Lessons learned in the past few years

I’ve been away from my blog for a while. I’d like to begin 2020 with a recap of the lessons I’ve learned in the past few years and ideas for the future.

Stuff that didn’t make sense in 2014

It didn’t make sense to me how the media members believed they were covering a story, but they were actually publicizing a fringe opinion. When the media exposed the actions of an extremist group/organization, they appeared to actually give them credence, especially when repeated ad nausium.

It didn’t make sense to me how polarized my country was, how relatives and neighbors could hold such opposite opinions. Even though we disagreed with many, we don’t want to shoot them like they do in other countries where people fight over politics or religion.

It didn’t make sense to me how people looked at land or location as a place to be exploited and not see the beauty of the place. It didn’t make sense to me how destroying a landscape, improves it;  e.g. why do neighbors bulldoze 100-year-old trees that protect fragile land to farm another acre more or build another grain bin.

What did make sense?

It made sense for a society to take responsibility to care for people unable to care for themselves (disabled, elderly, children and disenfranchised). It made sense to me that wealthy people should be taxed more to pay for roads, police, schools, health care, and even bombs. I often felt that I could do more than I do to help others.

It made sense to celebrate life’s events, like holding a Halloween party for friends and family whenever we are able. We may not pass by a person, group, of part of life again in just the same way – it made sense not to miss opportunities. This sentiment has grown stronger as I age.

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What made sense in my life?

It made sense to always support my children as they figure out life.

It made sense to bury the hatchet of conflict with others and let go of past hurts. This one was and is very difficult for me. I take injuries and hurts to heart, expect apologies that won’t be coming, and find it easier to live without hurtful people in my life.

It made sense to learn to forgive so I don’t feel the agony of resentment all the time. It made sense to bury those feelings in the soil, to plant new life internally as I plant flowers and tomatoes in the spring. I’ve been given another year, another spring to work on this and I was grateful to be alive, or as a friend used to say, “every day above ground is a good one”.

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It made sense to me to focus my daily life on things I could manage and control (like mowing the lawn when it is tall, cleaning the house when it is dirty, taking care of pets and livestock, giving my colleagues a place to vent about the very strange politics of the work-place, participating in groups that improve the little space of the world that I live in) and let alone the neighborhood’s, state’s, nation’s bigger problems.

It made sense to celebrate every sunrise, appreciate every sunset, savor the taste of coffee, the luxury of time to sip a couple cups in the morning, dinner with family or friends, finding time to stop, listen to birds sing and share the bounty of my life. I felt very fortunate to be in that place at that time.

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What makes sense in 2020?

This is the first time I’ve considered these issues in the past six years. It seems appropriate to revisit them again as 2020 begins. I noted in 2014 that Americans may disagree but at least we don’t shoot people. I’m revising that statement based on the history of the past few years. People in this country are more polarized now than six years ago.

In recent years people have started to shoot people they don’t like; target racial groups they don’t like, and pursue whole groups of people whose politics they don’t like. People shoot other people in churches, synagogues, and mosques. People shoot children in elementary and high schools, and at colleges and universities. People shoot people in nightclubs and at concerts. People shoot people in restaurants and corner stores. I understand this exhibition of hated even less than I understand the hate that fuels it.

Perhaps I’m looking through the wrong end of a viewfinder, but I don’t understand the continued exploitation of land and water in this country as if there’s always more land out there to move to, dig up, pump water from the ground via irrigation, build wind farms on, or clutter landscapes with mechanical equipment. It makes no sense to me to encase towers in fifty-feet deep cement platforms for the next generation to worry about removing.

It also makes no sense to mine oil from Canadian tar sands and transport it via pipelines to refineries in the Gulf of Mexico to be sold on the world market. Pipelines that cross the United States and pollute our land with every pipeline break seem nonsensical to me as well as being another source of ill-gotten revenue for the one present of ultra-rich that spend fortunes lobbying politicians to make it happen.

Stuff that does make sense.

Generosity to others and kindness continue to be important qualities. It makes sense to help others when possible. It makes sense to adopt shelter pets, like my dog Pickles rather than buy from pet factories.

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I wish sensible actions and attitudes combined into a longer list and perhaps I need to remove my rose-colored glasses and view the world with a different lens. However, I love my country and its multiplicity of residents regardless of our political divisions. We are all more than our political opinions. Please, let’s stop shooting each other!

It also makes sense to me to record events and attitudes as I experience them. This time and place will not come again. I’m still grateful to be alive at this time. It continues to make sense to celebrate life’s gifts.  I hope the world will be a better place for future generations. If each of us demonstrates one kind gesture toward another and befriends folks rejected by others, we will have a beginning.

 

Transitions

September Sunset

September is glorious sunrises and sunsets, warm days, open-window cool nights, and a sense of time stretching forever. It’s a time of transition from summer to fall, air conditioning to heating, garden harvest to preserving food for winter.

I had a large apple harvest this year. I made a lot of applesauce.

http://dish.allrecipes.com/how-to-make-applesauce/

Weather changes affect mood

In Autumn, September’s warm, balmy days switch to October’s variability. October can be a glorious display of tree colors, visits to pumpkin patches, and bountiful fall harvests. October can also turn into soggy, overcast dreary days stretching into an early winter. October is a time of Halloween parties, fun decorations, and playing dress-up for kids of all ages. October is usually a combination of all those transitions moving us gradually or suddenly toward winter in the northern hemisphere.

We move from fourteen hours of daylight in August to ten by the end of the October. I move my houseplants back in the house after a summer in the bright light. Most of them have adjustment issues in the dimmer indoor light. When plants have difficulty adjusting to less light, drop their leaves, and become semi-dormant, it’s an alert that people face the same challenge.

Depression is a difficult mental health condition for many. With the lowering of light levels during the winter months, depression can heighten for those already challenged. Known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD, winter depression affects people who feel fine in the summer months but lapse into depression in the winter. These folks often dread winter for many reasons. Getting up in the dark, shoveling snow, traveling on icy roads, and coping with everyday challenges is heightened during the dark months ahead.

Help is available

Counselors can help their clients make these transitions and prepare for low light conditions. Knowing that last’s years depression can return with the change in light level, helps people know that it’s time to check in with their mental health professional, begin to care for themselves, and consider adding extra light to one’s routine; e.g. setting a timer to your bed side light so it lights your room before the alarm begins your day.  Each person’s situation often has multiple challenges. It’s always a good idea to talk over your issues with a professional.

Timing

Milkweed flowers begin to open

When to prune and when to let go

Mowing for Monarchs 101
7/27/2019
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Gardens, lawns, fields, roadsides, right-of-ways all provide vital habitat for monarchs and other pollinators. How we manage this habitat must be done with care to help protect our monarchs!

by Rebecca Chandler
Garden Educator, Naturalist and Ethnobotanist

So many things depend on timing. I am reminded of this by the radio in my sewing room that reliably turns itself on at 8:00 am every day, runs for a few minutes, then shuts off. I’ve tried to re-program it without result. I’m writing this from my office, a floor above the sewing room, where sound carries surprisingly well. I could turn down the sound, unplug the radio, or, gasp, read the radio’s directions, but I’m leaving it alone because the alarm has a role to play in my day.

As the author of the Mowing for Monarch 101 article states so well, we can manage our green spaces to promote butterfly life. I believe we can manage our time to create a more peaceful life, and we can support each other during good times and bad.

This year there’s some monarchs, a few yellow swallowtails, and a flamboyance of painted ladies in my yard. They draw nectar from lilies, phlox, swamp weed butterfly plant, and asters that are just coming into bloom. When I stand still in the garden, they light on my shoulder and in my hair.

Swamp weed butterfly plant loaded with butterflies

There have been multiple articles published recently recounting the benefits of gardening where we get our hands dirty. This one is a good example, https://gardeninggonewild.com/13-reasons-why-gardening-is-good-for-your-health/. Another example is my poem, Garden Therapy, published in Nebraska Life Magazine this month http://www.nebraskalife.com/July-2019/July-August-2019/

Time spent outside away from social media is good for young and old alike. Ordinarily, I’d be outside taking care of pruning, harvesting, or mowing on a sunny August day, rather than writing this blog. However, it’s one of those 90 degree days with high humidity that makes it feel close to 100 degrees. It’s as if Mother Nature is having a hot flash and just wants to be left alone. I’m happy to oblige her and let go.

Gardening

I started my vegetable garden later than usual this spring due to the unusually cool, wet, spring in Nebraska. It’s taking off just fine now and is producing many veggies as well as inspiration for writing and therapy.

Garden 2019

My poem Garden Therapy was published by Nebraska Life in the July/August 2019 issue. http://www.nebraskalife.com/

 I try to spend some time in the garden every day, but especially when there’s a knotty problem to solve, or to help with loss of a loved one. A dear friend recently died after a tough bout with cancer. I wrote about her death in my last blog. I’m thinking about her again today as her family gathers in her home state for a second memorial service.

An article that offers some science behind my supposition that gardening is therapeutic, can be found at https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/antidepressant-microbes-soil.htm?fbclid=IwAR3LjWhkRiADzn9Nk4x6Bqm

Gardening Sestina, another gardening-related poem, was just published in Fine Lines, summer 2019, Volume 28, Issue 2, Edited by David Martin and available at http://finelines.org/

I’m very fond of flower gardens. My rural place has many perennial beds. Something is always blooming in the garden from the season’s first tulips in April (occasionally as early as March), to the last of the October blooms. I have house plants that bloom inside during winter months to cheer those cold days.

Tulips
Daisies

And some poems depict imaginary gardens such as Cherimoya Vine, and Corpse Flower published online in Poppy Road Review. https://poppyroadreview.blogspot.com/search?q=lin+brummels

I was lost in June.

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My dear friend died at the end of May after a long bout with cancer.  During her life, she organized trips around the world from Antarctica to Nova Scotia to Russia to China and many places between. This lady loved to research and plan trips.  She held a master’s degree in History and as a long time teacher of high school and college students, she also taught her fellow travelers about the history of every place she visited.

I was privileged to travel with her to seven countries, seven states, and two Caribbean islands over a fifteen year period.  She also shared many trips with her sister and her nieces.

June was lost time vacillating between tears of loss and celebrating our many adventures. Other friends ask me, “where’s your next trip?”   It feels odd to think about traveling without her, but her sister wants to plant a “memorial” trip in her honor.  There will be more about that trip as it unfolds.

Today, I’m celebrating the flowers of early summer, like the pink rose above and the yellow rose below.   Yellow roses grew in my parents’ yard.  I snagged a clipping before they moved to town in 1982.  This tough rose keeps coming back every June, regardless of how cold the winter.

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The California poppies bloomed with gusto this year as well.

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The peonies in the featured image above bloomed just in time for my friend’s memorial service.  I took peonies to decorate my parents’ graves on Memorial Day, as well.

July begins hot with temperatures in the mid-nineties but promises to be a good month.

 

Puttering

I’ve been retired from full-time work since Christmas.  Another retired colleague and I  started a private-practice counseling center in our small town.  We each allocate a couple days a week to the practice. This schedule leaves me a lot of time for spur-of-the-moment and random activities collectively called puttering for the purpose of this essay.

My colleague and I both experienced a steep learning curve in the transition from working at a state college where we had the privilege of not needing to ask students receiving counseling for money, to private practice where are trying to earn some.

We spent a lot of extra hours on our “off” days on the computer taking care of obtaining the correct licenses, insurance, legal status, taxes, etc. As most of that has now been accomplished, we are closer to our plan for this business which is to each work two days a week. I enjoy spending time in our sunny office.  It’s great to set my hours, and not work within an institution’s expectations.

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I’ve puttered with a bit more indoor gardening this year.  My house plants are thriving.

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I admire folks who can work full time and read a lot, but as much as I tried, rarely found time to finish a book when employed full time.  In the past, when my book club moved to a new selection, I used to insert a bookmark in the unfinished book and move on to the next one. In the past few months, I’ve finished four of those set-aside books, and am now keeping pace with my fellow readers.

Reading, gardening and even a bit of quilting all feel like puttering.  I’ve also been writing more and sending poems and essays to journals for publication consideration. I’ve used some of this puttering time to organize my writing submissions.  As soon as one editor rejects my work, I sent it out to another.  There are occasional successes.

Initially, there was a bit of anxiety that I wasn’t accomplishing much, but I’ve decided that puttering, as described in this blog, is an OK use of my time.  It’s refreshing to have time to watch sunrises and sunsets like this one. Peace to all of you who find your way to this blog!

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Nature is steering a rocky path this year

I started this post nearly a year ago.  Volatile spring weather is a constant each year and has caused havoc from coast to coast in the past year.  After an extremely cold February and early March, we are indeed marching toward the end of April. A sunny, windy, warm Easter weekend had turned into a cool wet Earth Day.  See my blogs between May 2018 and now in 2019 to follow my decision-making process.

May 2018 remained sweatshirt-chilly for the first two weeks, then catapulted to temperatures near or exceeding 100 degrees over Memorial weekend.  The month wrapped up with a week in the nineties that ushered in wind-wrapped rain and tornado warnings.  High winds earlier this spring tore siding from my house, damaged ponderosa pines, and other trees, and downed power lines for many, although my electricity remained steady.  Trying to determine my future mirrors the weather’s ups and downs.  I think I’m all set, then have a complete change of mind every few days as I investigate options.

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Trees, bushes, and flowers experienced a similar rollercoaster.  Bare lilac branches burst from tightly-curled buds to lovely flowers, to dried flower seed-heads to full leaf in a week.  The branches were bare at the beginning of May and flowers were all gone before Memorial Day.  Many early iris did not bloom. Mid-season tall bearded iris bloomed and died in a weekend, but there were enough of them to decorate family graves.  Looking at each turn of nature teaches me that everything does not have to be perfect for one to move ahead, and many beautiful things are fleeting.

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