Wild Sanctuary

Ruby-throated hummingbird public domain USFWAImage via Wikipedia

This morning I was rewarded with a moment lovely in its simplicity and rich in the beauty of life.  I watched for several minutes a Ruby throated hummingbird darting in and out of the pineapple sage. It’s tiny wings flapping at amazing speed, visiting each colorful stalk, drinking in the nectar of the brilliant scarlet flowers.  Hummingbirds are some of my favorite garden visitors.  These last days of October are a flurry of activity by humans as well as our animal friends in the wild and the not so wild.

I spent much of this beautiful day in the garden.  I find peace here working with Mother Nature.  I feel part of a greater whole that fills me with a calm serenity that is electric and full of life.

That is my garden to me.  I call it my sanctuary and it truly is.  I share my sanctuary with a few humans but mostly I share it with a cornucopia of lifeforms, from the smallest microbe in the soil to the squirrels and the birds and butterflies.  This place is truly alive.

I have spent the better part of a decade planting and shaping this place.  I have made my share of mistakes but I have learned from them. It is much easier in the long run to work with nature than against it.  Some believe that when a gardener welcomes wildlife into the garden, he or she is asking for troublesome pests as well as pretty butterflies. This couldn’t be further from the truth. 

Nature exists in balance, Mother Nature provides to all; predator and prey.  A garden in balance is in harmony with all.  By working with nature we reap many benefits and so do the wild lifeforms that visit our yards.  There is much we can do and every little bit helps.

My garden is teeming with life and it is by no accident.  My obsession with plants is deep and true. I must have hundreds upon hundreds of types and kinds that spring up throughout the year.  Many are native plants to my region which is the Pacific Northwest. Many are flowers that are appealing to bees and insects and nectar rich providing food for hummingbirds and others.

I see it as my mission as a gardener, as a lover of the land and nature to do my small part in helping the flora and fauna of our fantastic planet.  In this I feel that my garden is not only a sanctuary to me but to many.  Urban gardens can provide a refuge for many species that have been forced out of their natural habitats.  Our wild areas are vanishing  and we gardeners have a huge role to play.  Our urban and not so urban gardens link up making a larger habitat for wildlife.

No space is too small.  A potted plant on a back patio or a window box planted with the right plant can provide food all year.

No effort is too small.  There are many ways to help. It can be as easy or as complicated as you choose.  Typically wildlife have three basic needs, the essentials;  shelter, water and food.

Three Essentials For Wildlife

Shelter

   A large Evergreen shrub can provide shelter for many species as can other types of plant life such as climbers.  A pile of logs or rocks can serve as shelter to many ground dwelling species. Leave a bit of leaf litter on the ground to protect overwintering insects.  Simply leaving a wild corner of the yard can help.

Water

Water is essential for all life but it can become a scarce commodity for wildlife in the city. A pond or bird bath can spell welcome relief for the thirsty. A plastic plant saucer with a few stones on the bottom filled with clean water could be a lifeline for many.

Food

Use plants native to your particular region.  Create biodiversity with as many varieties as possible. There are a number of plant species that provide food for wildlife.  From nectar to pollen to seeds and berries.  Once a flower has bloomed, typically gardeners remove the spent seedhead.  This also removes a valuable winter food source for birds. A bit of untidiness in the garden is no crime, in fact a more natural appearance can be quite comely and you will be rewarded time and time again with the wonder of nature beckoning at your back door.

Butterfly
Image by Travelling Steve via Flickr

Happy Gardening!

Strawberryindigo.

                

References and suggested reading

  • Planthropology: The myth, mysteries, and miracles of my garden favorites.  Ken Druse ©2008.
  • Create a wildlife garden. Christine and Michael Lavelle ©2007
  • Attracting birds, butterflies and other winged wonders to your backyard. Kris Wetherbee ©2004

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Sweet Daydreams

 I have always sought to create another world.  A fantastic place of harmony and enchantment where dreams come alive.

Time stands still in the multiverse of my imagination.  Colors deepen and take on a vivid hue.  All is one and right and the atmosphere is steeped in loving peace and understanding. A wondrous a place comes into view.  I have been here before and every time I visit it becomes more beautiful.

It is a place where

 vines of crimson and gold grow over ancient  walls.  Ruins of stone spires shoot crazily out of a dense forest of deep green.   The sun is bright and warm and has just begun to fill the sky.  I take in a deep breath of the cool breeze coming from the west. The air holds the promise of the day.  It is a bright spring morning filled with fresh wonder.     

Rolling hills of emerald, soft and mossy give way to sweet-smelling apple orchards sprinkled with tiny white blossoms.  The warm spring rain tickles my eyelids and caresses my face.

I walk down a slate path into a soft misty velvet wood..  Sunbeams dance and play with shadows in the whispering breeze. Scarlet tipped hummingbirds dart through the leaves of the trees drinking in the honeysuckle nectar of the tall pineapple sage.

 I delight in the riotous songs of a forest full of life.  Flowers of a million hues dot the landscape.  Tiny white butterflies flutter and frolic among them. Visiting each one in a true perfection of form.  

The sun rises high in the sky of deep cerulean and cotton white.  I lie in the grass and gaze up in wonderment, not a care in the world….My mind begins to wander and the hours drift away…in senseless abandon… and dream a dream inside a dream….

Sweet Dreams    Strawberryindigo.

 

The power of magical thinking

Imagine the future, I dare you to look the future right in the face.  Imagine yourself 10 years from now….try to imagine.  Pretend you are gazing into a mirror, what do you see?

Are you pleased or petrified?  Does the future you envision make you feel happy and secure or does your future vision scare the wits out of you? Just being a rational person in this crazy world is enough to scare the toughest of us. There is no shame in fear.  Most of us do fear the unknown and the future is jam-packed full of the unknown.  While we have no control over future events, we have power over how we deal with them.  We have control over ourselves, more than some people believe.

What it takes is belief and the rest is easy.

I call it Magical Thinking and it is powerful.

It has changed me personally, profoundly.  Where once I walked in darkness, I now sing proudly in the light.  I have found magic in this simple thing, this simple belief. 

But it is more than a belief, it is much more.   It is a way of looking at the world.  It gives you control over your own destiny because you have that control.  The key is to conquer yourself. That, I believe is the hardest thing anyone can do.

I have spent much of my life in the shadows; shy, withdrawn, silent and lonely.  My self-esteem hit rock bottom and my only solace lie in the cold unforgiving brown glass of a beer bottle. I had a dark night of the soul, well… quite a number of them.  I looked at myself objectively for the first time and I couldn’t stand the sight of me.  How had I fallen so low?  More importantly, how do I crawl my way out?  I had all the reason in the world because by then I had 2 small kids and they needed me.

I needed to be strong for them. For the first time in my life I had to be strong for someone else even when I couldn’t be strong for myself.  I had no one to help me and so I began to help myself.  

I started slow.  I started to tell myself good things about me, even when I had to make things up.  I would set up little challenges for myself and then I would literally pat me on the back for a job well done.  I consumed the knowledge of a growing pile of books. I filled in some gaps and smoothed out my rough edges. 

You are stronger than you think.

I convinced myself of my self-worth and I started to actually like me for the first time ever.  The magical thinking continued.  I finally quit a twenty year drinking habit.  I became more confident and more capable all the while telling myself “Yes, you can.” The more and more I believed the stronger I became.

I started to meditate and through visualization I found that I had more control over my life than I ever thought possible.  I found that often in life you get what you expect and positive thinking can go a long way.  It is we who shape our future by what we are today.  We are all connected and we influence each other enormously.  A kind word or deed may come back to you in ways you’d never imagine.

It is magic and it is ready for the taking. All you need to do is believe. The more you practice it, the easier it gets and the more effective it becomes.  

  I believe that words can hold magic, the following words are a perfect example…..

“Your beliefs become your thoughts

Your thoughts become your words

Your words become your actions

Your actions become your habits

Your habits become your values

Your values become your destiny.”

Mahatma Gandhi *******************

Have a magical day!     Strawberryindigo.

 

Sick

None - This image is in the public domain and ...
Image via Wikipedia

S I C K... A RANT By Strawberryindigo…

This is usually the magical time of the year when one or both of my kids bring home from school something they did not take there; this comes as the form of a virus that if not carefully contained infects the entire household.

It all starts with a cough, just one, then another and another. The coughs get deeper and deeper.  I know, MM knows, we look at each other..”Oh no, not again.”  We know the drill, It happens every year, flu shot or not.

We are lucky enough to work at home so it is no problem keeping our kids in when they are sick.    This year it was my daughter who first fell victim.  I kept her home for 4 days.  She rested, took in lots of fluids and basically sat around waiting to get better.

On the morning of her last sick day I received a phone call from the school. To my surprise it was the school psychologist. She inquired about my daughter’s state of health.  I told her that my she had been ill but that she was “getting better and that she would be returning the next school day”.  The psychologist then, in a breezy offhand manner told me that “something was going around”… and then she became way too serious when she said that my daughter had stayed out longer than anyone else.

I was a bit surprised.  4 days?  This warrants a call from the school psychologist?

I said what she wanted to hear and  somehow I felt that I had barely passed some test of hers.  We said our goodbyes and the next day I sent my still coughing daughter to school.

The words of the psychologist echoed in my mind and the more I thought about it the angrier I became.  I thought back to the beginning of the year to a speech given by the Principal during Back to School Night.  She was bragging up the school’s achievements from last year and justifiably so. My daughter’s school is fantastic, it is one of the best  in the city and we are lucky to be able to have our daughter attend it.

It was something she said specifically about the school’s attendance record…”which was and still is…award-winning”?

Did I hear correctly?  The schools compete with attendance records, the ones with the fewest absences “win”.  What do they win?  The winning school and apparently the winning principal get bragging rights, which I say are well deserved… but in hindsight I can’t help but wonder if the school is a bit over-zealous in their commitment to achieve perfect attendance.

I thought of my daughter and all the make up work she must do just to catch up.  I think of all the valuable school days missed.  School is important and the quality of her education suffers when she must miss school because of illness.  However, I think my daughter’s health and the health of all the people in the school are more important than an attendance record.  It seems that this prevalent attitude among the schools fosters a climate that encourages families to send their sick children to school where they infect others…and the cycle continues.

It is amazing how one small seemingly insignificant action or non-action can affect so many.  One properly sick child can infect a roomful of people and through that action can affect so many more.  We are all connected, even in sickness.

I realise that many people have to work and have no choice but to send their sick kids to school as well as coming to work with obvious illness themselves.   Maybe an attitude adjustment would be appropriate for bosses and the bosses of bosses as well. Maybe an attitude adjustment for everyone, public school systems too.

We all know firsthand that sick people are not at their best and do not perform well, at school or on the job.  Sick people make more sick people.  This seems to have a snowball effect; making more people perform at sub par. It also turns people off.  When the teller at the bank sneezes on my money or the grocery clerk coughs all over my celery, I’m turned off.

What I’m trying to say, in a long-winded round-about way, trying not to offend anyone but I need to say, really plead….You. (you know who you are) If you are sick and you are able to, please stay home. If your child is sick, try to keep him or her at home, If you can’t do that please wash your hands and do what you can not to infect everyone.

And in a personal note to one school psychologist; keeping my daughter home when she is ill is a consideration to you as well as everyone else.

And so to everyone: Have a great and healthy day!  Strawberryindigo.

A Fool in the Rain

Night rain 2

Let’s set the scene:  Here I am tapping away on my laptop, tip tap hunt peck yak yak and then…..Blackout.  Everything goes dark and I am left sitting by laptop light.  I light a few scented candles and continue my tapping..just in mid tap I hear a muffled guffaw followed by a high-pitched squeal…

I run to the open window and peer out, and what do my wondering eyes find?

Two lone figures in dark hoodies setting the bus stop on fire….well not the bus stop, exactly, but a pile of trash next to the bus stop.  They whooped and hollered and pranced around the tiny fire, feeding it bits of trash to keep it going in the dark breeze.  I had to laugh as one of them started to do a little dance.

This is the kind of incident typical of my crazy neighborhood, during a blackout, really anytime.  I enjoy these times as best I can and  I try to see the lighter side of whatever life throws my way.  This time it is two ghouls with a fire.

Soon I grow restless and decide to drum up some of my own fun in the dark…I retreat to the backyard and into the garden. I find comfort here in the dark, in the garden at night.

 The moon is full and bright tonight.  It hangs high above me. Ripples and streams of of indigo clouds drift past.  I take a deep breath and drink it all in….

The screams of the ghouls have died away and are replaced with nothing. A silence that is totally remarkable in its unremarkableness. I savor this silence.  My mind starts to wander as I drift through the tall cool grass. 

And it makes me wonder…As a Led Zep tune fills the night air. How fleeting silence can be..it was then the rain came on and picked up like a riot. I stood under it and just soaked it up..A fool in the rain. I stood there a few minutes more, at first feeling quite proud of my new-found “eccentricity” and then as the soaking continued I really started feeling the fool. I sloshed inside before anyone could notice…

My thoughts returned to my two “friends” the hooded ghouls and their what became of their little fire. I smiled as I thought of the cloudburst raining on their parade. I looked out the window once more and found that the ghouls were long gone, just a pile of wet debris left behind told the tale.

Just as well..One fool in the rain is enough, add to ghouls and now there’s three fools in the rain….and how was your night?

Strawberryindigo.

Sign of the Times

Great Depression: man dressed in worn coat lyi...
Image via Wikipedia

Here I am sitting at this cheap plastic ash ridden table in front of my local chain supermarket.  I am writing in one of my famous spiral notebooks and drinking a grande black coffee while people watching.  This is, believe it or not, the perfect place for such an endeavor.

This is not my usual hangout, nor is it likely I will return. I’m growing fond of going to such strange but typical places to write.  At these places I can soak up the atmosphere and get a taste of a new perspective I wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

All sorts of people have been passing through the double doors to my right; a cross-section of humankind.  We are all different but we have much in common, like our need for food, and food shopping and how this damn economy is screwing us.

..and as a certain Mr. Dylan said…”..the times they are a-changin’…” 

 They see it, I see it.  It’s all around.  It’s the sign of the times and the signs are showing…more trash in the streets and buildings and streets in disrepair, the forlorn empty businesses, the foreclosed homes…..the homeless.  The face of homelessness is changing in our country. 

Before this economic doom and gloom, the homeless were usually people with severe emotional problems such as mental illness or drug and alcohol abuse.  Now there are families under the proverbial bridge, children, elderly.  People like you and I.  It seems wave after wave of hardships hit the beach.  All you can do is hang on and hope for the best.

I see the signs of high unemployment in the streets, in the parks, the railway station.  Everywhere.  Groups of young men in their twenties roaming around with backpacks and bedrolls.  They are short on opportunity and short on money, everything but time.

I see people with suitcases, your average American, huddled in corners with looks of bewilderment.  Some fall asleep sitting up at bus stops, all their belongings held tight against them, sheltering them from the chill night air.

This is the new face of homelessness. 

I see them, all these poor people trying to blend in, trying to not look homeless.   And what about the people two steps away from it?  

I could easily be one of them and it scares the hell out of me.

I intended this post to be a rant type post because when I started writing it, I was mad as hell.  Angry with our government, with corporate greed and just plain old-fashioned human stupidity.  I still am just as angry, but now upon reflection, I find that I am more afraid than anything else.

Afraid of what the future may bring, afraid of the dark unknown.  I think many people are afraid of the same things and this economy and the state of this crazy world have people white-knuckled terrified.

We were all brought up on tales of “The Great Depression.”  Pictures of Dust-bowl Oakies with dirty faces and vacant stares haunt the pages of old schoolbooks in my memory. We were taught to fear depressions, recessions and bank collapses…..

….It’s the sign of the times and here we are again and how it can ever get back to “normal” is beyond me. 

..so for now I’ll sit awhile and enjoy my coffee. Then appreciate the hell out of everything I can and hold on for dear life.

Wishing you blue skies

Strawberryindigo.

Love Thy Neighbor?

Love
Image by aftab. via Flickr

I saw a scene today.   It was a small moment, a common everyday boring kind of moment but it changed me and the way I will view people and life in general from now on.

The woman down the street, my neighbor and “Nemesis”, Mrs. Wheatgrass. A person I have written of before. A neurotic, stressed out person who reminds me of sun-baked straw.   If you have not yet heard of Mrs. Wheatgrass, you will.  She is a story and a half unto herself.

Today though I saw Mrs. Wheatgrass in a different light…

A pest control truck in the neighborhood is a dreaded sight indeed and when I saw the sight earlier today, I felt a small panic.  YIKES! Pests!  The bright green truck, with the environmental message on the side looked nice, and responsibly green and expensive. It was parked in front of the Wheatgrass house.

I laughed a little laugh as I imagined high-strung and snooty Mrs. Wheatgrass on a chair screaming down at a mouse. Or worse.

..And speak of the Devil…there she was.  She was walking the pest guy to his pest truck.  She did not look happy. She looked majorly stressed out.  Her straw-colored hair was practically standing on end as she listened to the pest guy talk.  He kept pointing to her roof and every time he did she looked sicker and sicker.

By the time he got to the shoulder shrugging portion at the end, she appeared frantically frazzled.  For a moment I felt glee.  A little part of me felt happy at her misfortune.  I hate to admit it but that is what happened. 

It didn’t feel right and as I said it lasted but a moment but that was enough. I started to think back…where had we gone wrong?  I remember when we first spied each other, the day she moved in 6 years ago.  It was like a scene out of a spaghetti western, I could swear I heard the music genius of Ennio Morricone in the background.   She walked past and we just stared at each other, not a word was uttered. We just stared. 

I guess I should have welcomed her to the neighborhood. I really have no excuse. I could say that I suffer from social phobia or that it’s not wise to talk to strangers; both are true but honestly, I think it was because of the way she looked at me.  She made me feel uncomfortable standing on my own front porch.  Her thin lips curled up in a sneer.  I couldn’t help but feel that I had wronged her in some way.

We eventually spoke and over the years and have had some strange conversations.  She likes to approach me with her odd and neurotic household problems and I think she expects me to have all the answers.

When I don’t have the insight she wants she turns on me and a whole new round of snubs and snide remarks begin.  I know this sounds paranoid, but once in a while I get these strange looks from her family.  I think she talks about me to them, I just get these vibes.

All this makes me feel bad.  I don’t want to be her friend.   I am Strawberryindgo, she is Mrs. Wheatgrass.  We have nothing in common…..I do however hate the mean looks she gives me.  I have feelings.

It’s easy to be nice to someone who likes you….on the other hand…it’s not difficult at all to hate someone back who hates you first.  It’s natural, its human nature.  I tried to justify how I felt.

Why should I care if she has something nesting in her roof? So what?  If her roof is falling apart and I know she needs a new one and can’t afford it. She has never been nice to me and makes snide remarks to me whenever she can.

I know if she saw me in the same situation as she is now, she would have no sympathy for me. I know she would use the occasion to come over and grill me, she is that type. It seems more and more people these days are that type.  It’s like they are waiting for an excuse to “take it out on someone else.”  They take pleasure in others misfortune and feed on negativity.  I don’t want to be like them. I refuse to be like them!

It was at that moment I realised that I must be stronger than any negativity that Mrs. Wheatgrass or anyone else could throw at me. Maybe if I look deep inside myself I can find some sympathy for one such as she although she has none for me.

Niceness begets niceness and hatred begets hatred.  It is difficult to turn the tide, but now I see the importance in trying. If I can’t get along with my bitchy neighbor, who can get along in this world?  

Although she doesn’t know it, Mrs. Wheatgrass taught me a lesson today.  I don’t think I could actually ever “love” her nor do I think I could even like her, she is after all, Mrs. Wheatgrass.  But I will try my damnest…..

….and so this brings me to a quote by “Tricky Dick” and how fitting….

“Always remember, others may hate you, but those who hate you don’t win unless you hate them. And then you destroy yourself.”

Richard M. Nixon (1974)

Have a great day!   Strawberryindigo.