Nature’s way & a few mandalas!

IMG_0110We humans make much of changing seasons, dividing life cycles into tidy quarters, twelfths, etc. It’s understandable. Dependent on Nature, people have always strived to understand Nature’s transitions, to find order & predictability. Nature’s seasons are more a river whose waters bubble, divert and twirl even while moving predictably in one direction. Water sidetracks into eddies, reversing direction; some into calm pools, resting, taking its time; some rushes predictably, down stream and over cascades. Weather, water and plants challenge our need for predictability in life. Maverick plants bloom “early” or “out of season”, we have a Rhododendron that often blooms a single blossom in September, months after other blooms on the plant have died. Roses love to do this (thus the story of the Christmas rose.) Primulas bloom in early spring, yet the soft yellow one shown above brightens a gray December day with many blooms, joining red winter berries & evergreens. Early? Out of season? To the plant the time is just right! 💚

Nature, like life, is not so predictable!

Enjoy the coming winter solstice!

Solstice posts:

Candlemas & Imbolc

Evening Light & Tagore

IMG_9635

Snow berries brighten winter woods along with a variety of red berries.

 

Decking the halls – wandering thoughts on seasonal decorations

Most know traditional decorating ideas for Christmas go waaayyy back, ‘borrowed’ from early pre-Christian holidays in Celtic, Scandinavian and Germanic cultures. Whether to decorate or not has been as controversial as Christmas itself.  Just as there have been bans on celebrating Christmas, such as in 1647 when under Puritan Oliver Cromwell there were punishments for such celebrations in England (the political climate changed, the King restored, and so was Christmas), there are now bans on Christmas decorations in many schools and public places.  There are Christian churches that celebrate sans decorations.  On the other hand, there are Jewish families that always have Christmas trees, some jokingly calling it their Hanukkah tree.

My theory is that in the short, often dark days and long dark nights of winter, people, past and present, restricted from being outside, needed something to ‘change the scenery’ of their housebound lives, a reason to add color and light.  Ancient yule time festivities brought gaiety and light to the dark mid-winter.  Jesus came along and what better way to celebrate a birthday than with lights and decorations! Okay, the earliest record of celebrating his birthday in December is from the middle of the second century, when Christians were still a persecuted minority, so maybe they didn’t decorate too much.

(note: As for those “modern” Christmas lights that light up dark nights, in 1895 Ralph E Morris of the New England telephone company took tiny strings of lights made for telephone switchboards, put them on his tree to replace the not-so-safe candles, and the rest is history!)

Christmas decorating and decorations in homes is very personal. Look at someone’s tree and you see ornaments full of family tradition and stories. Our trees are so familiar to ourselves, but to an ‘outsider’ it’s like peering into a private room in the house! I do not have children, yet like many families, I have child-made Christmas decorations from nieces. Everyone has ornaments and decorations given as gifts, or bought on a special day, or a vintage find, or maybe an after-Christmas deal on a  box of pretty glass balls. Most trees are a miscellaneous collection of family history.  Yes, there are those who carefully arrange and coordinated “designer” trees, with color themes and ornament “collections”, those trees too give insight into the decorator.

60s set of gauzy angels – my first very own decorations.

The decorating touches people place around their homes, hang on their doors, or put outside often have stories too. If there’s no story, they at least reflect something about the person or family. As traditional and universal some Christmas decorating themes might be – Santas, snowmen, angels, wise men, the nativity, reindeer, bells, etc., individual expression and interpretations of those themes are endless, and new themes often very unique!

When cleaning out my parents house I brought home a few Christmas decorations. Some of the old ones held childhood memories. Though sentimental, I realized those  ornaments made from tin can lids, covered with glitter, were really old, no longer attractive and I was never going to use them. I kept only a few items from mom’s decorations.

50s ceramic ornaments made by mom

One year, after we’d all left home, Mom decided she wanted a blue and white tree and went out and bought blue and silver balls and white birds. Sort of a “designer” tree.  She used those ornaments exclusively only a year, maybe two. Soon more colorful family ornaments were added back in and most of the blue-tree-theme ornaments were stored away, along with the old glass ball ornaments of our childhood. Her tree eventually became an eclectic collection of little wooden figures and craft ornaments, no glass balls.

Closest I came to a “theme” tree was the tiny-teddy-bear tree one year, the santas & snowmen tree, or the all-angel tree, though none of these were without small red, green, silver and gold balls. In a small house, even a “big” tree is relatively small and easy to “themeize”.

My love of decorating for Christmas began to wane not long after Mike and I married. Besides decorating at home, I decorated the Quilcene Community Center for 9 years, and later the Port Townsend Visitor Center for 7 years, plus various parties for seniors, volunteers, etc.  I was decorated out! Marrying at 43, Mike had never celebrated Christmas as an adult, never had a tree in his “shed-boy” cabin, and he enjoyed the wonder of all my little ornaments. I kept at it quite a few years, but over the past decade, as my health and energy has been more challenged, half my ornaments have gone to garage sales and Good Will.  A pattern set in where every year I’d announce in November I did not want to “do” Christmas and if I did, it would be minimal. In early December I’d put a few boughs in a vase, set out some angels, a few Swedish gnomes and santas, gifts from my friends in Sweden, hang lights around the window, make a swag, get out the music (we both love Christmas music) and say, “that’s it.”

Then a week later I’d go in the attic, (or the years I couldn’t due to recovering from some surgery or broken bone, I’d ask Mike to go in the attic, it’s the crawl in type) to find the box of nativity sets. I’d see favorite little snow angel ornaments, or tree shaped candles, or the Lenox Christmas bowl, or we’d want more lights for dark NW evenings. Out would come boxes and suddenly there’d be Christmas everywhere! One year, after swearing we’d have no tree, I bought a previously cut, but rejected, small noble fir at a local already-closed-for-the-season u-cut tree farm on Christmas Eve and decorated it by the time Mike came home from work. For several years I decorated a potted tree on the porch with outdoor ornaments, within view of the living room. Then came the table top artificial trees (one I’d bought for mom) something I, Nature girl, NEVER thought I’d do, but a great show case, that takes up little room, for favorite tiny ornaments. Then after Christmas, every year, I’d say, as I gathered, boxed up, and put away all the stuff I’d dragged out – I’m NOT doing this again.

So here we are – first week of December. I made my November announcement. Yesterday I put boughs in a vase (they’ll dry before Christmas and need replacing – maybe with a little artificial tree?), set out a few bits of Christmas stored in my closet, played Christmas music off my iPad (forget the box of CDs, tapes, and old 33 rpm albums).  Crippled up with a painful foot (re-injured this week by a #@#* doctor), I can’t walk and can’t possibly go up to the attic. This may be the year I succeed at minimalist Christmas decorating. But there ARE those little snowman angels, the tiny nativity set and I’ve got three weeks to go.

(P.S. Mike read this and helpfully headed to the attic! I complained as he pulled out boxes, but with great reservation, took only a few more items and sent the rest back to the attic!)

Happy decorating!

See photo below for a tree from the late 1930s. my dad’s family (he’s in the middle) and a very tinseled tree (tinsel, originally made of silver in Germany, was eventually made of lead until the 1970s when it was realized lead was toxic. Yikes!)

My favorite book of Christmas trivia, used in writing this:

The Christmas Almanack, Gerard and Patricia Del Re, 1979. (Yes, that’s how they spell almanac)

other December and holiday posts:

A Christmas Eve lesson from Nature

Sweet Silver Bells

A Chaplin’s Christmas message of peace

Solstice Thoughts About Our Thoughts

O Tannenbaum!

Seasonal Reflections

“The day of days”

November 25th is the 74th Anniversary of my parent’s marriage, an event that took place during WWII the day after Harry, my dad, graduated from US Navy Reserve Midshipman’s School at Columbia University.

Ruth, my mom, traveled from Seattle to Boston on a train that also carried sailors heading home on leave from Pearl Harbor. She met and stayed with relatives she’d never met, planned her wedding to her high school sweetheart, and began a new and unknown life.

They thought Harry might have a few days off, but he was granted a few weeks, giving them a New York City honeymoon. The 7-page letter Ruth wrote to friends and family back in Seattle (using carbon paper to make several copies), chronicling this time of her life is a time capsule.  It is both a personal journal and a story of the time period.

If you enjoy the 1940s, a bit of history through personal story, and life in the Big Apple, when you could see Frank Sinatra sing on a radio show and dance to the music of Guy Lombardo, you will enjoy the chatty account of Mom’s great adventure east to get married.

A bit longer than my usual posts, I posted this as a separate web page which can be found here:  A Wedding Story

Wedding Day

Thanksgiving Yummies

This week of dark days and rainy weather here in the Northwest makes it a time for coziness and comfort food so I thought I’d share a few of our recent favorites.

It is also a time for counting our blessings, though I try to do that every day.  Among the many things I am grateful for are all who take the time to read my posts.  As my web site title suggestions, they wander over many topics, but I hope they add some interests, insights, knowledge or smiles to your life, if just for a moment. Thank you for following my wanderings!

with goat cheese

Quinoa Sweet Potato Patties   (30-45 mins. to prepare) incorporate several traditional winter holiday foods into one non-traditional dish. This simple recipe could be a peace maker at a holiday meal, meeting various dietary choices. It’s a good main dish protein source for vegetarians and vegans, yet can also be served along with meat or fish. And most people on a gluten-free diet can tolerate quinoa. These could be made without the quinoa, but they would not be as protein rich. (My photos did not turn out well of these, they actually are quite nice looking with the chopped cranberries in them!)

1/2 cup dry quinoa – cook separately while preparing other ingredients

1 small onion or white part of a medium size leek (my preference) chopped fine by hand or put in food processor

1 LARGE sweet potato
Peel and grate or chop fine in food processor. You could also bake a sweet potato then scoop it out to use. This adds to prep time. Sauté in water all the chopped ingredients (see options below) except nuts (if using them) in a skillet until the sweet potato is a soft, mushy consistency. Be sure not to use too much water or they might not hold together. Add salt and your favorite seasonal spices. Sweet potato is your binder so be sure to use a large one or a few medium size.

Options to add in with sweet potato and onion:

1/2  cup cranberries roughly chopped
4 large crimini mushrooms chopped fine
1/2 cup ground nuts (cashews and pecans work well, I mixed them)

good combinations are cranberries & mushrooms or cranberries & nuts. Be creative and add what you think would be good!

In a large bowl mix the cooked quinoa into the cooked sweet potato mixture and add chopped nuts. Make small, firm patties, lightly cook in a skillet using coconut or olive oil, turning once to brown both sides.

with vegan mushroom gravy

Topping options:
Goat cheese
Yogurt
Mushroom “gravy” made with coconut milk and cashews (vegan)

Served with a green vegetable and cranberry sauce, you have a tasty, balanced, holiday meal, or an everyday easy meal! This recipe makes about 12 patties, they keep well in refrigerator for a day.  Leftovers are good for breakfast or lunch!

(want to know more about quinoa, this ancient protein rich food of the Americas? Here’s a short history: Origin & History of Quinoa)

And for dessert…….

Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding combines two of my favorites, tapioca pudding and pumpkin pudding, into a gluten free, vegan dessert. It is easier and quicker to prepare than pie but gives you the warming, comforting seasonal spices everyone loves. I ONLY use Edward & Sons Trading Company Native Forest organic coconut milk and Lets Do Organic tapioca. Their “classic” coconut milk is rich and creamy, like cooking with cream.

Heat 1 1/2 cups full fat coconut milk
Add 1/4 cup tapioca granules
Cook a few minutes then add
1 1/2 c. puréed pumpkin made from a fresh pie pumpkin or a sweet winter squash.

Cook until it begins to thicken and tapioca is clear. It will thicken more when cooled so don’t worry it not very thick.

Remove from heat. Add maple syrup to taste, 1/2 t. cinnamon, 1/8 t. each of cloves and nutmeg.

Let cool in refrigerator briefly to set up, but it’s best (and a great comfort food!) served a bit warm.

Serve with a coconut/cashew “cream” made by combining 1/2 – 3/4 c. full fat coconut milk and 1/2 cup cashews (roasted unsalted or raw) in food processor or blender. Add a sweetener such as maple syrup and vanilla extract.  Spoon on top. Obviously you could use whipped cream instead!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Other Thanksgiving posts:

Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

Recipe For Winter

A Pumpkin by any other name

this year’s porch booty, where the pumpkins, squash & gourds gather every fall!

Did you know pumpkins are squash? The word pumpkin does not actually describe a botanical distinction, it is a common name used for some squash. Generally, in the United States and a few other other countries, it is the name for round orange hybrids of the Cucurbita pepo squash species, the ones used for jack-o’lanterns. In Australia and New Zealand all winter squash varieties are called pumpkins. Commercially, most pumpkin pies and canned pumpkin pie fillings are made from other types of winter squash.

Mike’s jack-o’-lantern, face design by our friend Ke

Even more misleading, the tradition from Ireland of carving lanterns from vegetables, calling them jack-o’-lanterns, did not start with pumpkins, which were not grown in Ireland long ago, but were carved from turnips, or occasionally potatoes or beets. In America folks found the pumpkin, introduced to them by Native Americans, made bigger, brighter jack-o’-lanterns. And were a lot easier to carve than a turnip!

Since the word pumpkin comes from the Greek word pepon, meaning big melon, clearly the term pumpkin has a loose application and those round, orange winter squash have an identity crisis, which may be why so many jack-o’-lantrens look like they are in shock! 🎃

cheese pumpkin – which is a squash!

A very popular pie squash is called a cheese pumpkin, which is a type of moschata squash. We recently bought one, and though the folks at the farm where we bought it didn’t know the specific variety, it is definitely a type of cheese pumpkin, or squash. The name might come from the shape, similar to a cheese round, or from the “pumpkin cheese” early settlers in the US made with any pumpkin or squash that didn’t store well. If a squash showed signs of going bad they’d cook it down to what we would now call pumpkin butter as a way of preserving it.

Pumpkins/squash, have been around a long time, thought to have originate in ancient Central American. They’ve not only been around over 7,000 years, they’ve traveled around the globe. New varieties have come back to the Americas via the West Indies, England, France and other countries. There are hundreds of varieties, many developed in the United States. Varieties of the same species of squash easily cross-pollinate so when growing more than one type it is a good idea to grow varieties from different species.

We have pumpkin addiction issues in our house, and it’s not just me, I know when to stop, but Mike always thinks we should get more. He also campaigns for more gourds. I tell him we can at least eat the pumpkins, so I vote for more pumpkins. I adore gourds. The history of gourds, which are relatives to pumpkins and cucumbers, is older and more complex than that of the pumpkins/squash ancestry.  Some believe, from archival evidence, gourds may be the oldest cultivated plant, thought to have been introduced to the Americas from Asia 10,000 years ago.

Gourds have been used as food, vessels and utensils , musical instruments and in the creative arts for thousands of years. Early settlers found some Native American tribes used them to make bird houses to attract birds to control insect pests. There is something innately attractive about gourds, often very colorful and naturally decorated with designs and textures.  And the small ones are quite cute! The year we had three volunteer plants appear in our back yard, their long vines growing off into the woods, I felt rich with abundance as the harvest filled two baskets. Given their multiple uses and long association with people, it seems every household would do well to have a basket full!

Enjoy whatever you want to call your favorite colorful fall vegetable! But be warned, if you Google it you will find conflicting information on these ancient vegetables.

For example, Hubbard Squash, which for the obvious reason of it’s name, I’ve known about all my life, has a debatable lineage. What we called Hubbard squash growing up was a larger, darker green, squash than what most farmers grow, and markets sell, here in Washington, which is a small Hubbard variety called Blue Hubbard, a cross between Hubbard and another type. The origin of Hubbard squash is thought to be the James Gregory Seed Company. Mr Gregory brought it to the seed market from seeds given to him by his neighbor, Elizabeth Hubbard. But not all agree on where Gregory claims Mrs Hubbard got her seeds. Regardless of its origins, it is a flavorful, very popular squash served at many Thanksgiving feasts, and what a great name!

Happy Halloween!🎃

Past Halloween posts:

The Driver

Festivals and Fruit Crumble

What Scares You?

Familiars

Some of the Pumpkin and Squash articles I read to compile this pumpkin biography.

http://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/history-pumpkins-recipes/
http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=12109
http://www.allaboutpumpkins.com/history.html

Sleep, perchance to dream!

Over the years I’ve been asked by people what I do for sleeplessness, as I have lived with insomnia most of my life.  A recent request motivated me to write my thoughts and suggestions. Too long for a blog post, and knowing not everyone wants to read about insomnia, I made it a web page. If you are interested in my suggestions and some of what I’ve learned about sleep, you can read my article here:

https://huckleberrywanderings.com/sleep/

Autumn is a time of transition, in Ayurveda it is the Vata season of the year, the elements of wind and ether are dominate. Insomnia is a Vata condition and often people find sleeplessness more common in Autumn, so perhaps it is a good time to write of this.

Happy Autumn Equinox!

Eclipse Ponderings

Like zillions of others fascinated by the current events of the cosmos, I’ve been reading about eclipses, not just the science of them, which is interesting but pretty straight forward, but also the many historic traditions, beliefs, fears, and attitudes regarding solar eclipses. Many articles make statements that go like this: “before astronomers were around to explain them……”, dismissing attitudes and traditions about eclipses that are not science based as invalid. My inner historian/anthropologist wannabe (I studied both in college) compels me to question this dismissal. I specifically became interested in India’s attitudes and history regarding eclipses when I heard that Dr Vasant Lad, the respected Ayurvedic doctor who introduced Ayurvedic healing traditions to the United States, recommended not looking at an eclipse, but using the duration of the eclipse as a meditative, reflective period of time.  Obviously everyone recommends not looking at an eclipse without eye protection or you can damage your eyes, but he meant more than that.

My curiosity was piqued.

Can stars be seen during an eclipse? Yes!  Larger stars and some planets, such as Venus, are visible, as well as the corona of the sun, which is only clearly seen during a solar eclipse.

There are references to 2600 BC as the time when astronomers in China and Babylon could predict eclipses. A research paper on eclipse records in India states there are references to eclipses in the Rig Veda, oldest known writings in India, dating between 1700 BC and 1400 BC. This makes me think some of the eclipse beliefs and traditions of India and other places are not based on fear of the unknown, but perhaps an understanding of the known, that is the impact an eclipse can have on life on the earth. Perhaps the recommendations found in several cultures to not look at an eclipse, to stay indoors, do not eat during an eclipse, to bath after an eclipse have to do with the best way to mitigate the impact of an eclipse.  A friend shared a research paper she found on a study done to see if microbes died during an eclipse. It’s a little weighty to read, but it seems the particular microbes studied actually proliferated during an eclipse. (Maybe a good reason to bath afterwards? Who knows!)

The ancient rishis of India were smart, much of what they wrote about health, etc. still holds true. (Consider that modern plastic surgery was ‘discovered’ after a German doctor read about a procedure in the Vedas for repairing a nose cut off in a battle.) I think some of their recommendations around eclipses being a time to be more interior, reflective, and to protect oneself from the ‘darkness’ may have been based on their observations. Those same recommendations can be found in other cultures, including many North American tribal traditions. (see article link below from Santa Fe, New Mexico.)

Another factor of eclipse ‘myths’ in any culture is that ancient stories of phenomena were (and still are) used metaphorically to teach certain moral or spiritual concepts. A phantasmagorical event, solar eclipses are a great focus for a good story and does not necessarily imply a lack of understanding.

Whether you will be able to see it, an eclipse is a period of time when the sun, the big light in our sky, will be darkened in the middle of the day. Both modern scientists and ancient wise men agree that birds, animals and plants (you’ll likely be busy looking at the eclipse, but you could also watch your light sensitive plants, the ones who move with the sun, or close at night) show signs of being affected by this day-into-night phenomena. Since we too are “animals” there is no doubt an impact on us. Mike and I will try to spend the eclipse period following the suggestions of the ancients – be quiet, meditative, reflective. But we have our eclipse glasses ready for our curious minds, should we have clear skies here in the Pacific Northwest! (Post script: We did!🌞)

Enjoy reading some of the articles  below about eclipse myths and ponder the meaning of those that aren’t too far fetched.  Maybe a wolf isn’t going to eat the sun, but they might be howling at the moon when it makes it’s appearance in tomorrow’s day time sky!

Interesting info on eclipses in different cultures and history:

How Ancient Cultures Explained Eclipses

The Surprising Ways Animals Respond to Eclipses
The Role Of Solar Eclipses In Religion (refers specifically to Judaism)

Short NPR Video on history of eclipse

Myths and superstitions around eclipses

Respect and reverence: Local tribes prepare members for eclipse

What can you see in the sky during an eclipse?

  • Banner photo from space.com, photo from 2016 eclipse

Carrying stories for others

I’ve never written or even talked much about my work life. Much of my work life involved the stories of other people’s lives. Recently somebody made a remark implying that since I never had children, I’d never had responsibilities for another person. I would never equate anything I’ve done to parenthood, and hold with great regard, awe and respect, my siblings and friends who are parents, a role like none other, with all that life can give in joys, stress, challenges, love, disappointments, and every other human emotion and experience. However, like many friends who never had children by choice, circumstances, or biology, I’ve had responsibilities in the lives of others in diverse ways, most recently in my mother’s life as she struggled with and declined from Alzheimer’s. Later reflection on the remark caused me to recall women I helped find safety from domestic abuse, children I reported concerns about because they showed clear signs of abuse or neglect. I thought of some of the people I worked with in my private practice, even students in classes I taught. Occasionally someone will come up to me and say how much a class they took helped them, telling me how. Most of all I thought of the people I worked with when working at Community Mental Health.  I was hired to set up community support for people who had psychiatric disabilities, people diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar. Though I was not responsible for their lives, I was an important relationship for them primarily because they often lived lonely lives and the time we spent together was the only time they talked to somebody who treated them with respect and appreciation, who knew they had an illness but also knew they were smart and had dreams and desires, like everyone.  Some of those relationships spanned nearly 10 years.

Some of the men were not much older or younger than myself, often I was the only woman in their age group who ever paid them any attention. Other clients, women younger, or older, or my same age, had no other women friends to chat about the things women chat about. It is out of respect I’ve never talked of these people, it is the code of ethics for a profession where people carry in their heads and hearts the stories of other people’s struggles, even after much time has passed. Some of the people I worked with have died and many years have passed, so with the same respect and compassion I’ve always had for people living with the struggles of mental illness, I tell the stories of a few. For me it is like opening a book I read once, yet never told anyone about.

Bi-weekly I visited a man living in a tiny single apartment behind a house his parents owned. No one lived in the house. He was overweight, rarely went out because he was uncomfortable doing so and very paranoid of people. He stayed at home with his cat in the cluttered, dark, shade drawn apartment. I’m allergic to cats. Walking into his home with the stench of body odor and a cat box rarely emptied, cat dander and thick dust everywhere, my nose ran and eyes itched immediately and for hours after I visited him. I had to wash all the clothes I wore that day. He was very smart. Astute about people, he talked about his large eccentric family. His parents owned several businesses but he lived only on the disability check he and most the people I saw received. Our visits consisted of me sitting in the only available chair opposite him in the lounge chair he pretty much lived in. He talked of his life and told stories and secrets from the past about family members. He would tell me the same stories, sometimes there would be new ones. He had an intuitive understanding of the nature of people and I often thought that perhaps, though he was the one with the mental illness, he might have been the only one in his eccentric family that truly was sane. He had diabetes and several years after I no longer worked in that job he died of complications from the diabetes. I drove by the apartment, closed up, and wondered what happened to his cat, and thought of all the stories that died with him.

Another man I saw also lived in a tiny apartment. He began to have a crush on me which I realized only after we stopped while on a drive (my job was often to get people out of their apartments for a change of scenery) and he asked if he could kiss me. It was a scary moment, we were standing on a bluff, he was taller and weighed much more than me. I said some form of no in the most diplomatic way I could to a person with severe paranoid schizophrenia. Most our visits were sitting in his apartment, me listening to many of his obsessive, paranoid thoughts. He eventually stalked and killed his father, who lived in another town. I realized later it was inappropriate for me to be asked to continue to work with him after the bluff incident, I was not following my intuition when I wanted to say I wouldn’t.

There were two older women I saw. Both were diagnosed with bipolar and each had been hospitalized many times throughout their lives for bizarre behavior. When I came into their lives age had mellowed them and the disease had loosened its grip, though its presence was still obvious. One once shined the copper bottoms of all her pots when the mania was coming on. I suggested she make a conscious effort to do so each time, then we’d both know that she might need help, the pots could be the conversation started. It became an endearing part of our relationship and her way of letting me know either she needed more help, or she’d had a bad spell but was ok. She had the best looking revere ware! I always wanted to bring her mine! She was bright, talked of many life stories and heart breaks and over time became fond of me and I of her. The other woman also talked of her past, her daughter, who she was beginning to have a better relationship with, and her paranoid thoughts about her neighbors in the apartment building. We went shopping together and ran errands, she loved going to thrift stores. Both these women have died, and though their lives were often hell, I believe they died in peace, a peace they came to during the time I knew them. They both talked of their deaths and enlisted my help making  prior arrangements, not morbidly, but matter-of-factly. Neither had a lot of control over many aspects of their lives, but they wanted to say how they would be treated when they died.

There was a young woman with schizophrenia I invited to attend an out-of-state conference for both professionals and people with psychiatric disabilities. My colleagues thought I was the crazy one traveling so far with her and staying in a motel for three nights. Her behavior was thought to be unpredictable. But what was the point of all I knew and believed if I attended this conference alone? It was an act of trust and bravery on both sides. I had confidence in her and our relationship and I believed my trusting her would help her to trust herself, in spite of thoughts she couldn’t control. We completely enjoyed each other’s company, driving north out of Salt Lake, where we flew to, doing a little sight-seeing before we went to the small town where the conference was held. I was so proud of her participation at the conference.  I helped this young women get an apartment and move from her parents house and over many years she asked me questions all young women want to know as they think of their future, of men, of how they look and the questions she had as she tried to navigate life with thoughts she didn’t understand and couldn’t trust. It was with heart ache we had to end the relationship when I left my job. She asked if we could be friends and I said yes, after a year and after she had another “case manager”. We did see each other several times a year later, but in spite of her illness, and because of her illness, she had the insight to say it was confusing for her to know what she could say to who, so we discontinued our visits. Many years later her father brought her to where I was working to see me, it was a sweet reunion, brief, but the affection we both felt was still evident. She thanked me again for all I did for her.

These are only a few the stories, a few of the people whose lives I hope I touched, at least for a moment, in a positive way, even the ones that had sad endings. There were the young people I arranged hospital or treatment stays for, or visited while in hospitals or treatment facilities to see if there was a place for them in the larger community. I could go on, but I will close the book in my heart where I continue to carry the stories of many people.

Rose Survivors

A little potted rose ‘rescued’ when my mom lived in a care facility. Gifted to her, these little roses would soon dry up and I’d take them home for life support!

Are there roses in your life?  There is scientific evidence that rose petals have healing properties and rose hips (fruit of the rose) are packed with vitamin C and other goodies. Rose flower essence is calming, uplifting and used especially for helping one through difficult times of trauma and depression. Perhaps this flower of love is needed in abundance in all our lives now more than ever!

June, National Rose month, celebrates this flower steeped in lore, legend, symbolism, healing properties and revered in every culture, past and present. Living in the woods with poor soil and lots of shade, growing roses like my mom did (see Mom’s Garden Love Affair) wasn’t something I aspired to do.  But roses came into my life, each with a story of survival and determination and each sweetens the June air with a different scent.  Some of them are subtle, others fill the air with a strong fragrance reminiscent of how I imagine the old rose gardens seen in paintings must have filled the air.

This little pink sweetie is the rose behind, or rather under, the Peace rose given to me 32 yrs. ago by a boy friend. Lovely gift, but tea roses aren’t happy in a woodland environment. It lasted 2-3 seasons (longer than the relationship lasted). After it died I waited. Shoots started to emerge. Eventually this root-stock rose, on which the Peace Rose was grafted, grew into a tall, gangly plant with clusters of little pink roses with floppy petals and a scent so strong – the scent of legends! After researching roses used as root stock, I determined it is rosa manettii. Developed in 1835, (100 years before the Peace) it is rare, used as an understock in 19th century, not so much now. It seems happy here in the woods and one of the few roses I’ve seen pollinators at .

Another surprise rose, this one came from an old farm I rented with a friend for a few years. Probably mowed along with the grass for years, maybe decades, the last mowing I did before moving from the farm I noticed what looked like a little rose sprout in the grass. Digging it up, it moved with me and for 40 years it has bloomed it’s heart out every June for 2 to 3 weeks, depending upon the weather. Though the bush gets big, the blooms are small with a classic rosy scent. It doesn’t tolerate high heat or heavy rains. I have three bushes and it seems like we’ve been together forever!

This soft pink rose grew next to my parent’s driveway in Seattle. At some point it was dug up and given to me. But that was not the end of the story. Though replaced by a winter blooming evergreen bush, the rose made it’s way back up through the bush. Years after Dad died, Mom, who loved roses and may not have been the one to instigate it’s demise, pointed it out to me with a bit of humor, like, “look at that it’s back!” The guy who cared for her yard as she got older again and again cut it down. The last time we took mom to her house, before it sold, on a cold rainy September day, as we got her in the car to leave I looked and there was one pink bloom, sticking out high above the evergreen bush. I could barely reach it. This June blooming rose showed up to say good-bye to the woman who loved roses and all flowers (she had many tea roses out in front of their house). It was magical. No words were spoken as I stood in the rain, picked it, and handed it to Mom.

This last of our old bush roses is another survivor, in fact a bit aggressive and we’ve had our own battles keeping it from growing into our raised beds, etc. I had been given two root starts of this old rose, and both were growing like ‘weeds’.  At one point we needed to remove one to take down an old fence it had consumed, making room for a Rhododendron to grow . We transplanted it but sadly, as vigorous as it was, it didn’t do well in a new location, only a few feet from where it thrived, and it died. Again, like the pink rose at my parents, it showed up after a few years in the same location it had been. We’ve surrender. When we are old (er) and the house is over run with blackberries, morning glory and other weeds, waving their flags of victory, at least every June there will be a rose in amongst the brambles!

Related Posts:

Learn how to make a rose hydrosol from wild roses: Loving the gone-wild ones

And how to make rose jam from rose hips come fall! Spring & Rosy Jam

 

A Plant Story – the plant in our family tree

Our family tree includes a plant.  Once lush with many shiny, leathery green leaves, my now straggly, not-so-attractive Hoya plant has a 3 generation history. It began as a cutting from a plant of my mom’s, her plant being a cutting from my paternal grandfather’s. Grandpa’s plant, of unknown origins and age, covered the entire ceiling of an enclosed back porch in the farm house where my dad and his siblings grew up. Mom’s plant moved east with us when I was 5, living in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and eventually coming back to Washington with my parents.  At some point in my 20s I began my plant, now over 40 yrs. old. Not sure how long mom’s lived. Her’s began to have mealy bug problems in its/her later years, and though she still had a Hoya in her 90s, when she moved from her house, it may not have been her original.

My plant, though dropping lots of leaves, continues to bloom pale pink velvety stars, with centers of  red centered pale yellow stars.

The plant genus Hoya was named after Thomas Hoy, a respected plant biologist and propagator in England in the late 1700s, early 1800s. Hoyas grow in the wild throughout Asia, especially India, some species are also found in Australia. The soft velvety pale pink variety of our family plant is Hoya carnosa, and though it is sometimes called Wax Plant, I’ve never heard anyone in my family call it that. I would call it velvet plant, the pink stars so fuzzy you want to pet them, but if you do you will get sticky fingers from the sweet nectar, which is very tasty! Hoya carnosa is said to have been cultivated for 200 years. If I add up the age of my plant, my mom’s, and think of how long ago Grandpa started his, I estimate the Hubbard plant is from a very early cultivator!

Being a tropical vine, it is “natural” for the plant to get “viney”,  and perhaps drop lower leaves as it adds new growth. Over the years I’ve cut out old dead vines and it has responded by increased new leaves and blooms further up the vines. Not having a tropical forest to climb up through, its vines, trained back on themselves around a trellis, made a visual mass of evergreen leaves when it had more leaves. Hoyas are easy to grow, survivors of many conditions, not wanting too much water or attention, but often tricky to get to bloom. Someone once gave me a Hoya they had that never bloomed, I kept it for years but never could get it to bloom.  I was taught they must be root bound to bloom, perhaps blooming when stressed.  Mine has always bloomed, regardless of where it is located. I’m thinking of cutting my plant back, even re-potting it, which will mean no blooms for possibly years, but it has sent up a few new leaves from its base, a hopeful sign.

Aunt Jackie’s second generation Hoya growing in the same house Grandpa grew his. She has not let hers cover the ceiling however! (thank you Shaun Hubbard for the photo)

So what happened to Grandpa’s plant?  My cousin Shaun tells me when her parents, my Uncle Bruce and Aunt Jackie, who own the original farm house, moved the house in the 60s the plant went to a hair salon where my cousin Laurie was working at the time. Aunt Jackie took cuttings and when the old enclosed porch was remodeled into a room, Aunt Jackie’s second generation plant was reinstalled, where it continues to grow today.  Over 90 herself, Jackie continues to pass out cuttings from her second generation plant, as grandpa did with the original plant. There are no doubt extended family Hubbard Hoya plants in the homes of many family members and friends. (Any cousins reading this who have their own Hoya story, I’d love to hear it!)

When I do cut back my plant, I have someone in mind to pass a cutting on to, who I think will nurture the cutting into a fourth generation plant. And if my cutting doesn’t make it…..there’s always Aunt Jackie’s!