God’s Creations Revisited

I want to share with you a document I wrote when I had nearly-full sight and had the mobility to walk greater distances. Now I cannot see some of the things I talk about in the article below; I do not take the extensive walks I used to take, but as I reread about God’s creations and the magic palate, I found that I was just as grateful now with the memories as I was when I first experienced them. Now let me share with you what I experienced in May 2014. The beauty is the same; I see it differently.

What a beautiful day. The walk to the end of the driveway is always an adventure. It is one I take everyday in my trek around the house. While it is the same driveway, the walk is always different. The blossoms are at a different state in their journey. The birds and their songs are different at different hours; their flight patterns vary with the tasks of the hour. The palm fronds are greeting the sky in different ways as they meet the morning breezes. The sun greets me at a different angle. The shadows cast their magic with the path of the sun. The breezes say hello with a gentle brush across my face.

            The sky is its own study each morning. This morning it is a blue dome with white, fleecy clouds covering it like a white lace covering a blue tablecloth. Yesterday it was a beautiful, clear, blue dome. The silhouette of the palm fronds against the blue is an impressive piece of nature’s artistry. The mountains across the valley stand majestically as they lend their beauty to the horizon.

            The yellow iris proudly present themselves as they add their beauty to the scene; it seems each is proclaiming it is the perfect blossom. The  bronze day lilies vie for attention as they stand among the iris. Nature mixes in the red, pink, and rose colors of the geraniums that trail along the driveway and sometimes climb the palm trees. God’s artistry creates amazing pieces of art in nature.

            As I proceed around the house, I can smell the last vestiges of the perfume of the orange blossoms; they are rapidly pursuing their journey. In a few days there will be little green nubbins, the first sign of the next piece of their destiny. They, too, will soon mirror the mature fruit left on the trees. An orange tree, like so much of nature, is a beauty to behold. And how magical when you can see the evolution day by day. How can one not be grateful?

            I never cease to be amazed as I turn the corner. I leave the fragrance of the orange blossoms; I know in just a few feet the roses will start  to share their varied perfumes. They have to share their beauty with the vastness of the view across the valley. As I look across the valley, the avocado trees in the foreground add the incredible greenness of their foliage to the scene. But in a few more steps, the roses send out their calling cards. A rose is something special. And each of the many that I have sends its individual greeting card. The beauty of the buds, the fullness of the blossom, the attempt of each petal to last as long as possible–all magic. The colors an variety are unbelievable.

            And that’s just some of the plants. Now add the glory of a hawk, the pride pace of a road-runner, the scamper of a ground squirrel. or the tail of a rabbit scurrying away. The sound of the music from the many birds that love their nests in my palm trees, add the symphony to the scene. Even the crows add their base notes to the sound.

                 How could I not be grateful enough to understand that tomorrow my walk will be looking at another artistic rendering of God’s magnificent creations? I hope your grateful walk today was as beautiful as mine.

At the End of the Driveway: The Blackberry Bush and the Red-Tailed Hawk

I took my grateful walk this morning; as usual, I stopped at the end of the driveway to contemplate my blessings. The breeze was blowing gently and the palms responded, swaying with gentle precision to the commands of the breeze. The shadows appeared and disappeared as expected. I was struck with the beauty of it all and the calm and natural way the things happened.

I looked through the gate at the mammoth blackberry bush just outside, sprawling and spreading itself at will. This volunteer blackberry plant, the gift of my bird family, apparently knows more about itself than I do. You see, I planted several blackberry vines in another “appropriate place” only to find them never quite happy there. But this vine, now eight or ten feet in diameter, has carved out its own destiny. The berries are almost ready.

I have told you about my red-tailed hawk that has made its home in the palm at the end of the driveway. It comes to visit occasionally. The most amazing visit was a few nights ago when I was sitting on my patio with a friend having a wonderful chat. All of a sudden we were both silent, staring at each other with a look that comes only with special wonderment about an event, sight, or sound.

A red-tailed hawk swooped down to the top of the umbrella pole at the table where we were sitting, picked up its prey and was gone with unimaginable swiftness. What poor rodent, at least my friend said it had a tail like a rat, made the mistake of hiding in the top of the umbrella, we’re not certain.   But the stunning silence of the approach and the quickness of the snatch completely astonished us. It came and went with its prey clutched tightly and we never heard a sound. We both agreed we had never experienced such an amazingly successful hunting expedition. I am stunned daily as I watch them  hunt, soar, and glide across my sky, But as I thought about it at the end of my driveway this morning, I was hoping the hawk would do a fly-over so I could thank it for the untold joy it brings. My friend and I will always be saying to each other,  “Remember the evening that the hawk…”

And there are so many more things at the end of my driveway besides the blackberry bush and the hawk. The most important things that are always in my gratitude walk are my family, especially my incredible four grandchildren, (Colin, Kera, Hailey, and Cassidy), my faith, my friends, and my love of my country that I fight every day to preserve for those I love.

Memories of the Garden

A better title might be: Questions my Granddaughter Asks.

When my granddaughter asked me whether or not I had helped my mother can, I was surprised. But not nearly as surprised as I was with the next question. Did I know how to make watermelon pickles?

“I have been reading some material written by a lady who went through the depression,” she said, “and she talked about canning and making watermelon pickles.”

I told her that I canned a lot of fruit and vegetables myself for many years, and of course, I helped my mother can from the time I could remember. The queries started  a flood of memories. Most of what we canned came from our garden.

The Farmer’s Almanac was a family friend in most Midwest households. And when the apple blossoms came in the spring, they were so welcome; a bouquet of apple blossoms brightened every home. The first pink signs were signals; maybe the weather would change, but you knew that it was time–time to start thinking about the early plantings. It was time to get the seeds out that you had ordered during the winter months. I loved those seed catalogs. They were almost like a travelogue.

The Almanac, although consulted all year, in the spring it was always left in a handy place for quick reference; it just stayed on the kitchen table. The suggestions for planting were carefully checked. And of course, some seeds were planted during the winter so plants would be ready to “set out” when the weather was warm enough. Tomato, cabbage, parsley, and kale seeds were planted and carefully monitored during the winter months. They occupied an honored place by a sunny window.

When the time was right and the garden soil was carefully prepared, the planting started. Peas and lettuce were an early planting soon followed by carrots, beets, beans of several varieties, another planting of lettuce and peas, and hills of cucumbers, squash, watermelons, cantaloupes, and a first planting of corn. Several plantings of some vegetables were made throughout the summer to make certain they could be harvested all summer long. Mother and Dad were particular about how the garden looked. The rows were straight and the seeds were carefully sown. This was serious business. These crops were not only for fresh produce during the summer, but also to be canned and stored for the winter months.

Now the plants that were grown in the house during the winter were planted. The tomatoes were planted with sufficient space so they had room to grow, and so the sun could reach all sides of the plant as needed to produce the amazing red, luscious vegetables to eat fresh all summer and the boxes and boxes that would be canned during the summer. In the fall when the frost was due, the green ones would be kept to ripen or made into relish. The memory of taking a salt shaker and visiting the tomato patch, picking a warm red tomato, and eating it in the garden was wonderful. A tomato never tasted better. I guess they were as organic and fresh as anything can be.

Potatoes were stored for the winter, and it was from that supply that the plantings for the next year were taken. The potatoes were cut making certain that there was an “eye” on every piece; it was from that eye that the growth would start. The potato vines were faithfully watched during the summer; as soon as they matured sufficiently, we would dig a hill or two to harvest those “new potatoes” to have with fresh peas in a cream sauce or to put with all the other fresh vegetables in soup.

And of course, my mother had to have her flower gardens and her flowers in the garden. There were packages of mixed flower seeds, larkspur, zinnias, and any others that she could afford to buy. Neighbors shared seeds that had been kept from the year before. The dahlia bulbs were dug, separated in the fall and stored for the winter and planted in the spring. These beautiful flowers were shared in huge bouquets at church services in the summer. These bouquets often were the source of varieties shared with those present. People shared because often they could not afford to buy them. Mother always took ”slips” (cuttings) of geraniums from the plants grown inside and outside to share and to make new plants. Iris, glads, tulips, peonies, and anything that was admired and could be propagated was shared. The depression did not mean that beauty could not be available because you were poor. Our Creator made it easy to share.  Even the fields and hills were full of free plants and shrubs.

The garden was a place of family pride. When I was a little girl, I tagged along as mother or daddy took friends and family to show what was new, how to deal with bugs, or talk about planting tips, and to share the bounty of a beautiful garden.

Kera as we plant, I will share with you “what it was like when I was a little girl.” That’s the question you always ask me.

The Iris and the Hawk – Lessons from Nature

My walk to the end of the driveway always is amazing. The lessons abound with every step. The mysteries of faith pop out at me. Or perhaps they aren’t so mysterious. Perhaps they are so simple we just don’t bother with them.

As I looked across the valley, the foggy sky obscured the twin peaks and the hills they occupy. My first lesson on faith. Even though I could not see them, I knew that they were there. I knew that the houses on the hills that I see on those hills every clear morning were still there. I had faith.

I looked for the iris blossom that was partially open yesterday. I knew that it would be open more today. That’s what flowers do unless eaten by bugs or otherwise destroyed. They are on a mission to grow and become what they were meant to be. I knew there wouldn’t be a daffodil or a rose on an iris plant. I have faith in that process. Sure enough. When I came to the plant in question, it had two fully opened blooms. The path of the iris is a model of faith expressed.

There was another lesson on the way. About halfway down the driveway was a fully-opened iris blossom even bigger than those I had so diligently been watching. There it stood–a single gorgeous, large blossom that reminded me of the great diversity of growth and development within one species. Such an obvious encounter should help me understand the human conditions surrounding the everlasting premise that the Creator is the ultimate purveyor of faith in the created–whether iris or person.

As I sat to ponder the lessons of faith I had experienced on my walk to the end of the driveway, I was treated to a special scene. I have watched the red-tailed hawks swoop to the earth to catch their prey with deadly accuracy. I have watched them soar to heights against a clear blue sky or duck behind a low-hanging cloud. When they just glide across the sky they are especially fascinating and beautiful. Just a little tip of a wing or the tail and the change of direction or altitude is accomplished. Amazing birds, these red-tailed hawks.

But about the treat. As I was piecing together my lesson on faith from the walk, a red-tailed hawk flew into the tall palm nearest me. Wow!! Of course. It had to have a home somewhere. Now I felt I had a different relationship with one hawk. I knew where it lived. As I sat with a big smile on my face and gratitude for the special moment, the hawk flew away and pursued its diving and soaring and doing what hawks do. It too, was being fully faithful to its place in the universal patterns of being a red-tailed hawk.

As I continued my walk, I knew that what the fog obscured in the west, or east, or south would be there when it cleared. Surely I can have as much faith as the bird that sings before the dawn breaks because it knows that the dawn is coming. By the time I continued around the house and back to the end of the driveway, I could see the outlines of the twin peaks. In just another few minutes, the hills and the peaks were clearly visible, outlined by the fleecy white clouds and the blue sky behind them.

Thank you nature. And special thanks to the iris and the red-tailed hawk. Surely I can take the timelessness of their lessons and be grateful that they are present to teach me. Yes, I will use the talents that I have been given to me to make a difference, to serve and grow. Almost 98 years of living should be a good place for new beginnings. New measures of faith should grow well in a soil of gratitude, love, curiosity, and joy.