There is something about overcast days. I don’t mean cloudy or partly-sunny days, days where the clouds actually have shape and forms and occasionally there is some blue or whitish blue, depending on how hot it is, sky with sun sparkling around the edges. I mean those days when the whole sky is covered in varying shades of off-whites and greys and there is daylight but the sun is completely behind the clouds. The whole day.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, people are out, lawns get mowed, shrubs trimmed, birds are busy at feeders or fending their nests from other bird enemies, dogs are walked, cars rushing to and fro. But the day itself. It’s like it’s waiting for something. What, the sun to shine without cloud obstruction? Afternoon, then evening, then night, then tomorrow? Then what? But really, it’s like it’s on the very edge of something– the verge of…  ?

I like cloudy days. It’s kind of like being snug under the covers on a cold wintry night. Or sweatered and muffled and booted with mittens and a hat outside on a frigid morning. But it’s also like the sun is taking a breather. Like even the sun, working hard to shine on the grasses and trees and flowers, feeding them with their photosynthesis, finally gets a day off. But it doesn’t really. It might not be making an appearance here but it’s shining somewhere. It illuminates our entire solar system. Other parts of the galaxy can see our sun. The opposite side of the universe has some awareness of it, as soon as the light years enable its rays’ brightness to reach there.

Sometimes I let my brain take a day off. As though it’s illuminated my little world enough for a while and needs to replenish itself. Even when I think I have successfully turned it off it is still running. Still doing something even if it is unconscious. So eventually we can look back out and see the brightness from the sun again, our minds begin working, thinking, figuring, planning, hoping.

Some things, even at rest, never really stop.

Sharecroppers or squatters??

I live for gardening. This is something that, had my father not usurped my spring and summer Saturday mornings as a teenager weeding the front yard rock garden I am sure I would never have much cared for. That I lost those precious time-for-me days to such a pastime in itself should have made me hate gardening for life. Another of life’s ironies I suppose.

I never cease to marvel at the miracle of my planting a seed or small sprout, or even buying a fully-grown plant at Lowes or Wal-Mart, and that it actually lives and grows. Or bears fruit if it is of such inclination. My first vegetable garden was ambitious. I was a young bride living in very rural Tennessee. I wanted everything, so I planted everything I liked- tomatoes, peppers, corn, cucumbers, squash… I planted both yellow and white corn, curious to see which would grow better. Not thinking of pollination I was mildly surprised to see both yellow and white kernels on all the ears. Tasted just as good. I also learned that different fertilizers produced different effects. The previous owner of our home had left a generous heap of chicken droppings. So I used it. Liberally. When I proudly told a neighboring honest-to-goodness farmer of my achievement he could barely breathe from laughter. Finally catching his breath he said, tears streaming from the outer corners of his eyes, “You’ll burn up the whole plot, that stuff is so hot!” I learned later what he meant was that form of fertilizer is so acidic it must be used sparingly. So from then on I used the offerings from neighboring cows.

From this humble beginning I now plant some of the same things, though I have a more civilized area in which to plant and do not require a tiller. And I have learned from experience that deer will eat pretty much anything so I now put tomatoes in large pots on the deck, along with okra and blueberries. The birds and I share the blueberries, not the tomatoes, and in the yard I plant spinach, squash, zucchini, eggplant and herbs. So far nothing, rabbits included, have partaken of these.

Something, however, is making good use of the other plants on the deck. I also have, more ornamental than anything else, bananas, lemon tree, avocado, coffee bean, more herbs, and a rose. Whatever it is, and I suspect it is a chipmunk that enjoys the birdseed, uses the potting soil in these plants to stash his sunflower and other seeds. He either has a bad memory or forgets all together because every so often I come across a tiny sprouted clump of baby sunflowers or wild grasses which I pull out.

At that point they aren’t doing anybody–  not the plant, nor me, nor the chipmunk  — any good.


Mt. 13:18-23, 31-32; Jn. 12:24-25; 1 Cor. 3:6; 1 Pet. 1:23

Welcome guest

Mostly, Mondays are pretty routine for Lily and me. We go for our morning run before sunrise, have breakfast, put seed out for the birds and water the garden and plants if there hasn’t been any rain. In fact this is what most of our mornings are like. Then a scattering of cleaning, trip to the library, reading, crossword, errands, writing, not in any particular order. We’d just come home from the library, I started picking stuff up, reorganizing before I vacuumed when I heard a thumping clatter, sounded like out on the deck. I looked around for Lily and when I did not see her looked out the window to the deck. Nothing. Maybe a bird took a swipe at a window which happens occasionally. So I went out to get the mail, sorted through it, perused through a Bible study workbook I’d ordered when I heard it again. This time I pretty much knew it wasn’t outside, and Lily stuck her head around from the kitchen to look at me to see if it was me. I told her we needed to search this noise out and she followed me to the back part of the house. Sure enough, I walked into one of the bathrooms and saw an object fling itself up in the air to my left. A mourning dove, pretty young from the looks of the spots on its wings, exhausted and terrified. Lily, not one for sudden strange movements or noises she can’t identify withdrew back into the living room.

Moving slowly I stood on the edge of the bathtub, speaking softly, watching its little chest expand and contract faster than 3 per second and brought my hand behind it. Off it took, slamming into the mirror opposite the window. It came to rest behind the sink faucet and again, glacially slow, speaking soft words I moved toward it and gently grasped it. It flailed and flung its wings against its unknown but likely enemy captor and after a few moments quieted. I saw an angry pink abrasion just above its eyes and grabbed a tube of antibacterial ointment. This was no easy feat, cradling a shock-stricken dove in my left hand and one-handedly opening and squeezing out a tiny amount of the stuff, then reclosing it so the rest of the tube did not keep running out. The dove allowed me to apply the salve to its head, maybe it felt good, maybe it was beyond tired to fight.

I walked back outside to the deck, all the time crooning to the little bird, whistling as a dove parent would to its young and gently opened my fingers where it clutched one finger and sat, balancing with its beleaguered tail feathers. And it sat. I sat on one of the Adirondack chairs. Lily, curious, crept through the dog door to come look at the little bird, then retreated. I thought to get my phone and take its picture to send to my son but as I brought my other hand up to steady it, off it went, into a sweet gum tree.

Be like a flower… ?

I had one of those chaotic, frenzied days recently. Nothing went right, got stuck in some kind of snag everywhere I went, things were out of stock, traffic was slow or stopped, drivers cutting in and out, turning suddenly with no indicator, cyclists everywhere. More frustrations for a single day than most. So I *finally* get home, unload stuff, lug it all inside, put it away. Remembered I needed to water the seedlings and flowerbeds. After I watered everything I looked at the foxglove with their tall, noddiing flower stems, daylilies pushing forth new buds, yarrow with its soon-to-be crimson flower heads, the Russian sage about to burst forth with bright blue bloom spikes, meadow rue, rose-of-sharon, four o’clocks, coreopsis, echinacea and so many others all waiting their turn to proudly display their lovely flowers.

Every year these beauties put out their showy and lovely display. They are pollinated, their flowers fade, and the birds feast on the seedheads through the winter. They don’t grow impatient waiting for the next rainfall, or envious because the butterfly weed bloomed before the daisies, or even angry that their flowers were not as plentiful or as bright as the year before.

They simply are.

Each year they have their season. The hyacinth, daffodil, iris, vitex, hibiscus, columbine. Each flower pushes up through the newly moistened earth, bringing forth new flower buds, they bloom. Their flowers gradually fade, bringing seeds for the next season. Tirelessly, effortlessly.

Why can’t I be more like that?