Winter garden devastation

Winter: the season that tries many a gardener.  And what devastation it can bring.   We in The Pacific Northwest are fortunate enough to live in a rather mild climate, but winter does pay us a visit to varying degrees every year.  Some years an early cold snap strikes and kills off a few stunned victims. Last winter it was a beloved lavender and two pineapple sages.  Other forgotten plants in lost memory haunt the cold shadows and depths of the winter garden.

I must confess: my interest in gardening does wane this time of year.  Nothing much grows and its damn cold so I spend more time inside.  This leads me to feel guilty as the harsh season proceeds with itself and ravages the garden. I see pictures upon pictures of regal well-appointed winter gardens with  an amazing structure of tidy Evergreens dusted with sparkling snow. Everything is so cozy, so tidy….

I always plan to prepare for winter but… well,  those plans usually don’t pan out as more pressing matters arrive and thus my garden enters winter unkempt and wild. I watch as autumn’s tender leftovers; the jeweled nasturtiums and snapdragons turn to frozen flower pops after the first round of freezes.

Cold Snapdragon survivors

 Leaves litter the grass and the beds, never raked up.  Potted plants remain lining the driveway. Discarded yard art sits barren. The tiny Buddha statue looks cold and all alone, standing in a patch of frozen Sedum. Its companions, the colorful sprays of Viola and Marigold have gone, so have the stately Susans, leaving behind only Black- eyed seed heads sitting atop willowy stems, half eaten by birds and standing like sentinels along the rocky outline of the empty flower bed.

Black Eyed Susan in December
Black eyed Susans last August

I enter by the side gate crunching on frozen grass, surveying  the wreckage with dreams of last seasons color in my head. Unlike last season, so far, this has been one of the milder ones.  Lots of sun and with little rain, it is mid December but I see some flowers still in bloom:  A hardy fuchsia reigns supreme here, its smallish pink and purple blooms still attracting the odd hummingbird in this late season.

The Fuchsia

Despite my neglect, life goes on.  Nature is in command here, not me.  I am but a caretaker that’s fallen down on the job, but as I said, life goes on.  It is what we make of it as it does.  I survey the skeletons and ghosts of last summer.  All this empty space allows me to envision to plan for next years garden.  I smile as I pass the empty spot near the deck where two rose bushes will go, I can smell them already.

Old summer guilt is replaced with the hope for the future.   A cold wind blows across my path reminding me that winter has yet to officially arrive.  I step inside with my plans, my dreams and my little schemes, vowing to enjoy the winter and all of its glorious devastation knowing that it is out of this which brings the promise of spring.

I am reminded of a favorite quote:

“Nature is ever at work building and pulling down, creating and destroying, keeping everything whirling and flowing, allowing no rest but in rhythmical motion, chasing everything in endless song out of one beautiful form into another.”

John Muir

Wishing you a Beautiful Season.

Strawberryindigo.

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The Smile Factor

Cat smiling at sanctuary
Image by rikkis_refuge via Flickr

Smile

According to my ancient Websters dictionary; A smile is defined as a change of facial expression involving the eyes and an upward curving of the corners of the mouth that may express amusement, pleasure, affection or irony.

That sounds a tad bit antiseptic. It doesn’t define the human element of a smile and the power that a smile has.

I believe that smiles are magical and slam dunk contagious.  A warm smile has the potential to melt the coldest of the cold.  If it is honest and heartfelt, one simple smile can mean so much to the receiver of such a gift.  A smile can convey sympathy and friendship.  It can say “I understand” or “you are not alone”.

Smiling Baby

The Smile Factor

Smiles unite us.  They break down language and cultural barriers. They are a basic part of our humanity. We are born with that smile factor; that need for a smile because acknowledge it or not, we all need them.

Warm smile
Image via Wikipedia

It can be easy to forget the power of a smile.  A sadness or anger can set in to a person that will cause them to never smile again.  Their face balling up into a permanent scowl.  This scowl may remove the possibility that anyone will ever smile at them again.  I think that sometimes people don’t realize the effect that we humans have on each other.

We are all connected and we affect each other more than we realize. One person’s bad day an easily become the next person’s.

Bad days are contagious too.

I have started to think about this of late. It seems some people save up their misdirected anger for someone “easier” who cannot retaliate.  “The customer is always right” is their motto above all else, even human dignity.  I have witnessed some rather awful behavior by some “right” customers.  Rarely do I witness the opposite.

Smile 2

Making a difference

I am but one person, but I believe that even one person can make a difference in the life of another.  So I am making it my habit to spread some good cheer around wherever I go. This is not always easy and I am not perfect, but I have found that putting aside my feelings a bit to sympathize with someone, pay a deserved complement or just a simple smile can have rewards in themselves that reach far beyond the here and now.

It’s easy and it spreads like wildfire.  Try it. Smile at a complete stranger if for no other reason that to just do it.  Watch the reaction you get.  A smile truly is a gift that keeps on giving.

Keep smiling

Strawberryindigo.

SMILE

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Happiness is a warm teacher

School

I am fresh from a round of parent teacher conferences, between my two wonderful teenagers, I have now attended 19 of them during my continuing career as involved parent.  The last few have been “arena style”.  This style has come into vogue as of the last few years and I believe it adds to the surrealism of the event.

Imagine a large space, perhaps a cafeteria or gymnasium.  You are in the middle, surrounded by rows and rows of tiny desks.  At each one is seated a teacher.  Most are engaged in discussions with worry-faced parents.  There is an air or solemn soberness.  Most voices are hushed and not a wisp of laughter or small talk that usually accompanies large groups.  No, this is not a social event, like Back to School Night.  Like war, this is serious business and like war it is filled with short bursts of excitement mixed with long stretches of anxiety and boredom.

Every conference is unique unto itself and as the years pile on I have come to expect one thing; the unexpected. It is interesting to see your child, your beloved “perfect” child through the eyes of another.  It can surprise you and as one who has been surprised a number of times, I can attest to that wholeheartedly.

These surprise have been varied and thankfully never life-threatening.  Some in fact, a good number of them have been pleasant surprises.  I am blessed with  fantastic kids who have  given me many occasions to swell with parental pride.  However, I have experienced a time or two when I wanted to just sink right through the chair and  disappear into the  freshly polished checkerboard floor.

 It is on these occasions that the past gets the bite on me and I am transported back to the 80’s, back to the days of big hair and bad taste.  Back when I was a punky teen with an attitude and poor grades.  It feels like I am getting “busted” for something and all I want to do is run.

But I cannot run, I am a “responsible” adult and I must face the fire.  The fire being a stressed teacher with legitimate gripes about my child.  I smile.   I say all the right things, seemingly passing an untold test on the proper reaction to the given circumstances.  I have always been cooperative and I have tried to not take any of this too personally but, at times I have felt the sting of the hot lights of interrogation which upon reflection, seemed a bit much.

I try to put things in perspective but it is at these worst of times that stick in my worried mind and anxiety tends to creep in every year at conference time.  I have tried many methods to calm my nerves but really, all I can do at this point is to hold my breath, cross my fingers and hope for the best, and help pick up the pieces later.

 I vowed to make this year different.  I have found myself a bit more reflective since I have been writing in this blog these last few months and I’m realising that perhaps I have been projecting my old latent fears and struggles with school and authority figures from the past into now.  This is coloring my attitudes with regard to my role in these conferences.

Usually one’s unfounded fears never materialise they way they are expected and this current round of conferences proved to be no exception to that.   I took them for what they were, which was not so bad, really.  I guess that holding my breath and crossing my fingers paid off, not to mention the hard work by my kids with a lot of nagging by me.

 Number 18 went as smooth as can be.  No interrogation or hot lights.  The arena  had been abandoned for a more intimate setting in indivdual classrooms.  The report went well with progress made and hope for the future with an actual “A” mixed in….I was walking on air all the way to the next school and my date with number 19.

It was the end of a long morning, the sun shone through the cafeteria window drawing a bright beam of light across the stained linoleum.  The teacher smiles and offers me a seat.  We  exchange pleasantries. He tells me that my daughter is self-directed and motivated and that she too, has shown  progress.  We spent the rest of the time having a pleasant conversation about books.  Just two people; an energetic enthusiastic teacher and an involved parent having a talk about a mutually beloved subject.

  It will be these conferences I will endevor to remember  when it’s time for the next round.   (with some finger crossing too.)

 Wishing you blue skies and a happy day!

Strawberryindigo.