Changing with Age

IMG_7266.jpgI am in my late 60’s and have spent a life time as a teacher. When young I babysat/nannied and it was my job to engage a group of 4 children in activities that helped them learn. Over time I taught swimming in high school and college, I worked in remedial reading clinics and then in preschools and daycares. Finally I was teaching in public schools for a good 40 years. As I said a life time of teaching.

So why on Friday night when a good friend ask me why I did not become a Master Gardener and help teach young children about plants did I internally bristle?

My mind was racing on why I did not want to do that. I think I listened politely. What she said was everything I have held dear all this years. She shared a lesson where students are assigned a small area to observe and count plants and/or insects. She had watch this lesson and was so excited. Her enthusiasm was wonderful. I nodded my head while I remembered when I did that same lesson and how I added another part to it with drawing. I remembered doing that lesson with teachers on a small island when we were teaching botany and observational drawing (science and art – you can’t get any better). All of this I love and loved teaching. So why now did I feel like running the other way?

I mumbled something about turning in a new direction now that I was retired. However, we were sitting in my living room full of plants pulled in off the deck for IMG_4557.JPGfear of frost and indoor plants I had been growing for some 40 years. I talked about teaching my nieces and my daughter about gardening and starting plants from seed. It did not look like I was going in a new direction.

What the H— was going on with me?

Very late that same night – well, actual in the wee hours of the morning I found myself still wrestling with this question. I felt selfish for not setting myself up to continue teaching. I had always thought and wanted to teach about botany, plants and wild things to young students. I was always frustrated in the classroom when I could not spend enough time outside with students. I know they need this experience and now I have the time to do this. I know of so many places I could volunteer and do this kind of teaching. So why don’t I?

IMG_7270.jpgIt is several days later and I don’t have a clear answer for this question. Maybe in the future I will decided to teach again but I know for now I am not interested. I have moved into a time where I want to be the learner again.

This learning time however looks different/ feels different. It is about learning on my own. It is about deep reading and sorting out skills that I have a beginning knowledge of but want to go deeper. This learning is about taking a new skill – drawing – and moving it from beginner to more experienced. I have always leaned towards being extroverted but now I seem to need a lot more quiet and time alone.

I suppose some of this need for quiet could be an emotional response to my daughters new baby coming plus her cancer all at the same time but I think it is IMG_5760bigger than that.

With age we change. Our interests change, our abilities change. Sometimes we find we can no longer do the things we did before and at times we find new skills we did not know we had. I am finding how I show up in the world is changing. People round me see me as teacher. I am working to be someone a bit different now. I can’t give it a name just yet but I know I am evolving into a new space. I feel so much better now that I see that I am just making steps in a new direction not running from an old skill as educator. Change is a good thing!

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Gardening Season has arrived

Yes, I know we are now in mid May but for Minnesota and many other places this Blue bells.jpgyear spring has refused to show up. She has teased us with a few nice days but our hopes are quickly dashed by rain and cold. At times the dreaded snow has even appeared. (Northern Minnesota – think Duluth got about 7 or more inches last week.)

This extended cold has made for a slow evolving spring. The ephemerals have come up very slowly and some are just waiting to see what happens. I think they are a bit scared to show their heads just like the rest of us.

jack in the plupit.jpgFinally – Mother’s Day has past and that seems to be a signal for warmer weather to appear. So today I am now sitting on the deck writing in the sun. I still have my heavy socks on and a turtleneck shirt but no jacket. We are making progress. In the garden the following are growing

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  • bleeding hearts are ready to bloom
  • one trillium – I think it will be dark purple
  • the jack in the pulpits are uncurling
  • the peonies are up but no blooms yet
  • rhubarb was ready to pull – although the stems are short
  • the wild geraniums are almost ready to flower
  • the tulips have started a great parade across the front yard
  • violets of course are blooming, along with dandelions

Tiny farm.jpgOn the deck is a tiny farm waiting to be planted in the raised beds and other places around the yard. The nieces and daughter are due to come and retrieve their share of the seedlings to plant at they homes.

We have sat for so long waiting and waiting and now it is time – everything feels like it needs to be done this very minute.

I am working on breathing, and letting things go into the garden tulips 2.jpga little at a time – hoping it will all settle into place no matter what. We have waited so long for this spring I don’t want to rush through it. I need to sit and savor the warmth, the bird songs and the shades of green as each new plant decides it is ok to peek its head up out of the ground.

Welcome to true spring!

 

 

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Writing in these confusing times

” …how do you free yourself to write in these confusing times?”

– a question posed by Karen Cushman in 2017 and brought up by Marion Dane Bauer in her blog this morning –

This just an important question to me since I have spend that last few weeks unable to put important words down on the screen or on paper. I say important because my personal journal has been filled with words – weather reports, or simple sentences about plants. The bigger deeper thoughts have been locked inside me in a swirl of emotion, fear, loss, anger and love.

In this mess of confusion I just stopped writing. There seemed to be no words that could fill the page. When reading blog posts early this morning I saw Marion’s post it got me thinking again. How do I come to writing again? and the bigger question is how do we hold hope when things are crazy?

I know these two woman were talking about the bigger picture of our country, world and the issues we face – racism, environmental changes, health care and we could go on. Those issues for me right now have been pushed back in my thinking as our family moves day to day with personal health issues. I wrote for the first time last week about my brother and his open heart surgery. Also along side that worry, stress and then joy we are walking the journey of cancer.

Our daughter is in her last seven weeks of an exciting pregnancy. There is a healthy baby boy waiting to be born in just a few weeks. Her journey through this joyous time was flipped on its head about a month and half ago with the discovery of breast GV5A6682.jpgcancer. We understand the impact of this since I had breast cancer 26 years ago.

This young and brave woman, that I get to call my daughter, has undergone two rounds of chemo and will have two more before baby makes his appearance in late June. (Amazing – I know – the placenta has the great power of blocking many drugs and keeping baby relatively safe.) Her treatment will continue once baby is born.

There have been so many disappointments for this young family – no breastfeeding, no working (she is a power house teacher who is missing her classroom at the end of a school year), no gardening (no hands in the soil due to chemo and no resistance to germs and bacteria), no hair, loss of salary, loss of energy, no working with the natural birth folks (everything now has medical in front of it with a big C).  We have not even gone to the discussion of surgery and long term medication to be sure this does not return. The no’s and negatives could take over if you let them.

Given all this swirl of emotions and questions – is mother safe, is baby safe, how do we help, what do we know, how do we help the father to be – it would be easy to get angry, depressed and just go hide in a closet. I did consider this approach for a few minutes and my writing did come to a complete halt for a few weeks. The thing is that those emotions don’t help – they don’t help the new family to be, they don’t have us as soon to be grandparents, they don’t help the friends who surround them.

So with a bit of time, many walks, lots of yoga and watching we all found those little moments of hope. The positive things that help us move forward. Each of us found things to help us all look towards hope and health, not dark and down. We started with simple statements – it is great the weather is warming so she can take walks then moved to bigger thoughts – doctors know how to treat this form of cancer, they can begin treatment even before baby is born. We each in our own way made choices to think, talk and act in a positive way. The mother to be who is in the middle of this swirl also made that commitment to herself. She knew that negative thinking was not what she wanted to give this unborn child.

With her strength in moving forward we all moved with her and to support her. Her partner stepped up to hold her and walk this journey close by her side. Her friends stepped in with a meal train, a list of who is walking and helping her when needed, a yoga fund raiser and a go fund me page to help with the rising cost of this high medical pregnancy. The family has kept baby and pregnancy in the fore front as much as possible and we look to what works. (yes, it is hard to lose your hair but we know it will grow back. You can get angry or have a bit of goofy fun with crazy wigs, a good looking wig and a few beautiful scarfs to make you look just as lovely)

Is all this easy?  No, I don’t want to over simplify this. There were days at the beginning of this journey that we all found ourselves stuck and unable to move. I did my own flash backs and guilt as a mother who had cancer and now daughter with cancer. We needed a community to help us. There are times now that it still strikes us – the moment when we say is this really happening?

Yes, it is and we can choose to make it hard or we can look for and find the peace and joy that is there for us to grab hold of.

A clear example of this was last night as daughter, dad and mom (me) went to an information meeting about support services for cancer patients and the people who support them. We sat in a room with about 12 people all dealing with cancer in some way. Each in a different place in their journey and knowing some journey’s will be much harder than others since cancer clearly does its own thing and goes its own way in the body.  What made this interesting was watching each person – a few were clearly looking for positives. They retained a sense of humor, they had connected with family or friends to come along with them, they smiled even though things were not great. This group of people were ready and eager to join into groups that might help them.

Then there were those who could only find negative things to say, they could not find a way to connect with those around them and were struggling to move forward. These folks were having a hard time. I was glad they had made it to this community and hoped that they could make a connection to find support for it was clear they needed this.

So how does this all connect to writing –  funny but the simple question of “how do we free ourselves to write in these times” pushed me over the edge and back into writing. Thinking about how we move forward day to day helped me look once again to the things that work. One thing that works for me is to share my thoughts, to write out what I am thinking. The act of writing helps to clarify an experience or an emotion. It lets me step back and reflect on what is going on and how I feel.

Writing for the others, in these crazy times, helps others to see another way, to look for different perspectives. Taking time to write out our experiences might give someone a way to connect, a way to understand, to learn and to change.

It is the hope of love, learning, change and growth that keep me moving in a positive way and allows me to write again.

 

How would you answer this question?

How do you free yourself to write in these confusing times?

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For more of her story you can go to: https://www.gofundme.com/melissatoft

I am not asking you to donate – it is just a way to share her story in more detail if you are interested.

 

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Making a difference

As I came around the corner of the living room into the small kitchen, there he sat struggling to get up quickly to greet us. He was scruffy faced and looking a bit older than the last time I saw him but he was smiling and ready for a good long hug, something in the past neither of us were comfortable with.

This is my brother who a few weeks ago went through open heart surgery. He had lots of work done with his heart so that we can be assured that he will be with us for a great while longer.

This opening up of ones heart physically also seems to open ones heart emotionally. He has always been a gentle soul who keeps that side of himself quiet. Now it seems to be much harder for him to do. A long talk about health, family, our past and our family habit of not sharing emotions brought out lots of emotions for all of us. There were many tears, laughs and sighs. All of our hearts seem to be on open display these days.

It is a rough way to open us up but it is one of the silver linings of major health issues. When life turns upside down it makes us stop and look around. It is a time when we turn to those practices that help ground us. We all seek support in many ways. For some it is through their church or religion. Others through nature, community or some combination of things.

I find myself needing to walk through groves of trees or put my hands in the soil searching for new plants. I am spending time on my yoga mat and quiet moments with friends and a cup of tea. A quick call or a text message just to connect also helps (I must say technology is a wonderful thing when family lives hundreds of miles away. I can’t just drive over every day and check on him.)

It is times like this that we see what we are made of, how we handle stressors, where we find our support, and the connections that are most important in life. So many things that seemed important a few months ago now really don’t matter. What matters are the people around us – connecting with friends, neighbors, work colleagues and family – especially family.

So don’t wait for a major health issue – just take time to make that phone call or stop and chat when the neighbor is out in their yard, or take time for that cup of coffee or tea or a walk with a friend you have not seen for awhile.

It makes a difference.

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What is in a name?


download.jpgI have been reading two books – a fiction book and a memoir of sorts by Felicity Hayes-McCoy. Both of these books take me back to the “old country”. She lives, works and greatly enjoys Ireland. (No, I am not Irish. It is not my old country but you get the idea.)

These books share the history of a people, and the land they live on. You quickly learn the importance of working with your hands – the art of working the land, making tools, repairing and building your home with the help of your community. You also learn the importance of the art of music, sculpture, drawing and most importantly storytelling. This is a land that helped/ helps people to survive but also a land that helps them hold their history and culture close to their hearts.

All of this connection comes from a community where people gather to share stories – new and old. Stories that explain the language, stories that explain why things have the names they do. The story of the house you might live in and its name. The story of the mountain or the road you travel over to get to the next village.

While reading these books I realize how much we have lost here in the United States as each generation moves further and further from their roots. We live further from  grandparents, from the old ones who hold stories. The making of things slows us down and allows us to share deep conversations and stories with each other. This is something we just don’t do now.

We have little time for making things, repairing things or spending evenings by the fire with the “village” to sing, play instruments and tell tales. We are a society that rushes from place to place. We are a group of people who focus on our digital devices. We have lost the art of telling stories to our children, to each other, to our neighbors.

Think about it – when was the last time you sat down with family or neighbors to chat and tell stories? When did you share stories that gave people a sense of history or understand of the world you live in? Do you know the story of your name, your family name? Do you know the story of the town you live in or grew up in? (large or small each city has a story about how it began and your place in it – again large or small)

For me I have been interested in the story of the plant names in my yard. Where did their names from from? Who named those plants or who did the cross breeding to develop this wonderful bush that blooms with bright yellow flowers each spring?  Or have I shared the story of this bush that I dug up from my Grandfathers farm and moved it here to the far north to bring a bit of early spring joy?

Stories, places and names – these are some of the things that hold a family or a community together. I fear they are slipping away from us. I find it important now as my adult children are having children to find a way to bring stories and the importance of names back into our lives. I will be looking for ways to sit by that fire (real or imaginary) to share with this next generation the names and the tales that tie us to our community, our family and our history.

I am finding that names and their stories are important!

Felicity Hayes-McCoy –

  • The Library at the Edge of the World 51mgykDyFRL._AC_UL320_SR212,320_.jpg
  • Summer at the Garden Cafe
  • The House on an Irish Hillside

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Slice of Life /31 Waiting

Cold SpringIMG_7078

Mud season frozen

Beds stand silent

Nothing stirs

 

Ground thaws slowly

Roots gather moisture

Bulbs swell with growth

Not yet visible

 

Spring crawls outIMG_7076

As Maple trees flower

Tiny buds appear on branches

The green of chives shoots up

 

Alert to shapes and shadows

From early morning sun

Crips edges of long gone plants

Soggy mush of melting puddles

 

We stand waiting for theIMG_7075

Sound of peepers

The smell of decaying  leaves

Thawing soil  and the warmth of sun!

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A poem to end this challenge – for poetry is indeed a challenge for me.

Thanks again everyone. I plan to reconnect after a short break.

Spring will come with all its glory, and color to brighten our lives! (I am sure)

I promise photos of the garden once it has come out of its winter sleep!

Until spring arrive here are images from last years first flowers!

 

 

 

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Slice of Life /30 Communities help

We are close! Today and tomorrow and we celebrate another year of the writing challenge. Today I have not known what to write so I spent time reading others posts this morning. It was to find a topic, an idea but what I found was a power house of writers.

My month has been busy and although I read at least three post a day I realize now I have missed so much! There are poems, stories, little moments – families, teaching ideas, writing advise, frustrations, fears, joys and celebrations. This is a powerful group of people who have gathered this month to write.

IMG_6117.jpegEach of us have been in the private space of writers – alone with our computers or notebooks and our words. Yet each of us have also been encircled by a group of new and some old friends who wish to share their words with us. Some days we get lots of comments and some days none at all. There are days that writing was easy and others that it was a struggle even to open to a new page to write. But here we are having written our way to 31 days of words. Thirty one days of sharing thoughts and moments from our lives.

Each year the struggle and joy of writing makes me a stronger writer and a stronger person. What a gift this is for me! And hopefully for you as well!

This month has been a hard one for me to write. I have worked hard to keep my posts light and yet truthful to my thinking day to day. This month has been a month of watching and feeling helpless as loved ones around me were diagnosis with large health issues.

I have chosen not to use this space for those concerns but there were days that those words are the only ones in my head. So this has been an interesting month. It has been a month of finding how words can distract, help to release and show me how to move forward when stuck. It has kept me in the present moment as we find our way through the health issues of family.

Amazing!

I want to thank our great writing team who brought this all together. I  want to send a thank you out to those who volunteered to be part of the Welcome Wagon. Also a big thanks to those who have commented and followed along as I have found ways to keep me feet on the ground, move forward.

I will see you tomorrow for one last Challenge post – day 31!  Then I will take a break for a week or so to provide support to my loved ones as they moved towards health.

(There should be garden pictures when I return to writing)

Thanks everyone – it has been a great month and I appreciate this community of writers more than you can know!

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