Category Archives: garden

Morning Coffee

 

“Two phoebes flit from tree to eave to tree
Feeding the tyrant nestlings you can’t see”
—Judith Moffett, in her poem Grace

Morning Coffee

I do love waking up in a convent. The single beds, the monastic minimalism, the cheerful quilted bedspread that brings women’s work into the room. A sacred space.

I drink my coffee outside, early, despite the drizzling rain. I find a spot under the fire escape and I’m able to stay dry while watching the activity of the birds in the lush green gardens around me. Only a mosquito finding soft flesh on my coffee-cup-holding hand disturbs my peace, momentarily.

The coolness of mornings in the summer up North seem to last longer. In Florida, by 8 a.m. the heat can already be overbearing. So I luxuriate in the coolness of the day, enhanced by grey skies, low-hanging clouds, and light rain. It just makes all the green around me look even more lush.

I hear the insistent calls of those tiny “tyrants,” baby mockingbirds, calling out around me: “Feed me, pleeeease, pleeeese, pleeeese, feed me.” A constant noise in the early days of summer.

Life is calling! Feed me!
So off I go, for a run with a friend.

Here.
In the garden.

—At the Transfiguration Spirituality Center in Glendale, Ohio, on retreat with Women Writing for (a) Change facilitators.

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Surprise: Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

IMG_6335What a joy it is for me to see a new bird at the feeder!

Yesterday morning, a male grosbeak appeared on my feeders. Despite it’s muted fall colors, the triangle of red breast is unmistakable. The eyebrow streak is prominent, the black and white spotted wings definitive.

Apparently grosbeaks migrate through my part of Florida in September and October, usually as solitary birds. I got a photo to reassure myself: I know what this is.

What else will surprise me today?

I finally talked to my son yesterday. I was frustrated I had not been able to reach him for several days. I complained; he grew angry and resistant. This is an old pattern for us, often because I insist on my way. Sometimes I’m right, but often I need to take more gentle approach. That works better with him.

To be honest, it’s been challenging to raise a son as a single mother. Growing up in a household of girls myself, I’ve felt disadvantaged at times. I find I either hold him far too close or let him drift out too far. Thankfully, I’ve had help from many different wise advisors along the way.

This time, when I insisted he set a time for him to call me back, his voice rose in anger in frustration.  “You can call me, you know!” “I have called you, “ I retorted, “hundreds of times since last week!” On that note, he hung up on me.

Wait! This was not the loving, kind, caring, compassionate, understanding, nurturing phone call I’d planned! My resolve must be stronger than my anger to communicate effectively with him.

Sigh.

So, what I supposed to learn from this? What is the message of this migratory visit from the rose-breasted grosbeak? Do I know what this is?

I’ll look it up, but I’m guessing it’s something like, Life is unpredictable. Keep watching, and take advantage of connection opportunities when you can. They will be there.

That reassures me slightly, if not entirely.

Here.
In the single mother garden.

~~~~~~

From: Animal Speak:  The Spiritual, Magical Powers of Animal Creatures Great and Small 

  • “This beautiful little bird can teach us much about proper family relationships. It can help us in healing family hugs and restoring family love.”
  • “It will help you in seeing family patterns that you have brought over into your present life, along with your present family members.”
  • “The grosbeak awakens a new pride and nobleness in the family process.”
  • “The grosbeak has on its chest a rose-colored triangle that looks like a bleeding heart.  This totem can help teach us to heal all of the old wounds and hurts of family origin.”
  • “The grosbeak helps us to see our family relationships as a true melody, each note separate but part of the larger whole.”

Reflection:
Wow.  I’m astounded that’s the symbolism of the grosbeak! A clear indication from the Universe that the time is now to begin the work of healing old family wounds, whatever they may be.

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East Wind Blowing

IMG_4878The robins are coming to life.  The loose flocks lurking around the neighborhood are now moving in, feasting on the red holly berries that just turned the proper degree of ripeness after January’s crisp nights.

The activity in the backyard this morning caught my eye as the robins darted from pine to holly and then back again, like trapeze artists in a circus performance.

A plump, speckled one suddenly landed on the fence, eyeing me as I came out the back door for a closer look.

Round, red breast.
Beady, black eye.
Fast, firm grip.

She contemplated me, pausing for a moment in the work of her life: to pluck ripe berries before making her way up North for nest-building time.  It’s a natural process that can’t be stopped; a force of nature that can’t avoided.

“You better be ready for a growth stage,” she seemed to say, eyeing me steadily.

I’m a bit surprised to find that I am.

IMG_4383As I look at the photos of the new house I covet—a cute cottage, just the right size, in just the right neighborhood—I realize I’m actually looking forward to change.  I’m not holding on to this place.  The bright red door of possibility is as warm and welcoming as the robin’s breast.

“Change is coming,” the robin told me. “You must learn to tolerate the strain.  Don’t let Change stomp all over you with clumsy work boots and thick soles.  Let Change gently blow you to your new destination, like the East wind that brought Mary Poppins to #17 Cherry Tree Lane.”

It’s true that change is inevitable, like the turn of the seasons, like the robins’ need to eat and  migrate, like the balmy spring that will follow the frozen winter of my heart.

Spring is my favorite season, after all.  Perhaps I can tuck its blooms into my own red breast and get ready to migrate to my new home.

Here.
In the garden.

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Early Morning Fall Mist

photo

photo by @dalbacky on instagram http://instagram.com/dalbacky

I just peeped outside the front door, through the leaded glass panes, and saw a thin bank of mist out there.

Reminds me of the mist on the farm where I grew up, hanging low in the valley around the house and barn early in the morning.

Mist makes the world mysterious, briefly transforming it into something special — and then it’s gone again, a small gift only for early risers.

Through the back door I see a female cardinal at a feeder that’s been empty all summer. The season is changing, and plants and animals are in a different relationship with each other. Perhaps the birds are starting to stock up again on my bird seed, prepping for winter.

Fall mornings these days include me urging Matthew out the door on time for school — which didn’t work out today. It also includes walking the dog, perhaps with a slight coolness in the air, looking about us as we go, searching for signs of the turning season.

Or is it me that’s turning, entering the fall season of MY life?
The thought lingers, like a thin mist, lying low in my garden.
Maybe.
Or maybe not quite yet.

Here.
In the garden.

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Bird By Bird: On A Quest for the Summer Tanager

I decided to go on a quest for a summer tanager today.

I’m having a “staycation” while the kids are out of town, so, outdoor adventures close to home are in order.

Last week's run through the woods...aka, "Walking Under Raccoons," or, "Touched by a Swallowtail," or "Wish I had bug repellant with me."

Last week’s run through the woods…aka, “Walking Under Raccoons,” or, “Touched by a Swallowtail,” or “Sure wish I had bug repellant with me.”

On last week’s adventure, I ran through Guana Reserve, where I spotted “giant garden spiders, an armadillo, two white-tailed deer, a raccoon in the trees I walked under, a hawk nest, a white cloud butterfly, a swallowtail butterfly, an impassable flooded trail, snakes in the grass, ticks, fiddler crabs, leaping frogs, lizards, birds, and that was enough,” as I noted on Instagram.

This week, I hit the Guana Wildlife Preserve, where my new photographer friend Don Christian said I might spot the tanagers.  “Just head for the oaks and keep looking up in the trees!” he said.

I was thrilled to hear that I might be able to see these mysterious creatures!  I am in love with tanagers.  Last summer I happened upon several scarlet tanagers in the mature woods of the Laurel Mountains in Pennsylvania. I was practically euphoric.

My son, Matthew, and I have had summer tanagers on our “watch list” for a few years now, but, I never knew where to find them.

Now I do.

deep in the oak trees at Guana Wildlife Preserve

Deep in the oak trees at Guana Wildlife Preserve

So, I packed a lunch of peanut butter and jelly, scribbled the directions in my journal, stocked up with water, two cameras, natural bug repellant (I HATE that stuff but this was necessary!), my phone, and a song in my heart.

So, this is what “following your bliss” feels like, eh?

But first, the run.  I planned to combine bird-watching AND running the trails.  (p.s. this is not really good for spotting birds).  I figured I would run first, THEN come back with the camera.

Well, it wasn’t great for bird-watching per se, but, I did get to see lots of other things:  beautiful Florida oak groves, many swallowtails, fiddler crabs, and lots and lots and LOTS of flies, mosquitos and horseflies.  But hey — no ticks!  (So far, anyway).

Cool lizard with lunch in his mouth.

Cool lizard with lunch in his mouth.

Once again, as I got to the outer reaches, and took a wrong turn, and ended up further away than I thought, I did say to myself, Hmmm…why DO I have to do everything so hard?  As I turned into a grassy section, the signs said the trails sometimes flood.  Did that stop me?  Oh, no.  I just went deeper and deeper in the woods.

I was on a quest, you see.

Well, eventually, the flooding did stop me, so, I had to turn around.  But that’s when I bumped into the baby armadillo!  Such a cutie!  He was hunched up in the grass, as if he was thinking,  “Hey, if I cover my head, maybe she won’t see me!”  But I sure did, and stopped running long enough to take out my phone and snap a shot — even though the lens was steamed up.  I got super close and he untucked his head and looked up at me, with his cute little pink ears and  sweet face.  I smiled and kept going.

Baby armadillo through my steamed up iPhone lens!

Baby armadillo through my steamed up iPhone lens!

Finally, I reached the parking lot again, and took out my camera for the “bird watch” part.  I thought I had heard an Eastern towhee in the pine section, but I couldn’t tell for sure.  Needed the telescope lens of the camera.

So, very quietly, with a LOT more bug spray on me, I headed down the trails.  I saw a weird lizard with something in it’s mouth, which I now realize was a bug he just ate.  Ewww!  I saw a delightful blue bee, a green dragonfly, wildflowers, a painted lady butterfly, and a lovely brown moth.

I spotted a baby cardinal, sitting shyly behind a branch.  I heard bullfrogs.  And I spotted something high up in the trees…yessss…it was…an Eastern towhee!

Spotted an Eastern Towhee, even though he was not singing the exact same "drink your tea" as they have on my birdsong CD...maybe a Florida version?

Spotted an Eastern Towhee, even though he was not singing the exact same “drink your tea” as recorded on my birdsong CD…maybe a Florida version?

OK, not a tanager.  BUT, this was the first towhee I ever located on my own, and was able to photograph!  So, that was plenty exciting for me.

So now, I guess I just have to go back, and see if I can get the tanager.  I’ll keep listening to Stan Tekiela’s CDs on “Birds Of Florida,” to try to recognize the tanager song.

But I’ve got one more bird to check off my Life List, and I’m plenty happy with that.

Here.
In the Florida garden.

 

Painted lady

Painted lady

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Where have all the monarchs gone?

IMG_6261

Where have all the monarchs gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the monarchs gone?
Long time ago.
Where have all the monarchs gone?
Monsanto’s killed them, every one.
When will we ever learn?
Oh, when will we ever learn?

I have not seen a single monarch in my garden yet this year.  Not a single one.

Where have they gone?

Last year at this time I was watching my second batch of chrysalises hatching, their green bodies with golden spots hanging in my garden like fancy Christmas ornaments.  One weekend, I watched 13 emerge in one 48-hour period, each one dropping from its green and gold escape hatch to lower its crumpled, wet wings, hanging there, letting gravity do its work until with one, then two, then a few wing flappings, it was suddenly, miraculously, ready to fly.

I remember one bent-wing one, the tip of its orange and black velvet wing folded, hampering it, so that it could not fly properly.  I tried to help it, putting it on my finger, moving if off the flagstones to a different spot, hoping it would be able to literally rise above its circumstances and fly beyond the garden walls.

It could not.

It died, eventually, its speckled body lying prostrate on the ground, belly up, it’s wings gradually tearing and breaking down further, until Nature took her back again.

I am OK with Nature taking back her own.

What I cannot abide is the wanton destruction of the butterfly garden by unconscious acts that sterilize the earth, kill off the milkweed, and turn Nature into an orderly prison of concrete lines, little boxes and sterile fields.

I read the other day that the monarchs are being killed off because we insist on spraying RoundUp chemicals on roadsides and farm fields, to kill off weeds, and that it’s killing the milkweed monarchs need to survive.

Migrating monarchs used to cover 45 acres in Mexico; now they are down to 1.65. They’ve gone  from 1 billion total the year before RoundUp use to 33 million now. More info here.

And people wonder why I do not spray RoundUp in my yard.

IMG_6262

 

“War is not healthy for children and other living things,” said the poster in our kitchen on our organic farm where I grew up.

Neither is RoundUp.

Where have all the monarchs gone?
We’ve killed them off, every one.
When will we ever learn?
When will we ever learn?

Here.
In the garden.

 

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June 3, 2014 · 8:11 am

The Perfect Job

ImageI found the perfect job for my 17-year-old son the other day.  It’s at the Wild Birds Unlimited store.  They need someone to unload the seed bags from the truck, move heavy boxes, and attend to the sales floor if needed.
Someone who likes nature.
Who likes birds.
Who likes people.
It’s perfect for him!

Which is why, when I suggested it, he immediately said, “No.”

“Sure, Mom.  I can just hear me telling my friends, ‘I can’t hang out with you because I have to go to work at the Wild Birds store,'” he said, a slight smile curving his lips.  Like, “Aww, Mom.  Aren’t you cute!” and then, “Fuggetaboutit!”

Sigh.  OK. That plan did not work out.  Big surprise. However, I won’t lose hope.  His dad has big plans to get him a job this summer, so I’ll wait to see how that works out.

In the meantime, my 19-year-old daughter is home from college, and, after a stimulating conversation last week about why I will not provide unlimited funds for new clothes, even if she goes to Forever 21, she called up a few restaurants to set up interviews. The next day, she got a job.  Then she applied for an internship at the Women’s Center, and on Monday, she was working there.

So there you go.  And I had absolutely nothing to do with it.  Well, maybe a little to do with it.  But, I’m thrilled. It seems that my children DO have their own ideas and opinions, so, I need to let them try them out.

This morning, I’m sitting here in my garden, watching the juvenile bluebirds hanging around the mealworm dish.  They open their mouths, hoping the parents will feed them.  But it seems that won’t work anymore. The parents ignore them and then fly off back to the nest box to feed the newest clutch. It’s time for these fledglings to fend for themselves.

So, here we are, sharing that experience, me and the bluebirds, as we watch out children grow.  We are doing what we have to do, even if it hurts a little to let them go.

Here.
In the garden.

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