Gardening

Growing Joy

It has been a few weeks. I haven’t been writing.  The end of May is approaching and I’ve been swirling between the weekly grind, remembering birthdays, softball games, late night dinners, and ukulele lessons. We are filling up our days and nights. When I lift my head I inhale a smile and think, “We did it. We are living again.”

This weekend we focused on our backyard. The sunshines strong rays threatened my sensitive skin and ants bit my legs. From under our deck we dragged outdoor furniture into the light. Didn’t we just put this stuff away? How did six months of hibernation pass so quickly?

Filthy, mucky water sat stinking and stagnant, pooling on the tarp covering my two-seater lounge chair.  While meant to protect our seasonal seats, the synthetic material wasn’t able to do its job. Instead the water soaked through, warping wood, causing paint to fleck, and chip. The original surface exposed.

Got out the hose. Found a sponge and some soap and changed my shoes to sandals.  Washed off the muck. More paint chips fell to the lawn growing at my feet. Clean water kissed my toes.

Our attention shifted towards our garden plot, four bags of dirt anxiously waiting for something to grow on its center. Poured fertilizer, placed water lines, tucked seeds in rows with potential one inch under the ground. Sweat poured off our faces and into the dirt. We rubbed each other’s backs and sat down to rest. Grass tickled my legs and held me close – grounded me as my skin graced the Earth.

She whispered, “See, I’ve got you. Look how far you’ve come”

Two years ago, the summer after Dad died, we would go to my mom’s house and sit in her backyard. We’d lay in the grass and feel Mother Earth, and squint as the sun glinted off our tears mingling with dirt on our cheeks. Many, many days laying in grass because nothing else seemed manageable.

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I can’t believe how far we’ve come.

Dad’s 61st birthday was two weeks ago.  It felt awful and funny and sad. I posted this on Instagram.

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This birthday felt like under the surface, seeds planted long ago were growing.

Seeds of joy. God planted them in our darkness – tiny little buttons composed of Dad’s memories and life and love for us – organic materials.

They told me this would happen.

That grief would soften to joy.

I didn’t believe them.

Yet, if someone told me flowers were growing under all that dirt in my back yard and I’d never seen blossoms before, I probably wouldn’t believe them either.

It’s true.

Under all that dirt. Washing off muck, and flecks of paint that cover the pain, we are still here. Our original selves.

Without him.

Growing joy.

A beautiful thing.

 

 

 

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Be Careful with the Parsnips

“You have a beautiful garden!” I yelled over the fence to the gentleman sitting with one hand on his knee, holding a watering hose in the other. His white whiskers were visible from where we stood on the east side of his white picket fence.

“Thank you,” he responded, “do you like beets?”

So started the conversation with my older and wiser neighbor on Friday evening. He has to be at least in his mid 80’s – he told us he retired in 1988. I wasn’t even born then. What started as a comment in passing as Dylan and I tried to wander up to our house from the lake turned into a two hour excursion  with our elderly neighbor. Casual conversation and small talk turned into a delightful adventure, a learning experience, a chance to absorb some wisdom.

Dylan and I were told to go gather some plastic bags that we could fill with our own share of veggies. We were invited into the massive garden and walked the rows of fruits and vegetables following this gentleman through the plants. I felt like such a city girl. I squealed with delight as he unearthed potatoes and carrots, parsnips and squash. I realized just how removed I am from the food I eat every day. I learned about what it takes to successfully grow a peach tree in Colorado (apparently the peach pit has to freeze in the ground for one season before it can take root and sprout fruit in the next season). I learned that the flavor of parsnips overtake the flavor of anything else you may try to cook. Raspberries come in a golden variety. Beets have beautiful leaves and watermelon and squash take tender loving care. We came home with our arms full of vegetables and our hearts full of joy.

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I was reminded in the simple pleasure and reward of connecting with those who are near you. Too many times we walk by others in silence, choosing to remain in our own heads rather than extending a hello or asking with sincerity, “How are you?” I think this applies at work, at home, at the grocery store, with your neighbors. Dylan and I have lived in our house for seven months and I had yet to meet my neighbor. When I had the courage to extend a few words, my kindness was met and matched substantially. This gentleman could have easily ignored us, too. Instead we shared in a man’s passion, gained new wisdom, and came home with our hands full of food. It isn’t every day that you are given a bouquet of roses from a man over the age of 80. I found the candy cane variety of rose particularly delightful.

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This exchange brought me so many beautiful emotions. I missed my grandfather, and hoped that if he had come across two people our age back when he was living in Chicago, that they would have taken the time to learn from him. I felt completely full of life walking that garden. The soil producing so many tangible rewards. The reality of the need for patience  – to trust that things are being cultivated and producing even in the midst of dirt. I was thrilled we took the time to acknowledge those living alongside of us and that Dylan was kind and patient right by my side. This interaction set the tone for my weekend and renewed a sense of responsibility that we have to learn from those who are around us.  So many veggies, so much delight.

 

No biscotti or nail polish this week. It was, however, Star Wars Night at the Rockies’s Game which was bizarre. And I found these wooden clogs at my in-laws house that just made me want to have a fairy garden and prance through the woods.

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We need to take time to delight in the mysterious and pay attention to what makes you say, “oooh I think I like that” no matter how odd it may seem. Find your passion, right?

Find Your Passion

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Look at my tomato plant! This little guy is growing. I can’t believe it. And to think my mom just started it from a seed. She’s a little jealous since I am growing them on a deck, they were spared from the last hail storm. Her little veggies got shredded a little before salad season. I seriously can’t believe that this process is working! My lettuce, eh…. Carrots – they are taking a long time – delayed gratification and they grow down. I can’t see their progress. But I sure do put hope in these little tomato plants.  Oh the metaphors, the lessons that vegetables can teach us. I could do a whole extended metaphor thing here, but I don’t think that’s the direction I want to move tonight.

Instead, I’d rather focus on Chickens. Felted Chickens.

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Look how cool this little guy is. He has tons of friends, and the artists that make these guys were so wonderful! This is truly not something you see every day. Take a moment to learn more about the artists The CitygirlFarm. You know what’s funny? I’m not sure why these caught my attention because frankly, I hate birds. But these were so innovative, and pretty, and I, for some reason or another, am drawn to fiber arts. Funny, too, because who thinks of resting their feet on chickens?

This weekend we got to go to the Cherry Creek Arts Festival in Denver – a favorite of mine each summer.  I love walking around the ritzy neighborhood, thinking about how some day, just maybe, I will be able to purchase some original art for the walls of my home. I usually just collect business cards, and hand outs that the artists share their contact info on. Free art! Even if it is in miniature.

I love looking at how artists spend their time and creative efforts. How refreshing it is to think about how people choose to break out of the every day monotony of paying bills, worrying about what’s next, and instead channel efforts into different mediums and landscapes, and lines and textures. How freeing it can be; to express yourself on canvas. Or wire. Or sculpture, Or paint. I did a lot of art in high school – somewhere along the line I got afraid I wasn’t good enough. I was traumatically affected when my high school teacher told me my work didn’t have a theme, that the connection wasn’t strong enough through my threads of pieces. As a perfectionist, this hit me hard. I’m better now, but still think I should dabble more into art. There is beauty in choosing to create regardless of what the critic thinks.

My new line when I don’t quite understand someone else’s hobbies, or maybe am just a little jealous that I haven’t honed my own true talent yet, is “find your passion.” Well Thecitygirlfarm certainly found their passion – and they got to share it with me – and I love it! And this weekend, at the art festival, it seemed just like all those people were doing just that. I love the beautiful conversations art invokes, the way artists open their eyes and shift their perspectives and are brave enough to put their view into form, and offer it up to be sold into people’s homes. That is such a beautiful combination – vulnerability, perspective, artistic truth, culture. How wonderful.

Below are some of my favorites from the festival. Check them out. What questions do they make you ask? What’s your passion?

Katharine McGuiness – “The Sky is Falling”

Ginny Herzog – “Detroit”

Jerry Brem – loved the book paintings  – someday, in my library maybe

Chris Dahlquist – the business card title is “object maker” – what a wonderful title!

Liz Quan – the coolest porcelain lights ever! And she works in Colorado!

Jessica Magee – loved the abstractions and the colors – you just want to stare at the pieces

Debo Groover – funky polymer clay and mixed media works – love love love

 

Spring Blossoms

Spring Blossoms

Aren’t these blossoms beautiful? Pleasing to the senses? The internet is blowing up with pictures of blossoms, and people asking us to stop and appreciate these delicate, short lived pops of beauty. I am loving all of the flowering trees that are coming up around town, even if they are making me sneeze and the Zyrtec come out in full force. What I love about this picture too, is that if you look into the background you can see parents waiting and watching as kids play soccer. What you can’t see are the sounds those parents are making. The house I grew up in backs right up to a small neighborhood park, and the cheering voices of soccer games drifted into my family’s life to become the sound track of Saturday mornings in both the spring and fall. It is comforting to know those games are still happening, and even more comforting to know that I sometimes get to hear that soundtrack again. Can you tell I’m balancing between growing up and finding comfort in my roots? Maybe that’s an underlying theme here that I didn’t anticipate noticing about myself.

Anyways, I love these blossoms. The day after I took this picture we got a spring snow. Welcome to Colorado, right? Where you never know when you can put away those boots and settle into the next season. The snow flakes were thick, and cold, and slushy, and they covered up all of the brave, budding little plants that are trying their hardest to push their way into this earth. I noticed that these blossoms turned inward, protecting themselves from the cold and they drooped a little, shivering as the wind whispered between them, threatening their existence. Sometimes, that’s kinda how I feel on this journey of looking for beauty. Sometimes in life things are feeling really good, positive, like change is being made and things are being accomplished. And then a cold wind blows – an uncomfortable experience, or a harsh word said by a co-worker, and I want to turn inwards, away from the wind, and away from those experiences that make me question my own place in this world. Because goodness, sometimes doesn’t it seem like the world works pretty hard at making us feel small, and unworthy of showing our true beauty.

Maybe this journey of exploring beautiful things isn’t always going to feel %100 beautiful – is that paradoxical? I’m not sure I’m communicating exactly what’s swirling around in my head this week. But I know that I am trying my hardest to blossom, to break out of that little protective shell, and stand against the elements and say, “here I am, please appreciate me.” But a part of me knows too, that this beauty comes in seasons; we shrink, petals fall, and then we get the courage and the time and the opportunity to grow and try again and resurface and say, “here I am, beautiful like last time, just a little different.” Oh the lessons nature can teach me. I’m kinda into it. I started some tomato plants this week, and basil, and flowers in a pot. We will see how I do – I’ve never really gardened before.

Easter Eggs with MommaI also got the chance to have fun and be creative with Easter eggs. This is a tradition I’ll never be too old for. This year we just felt a little bit more sophisticated in our design. Thank goodness for Pinterest, and my mom who will still blow out the yokes of the eggs into a bowl so I can decorate the hollow, fragile shell. Again, beauty in the delicate nature of life. And beauty that I didn’t have to get egg goop in my mouth (still a child here… what can I say?) My mom said I should practice for motherhood and start doing these messy things – let’s put the breaks on that one please. Tonight, there is supposed to be a lunar eclipse. I’m not sure I will be able to stay up until midnight to watch it. I’m getting kinda old. Maybe Jimmy Fallon can help. We’ve been watching on Hulu, and that man is funny! I think when I look back on this time of uncertainty, or this stage of life, I will be able to say that this search for beauty and Jimmy Fallon helped to keep me grounded. You never know what is going to come your way. What areas are you growing in? What is threatening your beauty or your place on this earth? What is helping you stay grounded?

Also, for a throw back laugh, I thought I’d share this really bizarre picture. These are my Barney slippers from when I was little.I can’t believe my parents kept photo 1-4them, but they certainly make me laugh. Apparently, I’d never take them off and I had a nightgown to match. Commercialism at it’s finest. Aren’t those little lizards creepy?