Change of Plans

Pardon me while I indulge in a little whining.

Mike and I took off for a much-needed vacation, heading east, our favorite direction in May for pine forests and warm weather.  Not wanting to go far from home due to my tooth pain and the possibility of needing to come back for dental care, and always concerned about Mom, Leavenworth was our first stop.  My legs, which have bothered me on and off, decided to push the limits of pain – walking, sitting, and the transition between the two, felt like I had nails in my knees and paralyzed calf muscles.  As the saying goes, I tried to grin and bear it, not having other options.

A weekend Bird Festival in Leavenworth and a lovely Forest Service campsite along Icicle Creek, fast-moving with spring run-off, provided pleasant diversions.  We couldn’t partake of the bird watching walks, but we attended a workshop on bird songs and an entertaining, informative talk by Thor Hanson, author of the fascinating book Feathers, The Evolution of a Natural Miracle.

Leavenworth’s faux Bavarian façade doesn’t excite me, but birds are not concerned about taste, they are looking for habitat and apparently Leavenworth, the surrounding environs, and places east, have an abundance of perfect child-rearing habitat for many bird species. 180 species of birds migrate through the Leavenworth area in May and June, many stopping to breed before heading further north. A birders paradise!

Sunday afternoon we enjoyed a concert that included a ‘chorus’ of hand bell ringers while watching swallows swoop and soar outside windows behind the musicians.  It was magical and peaceful.

Plans to head further east for warmer weather, lazy days in a campsite and perhaps some easy bird watching by a lake somewhere came to an abrupt halt when calls to Mom went unanswered. Rousing others to go check on her, it became apparent we needed to head home.  Mom was disoriented, awake at night, sleeping during the day, eating at the wrong time.  For a day and night her world had turned upside down.  And so seemingly had mine.

Mom is doing fine.  Monday she was on track with days, dates and time and back into her routines, today she was quite cheery.  Not me.  Though relieved and grateful Mom is doing well, two sleepless nights, worn down from worry,  and not happy about forfeiting our vacation on the sunny side of Washington, I started my day grumpy and went down hill from there.  I will spare you the gruesome details.

 As we pulled into our driveway this evening Mike stopped the car. “Is that a leaf or a bird?” looking out the windshield at a brown lump in front of the car.  “A bird!” I said as I got out on my stiff, wobbly legs.  A fledgling robin squatted in the dirt, barely moving.  I gently scooped it up into my cupped hands.  It was warm and soft and for one moment very still in my hand, then in a flutter, flew to a near by branch…leaving behind two hands full of poop.

All day Mike had been understanding, sympathetic, cajoling, and a few times just plain fed up with my dark mood. Nature just gave it to me straight.

After washing my hands I walked around our lush, overgrown yard, marveling how quickly everything grows this time of year. Blossoms from last week are spent, new plants in full bloom, radishes ready for munching, lettuce growing, bean and squash sprouts up. 

Yesterday Mom, with Mike’s help, filled the bird feeder that hangs outside her dining room window.  Her chickadees returned, having not been fed on Sunday.

I don’t know if the little fledgling will make it, it seemed small and young to be out and about.  I’m grateful to have felt its warm body and will remember its message – move on and leave my sh*t behind!

Tomorrow we hope to find a campsite somewhere closer to home, Mom is headed to my brother’s for the holiday weekend to celebrate my niece’s birthday.  It promises to be a sunny one….here on the wet side.




Mother’s Day Ruminations & Cowbirds

“Every woman is to me a representative of the Mother.  I see the Cosmic Mother in all.  That which I find most admirable in woman is her mother love.” 

Paramahansa Yogananda

This quote is a reminder to all my women friends, including those who do not have children, that most of us spend our lives nurturing, caring for, loving many to whom we did not give birth.  There has long been the discussion of  ‘nature’  or ‘nurture’ ~ are women innately ‘pre-programed’ to nurture, is it instinctual, triggered by hormones when giving birth?  Or are we taught through social conditioning and expectation.  I know many a ‘tom-boy’ who, though dolls were not their choice of toys, became wonderful moms, and many ‘childless’ women who lovingly raised adopted children, became exceptional teachers, mentors, aunts, cared for ailing friends, husbands, parents, women whose hearts are brimming with unconditional love.

But of course on Mother’s Day I reflect on the amazing women I know who have raised, or are raising, remarkable children.  It is cliché to say, but it is the most difficult job, and hopefully the most rewarding.  There are a dozen or so women I have had the honor of knowing throughout their motherhood ‘career’, from the beginning to the present, for there is no end, no matter how ‘grown-up’ and independent children become, even when they have grandchildren of their own, the role of mother is too personal, too deep in the heart and soul to ‘retire’ from, though there are moments when every mom I know was ready to change jobs!

As in the animal world, there are those for whom motherhood is not easy, those who have had to work a little harder.  A mother hen or dog, or cow or goat, who seems to take their role of mothering lightly or abandons the idea all together is not that way through poor upbringing or not having a good role model mom themselves! It is an unsolved mystery why the instinct to nurture is stronger in some, no matter what the species.  And of course good role models for mothering in the human species can impact how women carry out the job themselves, yet some of the best mom’s I know lacked that advantage.

As I write this a flock of cow birds land in the tree outside my window. A great example of giving ‘birth’ but not providing the nurturing!  Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other birds. Their young usually hatch first, get fed first, grow the largest, and at the expense of the off-spring of their ‘adopted’ mom, thrive while their nest mates die.  Cow birds are despised for this seemingly neglectful behavior, abandoning their eggs, seeming to have no mothering instincts at all.  But is that fair?  Perhaps in a way that is difficult to understand, they do provide, their young do survive.  Another of nature’s mysteries.  We all know stories, or have first hand knowledge, of animal mom’s raising, even nursing, babes of other species.  I had a male collie who knew exactly how to care for a tiny kitten, only days old, raising it, licking it after it was fed to stimulate its digestive system.  Another mystery of nature and nurturing.

But there is no mystery to the wonder of motherhood!

My own role model for unconditional love & nurturing, Mom at 91, having a night out at the Ajax Cafe, enjoying one of their many hats!

Happy Mom’s Day and much gratitude to all the moms I know for choosing a job with no pay but many benefits! Thank you!

The Magic of Trilliums

Western Trillium, T. Ovatum, is our native species.

Trilliums are magical.  That’s my perspective on them, because in the three plus decades I’ve lived on this particular spot of forested earth, they appear here one year, over there another year, sometimes one, sometimes two, once there was a magical circle of them hidden behind a huge rotting log.  One might pop-up in the same place for several years, and then it’s gone.  A new one might be sighted not far from the house, or deep in the woods.  This time of year a walk on our trail is a Trillium search, looking to see if a familiar one has shown up, and hoping to discover new ones. I can walk by a particular spot many times, then suddenly one day there’s a Trillium there. We do not have an abundance of them, their scarcity making them even more alluring.

So in my way of thinking they are magical, akin to the fairies mentioned in my previous post.

T. chloropetalum at Bloedel Reserve

This is what Susie sees out her front window. On this day the drive is lined with plants from her plant sale. You can see the greenhouse and garden ‘shed’.

Around Valentine’s Day I posted on facebook a striking red Trillium with a variegated leaf, a picture taken at Bloedel Reserve last spring.  I also added a card to my Huckleberry Card collection using the same image.  It generated lots of ohs and ahs.  In my search to find more information about it I discovered in Washington, Woodinville to be exact, a self-proclaimed “Johnny-Appleseed” of Trilliums.  Susie Egan’s front yard is Cottage Lake Gardens, a lovely, tall timbered mini forest with garden beds brimming with native shade plants such as false-lily-of-the-valley, oxalis, and false-solomon-seal.  Poking up in these islands of lush green are  45 different species of Trilliums.  Susie says there are 47 known species worldwide, an Internet search brings up differing numbers, but Susie is now my Trillium mentor and I’ll go with her numbers.

T. sulcatum (I think, this is one is in a bed of false-lily-of-the-valley at Susie’s, but I have one at home now.)

For a passionate Trillium grower and promoter, this is a busy time of year.  With prior arrangements, garden clubs, Master Gardeners, any small group of folks, may walk through Susie’s enchanting garden and learn about Trilliums and other shade plants from an enthusiastic, very nice, and very knowledgeable garden-host.  Last weekend Susie had a two-hour sale, people lined up to buy a variety of shade plants, including many Trilliums.  On Mother’s Day there is a “Trillium Tea, Talk & Tour of the Trillium Trail” open to the pubic.  To attend you must pre-register.

T. Chloropetalum.
Trilliums are often called by the common name ‘Wake Robin’

Besides the varying opinions on the number of species, there seems to be a difference of opinion on the botanical family Trilliums belong to.

The Forest Service, on their Celebrating Wildflowers website has this to say:

 “Based upon recent genetic research trillium species now belong to the family Trilliaceae. Historically trilliums have been placed in the lily family, Liliaceae.”

They go on to say:

“Trilliums are rhizomatous herbs with unbranched stems. Trillium plants produce no true leaves or stems above ground. The “stem” is actually just an extension of the horizontal rhizome and produces small, scale-like leaves called cataphylls. These highly modified leaves surround the flowering scape (the above ground plant) as it pushes up through soil in early spring. The leaf-like structures are technically bracts subtending the flower. Despite their morphological origins, the bracts have external and internal structure similar to that of a leaf, function in photosynthesis, and most authors refer to them as leaves.

T. luteum, a lovely yellow trillium,
at home in my new bed.

That’s the science behind Trilliums.  It is quite fascinating and adds to their mystery. However, as interesting as this botanical biography is, it is the charm of these seemingly delicate plants with their 3 broad “leaves” and solitary, exquisite, blooms, that enticed me to buy seven (six different species) to create my own Trillium garden.  I have the shade, but our soil is iffy. After Mike added compost and bark, I planted Susie’s plants (I feel I adopted some of her children!), tucking them in with leaf mulch.  They look happy, and right at home, surrounded by rotting logs, Salmonberry, and under the shade of a sprawling Osier Dogwood.

Let the magic begin!

Another one of my adopted plants, T. Grandiflorum

A Few Resources:

A book about Trilliums:  Trilliums, By Frederick W. Case, Jr. and Roberta B. Case

The Pacific Bulb Society has a great list of different species with good pictures and descriptions.

More about Susie Egan: Besides her website, Susie has a Cottage Lake Gardens facebook page. She gives talks on various garden subjects, including drip irrigation, winterizing the garden, and spring ephemerals.  After visiting her garden I consider her the queen of shade gardening, and a very hard worker!  She has a wealth of knowledge to share in any of her talks, or garden tours, even after the Trilliums are done blooming.

May Day Reflections & Poetry in Fairyland

Yellow & Red Cowslips, Forget-me-nots, cranesbill, wood hyacinths, a white narcissus & a velvety maroon primrose make up my rain drenched May Day nosegay.

Was hoping my muse would awaken this morning with inspired and eloquent words about May Day, but transitions in Mom’s life requiring increased care have tapped my creative energies, so I share a poem written by my Dad. I shared this on my old blog, but it is worth repeating, for it is a lovely poem from a man not known for his poetry, but who had a poet in him.



Spring Rites

Come, come High Priest of Spring,

Come to this sanctuary, following a path

looking like a caterpillar waking up, the last tip of a fern frond unfolds.

Lit by pale rose and white wild bleeding hearts

Held aloft by leaves of green lace;

Come on a carpet of coiled fern fronds

Interwoven with the dark green of succulent nettle tips;

Come under the vaulting arches of red alder

Whose twining branches out waited winter to greet this time;

Fill your breast with perfume

Floating down from a million bursting leaf buds and

Rising from a million more life forms

Stirring in the rich moist earth;

Be bathed in cloud filtered sunlight tinted green by emerging leaves;

Listen to the chorus from a thousand pulsing frog throats

Providing backup for robin soloists marking territory boundaries;

Come, it is time, as you have for centuries beyond count,

To bless the life cycle renewal of yet another spring.

1993, Harry Hubbard (1919 – 1998)


lacy leaved wild bleeding hearts tumble out of the woods into our backyard, already starting to set their seed pods.

My Dad, moved by the same fairyland that leaves me in speechless wonder each April & May, describes the unfolding of spring on our little patch of northwest woodland.  The carpet of wild bleeding hearts, hidden Trilliums, emerging leaves of Vanilla Leaf, False-Lily-of-the-Valley, pink Salmonberry blooms, clusters of white Elderberry blossoms and yellow Oregon Grape, and lush, bright yellow-green new growth everywhere creates an environment begging for visions of sprites and faeries.

Even in my Mom’s yard in Seattle yesterday, as I picked her a big bouquet of her favorite pink lilacs and blue wood hyacinths (a favorite of mine, which she has in abundance!), I could feel the magic of new life not just unfolding, but bursting forth with color and energy! I’m quite certain, hidden in her tiny yard, dense with tall, mature, flowering bushes and beds packed with perennials and tulips, there are fairy beings reveling in a yard minimally maintained by an occasional visit from a gardener.  Well into her 80s Mom tried to garden, but pain and fragility required hiring someone.  At 91, her garden fairies reward her for her past care with perennial blooms brought into the house. She LOVES flowers, it is a well-earned reward!

complementing the fairy plants in the wild is this patch of cowslip in our garden.

Happy May Day to you all……..may there be a impish harbinger of spring hidden in your garden today!


(You can see photos of some of the woodland flowers I mention on my Wild flowers page.)