Thursday, December 24, 2009

God Bless Us Everyone!

Our image this year has the first snow angel of the year in the center, surrounded by a bountiful beautiful wreath. At this special time of year, Jim and I want to wish all of you the healthiest and happiest of holiday seasons. We feel so very blessed to be in our comfortable home and have wonderful family and friends nearby to share love with.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A Virtual Winter Walk

I've mentioned before that we live in an especially beautiful place, and sometimes it just outdoes itself. We have a family tradition of taking a walk after any big family dinner, to the local stream just down the road.

We gather everyone up, young and old, and straggle along laughing and talking the 1/3 mile country road to the bridge. There are certain traditions that have to be honored during that walk.

The state line is on the way, so we each have to take a big step when crossing that line and say, "Now! We're in Michigan."

Then when we get to the stream, we each pick up a small stick, throw it into the water on the upstream side of the bridge, carefully check for traffic, then all rush over to the other side of the bridge to watch for our sticks to come drifting out. This part sometimes has to be done 8 or 9 times until all the little ones are content to move on.

In warm weather, we have to walk down the path to the swamp and look for the toads in the shallow water and on the logs. We toss little pebbles nearby to see if we can scare them into hopping away. Normally they just watch us with their buggly eyes.

This morning the 4" of clean white snow was so beautiful and my daughter in South Carolina was homesick for the beauty, so asked for a picture of the stream. Jim took a walk and came back with a whole virtual winter walk. I hope you enjoy it too.

The road from right in front of the house.
A little further on.
There! That's the state line! Big step now!
Getting close! Watch for a stick to throw!
There's the bridge, almost there.
The swamp, no toads to be seen today.
Downstream. The water's very dark and quiet today. In the summer it's clear and fast. You can see the bottom rocks and sometimes the big salmon who venture this far from the big lake.
The new path into the woods by the swamp. Nobody walking there this cold day.
.....and back home again. Don't you feel refreshed?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Now that I’m OLD!

I recently turned 65, and officially old. Over the past year or so, I’ve been receiving mailings to sell me stuff leading up to that special day. I’ve also gotten about 40 pounds-(how many dead trees is that?)-of advertising material just on the subject of medicare supplement plans, and that doesn’t include ads for burial policies, reverse mortgages, and nursing home insurance plans. Sheesh!

So, even if I were inclined to just let this birthday slide by like most others, there have been constant reminders to make me think about how important it must be.

I hadn’t really thought a lot about it, other than a random thought recognizing that fact that these years are rushing by very fast, and the old body just doesn’t work as well or quickly as it used to. I’ve tried to just realize that I can’t move as fast as I used to-but luckily since I’m retired, I don’t have to move as fast anymore. Nice how that works out. Maybe this is a good time to stop and take stock of what this milestone means-and sort out what I believe. This is the result of that sorting out.

I do know these things:

I believe in Family-whether by birth, marriage, adoption or just great affection. The family bond is our best hope for health, sanity and happiness.

Here are some things I was once dumb enough to buy into and will never do again. Pretending to be something I’m not, and trying to buy, bully or brag my way into some kind of status I haven’t earned-or buying into that kind of action from others.

I truly don’t understand- how most of us sit night after night watching others murdered, raped, beaten and abused. Most entertainment now is about seeing others hurt in some way. The police true crime dramas that show real people who’ve committed crimes sniveling and excusing themselves feel like slimy voyeurism. I feel like we are desensitizing ourselves to the sight of hurt in others and it makes abuse a normal part of life. We should wince seeing someone else hurt and be bothered by it. How can this be our entertainment?

I’ve been so very lucky. I’ve watched my own children and many others who have been part of my life grow into healthy, well-adjusted adults with families of their own, and I’m lucky enough to have an ongoing loving relationship with them. Wonderful, wonderful.

I’ve been lucky enough to see some of the last wild places in America, and helped in a small way to make sure those places will be left for others to see too. Those feelings, and those places are so very important for our mind freedom. Even if we don’t go to them, it’s important to have them held safe and available.

It’s the small things that are so very important too. I used to hike with a partner who loved the mountaintop vistas. She’d be looking at the far away view, while I was crouched on the side of the trail looking at the tiny flowers on the moss. I love the accessable magic and believe that being able to see those tiny things and treasure them weaves the fabric of a happy life. The soft coo of a baby just learning to relate to others, and the joy of a child touching an earthworm for the first time-those moments are treasures, so be kept close to the heart and looked at in memory, again and again.

I’ve been very lucky to find a real partner in my life to share these years with-an unusual man who's strong enough to be gentle and who shares my views on almost everything to an extent I never believed possible. I don’t know how many years we will have left together, but I intend to make them as good and strong as I can, because this we have now, is very good.

For the future—I want to know everything, to learn more, experience more, and see more. It’s been a great ride for these past 65 years, and I hope for more, more, more-there’s a lot to see and do yet.

And lastly, here’s my current favorite poem that expresses a lot of my feeling for the way we treat each other, and our place in the natural world.

Catechism for a Witch’s Child

When they ask to see your gods

your book of prayers

show them lines

drawn delicately with veins

on the underside of a bird's wing

tell them you believe

in giant sycamores mottled

and stark against a winter sky

and in nights so frozen

stars crack open spilling

streams of molten ice to earth

and tell them how you drink

a holy wine of honeysuckle

on a warm spring day

and of the softness

of your mother who never taught you

death was life's reward

but who believed in the earth

and the sun

and a million, million light years

of being

© 1986 J.L.Stanley

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Passed! I Passed! Hooray for Me!

So much has happened lately, and I'm way behind on my postings, so I'll start with this one first and try to catch up over the next few days.

Recently I've been taking a class in gardening. It's offered in each county and comes out from Purdue University through the local County Extension office. What a wonderful group of people, from the County Extension Agent who was kind and patient, and so very knowledgable, to all the terrific people taking the class. It was great fun just to be in a room full of other people who loved gardening, and all of us so intent on learning more about our particular interest within the gardening world.

All of us had a slightly different take on the whole thing, from those who lived in town and mostly container gardened, to a market seller sharpening her considerable skills, to flower fanatics, at least one lawn nut and several like me, who wanted to just grow better veggies.

I learned so much during that time, but at the end of the classes, we had to gear up for a test, and pass it. Now, it's been over 20 years since I've taken anything more taxing than a blood test, so I was a bit nervous about the whole prospect, then got a cold and spent most of the week leading up to that big moment sniffling over the book, reading and rereading the pages, then just hugging it and hoping to soak up the answers by osmosis.

There was a lot of very basic science information that's heavy stuff, like the 16 essential nutrients that a plant needs to grow that there was no way my brain was ever going to memorize. Lots more that's just common sense once you understand the processes, and lots of complex structures that are hard to remember. There were 70 questions, and many had multiple parts, but in the end, I passed! What a relief!

So I'm now officially a Master Gardening Trainee. Over the next year, I need to put in 35 hours volunteering to help other gardeners, and spend some time learning more, then I'll be a full fledged Master Gardener. I'm really looking forward to the experience. It'll be fun.