understanding

Some weeks are long. Like this one. It started when the newspapers didn’t show up. I only get them on weekends. I get 2 different subscriptions. Neither arrived.

Then a notice saying one of my important tax forms would be reissued, corrected. So if I’d already filed 2016 taxes (I hadn’t) I’d have to amend them.

Then my brother and his wife decide to exclude half the family from our annual week at the beach. That was tough to swallow.

Then a kitchen cabinet door fell off its hinges. Just fell. I opened it and it came right off in my hands. So I took one of the hinges to replace them to the hardware store but it is the wrong hinge.

Then a rose thorn I’d unknowingly stepped on (I have pretty tough and calloused feet from years of walking barefoot) decided it would become infected. That took some work to find and remove.

So walking rescue dogs Lily and Lulu this afternoon, a thought came to me. A memory really… my dad lived the remainder of his days in a tiny southern town because my mother had liked the name– Clover. Guess Dad though it would be good to live in Clover. Anyway some years ago before I began my odyssey of searching for the perfect job and still lived relatively nearby, one weekend I drove over to visit Dad. He had a caretaker at that time who told me he’d gone shopping down at the Food Lion that afternoon so I drove over there.

I wandered the aisles figuring I’d find him and there he was, in the canned goods, eyeglasses propped above raised eyebrows as he carefully read the contents of a can of green beans or corn or some such. I started down the aisle toward Dad and just then, eyebrows still raised he looked up over that can and his whole face brightened into such happiness it made me so glad I’d thought to visit that day.

I can’t visit him now, he passed away 11 years ago next month. But that memory erased all the little nagging challenges from this week. Someone who is so glad that you are alive can truly make all the difficult, unhappy, awkward, or mean things just vanish.

And I began to see things differently. I came out from under that cloud and saw so much good. My two dogs are healthy, I basically have all I need or want, I am healthy, my son is happy and in a job he likes, spring is almost here and flowers are beginning to burst out in vibrant color here and there. Camellias, azaleas, daffodils, hyacinths, Bradford pears, saucer magnolias. Nothing ever stays the same but it sure does wonders to have a memory like that when things are a little bumpy.

Dad loved to make things better. Just talking to him helped. Sometimes he’d tamp down a smoking pipe and slowly send tendrils of sweet smoke, like thoughts, in the air. He could absorb and process almost anything. He stopped at whining, laziness, self-pity or meanness. But anything else he could help you through it. And he didn’t fix it for you. He made you think, look at the thing from all sides until you came to a good solution. He might have to prod or help a little with a suggestion or two, but he always left you thinking it was your idea.

So, all in all, I guess things are pretty good.

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Garden

Most everyone likes a garden. Whether they enjoy getting their hands deep in rich soil, sowing seeds, or simply admiring someone else’s toils, flowers are pretty.

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Working in a flower bed is like cultivating a friend. Some think if they want to move a flower they simply grab its stem and yank it out by the roots, dig a new hole and put it in.

Not exactly.

You need to consider what it comes from. What if it’s a bulb? a rhizome? a root system, large and well-established or a taproot? What if it has bulblets, or plantlets sent out on separate shoots? You need to find its foundation first. You need to gently work in and around the soil and its roots taking care not to break or injure them. Tenderly help the roots release from the soil, watering now and then as you work.

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As it comes away from its former place prepare a new place digging in the soil larger than the plant root system. Place the plant centered on its base carefully filling the soil back in loosely so as not to pack too tightly or suffocate and cramp its feet. Continue to cultivate it with water, nourishment, pruning where it has useless, dying leaves or stems. Encouraging the healthy plant to grow.

Friendship is the same. You meet someone you would like to befriend. The friendship is nurtured carefully, fed with interest, attention, and observation. Laughter, listening. Thoughtfully tended. The foundation begins with kindness, gentleness and warmth. Water with love, consideration, grace, peace.

And prayer.

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Logging

Where we used to live there was some undeveloped property within my subdivision that belonged to the local electric company. There were those gargantuan electricity towers, but a lot of it was woods and some of the locals who had ATVs drove all through there creating these very convenient wide trails where husky-mix rescue dog Lily and I would spend hours walking. So when we moved east we were so happy to find not far a large farm that had been converted to a farm animal rescue and land trust, with wooded trails, a mill pond and a beautiful pine thicket.

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A year ago we adopted Lulu, terrier-mix rescue dog who enjoys these walks also. The most wonderful thing about this is it’s 62 acres with various levels of walking trails, the longest being about 2 miles, and friendly dogs can go off-leash. We really enjoy these walks and the other dogs and their persons, too. Occasionally we meet a dog that really needs to be on the leash but I guess friendly is in the eyes of the beholder.

So it did not surprise me when we saw a sign noting there would be logging back in the pines. I would imagine there needs to be some sort of hefty revenue to keep up all those farm animals. They have everything from pigs to sheep, goats, donkeys, horses, chickens, ducks and they used to have a cow but I don’t know about that now. Anyway, that’s what I figured, why they were taking some of these trees down to help pay for all these animals’ upkeep, but someone else told me, no, they had a CO2 agreement where they were required to thin the trees to allow other trees to grow bigger. Makes no sense to me, taking out some trees with a canopy to allow other trees’ canopies to grow bigger but anyway, they came this week and basically clear-cut this forest…

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So now it won’t be quite as shady, but the mill pond is still there to cool our feet/paws in–

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Shoulders

This is an interesting word. We have shoulders at the tops of our arms. They are susceptible to strange injuries, like rotator cuff tears or bursitis, arthritis, dislocation. then there are shoulders on roads, a place where drivers can pull off the road for whatever reason, relatively certain nobody will come along and hit them.There are shoulder pads sewn into some women’s and men’s clothing, I don’t know, to make them look more imposing, more angular I suppose.

And shoulder seasons.

That indiscriminate time when it isn’t really winter/spring/summer/fall, or it’s far enough along in that season where you can sense the beginning of the next one to follow but you aren’t really in it yet.

That seems to be where winter is right now. There are no leaves on the trees but (where I am anyway) we are far enough out of the dark, grey sky months to see light coming. The daffodil bulbs have pushed their leaves up and some of them are blooming. Trees are budding and blueberry bushes have a reddish tint to the tips of their branches where they are waking up and will have flower buds soon. Forsythia, that shrub that my mom’s housekeeper broke off branches whenever she threatened my brother or me when we were little that she was gon’ switch us, and she did not mean have us trade places. Well the forsythia is usually the first to bloom, bright yellow flowers on a bare stem. After the flowers are spent the leaves grow. This has not yet decided to awaken.

The wintergreen plants in the woods that had tiny delicate white flowers last fall are now covered in bright red berries but for the most part the woodland floor seems to still be dormant. We had a couple of weeks here recently where everybody was sure winter was over, balmy temperatures, bright sunshine only to be plunged back into sub-freezing this weekend. Some people call it a false spring where sleeping plants and trees are convinced it’s time to wake up and start pushing out their little leaf buds.

From what the Farmer’s Almanac tells me we’ll be warm/cold here for a few more weeks, with one weekend the middle of this month getting real cold again, snow about 100 miles west of us, but that’s about the end of it. I hope anyway. And the beginning of the pull into springtime. No more shoulder season. Full on spring.

But then spring around here can be pretty short, no “shoulder”, no warning that hinge-melting temperatures are just days away and will last for weeks.

I know the groundhog saw his shadow (hope nobody dropped him this year) but those 6 more weeks of winter only seem to apply to the places north of here that have winter in earnest. I mean more than 3 or 4 inches of snow through the winter where it doesn’t melt and finally goes away sometime in March. April maybe.

Though I love snow, like seeing its beautiful transformation of the world with  white softness nobody down here can drive it it much less rain either so I’m just as happy if we don’t have any. Or if we do have any people have the good sense to stay home.

At least if I’m out on the roads. But then I learned to drive in New Jersey.

Not sure which is worse.

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