I learn from authors, artists, and eccentrics. “Blessed are the weird people – the poets, misfits, writers, mystics, heretics, painters, troubadours- for they teach us to see the world in different eyes,” author Jacob Nordby is quoted. On quieter days at work or at home in the evening I read books in preparation for work-life balance presentations and personal enrichment. “I think of life as a good book. The further you get into it, the more it begins to make sense” says Harold Kushner. These three books: The Wisdom of Tuscany by Ferenc Mate, Money Secrets Of the Amish by Lorilee Craker, and Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley touched on the essence of my year. Take small steps with purpose, and be simple, creative, and make-do. And give grace to yourself and others. I highly recommend these readings.
The last day of November was warm with a brisk wind to scurry about the colorful leaves. I walked the streets in Clayton to do some banking and grab a bite to eat on my lunch hour. The wind whipped from the west and changed directions several times that hour. The tell-tale sign of changing seasons. A mild autumn is quickly going into winter-like weather this week. The weekend forecast includes snow flakes, and colder than normal temperatures next week. “Each year is a parable begun in stillness, and chill, of bare ground warmed with spring life returning, then bursting, buzzing, peaking in summer, and issuing a final flare in autumn, to subside in another winter’s seeming nullity,” author Stephanie Mills writes in her book Epicurean Simplicity.
Preparations for the winter season may not be a necessary stack of firewood in my suburban lifestyle. I remember as a child the excitement of my family’s annual New Year’s Eve stay at the one-room cabin my father built on the family farm in Franklin County, Missouri. The simple shingle covered dwelling probably no bigger that 500 square-feet had no bathroom or electricity, but a wood stove for its heat source. My father and Grandpa would cut down old trees on the 100+ -acre farm and split wood throughout the autumn season in preparation for deer hunting trips and these winter weekend visits to the family farm. My current preparations include sweaters and boots being pulled from the depths of the closets as well as my epie pin and antihistamine stowed in my purse for the next 4 months. An allergy to cold air and water is not easy, but is not the worst a person would have to deal with. Thank goodness for gas heat.
And now I focus on my own heart matters for today. Simplicity. “Try to see the beauty in your own backyard to notice the miracles of everyday life,” religious leader Gloria Gaither says. I would say that is great advice. Perennial thoughts and ways, appreciating what you have now, and making do. Simple, thankful, authentic, resourceful. I am intrigued by the choice of voluntary simplicity as I further my research for an enrichment class to teach at my work place. There are authors, activists, and societies devoted to this way of thinking and lifestyle. Choices made such as local community versus global; homegrown versus mass produced; renovate or upcycle versus disgard; a 3-generation home versus having separate homes; public transportation, carpooling, or riding a bicycle versus commuting to work with one’s own vehicle everyday; hand-crafted versus manufacturer made; purchase local versus big brand, slow food versus fast food, and the list goes on. As author and ecological activist Stephanie Mills states“bigger has not turned out to be better.” I like the change back to some old ways and traditions. What does simplicity mean to you? How have you made simplicity a lifestyle choice? I would love to hear.
Every day brings a ship,
Every ship brings a word;
Well for those who have no fear,
Looking seaward well assured
That the word the vessel brings
Is the word they wish to hear.
This poem by Ralph Waldo Emerson is called Letters. Letters are a type of communique, a collection of words intended for a person or persons. Letters have been written for years, centuries, and millenniums. Their forms have been on stone tablets, metal, wood, paper, electronic mail (e-mail), Messenger, and even the Bible mentions words have been scripted on the heart. Yes, words are heart matters. Read a poem, letter, scripture passage, blog post, or journal page, and you can feel the author’s heart.
This poem mentions a hope for the word(s) one wishes to hear. What do you hope to hear today? “I love you.” “I am sorry.” “I need you.” “I am okay.” “I miss you.” “You are healed.” “Forgiveness.” “Thinking of you.” “See you soon.” “I am trying.” …
The next question: What word(s) can you share with someone today? My words to share today are “I love you despite all my imperfections and your imperfections.”
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 …
“Talking, talking, pancakes” is what Dean describes our first morning together. We loves our pancakes! This Saturday morning is no exception. This improvising personal chef had one over-ripe banana in the fruit bowl and one bottle of Wells Banana Bread beer left in the refrigerator from the holidays. This combination created some delicious pancakes. Is it Hermann’s German culture or my German heritage from my deceased grandmothers influencing the weekend menu in this home? Probably a little bit of each. Here it is folks … Banana Beer Pancakes with Caramelized Banana Beer Sauce.
This morning Dean and I talk weekend topics over our pancake breakfast. Errands to run … purchase and install new window blinds in our rejuvenated home, and a tile floor selection for the bathroom. Then dog food and possible organic vegetable and herb seeds to purchase at the local farmers’ co-op with an afternoon run out to our 7-month greenhouse at Boone Hollow Farm in Defiance, Missouri. I will get the organic soil turned up today while Dean looks over the structure for winter wear. February brings us closer to spring. Besides the Groundhog tells us it will be an early spring this year. Spring-like today, but winter returns with frigid cold weather after the weekend. Deanna Greens And Garden Art will start our 4th growing season. In another 4 or 5 weeks, seeds will be planted in our beds for an early crop of lettuces, spinach, and peas. The garage is too crowded with our extra storage during the house renovations to get the gourd and herb seedlings started on the heating pads. All direct sowing this year. Flexibility and improvisations once again. Life requires it.
“Look around for a place to sow a few seeds.” Henry Van Dyke
This time of year the work day is eased into analyzing aggregate reports, research on other wellness programs, event planning, and networking for the year. I like the slower pace which last about 4 – 6 weeks in December into January. It is when I finally have the employee wellness events booked on the calendar. Yes, forecasting at least 9 months ahead. It is much like a teacher and his/hers curriculum planning during the summer for the next school year. It will be another busy year at St. Louis County, the busyness starting next week with several meetings and a health fair.
Much the same as with the farmer, his/hers planning for the spring and autumn crops is done during the frigid cold months. My father was a tree farmer, and the winter was filled with book work and ordering of a new stock of plant liners. My siblings and I would plant 100’s of plant saplings through the spring; lots of hoeing, weeding, and watering in the summer; and autumn a few more plantings and prepping the pines for the holiday harvest.
I cannot say Deanna Greens And Garden Art has quite the planning of a full-time farmer. The greenhouse is a hobby of Dean and I’s while we work full-time. Our part-time organic herb and vegetable growing is fragrantly and deliciously rewarding while the beautiful geranium blossoms are pleasing to the eyes. During Dean and I’s Nashville mini-vacation in December, we toured the Belle Meade Plantation. Each room in the historic house was festively decorated with period Christmas ware, with the kitchen set in the 20’s. The kitchen is my favorite room. And there set a terra cotta pot of red geraniums in the windowsill, again another favorite of mine. A vintage flower.
The subzero wind chill has me hibernating today. I wanted snow, but not this frigid cold stuff. God forgives my absence in church, and He knows my severe allergy to the cold. Early morn I went outdoors in my pjs, robe, socks, and slippers to let our Labrador into the fenced yard, not realizing just how cold it had gotten over night. It dropped 30 degrees in less than 12 hours. My joints have been screaming about it since 7:00am. The daily antihistamine did not take much of an edge off the symptoms, so I took an extra dosage this afternoon. Drinking lots of hot herbal tea while I watch cooking and gardening shows, write, and read …
Life did not bring me silken gowns,
Nor jewels for my hair,
Nor signs of gabled foreign towns
In distant countries fair,
But I can glimpse, beyond my pane, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
The brambled cares of everyday,
The tiny humdrum things,
May bind my feet when they would stray,
But still my heart has wings
While red geraniums are bloomed against my window glass,
And low above my green-sweet hill the gypsy wind-clouds pass.
And if my dreamings ne’er come true,
The brightest and the best,
But leave me lone my journey through,
I’ll set my heart at rest,
And thank God for home-sweet things, a green and friendly hill,
And red geraniums aflame upon my window sill.
by Martha Haskell Clark