Humidity dominated the air the past two days after a spell of crisp, clear mornings and evenings. The walks have been lovely. The leaves scurry about. Finally raindrops splatter the parched earth here in St. Charles County. The thunder rumbles. A lovely sound. Our Labrador, Midnight does not seem to mind it too much. It has been a long while to hear these stormy sounds. No walk outside tonight for safety sake. If it was just rain, well I would welcome a walk in the rain! I will finish my daily quota of steps indoors while vacuuming the floors.
The wind begun to rock the grass
With threatening tunes and low, —
He flung a menace at the earth,
A menace at the sky.
The leaves unhooked themselves from trees
And started all abroad;
The dust did scoop itself like hands
And throw away the road.
The wagons quickened on the streets,
The thunder hurried slow;
The lightning showed a yellow beak,
And then a livid claw.
The birds put up the bars to nests,
The cattle fled to barns;
There came one drop of giant rain,
And then, as if the hands
That held the dams had parted hold,
The waters wrecked the sky,
But overlooked my father’s house,
Just quartering a tree.
~ Emily Dickinson
Where is the Bee—
Where is the Blush—
Where is the Hay?
Ah, said July—
Where is the Seed—
Where is the Bud—
Where is the May—
~ Emily Dickinson, Answer July
I am missing May. This July in Missouri has been a scorcher. Parched the past few days, rain finally came overnight after a 108 degree day in the St. Louis region. More is needed. I pray. Yesterday Dean and I walked Midnight late-morning. The tree leaves were turned and folded in an attempt to protect from the blasting sun rays. They made a wither y rustle when a slight breeze came by. We waited until dusk for that last walk of the day. The sun, oh so hot this summer! Yet I am reminded of its purpose by the flowering beauty of our bird of paradise, the delicate peppery flavor of arugula shoots, the calmness of green in my Swedish ivy planter, and the glimmering glass art butterflies at the Butterfly House.
Each week in April brought about warm days then yielding to colder, rainy days. This week, nothing but rain. Deanna Greens and Garden Art greenhouse/screenhouse protects a prolific bed of greens and herbs from severe weather and wildlife. We gather water from our rain barrel or the creek at Boone Hollow Farms before the water line is turned back on from the winter shut-off. Our garden greens continue to flourish this spring. The arugula actually bolted this week, causing me to pluck those flowering buds by lantern light between the rains this week. It is too early for these delicious organic greens to go to seed!
Lent season and Easter came and went too quickly. Beautiful flower planters and spring baskets of goodies reminded me of the fresh life Easter brings. Prayer at church during my lunch hour does the same. Dean and I were able to have some family over for our first dinner party in the new room addition, a family/dining area and extra bedroom added to our modest 3-bedroom home. The new fireplace mantle brought fresh color to the kitchen.
Dean and I’s two youngest grandchildren have April birthdays. Being a part of our children’s and grandchildren’s lives is important to us. 7-year old Eli had a sick sibling the weekend of his party, so the celebrating takes place early May. And baby Elise turned 1-year old this week! How can that be? Her family from the Netherlands came for the party, and brought her first pair of wooden Dutch shoes. I love Spring, and all the new life it births!
“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.
After repotting my perennials and mulching last weekend, the weather turned wryly. Chilly, rainy days like very early spring or a late autumn started the week. What happened to May? My spinly pear tomato plant is probably wondering the same. The rain water will help produce juicier fruit, but the leaves did not like the overnight temperatures in the 40’s. Plants are resilient, as new growth is coming from the base. This is the second growing season for this pear tomato plant given to me by my girlfriend from Minnesota.
An absolutely gorgeous Saturday today. Our plans changed for the day, and Dean and I will get to the Missouri Botantical Gardens tomorrow with family. This morn I rest and reflect on the front porch with my sanctuary of green surround.
I pitch a withered branch or two from my geraniums. The new buds have popped up and the leaves greened with the spring rains and sunshine. Their red blossoms should open next week or so. What I love about my gardens is there is no time table. I am an artistic gardener, rather than a scientific gardener like my father was. A meandering pace and organic existence are what I need from my green passion.
“Working in the garden gives me something beyond enjoyment of the senses…It gives me a profound feeling of inner peace. There is no rush toward accomplishment, no blowing of trumpets. Here is the great mystery of life and growth. Everything is changing, growing, aiming at something, but silently, unboastfully, taking its time.” Ruth Stout
The boxes stacked to our eyeballs are dwindling. Dean and I along with my daughter and her family managed to get moved back into our renovated home despite the timing of a broken down vehicle. The storage company brought all our furniture and other boxed items back as well. I want to see more painted walls than brown boxes. So the goal is at least one box every evening and hit it hard on the weekend. Still need to work our jobs during the weekdays, and get to bed at a decent time every evening.
Over the years this house has been open to many people and pets. I never had much space in this 1200 square foot house to hoard too much. Sometimes a little is a bunch with multiple families in one home. The Goodwill and other charitable organizations have already received some of our excess, with more to come. Dean and I are becoming reformed hoarders, making decisions and not procrastinating, detaching and not clinging, secure and not possessive.
Reformation can come in a trickle or flood, a snow ball or avalanche, a step or sprint, or a combination of. Later this month I speak to a group on the subject of resilience. One way we become more resilient is taking small steps with faith to obtain a goal, or gracefully walk or run from (or through) adversity. And God gives us wisdom on which pace and direction. It is never too late to turn to Him. His voice is heard more clearly and precise as we walk with Him daily. “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28 – 30 (The Message version). I hear the trickle of a spring-like rain. Refreshing to my soul as the daffodil in bloom this early March day.
Bird life on Island Lake this summer is very active. Forty-one loons and counting as more were being hatched this week. Two families of ducks frequent the boat dock and lake side looking for handouts. Apparently vacationers were feeding them, and the presence of more people posed the promise of more handouts. Duck audacity was proudly displayed even with our 85-lb labrador, Midnight present. Midnight had a whining fit as we kept him on the porch until the ducks and ducklings were back in water swimming safely onto their next destination. Flies, butterflies, and dragonflies flew with the breeze. Owls by night and chipmunks by day sat on the tree limbs watching the life underneath. Co-existence.
The summer rains followed Dean, my sister, and I to our beloved Minnesota. It rained everyday we were at Island Lake. But each day also included some sunshine and low 80’s. Thunderheads would build up with steam as the day went along. Then, the winds would blow the rain across the lake in sheets, causing ripples and then white caps in the lake. The cool north air would follow. Those storms created some awesome views from the porch of our favorite little red cabin or the boat dock. Dean captured a few awesome photos. Our Midnight embraced the noisy storms outdoors or on the porch with us. The thunder sounds different at Island Lake than in our Missouri home. Momma loon and her baby weathered the white caps in the bay, bobbin with each wave. Dean caught the reflection in the water as a double rainbow arched above the lake. Friendships continue after so many years. And new ones form even amongst the dogs. Another memorable week at Valhalla.
I picked pea pods, lettuces, and herbs galore this past weekend. After a week of rain, the sun shined for a day. Finally, I was able to get to Boone Hollow Farm and Deanna Green And Gardens Art greenhouse without fear of rising creeks and rivers. I found an old saying in my book The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady “June damp and warm does the farmer no harm,” which I feel the local farmers and folks as far as Texas would disagree. Floods waters have ruined acres of crops. May be too late to try another round of crops this growing season.
Valhalla Sunset & Camp Fire
Yesterday was the Midsummer Day in the US, the longest day of the year. A much celebrated day in the Old World and other countries around the world, but especially so amongst farm cultures and country folk. For some it is held on June 23 or 24. There are many rituals, most common is a bonfire. I had not the opportunity to have a bonfire for the summer solstice as we celebrated Father’s Day in Columbia, Missouri with family at a steak house. Does the flame from the grill count? No, I don’t think so. But the company and food was good. And it is not too long until the Minnesota destination of Valhalla on Island Lake. I will be memorized by the flames of many bonfires and the sound of chatter amongst friends.
Life gets stagnant from time to time. Satiety, boredom, ennui sets in. Another time the demands of this person and that project adds up to a multitude of “have to” rather than “want to” chores. So what do you do to get out of that funk, evolve into a better mood for the day or status in your life? You spontaneously take a 24-hour breather, an overnight retreat somewhere neutral. Dean and I did just that. On Saturday into Sunday we drove the Missouri country highways in St. Charles, Warren, Franklin, Washington, St. Francois, Jefferson, and St. Louis Counties. Saturday afternoon we stopped at a local winery. By evening we found a state park to eat and finally lay our heads down.
Sunday morning, another overcast start to the new day. But silence resignated instead of the buzz of street traffic and urban noises. I gathered my sundress, dressed quietly to not wake my sweetheart. Stepped out the back door, leaving just a screen door between me and the quaint hideaway I slept in. I sat in a lawn chair situated on the deck overlooking the slopes of huge trees leading to the river valley. The cardinals and finches sang. Then a hush before the dark cloud rolled over with a hum of pitter-patter on the dense leaves. I heard the raindrops approach before they where atop the trees in front of me. A steady rain, gently watering the earth.
Queen Anne’s lace, orange day lilies, and pink coneflower swayed with the breeze and occasional rain shower. Darker clouds rolled in with sheets of rain coming down as we dined at the state park cafe. We waited out the sudden outburst, and then made it to the jeep for a drive to the motel seated on a high ridge over the Meramec River. “Where do the butterflies go when it rains”, I thought aloud. Butterflies hide when it rains, like they do at night. They hide under the shelter of large leaves or a pile of leaves. Sometimes butterflies go under rocks or structures. But other butterflies just put their head down on the grass or bushes closing their wings tightly. If the rains are heavy, their wings are damaged and they never make another flight. Where do you hide when the weather gets rough?
Another rainy May morning, this time meandering into the weekend. The rain may stop this afternoon. Maybe I will plant some baby geraniums into pots while home. Many weekend hours went into the creation of my garden vignettes. Planting flowers and perennials in terra-cotta pots, moss baskets, and unassuming vessels such as tea kettles and driftwood is one of my favorite hobbies. I design the various plants and art pieces into garden vignettes. This growing season the big wagon holds two large moss baskets of red impatiens, lobelia, vinca, and bridal veil. The other moss basket beds our perennials of wandering jew, spider plants, and an older, wildly growing red geranium. Another vignette is the child-size porch bench and table seated with young spider plants, moses-in-the-cradle, and geraniums while reaching for sunlight filtered by the tender bright red Japanese maple leaves. A nursery indeed. More red geraniums surround a bird bath and old red bike. A gorgeous red rooster-tail (twisted celosia) grows in the middle of our largest terra-cotta pot with marguerite sweet potato vine and clusters of yellow lantana contrasting. Pots of succulents are scattered on the patio and porch. Smaller coco-lined wire baskets of asparagus fern, wandering jew, and spider plants hang from our shade trees along side the bird houses and feeders. I hope you enjoy my garden art captured with Dean’s photography, the serene and comfort of green art.