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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Eyeglasses

Since I was about 9 or 10 years old my vision has changed every year but one. In 4th grade my teacher moved me, row by row, until I was unhappily front and center in the classroom, practically under the blackboard. Finally the next year my doctor convinced my mother I did really need these glasses, and I was incredulous at the sight of each individual leaf on the summer-adorned trees. For a good number of those years I was able to wear contact lenses. I remember my father telling me one tearful frustrating afternoon when I’d come home from school having been called four-eyes so many times I nearly forgot my own name about these small glass disks that could be placed directly on your eyes. No glasses. And you could see like your vision was fine.

I wanted them. Now.

By the time my eye doctor felt I was capable of being responsible for them it was 5 years later. I was thrilled. No one told me if you got an invisible speck of dust in your eye it would feel as though a poisoned dart had been stuck in there. I soon learned how to wash the thing in my mouth and mercifully never got some horrible bacterial disease from this not good practice. I was careful with them, too. I only lost two in all those years. One in a swimming pool and one ice skating (actually a fellow skater did somehow find my blue-tinted lens on the blue-white ice). But sadly in my 50s I became too old to wear them. I could no longer stand the stabbing pain of dust particles, and the last day I wore them one slid off the eye itself and lodged in the corner of my now age-dry eye to the point where I thought I might have to go to the emergency room to get it off. I didn’t.

So now it is quite an event, buying a new pair of eyeglasses. No more taking the prescription, picking out frames and a week or so later picking the finished eyeglasses up. No… there are anti-glare coatings, graduated shading depending on how much sunlight they are exposed to. And different types of lenses altogether– Nikon even makes them. So even though my sales person was the nicest lady I did turn down her best efforts at selling me all these extra things. To compensate though I learned she is 10 years older than her husband and he better not retire before she does. I learned she had just recovered from flu and assured her that I had gotten a flu shot for this year. We spoke at great length of this flu bug that has been going around to the point where I began to feel flu-like symptoms from the power of suggestion. She promised me that she would fit my eyeglasses when I returned, and did I know that even though they tell you it is a week to 10 days they usually are back within a few days?

Mine took the full week before they came in. And no, the very nice lady was off that day, but another equally nice lady was happy to fit them for me and send me happily on my way, clear sighted.

At least my doctor removed the bifocal lenses. I never could see through it anyway.

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Exercise

My Dad lived to be 95 years old. Growing up in Colorado he was pretty active. Horses, ice hockey, mountain climbing. He’d had an accident when he was about 16 with a bad fall from a mountain. He lay at the foot of this mountain for about a day until his father came looking for him. His doctor there told him it was just badly bruised, prescribed bed rest but when nothing got better his father took him to Mayo Clinic. They found a smashed hip which they replaced, yet Dad for the rest of his life walked with a slight limp.

So when he was 93 or so he became what some call infirm, but he never got old. His doctor sketched out several exercises to keep him ambulatory, more or less active.

He almost never did these.

I would take him to his check ups. Doctor would ask if he was doing his exercises. “Oh, my yes,” he’d say. I, sitting behind him where doctor could imperceptibly look at me, would be frantically shaking my head, “no”. So his doctor who was quite fond of Dad, most everyone was, would ratchet up his insistence, in a gentle way, and Dad would agree whole-heartedly. But just like drinking his 6-8 glasses of water, it was whatever he chose to do.

He lived on his own terms, good or bad.

So when I had my 60th birthday a year ago I decided 20 years of running most mornings was enough and gave myself permission to stop. Maybe husky-mix rescue dog Lily was relieved, she seemed to enjoy our 3-4 mile-a-day runs. I decided to be kind to my knees. They’d served me well for so long, why risk pressing my luck?

So now Lily and terrier-mix rescue dog Lulu and I walk at a nature preserve here nearly everyday where they can go off-leash and it is a pleasant hour or so walk through 2-plus miles of mostly shaded trails. But sometimes I wonder if it is enough.

In warmer months I also ride my bike 5-10 miles a day but recently I have (in the occasional times I actually watch any television at all) noticed a commercial for a new stationary bike. One that simulates mountain biking (which I have never done), beach biking, and cycling in general. This ad is really tempting. A svelte young woman (who later turns out to actually even be a mom when her husband and child appear as she gently blots glistening dots of perspiration from her brow) in a picturesque glass-enclosed exercise room pumps away on this bike, listening to the digital “coach” encourage her up the grueling digital hills. This thing looks and seems so wonderful, I can almost see muscles forming at her calves, watch her arms as they white-knuckle the handle bars flex as she vigorously pumps.

Yes, I think, I should have something like this.

Never mind that the cost is in the thousands. Or that my day does not have the flexibility to venture forth on these precipitous digital rides. Where would I put this thing? Marketing is clever. We watch these commercials, forgetting we do not have a house like this with a glass-walled 200-square-foot room in which to house the bike. I’d have to build on an addition to my house. Then I’d need to tangle with my HOA and I make it a point never to interact with my HOA. Besides which I do not have any extra space where I could add on anything, certainly not an exercise room.

So I guess it’s huffing along the local rural roads outside my subdivision, and enjoying the sun-dappled walks in the nature preserve.

I’ll take that.

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Clutter

I am a clutter queen.

In my last move I listed my house “For Sale By Owner (FSBO)”. I cleaned out pots, pans, clothes, shoes, stuff I’d collected over the years positive I’d need it “someday” which never came, dog toys, kitchen gadgets,towels, beach stuff, even furniture. Then I cleaned stuff out again when I decided not to list my house myself and put everything back.

And again when I listed with a realtor.

Somehow I realized after only living in this next house for two years I still have too much stuff. So I am going through everything again. I had no idea how much wrapping paper, bows, boxes, ribbons, tape, little to-from gift cards, gift bags and decorations I had. So now it’s all been gone through and reorganized. And some of it disposed of.

I have clothes that I wore when I worked but have not worn in more than 10 years. Suits, blouses, shoes (again, and I don’t have that female inclination), dresses, jackets, at least five overcoats. So I found a place to donate these for people trying to get back into the workforce, or just need to stay warm.

Going through the bathrooms I found I have a 3-year supply of toilet tissue (how can you hide an 18-roll jumbo pack of Charmin??), eleven nail clippers (you can never have too many of those), and enough shampoo and conditioner of all sorts to keep a girls’ volley ball team’s hair clean for a year.

I found holiday platters I have not used in years, little fingertip towels on those circle holders on stands I never use, vases, suitcases, earmuffs still in their original packaging.

There must have been an incredible sale on dish soaps and dishwasher soaps because I probably won’t live long enough to use all of it. I counted 19 rolls of Viva paper towels, and that’s what I found the first time through.

For a while I thought collecting unusual baskets and copper tea kettles and chafing dishes was cool to put on top of the cabinetry in the kitchen. The dust is so thick on them now I can’t use them so I’ll try to find a way to clean them (maybe take them in the backyard and turn the hose on them).

I found even in my bookcases several comprehensive volumes of Shakespeare’s works, Mark Twain’s and Oscar Wilde. Probably only need one of those. Then there were those years I thought I’d use herbs for everything, so out went the herb remedy books (thankfully nobody died), and the Good for You/Bad for You food books, all of which are more than 15 years old. Surely there are differing opinions on this by now. Medical people are constantly switching sides for whether eggs are good and if margarine will truly kill you.

I prefer butter anyway.

So you’d think I’d have all this new found space in my house. Not so. I don’t know where all these things are coming from but the closets, cupboards, pantry and garage are still chock-full. I know someone who swears that her towels multiply all by themselves in the linen closet.

Don’t think that’d be true for those nail clippers though…