It’s spring again. Our ocotillo is in bloom from a spring rain and looks like a glorious firecracker against the sky. As the quarantine walls seem to close in on us in Phoenix, we are fortunate to be able to drive to our mountain cabin in Payson. The drive is a special treat. The scenery is breathtakingly full of mountains and valleys as we eventually make the climb to 6,000 feet.
The Sonoran Desert is always beautiful to this Midwest native. Saguaro cactus, prickly pear and mesquite trees still inspire awe. In the spring, we are treated to the fresh wildflower colors of gold poppies, purple lupines and hot pink pernstemons along the road. The color is bittersweet knowing the bigger the display, the higher the risk of wildfires come the dry hot month of June.
That’s the trouble with being an adult, I guess. One knows too much. Why can’t I just enjoy the beautiful flowers without worrying about the fires to come? How many other times in life do we refrain from enjoying something fully because of what might happen?
When I arrived at my cabin, I was treated to a beautiful display of daffodils. It was hard not to think about how challenging it was to get them in the ground. I vowed to let it go– to simply enjoy the wonder of their beauty and I succeeded. But it only lasted long enough until I started thinking about how nice it would be to plant some more. Sometimes the adult in me needs to shut up and sometimes it serves as a much-needed warning. The trick is to know when to let go and when to hold on to it. Enough is good enough.
I’ve been planting. I’ve been planting and I feel like I deserve a medal. But how hard can it be? One website even boasts, “Dig. Drop. Done.” about flower bulbs. I wanted to believe them. How hard could it be? And the bulbs, they were so cheap…
But I live in Arizona, home to caliche soil. Caliche forms in dry climates. It’s a mixture of soil cemented together by calcium carbonate. Cemented is the operative word. It forms a layer a few inches below the topsoil and can be small rocks or large, lanky boulders. I borrowed my neighbor’s gas powered tiller and spent hours trying to break through small sections. That’s when I wondered why I bought daffodils instead of just iris. Iris bulbs are smaller and need to planted around four inches deep. The large daffodil bulbs need to be planted around 6-8 inches. The biggest indicator of success seems to be how deep one plants the suckers. It took me three hours to create a two foot by three foot plot if I rounded up my measurements. It was the end of September and even though I was close to 6,000 feet in elevation, it still reached almost 90 degrees every afternoon. Dig. Drop. Done. I think the motto for Arizona would be dig till you drop and pronounce yourself done. I found I could do two to three hours in the morning, then shower and nap resting until after four when I would start all over again. I was determined that neither dirt nor deer (elk) were going to stop me from having a beautiful retreat.
Finally, Nature decided to help. It brought a hurricane off Mexico moving lots of rain over my humble half acre in the Arizona woods. While I was sad for the devastation it caused others, I had the opportunity to be grateful. After three days of rain, the dirt was as good as a Midwestern corn field. (Well, maybe not, but it shoveled like one.) My husband drove up from Phoenix and we spent three cooler days finishing the job. And what a job it was! Over 250 bulbs when into the mud with less than half the effort. I was grateful for the miracle.
Next year, will be our first full spring in the cabin and the first year I will ever have a garden. In the spring, I want to supplement the bulbs with ever-faithful bleeding hearts and maybe some sunflowers. For now, we plant with foolhardy hope. We plant with a look to the future. Maybe I won’t get my medal. But if I’m lucky, I will get flowers.
After talking with a friend who seems to volunteer every waking moment of her life, I had to ask myself, am I a good person? Is it merely enough not to hurt others? I did a Google search and found multiple quizzes I could take to determine if indeed, I was a good person, or a nice person, or even a kind person. Even Scientific American had a test to see if you could benefit from being agreeable.
There were times in my life, such as when I was in college, when it was all about me. I’d like to think I was kind to others, but I did little to volunteer or donate. Frankly, it was all I could do to stay afloat with my classes. When our first child was born, we joined a new church. I remember the minister asking on what committees I would like to serve. I was flabbergasted. As a new parent, I was lucky to make it to church. As time went on, however, I began to teach Sunday school and became very active in multiple ways. Still, did that make me a “good” person?
Are there times to give and times to prepare oneself for the greater good? Are there times when it’s ok to simply rest and focus on one ’s self? Is it okay merely to do no harm but never give time or efforts to others? Is not being bad mean that you are good?
While every religion has a viewpoint on this issue, the general consensus would be that it is a lofty goal to strive to be “good.” It’s a fine thing to use your talents for the benefit of others. It’s nice to help people. Yet for all my helpfulness, volunteering, and donating, there are times I find my definition lacking. I find myself falling short. It’s hard to be good.
The hardest time for me to be good is when I have to take that deep breath with my mouth closed so I can listen to someone else’s ideas. I’ll have to keep working on that.
We used to ask, “Would you rather be rich, or famous?” or other variations on that theme. To be honest, neither of those have been my life’s goal. All my life I’ve dreamed of having a little cabin in the woods, complete with a fireplace, a tongue and groove ceiling and a river nearby. That dream is finally coming true for me.
I wonder when I get that moment to breathe the pine smell and listen to the wind through the needles, will I feel I’m truly home? Is there only one place on earth where we are meant to call home? I have lived this dream for so long, what will it be like to finally obtain it? Will I stagnate until I ask the, “Now what?” question? Or, having finally found the place where I belong, will I be able to become my best self and truly blossom?
How does one truly live the dream? Will it finally be enough or will I still want more? Will I still find things to complain about? Will the new life I’m so excited for bring about new adventure and discovery? There is a parable about a two men going to a new city. They ask a stranger from that city what it is like. The stranger asks them about their old city. One says it was great– the other terrible. The stranger says they will find it to be the same way in their new city. I guess, if I am looking for adventure and personal growth I will find it. Maybe I could start today.
My teen was having a hard time recently and stormed around for a day and a half. Teens tend to be overly dramatic, so I thought letting him work through it was part of the process. But then it occurred to me that part of the drama was because he didn’t know how to react when faced with a problem. Was this the end of the world? Could he make it go away?
With age, comes perspective. I have lived through enough situations that I know I can fix my problems. I know the difference between a minor setback and a problem that is going to require more effort on my part. I can project what will probably happen if I ignore a problem and whether it will go away on its own or grow exponentially. A teen hasn’t grown that perspective.
I have a friend whose catchphrase is, “It’ll be okay. Everything will be okay.” I didn’t understand her need to say that until just now. As my teen seemed to be circling in a loop of angst, I realized he didn’t know it was going to be okay. It was fixable. I sat him down and told him it would be okay. We talked through the nuances of the problem until he realized it wasn’t so big after all. The pep talk on how capable he was helped to make it seem surmountable. I reminded him that he wasn’t alone. He didn’t need to worry by himself. If he needed help, he could rely on his parents.
To date, the problem has yet to be resolved. But we aren’t worried. It’s going to be okay.
I'm melancholy today. I realize that feeling depressed is much different than clinical depression, which is a serious matter. I’m talking about the temporary sadness one feels when they want to feel sorry for themselves or the world but don’t have a reason.
On a good day, I would try to get over myself– get busy, help others, call up a friend, or watch a comedy. A bit of melancholy works for a writer, however. It taps into the ache in my chest which creates that need to write. It gives me time to be introspective if I go with those emotions. It helps me to daydream.
We own our happy feelings but have a tendency to shake off any sad ones. What if the melancholy moods were the ones where we were closest to our true selves? What if it was the time we were able to take stock of our lives and where we were going? I’m going to honor those feelings and recognize that they are a signal to slow down and be with myself for a while. I will come out the other side better in tune with myself and my aspirations. Maybe being melancholy is a good thing.
I have to admit, I am not a sports fan. I don’t follow any sports except when the Olympics roll around. But I managed to find the story of Sloane Stevens. She is a tennis player who was ranked 934 in the world two weeks ago. Did she let that stop her? She went on to win, win mind you, the US Open.
I love this story for two reasons. First, she didn’t let her past affect her future. How many of us think that way? We almost apologize for our place at the table. We are defeated before we begin because we don’t truly believe in our own dreams. We need to own it. We need to treat our dreams as if they are the very air we breathe- we may not be able to see them, but they are real and ours for the taking.
The second reason why I love this story is what she did when she won.
I know nothing about Ms. Stephens, I do know a role model when I see one. I look forward to finding out more.
It’s April and I am thrilled to see and hear the chirping of baby birds in their nests in my backyard. I have counted three nests in our tree this spring. Sometimes it just astounds me that nature is so close and so very real. It is easy to get used to how far removed we truly are from the natural world.
My husband takes me to a man-made pond where I can watch the ducks, but mostly we are there to see the turtles. I love watching them swim or sun themselves on a rock. “Just like In real life!” I want to say, forgetting that to them it is real life. It is only the pond that was once artificial.
I go to the store and my food is so neatly packaged for me. I am so far removed from what it takes to grow or to raise anything. This spring, we planted tomatoes. How awe inspiring to watch them grow! I can’t wait to actually be able to taste one. I hope I will appreciate them more. Truly, life is a miracle.
New Year’s resolutions. It seems like everyone makes them. If you can’t think of any, there are even sights such as Life Hack that will suggest some for you- 50 of them! I never make New Year resolutions. I know many people see the new year as a time of renewal. Is it bad to see it as just another day? What if we renewed ourselves throughout the year instead of just at New Years? I feel renewed when I take a walk in the woods. The quiet time with nature helps me to collect my thoughts. It grounds me and brings me back to center.
I live in a city. I can’t run out to a forest every day. Sometimes just listening to music with my eyes closed will help to center me. I know when I am off balance. There is a friction to my life and the things that were easy become hard. There is that needless stress in my life and my sense of humor is gone. I need that restorative time. I need to take care of myself.
Many women have a hard time taking time out for themselves. We are so busy giving and doing for others it is hard to justify that we deserve the same level of care, especially self-care. We know we need to, but the time to do it seems to cut into our sleep, and frankly, I’d rather sleep. So, I guess I do need to make a resolution- to schedule renewal time or at least be strong enough to ask for a time out to get my energy back. That sounds like a plan- not a resolution.
Someone complimented me recently. It wasn’t about my outfit, my looks, my food, or anything else that really doesn’t matter. They complimented me on my writing. The fastest way to someone’s heart is through honest praise. The best way to compliment me is to praise my family or my competence- especially my writing.
I admit, I can hold that compliment close and replay it in my head or reread it over and over again. I am hungry for it and wish the taste would last forever. I can’t believe I am alone or uniquely needy. Everyone loves praise. Praise is endearing. Why wouldn’t I want people to feel good about themselves and feel good about me for giving that pleasure? Why then, is it hard to find a way to remember to praise others? Why do I stop with one sentence when I could make it a full course banquet by adding one or two more sentences?
Now is the time to compliment. To quote Ken Blanchard author of, The One Minute Manager, we need to “catch people doing something right” and let them know it. I’m going to try a little harder. Maybe I will be complimented on my efforts!