on mysteries, miracles, and metaphors

This afternoon, as the kid from next door sat on our front steps playing Mine Craft on his iPod, my grandson stood nearby, tracking the flight of our resident red-tailed hawk. Suddenly the hawk loosed a feather, and my grandson watched as it caught on a tree branch, and then let go, and finally landed in his waiting hand. He ran into the house shouting that he caught a hawk’s feather, wanting to share this miracle with the world.

Two kids, roughly the same age. One is home schooled. Easy guess, which one.

So, you could say that my grandson, Lex, received a message from his totem animal. Such is the spirit mystery of the natural world.

While the rest of the family is planning and preparing their vegetable garden on the more fertile side of the property, I have commandeered the side of the yard where the pervasive roots of the ancient maple that was destroyed during the Snowpacalypse two winters ago make it impossible to till soil or grow anything. tree stump Poppies have already spouted in the main stump container, and my mini calla lilies that spent the winter in the cellar are generating buds under the soil of the other.

I emptied the shed of all of the big pots and have begun a kind of container garden that will include herbs, flowers, and all kinds of tomatoes. And garlic. Lots of garlic. The pots are lined up along the nearby fence, which gets sun all afternoon. secretgardenThe soil there is not great, but hostas and wild violets seem to be happy there. I planted three sunflower seedlings and some Creeping Jenny and have lined up the pots, some of which already contain herb and flower seedlings. It is not yet the configuration I want; I will have a better sense of the aesthetics as the bloomings emerge.

In a month or so, it will be fun to compare this photo with one that boasts a more colorful and thriving container garden. There will be some re-arranging and adding to. My projects, be they gardening or knitting or sewing always seem to be continuous ones until something out of my control puts an end to them. Sort of like everything in my life. Circles. Now, there’s a metaphor.

buddhaI’ve been looking for some kind of statuary around which to focus the container garden. For the moment, I’m using a cairn that I found (oddly enough) at Home Goods. We already have a Buddha in a little meditation spot in a shady part of the yard.

In the meanwhile, the family continues work on the addition to Lex’s “fort.” (Original structure is on the right of the addition.) It’s going to be a fun summer around here.

the builders

fort all
Now they are adding another platform to Lex’s fort, where all the the neighborhood kids seem to like to hang out.
spring builder

Under the new platform will be the old three-seater swing that used to be in the front yard, but the big snow storm over a year ago collapsed the awning and damaged the frame. But it’s good enough for kids to swing in. I bought a new one for the front yard, where I like to spend warm lazy days.

This boy and his mom, they are always building — Lego structures, learning tools, curricula, benches, closets, costumes — using tools from computer programs to circular saws. They need to make things. I guess that they get that from me, although they are much better at it, and they follow through a lot better than I do. Someday, my grandson is going to make someone a great partner; he’s only ten but he already helps with cooking, cleaning, and building.

While they build, I plant seeds and tend seedlings. This year, everything is organic. The challenge for me will be the follow-through in finding the best place for it all in the garden. We are going to do suburban farming, with teepeed beans towering between the spirea, and garlic scapes trending around the gaillardia. And marigolds popping up everywhere.

Now, all we need is some warmer weather.

And I need my knees to calm down after I aggravated my osteoarthritis dancing NIA barefoot. My new recliner is arriving on Friday, though, and relaxing in that is sure going to speed up recovery.

I’ll rest while they keep building.

NaPoWriMo #3

sunflower seeds
It starts early,
this need for green,
as the land waits
in white quiet.

We dream a riot
of leaves greening
in the sun, calling
color from the deep
of a bland landscape.

Sunflower seeds, sowed
sheltered from the frost,
release the hopes
of wintered hearts and
suddenly spring green.

“The sun, the sun, and all we can become.”
(Theodore Roethke: What Can I Tell My Bones)

almost April

A day of almost 60 degrees. We are all antsy for Spring.

wintersowingaMy wintersown seeds are hanging in there. The sunflower seeds already have sprouted.

gardenprep1aMy daughter and grandson are outside starting to get the sunny earth ready for herbs.

peachbudsaThe peach tree has buds.

branchesaThe branches of the pruned Harry Lauder Walking Stick tree make an interesting temporary front yard sculpture in the container that eventually will feature flowers.

I got my windowsill garden started with some herb and berry seeds. Usually I think to start doing this in May, when it’s really too late. Hopefully I’ll have an abundance of heirloom edibles by the time Summer is in bloom.

“the sun, the sun, and all we can become”

It’s sunny out today, finally, although the temperature still hasn’t hit 50.

The title of this post is from the end of this poem by Theodore Roethke, one of my favorite crazy dead poets.

Gilda Radner
‘s signature phrase “it’s always something” is playing through my brain today. Just when I’m revving up for some physical movement and some windowsill seed planting, I do something to my left knee and I’m down for the count. Ice packs and visits to the chiropractor are helping, but at my age healing takes a lot longer than I like.

I’m not exactly sure what I did to my knee, but I think it has something to do with rolling out of bed one night a week or so ago in the middle of a dream about Bing Crosby. (I have no idea why I was dreaming about Bing Crosby, but, as he was sitting in my living room singing to me, I reached over to pick up a sheet of lyrics that dropped on the floor and that’s when I rolled out of bed.)

I am an elaborate dreamer, often playing out scenarios that seem so real that, when I wake up, I’m not sure where I am.

Hmmph. The sun is gone again. Maybe it will be back tomorrow. Maybe my knee will feel better tomorrow. Maybe my son will find work.

The sun. The son. The sun.

a total spring cleaning

Obviously, I’ve cleaned out my blog house, going for a fresh new look. Now, the challenge is to clean the cobwebs out of my head and start to write here again. It’s not unusual for bloggers to take a break every once in a while.

I’m also motivated to tune up physically — went to the chiropractor today. Of course, it helps a lot that my daughter (who cooks for the family) has upped our intake of delicious vegetables and cut down the fleshy portions of our meals. That means I’m eating healthier (except for my late night snacking, which I’m trying to control). With Spring will come more walking and a greater willingness to get myself out for the exercise classes at the well-equipped local Jewish Community Center.

My next challenge is to clean out my living space and make room for the new Lazy-boy glider recliner I bought myself for my birthday with my tax refund.

In the meanwhile, I’m still putting out heirloom seeds for wintersowing, even though it’s kind of late for that. I can’t wait to get out and garden.

My son, who is still job-hunting, has been motivated to publish his late father’s novels, which have been sitting on old 5 inch floppy discs in WordPerfect. They are available via Amazon Kindle, and he has put up a website to promote them: www.myrlnbooks.com

The Wheel turns.

The wheels turn.

Spring. Sunshine. Energy. Hope.

another kind of paradise

It is a perfect early Spring day — warm sun, cool breeze. After three days of rain, there is a lushness of green, the soothing scent of lawns being mowed. Across the street our neighbor is planting the row of Impatiens that will glow pink and plentiful along his walkway in another month. The seeds I started much too early, encouraged by early warm weather, are flourishing in their separate pots — swarms of marigolds grown from the seeds of last year’s plants that will wind up as companion plantings in our vegetable garden; some strange husky ground cherries that I hope will make it this year; clumps of zinnias to perk up quiet corners. And, of course, oregano, parsley, rosemary, basil, and nettle in pots — and stevia, thyme, and yarrow (so far) already growing in the dark soil, along with carefully tended vegetables.

This is really my idea of paradise.

While a few days on a beach of white sand along a clear blue shoreline is something I would, no doubt, enjoy, when it comes to living each day feeling connected to place and people, this is about as close to paradise as I can imagine getting.

This afternoon, as I sat in the shade, reading and relaxing, I watched a small flock of tiny sparrows loudly investigate the colorful bird house that my daughter whipped up one afternoon from lumber scraps stashed in the cellar. We are waiting to see if any of them will actually take up residence. All kinds of things get re-created around here — re-envisioned and reformatted with a little paint and ingenuity. An old pallet becomes a vertical background for plants; thick slices of the tree that had to be cut down after the big October storm become outdoor seats and tables; an old framed window becomes the door to the garden. This is a place of constant renewal and re-imagining, a place of thriving and growing and appreciating. It is a place with ageless air, a place where growing is simply the way each day goes, even when spring moves on.

Seducing Spring

It’s not even 20 degrees outside, but I’m sprouting a sweet potato vine on the kitchen windowsill. By the time Spring is really here, I should have a hearty vine that I can keep rooting from cuttings. And then I can hang the vines in a basket outside my window. If I keep rooting the cuttings, I can hang a basket indoors all year.

I need something to plan toward, look forward to — something other than the solitude of a long cold winter.


All kitchens should have windows
double wide, Windexed clear
if not into sunny vistas at least
into frames of sky

beyond a stand of trees bordered
by day lilies in clumps, maybe
a lilac bush or two, certainly
a bird feeder busy with wings and

morning light. Not to mention a deep
indoor sill where seeds sprout green
even when winter shrouds the pane.

(elf 2003)

why I’m addicted to pesto

I’ve been making fresh basil (from my garden) pesto and now I put it in just about everything except desserts.

You can find lots of recipes for basil pesto on the web (and all of them work fine), but I like my own the best — I use Basil, walnuts, honey, some fresh parsley, a lot less parmesan cheese than usually called for, and a little more garlic.

I put in on fish instead of tartar sauce. I even add it to V8 juice and my homemade gazpacho. I mix it with a little mayonaise and lemon juice and use it as salad dressing or a dip. The Food Network as a great list of 50 things to make with pesto.

And a basil pesto addiction is a really healthy one to have.

Accoring to here:
Basil has more phytochemicals than vegetables, has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidants effects, protects the chromosomes and cells from damage, is good for digestion and stomach problems, and contains these minerals:
magnesium that helps relax heart and blood vessels.
vitamin C
vitamin A to protect cell damage
vitamin K for coagulant factors in the blood and strengthening of the bones

As far as I’m concerned, the more garlic you add to the pesto the better. Garlic can lower your blood pressure decrease triglycerides and the bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the good cholesterol (HDL) The sulphur compounds in garlic can help with inflammations that may be causing arthritis or asthma. The sulphur compounds also act as antibacterial and antiviral agent. That is why they recommend eating garlic to keep colds away.

According to here:
The phytonutrient in garlic, called allicin, may help you maintain or even lose weight. Garlic gives great taste to all meals and can be added in all meals, sauces, stews, dips like hummus, guacamole, and mashed potato. You can even add it to a raw fresh delicious juice or smoothie. (Um, I think I draw the line at the smoothie thing.)

I add parsley for lots of reasons. According to this, parsley contains:
— myristicin, an organic compound found in the essential oil of parsley, not only inhibits tumor formation (especially in the lungs), but also activates the enzyme glutathione-S-transferase, which helps the molecule glutathione attach to, and fight against, oxidized molecules. Myristicin can also neutralize carcinogens like benzopyrene in cigarette smoke that can pass through the body, consequently fighting against colon and prostate cancer.

— an antioxidant arsenal that includes luteolin, a flavonoid that searches out and eradicates free radicals in the body that cause oxidative stress in cells. Luteolin also promotes carbohydrate metabolism and serves the body as an anti-inflammatory agent. Furthermore, two tablespoons of parsley contain 16% of the RDA of vitamin C and over 12% of the RDA of vitamin A – two powerful antioxidants.

— luteolin and vitamin C, which serves as an effective anti-inflammatory agent within the body. When consumed regularly, they combat the onset of inflammatory disorders, such as osteoarthritis (the degeneration of joint cartilage and the underlying bone) and rheumatoid arthritis (a disease causing inflammation in the joints).

— folate (or vitamin B90, which helps convert homocysteine into harmless molecules. A regular garnish of parsley can help ward off cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack, stroke, and atherosclerosis.

— vitamin K, which is necessary for the synthesis of osteocalcin, a protein that strengthens the composition of our bones. Vitamin K also prevents calcium build-up in our tissue that can lead to atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease and stroke. The vitamin K found in parsley (wo tablespoons of parsley have a whopping 153% of the RDA of vitamin K) is essential for synthesizing sphingolipid, the fat needed to maintain the myelin sheath around our nerves, and therefore our nervous system as a whole.

And, on top of that,

Parsley is the best weapon against garlic breath. That’s why many recipes that include garlic also include parsley. Chewing parsley with your garlicky meal seems to contain the problem to some extent.

But it’s not enough to just sprinkle a little parsley on top of what you’re eating. You need to chew at least one sprig of fresh parsley, ideally more, with your meal. Chop up a sprig of fresh parsley or two and add it to the meal somewhere, or put it on the plate as a garnish.

In case you’e wondering, here’s why I make my basil/parsley/garlic/honey pesto with walnuts:

Walnuts, a rich source of the omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), improve artery function after a high fat meal and may be even more important in a Mediterranean-type diet than olive oil in promoting heart health, suggests a small study from Spain (Cortes B, Nunez I, J Am Coll Cardiol).

Finally, I always cook with honey.

From here:

HONEY, a most assimilable carbohydrate compound, is a singularly acceptable, practical and most effective aliment to generate heat, create and replace energy, and furthermore, to form certain tissues. Honey, besides, supplies the organism with substances for the formation of enzymes and other biological ferments to promote oxidation. It has distinct germicidal properties and in this respect greatly differs from milk which is an exceptionally good breeding-ground for bacteria. Honey is a most valuable food, which today is not sufficiently appreciated. Its frequent if not daily use is vitally important.

OK. Now I’m hungry.