Tag Archives: Seasons

The Changing Landscape

I am not a gardener, more of a putterer.  I admire gardeners and I enjoy the effect of a garden.  My back and knees don’t want to garden, though.  (They are protesting as I write this because I am itching to go and putter in the garden.)  There is something so elementally pleasing about watching things grow and thrive.

 

Last year I read an interesting book called Founding Gardeners.  I realized that I had something in common with Jefferson, Washington, and Adams besides a vested interest in the ongoing success of the ideals that created this nation – I enjoy a lot about gardening but wish that I could hire people to do the hard parts like they did.  Sometimes I manage to get my son to step in.

 

A few years ago I decided to create a garden area in my backyard in my mom’s honor.  We call it the Grandma Garden.  The object was to add plants each year for Mother’s Day and my mom’s birthday.  It was a way to stay close to her.  For many years it didn’t look much like a garden and plenty of the plants that were added didn’t make it.  (Often times thanks to the dog or other creatures, darn them.  The dog inexplicably dug up a sand cherry repeatedly and I kept finding her playing with it until it died.)

 

Last year I got a bunch of mostly evergreen plants from my sister early in the season.  I put a few in the Grandma Garden and for the first time it started to look like an actual garden area.  I had to move around a couple of boxwoods – moving plants was a revolutionary idea to me that has changed my puttering entirely.  The dog hasn’t been too kind to the boxwoods – digging near their roots unless I am vigilant.  They have been tenacious though.

 

The Grandma Garden last year.

The Grandma Garden last year.

I worried about my new plants during this past harsh winter.  The deep snow cover protected much of the plant bases but I have noticed signs of stress on the upper parts that were subjected to the wind and bitter cold.  I tried waiting to see if they would revive, and then a bit of trimming.

 

I just had to pull up one of the boxwoods.  The larger one, the one that had been more successful.  Because it was larger, it got greater doses of the winter punishment.  Now there is a big space which I am currently pondering.

 

One of the points of the garden was to find things that made me think of mom and the stories that she used to tell.  She wasn’t a gardener, but she had an appreciation for nature and she liked to dabble (a step or two more distant from gardener than putterer happens to be) in planting now and again.

 

There were large bushes in front of the house that she grew up in and every year when her dad got out the pruning tools, mom would pester him to let her trim.  That’s what the boxwoods were representing.  For now, the stunted little one that remains represents these moments in my mom’s life all by itself.

 

We think of plants as stable, but when you start to work with them you realize that gardens are ever changing.  Things thrive and things die – sometimes it doesn’t make any sense.  Sometimes the changes are subtle and sometimes dramatic.

 

Do you pay attention to the landscape around you?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Lazy Days of Summer?

I regularly read Mary Schmich’s column in the Chicago Tribune and one of her frequent themes is to remind herself and all readers as well to enjoy these brief summer days.  Despite a hefty work schedule that no longer breaks for the summer months.  It is so easy as we dash from air conditioned house to air conditioned car to air conditioned office to air conditioned store to air conditioned house to completely miss summer.   But we really earned this summer after the winter we just had.

 

summer is getting ready to burst open like this peony

summer is getting ready to burst open like this peony

I have been watching all of the plants come out of their dormancy, unfurling their leaves and sending out new shoots.  I enjoy the return of the leaf canopy on the streets that I normally drive (except my own which has been devastated by the Emerald Ash Borer, where all the trees sadly await a saw.)   I take in the changes of plantings as the dog and I walk our usual routes.

 

It is my intention to choose the patio option more often this summer when out with friends or family and enjoy the breeze, the rustling in the trees and the play of light.  (And try to stay in the shade.)  I’ve already managed to do this twice, which is a good start.  When meeting up with friends, I hope we pick outdoor options more – open air concerts are offered by several entities as one choice.

 

I need to dig out some of Mary’s old columns that I have kept to check for some of her suggestions.  I remember one had something to do with a stack of notecards, one for every summer day, and as the day ended she would jot down a summer-specific activity that she accomplished that day and move the card to a new pile.  As summer progressed the pile of blank cards shrank and the filled cards grew.  It is a nice visual way not to let the days of summer slip past unknowingly.

 

How will you enjoy a lazy day or two or three of summer?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

A Fitting Tribute?

How can I possibly figure out how to say what I want to about having a mom and being a mom in a single blog post?  I’m not sure, but I am going to try.  Mother’s Day is almost upon us again and it has been a bittersweet day for me for 9 years now.  It is hard for me to honor my own mom properly, since she is no longer with us, and on top of it let my boys know what might be fitting for me.

 

Growing up we had a set routine.  Dad would put the same items on the grocery list as a lead up to the day – brown and serve sausages, cinnamon rolls, eggs, something to grill for dinner.  Mother’s Day festivities started in earnest with brunch after church.  I was always in charge of the cinnamon rolls.  Dad had us all snapping to in the kitchen while mom read the Sunday paper.  The day progressed and we could have been hard pressed to tell the passing of the years except that we three children got bigger.  And the sweetly sentimental card that Dad picked out for mom would be different every year.  (Dad was a champion at picking out cards for special occasions.)

 

public domain image - vintage Mother's Day sentiment

public domain image – vintage Mother’s Day sentiment

I look back now and I wonder because I can clearly see that this ritual was more about what dad thought Mother’s Day should be than perhaps what mom did.  I don’t think any of us ever asked her if it suited what she wanted.

 

My very first Mother’s Day as a mom came shortly after I gave birth to my older son.  Daddy and son got dressed that day and went out to get me flowers and a card.  Then we three had a picnic.  It was perfect.  I couldn’t say for certain now if I participated in the planning or if our day was based on my husband’s idea of a good Mother’s Day.

 

Other Mother’s Days followed.  I got feted, and reached out long distance to my mom.  I never understood the moms who said their idea of the perfect Mother’s Day was to have time to themselves.  (Yes, that would be nice on any other day during the growing years, I agree.)  I learned from my dad’s ritual that it is important for the family to turn the tables and take care of mom.  I also learned that rituals are powerful.  (Somehow that lesson worked better for me in the personal setting than in the formal setting of church.)

 

The next Mother’s Day that comes clearly into memory was the one during my transition to single mom.  The boys and I made the trek to COSI – the science museum in Columbus, OH (we lived in southern OH then).  I had wanted to have a very special experience because we were all hurting.  Unfortunately I wasn’t able to help my mom from that distance – it was her first Mother’s Day without my dad.  (We’d had a very bad start to our year.)

 

It dawned on me that year that I needed to figure out how to impart that lesson on my boys – the importance of turning the tables and showing care for mom.  I had no idea how to accomplish this task.

 

And I’m not sure now if I did a good job in the intervening years.  I do know that there are only 2 days out of the year that my older son remembers that the phone works both ways; Mother’s Day and my birthday.  (Except the year that he blew out his knee on Mother’s Day.)  My younger son has a stronger sentimental streak in him, like my dad, and has been known to make a small or even a grand gesture now and then between recognized holidays.  I expect he will make a special dinner on Sunday.

 

For good or ill, a mom is a figure who looms large for a child.  It is a most important thing and nearly impossible to get completely right, to be a mom.  The effort does deserve a fitting tribute.  Whatever that might be.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

I Hear Birds

Meteorological spring and the Vernal Equinox (astronomical spring) have both passed – not that you can tell based on how often my furnace still cycles on a day.  Or by the layers that we are still wearing.  Or by the dusting of snow that greeted the folks in my region earlier this week.  These dates are just markers on a calendar.

 

I smile every morning for the last several because I can hear the birds chittering, twittering, and singing to each other just outside my window each morning.  They must be quite chilled, but they believe that spring weather is close so I will too.

 

Eastern Yellow Robin (photo credit: Wikipedia)

Eastern Yellow Robin (photo credit: Wikipedia)

I haven’t actually seen the little feathered fellows, but my ears believe.  I have seen the geese – particularly as they stake out their nesting area around the building where I work.  A few people – 2 co-workers and later a customer – were chased by the hissing goose parents to be.  Winter might still be loath to give up it’s hold but all of these birds are determined that spring weather is near.

 

One good thing about the continued chill is that I have finally managed to cut back an out of control clematis.  On the one warm day that we’ve experienced recently.  And after 3 years of good intentions.  Now that I’ve had a chance to weave the branches through the trellis better, I have my fingers crossed that it will continue to grow as heartily as it has these past years.  And once again be a refuge for the birds that have sung good morning to me.

 

I hope that the birds are singing about spring wherever you are as well.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Plaintive Pull

The nature of blogging lends itself to posting in early morning.  Morning is a time for building energy, gathering thoughts to plan a successful day and not necessarily a time to bring up a plaintive, lamenting note.  But seasonal transitions seem to lend themselves to a plaintive and wistful mindset, at least to me.

 

I had a cat once who would stride through the house, usually in the evening and let out a sorrowful loud plaintive cry from a room or two away.  Perhaps he wanted me to do what I often did, which was to come and find him and ask him to tell me about whatever seemed to be on his mind.  And give him a nice scratch behind his ears.  Maybe he just liked the way that his meow would bounce off the walls and ceilings when he got a good lungful of air behind it.  (He did occasionally seem to have a theatrical bent.)

 

Evening seems to be the right time for plaintive reflection – not as heavy as a lugubrious or dolorous ponder but a few moments to think.  The right sort of evening reflection can lead to a better day in the morning.

 

Plaintive thought isn’t meant to be about all of the things that I meant to do in that day and didn’t get around to completing – too many people spend too much energy at the end of the day in this mode.  How about what I learned, what I can build on in coming days, what needs to be reworked…

 

As thoughts for this post started to form in my head, I realized that plaintiveness is often best expressed in music.  And songs by The Fixx and Counting Crows among others went through my head.  But I really sat down to write when the evening light brought Taps to mind.

photo credit: Wikipedia

photo credit: Wikipedia

 

The mournful sound of a single bugle in the soft summer evening air brings me back to my childhood when my dad was Camp Director.  This day is over, time to rest.  Nature and humans have done what could be done in this day.

 

All is well.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Loose Ends & Cross Purposes

Perhaps it is because the world is in transition from one season to another.  At least, oh please, I hope that it is finally starting into the transition from winter to spring.  The birds seem to think that it is because more and more of them are returning each day.  I feel like the dot, dot, dot that trails along the end of a sentence when the speaker isn’t sure where the ending happens to be.

 

I feel at loose ends.

 

According to dictionary.com  we humans have been at loose ends since the mid-1500s or so.  Oh dear.  At least we are in good company when we don’t quite know what to do with ourselves next.  If we are tying up our loose ends, it appears to have something to do with getting our ropes in order on a sailing ship.  This makes plenty of sense, one doesn’t want ropes just lying about on a ship. One trip and you could go overboard.

 

photo is from publicdomainpictures.net

photo is from publicdomainpictures.net

I am also at cross purposes.

 

We humans haven’t been at cross purposes nearly as long as at loose ends according to merriam-webster.com – since 1668 to put a fairly fine point on it.  (Looking up cross purposes is also in the bottom 30% on this site so maybe we can stir up some interest?)  It seems to me that we have probably been at cross purposes as long as people have interacted.  We just didn’t use this particular term for it.

 

But I am not at cross purposes with another person.  I am, as the seasons are, in a bit of a brain muddling transition.  Dangling this loosely and crossing that.  Maybe I should start, but first I should finish…  I want to do this, but it isn’t ready yet.  I can’t do winter anymore, and yet I must.

 

Transitions are confusing.  This seasonal transition from winter to spring makes me cross.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

In the Grip of Winter Exhaustion

When I was about 12 and enamored with the idea of love, my mom told me about a book that she had enjoyed which had a love story but so much more.  The book was Mrs. Mike by Benedict and Nancy Freedman and I still remember the depictions of isolation in winter.  That feeling struck me when I read the Little House series by Laura Ingles Wilder, too.

 

Most of us humans weren’t built for winter endurance – mentally or physically.  Oh, we smile about how pretty and sparkly the snow and ice is around Christmas because its new and fresh and we’ve had ages to forget that there will be months of the stuff to slog through.  And some people have a passion for skiing, skating, or snowboarding; perhaps sledding and a bit of snowman building that gives them reason to hope for the stuff.  Not to mention school-child wishes for snow days.

blizzard

The majority of us just push through and try not to give in to winter exhaustion.  The simplest task – an errand to the store, say – becomes a greater chore and drains more energy than necessary after wrapping up in layers, scraping the car, fighting through all the other drivers who’ve forgotten how to navigate this white stuff, finding one of the few remaining parking spots that hasn’t become a snow mountain, only to find that the items that you need are among the new shipment that is stuck on a truck up some impassable mountain pass or other and due who-knows-when.

 

Quite a distance from that isolation that I read in those books, but still in our modern way greatly affected by the elements.  We control so much in our modern world, but nature rules in these months and we humans find our way through.  And we fight to keep our schedule the same regardless of the season or weather, where those earlier folk adjusted their activities to accommodate the calendar.

 

The objective of this Daily Prompt was to teach, but sometimes the most important aspect of teaching is to get us to stop and think.  Why do we do what we do?

 

This post is written in response to The Daily Prompt: Teaching.

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

Getting to ‘Normal’

I usually keep Christmas décor up until on or about January 6th, so now I am in the process of taking it down.  Getting back to ‘normal’.  In our house this often means this pile up of Christmas that you see in the picture.  Almost every piece tells a story – of the person who gave it to me, or the shopping trip when I found it, or a family member no longer with us.  Sometimes I need an interim period before I’m ready to pack everything away until next year. 

DSC03718 

The rest of the house looks a bit spare and bare now stripped back to its standard decorations.  Normal.  Not festive.

 

Outside the snow blows and looks bleak.  Normal January.  No green except tiny spots of evergreens waiting under snow mounds.

 

I used to briskly put away Christmas items in one fell swoop, the boys would leave for school a day or two after winter break ended seeing Christmas and come home to regular, every day house.  Festive to normal in a few frenzied hours.  Now I put out less of our Christmas bounty and take much longer to bring myself to store it.

 

I think more about what normal means.  All of its definitions and connotations.  How normal shifts all of the time, even while we think it is safe and steady.  Normal is sturdy, utilitarian – without sparkle – background expected to support effectively without attention or effort.  Certainly not expected to crack, break or suddenly alter to something unfamiliar.

 

Here in Illinois, Normal is actually a place on the map that you can visit or live if you choose.  For a little while The New Normal was a show that we could all watch on TV, though I don’t think that it lasted.  ‘You’re not normal’ probably still shoots around schools as an effective epithet, meant to lance an offender, real or imagined, to the quick.

 

How do you feel about normal?

 

© 2014 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Quality of Sound

It looks as though we may be in for a cold and snowy winter season.  I’m sure that some of you are smiling and cheering but I am equally sure that there are plenty in my camp of winter endurers.  I believe that I have mentioned before some of the litany of why I am not a fan of winter – there is the cold, the snow, the slush, the cold, salt everywhere, exponentially bad driving and the cold.  Did I mention the cold?  I am also worn down by the monochromatic vistas – wonderfully dotted with Christmas decorations for the next couple of weeks.

But I digress.  There is one thing about winter that pleases me, which I rediscover every year.  This thing that quietly delights me is the quality of the sound when there is a blanket of snow on the ground.  The snow brings a silence that is very welcome in this time of electronic beeps, dings, trills, buzzes, and tweets.  Nature has many methods of redirecting our attention to joys it has to offer.

Looking for a means to soothe your hectic pre-Christmas day, go out into your backyard for a few minutes to commune with the quality of sound.  Softer sounds are muffled as the snow acts as natural baffles and round out many noises.  Sharp sounds crack, shattering the brittle cold air but are quickly replaced with that enveloping silence.

DSC03639

To get the full effect it is best to get to a park or nature preserve or any tract which is populated more by trees than the constructs of humans, but it isn’t entirely necessary.  Especially after dark.  Your backyard will do nicely.  If you haven’t taken the time to experience the way that snow changes sounds since childhood, I suggest that it is high time that you do so.

The crunch as you break through the crust of the snow, the sound of your own breath, the rustle of small animals, and the creaks and cracks of trees shifting under the weight of the snow.  These are the little gifts of winter.

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

The Cold is Coming

The sun has melted today’s light layer of frost from the still green grass and shrubs.  I read a brief article in the paper a couple of days ago that our autumn is protracted this year because it started out and stayed mild for so long.  I read a different article early last month that predicted a cold and snowy winter (of course I believe that was the prediction for my area last year too, which was far from the truth).  Cold is coming.

Frost on dying peony leaves.

Frost on dying peony leaves.

 

I’ve lived in places that experience all four seasons for most of my life and I do like three of them – it is a toss-up whether spring or fall is my most favored.  But I haven’t ever been a fan of winter with its limited color palette; difficulty in getting around in snow, ice and slush; few hours of daylight; and nippy temperatures. 

 

I can only think back on a handful of times in my life that I enjoyed winter – a few blissful afternoons sledding with friends, learning to ice skate, and the stark beauty and silence of a frigid winter night with the crunching crust of snow underfoot as almost the only sound.  Certainly joyful things have occurred in winter months, but these were not dependent upon the winter weather as part of their charm.

 

We humans like to make adjustments to our general environment to suit our own needs, so in my imaginings I have wiped away winter.  But the wild green growing things that are now settling into dormant slumber need this respite to thrive.  And I can’t deny them this necessity since they offer me so much the other 3 seasons of the year.

 

I am therefore, deeply grateful that I live in this age of central heating with programmable thermostats – allowing for a comfortable room temperature when it is time for me to get up in the morning.  I wince at the discomfort for our ancestors who had to gather their fortitude just to get up and start a fire to be warm. 

 

I appreciate that we have holidays during these cold months which will add splashes of color to the whites, browns and tans nature offers – red and green for Christmas, more red for Valentine’s Day.  Colors are important for visual interest and stimulation.  Not to mention how they can affect mood.

 

Every year at this time I watch the birds fly south (I walked past a tree full of songbirds the other day, probably the last for a few months) and wonder how I might do the same.  I read about the animals who hibernate, and have been dodging all the squirrels frantically preparing for their long sleep, and wonder if that might be my solution.  Knowing that neither option is viable for me, but wishing all the same.

 

Perhaps you will help me to pass the time, and make it worthwhile, through this cold and dormant season?

 

© 2013 BAReed Writing | Practical Business, All rights reserved

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