gardening, spiritual life, writing

The writer’s dilemma

“It is a mistake to think that moving fast is the same as actually going somewhere.” — Steve Goodier, inspirational author

We have an odd front yard. By a quirk of street layout, this part of our property is unusually long and skinny for our neighborhood, meaning we have the sheer frontage to collect not only the leaves of our own two oak trees, but those frCIMG5715_edited-1.JPGom several other trees across the street. This makes for plenty of raking.

Given the fact there is also plenty of on-street parking in our city, finding a place to pile up all these raked leaves until the vacuum truck comes is difficult. We’ve settled on two spots, one mountain-sized pile at the curb right in front of our house and another way, way, way down at the corner of our street.

Fortunately, I actually enjoy raking — the scritchy-scratch sound, the woodsy smell, the easy-to-quantify accomplishment — but there’s one part that’s always tricky. Because I have to focus my energy and attention on the leaves to be gathered, the gathering place is always at my back. Sometimes, I literally lose sight of the goal and go too far to one side or the other, wasting time and effort.

Any person whom God wired for creating and making would have to see the life lesson in this. Particularly when it comes to selling our product — be it books, free-lance news, photographs, art and on and on. Selling is sometimes so all encompassing that we can figuratively lose sight of the goal — sharing what we create.

I thought about this just this morning, lying in bed contemplating scenes from my most recent novel in the darkness. They are good scenes, funny scenes, scenes I’d nearly forgotten. I’ve been posting here, there and everywhere; linking to this and to that; commenting and responding, friending and following. There’s been so much marketing activity in 2018, it’s hard to remember the actual book writing that’s behind it, under it and, I truly hope, over it.

This is where I’d like to write a neat little paragraph that sums up life-work balance and creative pursuits in 2018 and beyond. But, I cannot. Is there a balance of create and sell? I haven’t found it yet, although I remain hopeful.

Have you? I’d love to hear what works for others. 🙂




gardening, spiritual life

Enough to face the killing frost

“Listen! The wind is rising, and the air is wild with leaves,
We have had our summer evenings, now for October eves!” Humbert Wolfe, British poet

There’s not much left in the garden. But, it’s enough to sustain life through these last days, weeks of the season. A handful of cosmos, a butterfly bush, a bit of morning glory and a couple of potted flowers are still producing enough nectar and pollen to keep “our” bees and butterflies reasonably happy. There are enough seeds still in their pods to keep birds rustling through the vines and enough ground cover to keep crickets on the prowl.

Life is slow now. Butterfly wise, there has not been a monarch since early last week. Nearly every day during a prolonged hot spell they stopped and refreshed before heading vaguely south. Now, they are gone and we’re down to cabbage whites, a plucky little species that is the first to appear in the spring and the last to succumb in the fall.

The crickets, with their remarkable temperature-revealing chirps, are like a seasonal time piece they are now so slow. At night, it’s dipping into the 30s. There’s only a raspy criiiiiick…..etttt come dawn.

Yet it is still life. All of this life, abundant life, even as the countdown to the killing frost relentlessly continues. Isn’t that reassuring?

One generation of insect life winds down. Another is waiting, attached to the underbellies of leaves or tucked into the earth. Other animals are so very busy. Fur is thickened. Seeds cached. Leafy nests assembled. Sleepy rest comes to still others.

It is fall and God is as good as always. Life is. Life will be. And, that is enough.


Accommodating critters

“She has a memory of trees and fields and nothing more.” James Thurber, The White Deer

This morning, when the light was still low enough to be magical, a family walked down the sidewalk outside our house and headed for the school bus stop. Oddly enough, they all had four legs.

The kids at the bus stop and I — who went out to see what would happen — just watched, amazed. A six-point buck, a doe and two fawns of the year halted at the sight of the open-mouthed adolescents. They seemed to discuss the matter, then sauntered off onto a side street instead of proceeding into the wooded hillside beyond the bus stop.

I did not actually catch these deer in the garden, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that was what made them overstay their safety window for neighborhood roaming. They’ve devoured the unfenced pots in the front yard. They’ve pruned the vines in the backyard, as well. If I could only get them to eat more strategically, it would almost be like having a gardener.

Yes, it’s that time of year. The deer do what they do — eat. I do what I do — prune. And, all through the garden, other critters make plans for a future that likely does not include them, just their progeny.

It’s true. There are egg packets and webs popping up all over the place. This year, I’m letting most of them stay, having read a gardening piece about the importance of not doing a thorough clean up until spring to save cover for small animals and avoid destroying insect eggs. Even the persistent spider who’s trying its best to make the front door look like the Addams family is in residence remains.

We’re accommodating “our” critters, in fact. Annuals such as zinnias and marigolds will soon be trimmed and hung upside down in bouquets for the birds to harvest. Perennials will remain knee high this year, a bit messy, but more like the wild nature for which we have tried to make an oasis.

Limited fall clean up is our most recent experiment in winter wild yarding. For several years, we’ve left a brush pile at the side of the house and mounded pine cones gathered from the woods atop all our yearround pots. The latter is pretty and it’s a delight to see the squirrels and chipmunks sneak onto a pot, grab a cone and head up a nearby tree. One window box, just outside the kitchen, attracts chickadees. They feel comfortable enough to perch there and eat, even when we’re having lunch just this side of the glass.

It’s hard to say who’s more at home this autumn. The deer, the squirrels, the chickadees, the garden spiders — or us.


Pumpkin Apple Bread

“It was time to take the pumpkin out of the pot and eat it. In the final analysis, that was what solved these big problems of life. You could think and think and get nowhere, but you still had to eat your pumpkin. That brought you down to earth. That gave you a reason for going on. Pumpkin.” Alexander McCall Smith, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency

If you’re French, I apologize for the following post. I truly do.

In the U.S., it’s growing common for high schoolers to give up their lunch periods. As their schedules are already crammed with academics and the lunch room is crammed with drama (and a dash of violence), many teens are choosing to cram bits of this and that into their mouths while shuffling through sheet music, art supplies and the sundry stuff of other electives.

I don’t like it, but that’s just the way it is. So, we are adapting, making lunches of nourishing finger foods that can be eaten silently, neatly and quickly. Pumpkin Apple Bread has become our family favorite. A sandwich stuck together with dairy or vegan cream cheese can be cut into sticks and boxed up with raisins, cashews, grapes etc.

This light and spicy bread, of course, can also be eaten in a more pleasant atmosphere. Say on a chilly fall day, on the porch, with a cup of hot coffee in one hand. Enjoy!

Pumpkin Apple Bread

Butter two loaf pans. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degree C).

In large bowl, combine 3 cups flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 1/4 cup sugar, 2 teaspoons baking soda. Mix well.

In a smaller bowl, combine 2 cups (about 1 can) unsweetened pumpkin puree, 1 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 5 eggs, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 teaspoon allspice, 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves. Mix well.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry and hand stir just until mixed. Pour into prepared pans and bake 50-60 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in pans five minutes, then turn out onto rack. Enjoy alone or with apple butter or cream cheese (dairy or vegan).