Who Wouldn’t Be A Grower?

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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“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.

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

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

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To Walk in Balance

 

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Wakan Tanka, Great Mystery,
teach me how to trust my heart,
my mind, my intuition,
my inner knowing,
the senses of my body,
the blessings of my spirit.
Teach me to trust these things
so that I may enter my Sacred Space
and love beyond my fear,
and thus Walk in Balance
with the passing of each glorious Sun.
~ Lakota Prayer

 The autumn equinox seems a fitting time to contemplate the balance we manage to hold and honor in our lives.

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And the currently overused word, “literally” does seem to apply to my sense of balance: Since July 8th, most of my time has been spent lying on a bed or couch with my left leg elevated and the foot iced, following surgery. Prior to the surgery, the doctor had repeatedly stressed that the recovery would be a long slog, but the foot wasn’t working well, so I chose the misery for improved quality of life. I’m fairly active and need to be for my joy to flow.

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The past few weeks, I’ve been going to therapy and am now free of the walker and boot that accompanied the majority of my healing. But I’m still working on regaining my balance. I can’t yet support myself standing on the left foot alone, which impedes (excellent word, meaning “to shackle the foot”) my yoga and work outs. The foot still swells to a stunning circumference if it’s down too long. I call her Hindenburg.

The view during my confinement didn’t inspire too much photography.

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I appreciated the 4-legged companions and the friends and family who stayed in touch through visits, messages, and calls. These made all the difference in my healing. The days became static, drifting one-into-the-next, and the world diminished to the size of a bedroom. By week three, I felt like Grace Poole in Rochester’s attic. Highly imbalanced.

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Caregivers are the saints of the earth, and mine was the best. Phillip made Mother Teresa look like an insensitive thug; he was that great a support. There’s a lot to do at Full Moon, especially in summer when the many gardens are in need of tending, and he managed all that, the 4-leggeds, my needs, the housecleaning and laundry, and full time remodeling jobs…I think, for once, he’s very happy summer is over and he can get back to the cushy job of teaching high school students. (!) A good friend visited at least twice a week, sat and chatted, helped clean, made meals…Challenges always reveal so many blessings in our lives, don’t they? And the blessings help to bring our spirits back into balance.

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For a time, I felt guilty that I wasn’t doing more with my enforced free time…I could have written an entire book series in the time I sat and watched old movies and read several mystery series that others wrote. I could have taught myself to knit, or taken up some other craft, or bettered myself in some laudable way, despite the pain in my foot and the humiliation of being utterly dependent on others.

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But those feelings led to one of the great gifts of my healing time.

 I’ve always powered through my schoolwork, my jobs, my chores, and my days, and done more than I should (I think, trying to make Sr. Mary Someone take notice and validate my wonderfulness) so the second-best gift I’ve received from this experience (Phillip is always the first), is the chance to finally learn how to stop and say, “Enough. For now.” I think I’ve always feared I’d just slide into indolence and never rise again, but I think I’m discovering a better rhythm for my days that allows me both productivity and peace. Both can call upon our creativity.

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For my first outing, we went to the dogpark. The weather was grand and, although I sat at a picnic table with my leg raised and iced (sigh), I cried, just to be there and enjoying the lovely world outside my room.

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I’ve managed a couple trips (again, literally) down to the bridge since then.

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And I’ve even spent time weeding gardens, although the first time I overdid it, and Hindenburg rebelled. Learning the parameters is tricky, but being in the garden heals other parts of me, so not a loss, but a lesson.

I’m also back in the kitchen, making candy, roasting veggies, baking treats and feeling like myself again.

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So we roll around our lovely sun to autumn. The combines in surrounding fields are running from dawn to dusk, when they’re able, and the birds are emptying the feeders maddeningly fast, preparing for migrations. The gardens are nearing the time for cutting back and cleaning, harvests drawing to an end.

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We’ve received 15.5 inches of rain since the beginning of August and more is coming tonight and next week. The river is high, but we’re not experiencing the flooding that others are. A roof leak has led to drywall damage we’ll need to rectify, so that will be the Next Big Thing. (At Full Moon, not nationally, as we all know.)

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Autumn, the time when our world becomes a thin place, begins, and my spirit feels strengthened and ready for the sweet encounters with mystery it always brings. We make commitments and then we make them again, revising, reviewing, respecting (to “look again”) them, honoring the challenges they present and gifts they yield. The equinox is a lovely symbol of the balance that’s come to me, finally, and which I hope to integrate more profoundly into my life’s dance, however inelegantly executed it currently is. I have faith I’ll be pirouetting on the left foot one day soon.

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The Light That Fills the World

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I think over again my small adventures, my fears, those small ones that seemed so big, all those vital things I had to reach and to possess, and yet there is only one great thing: to live and see the great day that dawns, and the light that fills the world.  ~ Old Inuit Song

These days, the pre-selected and formatted news of the world comes to us whether we want it or not, it seems.

It seeps through the pores of our days, flashing its dire warnings, keening the earth’s death song, screaming the antics of strange players, interrupting the flow of our choices and preferences, and scrolling across the bottom of our daily round. You turn on an information source to learn the weather forecast and you’re flattened by the psychic attack created by some media celebrity spewing hype about the latest battle between police and citizens, or vying political candidates, or warring countries. Somewhere, a city’s exploded, a plane has crashed, and another murder has robbed us of someone’s gifts. In the wake of what was once journalism, the circus entertainment that’s replaced it never sleeps.

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And, truly, there are choices being made by leaders that affect us all and should be discussed, even argued against and protested. There is sloppy thinking, a loss of respect for fact and intellectual reasoning, and a backsliding of concern for the common good. Language is cruder and interactions are ruder.

But I think we can get mired in anger and fear, the result of over-exposure to these things, and lose the ability to think our own thoughts and remain focused on our next creative action in our own little corner of the world. The rush of bad news accelerates our anxiety, and we surrender the time and space necessary to locate the inherent peace and stillness within ourselves that allow us to move in the world with balanced energy and perspective, doing the good we’re here to do.

Happily, Full Moon Cottage has been offering us a lovely summer of sunlight and rain, fireflies and flowers, June’s gorgeous solstice and full moon, and social gatherings that reinforce the light that fills the world and renews our spirits.

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Last week, our buddy Jax was our guest once again, and he seemed quite certain that 4:30 A.M. was the best time to wake and enjoy our morning walk. We thought otherwise, but had to agree the sunrises were amazing, making our hesitant efforts to offer hospitality worth it, and far more sincere on subsequent mornings.

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The fireflies have been surprisingly abundant this summer, and their nightly show invites meditation and peace. We turn down the indoor lights, grab a window-seat and 4-legged companion, and watch. And breathe. And benefit greatly. Malarky and I enjoyed both fireflies and the solstice together at about 1:00 in the morning, when nature called us, in many and different ways. I’m sorry I’m not a more skillful photographer and lack a better camera, but here you can (kind of) see the full moon and the blinks of fireflies.

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Like the early walks with Jax and the pups, this was an enchanting break in the routine for me. I don’t mind losing sleep when it’s surrendered for a silent stroll in light and mystery. These encounters bring me back to hope and joy.

In mid-June, a friend called and offered to bring an entire feast, and her little pup, for a visit to celebrate my birthday. (Well, I made the carrot cake!) It was such a kind gesture and perfect gift of a day; I’m still smiling whenever I think about the fun we had.

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Later in the month, I was asked to officiate at another friend’s wedding, a light-filled celebration, if there ever was one. Weddings fill my cup of hope to overflowing. I love creating the service with a young couple, and celebrating their joy with a community of people who love and support them. We’re all changed, every time, it seems, taken back to memories of our own partnerships in life and their deepening.

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We also had company visit for a few days, and the weather obliged. My older brother came south from the Twin Cities (although here, we just say “the Cities,”) and his daughter drove west from Milwaukee, and we had a merry visit indeed. So merry, I didn’t take photos, but just relaxed and laughed. A lot. You’ll have to imagine our visits to a local winery, restaurant, antique stores, and then a pub, where we brought a picnic and listened to wonderful music. And our long visits on the back deck with the pups chasing around our chairs, the fireflies seeking true love in the trees and gardens, and the river flowing by in peace.

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The gardens are making a comeback from last year’s devastating storm; the freezer is crammed with berries; the bird feeders have been very active; this year’s turkey nursery parades through the yard most mornings; and, except for the annual onslaught of Japanese Beetles, peace reigns and sustains at Full Moon Cottage.

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Blessing and gratitude keep me going when the world’s noise and fear crowd in. The light that fills the world shines through, shines on, nurturing our hope, peace, and love, and that is the only one great thing: To let that light lead us into our days and through our lives. Gentle peace to you and yours.

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The Shimmering of Leaves

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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.

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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?

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Malarky turned to me and rolled his eyes.

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

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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.

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All is Bright

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It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is St. Nicholas Day. As kids, we’d make cookies for Santa and hang our Christmas stockings on the night of December 5th. We’d hear a story from Daddy and go to bed excited about the enchantment imminently expected to overtake our home: a visit from St. Nick! (Technically, Santa Claus, but we didn’t question magic. Why question anything that brings chocolate and gifts? Just be grateful!)

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The stockings held our precious letters for Santa that outlined our Christmas wishes and promises of continued good behavior. The next morning, we’d discover an empty cookie tray, small treats in our stockings, and an elegantly-scripted note from Santa. These memories always conflate with images of snowfalls, sledding, skating, snowmen, and icicles…

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This year, my poppies are leafing out in spring viridity and the lawn is ready for the Easter bunny to come hopping along. Chickadees are singing spring songs and, although our mornings can be frosty, our afternoon temperatures have been climbing to 50° F/10° C.

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We had a beautiful snowfall just before Thanksgiving, and Malarky’s excitement and wonder as he explored this new phenomena made it almost as magical for me.

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We even enjoyed our November full moon midnight-potty-excursions (his, not mine). Somehow, being roused from sleep isn’t so bad when the outside world is sparkling with snow and stars.

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So the current experience of climate change is odd, but not without its blessings. Although I’m not transplanting anything in the garden, I can remove the dandelions and other weeds that are taking advantage of the warmth. Getting my hands muddy in December is an adventure. I received this link from a friend last week, and better understand why mucking around in soil is good for the spirit. Much better than a bout of winter-induced seasonal affective disorder!

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Our home is decorated for the season, too, so indoors, it looks like Christmas, even if outside, it looks like we’ve moved to the South.

The 4-leggeds are blissfully content, another reminder that letting go of expectations for how things should be, or hanging the joy of now upon its conformity to memories, even happy ones, is pointless. I’m grateful for a happy childhood, but I’m happy for now, too.

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All is bright.

I hope it’s the same for you this lovely, wonderful holiday season. Happy St. Nick’s!

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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

Any Morning

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)