What a fabulous couple of days we've had, here on our mountain! Yesterday, my day off, was about 60 degrees F and sunny. I had a run with the dogs, went to yoga, and shopped at some of my favorite thrift shops. I got some pretty candle holders (I've been burning candles and enjoying them a lot in the last few weeks), and then found Martha Stewart candles 50% off at Kmart, so I stocked up on red (which I'm using through Valentine's day or so) and green (which I'll use through St. Patrick's Day and on into springtime). I also had breakfast and a latte at The Artist's Corner, my favorite little cafe and coffee shop. I ran into a couple of parishioner-buddies and had the greatest talk about life after death with the woman, who lost both her parents in the last year or so. I love talking about that stuff -- it's really all speculation, but what fun!
Today, another day off (a mentor of mine says, "Humans need two consecutive days off, Ann -- that's why God made weekends!" -- even though priests only generally get one day off), was about 65 degrees F and also sunny. Another run with the dogs, long hours for morning pages and journaling, some errands, and an hour's worth of yard work: picking up sticks, uprooting a couple of huge clumps of grass that I've allowed to invade the bed that encircles my front porch, and laying some mulch to delineate that bed (which I'm making narrower, rather than the 4-5 feet that it originally was -- so much work to weed and maintain!). I also picked up an entire wheelbarrow full of twigs that have fallen from the trees in my yard.
I feel so good when I work outside! I keep resolving to work a bit every day, even in the winter (I've got plenty of pruning and mulching that could still be done, even when it's frosty) -- but I never quite make it. Still, I'll keep trying. Even 15 minutes or a half-hour in the yard leaves me feeling productive and energized. I've sure got hours and days and weeks of work that I want to do. There are perennial beds to weed and mulch and re-shape; there is mulching to do on the paths of the veggie garden; there is planning to do for both perennials and veggies. I've got a lot of pruning to do on trees that have never been pruned, and shrubs that are completely and horribly overgrown.
Here are a few things I found when I was working today:
Aren't these just the most cunning little baby iris? Just when I'm amazed at the length and coldness of the winter, I clear away a few leaves, and this is what I find! Of course, you can see the poor little tops have been frostbitten since they started growing -- but aren't they brave little soldiers? I wish I were better about growing iris. I can't seem to get them to bloom. The ones I sorely neglect bloom under the edge of other shrubs, etc. But when I try to dig, divide, re-plant so they'll be the healthiest, I end up with nothing -- or lovely foliage and absolutely not a sign of a bloom. I seem to have some kind of "reverse green thumb:" the things that people say, "It'll grow anywhere, you can't kill it!" -- those are the things that I kill with great regularity. I've been trying to get an old fashioned hydrangea -- the "snowball bush" that grows huge and hearty around here -- to grow -- I've been given two healthy, vigorous starts by my neighbor -- and they die off. Sigh. On the other hand, many of the weird, exotic specimens I have in my yard (thanks to my predecessor) seem to flourish. Go figure. Here's a little something else:
These are little bitty baby flowers -- I think maybe last spring (after 5+ years here) I figured out what they really are -- but I've completely forgotten that. So I just call them buttercups. I think they're so sweet, and they grow over in my west yard, back behind the house near the fence line, where I seldom see them. I only noticed them today because I brought my wheelbarrow this way to haul mulch. I also found a piece of trim that fell off the house up near the roofline. I'm going to have to find someone to replace it for me. The guy who usually does this kind of repair -- the one who made my lovely little blue garden gate -- just had double heart bypass surgery, and he's not really up to hauling and climbing ladders and pounding nails yet. Here's something else that's pretty sweet:
I have little snowdrops blooming and budding in several places in my yard, including beneath the ornamental cherry tree (which is badly in need of pruning) and in the bed where I have hostas and much-overgrown and invasive bamboo. But these little sweeties were hidden away beneath some privet that has run wild and rampant (couldn't cut it without a chain saw), and as you can see, amid some sort of vine that I think is oriental bittersweet run amok. All these little emerging flowers are like gifts, or like God's grace for me -- a sign of hope and the inevitable rolling round of seasons of growth and light.
Here's the final one for today, I promise: These little baby daffodils brought a smile to my face, for sure. I truly have been enjoying the winter weather. We've had more snow and cold weather than we have in all the six years I've been here. And even our snow on Wednesday was sweet, because I did know that by Friday it would be at least in the 50s, and the snow would be gone again. But I must admit that these little signs that spring is truly around the corner are most welcome! One thing I love about living on this Tennessee plateau is that I am truly delighted to see every single season come and go. They are each long enough that I can enjoy them to the fullest, and then enjoy the advent of the one that follows.
Yesterday I had a truly "springtime experience": when I brought the dogs out for their evening walk about 5 pm, I slipped in the mud and went straight down on hands and knees beneath the bird feeder! Mud all over feet and knees, of course. I was so mad at first, then I realized how much worse it could have been, had I fallen backward and hit my head or spine on cement. Talk about "mud season!" But the lack of damage (the mud was quickly undone in the washing machine) was truly foremost among my gratitudes last night.
I suppose there's one more sign of spring in my life: I've begun reading "Simple Abundance" again, and am enjoying the short daily readings. I've also undertaken several new books. One reading group is doing "Start Where You Are" by Pema Chodron; another is beginning "Our Endangered Values" by Jimmy Carter. I'm reading a large tome on "Celtic Spirituality" (the Classics of Western Spirituality series), as well as "Vision Boards" and Julia Cameron's "The Writing Diet." In March, I'll be doing a Lenten quiet day on "Women in the Bible," and in April I will be a presenter in the spring for a religious conference whose theme is interfaith approaches to prayer and meditation. The book they've selected to study is "Five Voices Five Faiths: An Interfaith Primer." So I'm reading that one, too. New projects and study and books feels like a new start, and that feels like spring! Tomorrow is also forecast to be sunny and in the 60s. If I have the energy after church, I may try to burn my brush pile. Happy earliest spring to all!