When carrots give hope!

the guard at the gate and his friend moss rock

the guard at the gate and his friend moss rock

January 20 was an uncomfortable day for many people, myself included. Not wanting to focus on the ‘changing of the guard’ in Washington D.C., and recovering from my second bout of flu/cold virus, I did not want to feed myself, or the universe, fear and negativity. I’d had enough of that. So I went to the woods. A peaceful walk down our trail ended in a place where I often offer prayer. I poured out my heart to the Divine above and the Earth below. Part plea, part invocation, I felt heard in that somewhat quiet place, with Nature as my only witness.

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Turning around, I was enchanted, as always, by the winter sun filtering through the open canopy of a mixed conifer and deciduous forest. The bare branches of giant, aptly named, Big Leaf Maples allow the low, side-ways sun to flood places shrouded in shady tones under the summer canopy. This light will eventually awaken the first signs of wild bleeding hearts, nettles, and other early spring plants, which will thrive until the Maples block the light. But it is early, and the winter has been exceptionally cold for the NW. Here on our hill the ground was frozen with heave and ice crystals from mid-December until just last week. No signs of spring in the woods…but signs of survivors. Impressive are the tender leaves of little-green-plants-whose-names-I-forget that are fresh and green, while others around them succumbed to weeks of being frozen.

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The peacefulness I was feeling as I stooped to photograph the brilliant green glistening water of a wintertime mini-pond was rudely interrupted by loud repetitive gunshot. For the past few years we have been hearing gun shot frequently. A gun enthusiast  seems to spend his free time on holidays and weekends shooting whatever, somewhere across the street from where we live. But this was closer, and louder. After a minute or so of repetitive shots, there was a long volley, and then it stopped. I suspect it was a celebration salute to the moment of transition in D.C.

My moment of woodsy peace was broken. Abby was gone, though I didn’t see her leave. Though I wanted to make a mandala in the woods, I reluctantly walked back to the house to find a shaking dog on the front porch. Not willing to go inside myself, mandala making took place on the back porch, with whatever I found close at hand.

"survivor" carrots, minus the big ones I ate and the ones in the mandala!

“survivor” carrots, minus the big ones I ate and the ones in the mandala!

The biggest surprise find was the carrots. I noticed them when the ground first froze and heaved back in December. Left behind when I dug out our two little rows in the fall, the frozen ground had pushed them up, but also held them tight. I wrote them off as frozen food, soon to be mush when the thaw came. I forgot about them as I struggled through December into the New Year being sick. Frozen carrots in frozen ground were not on my mind!

But on this sunny day, there they were, brightest color around, freshly washed from the rain, half out of the ground, green tops long gone.  They stood like little round-topped, slightly tipsy sentries, and not the least bit mushy! About a dozen carrots, most small, edible, and tasty!

I made my mandala and thanked Mother Nature for giving me a small, somewhat humorous sign, that “we can survive” (and even be bright and colorful doing so!).  The next day, as millions marched peacefully throughout the world, I have no doubt we will!

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A medicine mandala for hope, with anti-viral and anti-bacterial usnea, leaves of pain-relieving fever few, another survivor of the below freezing temperatures.

How did you survive inauguration day?

The View

 

the view on these frosty 24 degree mornings!

the view on these frosty 24 degree mornings!

New day, New Year. Mike and I both having a second go around of a winter bug. Yesterday was Mike’s day of misery, which I was hoping to avoid it, but today Mike is better and I’m miserable (those who’ve had this bug know the misery!) and grumpy, so grumpy Mike called me a professional grump!

The peach tree out my window in winter frost and full of birds, all that is visible is a plump Varied Thrush.

The peach tree out my window in winter frost and full of birds, all that is visible is a plump Varied Thrush.

Yes, grumpy. I was hoping for a healthier start to the New Year. Last year began while I was recovering from a mastectomy, two years ago I was diagnosed with my first bout of invasive breast cancer right before New Year’s Eve. Lots of health challenges and surgeries over the years have given me more than my share of ‘sickly’ New Years! So the ego is grumpy, feeling like I’ve paid my “dues”. I wanted a year that started off relatively healthy, in spite of a painful, dysfunctional knee that has a torn meniscus.

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But as I lay in bed being grumpy, I’m also deeply grateful. Grateful for this view. DSC06244Through decades of health challenges, through the seasons of life, through the seasons of the years, this view of trees….in mid-day sun, or swaying in the wind on a stormy day, or silhouetted in the moonlight… deciduous trees winter bare or green with new spring leaves, towering evergreens reaching for the sky, a flowering currant ablaze in hot-pink blossoms in spring, or it’s bare, red bark branches adding color to the winter landscape….fills my view.

DSC09531When I lay in bed I can watch birds and chipmunks eat the red berries and seek shelter in the Honeysuckle vines covering the garden gate trellis.  Intertwined with pink roses in the summer……they add to a view alive with life, color, and seasonal change.

If I open the window, I sometimes hear birds that fill the branches of the peach tree, or between the car noise on the road, the sound of stillness. The stillness is less and less, but it’s rarity makes it more precious.

peach tree in spring

peach tree in spring

from my bed I only see the trees and sky.

from my bed I only see the trees and sky.

For over 35 years I’ve watched these trees grow, and watched some come down. It is not a ‘picture perfect’ view, not a ‘million dollar’ view…it includes the functional surroundings of our life…a duck coop, a rainwater tank, our trailer, and a garden sometimes lovely, often weedy, in the winter rather bleak. But is it still a window on Nature that keeps me sane when the body has kept me housebound. It is the view I stare at when life has overwhelmed me, when the mind is numb, when my thoughts don’t know what to do with themselves, except stare at the trees. And when I am feeling grateful.

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My 2016 resolution…. let gratitude grow like the trees out my window. Even the most challenged of lives has blessings. May your view in the New Year include seeing your blessings daily. Even when you’re feeling grumpy!

Picture taken through my window last year of occasional visitors.

Picture taken through my window last year of our occasional visitors.

 

 

Spring Rites

IMG_6300Lacy green leaves dabbled with lavender mix with tiny white flowers and border the entire length of the trail as I walk in the woods. Stepping over vanilla leaf plants crowding into the path, I marvel, as I do every year, at the fairyland created by the wild bleeding hearts and miner’s lettuce. Bleeding hearts cascade into the backyard, mixing with blue forget-me-nots. It’s magical. Mother Nature is a master landscaper!

bleeding heart with forget-me-nots

bleeding heart with forget-me-nots

I’ve likely written of this magical time in the woods before, and perhaps shared the poem below, but it seems appropriate on this day of celebrating Mother Earth to post a poem written by my father, a life-time member of Nature Conservancy, active in the Sierra Club, and who once told me “John Muir is my guru”.

Earth Day 1970 (I was there, in D.C.!) was to educate ourselves about the need to protect, preserve, and cherish this temporary home of ours, to change our attitudes and ways of living on the planet and become better stewards. We’ve made some gains, we’ve a long way to go. (here’s an nice article on some of the gains: Victories Since the First Earth Day)

Enjoy the poem, the pictures and most of all, enjoy and care for the blessings Mother Nature has given us! (side note: in a twisted cosmic joke, I’m getting a ‘root’ canal procedure today!)

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Spring Rites

Come, come High Priest of Spring,

Come to this sanctuary, following a path

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.

199DSC009753, Harry Hubbard (1919 – 1998)

Spring mix - Vanilla Leaf, Bleeding Hearts and Miner's Lettuce

Spring mix – Vanilla Leaf, Bleeding Hearts and Miner’s Lettuce

The Background of Life

"classic" NW - ferns & moss growing on Big Leaf Maple

A “classic” – ferns & moss growing on Big Leaf Maple.  A background scene in NW woods.

 

We all have a background to our lives, that which is not the focus, not the front-and-center, but as in a photo, the setting which makes up the background.  It is like the backdrop on our particular stage of life.  Because it’s so familiar, sometimes what’s in the background becomes unnoticed until it is disrupted and catches our attention, then, briefly, it might move to the foreground.

For those living in a residential or urban environment, the background of life includes perhaps the ‘hum’ of certain noises that are constant, as well as various buildings, empty lots, the neighbors second car that seems to always be parked in the street and the ubiquitous Rhododendron, unnoticed until it bursts into colorful spring bloom. Ever notice that if you leave something in the yard for an extended period, you just don’t ‘see’ it after a while?  Even the neighbors purple garage door becomes mundane after a few months!

We pass these background ‘props’ every day en route to our activities and daily dramas.  If asked, sometimes people aren’t able to identify these ordinary props in their life. (Remember the older Newlyweds game show, they’d ask one of the spouses to describe something in the couples every day life, like the color of a room, and the person wouldn’t be able do it.) Someone unfamiliar to your neighborhood might notice something you barely take notice of any more.  In our homes  it is much the same, the hum of the refrigerator, the knickknack on the corner table you couldn’t describe if asked.

As I sort, delete, and organize photos on my computer today I’m drawn to the photos I’ve taken in the woods.  I have folders for ‘wildflowers’, ‘birds’, ‘butterflies’, ‘garden flowers’, ‘Mt. Rainer’, etc.  but the photos of daily life in the NW woods, the flora that’s here whether flowers, critters or butterflies show up or not, are really just as remarkable as these “showier” facets of Nature. These are of the ‘common’ plants most people in the Coastal region of the Pacific Northwest have in the backdrop of their lives if they live in or near woods.  Some of these are seasonal, most are not. They are the plants that make the Evergreen State green.

My deep appreciation for what makes up the background of life here is obvious by all the photos I’ve taken of the trees and plants I see every day. I never lose my awe of  giant Douglas Firs and Big Leaf Maples, of the lacy needles of Hemlock, or the brown fibrous bark of Cedar.  The ferns, evergreen bushes, and tiny plants that make up the understory of the woods seem the stuff of fairylands to me.

To someone who does not live here, who might be walking in the PNW woods for the first time, or who only gets to do so occasionally, these stalwarts of the woods are anything but ordinary.  It’s nice to see with fresh eyes these remarkable plants that are the backdrop to life on the Northwest stage.

I selected some of my favorite photos taken over the past 7 years to share. Hope you enjoy this walk in the woods. No woodland wild flowers (though most of the plants shown have blossoms), no colorful berries, no birds or critters, no butterflies, no exotics, just native green stuff….plants, trees, and a few fungi (because in a NW woods, fungi are abundant!).

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(Click on fern photo to start slide show of photo gallery below, or roll cursor over bottom of each photo to read captions. Not all photos are captioned. Most photos are taken in the woods where we live, a few from nearby walks.)

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