Who Wouldn’t Be A Grower?

dscf3747

With rake and seeds and sower,
And hoe and line and reel,
When the meadows shrill with “peeping”
And the old world wakes from sleeping,
Who wouldn’t be a grower
That has any heart to feel?
~ Frederick Frye Rockwell, “Invitation,” Around the Year in the Garden, 1913

dscf3671dscf3599

Our Wisconsin Public Television station sponsors a magnificent Garden Expo every February. It cannot come at a better time for winter-weary earth-tenders whose new garden catalog pages have worn thin, and whose eyes have tired of gazing at the bleak winter landscape. This year’s political chaos made escape into the merry and civilized madness of gardening seem even more welcome than usual.

dscf3557
Thanks to a friend’s kind invitation to stop in to give our 4-legged brood a lunch break, we were free to take the better part of a day and attend the expo, then enjoy a meal at an Afghan restaurant, wander around the Capital Square, do some shopping, and enjoy a leisurely ride back to Full Moon Cottage. A perfect day.

dscf3758dscf3769dscf3767
The expo was comfortably crowded when we arrived. Over 150 exhibitors lined aisles decorated with their displays and booths, some much more elaborate than others.
There were informational booths on raising chickens, keeping bees, growing prairies, and on hiking state trails. (Gardeners are nature lovers, after all.) Since we live on a state trail and near a state park, I enjoyed both of the booths sharing data and history on these.
There were tools and tractors, seeds and plants, landscape designers and contractors, ready-made sheds, and many artists whose garden-themed work or garden ornaments added wonderful color, whimsy, and beauty to the great hall.

dscf3768dscf3764dscf3763
There were purveyors of honey, mustard, soaps, and other products that incorporated garden harvests. And, of course, there were seminars, demonstrations, and workshops throughout the weekend, to help gardeners explore new methods or interests, and hone their skills at creating their own Edens.

dscf3757dscf3752
Early on, there was space and time available to stop and talk with many of the exhibitors, which we both enjoy. For the first three hours or so, the aisles could be navigated easily and the exhibits seen closely, the way I like. I hate that feeling of wandering zombie-like in a slow-moving crowd and having my sight blocked at every turn, which eventually happened. The hall at last became too crowded for this short girl to move freely or see much. My 6’4” beloved scanned and reported what was coming up, so I missed only the last half of the last aisle completely, which I considered a grand job altogether. I’m glad we arrived early.

dscf3765dscf3756dscf3755
I fought the temptation to spend too much money, but did leave with a lot of new brochures and catalogs to dream my way through over the next two months, until we can really get to it in the gardens.

dscf3759
Phillip isn’t as passionate about gardening as I am; going to the Expo was a Valentine treat to me, although he enjoyed visiting with a lot of exhibitors and welcomed the day’s sweet adventure. I am so grateful for his willingness to be a true companion. At one point, making a turn around an aisle in the middle of the hall, we heard one man say to another, “Yeah (sigh), my wife loves this crap.” He rolled his eyes and commiserated with his listener.

dscf3760
Phillip and I laughed, but I felt sad for his wife, because this guy couldn’t enter into the spirit of her joy a bit more. Nothing like one’s own true love choosing the role of begrudging grumpus.

dscf3655
As the day ended and we drove back towards home, I thought about tending our relationships, about the friend who volunteered her time so we could enjoy a fine day together, about Phillip’s loving gift of an adventure that he knew would delight my heart, about the ways I hope I nurture these relationships and others…I watched the men ice-fishing on Rock Lake and wondered if their partners were happy for them to be there, enjoying the peace and camaraderie of their friends, and if the anglers had plans for activities that equally supported their partners’ spirits and joy.

dscf3773
“Who wouldn’t be a grower/ That has any heart to feel?” asks the inveterate gardening writer Frederick Frye Rockwell. I would add that one can choose to grow her heart and capacity to love as well as her garden, and hearing that man’s comment made me all the more joyful to be partnered with someone whose heart is big enough to value my happiness, and support it so well. Having Phillip beside me is what made the day so special; it’s what makes my life so special.

dscf3678
May you be as blessed in those companions who share your life.

dscf3744
Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

The Shimmering of Leaves

DSCF9740

The world is holy. We are holy. All life is holy. Daily prayers are delivered on the lips of breaking waves, the whisperings of grasses, the shimmering of leaves.  ~ Terry Tempest Williams

The gardens have been blessing our spring with abundance and loveliness. It’s true every year and every season: I forget how beautiful my world becomes and am amazed all over again, which is kind of nice, like seeing your long-beloved and falling in love more deeply than the first time.

DSCF9738DSCF9707DSCF9705DSCF9679DSCF9660

The irises were at their peak this past week. I know when they look this good I’ll be dividing them in the fall. It must be their third year left undisturbed, another fact I forgot, or would like to, since I’m completely out of iris space. Maybe I can surprise the sister-in-law who gave just a few of them to me several years ago with a new hundred or so. The devious gardener.DSCF9617DSCF9618DSCF9619DSCF9624DSCF9786DSCF9828Mickey and Malarky are my frequent companions outside; they follow me around, or chase and wrestle, or roll in anything, until some innocent bicycler or runner makes his merry way down the trail. Then, the pups bark like they’ve sighted a mass murderer. I usually duck behind some large planting at that point and hope they’ll stop. Little Mickey actually pulled his leash free and ran after a runner this morning. Luckily, the runner turned around and laughed at Mickey’s 7 pounds of terror. But Mickey was quite proud of his bravery, dashing back up to the gardens (the runner had led him further than he prefers to go on the trail, about 4 yards from home), then, when he saw us, puffing up and prancing like he was quite the hero. The dangerous runner had gone away, hadn’t he?

DSCF9389 (1)DSCF9400 (1)DSCF9334DSCF9340DSCF9349DSCF9767

Malarky turned to me and rolled his eyes.

DSCF9602DSCF9612DSCF9614DSCF9570DSCF9577

I thought back to last summer, when the yard blew up and our sweet Riley and Clancy took their turns leaving us.

DSCF9819DSCF9462DSCF9482

Things turn around. The garden renews, and though its fullness and beauty take my breath away, I know how fleeting this season, this day, this life truly is. So I try to remember to make my daily prayers of gratitude and send them to join those offered by breaking waves, whispering grasses, and shimmering leaves…all is holy and I am blessed.

DSCF9458DSCF9474DSCF9640DSCF9769DSCF9642

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Perfectly Content

DSCF7761 It’s hard to believe May is already flowing into June. It’s been a lovely month for gardening, one with that rare balance between rainfalls and sunshine, hot and cool temperatures, time to relax and time to keep up with the weeding and mulching. DSCF7188 DSCF7224 DSCF7247 DSCF7272 DSCF7536 DSCF7558 DSCF7596  This weekend, we’re celebrating our 18th year at Full Moon Cottage. 001 002 003 There were over 4 acres and not a garden to be seen when we took over as caretakers of this piece of earth. The house was in dire need of “renewal.” As every homeowner knows, this is an ongoing-forever process. But Full Moon needed a down-to-the studs-and-back-again facelift. It was hard to know where to start, so we kind of started everywhere at once, tearing up blazing red carpeting, and tearing down walls, and tearing out creepy cabinetry, and tearing off hideous wallpaper. Then, slowly, but steadily, adding wood floors, wainscoting, bead board to the ceiling, new windows, doors, a roof, geo-thermal heating and cooling, an addition and a new garage. Phillip has done almost all of the construction, and I have been his loyal assistant. 001 002 That first summer, we painted the exterior, and I threw a couple packs of annual and “wildflower” seeds into a patch of earth, just to have some color and beauty outside while we deconstructed the inside of the house. 005007 The next year, we added our first big garden, which is still being redesigned, decades later. That’s how it goes. 006 DSCF7769 Then we added a vegetable garden, fruit trees, and gardens in the back yard, by the river. DSCF7771 DSCF7674 DSCF7676 DSCF7703 DSCF7527 DSCF7404  Every time we had to cut down a tree, we built a garden around what remained of her trunk. DSCF7547 DSCF7548 When he edged the gardens every spring, Phillip took the earth he removed and set it in a new space, then covered and mulched it to create a new garden we’d tackle the following year, a practice we continue. DSCF7471 DSCF7488 DSCF7732 DSCF7562 DSCF7645 All those years ago, when first they saw photographs of the house we bought, friends and family thought we’d lost our minds. Until they visited. Then, the magic of this thin place affected them as it had us. Holy ground and sacred space; we made a commitment to Full Moon that we would bless her with our gifts, and she would bless us in return, and that has held true all these years. It has been a relationship and labor of love. DSCF7677 There are so very many things I wish I could change about the world and the state where I live. There are so many things I wish I could change about my health, or my income, or the pie crust I continue to try to perfect (getting closer on that one). DSCF7630 DSCF7700 DSCF6625 But there is nothing at all I’d change about our decision to take over the care of Full Moon and call her our home for these past 18 years. She has been our sanctuary and an altogether grand place of hospitality. She has welcomed and fed our spirits and harbored our families, friends, and beloved 4-leggeds.  DSCF5523 When we feel beaten by the things we cannot change, Full Moon Cottage has renewed us, and reminded us that, over time, dreams come true. DSCF6798

A kind friend asked after my spirit this week, and I searched my heart and answered that I was content. Phillip generally concurs. Our life together is not perfect in a fantastical sense, but we are perfectly content. We owe that to many people, the 4-leggeds, our own work, and our chosen, as well as gifted, experiences, but we also owe our contentment, in large part, to the spirit of Full Moon. So, we are grateful, and celebrating. Perfectly content.

DSCF7302

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Any Morning

DSCF6909

It’s the first day of summer vacation for me, and I feel so full of the school year and so empty of motivation to tackle garden chores, that I think I’ll take time to relax, a rarity at Full Moon.

DSCF7051 DSCF7064 DSCF7099 DSCF7110 DSCF7161

We celebrated the end of the school year with a bowling party, and then a class party, with treats, yearbook-signing, a movie, and sweet hugs. One of my darling girls gave me a card in which she had written: “Dear Ms. O’Meara, I love you because I love you,” a tautology I find brilliant in its simplicity and truth.

DSCF6987 DSCF7034 DSCF7155

The gardens are doing well, despite the need for rain (which may come this holiday weekend), and we’re gearing up to settle down into longer days of spontaneous adventures, garden time, hiking, canoeing, biking, reading, and doing nothing, as the songs of the day teach our hearts to listen well and more deeply.

DSCF6832 DSCF6887 DSCF6912 DSCF6883 

Summer blessings to all my friends! I love you because I love you.

Any Morning

Just lying on the couch and being happy.
Only humming a little, the quiet sound in the head.
Trouble is busy elsewhere at the moment, it has
so much to do in the world.

People who might judge are mostly asleep; they can’t
monitor you all the time, and sometimes they forget.
When dawn flows over the hedge you can
get up and act busy.

Little corners like this, pieces of Heaven
left lying around, can be picked up and saved.
People won’t even see that you have them,
they are so light and easy to hide.

Later in the day you can act like the others.
You can shake your head. You can frown.

~ William Stafford
Ohio Review (Vol. 50, 1993)

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

 

 

 

Gentle Peace

DSCF5006We’ve been on a break from school this week and, as with most vacations, the time has flown by. Our days have been filled with daily sessions of spring cleaning, followed by long walks, gatherings, periods of solitude, and late afternoon dates with wine, treats, and enough warm sunshine to sit outside and soak up some gentle peace together.

DSCF5080I fiddled around with a few new art projects I can share with my students during our remaining weeks together.

DSCF5160

DSCF5162For the first time we can recall in our decades of living here, the April river is too low for our inaugural canoe ride, but we stood on the bridge and watched those who could enjoy the river do so. This little muskrat seemed to relish his leisurely swim and Narcissus moment of self-reflection and grooming time.

DSCF5108

DSCF5121Despite some days of lovely warmth, we couldn’t get into the gardens just yet, except to cut back the grasses where the local bunnies love to nest. Apologies to Peter Cottontail, but I suspect that beneath the porches and decks at Full Moon Cottage, there exists an entire cosmos of warrens and teeming rabbit life; they are not welcome to my gardens as well, although when long-eared scouts venture out on reconnaissance missions, their hopping-stopping behaviors provide energetic barking workouts for the pups, who live to feel useful and appreciated through their protective guardianship of Mama and her gardens.

DSCF5011I’ve learned over (many) years at Full Moon that it’s better to wait until all possibility of frost has passed before I rake away mulch, and too eagerly dig and till…but I could feel the rising joy in my spirit when I noticed how the tulips and daffodils are growing, and the lilac buds are reaching a ripening fullness. Wild daisies, irises, bleeding heart and all manner of weeds are waving their little green flags, and along the trail, the garlic mustard continues its invasion as the ash trees die back from the beautiful, wicked Emerald Borer destroying them. The wild roses, grapes, and raspberries are as determined to thrive as ever; we shall see what evolves.

DSCF5042

DSCF5082I learned this week, or perhaps relearned, as I’m old enough to forget and then delight in rediscovering so many things, it seems, that trilliums are also known by the wonderful names “wakerobin” and “birthroot;” who cannot be moved by the ways we address and welcome spring?

DSCF7571We added some finishing touches to the guest room, which has offered a good and pleasant pursuit, as we’ve worked to create a retreat of contentment. This week, we’ve been the guests, enjoying the peaceful colors of the room and the night songs from the river and woods that punctuate the stillness. These are the days for opening doors, opening windows, airing and refreshing our minds and spirits.

DSCF5183Happily, too, we had plenty of time this week to meet with friends for breakfasts, and lunches, and card games, and walks along the trail. We browsed salvage and antique shops, watched a few movies, took luxurious afternoon naps in sunpuddles, as instructed by the cats, and lingered over our morning coffee, sharing our dreams.

DSCF5151

DSCF5154And so the earth has turned and we are Winter People breathing into Easter People once more. Wakerobins and birthroots. The dark cocoons are pierced by light and fall away. Again. Always. This week allowed us to emerge in grace, and gently. Stepping lightly into the almost imperceptible unfolding of who we are now.

DSCF5023I’m grateful for the tenderness of the transition, the peaceful companionship of my husband and friends, the restoration and renewal of my spirit, the signs of life and calls of the wild, more music than clamor, a love written in my name and sent as gift, reminding me that all shall be well.

DSCF5046I wish my friends a Blessed Easter, a continued celebration of Passover, and the Gentle Peace of the season.

DSCF5159

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

A Hope of Bluebirds

DSCF4759The affairs of humanity can certainly make us sad some days, can’t they? I’m trying hard to hang onto hope, a vow I made as the New Year rang in. I’ve promised myself I’ll counter negativity by choosing thoughts and actions that offer my spirit peace, which engenders my creativity more fluidly than giving in to despair or misanthropy, tempting as they may be.

DSCF4720When I feel overcome by the news of plane crashes, wars, crooked politicians, and the relentlessly avoided but vitally necessary triage we must offer our hemorrhaging planet, I’ve promised to look for reasons to hope and actions I can take, however infinitesimally small, to heal the world.

DSCF4729It can be hard to sustain much hope some days.

Trudging through a March snowstorm earlier this week, I was gifted with a sudden downrush and uplift of bluebirds…I don’t know their collective name, but I would offer “a presence,” “a beauty” or “a joy” of bluebirds. Unfortunately, my coat, sweatshirt, gloves, and camera lens were all soaked from the heavy, wet snow, so all I can offer is “a blur of bluebirds.”

DSCF4741But the stunning and unexpected encounter left me lightened and hopeful.

Earlier that morning, I’d come across this recent article, by Eric Holthaus, at Slate.com, which describes dramatic climate change and its effect in the state of Alaska, serving as a kind of bellwether for the rest of the planet.

DSCF4685It seems like every day, more data is published by scientists who are most eager for the rest of us to care enough about the earth that we stop what we’re doing and change, dramatically, the definition of what we need to be happy and how we infinitely produce, appropriate, consume, and cast off material goods on our finite planet.

DSCF4695It’s not as exciting a problem to the general populace, I fear, as Bruce Jenner’s transgender shift, or which team might win the NCAA Championship. Climate change presents an almost-overwhelming amount of data and difficulties, of course, but we’ve become so skilled at giving away our power to solve the challenges we face and at denying the existence of anything that requires us to curb our ravenous consumption, that we use our considerable collective energy and gifts to avoid and run away from truth, rather than facing it, rolling up our sleeves, and doing the hard work of transformation and healing that the earth and our existence require.

DSCF4822We know the time to change is evaporating as quickly as the polar ice caps, but we put it off, anyway. Until when? There is no hero who will save us; we are all responsible for the waste, greed, and self-interest that brought us here, and each of us is vital to its solution.

DSCF4849I do not understand humanity. I sometimes think we’re a virus the earth needs to destroy, and increasingly soon, in order that she and her other inhabitants and systems might thrive.

DSCF4404That’s what led to my blue mood last Monday, when I walked through the (very) late March snowstorm. It’s tricky, living through a Wisconsin March, to know if any given day is “typical,” as the autumnal and spring equinox periods of the year frequently ride into our land like royalty surrounded by the vivid highs and lows of noisy and dramatic courtiers. One day snow; the next, a veritable summer.

DSCF4870

 

DSCF4886But, we do know that in our part of the state, we’re already hovering between meteorological designations of “Abnormally Dry” and “Drought,” due to the extra 15 inches of snow that “normally” fall during the winter months, and this year, did not. We know temperatures have been “colder than average” these past two months.

DSCF4833We know that species of pollinators (honeybees, monarchs) and plants are diminishing. We know that migratory patterns are altering, to the detriment of fellow species within our earth community, if we could see them as such.

DSCF4816But we do nothing to change or to help. We stomp our little human feet and immaturely cry, “No!” whenever a suggestion of sacrifice or change is made. We blame others. We refuse to imagine and then create new systems that would allow us to live in greater harmony with the rest (the majority, by the way) of the earth.

DSCF4973Seeing the bluebirds refocused me. They reminded me that hopeful actions are far more important at this point than dwelling in a gloom of inactivity. One way I counter my creeping despair is to name things that give me hope.

My students:

DSCF4918

DSCF4920

DSCF4924

DSCF4933My fellow creatures and their endurance:

DSCF4901

DSCF4907

DSCF4861

DSCF4984My gardens:

DSCF4951

254850_1904491026042_1654765807_1863734_6018829_nOne way I take responsibility for change is to focus on what I do well and share it. I write effectively. So, here is a template of a letter anyone may copy and send to someone in elected office or a leadership position (an employer, a church official, a queen, a parent, a friend, yourself) to encourage the shift that must happen if we are to cooperate in saving the planet.

 Dear ___________,

Because you are in a position of leadership, you bear the responsibility for contributing to the welfare of those you serve. I’m writing to urge you to use that power by risking its loss through facing the very real threats to your constituents (employees, church members, subjects, children, etc.) and the planet, that are posed by the climate changes now occurring, and those increasingly likely to occur.

Please have the courage to examine the processes of resource procurement, and any production, and waste creation within your scope and responsibility, for ways these might be eliminated altogether, or altered, so as to nurture the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to create and enforce rules, laws, and systems that prohibit behaviors that endanger the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to question everything you manage and the choices that govern this management in the light of their impact upon the health of the earth and all her species.

Please have the courage to listen to those who have made their life’s work the study of the earth and her health, and to avail yourself of their expertise when creating and realizing change.

None of these requests come under the banners of easy or popular; none will likely allow you to pay back those who granted you the power you wield; none ensure long years of job security. All, as stated, require courage, which begins in the heart. A true leader loves those served more than the power—or wealth—that come with authority.

My requests do not come without my pledge to support you in making these changes, which I believe are more urgent and in need of discussion and implementation than anything previously faced by those who inhabit our planet.

Sincerely,

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­_______________

Feel free to edit the letter or write your own, but do send it on, and then use your own unique gifts to alter the course of climate change and/or our response to it. I guarantee you, it will do wonders for your hope quotient and the peace of your spirit.

DSCF4883

 “…You will find greater peace of mind

Knowing there’s a bluebird of happiness.

And when he sings to you,

Though you’re deep in blue,

You will see a ray of light creep through…”

 ~ Bluebird of Happiness: Lyrics by Edward Heyman and Harry Parr Davies; music by Sandor Harmati, 1934.

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Gardeners, All

DSCF4107Such a splendid week we’ve had at Full Moon Cottage! We’ve been breathing gratitude, along with the sweet scent of geosmin, the organic compound released by active little actinomycetes as the earth reheats in spring. Like earth’s signature sachet, it evokes a million memories of gardens I’ve tended and loved since I was a child. DSCF4112The comforting reliable signposts assuring us that spring has arrived and is busily establishing her known rhythms has caused our enthusiasm and energy levels to rise like sap and respond by honoring the rituals this time of year calls forth: opening windows, cleaning and winnowing through closets, washing rugs and curtains, and going outside as often as possible to notice homecomings and welcome back old friends. DSCF4233 DSCF4265The Canada Geese and Sandhill Cranes have been winging in on great southerly winds crying out, “Here we are! Here we are!” The male birds—cardinals, chickadees, flickers, jays–are establishing territories and will be seeking mates for nesting, so I’m scattering pet hair and dryer lint, and continuing to fill the feeders. Our owls make their presence known, as do the bossy crows, and this morning, Phillip heard a robin’s song. DSCF4171 DSCF4173The river’s coat of ice is melting away. A lack of winter snow has caused the water level to be quite low this year, so we’re hoping for rains, but just to see the water sparkle in sunlight touches and begins to thaw every frozen particle lodged in our winter hearts. The long months of chilled confinement have ended; winter’s dark and snarled mind knots loosen and dissolve, allowing our spirits to flow. We’ve been laughing more this week. DSCF4223It’s too soon to get into the gardens, but at least I can see them again, and am trying to locate the very detailed list I made last autumn of all the uprooting, dividing, and replanting I had planned for this spring. Of course, first, we have to wait and see who did, and who did not, survive the bitter cold and lack of adequate snow cover we experienced until late winter. Ever hopeful.

I remember my first garden, when I was about eight, and the deep joy I felt planting my bachelor buttons, moss roses, zinnias, and cosmos. Every morning, for weeks, I dashed from bed to garden, pajama-clothed and barefoot—a habit that endures—to examine the earth for signs of green life. I weeded and watered and spent most of that summer immersed in “my” garden, as I have ever since. Daddy had encouraged this, utterly, and supported my dreams of color and blossom; Mama didn’t garden, but supported everything that gave me joy. I took it for granted that everyone had parents who so lovingly tended their dreams. DSCF4082 DSCF4086 Until I can grab a rake and trowel and get going this spring, my garden jones is satisfied at school, where, led by our intrepid team of visiting Master Gardeners, we’ve spent a few weeks planning, and are now planting seeds for this year’s garden. The little pots will sit in long trays on counters in the school’s basement, warmed by grow lights and watered from the bottom. DSCF4088 DSCF4089It gladdens my heart to see how joyfully and naturally the children connect with these activities. They cannot always name the steps or tools involved in gardening, or even evidence familiarity with the resulting food, but they so merrily dig into buckets of soil and so tenderly plant seeds in tiny, plastic earth-filled homes. I think there’s nothing so healing, creative, or natural as gardening.  

The children’s spirits have been thawing, too, and warmer days have increased their energy, and the need for its release and creative expression. Their city skyline artwork turned out beautifully. DSCF4035 DSCF4037 DSCF4038 DSCF4044I was stopped in my tracks, though, when more than one child asked where in their skyline the jail should be represented, or a child showed me his city and identified a building as “the prison.” Once again, I was reminded that the familial, reliable, and seasonal rhythms in which I have always taken comfort and joy are very different from those circumscribing the lives of many of my students. Sometimes their behavior is angry and puzzling, and then comments like these reveal the missing pieces, and my heart breaks open, creating spaces for new seeds of understanding to be planted.

Phillip and I talk, often, of our students and the ways we might touch their spirits and hearts, and give them hope, or a bit of light to companion their journeys. It’s not likely they’ll remember us, but will they remember that a teacher once told them how special, and precious, and gifted they are? When they doubt their purpose, or lose their way, or struggle to make the right choice, will they feel rooted in courage and reach for a light-filled path? DSCF4229Breathing in the wonders and invitations of spring, I’m reminded that we are all stewards of each other as well as of the earth, and that how we prepare, nurture, and tend one another’s spirits is our calling as humans and, certainly, as teachers. Not everyone was gifted with present and loving parents who cultivated their gifts and wonder from the beginning, and we all have dark spaces that can be filled with self-doubt and self-loathing, or planted with promise and loved into bloom. DSCF4125 DSCF4126 DSCF4129We may never see the amazing blossoms and glorious results we have helped create, never be identified as one of the gardeners, but we must, over and over, plant the seeds of possibility, expectation, and affirmation, and shower them with love. DSCF4066Ever hopeful; gardeners, all.

Merry new spring and joyful planting! DSCF3682

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

February Celebrations

DSCF3572A typical February day, both in my memories and today’s experience, is gray, muddy, and moist. Puddles and the sound of melting snow dripping on the deck are a constant, as are the imprint of paw prints across the wooden floor, requiring several quick swipes with the mop each day.

DSCF3423 For variety, such days alternate with sudden freezes, like the one forecast for later this week, that turn every walkable outdoor surface to ice, and every necessary navigation to a dance with death, or at least a possible broken limb or two. In November, I look forward to snow and ice for all the magic they bring; by February, the melting of all that snow and ice, and then the freezing of all those puddles, become less and less enjoyable. The garden catalogues have become so pawed through the ink has blurred and “gardener’s impatience” begins to mount: Let me out! I want to plant seeds, and weed weeds, and caress the earth.

Garden End of May Early June 2010 036Of course, imagining spring and summer, I project only future bliss. In my fantasy of the coming months, there is no humidity; no chiggers or Asian beetles terrorize me or my gardens; no drought threatens to choke green lushness, nor will constant rains drown it. It is the promise of perfection that contrasts so sharply with the utter dreariness of February, a month whose name means “purification,” not a great selling point. It’s also been called “mud month” and “cabbage month,” also not terrific slogans were we advertising its virtues.

DSCF3547We northern natives survive this challenging month, knowing it leads to the perfectly-placed season of Lent (Yay! Six weeks of spiritual purgation!), by having winter celebrations, heralding the longer days, making fun and sport where clearly Mother Nature and the Catholic Church intended none to exist.

DSCF3562This week, we’ll celebrate Valentine’s Day; the following week, Mardi Gras, and, locally, the Knickerbocker Festival exists solely to celebrate celebrating, I think, although it’s ostensibly dedicated to winter’s unique offerings, of which I am a devoted fan. I love snow and ice, snow-shoeing and hiking, skating, and the way the winter atmosphere and the many crystals it creates refract light like no other season.

DSCF3455

DSCF3489

DSCF3521

DSCF3542For the local festival this year, some men built a small scale version of Stonehenge, using ice from the lake. Icehenge generated some media attention, and the day I walked down to take a look and some photos, I met people from the Madison and Milwaukee area, who came for the adventure…as I said, it’s a tough month, and any excuse to get out and do something different is welcome.

DSCF3425February celebrations save our sanity just long enough to last till the first mosquito bite.

DSCF3565

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Green Christmas

 

 DSCF1625It’s been an unusual sort of year’s end. Inside, it looked a lot like Christmas.

DSCF1680

DSCF1410

DSCF1417

DSCF1431

DSCF1607

DSCF1617We watched several incarnations of Ebenezer Scrooge’s resurrection to a life of hope and compassion, and caught up on rest and reading, and finished remodeling the guest room. Friends visited and festivities ensued. But outside, the world remained in perpetual autumn. On Christmas Day, after our long walk with the pups, we stayed outside to weed the riverside gardens. An utterly new experience for Christmas Day.

DSCF1621

DSCF1724

DSCF1728

DSCF1730It was lovely and warm, but we both enjoy winter and missed her coming. I worried about my bulbs and perennials, who depend upon the blanket of snow and the frozen earth; the cold triggers the biochemical process they need to flower in spring. Birds were singing spring songs and everything seemed a bit fantastical. Confused. Out-of-the-norm. I missed the patterns I love and have come to honor: the four-season journey of life into death into life. Then it rained again, and we battled the incessant mud tracks our walks produced, another winter anomaly. But it was our valued vacation time, so…we relaxed, indulged in treats, and watched Harry Potter choose between the light and dark, enter suffering and loss, and live into the new world he’d help create.

DSCF1816A few days later, the temperatures lowered considerably, seizing rain puddles, however slight and visible, and freezing them enough so that my car’s brakes locked and slid through an intersection on a busy county highway. I almost “carked it,” as I heard someone say in an English movie, although at the time and for a few days afterwards, I wasn’t able to laugh about the adventure. I was glad I’d said, “I love you” to a friend before I left home that day, but I was disappointed by the fear I’d felt in the endless seconds it took to be missed by the immense SUV barreling towards my tiny VW Bug. I was bothered by the tears that followed the incident: I’d like to meet death with more equanimity.

Another friend visited that night and we talked about many things, as we always do. She mentioned a wise old nun she knows, who recently remarked on the current death throes of so many of our institutions: healthcare, education, political, economic…all seem to be undergoing the stages of dying, “…and it’s right that they should,” said the woman. Everything dies, including human-designed systems, when they no longer serve the welfare of humans.

DSCF1896And I’ve been pondering these ideas, wondering how to best serve the process of change in my small life/world with the little time left to me…When I helped midwife my dying patients, it felt as though I’d made a tacit engagement with mystery. Beyond faith, there is no tangible proof of what came next for my companions’ spirits. I ushered them to the doorway and remained present while they passed through. More than a witness, less than a dance partner…what a midwife is, I expect.

Sometimes they responded like I did, in the car: not yet ready. Like the weather this Christmas: clinging to autumn. Like the institutions, clinging to their power and its threatened transformation. Fear is natural, even, I suppose, a healthy response to the unknown, but I feel it can’t be the last response.

DSCF1484In all the experiences I’ve been graced to share and engage with death, I can only remember one time that a woman resisted her dying all the way through, and it was the hardest, most wretched death I’ve encountered.

Thankfully, most of the spirits I’ve accompanied to death– my loved ones, patients, animal companions, my trees and gardens–eventually, they breathed into acceptance of their dying, even perceptibly entering a deep peace as it came nearer.

DSCF1630I hope I can help midwife the coming changes, in whatever small ways expected of me, and again trust mystery, the pattern of life into death into life, and have faith that spring will bring flowers. I’m grateful for my many wise-women friends; I’m certain they’ll be beside me, in discernment and in bringing new life to birth.

DSCF1975This weekend, the weather turned cold once more.

DSCF1925And sweet snowfall blanketed the earth. Winter is here.

DSCF1960

DSCF1989Next breath.

DSCF1944Wait.

DSCF1945Trust.

DSCF1347Midwife.

DSCF1672

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Gliding Into Green Time

DSCF7654We’ve come (finally!) to the time of year when all the gardens, in a brilliance of greens and tender spring blossoms, flash back only beauty and promise. No pests, no droughts nor floods, no diseases have yet appeared to divert our belief that this will be the best summer ever for a perfection of blooms and abundance.

DSCF7713

DSCF7743Sweet friends have returned to Full Moon Cottage, annual visitors who bless our days and inaugurate a new season of life as the year rolls round her journey.

DSCF6972

DSCF6993

DSCF7055There is no better time to celebrate life, is there? Last week, my colleagues came to Full Moon Cottage to toast the end of another school year, and my husband’s staff will be here next week to do the same. It’s grand to have guests, and motivating as well. Nothing like scheduled company to get us out to re-design, weed, plant, thin, and clean the gardens!

DSCF7666In July, family and friends will come to help us celebrate our wedding anniversary, so we’re looking at projects indoors and out, that may or may not come to fruition, given the time and money necessary to accomplish them. I’m an inveterate list-maker and recovering perfectionist. I’ve noticed age has helped me better—and sooner—identify the borders between desire and reality. How good it can feel to welcome the loosening, letting go, and blessed release of expectations to allow what will happen to happen. I don’t always manage this with grace, but I can say I’m better than I used to be. I can even manage a “whatever,” once in a while, and mean it. At least some of the time, I’m able to suspend my definition of perfection and see what’s already perfectly perfect.

DSCF7573

DSCF7733

DSCF7712More importantly, we’re excited to be taking time to gather with people we love. When you reflect on parties and festivities you’ve attended, what do you recall in their afterglow? Not the hours of work and attention to detail that went into planning and organizing them, but the time spent sharing, listening, laughing, relaxing, affirming love and being affirmed as a valuable and integral part of other lives.

Henry Memorial 7It’s such a lovely time of year to recognize, toast, and encourage creation and recreation. Two years ago, we suffered through a devastating drought, and its effects continue to unfold. Our maples let loose an impossible number of seeds last autumn, in part a response to the prior year’s drought. A flurry of rebellious possibility rained down to establish life before drought could again assail the right to regenerate that is claimed by every living thing.

DSCF7131

DSCF7375

DSCF7327The behaviors and choices of humans and their leaders so often deny Nature this right. In spring, her resounding Yes-always-yes-to-life, and the reminder she will likely outlast our stupidity and short-sightedness is both illuminating and humbling.

DSCF7612And worth celebrating, as we glide into another summer and its green possibilities for creativity, for gathering, for affirming life, for knowing when to allow what will happen to happen, and for the gift of entering it with gratitude, knowing too, that the impulse to regenerate never dies.

DSCF7063May you be blessed with long, happy days of recreation and the company of loved ones to share them.

DSCF6921

DSCF7730

 

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Blowing Hot and Cold

DSCF9775

Nothing is glummer                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Than a cold in the summer.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  A summer cold                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Is to have and to hold.

  ~  Ogden Nash, Fahrenheit Gesundheit

 

It is ironic that on the hottest day of the year (September 10th!) I continue to harbor a nasty late-summer cold. We’re five weeks into another drought, and during the long, necessary hours of watering the gardens, it feels odd to be sneezing and taking breaks to greatly enrich the investments of Kleenex stockholders.

My voice sounds like a sheep crossed with a foghorn, and several bees and wasps seem to be lodged, circling and thrumming, in my head. It figures: a couple of weeks ago I smugly announced to Phillip how interesting it is that “I never get sick. Just never. It’s been years.”

Lesson learned.

Again.

It does seem, though, like the hours spent watering are also cooking the tenacious virus out of my system…More irony: What’s killing the garden is healing me.

It looked like we might avoid a drought this year. We enjoyed a temperate spring and bountiful summer, harvesting more asparagus, gooseberries, and cherries than ever.

Gooseberries Galore 008

The gardens seemed to be recovering so well from last summer’s horrendous months of aridity. But August and September have set us back again. We’re grateful that several gallons of tomato sauce are already in the freezer, but the grass is dying back, the trees and wildlife are suffering, and there are more of both than we can care for, thoroughly.

DSCF9803

So I’ve begun to blow a bit cold on gardening, too. I’m willing to plant, weed, and tend my gardens for hours, and have, for 50 years, starting with a tiny flower patch my father and I prepared for my first garden. (Moss roses, bachelor buttons, zinnias and marigolds: A gardener is born.) But I have to admit that the past two summers have robbed me of the rewards previous years have afforded. I used to feel the joy of midwifing a nursery full of thriving greenery, blossoms, and food; now, I feel like a full-time hospice worker once again: Who might die today?

DSCF8917

The long hours that formerly yielded deep peace and contentment are leaving me feeling, well, forlorn and bereft. I miss the partnership of Mother Nature; we used to co-create so happily together, though I understand her abandonment after decades of maltreatment and abuse by beings who should know better.

Still, there’s a garden in the front yard that needs to be overhauled, and I can’t help but get a little excited about planning its design…all the plants could be drought-resistant, and irrigated wisely.

Maybe I need to keep working at it, showing Mother Nature my intent here is earnest and my commitment faithful; maybe that’s the only way both of us will heal and find each other again. Isn’t true love always renewed in a garden?

DSCF9648

Ah-choooo!

Now, where are those garden-design books?

(See Ogden Nash’s entire whole poem here.)

DSCF8813

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Heat Wave

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 028It ain’t the heat; it’s the humility.  ~ Yogi Berra

Almost two weeks of hellishly high temperatures, thunderstorms, and the resulting steamy atmosphere have made the world around Full Moon Cottage a sauna. A Finnish winter in reverse. We dash outside to sear our lungs and open every pore, then run back inside to chill ourselves silly.

Nonetheless, despite sketchy weeding and deadheading missions conducted in haste while smothered in mosquito repellant, I seem to have kept the gardens happy. And at dusk, cloaked in conditioned air and holding glasses of chilled wine, we’ve enjoyed the seasonal spectacle of fireflies flitting about, seeking romance and union.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 042Every morning, I refill the birdbaths with fresh cold water, check the many feeders, and make sure all of our summer guests are tended. A kind friend sent me a wren house her husband built and we now have house wrens serenading us with their aggressively happy chirping.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 011Nights have been less pastorally soothing. Thunder and lightning have rumbled and crackled through most of the last week’s dreamtime. I can tell by the dark circles under our eyes that both of us need a long, quiet night. It looks like that may happen sometime between Sunday and Tuesday, when a dry, temperate spell is forecast.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 006No complaints. The rain has been welcome and the high river allows for canoe rides to continue. Other parts of our state have been flooded, and for many farmers, hopes pinned to a planting season and eventual harvest have vanished. Last year these were lost to drought and this year to flooding, a vivid reminder that we are still tethered to our climate and its health for our sustenance.

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 001Well, almost no complaints.

The chiggers that plagued my gardening for several summers disappeared completely during last summer’s drought, I expect from lack of food and moisture. I am made, utterly, of smells and tastes most delicious to mites; they’d completely ignore Phillip if he were lying nude in the garden and I stood beside him covered in armor. They’d head straight for the chinks in my metal and pierce my flesh with their nasty stylostomes, injecting enzymes that melt my cell structure into chigger malts. I’d hoped that between the drought and our lovely cold winter they’d disappeared for good, but discovered this morning that they’ve not only survived but are thriving…the confident human gardener, smug in her knowledge of where to dig and what to plant and how to improve the landscape, bustles outside to rearrange and redesign the earth surrounding her home and returns covered in itchy red welts, brought low by a voracious and nearly invisible mite.

Yogi Berra was right: It ain’t the heat, it’s the humility!

hummingbird, cardinal, lightning bugs 013

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

Lush Life

Gardens and Bridge 004It’s that lovely, lovely time of year when the gardens have begun sharing their blooms and are so pregnant with the promise of more, that life feels lush indeed. The slugs are tiny and the Japanese Beetles haven’t yet arrived. We’ve hosted a multitude of the dragonfly called “Widow Skimmer,” and Monarch Butterflies are fluttering around the gardens here and there. The succession of blooms, from peonies to irises and poppies, continues, and it’s hard to believe how much delight I derive from this always-surprising flow of color and texture year after year. A lifetime of gardening certainly keeps one reliably childlike!

Widow Skimmer
Widow Skimmer

Gardens, Bridge 061 Strom warning, gardens 180 Gardens, Bridge 062 Gardens, Bridge 093 Gardens, Bridge 137 Gardens, Bridge 129I’ve been checking my Baptisias every day; in addition to last year’s drought, they were devastated by Genista Broom Moths, usually found in Texas. The Baptisias have been my faithful garden anchors for 15 years with never a pest or disease and their suffering was especially distressing following the damage from the drought. So far, they’re egg and caterpillar-free.

Strom warning, gardens 024Along the trail (which we’re back to traveling, now that the new bridge has been completed), the wild honeysuckles’ heady perfumes have given way to phlox and wild roses. The garlic mustard is back with a vengeance, but I’ve learned to keep it out of my own gardens by harvesting and blending it in salads: The best way to defeat your enemies may be to make them your friends, but I’ve discovered that eating them also works, at least in this case.

Strom warning, gardens 211 Gardens, Bridge 051 Gardens, Bridge 139Phillip’s vegetable garden is planted, and daily watering is calling forth shoots and tendrils that make me dream of beans and tomatoes and all things delicious. We enjoyed a huge asparagus yield this spring, and the gooseberries, raspberries, and cherries are equally plentiful this year; within a few weeks, their fruits will be converted into our summer energy as well.

Gardens, Bridge 143 Gardens, Bridge 145Little Murphy had a visit to the vet last week, and Clancy needed a visit the week before, so we’re grateful for our wonderful veterinarian and happy that the prescribed medicine is helping both heal from their diagnosed (minor) problems.

Tulips, Birds, 4-Leggeds 078 Cats, Gardens 039Phillip completed another school year and is remodeling a kitchen for a colleague this month. He received a lovely letter from an appreciative parent, not a common occurrence these days, and so, dearly valued for the encouragement offered.

Gardens, Bridge 116Next Monday, I’ll celebrate my 58th birthday, and I’m scheduled for surgery on the 21st, so posts will be slow in coming for a while, but I’m hopeful the gardens will remain healthy and enhance my own healing.

Every so often, we reach these mysterious intersections of time and place that offer perfect peace, contentment, and comfort. Moments of enchantment that can last for days. Our hearts seem to say, “I know this place; it is my home.” I’m finally able to listen to my heart and detect, name, and cherish such times, which wasn’t always the case, and I know they will transmute into new days of discontent, discomfort, and less beauty. Their transitory “now-ness” makes them all the more precious. The river of time will continue to flow and carry my little “life boat” along to new adventures, times, and places…and some will feel, again, like home.

Gardens, Bridge 028So I drink deeply and promise myself, again, that this time, I’ll keep this holy peace in my heart and carry it forward to the next “now-ness.” Whatever surprising flow of color and texture is offered, may our spirits rest in peace.

Cats, Gardens 099

Gardens, Bridge 055Namaste, my friends.

A Parent’s Letter:

Phillip,
Just wanted to take a minute to thank you for all that you have done over the years in teaching my kids. When someone asks, “Who is a good teacher in our town?” I think of you. Thank you for always putting up with my texts and in-person visits. Thank you for being patient with my son over the years and helping him out as much as you have. I am truly glad that he had a teacher like you who was willing to work with him so that he could graduate. I’m sure there were times that he shouldn’t have, but thank you for making sure he did. Best of luck to you in the next years of teaching…

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

 

Departures, Heralds, & Wonders

Deep autumn has come to Full Moon Cottage and its neighbors. The fields of feed corn have been harvested and cut back to the earth. Ridges of golden stubble stand in rows that stripe the hills.

The landscape and its population are transformed. Shorn of the dense stalks, our view is lengthened and widened to coming winter’s stark openness. Whatever—and whomever—the cornstalks obscured now risks exposure. Deer wander the furrows and debris, seeking sustenance, and providing defensive exercises for Riley and Clancy as they patrol the eastern windows.

Every morning, between 7 and 9 A.M., I receive faithful, raucous, reports delivered every-5-minutes in yips and barks and meant to alert me to deer, turkey, squirrel, rabbit and low-flying hawk movements on the lawn or in the bordering woods. Or in the far distance, just in case territorial invasion might be imminent. (By 9 A.M., the daylight counsels the wild ones to conceal themselves again, and the dogs are ready for a well-earned nap. Mom is ready for a Bloody Mary, but settles for tea and quiet.)

Other surprises have come out from the cornstalks as well. This little fellow emerged from the farmer’s field beside the trail and followed me home a couple of days ago.

Apparently, his first year of hard-knock life has sharpened his abilities to identify me as an easy mark. He is now housed and fed and has received a fine once-over from our wonderful veterinarian. It will take a few weeks before “Fergus” is ready to socialize with the rest of the clan; hopefully, his integration with the other 4-leggeds will be peaceful. (Insert laughs.)

Our summer companions have begun to ready themselves for hibernation, flown to warmer habitats, or surrendered their brief lives to the circle’s rhythm. This beautiful Clouded Sulphur butterfly succumbed to the cold that blew down the trail last night. I offered it a blessing and gentle burial beneath leaves at the side of the trail.

The red-winged blackbirds are flocking up, rehearsing songs, and preparing for their migration. Huge numbers gather on the new islands the drought formed in the river. The air is warming again and expected to reach temperatures of 65°F (18°C) by the weekend before dipping back down again to a more seasonal 40°F (4°C) on Sunday. The blackbird choir will be missed, but their departure signals that the welcome and deep silence of winter is near.

Departures may also serve to herald the new.

Frost, the art designer that accompanies our colder temperatures, nightly paints the gardens and grasses with glittering beauty, creating visions of stunning glory even in death, a fine way to translate one’s energy during times of transition, I think.

Conversely, bringing the houseplants back indoors last month generated unexpected and early blooms in the cactus, violets, and even the jade plants, making the house more colorful and cheerful than the grays and browns that begin to dominate outside.

Our daily walks are a bit more brisk and bundled, and we’re happy to withdraw indoors, rest with books and tea (and 4-leggeds’ treats), and slow our rhythms down to congruence with the rest of nature, grateful for the sweet blessings of Fergus and cactus blooms, heralds of hope and affirmations that the circle’s turning continues and continues to offer surprising gifts, if we open our eyes and hearts.

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without Catherine O’Meara’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors.

The Autumn Garden

Today marks the beginning of Autumn, the fall equinox. It’s made a dramatic entrance, complete with thunder, lightning, high winds, and hail. Tonight, the gardens may endure a hard freeze, so we’ll be blanketing our mums to preserve their blooms.

Summer is definitely over.

We’ve enjoyed the last month’s blooms, having had to cut the buds from our midsummer plants to spare their energy during our 2-month drought. It broke my heart to miss all the lovely flowers, but the plants survived. Meteorologists and climate scientists predict more such summers, but for now, we’re enjoying the end-of-summer show and will try to prolong it as long as we can. Technically, the drought hasn’t ended, but the gardens still live, and some plants are thriving.

Yesterday, I shared a presentation on Spirituality and Aging, specifically addressing invitations life makes to our spirits in the “second half” of life, our own seasons of autumn and winter. Like the autumn garden, we may bloom in ways more richly colorful and distinctive than during our earlier seasons, and also consciously work to acquire habits that protect us against a hard freeze that would inhibit blooms we have yet to offer. While not denying or running from our deaths, wisdom counsels us to honor our mind-body-spirit integrity and its healing and wholeness in ways we may have ignored or not perceived when younger.

In her workbook for “sacred alignment,” The Spirit of Place, Loren Cruden outlines distinctive practices and ceremonies for traveling with the earth’s seasons and creating corresponding awareness, healing, and integration in our mind-body-spirit. I’ve been using the book as a resource and guide this year, and especially recommend it because of Cruden’s deep intelligence, eloquence, and educated understanding of both Eastern and Native American spiritualties. Her method of teaching and integrating these understandings with beliefs we may already hold dear and practices we may annually anticipate and repeat on our journey round the circle, is both inviting and respectful. Her work has deepened my passage through the year and enriched the path considerably.

Using the Native American medicine wheel as a spiritual model, Cruden guides us through the year from East to South, to West and, finally, North. The journey circumscribes our days, months, years, and lifetime, and seen this way, enhances each.

The East/Spring is seen as a time and place for spiritual awakening, for perceiving the vision quest with clarity and perspective.

The South/Summer invites us to engage with this purpose, test ourselves and enhance our creativity, while expanding our experiences and relationships.

When we turn to the West/Autumn quadrant of the circle, our energy best aligns with the harvest, the setting sun. We are invited to step into Mystery, integrate through introspection, reflection, welcome “non-ordinary” states of mind and deep acceptance of who we are. Cruden states that the “…West is a place of sorting and letting go and of conscious participation in acts of power. The vision perceived in the East and engaged with in the South now becomes multidimensional, and its broader and more subtle implications are made apparent.”

During our North/Winter season of the day, or year, or our lifetime, our vision becomes manifested and embodied. It is the time for wisdom to inhabit our being and to be shared with the community.

Cruden goes into much greater depth in her analysis of the wheel’s journey and offerings, offering weekly practices as travel companions and teachers, and I have come to deeply value her lessons on my journey.

Today, the equinox tells me that I have circled to the West/Autumn of the year, and of my life, and so I look forward to its inward, intuitive lessons and the release of what is finished and past. Now the work of the heart, deepening consciousness, and self-acceptance is engaged, and like the rest of nature, I “store energy” for the days and spiritual tasks to come. Like the autumn garden, I’ll finish engagement with the energy of blooming and retreat into the quiet time of sorting, letting go, and listening as my day, year, and lifetime grow more deeply into Mystery.

Equinox Blessings to All:

In our harvesting of the year’s gifts, in beginning the journey inward, in honoring the dying back and down, in recounting our losses and leave-takings, in creating our poetry of gratitude…in being with stillness and silence–May the gifts of the Spirit be rich in our hearts and wisely offered to the world.

Gentle peace.

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Sideshow Bob Rosebush

Every good day deserves a giggle, and every day is good…Couldn’t help noticing this resemblance, now that the wild rosebush has lost its blossoms. Joy to your day!

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Turkey in the Garden

You just never know what surprises a new day has in store for you: Happy Weekend from Full Moon Cottage. Keep your eyes open!

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Transformation

A few years ago, a lovely willow in our back yard uprooted and crashed to the ground during a storm that swept through, riding on extremely high winds. Phillip and I happened to be in the living room facing the tall windows overlooking the yard when an earsplitting crack suddenly exploded through the wailing winds of the storm. We instinctively ducked, then turned towards the direction of the sound and saw the tree falling, crashing across two gardens. Bushes, perennials and annuals were crushed beneath the huge trunk, and the willow’s shattered branches lay in pieces, everywhere.

We spent the next week cleaning up and cutting the trunk of the tree so we could remove it from the gardens in sections. Huge “willow boulders” still form a pile of firewood near the river. We can only use such large pieces in outdoor bonfires, as they’re too hard to cut for the indoor wood-burning stove. Thankfully, all of the plants were saved, as though the willow had tried to do the least amount of damage as possible as it fell to its own death, missing far more plants than it touched, and those that were crushed now look healthy and revived.

We left the base of the willow’s trunk and a few massive pieces where it had been rooted, and formed a garden around it…at first, haphazardly, since it hadn’t been a planned garden, initially. Phillip built a trellis and set it at the back of this space, and I set a few plants around, intending to design and shape a garden when we had time. Throughout the next year, we added seeds or plants when we had leftovers from other gardens, driven by necessity and still without a design. The space gradually became attractive, but it made me sad to think about losing the willow.

For some years, I’d collected rose hips from the wild roses along the trail, saved them in the freezer and then, at some point, opened them and scarified a few of the seeds…I couldn’t find a lot of help on the internet in those days, so I had to guess at the techniques that would work: freezing and burning some, slicing others with a razor: scarification is challenging for the seed and the gardener… I planted these seeds around the yard and forgot about them for a couple years. Surprisingly, a few wild roses started popping up here and there, and within two years of the “falling willow,” a huge white wild rose was embracing, then overtaking the trellis, and forming an elegant backdrop for willow’s garden. Poppies thrived there and so did irises, lilies, and flax.

It has become a very lovely sanctuary in that corner of the yard, a memorial to our beautiful willow and her gentle spirit. The wild rose has become a symbol of what the pain of scarification can lead to: vigorous new growth and a surprising beauty that was unforeseen.

A few nights ago, we burned pieces of the willow’s trunk in our bonfire, and the holy fragrance entered my dreams as the fire smoldered through the night. It said: See what beauty can come from loss, and how spirited is the growth born from pain!

And all my dreams were stories of hope.

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Odd Duck

The daily round brought many gifts this week, each of them a lovely surprise and all the more savored for their inbreaking, unexpected joy. “Expect nothing. Live frugally on surprise,” wrote Alice Walker, a philosophy that fits our slow life at Full Moon Cottage very well. This week, though, was all about an abundance of surprise.

A lost manuscript was found through the wizardry of a computer detective’s hard work. It came back to me disguised by layers of alien encryption, but I’m slowly extracting my original words, and very happy to be doing so. The prodigal story has come home.

The second gift was brought by our UPS man one afternoon: three huge boxes containing a lovely old china set were sent to me by a dear friend. The china had belonged to her grandmother and I had admired it when I visited my friend last February, and then, true to my waning retention abilities, forgot about it. While it doesn’t suit my friend’s lifestyle, she wanted the china set to find a home with someone who would honor the history and connections it represents, and chose me. How wonderful is that? My spirit was overwhelmed and drenched in joy. And I love that it’s come with stories and pictures of the feisty Irish woman who originally owned it. These are safely tucked beside the china, ready to be shared and celebrated when we break bread with guests.

The third gift was learning that our duck friends have decided that the lupine-daisy-tulip garden is a fine place to build a nest and hatch their ducklings. This discovery came with its own adventure.

I took a break from my writing one morning. I was still in my pajamas, as I’d been writing since dawn. The day was overcast, so I thought I’d dash out, take a photo or two, stretch my muscles and return to my writing. I grabbed my camera and walked down to the garden where the tulips were brightly blooming.

Now, I know that telling myself I’ll just check a garden for a minute or two is always a lie. I kneel, or crouch, and begin to weed; my mind settles; I begin to meditate, wander to the next garden…the day ends and there I am, out in the gardens, all other tasks neglected, orphaned, forgotten.

So there I was, crouching beside the edges of the tulip garden when the female mallard suddenly flew out, a bluster of feathers and quacks erupting in my face. Both of us seemed to be miming the receipt of electric shocks for a few moments, and then she flew away, while I brought my breath, limbs, and heart back into a less adrenaline-fueled tachycardic rhythm. I crept a few steps forward and could see eight eggs in a nest, cleverly concealed. I used the telephoto lens to snap a quick photo before backing carefully away and returning to the house.

Now I was concerned I’d caused the vulnerable eggs to be abandoned, so I kept pacing and peeking from every window to see if mother mallard would return. She did, quickly, with her mate. (Their friend, whom I wrote about last week, was not with them.) They stood on the roof of our home and surveyed the territory.

I walked through the house, scanning in every direction, then back to the front door to search the southern wall of white pines. Oh-oh. The murder of crows from the woods were gathering; their scouts had sent word about the “Wild Woman,” as I’m pretty sure they refer to me, as we’ve had other run-in’s.

They’d observed my clumsiness in exposing the duck eggs and triumphantly cawed the news to the surrounding “murder.” Their gang had now flown in and were sitting high in the pines, waiting for their chance to attack.

You may have seen the episode of the PBS program, Nature, that featured crows and shared studies validating their startling intelligence. (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/a-murder-of-crows/introduction/5838/) The program also discussed crows’ ability to recognize faces and send messages regarding prey and enemies across miles.

They know my face, and they know we’re not on good terms. I don’t appreciate their attacks on songbirds’ nests, their harassment of my owl friend, their incessant cawing when something of apparent “news” is occurring. I find them interesting, brilliant, but rude and greedy. They don’t share well and they gossip.

I’m married to a biologist and we’re both keen on environmental and habitat protection; I know I’m not supposed to interfere in the natural order between predator and prey, but since I caused the mother mallard to flee the nest, my guilt made me feel I needed to protect the eggs till she was able to return. I stepped back into the yard. The crows began to scream. I walked forward and picked up a stick from a fallen ash branch. Their screams increased, so I mimicked them and waved my branch. “Get away! Get away!  Leave these young ones alone! Caw-caw-caw!”

Walking and waving, cawing, threatening, and eventually out-scaring the crows, they flew away. I turned back to see the mallard parents eyeing me with a mixture of concern and fascination. I assured them all was well, using a softer voice and pointing with my ash wand towards their nest, down the hill. “It’s OK, now; you can return…”

It was then I glanced beneath the skirt of pine trees and saw the legs of a neighbor, about an acre away, walking a dog back towards her home.

I realized my entire performance had been witnessed. Leaping around in my pajamas, cawing and waving branches, intimidating crows and then speaking duck.

I’ve never worried I’d become my mother; my fear has always been I’d become  my crazy “Great-Grandma Annie,” a thorough and distinct character in our family lore. It seems I can set aside the fear and embrace the reality.

In a week full of surprising gifts, I tried the idea of odd-duckness on for size. It fit.

And I like it.

Mother duck returned to her nest; we await the ducklings and hope their fragility will survive the dangers that greet their birth as excitedly as we do. I’ll try to respectfully let nature take its course.

But look out crows; and all you wild ones who would harm these ducklings: Great-Grandma Annie is watching. And she’s got a stick.

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.

Early Bird

The day shall not be up so soon as I,
To try the fair adventure of tomorrow.
~ William Shakespeare

I have a “carpe diem” mug and, truthfully, at six in the morning the words do not make me want to seize the day.  They make me want to slap a dead poet.   ~ Joanne Sherman

 Ah, 5 A.M. on what is forecast as a lovely day, perhaps the tail-end of our magical early warmth this year…although, glancing at the upcoming forecast, I see 74° posted for next Saturday by the local weather oracle. This year we’re learning, and being reminded every day, that we never know what surprises the morning might bring.

This is the day we’ve set aside to tackle some preliminary yard clean-up, weeding around the twelve gardens’ edges, and cleaning between the bricks on the front steps. I’m still leery about scraping away last winter’s garden mulch; we’ve had frost in mid-May, and Mother Nature’s acting very menopausal and unpredictable this year, so I think I’ll let her take the lead and follow respectfully. Just a good day to pick up a few stray branches, invite families of weeds to relocate, smell the sweet spring breezes, and listen to the song of the world.

I do love this time of day. Always have. I inherited Early Riser Syndrome from my father, who was also an inveterate gardener. In summer, we’d go out together to weed and talk about the flowers, which then became talks about my school days, the challenges of cliques, questions about boys, or all those intimate and wonderful things a father and daughter who are very close share with each other. There was something about the stillness and light, the sense of sacredness the dawn confers, and our solitude, together, that seemed to make us more fully ourselves during these conversations. Eventually, I found I could not rise early and go into the garden without sensing my father’s presence and willingness to listen, which I’m sure is one of the reasons my own gardens seem to multiply as I grow older: I like having his spirit around. There is still so much to talk about and share.

There’s something so clean and pure about a new day. Sunrise, birdsong (owl-hooting legitimately qualifies, in my book) and nothing but possibility…I step quietly out on the back deck to breathe and to welcome this year’s happy little duck family as they waddle up from their riverside nest to enjoy a bit of our birdseed: we acknowledge each other peacefully and allow companionable silence to surround us as we all take in the view. I expect they have plans for their day, too, and I step back inside so they might confer in privacy.

There are drawbacks to the early bird rhythm, of course. I was never, physiologically, fond of the whole “slumber party” idea. I was the girl off in the corner sleeping by 9:00 P.M., and then up at 5, eager to play those games my friends were so excited about just a few hours earlier. (An insight regarding my low adolescent popularity quotient…) New Year’s Eve has never had much appeal to me, and some promising young romances completely deflated, and quickly, when we learned our biorhythms were drastically incompatible.

Waking early is not without benefits, however. One advantage to being an early bird is the lovely indulgence of an afternoon nap, two of the most beautiful words in the English language. After all, you’ve put in a full day’s work and deserve a bit of rest by, say, three in the afternoon. Sweet shadows, soft breezes, something to read and then—ah! The bliss of a brief nap.

But that will come later. I make a pot of coffee, look at garden catalogues and websites, dream, and wait for my partner to join me…Phillip sleeps to a reasonable hour (6:30, maybe)—still early for most, though, and he always wakes in a cheerful mood—nothing like my mother, who loathed mornings. I remember we’d peek in on her during her once-a-week “sleep-in” morning (Saturdays, I think), and laugh (quietly), because she’d have an extra pillow or two pulled over her head. There were only three of us children and we weren’t particularly noisy, but she’d certainly earned her right to honor her own body clock’s rhythm when she could, poor dear.

When Mama would finally join “the land of the living,” we knew not to initiate dialogue of any kind or to expect any to be forthcoming until she’d had her coffee, toast, read some papers, and acclimated to the idea of “not sleeping.” All the more remarkable then, I’ve always thought, that she slept on a downstairs “hide-a-bed” for the last 18 years of her life so she could be near my father’s hospital bed, and was often up before dawn to tend to his many needs and prescribed morning routine. Her own early bird needed tender care by then; if she’d anticipated retirement as a time when she could finally “sleep in” every morning, such hopes evaded her. And I never once recall her complaining about this. Love does indeed call us to the things of the world…

So we are divided into two groups once again, before our day’s even begun, and must make gentle accommodation for the needs of those in our immediate and more distant communities, recognizing that our differences bring blessing if we allow them clement space to unfold.

And so the world turns; we drift into sleep and arise, according to our needs, desires, and the demands of love…may you have a blessed day, adjust to its conversations and surprises with gratitude, and, should you be inclined, enjoy an afternoon nap!

 

© Copyright of all visual and written materials on The Daily Round belongs solely to Catherine M. O’Meara, 2011-Present. Unauthorized use is strictly prohibited, without the author’s written approval. No one is authorized to use Catherine O’Meara’s copyrighted material for material gain without the author’s engagement and written permission. All other visual, written, and linked materials are credited to their authors. Thank you, and gentle peace.