In Good Time

One of the lovely things about the first year in a new house is the surprise of all that blooms in spring and summer. Pale purple iris and blood purple iris, the many hostas, the tiger lilies emerging. But there is one section of garden that’s nothing but tall grass. I asked Chris, why would they just plant tall grass there? Let’s clear the grass and plant flowers. So we begin digging some of it up. Then it rains for days. Then the busy weekend arrives. Suddenly the tall grass is abloom with bright pink flowers. There seems to be a lesson here. Let the tall grass alone…we all bloom in our own good time. And sometimes you don’t need to do anything but watch the beauty around you unfold. Thank you for the reminder, dear universe.

(Post 134 of 365)

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Bright Green Warm Happy


Mid-May sunshine day, green leaf trees, lilacs in full bloom. At least five projects begun but not finished. A small pocket of time spent editing when I should’ve been writing. Toddlers at the water table. Little birds everywhere. And a robin nesting in our cedar tree.

Some days success is measured simply by how patient and present I am with my little one. Bright green warm happy.

(Post 114 of 365)

Ode to April: 88/365

I am impatient for leaves on the maple. I resent the forsythia for being the only bright color in the yard. April, the month of almost-there.

But the birds are singing in the stark branches. And it’s warm enough in the sun.

Also, I lied about there only being forsythia. A few dandelions and daffodils stretch up determined and hardy. There’s the creeping phlox and a few grape hyacinth whose purple bells are quickly plucked and shredded by little toddler hands.

The cats are happy explorers in the brambles out back.

We’ve had to keep our Easter butterflies longer than usual because of the cool weather. Today seemed like the right day to release them. One butterfly stayed for a bit, sunning himself. And Isabella spoke to him, a sweet farewell.

Yellow Rain Slicker: 84/365

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It’s taken me nearly forty years to realize that God invented yellow rain slickers not least of all so that we may create our own sunshine on rainy days.

Digging in the Dirt: 83/365

We wake in the dark at 5:00 am and my head is still heavy with migraine. Toward breakfast the day reveals itself as grey gloom. This is how April always feels, like a big grey headache. Stark branches waiting for green. Strained sun. Mud.

But later on we find organic potting soil and compost on sale and walk out of the store into a bright afternoon.

At home we gather garden tools and I hack at the dirt, clearing old roots and tilling the soil while Isabella digs with her shovel. We leave the back door open. Two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard. They chase birds and squirrels and crouch beneath the arborvitaes and roll in the grass.

It’s not warm out, but Isabella is barefoot, pressing down the dirt with tiny toes. I mix the wildflower seeds with dry compost and rake them into the bed. There are hummus sandwiches, cat chases, a rest on the rock. Dirt on our cheeks and noses and under our fingernails. I find the watering can and fill it. Dig up another bed, plant sunflower seeds, the Mammoth Russian variety, along the side of the house.

Isabella blows bubbles, hair falling across her face, sun streaming through the maple branches, cats leaping after bubbles. She says, “come sit with me, mama” and “I love helping you, mama.” I sit down next to her and she leans against me and we smile into each other’s eyes.

On the back steps, inside this April afternoon, we are tucked in the space of dreams, a flash forward I conjured three years ago in wishes and prayers and daydreams, wondering if it would ever come true. Here we are, together, as if by magic, caked with dirt, smiling. The spectacular ordinariness of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Change of Season: 64/365

When the season changes, I start to rearrange little things around the house. Yesterday I took down all the wall art in the living room. Ahhh, goodbye visual noise. I swept almost everything from the mantel. And during dinner, I began to impulsively paint a mirror frame white.

I can’t wait for open windows, daffodils, and leaves on the trees.

Garden: 42/365

Sunshine driving the harsh chill from the air, the birds making their announcements, the days stretching out just a little longer before the sun sinks purple and pink into the marsh. Almost Spring, teetering on the cusp. I imagine everything green again. And we start talking about the garden. Chris says, hot peppers, pumpkins, tomatoes. I say, sunflowers, lettuce, peas, beans, cucumbers, carrots. We have some raised beds out back that will need new soil. Should we do any container gardening? Let’s make bean poles from driftwood! I wish we’d been composting. We’ll need a wheelbarrow. I haven’t grown a garden in six years. I picture Isabella watering the plants with her tiny watering can, picking strawberries, biting into ripe tomatoes. Warm sunshine, warm dirt. I cannot wait to get my hands in the dirt.

Empathy, Birds, and the Changing Internal Landscape: 3/365

My daughter was born during a cold and snowy winter. We lived by the water in a second-floor apartment, and I can still hear the scraping rhythm of her dad shoveling the long driveway while we looked down from our warm perch. Spring came like it always does, as an affront and a relief, crocuses and mud and stark sunshine. Every day I bundled her up and walked the two mile loop over cracked sidewalks that gave way to beautiful homes and smoother sidewalks and onto the boardwalk along Long Island Sound.

The geese and ducks return first. Then osprey swoop and dive, chased by groups of little birds trying to protect their nests. As the air warms, cormorants arrive and perform their hide-and-seek magic, diving deep and popping up again twenty feet away. Summer isn’t promised until the egrets appear in the estuary, long white elegance rising from the mud. Last come the regal great blue herons.

The birds’ arrival mean babies are coming. Not all of them make it. Sick or fallen or pursued by an osprey, casualties are inevitable. There would always be a few dead baby birds on the sidewalk or nearby in the grass next to beach roses waiting to bloom. One of those stark-sun days, pushing my little bundle in the stroller, we came upon a tiny, featherless creature on the sidewalk, so newly fallen its big eyes blinked and its beak mouthed a silent plea. I was tortured. I should have moved the doomed creature to the grass and offered up a hopeful prayer that its mother might rescue it. But I was a fragile new mother who couldn’t accept even the smallest death.

I felt panicky as I carefully scooped the bird into my left hand, transparent skin pulsing in my palm. I imagined my warmth was comforting as I pushed the heavy stroller with my right hand and balanced the bird in my left, still a mile to go, fearful of bird germs near my baby and not having any idea what I’d do when I finally got home. I jerked the stroller one-handed off the curb and back into the neighborhood, over sidewalks cracked from frost heaves and tree roots, my left arm outstretched with my palm up like an offering. The baby bird was still breathing and blindly searching the air the way every baby does.

At home I laid it gently under our holly bush. I needed to wash my hands and get my own baby upstairs before I could figure out what to do. I called my husband and a friend for advice, looked online, still pretending I could save it. When I made it back downstairs an hour later to check under the holly bush, it was being devoured by ants.

New motherhood felt raw and vulnerable. My entire being contracted with fierce protection, a myopic laser vision focused on my daughter. But inside, an expansive empathy spread and extended to every living thing, especially the small and helpless. Most days my world did not go beyond that two mile radius, but my internal landscape stretched out like a western vista, big sky country reaching up into my heart.